Hiking Results

April 29, 2017

Hiking Results . . .

If you found your way to last week’s blog then you know my week was beginning last Sunday with a hike led by Ranger Em. We did the Herring Cove Trail that leads to Beaver Lake. It’s a steep incline (okay, steep for me!) for the first mile or so and you reach the lake after approximately a mile. Beautiful walk around Beaver lake and then mostly a downhill trail as you return the way you came. Given the varying skill levels, (them –  all fast and skilled; me – slow and unskilled but absolutely determined!) we took our time (yes, they were waiting on me most of the time) and enjoyed the beauty of nature.

Ranger Em brought Lady along. What a great trooper she was, always making sure we were all together. She never went too far ahead and never left anyone behind. I was so impressed with her. Here we are all together.

Great shot of everyone

There was a beautiful waterfall as we headed uphill. My picture does not do it justice but I’m including it anyway.

 

At first glance.
Zooming in on the falls

We arrived at the lake and worked the trail around it. Two of our friends actually were brave enough to take a dip in the lake. I took their word for it when they said it was cold and did not feel the need to verify or question their assessment.

Gazing over Beaver Lake. Parts of it were still frozen.
Breathtaking view.

 

As we walked around the trail we came across a bear print. Now that was incredibly interesting. Look at the size of it!

Bear Paw Print
Ranger Em checking out the prints.
Another view of the prints

 

The trails are really well maintained here in Sitka.  I cannot imagine walking this trail without the aids from all the work of those who manage them.  I thank them where ever they are!

 

Another picture of Lady. What a sweetie she is.
And for a little proof that I was on this trail!
The views were breathtaking for sure.

Now,  to my personal assessment of hiking which I know you are dying to hear. I’m so glad I had my phone to take pictures. Honestly, by the time I made it up the first mile I was grateful I could still breathe. My calves were in a controlled scream. My eyesight was a bit glazed and yet I was not about going to be left behind. I tried to keep up (you know how I hate admitting defeat) and they were all so very gracious to assure me that I was not slowing them down. Some of the pictures were my only memory of that specific spot on the trail. Would I do it again? Yep, in a heartbeat. There was another hike on Friday but I didn’t go. My calves screamed for all they were worth from Monday to Wednesday. Thursday we visited Castle Hill and walked up several flights of steps. Again my calves went into controlled scream mode and I knew then that the hike on Friday should go forward without me. I’ll go later . . . I need a few weeks to rest and recouperate!

The rest of this past week was daunting at moments.  So much to see and do.  We combined classroom work with visits to local places like The Raptor Center and the Sitka Sound Science Center, learning more about each of them.  These are must see places when visiting Sitka so we want to make certain we are informed and can inform our visitors as well.

We also brought out the period games that are used during the Russian Bishop House open times.  Most of you will remember the cup and ball games but they also have a game called Graces.  We tried it out one afternoon.

The Game of Graces
Kendall playing Graces
Parker playing Graces with Kendall.

As I walked to work one morning I was watching the water as I always do.  There, from the Sitka Sound Science Center Hatchery were two fellows doing something in the water.  Not sure what was happening but I could not resist a picture.

They are doing something to get ready for the salmon but I’m not certain what.

The first large cruise ships arrive this Wednesday and Thursday. They expect about 2,000 guests per ship to come and visit the park and the Russian Bishop House. Rest assured I have lots to do on my talk between now and Wednesday.

Until next week, be safe and remind those close to you how much they mean to you.  You can never say it too often.

Mara

 

 

 

 

Interpretive Training with the Seasonal Rangers . . .

April 22, 2017

Interpretive Training with the Seasonal Rangers . . .

Well, it has been a fairly uneventful week here in Sitka insofar as pictures but a very busy week for learning. There is an intensive two-week interpretation training course for the seasonal rangers and I was offered an opportunity to be a part of it. To be frank, I had no idea there was so much behind the scenes work as an interpreter.

Note to self:  When visiting our national park sites, be sure to join a ranger talk or take a ranger tour.  Remember that hours and hours of behind the scenes work has gone into preparing this experience.  And, by all means, if enjoyed be sure to tell them.

By Wednesday this week,  I was officially brain dead. Full of new information about Alaskan Native Culture and Russian American History no more room existed in my brain to process anything. And then we began learning about the HOW of creating a 15 minute story that would engage, excite and inform our visitors.   By the end of next week, if I desire (as a Volunteer I always have a choice), I will have a talk developed about Russian American History that I will provide to our guests which will leave them with a greater understanding about Russian American History.  And that’s just one topic.  The real rangers have 4 talks to develop.  They really are impressive young rangers.  Stay tuned for my results (guaranteed not to be as impressive!)

As you all know, today is Earth Day. We celebrated in Sitka with a Parade of Species (Sitka loves parades!). When we were told Wednesday at 4:00 that we needed to prepare a costume for the parade I was in shock. Remember, I had no brain power left and those of you who know mean know that I am not creative at all unless it involves time and assistance. Thankfully Ranger Em offered the loan of a slug mask and a sheet to serve as a shell. Here’s our group.

The Parade of Species.

Skunk cabbage continues its growth.  Thought you might enjoy seeing more of the leaves that are growing around the yellow centers. It’s very aromatic too.

Skunk Cabbage

This week was full of surprises from friends and family.  Yummy and creative treats are always welcomed and I thank you one and all.

Some crafty supplies from Cappie.
Aunt Jane always knows how to feed my sweet spot.
Berries and Nuts. Great for hiking food. Thanks Edna.

Another highlight this week was running into this little gadget.  We had a videographer stop by with their iPad on a “robot”.  Looks a lot like a iPad on a segway.  You just never know what you might see at the Visitor Center in Sitka National Historical Park.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Ranger Em is taking us on a hike. She says it won’t be a problem for me and I want to trust her. (keyword there is “want”)  She did say to be sure to bring bear spray with me. Watch for the results next week.

Hope everyone has had a great week.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Mara

 

 

 

 

Adventures continue in Sitka!

Adventures continue in Sitka . . .

What a beautiful week this Holy Week has been. Temps have been in the 50’s and sun has been plentiful. Every day the ocean has glistened as if it is covered in jewels. The gulls continue to feed on Herring eggs along the shoreline. Thousands of them come early in the morning and feast on the eggs. By afternoon, the tide is fully in and the gulls are mostly gone for the evening. Here are links to two short videos of the gulls feeding if you have an interest in seeing them.

 

Gulls Feeding Gulls Feeding on Herring

Gulls Feeding

Herring Eggs. Hmmm. A community pitch in dinner to celebrate the herring was held this past Wednesday evening. It is a potluck where everyone brings in something to share. There were Herring eggs in every form (alone, in salads, in soups, etc.) They gather on hemlock branches and are eaten sprinkled with seal oil.

Herring Eggs gathered on a hemlock branch

I found them to be “not my favorite”. The taste is okay but the texture is very strange. They snap and crackle when you eat them. Kind of chewy and spongy too.

My days off have been Sunday and Monday but last weekend I elected to take on a project. In the visitor center we have a room that has become somewhat of a catch all (or junk) room. At one time it was the gift shop, then it became the Law Enforcement office, then a work room for cultural resources, and finally a “junk” room where we weren’t sure what was there. You know the room I’m sure. We all have that place in our homes that catches all we do not really want and yet cannot throw away.

With space a priceless commodity in the Visitor Center, and no place for anyone to go to eat lunch when it is raining out, it was decided to clean this room and make it a combination storage/break room. The Park’s Law Enforcement Officer gave me a hand and we removed, sorted and organized this room into four distinct areas. One of those areas was a break area where folks could have lunch.

The project finished on Monday afternoon and I was so pleased with myself. Items were organized, trash had been hauled out, and we now had an area to go for lunch if needed. On Tuesday I had all the rangers admiration (that would be short-lived but do keep reading.)

Storage Room almost cleaned and organized. Prior to this point you could barely walk in here.
And yes, I have even made room for a ‘break / lunch” space!

I will say here that this room has historically been kept locked and there was no indication that it would not continue as such. On Wednesday I went into the room to get items for a pre-school story hour and found our Superintendent using it for a meeting (all other meeting rooms were occupied). I promptly excused myself, got what I needed, left the room, and yes, I LOCKED IT!

See, it is a sliding door that locks from the outside.

About an hour later I received a call from the Park Superintendent asking if I would please let them out of the closet. Apparently they had been knocking on the door but I didn’t hear anything and so, he was forced to call into the visitor center for attention. You see, there is no way to unlock the door from the inside. I was blessed to find his sense of humor in tact and security has now been told to remedy the situation ASAP. I will be forever known as the volunteer who locked the Park Superintendent in a closet!!!

The remainder of this past week has brought us temps in the 50’s and sun, lots of sun. The water glistens, the snow capped mountains shine, and the entire area has this look of serenity. For the past five days it has been unbelievable. But the rain will return soon and we will see the “other” kind of beauty that lurks about here when it rains. I love it too.

 

Views of the harbor
There are no words!

Last weekend was a local artist walk downtown and we had the luxury of meet-n-greets throughout town. Silver carvers, Wood carvers, pottery makers, glass blowers, jewelry makers, etc. all shared their pieces of fine art along with wine and cheese at various locations along the way.

Picture
This is a local artist co-op. One of my stops on our artist walk.

This was also a practice week for the Sitka Sound Slayers, a flat track roller derby team here in Sitka. Me, and my roommate Marti, were invited to their practice and we gladly went. One of the rangers, Ranger Erin, is a player. Her derby name is “Sin & Tonic”. It was great fun to watch all the ladies and there is a match coming up in just a few weeks. Michaela, my granddaughter, will be interested to know they have a travel team and a home team, just like they do in hockey.

The Sitka Slayers practicing their skills.

However, the player names are a riot. Here are just a few: “Me-licious” “Bev-o-lution” “Double Decker” “HotWheelz” “Becker the WreckHer” – – – these ladies are awesome”! This is Sin&Tonic, otherwise known as Ranger Erin, with Marti and me.

 

Range Erin (Alias Sin & Tonic) with my recent housemate, Marti.
Yep, that’s Sin & Tonic with me! You’ll note I only have one shoe on – – – thought for a moment I might put on some skates but then I saw them practice and decided it might be dangerous for me.

Ever heard of Lavendar Donuts?  Grandma Tillie’s Donut shop, just a short mile walk from the house to there and then the park, is a great stop just a little out of the way. They are expensive ($20 for a dozen donuts) but they are oh so good. Here’s a look at a lavender donut (sorry folks – by the time I thought about a picture I had eaten half of it!)

Grandma Tillies – it is a drive up / walk up only.
Yep, a half eaten lavender donut!

The Apple Trees look so different here. They are spiney and their branches are covered with moss. Hard to believe they bear fruit but I’ve been in Sitka in the fall and enjoyed the apples later in the season. I find them oh so interesting in their shapes. Here are a few.

 

Apple Trees
I love this one.
These two are close to each other and are just outside the back entrance to my house.
Trying to get a close-up of the moss.

Skunk Cabbage is another one of those plants that I find amazing. It is coming late this season due to all the snow and ice Sitka experienced this winter. And, while there has been some, the normal crop has been delayed. The bears eat this to start their digestive systems after their winter hibernation. Here’s are some views of it growing on the trail between the white house and the main road. (This is where we sing to let the bears know we are coming down the road.) All the yellow flowers are skunk cabbage as it begins its growth. It will grow into a very large plant with very large leaves. The yellow flower is the beginning bloom.

The yellow flowers are the beginnings of the skunk cabbage plants. You can also see some that have not flowered yet.
More along the side of the road to the house.
Do you see all of it back in the swampy area?

My roommates returned to their respective homes this past week so now am living alone in the White House. A majority of the remaining interns and volunteers arrived yesterday and are staying in the Bunk House just down the road. I’m told we will have more temporary personnel coming in a few weeks who will be staying here with me so that will be good. For now, the White House is a quiet house.

 

The dining room at the “White” House.
The living area in the “White” house.
Another view of the living area.

Having no television or internet services mean my times at the house are spent reading and sewing. I’ve gone back to embroidering again and am having a good time making Christmas presents. I found these pillowcases here at the local Ben Franklin store to cross stitch.

 

Great Christmas presents don’t you think?

Much to my surprise I had a stack of cards waiting for me at the Post Office on Saturday. Melissa and the kids sent Easter Cards. Since my mail has to be sent to me c/o General Delivery, Sitka, AK 99835, I check at the post office to see what surprises might await when I know something is coming. I was expecting a package but not these cards. A welcome surprise for sure! Thanks to Melissa, Robert, Cam, Tom & Mike and Gus too.

Letters from home!
Beautiful cards I continue to look at and read. I sure miss these folks.

Marti and I took a trip to Ludvigs Bistro (local restaurant) on Friday night. The food there is wonderful and a bit pricey ($80 dinner so I eat there just once while I’m here). It is definitely fine dining Sitka style. The salmon is to die for and their Clam Chowder is the chowder of all chowders. The chowder is sold at the Sitka Sound Science Center bistro just next to the National Park. It’s $8 for a cup, $11 for a bowl.   I never take pictures of meals but here you go. Hope it makes your mouth water because it was SO SO good.

 

Makes me hungry just looking at this picture. It is SOOOOO good.

Another adventure for me has been a return to walking. Each day I walk an extra 40 minutes on my way to work just to build some stamina. I found out yesterday that we will be “taking a hike” during one day of training. And they mean a real “hike” up a mountain trail. Well, I’m sure that will bring me at least one story about grace and style! Stay-tuned.

Finally, this past week has been one driven by faith and culminating this Easter Sunday. Holy Week ended today in Sitka with an all denomination sunrise service at 7 a.m. in Centennial Hall. In John 11, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
For all those you have loved and lost, I say these words. And for those near to me that are now gone, I remember. Especially Grant, Cassen, Tommy, Dave, Mike & Drucilla (my mom & dad), Lee & Virginia, Jesse (my grandfather), Randi (my cousin), Jack (my uncle) as well as other family members and friends who are spending Easter together with our Lord and Savior. I thank Him every day for the gift of your life and your journey with me.

I hope your Easter was a happy and joyous one. Allelujah! He is Risen!

Till next time . . .

Mara

Experiencing Life the Sitka way

It was rainy the first part of the week (no surprise) but the last 3 days have been full of sunshine. The key word here is “SUN” which isn’t here often but when it appears it is absolutely breathtaking. It glistens on the water like diamonds. Normal here though is rain and lots of it.   And, because it is so wet, moss grows on everything and the ground is swampy in many areas.  However, oddly enough, I thoroughly enjoy the rain here.  Makes me wonder if it rains in heaven???  Sorry – random thoughts out of nowhere!

Last night I pondered the why of special places we find in our travels that really speak to our hearts. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to them but when you arrive it is an immediate awareness that you have found something special. Sitka is that place for me. It’s not just a feeling of welcome, it is a feeling of peace and contentment. There is a safety here that allows me to reflect about my life and experiences. I can reach deep within my heart to places I rarely go and make peace with those times that were cumbersome or painful along the journey of life. It is also easier to see and celebrate those wonderful times throughout the journey.  I hope everyone can find that special place for them. I firmly believe it has little to do with the city of Sitka and everything to do with the combination of who you are personally and what speaks to you. It might be a special place in your own backyard. Wherever it is, use it. Let the peace and safety of that spot wash over you as you ponder your life journey and the highs and lows along your way.

Work at the Visitor Center this week has been focused on getting ready for the busy season which will begin the first of May. We are cleaning and organzing. Those of you who know me know that I take great pride in clearing out someone else’s clutter and organizing their “stuff”. So much so that I worked my days off to tackle a catch all room that seriously needed attention. It was both fun and rewarding.

I also took time this week to get to know my “roomies”. The “white house” is shared with a temporary Law Enforcement officer, Sean Brinnen, and a temporary administrative officer, Martha Stebbins. In addition, we had a temporary resource person here to work with the curator, Barbara Cumberland, for one week. We went out to dinner a couple times and watched movies too. It’s been most enjoyable and I’ve added three new acquaintenances that I’m sure I will remain in touch with as time goes on.

Martha Stebbins, Interim Admin Assistant Officer
Barbara Cumberland from Harpers Ferry with Kelsey Lutz, Curator.
Sean Brinnen, Interim Law Enforcement Officer from Rhode Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my last week of “prep work” before the actual summer training begins on April 17. We will have two weeks of training and, at the end, I should be able to give tours of the Russian Bishop House. Interpretive tours will be a new world for me and frankly, I’m a little nervous. I will give it my all and with some good thoughts from all of you I will pass the training requirements.

Oh, by the way. One thing I knew but was reminded of this week was how important those little extended kindnesses are to others. For me this week it has been the kindnesses of Ranger Ryan, Ranger Anne and Safety Officer Mike that stood out. When someone goes out of their way to be helpful it is their hearts that you see and some people are so pure in their offering that their whole being opens up and you feel you see right into their heart. That’s true of these folks and I thank them for being there for me.  I’m encouraged to remember to deliver personally on these kindnesses to others as well.  These are the tiny gestures that mean so much to others.

I attended my Sitka Church home last Sunday.  It was as I remember, quiet, personal and deeply spiritual to me.  The beauty of this church with its rich woods and small sanctuary combined with the peace of the surrounding water speaks to me in ways I have never known.  Rev. Julie was traveling today but Rev. Deacon Kathy and Nancy Jo delivered Morning Prayer. I was not able to attend Palm Sunday services yesterday but many events are scheduled for holy week and I’m looking forward to Easter services next Sunday.

Hope all is well in your part of the world. I love hearing from you so, if you have time, drop me an email and make my day.

Happy and Joyous Easter to each of you!

Mara

 

 

 

 

Welcomed in Sitka.

I flew into Sitka the evening of March 29.  As we landed, I peered out my window to see a whale blow in the ocean.  What a sight.   Now you don’t get that kind of welcome just anywhere. As you will see from the picture, I wasn’t fast enough to get catch him but I assure you he is there.  It was a grand welcoming for the start of my 3-month stay here.

Looking over the wing to see a whale blow. Awesome!!

Ranger Anne was kind enough to pick me up at the airport and transport me to housing.  With two suitcases (each weighing close to 50 lbs.), she grabbed one and never complained.  We drove to housing to unload the suitcases before heading to the park for a special art exhibit.

The bunk house where I stayed in 2015.
The “white” house which is just up the road and where I’m staying this year. Fabulous cottage.

There are deer tracks in the snow (yes, there is still snow!) and I’ve been told the bears are waking up now and are hungry.  Hmmmm – guess I best get that bear training class under my belt real soon.

A view as I walk from the White House.
More of the road from the White House to the main street. It’s so peaceful to walk each morning.

After dropping off luggage, Anne and I went straight for the art show at the National Park Visitor Center.  Seven artists demonstrated their work to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Cession.

Missionaries of Alaska, 2017 Tim Troll Acrylic on canvas
Sugpiag Headdress (Nacaq) 2017 Kayla Christiansen Glass beads, leather, imitation sinew and metal charms (Kayla is just 23 years old and an Alutiiq artist) The picture does not do it justice!
Another picture of the Headdress from the side.
WordWrap 2017 Lisa Link Digital prints on vinyl This is a series of digital prints which explore the legal and legislative response to the Treaty of Cession. The banners are displayed on trees on the Totem Trail.
Selling Alaska, 2017 Mary Goddard Copper cuff and digital print on vinyl
Fragile Wealth, 2017 Erin Gingrich Basswood, acrylic and glass beads
Remembering Chief Thomas’ Children, 1923, Nenana, 2017 Karen Austen Oil and acrylic on canvas

The artist,  Lisa Link, came by the Visitor Center on Thursday.  She did the WordWrap 2017 art.  She lives in Boston and has a daughter who is in her first year of college at George Mason University, which is less than 10 minutes from my home.  She was worried about her being so far away from family.   I was pleased to offer her a solution to this problem as we exchanged information.  I am in hopes her daughter, Olivia, will connect with us soon.  What a small world it really is when you make connections like this.

Walking home from the Visitor Center that first night felt good.  I was fully welcomed and happy to be back here again on this peaceful island.   Walking in the cold night air brought back many memories of times past and warmed my heart.

After unpacking I settled into my new room.  My daughter, Melissa, made me pillow cases to remind me of home, the kiddos, and, of course, Gus.  They are a wonderful reminder of how much I am loved.  I must remember never to take these gestures of love for granted.  Friends and families are so important to us.

My Pillow Cases from home! Love them.
My home away from home.

Thursday morning I was up early and set out for my morning walk to the Visitor Center.  We are still in the off season here so visitors are a little scarce.  However, they still average 10-50 per day.  After a couple hours getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting new folks coming in for the current season, I was again greeted by whales who have found a home in the channel just outside the center.  I meant to ask what kind of whales they are but was so mesmerized by them being there that I didn’t even ask.  Glimpses of them came and went quickly as their tales came out of the water just slightly and their breath was visible as they “blew” from their blow holes.  Makes me think back to when Melissa and the kids came to visit me here two years ago and Dave Lubins took us for a sea adventure.  He anchored us so close to the whales we not only saw them but we felt and SMELLED their breath as well.  Awesome Memories!!!

The water remains as awe inspiring and daunting as always.  I know I have some reflection and healing to do and this is just the perfect place.  I sat in the cold this afternoon watching the water and boats and just felt the peace of it wash over me.

The beautiful view from the Visitor Center.
I received a ride to the “big” grocery only to be greeted by this beautiful rainbow!
Mr. Raven came to say hello too.

 

Boats in the harbor.
Love the glassy water.
Oh my, that sky!
This was just before church on Sunday morning. That sky is just awesome.
St. Peters by-the-Sea
Snow capped mountains. Today, (4/3/2017) the morning skies are clear and you can see there is still snow on the mountains around us.

And so it begins, another adventure here in Sitka, Alaska.  I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to see and experience this beautiful Alaskan land.

I’ll be working this week at the Visitor Center and getting more acquainted with interns and staff.  My current roommates are short-timers who will be leaving in the next couple weeks.  I’ll get some pictures this week and tell you more about them in my next blog.

Till then, have a great week, enjoy the beauty of this land wherever you are and don’t waste good worry.