Sunday, September 09, 2007

South from Alaska

Alaska was as spectacularly beautiful, varied and fun as I'd hoped it would be. I spent twelve happy days there with my good friends Susan, Sandy and Sandi. (We are collectively known as the "Four S-es"----as in Beware the Four Esses!!").....
We started off our trip in Sitka where we were royally hosted by old friends of Susan's. Jack and Marvel were very, very good to us, offering us comfy beds, fabulous meals and even the use of their van for our explorations of Sitka and its environs. We visited the Russian Orthodox Church and were lucky enough to see the icons, took a tour of the Raptor Center, went to a Tlingit dance program (where I, in a very unusual move, got up and joined in the Raven Dance with the dance troupe when asked to participate--- and a memorable walk through Totem Park. Marvel, having health issues, was unable to get out with us much, but Jack took the tourists (Sandi and me) in hand and gave us a splendid tour of greater Sitka, including his fishing boat. We saw The Bishop's House Museum and marveled at the log construction of the building. While the weather proved to us why Alaskans are always complaining about the lack of sun, we managed to be out and about both days from early morning until evening. The bay and the mouth of the local rivers were teaming with salmon waiting for enough rain water to raise the levels of the rivers so they could proceed upstream to spawn. It was mind boggling to see the millions of fish, all following an internal compass and time clock, who had returned from the ocean to the place of their birth. Some of the fish had made their way into the spawning areas and we saw quite a few who were fighting their way upstream. I had never seen so many fish on their way inland to spawn before.
Jack is an amazing cook, and he and Marvel were more than generous with the contents of their freezer. We dined on King Crab and halibut fried in Jack's secret breading. We had the most wonderful crab dip with our pre-dinner cocktails and finished off more than one meal with heavenly homemade rhubarb strawberry pie. We ate like pigs and relished each and every mouthful! Unfortunately for our waistlines, Alaska proved to be the home of stellar cooks and fantastic seafood. Sandi did her best to sample clam chowder (or halibut or salmon or whatever the specialty of the house proved to be) whenever we dined out. She ate so much chowder she finally got tired of it.

Susan, Sandi and I took the fast ferry from Sitka to Juneau and while it was overcast and rather drizzly for some of the trip, thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous scenery and a chance to see uninhabited shoreline. I kept an eye out for bears but, alas, didn't see any. We did see a whale breach! No photographic evidence but he three of did see the whale's tail---and this is no whale tale! Four and a half hours after leaving Sitka we were waving to Sandy and Karl.
Juneau was so much fun! Sandy and Karl put us up in divine style. We even had our own bathroom and two bedrooms to share. (I didn't share, got my own room! Does this mean snore louder than the other two? Hmmmm......might be!) We dined at their favorite spots and never had a bad meal. Memorable ones were the Mexican restaurant in downtown Juneau, fish and chips at a place out in the valley that I can't remember the name of and most especially Chez Mielke!

I think our day trip to Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer glacier was the highlight of the to Juneau. The four of us had a spectacular time viewing glaciers up close and personal, and we were lucky enough to see a rather large chunk calve off while we were there. I was surprised at the deep turquoise color of the ice. It had never occured to me that glacier ice would have such a deep, jewel-like color. Traveling into and out of Tracy Arm is incredibly beautiful---high mountains, blue ice, green forests and waterfalls abound. There are ice floes to maneuver through and seeing ice burgs up close was fascinating. The whole day while we were on the Tracy Arm trip I kept thinking of my dad and how the one place he really wanted to visit was Alaska and how he never got there. I felt like I was seeing the splendors of wild Alaska that Daddy would have wanted to see, and it made me feel good to be taking "his" trip.

Another day we visited the Glacier Gardens. What a beautiful spot they are! The tour of the gardens goes from about sea level up to about 2000 feet, through some wonderful rain forest. The lower part of the garden has been planted with lots of flowering plants, including trees that have been pulled out of the ground by their roots, turned over and planted upside down. The root ball is then used as the 'planting basket' and a myriad of colorful plants cascades out and down from the basket. I had never seen anything like it and it was wonderful. Susan, Sandy & Sandi at Glacier Gardens

A real highlight of the trip was going fishing with Karl. Did I mention the sockeye I caught? NO???? Really? Well, let me tell you all about it now.....I caught the first, the largest, the last and the only fish of the trip. Did I mention Susan got skunked? No? Do let me reiterate...I caught the first, the largest, the last and the only fish of the trip! And it was a beauty, a lovely sockeye, glittery and perky and mine! It was delicious! Karl cleaned it, skinned it and froze it for me and I brought it home and served it to Connie for dinner, the lucky man. I will admit the fish basically committed suicide as I'd only stripped out about five feet of line when it hit my lure hard. I actually thought I'd snagged something and it was a minute or two before any of us realized that it was actually a fish on the line. But, I will concede it was my lure it came to, my line it hit and ultimately, my frying pan it was cooked in! First fish, largest fish, last fish and only fish...ah, it was sweet. Ask Susan to tell you all about it. Please. Ask her!

It was very important to Susan that we visit the Triangle Tavern and have a drink. Way back when Susan was still married to Robert and they were fishing, it was to the Triangle that they always went to have a snort and visit with their friends. Susan has many memories of things that happened there and people she knew who hung out there too. So the last afternoon we were in Juneau we dropped in and had a drink in honor of times and people past.
One lovely day we took the tram up Mount Roberts and enjoyed a walk in the woods. The air was crisp and clean and smelled of trees, there was birdsong and a hint of autumn in the air. I took a little stroll by myself while Susan and Sandi were exploring another trail and my phone was Annie with the news that her ultrasound that morning indicated that the newest addition to her family will be a little boy, my first grandson. Life is GOOD and we are blessed.

It was joyous news and my feet fairly flew down the trail to share the happy news with my friends. I will always be able to tell the little one that I first knew he was a HE while standing on top of Mount Roberts on a beautiful August day in Juneau. That was the 24 karat framing for the whole marvelous trip for me.

I loved my time in Alaska and I really want to go back and see more.

I have been busy getting some of my art deadlines finished up and trying to get ready for Art & Soul in Portland the first week of October. I just found out that my dear, darling pal Bee will be at A&S, too, and I can't wait to see her. We'll both be in Anne Bagby's "Indigo Men and Blue Ladies" class on Wednesday and Thursday. How much fun will that be! I have signed up to attend the gala opening night and for that I had to make 100 recipe cards for a recipe swap that is part of the opening party. We were encouraged to decorate our cards and so I used my fig drawing and my fig and pine nut salad recipe to create my card. I sewed the recipe to the drawing and I'm happy with the results. I will admit that about 54 cards into the sewing project last Sunday afternoon I was well and really tired of the whole process! I have also decorated the little pasteboard house box that came with my registration booklet for A&S as a shell cottage. I am less happy with the results of this project, but I really can't say I was very much into decorating a house box as's just not my thing. I guess that at each A&S retreats the participants get something that they are asked to decorate or alter. It'll be fun to take part, so I guess I'm glad I did it. But still, it's a dumb looking product and I can't say it was much fun to make.

I have also finished my contribution to Heather M.'s TIME journal for the Sensual Journey journal project. I am happy enough with my work in the journal and I hope it pleases Heather when her journal is returned to her next summer. Deb Denton is the force behind this project and she's set it up so that we have two months to work in a total of six journals, depicting at least four of the five senses on our page layouts. After a year you'll receive your journal back with the work of six artists. We are randomly assigned a journal to work in and we don't know that the theme will be until the journal arrives. I had a little trouble getting started in Heather's book but once I got a start it all sort of came together. It's always like that, isn't it? It's the starting that is the hardest part! We have just received the name of the person who gets the journal we have been working on next. I will mail off Heather's journal tomorrow to Sheila. I have no idea what will come my way in the next go round. It's always fun to see what the theme will be---gulp!


Grove Street Journal said...

Ha ha ha ha ha... I can't believe you caught a fish and Susan didn't!!!

Mom, your photos are amazing and it sounds like such an amazing trip! Now I want to go!

: ) Love you.

Michele R. Unger said...

Thanks, Jen. coming from a photographer as gifted as you, I take your comments as a real compliment.

I love you, too!