Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Juneau and Tracey’s Crab Shack

Getting close to Juneau, we spot these very strange cloud formations:

00WeirdCloudsEnRouteToJuneau

As we dock, we call the hotel shuttle from Country Lane and they are there within minutes. They drop us off at the hotel so we can unload our bags, then take us over to the airport so we can pick up our car.

You know me and public art. I love these sculptures in the Juneau airport, and especially that they have the traditional Haida forms as part of their form:

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It is a gorgeous day in Juneau, 70°, hey, the sun is shining, it is very warm, this is a great day. We head immediately in to town for lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack.

This is for my Mom; she likes to see the prices 🙂

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Tracy’s Crab Shack is one smart operation. First – location location location. They are right on the cruise ship docks. First thing you step off one of those giant ships, you see Traceys. Second, they don’t rely on location. They have a first quality product. They don’t compromise. They cook the crab legs right out in the open, fresh, while you wait. They have crowds standing in line to get these crab legs, and you eat outside at butcher paper covered tables; the crab meals are served in paper containers and you SHARE tables. It works.

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We share a table with two rough young men and have a fascinating conversation. They drove up, have had fabulous adventures and we shared information. I said that the thing that surprised me was that I expected Alaska to be more wired than it is; one of them said that his big surprise was to find Alaska as wired as it is, and that wifi is available at a large number of cafes and restaurants. That was fascinating to me, to opposite perspectives. Part of it, I think, was being on the ferry system – all the ferries in Seattle are wired, so it was a shock to me that the Alaska ferries were not.

One of our tablemates had now visited all 50 states, and the other had visited
49 states.

We saw people from all over the world lined up and eating King Crab at Tracy’s. AdventureMan had the crab bisque over rice and I had the crab cakes. Eating King Crab legs is messy, and I didn’t want to smell like crab for the rest of the day.

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Tracey’s is the number one rated restaurant in Juneau on TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. I think it must be the combination of the crowd they attract and the product. Juneau people eat there, too.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 2 Comments

The Alaska Gulf: Chenega Bay to Yakutat All Mountains and Glaciers

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The sky is full of sunshine as we awake, and we are surrounded by snowy
mountains, gleaming in the sunshine. It is unspeakably beautiful. We eat our breakfast cereal and head outside, after listening to the complaints of a group of Texans at the next table.

“It’s like a bunch of hobos!” one man says of the aft viewing room, “I’ve never seen anything like it! They have their big rucksacks and sleeping bags and pillows all over the place!” The sign says you can only sleep from 8 at night to 8 in the morning, but they are still sleeping.”

Well, or still trying to sleep. Many of these people are living on a shoestring, and the ferry is the only way they can get to the doctor, or get their children to school, or get to their next job. They are frugal, bringing on their own food, trying to keep their kids dressed and entertained. The Alaska Maritime Highway has compassion on these travelers, provides a solarium area where campers can set up tents, rent sizable lockers. There are other areas, the aft lounges, where campers without tents can sleep, and this is where the Kodiak football team and cross country teams hung out. There is a children’s play area where families sleep right under the “no camping” signs, and the ferry personnel look the other way. It’s an Alaskan thing. It makes me proud to be born Alaskan. People take care of one another, and cut each other some slack.

Honestly, people, you are on the wrong ship! This is the Alaska Marine Highway, not the Diamond Princess!

We are drawn to the decks, compelled by the gorgeous scenery. Each snow covered mountain has its own beauty. We meet a Canadian couple; she has to excuse herself when the topic turns to food – she is seasick. A Kansan with whom we have a long conversation is also suffering a little from seasickness, and AdventureMan shares a Dramamine tablet with him.

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We have already made our reservations for the great Celebration in Juneau next year. It’s the reason we made the trip this year. As we started talking about the Celebration, which is only held every other year, we had so many ideas we knew we needed to take a reconnaissance trip so we would know how easy – or hard – travel is, and have a better idea what we want to see and do. This ferry trip has been a great introduction, and we have questioned many many Alaskans and travelers as to what they have seen and enjoyed.

Some things we know we don’t want to do. We don’t want to be on buses, going through Denali, following one bear. We don’t want to be on a cruise ship. We don’t want to travel in a group. I kind of think that RV rental might be a good way to go, but the truth is, I prefer sleeping in a bed, and I don’t like cooking in camping situations. As I see it – and I’ve done a lot of camping – camping is hard work. It’s all the things you have to do at home – shop for food, prepare food, cook food, and clean up – done under the most primitive conditions. I think we will look for an auto rental and good lodges and restaurants along our route, whatever that route is, after the Celebration in Juneau.

What is the Celebration? The Celebration is sponsored by Sealaska, and brings together all the tribes and clans of Alaskan native inhabitants to share knowledge. They wear their ceremonial clan robes and have a parade down the Main Street of Juneau. They gather to do the dances, transmitting their legends and language to their children. They share craftsmanship; the baskets, the robe making, wood carving, totems. If it is anything like the desert festivals we attended in Tunisia, it is also a time when the young men and women of different – but related – tribes can eye one another with marriage in mind, good for getting some healthy variation in the gene pool. I can hardly wait to see this.

I had planned to call the car rental again as soon as I hit Chenega Bay or Yakutat, so we will have a rental car when we hit Juneau again, but . . . I can only laugh now at my presumption . . . there is no service at either. My phone does not work. It is frustrating.

When I pack for trips, the worst of my obsessive-compulsiveness kicks in. I make lists, and check them – more than once. I order the right maps, and go over them. I check and double check reservations.

This trip, assuming I could just call and use my Google Maps and GoogleEarth, I didn’t worry. Information, in this wonderful day of technology, is literally at my fingertips. This has been a great lesson in just how dependent we all are on technology, and how devastating it is to learn that it cannot always be relied upon.

Dolphins frolic, so many and so hard to photograph as they move so quickly!

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When I saw this, I thought at first it was part of the tsunami trash drifted over from Japan, and then I saw it was a flat barge loaded with containers. So loaded with containers, you can hardly see the barge:

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A brief shift in the weather:

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We are out on the deck most of the day, just watching this grandeur pass by, huge mountains, gigantic glaciers, parading past, one after another:

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Someone said this is Mount Saint Elias, but I don’t think it is. None the less, it was a very high mountain, higher than anything near. This is the very tip. I spent hours trying to find a time when the whole mountain would come into view . . .

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This is about the best I could get, the most of the mountain exposed:

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This is what I was dealing with for hours as we passed – it truly is a huge mountain, but weather shifted often, and it was shrouded in these thin grey bands of clouds:

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We passed several glacier fields, and I think this one was the Behring:
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We are nearing Yakutat, the sun is setting:

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In Yakutat I have just enough coverage to make a car reservation before we hit the sack.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

Adventures in Chenega Bay

By the time we reach Chenega Bay, we are READY! The departure board tells us we only have a half an hour, but a half an hour is enough to hike to the top of the hill, see the church, take some photos and return. Actually, it took us more than half an hour. It didn’t matter. The ship needed to offload and onload, and the Chenega Bay residents needed their fix of hamburgers and ice cream.

As it turns out – and we should have known this by now – we really had a lot longer. It took a while to load the snow plow and all of its accessories 🙂

Chenega Bay was totally wiped out in a tsunami following an earthquake. Here is what their official site tells us:

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Chenega IRA Council

PO Box 8079 * Chenega Bay, AK 99574 * 907-573-5132

The Chenega IRA Council is a federally recognized Indian Tribe that serves the Alutiiq people of Chenega Bay, Alaska. The Chenega IRA Council operates a variety of social, cultural and economic development programs designed to enhance the quality of life within Chenega Bay.

Chenega Bay – Description & Location

The village of Chenega Bay is located on Evans Island in Crab Bay, (42) miles Southwest of Whittier in the Prince William Sound. It is one hundred and four (104) air miles southeast of Anchorage. Until the March 27,1964 earthquake, Chenega was an Alutiiq Native tranquil fishing village located on the southern end of Chenega Island in western Prince William Sound. Founded before the Russian arrival in the late 1700s, Chenega was the longest occupied village in Prince William Sound at the time of the earthquake. Moments after the earthquake, a tsunami destroyed all of the buildings in Chenega village with the sole exception of a single home and the village school. Over a third of the village residents were killed and the survivors were taken initially to Cordova and then were later resettled in the village of Tatitlek by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

With the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the former residents of Chenega formed the Chenega Corporation that acquired the right to select 76,093 acres around the old Chenega Village Township. The Alutiiq Natives enrolled in the Chenega Corporation selected their new village site at Crab Bay on Evans Island in the Prince William Sound in March of 1977. This site was carefully chosen following extensive research as the site best able to meet the needs of the residents’ subsistence lifestyle. The Chenega Corporation and the Chenega IRA Council worked together to obtain funding for roads, a water and sewer system, electric generators, a boat and floatplane dock and a school. The new village named Chenega Bay was finally occupied in 1984 following the construction of 21 Housing and Urban Development homes.

Chenega Bay is an isolated community accessible only by air or water. Charter airlines provide the majority of the transportation and the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System provides weekly ferry service year round.

Commercial fishing and subsistence activities are an important part of the lifestyle of the people of Chenega Bay. Commercial employment is primarily with the local school, the Tribal council, health clinic, and commercial fishing.

The primary business area of the village includes village council offices, a community center, the Russian Orthodox church, small boat harbor, the Alaska marine highway ferry terminal, and a future local display facility.

It felt so good to be able to get off and do some hiking. It was also a little overwhelming trying to imagine living in a village this small. Almost all the houses I saw looked exactly alike; maybe the tribe built them all. It is very very small and very isolated, the boat comes in once every week. There are no scheduled airlines, only charters.

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The Russian Orthodox Church, The Nativity of Theodokos, is very new, and very beautiful. We wondered where people sit? Or maybe there are chairs hidded away that are brought out for services, or brought from across the street at the Indian Affairs office? I always check, I love it that so many of the ikons look native. 🙂

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This last photo from the church is St. Herman of Alaska. Here is what Wikipedia says:

Saint Herman of Alaska (Russian: Преподобный Герман Аляскинский, c. 1750s – November 15, 1836) was a Russian Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska, which was then part of Russian America. His gentle approach and ascetic life earned him the love and respect of both the native Alaskans and the Russian colonists. He is considered by many Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of North America.[1]

The patron saint of North America?! Who knew?!

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The Johnny Totemoff Museum is sometimes open – not today – and also sells homemade jams made from salmonberry and high mountain cranberries. I would have loved to have some of that! Johnny Totemoff was a local fisherman who always knew where the fish were, and was always coming to the rescue of other in troubled times. I love it that they named the museum after him. (Don’t you wonder how I knew that? On board the ship, they have a notebook at the Purser’s office they put out before you reach each stop. I read about the Totmnoff Museum in the Purser’s book.:-) Now you know.)

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We loved watching the kids play – two of them were waiting for their father to come off the ship with their ice cream. They reminded me of my mom telling me of all the times she wanted to kill me because I did unsafe things, but oh, what fun!

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Local transportation:

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This is not the Homer otter, this is the Chenega Bay otter, and totally by chance and not by talent, I caught him catching a fish!

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Too soon, it is time to depart.

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September 11, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Photos, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Wildlife, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mountains and Glaciers En Route to Chenega Bay

Passage was a little rough, once again, going through the Barrens, and AdventureMan took a dramamine. Because we don’t take a lot of medications, when we do, it can have a long-lasting impact, and AdventureMan sleeps in the next day. Not such a bad thing, it is vacation, after all. He is missing a lot of breathtaking scenery, but . . . LOL . . . even breathtaking scenery gets to be a little “oh yeah?” after a lot of breathtaking scenery.

 

Once all the high school kids got off at Kodiak Island, the boat became very quiet.  There are some families, a few tourists, family members en route home, or to medical appointments from remote villages. We are meeting some fine people. One young man for whom we took a photo told us he was from a small village in Israel. I think that is true, and I think it is also disguise. He looks just like my Palestinian friends in Qatar. I expect it is just easier, here in the US, to say you are “from Israel.” I love these young people, many of them out all on their own, all alone, seeing these wonderful sights. 

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Even though these are all different, after a while . . . Oh! There are a lot more photos! You really want to see them all, LOL?? After a while, you can’t even count the glaciers. My eyes have been so hungry for mountains and blue green pine trees and snow and glaciers, and now . . . I feel overfed!

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Photos, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Departing Homer for Kodiak and Chenega Bay

Did I mention departures can be ephemeral?

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“As soon as possible” can take a long long time when you are boarding cars, motorcycles, even a grown-up tricycle, container vans, campers, R/vs of all shapes and sizes, trucks, and today we learn how it is done. This is truly a marvel of engineering. It must also take some amazing system to keep straight where every vehicle needs to go because they are getting off at different stops, so all the ones getting off at the same stop need to be stored together. Watching all this happen is amazing.

They have this turntable. Cars drive on, we think a maximum of six. The turntable also handles a maximum of one large container truck.

Cars drive on the elevated turntable:

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Turntable begins to lower:
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Cars reach main deck:
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Turntable begins to turn:
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A friendly otter kept us entertained while we waited for all the vehicles to board.

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We were told this is one of the Homer small ferries to Kachemak National Park or to Seldovia:

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It is another gorgeous day in Homer, and even early in the morning, fishermen and women are on the beach:

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It’s a beautiful departure, and somewhere between Homer and Kodiak, we run into a heavy mist near sunset:

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We departed late and will be getting into Kodiak late, so late we sleep right through it. Before we know it, we are departed from Kodiak and en route to Chenega Bay and Whittier.

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Look Like a Happy Woman” on the M/V Kennicott

One of the birders approached me.

“I’ve been watching you. You always have a smile on your face. You watch the scenery and smile, and you look like a happy woman.”

“I am. I am really happy to be here.”

I do like living in Pensacola, I love being near our son and his wife and our two adorable grandchildren, but oh, this is where I was born. The sea is part of my blood, the piney clean smell of the Alaskan air, the clothes – jeans and something warm – this is how I grew up, this is how I am comfortable. I am. I am a happy woman.

Here are some photos from this first day on board the M/V Kennicott:

Humpback whales!
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View from our cabin
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I couldn’t figure out what this is, or if it is one creature, like a whale, or two, like a dolphin. We often saw things and had to try to puzzle out what we were seeing.

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I mentioned before, the shock of discovering that the M/V Kennicott would not be wired for internet. It was equally shocking that it did not have a tower for cell phone coverage, or however that is done. Ferries in Seattle, just little commuter ferries, they’re wired! WiFi is everywhere. Really, I guess I am mad at myself for thinking all Alaska would also be wired; I just projected my own prejudices and got trapped in them.

But my compass on my iPhone worked, and as you know, I am also a map person. As we were to be heading out into the Gulf of Alaska (which would be North) my compass was reading South, and the afternoon sun was also on the wrong side of the boat. “Do you know where we are?” I asked a guy who looked like he would know as we picked up dinner. “We are going backwards!” he almost shouted! “We are ahead of schedule, so the pilot is giving an apprentice from Michigan a lesson in pilotage!”

We were headed into an inlet that kept getting narrower, and narrower, and when we came to a village, Pelican, the ferry turned around and headed back where we had been coming from. I had wanted to see the mouth of Glacier Bay, but I never saw anything that looked anything like it, not until the return trip. We had some late day fog, so maybe the entrance and glaciers were shrouded. On the way back, we saw so many glaciers that at some point, I can’t even believe I am saying this, it was like “oh yeh, another glacier.”

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The green line is more or less the route we took from Juneau to Yakutat to Whittier to Chenega Bay, to Kodiak Island and to Homer – and then back. The first day out, if you look at Juneau, near the mouth to the Gulf of Alaska you will see off to the left a narrow inlet down Chicagof Island to Pelican. That was the side trip we took on our first evening on the M/V Kennicott.

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September 4, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , | 2 Comments