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September 23, 2006 5:22 PM




< September entries

Thursday, August 31

Ellen: Today we did the final weighing of David & Luke's hunting gear. They're limited to 200 pounds. We were just under, according to Jan and Gerry's bathroom scale. When we dropped it off at the flight service, they weighed it and pronounced them 6 pounds underweight. Since David and Luke are not heavy-weights themselves, the pilot gave permission for them to take an extra shotgun along, something they had hoped to take but had eliminated for the weight. Great glee!

I asked someone to take a picture of the four of us on the dock:

Then we loaded the car with Grace's stuff and headed for Anchorage. It was a drizzly, cool day so the mountains came and went from view. In Anchorage we ran some errands, had supper, and then, with the time left, we descended upon Title Wave Books. I had a number of books on natives and their language, arts, and crafts that I wanted for my research. I found most of them and was able to save quite a bit of money by buying used copies. At about 8:00 PM we started for the airport, waited while Grace checked in, and watched to make sure she could make it through security with her backpack, computer and banjo (no sweat). We blew kisses across the gap and said goodbye. We won't be able to see her again for 3 months. It was so nice having our family together for a whole week.

On the drive home, we saw a number of Dall sheep on the cliffs again.

Wednesday, August 30

Ellen: A rainy day with highs in the low 50s. We had almost grown used to sun and warmth. Oh,well, this is more typical. I cut Luke's hair, did laundry, and worked quite a while on emails and our project website. Rob, my partner, has designed our website. Check it with the"Official Site" link to the left. It's at http://www.alutiiqdancefilm.org.

David and Luke focused on their packing. We went into Soldotna again to buy caribou licenses and pick up the rest of their supplies. Grace bought a vintage dress that needed some altering. We worked on it together with the few sewing supplies we had. Grace does beautiful handwork but we sure would like to have had my sewing machine!

Tuesday, August 29

Ellen: It was a beautiful sunny day with highs in the low 60s. The nicest day yet! I was occupied primarily with setting up for filming a native event in Homer next Saturday. I'll be on my own for this one. Grace leaves Thursday night and David and Luke will be caribou hunting and Rob can't make it. Grace and I drove into Soldotna and stopped at the library and a few other places. David and Luke worked on organizing and packing for the caribou hunt. They are limited to 200 pounds of supplies to carry on the plane. They're finding it's a tough order. They've pared it down to about 210 pounds.

Monday, August 28

Ellen: Today we woke to a beautiful day with mist hanging in the Moose River valley. As it lifted, the sky cleared into stunning blue. I spent most of the day working on travel arrangements for upcoming interviews. Grace and I ran a few errands in Soldotna. David worked on packing for the upcoming caribou hunt and Luke hung out. In late afternoon, we saw a cow moose across the river, grazing in a field. We took turns watching her through the spotting scope for quite a while before she strolled into the woods. David and Luke caught a pink salmon from the canoe in the evening. A lovely peaceful day.

Sunday, August 27

Dave: Today we had perfect weather, no rain. It dawned clear and cool and must have hit 65. We decided not to waste the best weather yet. While loading the Jeep, the neighbor asked if we felt the earthquake at about 5AM. We did not, but she assured us that there would be others. Before we left, she showed us their restored 1956 Chevy station wagon and told us they were bringing home another restored car from their shop today.

We drove through the beautiful Kenai Mountains to the little village of Hope. It's an old gold-mining community on the south side of the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. It's not far from Anchorage, as the crow flies. Today, Hope is better known for the hugh pink salmon it gets, especially in even-numbered years. Pinks are the smallest salmon in Alaska and are also called Humpies. The reason is obvious in this picture of Luke. The males develop a large hump on their backs when they are in the spawning mode. You can't see it in the picture but we are only about 200 yards from the ocean here. After both Luke and I caught a couple of fresh ones and a friendly Alaska State Trooper checked our fishing licenses, we went up Resurrection Creek (the one we were fishing in) and tried panning for gold.

Gold panning is a lot like clam digging. It's no way to feed a hungry family. Actually we found about 6 or 7 flakes. The kids claim they can see the flakes in the tiny glass vial we bought and I think I can too, if I have my reading glasses on.

Saturday, August 26

Ellen: Today I worked, wrote letters and emails, and kept books for my grants. Boooooring. Grace fixed her banjo case and played some music. David and Luke went to Ninilchik clamming.

David: Yesterday, when we stopped in Ninilchik, Luke and I talked to a couple from Washington State. They were gathering razor clams on the tidal flats. They showed us how to look for little dipples in the sand and then dig down about 12 to 18 inches and feel for the clam. They were using a "clam gun", a 4 inch steel tube about 2 feet long with a "T" handle on top. They placed the tube over the dipple in the sand and then pushed it down. Before pulling up they put their thumb over a small hole in the cap of the tube. This created suction that lifted out a cylinder of muck and hopefully, the clam. If the clam was not in the muck, they immediately plunged their hand down the hole and felt for the clam. They usually got one. You can also use a narrow bladed shovel. Gerry had one in the garage at home. How hard can it be? Fried clams, boiled clams, clam chowder, linguini with clams. So, today we drove to Ninilchik (did I mention that it was raining and cold?). We pulled in at about 10am, 1/2 hour before low tide. Several other folks and families arrived and began putting on their rain coats and "Alaska tennis shoes" (AKA hip boots). We found a dipple, Luke dug just like the pamphlet on clamming said, I jammed my hand into the mud and got one! First try! Piece of cake. Too bad the limit for the two of us is only 120! Two hours later the tide came back in. Thank heavens, we got to quit. We hand-dug about 3000 holes and got 7 clams. Luke came to the conclusion that in a survival situation, one should stay away from digging clams. "It's probably better to boil the water in your boots and drink the broth."

Friday, August 25

Ellen: We woke this morning to sunshine and blue sky! Today, a little work, a little fun. We all piled into the Jeep and drove toward Homer. On the way we stopped at Ninilchik to see the Russian Orthodox Church that perches high above the village overlooking the Cook Inlet and the mountains across. This is the first time it's been clear enough for us to see the mountains from that spot. That's the volcano Illiamna in the distance: (my colleague Kim Gall will remember this scene from her trip to Ninilchik)

We stopped to watch several people clamming on the beach at low tide in Ninilchik. Luke and David are quite intrigued. A huge cow moose and her two calves grazed along the road to Homer. In Homer, I spent some time at the Pratt Museum and connected with the curator about a native festival next weekend. I got a number of names of native artists in Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek. Very productive. We wandered the harbor and shops of the Homer Spit. Here are our enthusiastic offspring:

Thursday, August 24

Ellen: We all had a lazy day today. We slept in since we didn't get to bed until 2:30 AM. We showed Grace around Soldotna and went to the library but mostly just read and visited. Did I mention that it rained all day? Temps mostly in the 40's.

Wednesday, August 23

Ellen: Today we drove into Anchorage. On the way, we saw a huge cow moose standing along a stream. As we got closer to Anchorage, along the northern shore of the Turnagain Arm, we saw a half dozen Dall sheep in the rocks high above the road. So far, we've seen them there nearly every time. We ran lots of errands in Anchorage. I met with a leader of the Seldovia Native Corporation to get suggestions on artists working in Seldovia. I'll be following up on his recommendations and traveling across Katchemak Bay from Homer to Seldovia in the next month or so. We needed to kill time so we went to a pretty stupid but funny movie, Talladega Nights. Grace was supposed to arrive at the airport at about 10:00 PM, so we went to meet her. Unfortunately, she'd been delayed out of Chicago and didn't arrive until about 11:30. We were so glad to see her but it was a long 2 1/2 hour drive back to Sterling.

Tuesday, August 22

Ellen: Most of the day was quiet in Sterling. It rained pretty much all day and we walked to the post office, studied, read, and did laundry. Nothing too exciting to report. Luke and David ran together for 4 miles and almost collided with a cow moose and her calf on the Sterling Highway. Across from the cabin, there was a bald eagle preening in the top of a tree. Finally, at about 7:00 PM, the sun appeared. With all the moisture in the air, it looked like this from the cabin window just before sunset:

Luke: Tonight my pap and I were exploring a place called Bing's Landing where we saw a herd of spruce grouse hanging out. I hopped out and hid behind the jeep while Dad pulled forward. I threw about twenty rocks at the two grouse by the road but they soon retreated to the woods. I pursued them with a handful of rocks until I had two of them treed (apparently they did not decide that flying away was the best course of action). I nailed this one on the first throw and returned to the road and found that my father had ditched me and driven away. Thanks, Dad, no grouse for you. As you can see by the picture, I prefer a four seamed split finger.

Monday, August 21

Ellen: After picking up Rob from the airport at 7:00, we began a long day of interviews in Anchorage. We started the day at breakfast with Perry Eaton, an Alutiiq mask-carver and Anchorage businessman. We spent the morning talking with him about his art and culture and watched him carve a mask. In the afternoon, we interviewed Loren Anderson, a song-writer in the Alutiiq language, a drum-maker, dancer, and choreographer. He's writing songs and choreographing dances for two of Perry's masks. It was a beautiful day in Anchorage so we conducted most of our interviews outside. Delightful. The drive home to the Sterling cabin was spectacular with the setting sun on the mountains. We took a scenic route past Skilak Lake:

When we got home, Luke, who had stayed behind at the cabin, told us that the neighbors had cautioned him about a brown bear spotted in the neighborhood this morning. He stayed alert but never saw it. Gerry and Jan are in Anchorage. Gerry's finishing up a geology project and Jan's visiting friends. They both head south early Wednesday morning on their way back to Grand Rapids and Calvin. We've had such a good time with them these past 10 days and are so grateful they are willing to share their cabin with us this fall. We miss them already. Safe travels and Godspeed, Gerry and Jan.

Sunday, August 20

Ellen: We met three amazing women today: Gerry's cousin Marge and her friends Jackie and Anne. They are all retired nurses in their 70's who have led fascinating lives. In their twenties, they all worked as nurses. Then they decided to pursue degrees at Calvin College in the mid-1950s. After college, they drove together to Anchorage, Alaska to work in the Native Hospital there. Alaska wasn't even a state yet! They worked in health care and education for nearly 50 years. These are three independent, ambitious, single women with an amazing sense of adventure! They have helped to shape the state's healthcare system, all of them taking leadership roles over the years. They have traveled to nearly every continent and have now settled in Cooper Landing, about 30 miles east of Sterling, 100 miles south of Anchorage. Today we joined them for church. Afterward we enjoyed dinner with them at the Princess Lodge. Then they took us on a tour of their latest project - a senior living facility that they have spearheaded for 4 years. The first phase is now finished and filled with seniors- a beautiful facility! We finally returned to their house on Kenai Lake for a delicious dessert. Although retired, they are very active in the senior housing project, community clean-up projects, and recent travel to places such as New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. What an inspirational trio! Here are Anne, Marge and Jackie:

We hated to leave but had to say goodbye to them. We also had to part ways with Gerry and Jan who drove back to the cabin to do their final pack-up and then head into Anchorage tomorrow. We drove directly to Anchorage and stayed at Dave and Dar Kuiper's house. They graciously offered us a room for the night since we have to pick up Rob Prince, my film-maker partner, who arrives in Anchorage at 7:00 AM tomorrow for a day of filming.

Saturday August 19

Dave: It stopped raining for a while today. Luke went to the Kenai River to fish, and Ellen and I walked to the post office (about a mile away). Then Gerry, Ellen and I took Gerry's boat up the Moose River. The river starts at a series of lakes to the north. We ran about 6 or 7 miles up the river until we encountered a couple in a canoe coming downstream. After talking to them about what they'd seen upstream, we headed back downstream. About 3 miles from home, we ran out of gas. By removing the 12 gallon tank and tilting it so that what little gas remained ran into a corner, and then cutting the gas line and sticking it directly into the little puddle of fuel, we were able to run another one and a half miles. We ran out again about one quarter of a mile from a house. Unfortunately, they didn't have any gas. We poled and paddled to the second house and they had a 250 gallon tank on the shoreline to fuel the airplane (see below). The owner sold us a gallon and we made it the last mile home. Defied death again!

Friday, August 18

Dave: Today it rained again. Yesterday was the first day in five that it didn't rain at all. As a result, we took today off, sat around, ate and read. Late in the afternoon, Gerry, Luke and I went for a ride. Luke and Gerry spotted a small black bear on the edge of a clearing, We went for dinner to a small resturant in town called Suzy's. Very good food and a friendly wait staff. Ellen has made arrangements to met with one of the artists that she will be interviewing for the film next Monday. He seems excited with the project as well. We didn't take any pictures today so here is a picture of the 18" dolly varden that Gerry caught yesterday. Dollys are a char, in the same family as brook and lake trout. They are closely related to Artic Char and some even argue that they are only a different race of the same fish. The fish was named after a character in the Charles Dickens novel "Barnaby Rudge". Enough with the trivia, here's the fish:

Thursday, August 17

Ellen: The sun came out today. Since this is the rainiest time of year on the Kenai Peninsula, we haven't seen the sun in a while. When Jan and I drove into Soldotna to run some errands, we were able to see the 2 volcanos straight across the Cook Inlet, Redoubt and Illiamna. What an impressive sight! David, Gerry, and Luke went up the Kenai River in Gerry's boat and drifted down fishing.

Dave: Luke and I fished the Kenai from Skilak Lake to the mouth of the Moose River with our host, Gerry Van Kooten. The stretch of river just below the lake is spectacular. The Kenai Mountains rise up directly from the far shore. The waters are a milky blue from all the glacial silt. The river was FULL of salmon. Sockeyes lined the shore, some charter boats were catching cohos and we saw several chinooks porpoise on the surface. But we were fishing for trout. Gerry caught the 24" rainbow pictured below. He also got an18" Dolly Varden. I got a 17" rainbow. Luke had a tough time. He lost a very large rainbow, two sockeye salmon and one HUGE fish we never saw. . . maybe a Manatee! Everywhere we went we saw people catching fish, from the guide boats to the kids on docks. This truly is a fantastic river.

Wednesday, August 16

Ellen: Today we drove south to Homer along the east coast of the Cook Inlet. That's about a 90 minute drive. On the way, we passed through Soldotna, Ninilchik, Clam Gulch, and a few other towns that sit on the Cook Inlet. The cloud cover was low (but not raining much) so most of the time we couldn't see the spectacular mountains and volcanos across the Cook Inlet. In Homer, we picked up some literature about water taxis, ferries, and flight services in the area. I will need to interview some native artists in Seldovia and Nanwalek, across the Katchemak Bay from Homer. I found a few water and air options. Schedules and prices will dictate the choices I'll make. Since I also need to get to Kodiak several times, I hoped to find an inexpensive flight from Homer but found that, short of chartering a plane, I'm better off driving back up to Anchorage (2 1/2 hours at least) to fly to Kodiak. Otherwise, I could take the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Homer that takes 11 hours each way! Meanwhile, David and Luke looked at the halibut charters that Homer is known for. We found that nearly all the charters shut down on Labor Day so they're hoping to do a 1/2 day trip next week. We'll see. At least we had halibut fish and chips on the Homer Spit. Delicious!

Tuesday, August 15

Ellen: Today David booked a fly-in caribou hunt across the Cook Inlet to the Alaskan Peninsula for Luke and himself for September 1-8. It should be the adventure of a lifetime. (quite expensive, too!) It rained most of the day and hovered in the 50's. Typical, I hear. For a short time, the mountains appeared through the clouds. They're a spectacular sight. Gerry, Luke, and David went fishing in the rain from Gerry's boat on the Kenai River again. I guess they don't mind getting wet when the fish are biting. David said that it rained so hard that they weren't sure whether they caught the fish or that the fish just swam into the boat. Gerry caught a 24 inch rainbow trout, or maybe it just swam in. . .

Monday, August 14

Ellen: I finally figured out how to post the pictures and loaded a bunch of them today. Check it out. Today we drove into Soldotna and Kenai to find out about possible flights for caribou hunting across the Cook Inlet on the Alaskan Peninsula. We found a business that a friend from Holland, Dave Hoekstra, had mentioned- Mission Aviation Repair Co. We missed Brian Bruxvoort, who Dave wanted us to look up, but met his colleague, Bob Martin. Bob's from Zeeland and Borculo, now doing mission work in Alaska. We had a young couple, Aaron and Mili, friends of Jan and Gerry, for dinner. As we were finishing, Gerry spotted a cow moose and her calf across the river. While we watched, they waded in and swam the river toward us! Only in Alaska.

Gerry, Luke, and David went fishing after dinner on the Kenai River (about 1/2 mile away) in Gerry's boat. They hammered the fish!

Sunday, August 13

Dave: Luke and I fished the Russian River where it runs into the Kenai River. We each caught a nice bright sockeye in the first 5 minutes. After that we could only catch "skanks". While walking down the path returning to the parking lot, we noticed a group of men in the river who were looking up stream and not fishing. Yup! a bear, a gizzly, in fact. We watched it for some time and took a few pictures. The photos never do it justice. Even though it was a small two year old, these bears are very impressive. One of the other fishermen from the area said that this one was one of 4 grizzlies that are working this section of river. You know you're fishing in Alaska when....

Ellen: Meanwhile, back at the cabin, we saw lots of commotion at the access site next door. The goofiest vessels I ever saw were being launched. Turns out, this was the annual Moose River Raft Race. A rip-roaring race between the three entries ensued and a great time was had by all. The finish line, 1/2 mile downstream under the Sterling Highway bridge, drew quite a crowd of tourists who pulled off in their RVs to see what all the excitement was about.

Saturday, August 12

Luke: Today I fished the Russian River and the Kenai River and was quite successful. I hooked many fish but only managed to land 9 sockeye (red) salmon. One of the fish that I landed had two lures lodged in its back. I also met a professor from Hope College on the river when I helped him land his fish, however we did not talk long once he knew about my mom's affiliation with Calvin.

P.S. The rain is not so bad, no use complaining.

Dave: Today the three of us drove to the Russian River where it flows into the Kenai River. The newspapers reported an excellent sockeye run and that there were several bears in the area, both black bears and a pair of young grizzlies. The plan was to drop Luke of on the river and let him fish while Ellen and I walked 2.5 miles up to the falls to watch the salmon and hopefully see the bears. This is not wilderness. There is a large campground (new rules prohibit tent camping because of the grizzlies) and a well maintained path going to a viewing platform at the falls. There were tons of sockeye salmon. (no fishing within 600 yards of the falls) We watched for about 1/2 hour and then walked back. No bears, but we did see two bear poops in the path. It rained the whole time, but we have learned that if you wait for it to clear around here you would never do anything. Luke had a great time catching salmon. He didn't keep any because they had all been in the river for a while. (the locals call them "skanks" if they are not silver or fresh from the ocean). A friendly Anchorage fireman, formerly from Farmington Hills, Michigan, gave Luke a lot of good fishing advice that actually worked. See the red sockeyes in the picture below?

Gerry Van K. has been bow hunting for moose since it opened on the 10th. Luke and I went out with him on the evening of the tenth and saw a cow with two calves. None were legal. It must be a bull with an antler spread of at least 50 inches, or at least three brow tines, or a spike, or a forked antler. On the 11th we went out with Gerry again and saw nothing. This evening he went out while we were fishing but only saw a bear at about 50 yards, too far for a bow shot. (Bear season is open and the limit is two in this area.)

We had visitors for supper this evening, friends of the Van K's from Anchorage, Dave and Dar Kuiper. It turns out that Dave was in Ellen's class at Grand Rapids Central Christian. We are running into way too many people from home!

Ellen: Rain, rain, rain. This is such beautiful country, though, that the weather doesn't really matter.

Friday, August 11

Ellen: It was wonderful to wake up in our temporary home today. Looking out the front window, we were able to spot a cow moose across the Moose River. What a terrific place! Jan and I headed out to run errands. We stopped at the post office (about 1 mile away) where they've been collecting our mail, forwarded to "general delivery". Any mail addressed to our home is automatically forwarded. The clerk was beginning to wonder, though, if we would ever come to pick it up. I explained that we'd been on the road for almost 3 weeks. We drove into Soldotna, about 10 miles away, and were able to pick up groceries and prescriptions. We stopped at the library and I purchased a temporary library card that will also give me access to inter-library loans. David unpacked the entire car and was surprised that even with all the rain, the equipment and supplies in the cartop carrier had remained mostly dry.

Thursday, August 10

Ellen: We're home in Sterling! The drive from Glennallen to Anchorage went smoothly. We spotted one small black bear but no more moose. Thankfully, we were mostly out of the road construction stretch. The Chugach Mountain Range rose with snow-capped peaks along the road. We saw several glaciers flowing down from the high valleys they had scoured. This is a shot of the Matanuska Glacier along the Glenn Highway.

The weather was cloudy with occasional breaks. Sometimes the sun broke through momentarily, spotlighting a mountain top or glacier. Beautiful! In Anchorage we had a few errands to run. We needed to stop at REI for maps and a few camping supplies and then we walked to the nearby Title Wave Books. Before we knew it, we'd spent almost 2 hours purusing the shelves of new and used books. It's our favorite bookstore in the world. Everytime we're in Anchorage, it's a number one destination. We hurried away, leaving the other errands for later since Gerry and Jan VanKooten were expecting us for spaghetti supper in Sterling. After getting fuel (for $2.81 a gallon!), we hit the road for the spectacular final 2 1/2 hour stretch to the Kenai Peninsula and Sterling. I craned my neck looking up the rock walls all along the Turnagain Arm because we've always been able to spot Dall sheep on the cliffs in this stretch. Sure enough, we saw one perched on the rock high overhead. Crossing the Kenai Peninsula to the west, we paralleled the Kenai River for quite a while. It's a famous fishery. We easily found the Moose River Road and VanKooten's wonderful "cabin" on the Moose River just off the Sterling Highway. What a beautiful location in the woods, overlooking the river! We are so thankful to be here and to savor this gorgeous spot. Jan and Gerry welcomed us warmly and we talked late into the night. It feels so good to finally be in our temporary home. Here's a view from the front windows:

Wednesday, August 9

Ellen: Today we DROVE. We left Whitehorse, YT about 6:30 Alaska time and got to a motel in Glennallen, AK about 11 1/2 hours later. It was beautiful country and it turned into beautiful weather but we ran into road construction at every turn. We had to stop and wait on one-lane stretches at least 8 times. The time passed a bit faster because we listened to a reading of the book The DaVinci Code for about 6 hours. We did see one moose in the woods. The hotel in Glennallen, the Caribou Hotel, has the most amazing flowers! (see below) They have such long daylight hours here that even though the growing season is short, everything really flourishes! Tomorrow we drive to Anchorage (about 3 1/2 hours) run some errands there, and then drive the last stretch to Sterling (about 2 1/2 hours). The Van Kootens are expecting us and we are looking forward to finally settling in.

Tuesday, August 8

Dave: Last nite we stayed in Skagway, AK. We took a walking tour of the town led by a National Park ranger. We found out that this town was founded here a little over 100 years ago to fleece the miners headed to the Klondike gold fields. The only reason it exists today is to fleece the tourists that arrive on the cruise ships. I also find it strange that people will do things on their vacations that they would never do at home, pay big bucks and call it fun! Case in point: as we left the town and drove up the highway toward the Canadian border, in the rain and dense fog, following a tour bus belching black diesel smoke, we passed several groups on mountain bikes coming down the valley into Skagway. They had paid bicycle tour companies to haul them in vans to the Canadian border in order to ride back down the highway, in the rain and dense fog, being passed by dozens of tour buses belching away. The shoulder of the highway was about the width of the handlebars. Beyond that there was either a rock mountain wall or a foggy abyss. Of course, Luke and I choose to fish in the rain with grizzlies. Pick your poison.

The border crossing at Fraser, B.C. was a breeze. Interestingly, both the U.S. and Canadian customs stations are about 5 miles into the respective countries rather than on the border. From Fraser we traveled to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Whitehorse is a pleasant town of about 20,000 on the great Yukon river. There are lots of canoe guiding services. Luke and I met a local guide in a book store in Whitehorse. We had a pleasant conversation about canoeing and trapping. He had waited ten years to get a trapping concession (Concessions are created by the government and gives one exclusive rights to trap in that area. There are only 400 in the Yukon.). When we left the bookstore, he chased us down and handed me a map of Yukon canoe route that he had purchased.

Ellen: On the walking tour in Skagway, a woman looked intently at my Calvin fleece jacket. It turns out that she, Audrey, graduated from Calvin in 1966, lives in Zeeland and teaches 5th grade at Zeeland Christian School! She and her husband were on a cruise. Calvin's reach is very long. I intend to keep wearing that jacket.

We went to a terrific museum about the goldrush in Whitehorse. Luke's definitely getting gold fever. He plans to do some panning on the Kenai. We're staying at a nice hotel downtown in Whitehorse tonight. It has an ethernet connector. I'm so glad to have a consistent internet hookup. The wireless has not been trustworthy and we've had to search high and low or pay big bucks for some of our internet connections. Unfortunately, there's no Verizon cell service here. Tomorrow the internet connections and cell service may be sporatic again. We'll update whenever we can. It's so great to hear from so many of our friends and family that are checking in on our progress. We love sharing this adventure with you.

Monday, August 7

Ellen: Last night's lodging at the Breakwater Inn in Juneau left a lot to be desired: There were dried Cheerios in the sink and under the bed. The bathroom was pretty grungy. The wireless didn't work in our room. The desk clerks were clueless. The motel sign advertised 1/2 day rates. A few of the apparently long-term guests congregated on the the stairway outside our room to visit and smoke. I half expected to wake up with bedbug bites this morning. The wakeup call we requested for 4:15 never came but fortunately, we had set an alarm as well. This place will get no recommendation from us! The motel sounded pretty good on the internet. We are very glad that except for last night, all our other accommodations have met or exceeded our expectations.

The day started out peacefully enough. We rolled out of bed at 4:15 and lined up at the ferry dock by 4:45 AM. The ship was delayed for an hour and a half so we didn't sail until 8:30. We got great seats again- forward on the observation level. The weather was absolutely fabulous- blue skies and temps in the low 60's. We saw pods (?) of Dall porpoises and spectacular vistas of snowcapped mountains and glaciers on our way to Haines and Skagway. Once we docked in Skagway, everyone returned to their cars which were tightly packed on the lowest deck. It took a long time to unload since everyone had driven in one way but had to exit the ship backward. We watched as HUGE motorhomes and trucks with GIGANTIC trailers inched their way backward.

The regular cars needed to wait until the big boys got out. Finally it was our turn. Click. . .Click. .Click. The Jeep wouldn't start! Before anyone could say anything, Luke and I leapt out of the vehicle and began pushing it to the side so the other cars that had also been waiting could get out. Within a few minutes, one of the attendants wheeled a battery charger over. I guess he'd seen this before. The Jeep roared to life and we escaped from the belly of the Columbia. We drove a few blocks to our hotel and while I registered, David waited with the car running for fear it wouldn't start if he turned it off. Sure enough, we parked, turned off the key, and then tried to start it again. Click. At this point, we all snapped into crisis resolution mode. David hauled out his tool kit, very wisely packed close to the back of the car. He disconnected and wire-brushed the battery terminals and then reattached them. He tried to start the car. Click. Luke and I pushed it across the parking lot while David tried to start it by popping the clutch. (You can't do this nifty move in an automatic!) Unfortunately, we got to the street without starting, so we pushed it back across the parking lot to give it another try. This time, we really put our shoulders into it and got it up to cruising speed. Still no luck. We pushed it back into a parking space and regrouped. David checked a few things with his multi-tester and determined that it must be the battery. I ran to the hotel desk and asked where we might buy a car battery. We were afraid stores would be closed since it was almost 5:00. We hurried down the street to the turn-of-the-century Mercantile Hardware Store. We had measured the old battery with my handy purse tape measure so knew what we needed. We searched through all 3 of the batteries on the shelf and picked the one closest in size. We carried it back to the Jeep, removed the old battery, and jerry-rigged the new one. (It was 1 1/2 inches too tall so we had to devise a battery clamp from a wire hanger I had in my suitcase. With all three of us contributing our best suggestions, we fixed it, no sweat.) David fired up the Jeep and- VROOM. We're in business again! Now if we could only find a battery recycling station in this one horse town. . .

Luke: So far on this trip I have not written anything partly because i did not know how and because I didn't really feel like it. But I would like to say that the things that my mother writes may or may not be exaggerated. The hotel was fine, the people smoking outside our room were probably very friendly and the car did not take that long to repair. As of now, the most disappointing aspect of this trip is my inability to catch a &#$% cutthroat!

Sunday, August 6

Ellen: We got on the ferry late last night and slept in our little cabin on the ship; spartan but quite comfortable. We found out in the morning that we had been delayed 4 hours in Petersburg during the night since another ship was running late and then we missed the tide. We spent all day until 3:30 on the ferry to Juneau. It was another very comfortable day with drizzle on and off but wide angle viewing of islands and mountains and glaciers in all directions. We saw at least 30 humpback whales, a few porpoises, and lots of jumping salmon while cruising! We heard more foreign languages than English spoken by our fellow ferry travelers. In Juneau we ended up at a shabby motel that advertised wireless but apparently not in our room! I'm sitting in the motel restaurant tapping into their wireless now. Tomorrow morning we have to line up for the last leg of our ferry travel to Skagway by 5:00 AM! We're really enjoying the ferry experience, though. It's a great way to see scenery inaccessible any other way, in great comfort.

Saturday, August 5

Dave: It started to rain yesterday while we were fishing and rained all day today. Typical weather, we understand. We visited an interesting museum in the morning. In the afternoon Luke and I fished a different creek. ("limited opportunity", according to the Forest Service pamphlet) Although it looked good, we didn't catch anything. We tried to bushwack to the mouth of the stream at the ocean about a mile away. The woods were very dense. This is a temperate rain forest and you often can't see the ground you are walking on because of the dense underbrush. Large fallen logs and a heavy rain also impeded our progress. We returned to Wrangell and went with Ellen to the Petroglyph beach. This beach has a about 40 fish, circles, stylized creatures carved in the rocks by native people- pretty cool but very wet. Had supper at Zak's Cafe', heard all the details from the waitress/owner about the old man who passed out while driving and almost drove through the front wall while she was serving 2 local women at the very spot. We returned to the B&B to pack and say goodbye to our gracious hosts, Judy and John Baker. They are so impressed with Luke that they've invited him to spend a summer in Wrangell living with them while working in the cannery! Here are 3 of the deer that hang around in the yard there:

The ferry leaves at about 11PM for the 12 hour run to Juneau.

Ellen: We had a few moments of cell service in Wrangell. Maybe the weather conditions affect it. We made a few quick calls and then lost the connection. We haven't been able to get online for several days to check emails and upload more of the diary. Stay tuned, maybe in Juneau. . .

Friday, August 4

Dave: We went fishing today. We first stopped an the US Forest Service office for some info and then drove 37 miles of logging roads to Thom's Creek. Another family of three was there as well. When the man saw the "Macatawa Animal Removal " sign in the window of the Jeep, he asked if we could remove a few of the grizzlies on the creek. He told us that a woman had been attacked by a grizzly bear over the 4th of July weekend on that creek. She survived. Luke and I stumbled over each other getting out the artillery. The other family was heavily armed as well. I caught two cutthroat trout (14" range) and lost another bigger fish. Luke got 0. He is still under the cutthroat jinx. There were big bear poops along the stream. It was clear that they had been eating berries, not salmon. There were a few pink salmon in the stream but we didn't catch any. The other group had two pinks and two cuts when we left. As we where loading up to leave, we heard a shot. We don't know why and we didn't go back to find out.

Sherri and Bob, a fascinating couple from California that are staying at the same B & B, took a bear viewing tour to Anan today. The Forest Service issues 60 permits a day and you have to hire a charter boat to run the 30 miles to the falls. We watched their great pictures of both black and brown bears, many with cubs. We sat and talked with them well into the night. Very enjoyable. We have met so many interesting people so far.

Ellen: While Luke and David fished, I stayed close to the Jeep because of the threat of bears in the area. I didn't dare hike alone. Back in Wrangell, in the yard of our B & B are a resident black tail doe and her twin fawns. They're so tame that they'll practically eat pieces of apple from our hands. Beautiful.

Thursday, August 3

Dave: We packed up and got to the ferry dock at 9:30 AM for the 11:30 departure. We sat in line and watched everyone else line up. Security asked us about firearms. I told them we had the two rifles and two shotguns. This is not a problem if they are unloaded and remained locked in the car. We got great seats again near the bow. Skies were blue and the seas very calm. On the way we saw three humpback whales, several groups of porpoises, and two orcas. Lots of salmon were jumping in certain areas. The weather was fantastic. On the upper deck people have pitched nine tents and there are people sleeping in the sun everywhere.

We arrived in Wrangell at about 5:30 PM. This town is totally different than Ketchican. No tourist traps, just kids selling garnets at the dock. It turns out an old lady who owned a garnet mine on the mainland gave her property to the Boy Scouts. The deed states that only kids may mine and sell the garnets without purchasing a permit. Many are as big as your thumb nail! Our B & B. hosts, Judy and John Baker, are a wonderful couple that we immediately felt comfortable with. After supper in town we visited with the other guests, a delightful couple from northern California, Sherri and Bob. Judy entertained Luke with pictures and stories of her moose hunts. (she has shot more than she can remember)

Wednesday, August 2

Ellen: Today was a relaxing day in Ketchikan. The weather was unusually nice; in the low 50's, mostly cloudy, a few sprinkles, and even an occasional glimpse of the sun. We had no agenda, just poking around. David got up early and ran 4 miles along the shore and then came back to make scrambled eggs for Luke and me in our little kitchenette. Three HUGE cruise ships spilled thousands of tourists into this small town and they quickly spread into every corner of the souvenir shops within walking distance of the gangplanks. We hung out at the harbor and watched local people catching mostly chum and pink salmon. David and Luke bought their basic non-resident Alaskan small game hunting and fishing licenses and had to spend $500! YIKES, but we were prepared for that. Individual non-resident licenses for caribou, bear, deer, or moose will cost many hundreds more! Oh, well, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. We went for a drive to the end of the road in both directions. That's not very far. We saw some spectacular waterfalls that weren't even marked along the gravel road or on the map. I guess they're pretty commonplace here. At the Bight Totem Park we saw an interesting display of Haida and Tlingit totems. We met a local Tlingit mask carver who does beautiful work. Thimbleberries were ripe and we picked and ate them wherever we could. In the evening, we watched a harbor seal fishing in a creek a block away from our B & B.

Tuesday, August 1

Ellen: We had a wonderful breakfast this morning at our Prince Rupert B & B. We sat at the table with our hosts, originally from Germany, a mother and 18-yr old son from Austria, and a couple from the Isle of Wight in England. You can imagine how interesting the conversation was! We packed up and headed for the Alaska Ferry terminal. It was a 3 hour-long process of lining up the cars, confirming the tickets, passing through customs, and driving on the ferry. The ferry was surprisingly not crowded so we had great seats along huge windows in the bow. The British couple from breakfast, David and Anita, joined us in the bow and we got to chat with them a bit. Wonderful people! After 6 1/2 hours of beautiful islands and glimpses of porpoises and whales, we pulled up in Ketchikan where we drove to our B & B, right on the boat harbor. Normand and Jane, a bit quirky but gracious, are our hosts. We walked across the street to a red and yellow formica diner run by Filippinos. Learning our lesson from last night, we ordered the Filippino Ginger Beef for supper. Terrific! It's been continually overcast or raining but that's apparently normal here.

Monday, July 31

Dave: Today we drove from Prince George to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Why do Canadians name their towns after dead English royalty? Well, they didn't name them all after English royalty because we drove through VanderHoof, B.C. A guy in Tim Horton's in Prince George introduced himself to Ellen (she was wearing a Calvin jacket) as Perry (we forgot his last name), Calvin class of '74. It turns out he is a supervisor in British Columbia's Provincial goverment's equivalent to the Secretary of State Office. He was a very entertaining and talkative fellow, full of suggestions about what we should see and do if we had the rest of our lives to spend in B.C. And remember those Calvin students from Smithers, B.C.? We saw at least one CRC and two RCA churches there. It's a beautiful town that has large mountains, complete with a glacier. Flowers are everywhere. There's also a big fast river with a world-famous (according to them) steelhead run. As we traveled west, the mountains became higher and more snow-covered. We stopped at one spot along the Skeena River, downriver from Smithers, and watched the "First Nation" people dip salmon with huge long-handled nets. I used to arrest people for doing that.

We also saw lots of bald eagles. Tonight we are staying in a B&B in Prince Rupert run by a kindly German couple who are formerly from Thunder Bay, Ontario. BTW, here's a new rule for choosing a restaurant: Never eat in a place that offers seafood, steaks, pasta, pizza, Greek salads, barbeque,and a full line of Mexican cuisine. It's a guarantee that they can't do any of it right! I didn't notice the paintings on velvet untll we'd already sat down. I could say more but Ellen would delete it.

Sunday, July 30

Dave: Today we traveled from Merritt to Prince George, British Columbia. As you go north and west, the land becomes less arid and mercifully, cooler. The landscape is gentler with broad valleys between rounded mountains covered in lodgepole pines. Unfortunately, about half of the pines in this area are dead or dying because of a pine beetle infestation brought on by drought and mature forests. We got into Prince George early, had supper (Tim Horton's because they had chili for Luke), and then went to see the movie "Pirates". Is Johnny Depp gay or what?

Ellen: I read that Johnny worked hard on that characterization! I must say, I was mostly lost during the movie. I guess I need to see the first one again to be able to put the story together.

Saturday, July 29

Dave: We got up early and loaded the Jeep (It's still holding together. The only damage is a hole in the grill from hitting a bluewing teal in North Dakota.) under the watchful eye of the buck and doe standing in Hoolsema's yard. They seemed relieved to see Luke leave. (the deer, not Hoolsemas) After a quick stop at Krispy Kreme, we were headed to British Columbia. We traveled through Idaho to Spokane, WA. Then we crossed from Washington state into British Columbia at Laurier on Highway 395. We were the only vehicle northbound. We had no problem checking in the 2 rifles and 2 shotguns. After the two female border guards checked the paperwork and serial numbers, we were on our way. This was a very beautiful area along the Kettle River. Lots of incredible blue-green lakes and wooded mountains full of broad hay meadows. Speeds slow down here because of the grades and the curves. We are spending the night in Merritt, B.C. tonight. The local KFC had no salad (Ellen's choice) and no mashed potatoes (Luke's only requirement). Subway, here we come. Tomorrow we are headed to Prince George, B.C.

Ellen: We drove for a long time today in an area of southern BC that was eerily darkened by smoke from a wildfire. Everything had a strange yellow cast and we could smell the smoke for many miles. We couldn't see the fire itself but were able to identify the distant mountain that was on fire.

Friday, July 28

Dave: Lucas and I got up early and drove the 30 odd miles to Rock Creek. We drove the Forest Service road 20 miles upstream. (The guy in the sport shop said the farther up you go, the better it is.) I got a picture of Luke fishing with two deer standing in the river watching him. (whitetails) We fished hard from about 8 AM to 2:30 until it got too hot. We caught a few rainbows, browns,and two cutthroats on grasshopper patterns. Driving out on the Forest Service road we had to stop for about thirty big horn sheep in the road.

The bank signs in Missoula listed the temps from 97 to 102. The newspaper that evening listed 8 trout streams that are now under the 12 to 12 closure. The fires are getting bigger and we could see the water bomber plane leaving the Missoula airport and fly past the Hoolsema homestead. We sat on the deck in the evening and watched another smokey sunset and heard of their plans to live and work in Tasmania for 6 months. The sunset colors were only eclipsed by the Hoolsema's hospitality.

Thursday, July 27

Dave: This morning we slept in because we only had to travel about 150 miles to Missoula. We took Highway 200 along the Blackfoot River, taking note of all the public acess points for fishing tomorrow. Very hot, 95- 106 degrees depending on whose bank sign you believe. Stopped a a fly fishing shop to buy licenses. They informed us that three of the local rivers were under an emergency closure from noon to midnite because the heat was stressing the trout. The shopkeeper drew us a map to Rock Creek, a world-famous stream that was not under the closure. We spent a very enjoyable evening at Bob and Mary Hoolsema's beautiful home overlooking Missoula. A buck and doe (whitetail) walked thru the yard while we sat on the deck in the evening. It does cool off in the evening. Had a great sunset due to the forest fires in the area. (smoky haze in the sky)

Wednesday, July 26

Ellen: Today we had a long hot (up to 100!) drive in a Jeep without air conditioning. We made it to Great Falls, Montana. At one point we stopped at a Dairy Queen to cool off. I ordered a Medium Mocha Moolatte in Malta, Montana; mighty nice. OK, Luke says that's a groaner. Sorry. The best I could do. . .

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ellen: After hugs and thanks to Mike and Colleen Holmes, we left Iron Mountain early and hit the road on US 2. It was a long but enjoyable drive with light traffic and great scenery. We covered a lot of distance and are spending the night in Devil's Lake, North Dakota tonight. Interestingly, we pulled off the road to stretch our legs in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and found that the Mississippi River passes through there!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ellen: We locked up the house this morning and drove to Muskegon. We took the ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. It was a bit rough and MANY people got sick but we were fine. We got to Holmes' in Iron Mountain, Michigan by late afternoon and were thrilled to see that Katie was also visiting. We had a wonderful time catching up and dining on Katie's vegetarian lasagne and lemon dessert. A great time with friends. Check out the deer and turkeys in the yard:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ellen: It's our last day in Michigan. Church this morning was bittersweet. We are eager to begin our adventure but will miss all our friends at Providence. We leave in the morning for Muskegon where we will hop on the ferry to Milwaukee and drive to visit Mike and Colleen Holmes in Iron Mountain.

The adventure begins. . .

Read more about Ellen's project:

'Finding Their Own Dance', Calvin College

Read more on Alutiiq dance:

'An Alutiiq Dance', Arctic Studies Center




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