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
I asked someone to take a picture of the four of us on the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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
The adventure begins. . .
Read more about Ellen's project:
Their Own Dance', Calvin College
Read more on Alutiiq dance:
Alutiiq Dance', Arctic Studies Center