Saturday, July 30, 2011

Raptors, Fort Seward, Chilkoot Lake and Farewell

Yesterday, Jim & Pat joined us to visit the Bald Eagle Foundation. Lydia was a young volunteer who told us about this “Attack Owl.”



We also saw a Great Gray Owl…


…and a Red-Tailed Hawk.


Other animals appeared in well-done exhibits, but none of them were alive.





There was even a tiny hummingbird we were challenged to find – Don spotted it among the larger birds.


We decided to have lunch at Big Al’s, recommended by the locals.


There was a slight drizzle, so we huddled under a broken umbrella. The food was good, even though the ambience left a bit to be desired!


After lunch, we tried to go to the Hammer Museum, but it was closed to allow staff to attend the Fair. (Go to Karen & Fran’s blog to see their excellent report.) Instead, we drove around Old Fort Seward, once the regimental headquarters for the U.S. Army in Alaska and now a National Historic Site. Most of the buildings are over 100 years old, and some have been restored to serve a new purpose. This was the Post Exchange and Gymnasium, now a restaurant.


This was the hospital, now the home of Alaska Indian Arts.


Several homes of officers have been turned into privately-owned condos, with a Bed & Breakfast on the left.




We then drove to Chilkoot Lake, where Don spotted this Bald Eagle. It was hard to get a clear picture because he was so far away.


Several people were fishing along the inlet and from this boat in the lake, but it didn’t look like anyone was catching.


There were a few kayakers, even though it was cool and drizzly.


A tour bus driver was passing time by juggling.


We ate hamburgers at the Elks Lodge for dinner. They tasted pretty good, even though our order got mixed up and two of our burgers took a long time to arrive.

Early this morning (Saturday), we said goodbye to Jim and Pat as they left to ride the ferry to Juneau and southward. Safe travels – we’ll see you in a few months in Quartzsite, if not before.


Later, we watched the Parade that was part of the Fair that ends tomorrow. We had a beautiful, sunny day and several of the locals showed up in shorts, tank tops and sandals. A few were even barefoot! Instead of a Color Guard, the flags were carried by a motorcycle.


Several fire engines carried children tossing candy into the crowd.


These Native Alaskans chanted and sang as they played drums.


Wooden cutouts created clever whales.


Contestants from the Most Loveable Dog Contest participated.


There was even a real parade float!


A few more highlights follow. The whole parade was only about 15 minutes long, but it was fun to see.




Now we’re on our own until Sunday when we meet Larry & Marilyn in Whitehorse. Traveling with the “Last Frontier Gang” has been fun, but sometimes we feel like we’re operating on overload. Dennis did such a great job of planning and organizing the trip, figuring out places to stay and keeping in touch with all 5 rigs that followed him and Carol on this adventure for the past 2 1/2 months! We appreciate their friendship and all that the two of them have done for us!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Last Day Together and Bear Sightings

I must apologize in advance for this rather long post. Thursday was the last day for the remaining 5 rigs and 10 people of our “Last Frontier Gang” to be together. Don and I spent part of the day at the SE Alaska State Fair nearby. The Southeast part of Alaska includes Juneau (the capital), Haines, Skagway, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, etc. People from the other cities take boats or planes here for the fair, as there are no roads in and out of most of them.


We noticed there’s a dog contest on Saturday, but the ‘No Dogs Allowed’ sign might mean there won’t be any contestants.


There were exhibits for arts and crafts.




Interested in a pop tab corset?


How about earrings made from computer keys?


There were musicians.


There was a petting zoo and lots of cute kids.


This little guy just couldn’t stop dancing, even when his sister and mother wanted to move on.


There were Bubbles.


About 20 women did a Zumba-fitness demonstration.


Pat joined in. Is that why her knee hurts today?


I learned how glass beads are made and bought a few.


And, of course, there was food.


That evening we shared a potluck dinner in the Elks Lodge and talked with the Exalted Ruler about life in Alaska. Carol and Dennis gave Don this cute moose bobble toy for his upcoming birthday, since they won’t be with us then. It will look cute on his desk.


Several of us drove out to watch the bears. We picked up Karen and Fran to go with us. We arrived just as the sow and two cubs were coming up from the river to the road.


This section of road has been reserved for bears, and rangers are on hand to keep people and bears apart.


The bears found fish trapped by the weir to make their hunt for dinner easy.


Every fish that passes through the opening in the weir is counted. When there’s no person out there counting, the weir is closed and fish have to wait for it to open again. People who take on this duty seem to be ignored by the bears, so they get over their fear of being mauled. Rangers are usually nearby, too.


Mama did most of the fishing (she’s in the water near the center of this picture) and passed the catch up to her cubs on the walkway.


This little guy decided to take his “to go.”


But he didn’t have a good hold on the slippery fish, so he ate it on the road.


Mama didn’t have patience, so she left him while she went into the woods.


She realized nobody was following her, so she came back and eventually all 3 of them went into the woods.


We enjoyed the “show” and agreed that we’ve never been closer to wild animals in their natural habitat.


We felt reasonably safe with two rangers nearby, but the woman ranger cautioned us when we were standing on the other side of the road, as the bears could be just on the other side of the trees. We quickly crossed back to the safe side!


Mary &  Gary, Carol & Dennis, and Marilyn & Larry all pulled out this morning heading for Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Pat & Jim are leaving on a ferry in the morning, headed for Juneau and other cities along the Inside Passage. We’ll take a ferry to Skagway tomorrow night, then join Marilyn & Larry to drive the Cassiar Highway southward. We’ll meet up again with some of our group, but the “Last Frontier Gang” has officially disbanded. It’s been a great time together, but the adventure’s not yet over for us.