Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Day at an Alaskan Glacial Lake

Shakes Lake lies at the foot of Shakes Glacier.  The lake’s outlet drains into Shakes Slough located a little downstream from Chief Shakes Hot Springs along Alaska’s Stikine River.  It seems all that “shaking” stems from a Tlingit chief named Shakes and his successors, all conveniently named Chief Shakes. 

While we’ve often been to the next drainage north, LeConte Bay and Glacier, Karen and I had never seen Shakes anything.  The only ”road” into the area is liquid and lacking a river boat, we hadn’t made it that far into the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness area.

The visit by Karl and Mary Schneider ended that drought when we booked Summit Charters out of Wrangell for a half day Stikine River tour.  Besides the glacier, I particularly wanted to see a castle-shaped mountain that crowns Shakes Lake and Glacier, coincidentally named Castle Mountain.  I figure that while he had no connection with Alaska, the mountain must have been named after my maternal grandfather whose surname was Castle.  We didn’t see Castle Mountain.  A cloud got in the way -- a cloud that apparently covered the entire area between the Pacific Ocean to the west and Canada to the east and even beyond.

Never mind.  Shakes Glacier and the icebergs in Shakes Lake were ample inducement for Karen to utter her frequent mantra, “I want to go back?”

A wall of icebergs, once part of Shakes Glacier, seemingly blocks the entrance into Shakes Lake.  However,  captain John Taylor of Summit Charters wound his jet boat through the maze.

Dirt and rocks that fell onto Shakes Glacier over the past centuries gets a free ride on icebergs cruising down the lake.

Another example of the debris carried down the lake on the ice.  The outlet of Shakes Lake is too shallow for the icebergs to pass so when each berg eventually melts Shakes Lake becomes a little less deep.

However, don't worry about the lake filing up too soon.  The lake is still somewhere around 800 feet deep in front of Shakes Glacier.

A closer look at the "conveyor belt" carrying debris that fell off the Coast Range onto Shakes Glacier.

Karen photographs a valley that drains the Stikine Ice Field and supposedly somewhere up there, Castle Mountain.  The brown spot in the lower right hand side of the photo -- one of numerous mosquitoes that cunningly evaded swatting by landing on my camera lens. 

I'm not sure if Karen wants to go back because of the majesty of the scenery around Shakes Glacier or the Dwarf fireweed and Indian paintbrush flowers she found there.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Mini-reunion

Karen and I buzzed with excitement as passengers disembarked from Alaska Airline’s sole southbound flight into Petersburg.  My Middlebury College roommate, Karl Schneider and his wife, Mary, were arriving for a visit -- the first by anyone from my college days.  But then, it’s only been 51 years.  Now, despite the Schneiders living in Homer and Karen and me in Petersburg, a mere 1200-plus mile drive after an 18-hour ferry ride, we still hadn’t seen each other in well over 20 years.

Karl’s letters from the north after graduation were the impetus that first lured me to Alaska.  With his characteristic dry sense of humor he always was, and still is, a gripping story teller. -- whether on paper or in person.  I think Karl could entice a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesperson into buying a Kenmore vacuum at Sears. 

You can imagine my disappointment when the plane’s passengers had all assembled in the terminal without me spotting Karl.  However, scanning the new arrivals, I did spot a man I recognized as Karl’s dad from our Middlebury years.  Amazingly Karl’s dad hadn’t changed a bit since I last saw him over 50 years ago.  But, wait....  Could it be Karl has unexpectedly aged over the course of these decades.  I’m sure glad I haven’t. 

One advantage to having friends visit is the impetus for Karen and me to visit our favorite locales and even places new to us -- areas that we rarely go to on our own.  Inertia and routine can certainly get in the way of priorities. 

Karl and Mary, Don and Karen amidst the dwarf fireweed at Shakes Lake in the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area

Karl makes a point as Mary ponders its meanings at a picnic table conveniently provided by the US Forest Service at Man Made Hole on Mitkof Island.

     Karl and Mary glass for brown bears with Karen in the foreground at Anan Creek.

Karl's feet on the left, Karen's on the right.  I wonder if they saw the bear on the other side of the railing?

It looks like they've spotted a photographer (Karen) on the other side of some brush that looks like a lot of fun to crash through.

Karl, backed up by Karen and Mary photograph icebergs on Shakes Lake in the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Romantic Alaska Wedding Part 2

The potato salad and California-grown fruit had turned cold while all the guests were old friends by the time Tamia and Cass made it to their wedding reception.  But, all that was forgotten the moment Tamia emerged from Christine, their ‘67 Chevy Impala.  Beauty has that power.  Alas, Tamia didn’t catch any trout or grayling during her brief fishing expedition on the way to the reception.  Perhaps that was good luck.  Cleaning fish in a wedding gown has a unique set of challenges.  Besides, she had snagged an even bigger trophy -- Cass. 

It is well known that her wedding is every girl’s Cinderella moment -- a once in a lifetime event (we always pray for that) when all eyes are drawn to her.  Grooms are useful to set the scene, more like the clasp on a pearl necklace, but the central focus is on the pearls, the bride.  Only one other individual or group of individuals can lure the attention of guests from her radiance. No, not the mothers or bridesmaids.  They, too enchant us -- dressed in their finest -- but the big disctractions are the flower girl and, if present, any stray babies at the affair. 

Don’t believe me?  Bring a little "critter" to a wedding and see what the attending ladies and even a few men do.  Like compass needles aiming north on a Boy Scout camping trip, their eyes shift from the bride in all her splendor and fixate on that little one.  Soon mother and babe are encircled with a bevy of females all cooing in voices one octave above their normal range.  Oh those maternal instincts run strong.

Now that the day which set the gold standard for 2013 is over, the newly weds will soon be off for the most romantic of honeymoons -- dip netting for salmon.  I bet every man who reads this envies Cass at his good fortune in chosing Tamia -- a gorgeous bride and passionate fisher girl.

For awhile we weren't sure if the groomsmen, Greg, Devon and Rick were going to relinquish Tamia to Cass.

Fortunately bridesmaids Diann and Chris and flower girl, Bella took command of the situation and so Cass and Tamia were united.

Tamia, Cass and Hayes make sure Ken spells Philo with a Ph on the wedding certificate instead of with an F as in Fallon.

Karen's camera kept drifting from Tamia and Cass to flower girl, Bella, and and her friend. 

        While Somerley with her mom, Jen also diverted attention from Tamia and Cass. 

Who can blame Ken and Elizabeth Fallon for feeling so happy about adding the name Philo to the Fallon family tree.

Twenty four hours after the wedding, on July 4th, a chill rain fell on the Willow Creek crossing while fresh snow frosts high peaks in Hatcher Pass.  Ooh, Tamia and Cass cut that one pretty close.  Is this the beginning of fall or end of last winter?

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Romantic Alaskan Wedding Part I

Karen and I became bonafide in-laws for the first time this past week.  Yes, I ceremoniously “gave away” my daughter, Tamia, to Cassius Philo.  The impact of the event finally struck home during the ceremony when I was asked  to “give her up.”  Now, in retrospect, maybe I should not have made her a freebee.  After all, a Kenyan tour bus driver offered 16 camels for Karen in 1975. Given rates of inflation I don’t think it would have been unreasonable to have asked for 30 or even 40 camels for Tamia.  As usual my hindsight is 20 - 20 while my foresight is closer to nil. 

So when asked to surrender her and not knowing whether I should say, “you bet,” or “let me think about it,” or even “how many camels am I offered?,” I took a big gulp and, in my state of shell shock, mumbled something akin to uh huh.  One can only hang on to his little girl for so long even if Tamia and Cass have known each other for 10 years.  

Karen and I are now officially in-laws with all the responsibilities and benefits that entails.  I have to say gaining more relatives will undoubtedly be the highlight of our year -- that coupled with seeing the beautiful bride who stole Cass’s heart. 

In a touch of extreme romanticism, Tamia and Cass chose to exchange vows at the exact spot they fell in love -- at a pool below a culvert in Willow Creek,
close to the summit of Hatcher Pass.  Tamia and Cass's hearts united  the day she dove into that frigid water.  Thus, while Cass waited on the Pass side of the creek, I walked Tamia across the culvert -- the gravel of the road adorned with flower pedals -- and on to her destiny as Mrs. Cassius Philo.  Thank goodness Tamia didn’t ask her whole wedding entourage to dive into the creek to commemorate that wonderful day.

We pray that Cass and Tamia live a long happy life together.  Drat, maybe with 50 camels I could have won the Iditarod Race to Nome.

The setting and couple are well documented.  Thank goodness traffic in Hatcher Pass was light on July 3rd.

The plan:  Cass could not view his bride-to-be on the day of the wedding until he walked down the "aisle" (across the culvert) to join her.  David's job was to make sure Cass didn't cheat.
Tamia's sisters and even the wedding photographer make sure Tamia's wedding gown works the way it's supposed to.

          Cass and Tamia Philo are united in matrimony by Tamia's other dad, Ken Fallon. 

                             Tamia pronouncess those beautiful words, "I Do."

   Tamia demonstrates how she got her man while Devon takes note of her techniques.

 Tamia proves to her mom, Elizabeth Fallon that she even had her fishing license when she snagged Cass.  Wait!  Is snagging legal in Willow Creek?

                                  The radiant bride and her son, Devon

Our new relatives, Cass and his brothers, Hiram (left) and Hayes (right) with Tamia and Hiram's wife, Jolene.

Tamia brings her own entourage to the extended family tree:  Left to right Sachiko, Jeannie, Tamia, Cass, David and Pam.  More than one person at the wedding ceremony suggested that it felt like it could snow.  With my extensive experience in dealing with Alaskan weather I assured them, "no way, it's July 3rd."  Naturally, the tops of the surrounding mountains were coated with fresh snow on July 4th. 

Doesn't every bride pause to try her luck at a fishing hole between the wedding ceremony and the reception?  In case you haven't figured it out yet, Tamia loves to fish.