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Tuesday, August 16 - American Bald Eagle Foundation Museum, Hianes

It was overcast when we woke up, but it cleared somewhat by mid-morning.  We spent the afternoon in town for some walking and sightseeing.  Wrote and mailed cards then went to the American Bald Eagle Foundation Museum.  This was a wonderful presentation of eagles and a lot of Alaskan animals and sea life in natural settings.  About four thousand (yes, 4000) bald eagles gather here in October-December.  We had a stimulating talk with Dave Olerud, the founder and curator who has such a great passion for communicating the relationships/life cycles of the wildlife communities in Alaska.



Here is a picture of the small boat harbor in Haines.  Note no large cruise ships like the picture below of the small boat harbor in Skagway.

Haines is a quiet town.  We have heard several versions of stories about why few cruise ships come here.  One is that the property owners want it that way, another is that one cruise ship was caught discharging something into the harbor that the harbormaster didn't like, and when he "told the captain about it", the cruise ship line decided not to stop there anymore.

We're finding that Alaskans are very much like Texans.  The saying goes that you can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much!







Tonight, we parked on the side of the road on the other side of Haines - Chilkat Lake.  That's a picture of what we saw.  Still overcast, but gorgeous.  Oh well, what can you expect of coastal towns?

We found a fresh water spring along the way that reminded us of the ones we saw in Switzerland.

Wednesday, August 17-  Haines to Skagway

We spent most of the day in town today catching up on email, groceries, shopping and the Cultural Heritage Museum which had a nice presentation of both the native and pioneer history of the area.  We washed  the truck, gassed up and went over to the ferry staging area where we were scheduled to take the 6:45 pm ferry to Skagway, arriving at 7:45 pm.  (The taxi here is a 4-wheel drive truck.  Note the gas and diesel prices).  The ferry was however delayed until after 9 pm because of a lot of freight traffic and near capacity booking.  The trip was smooth but slow (13 mph?).  On the way, we saw three large cruise ships (each 2000+ passengers) going the other way.  They were very festive with colorful banners and enough lights on to light up a decent sized town!  Great sight if you've never seen it.  We didn't get to Skagway until 10:30 pm, where it was near pitch black! We hadn't driven in the dark since who knows when, so we quickly found a street in one of the neighborhoods, pulled over and went to bed.

Thursday, August 18 - Skagway   

It’s raining today, mostly a drizzle.  It was quiet in town last night, but wow, this morning Skagway is full of people!   Five cruise ships just let out over 8000 tourists. With the near 800 residents, the park ranger / tour guide tells us that it is just like the Gold Rush days: eight to ten thousand people milling around the streets, and vendors doing their best to remove some change from their pockets before they moved on.  Some tourists are already on the White Pass and Yukon railway excursion ride, but most are right here in town.  It was like a party!  Interesting fact about the WP&Y railway: it pioneered container shipping!

The town also has a festive look and feel to it: along with lots of history and several nice museums are colorful refurbished century-old buildings which are now jewelry stores and gift shops of all kinds with colorful window displays. 

There is lots of history here where would-be miners shipped in from the lower 45 when they heard of gold finds in the Yukon, and climbed the Chilkoot pass with a year's worth of supplies (North West Mounted Police insisted on one year's worth or they couldn't go any further) to Bennett Lake (33 miles one way, with many returns until each brought up about one ton of supplies), where they had to build boats to take them some 550 miles further north on the Yukon river to the Dawson area.   By the time they got there, all of the area was claimed, and most had to take on manual labor status for other miners, with very few making any money.  Skagway merchants, with the year's worth of supplies rule, did OK. 

At the Park headquarters, we found that, every day at 2:00 pm, a ranger leads a walk through Dyea, once a sister city of Skagway, and actually the starting point for the famous Chilkoot trail of the 1898 Gold Rush to the Yukon, but now abandoned to the point that the trees had taken over. It was just around the corner, a few miles from Skagway. 


That's a picture of the very unusual 1899 Skagway visitor center (primitive Victorian, they call it).  Originally the Arctic Brotherhood hall. 

The "small" boat harbor had cruise ships next to it. 

We stayed all day joining in the "party", visiting stores, and museums.   Especially nice was a free sculpture garden featuring about 1 million dollar of fine sculptures collected by one of the town's doctors.

Laundry day.  We receive this email on Thursday afternoon while at the Laundromat (free Wi-Fi there), and it was important that Ed write the email and return to town Friday to email it. 

Our daughter-in-law, Verr, on Tuesday, August 16, emails:  Hey- I had not heard from you all and so I wanted to re-send in case you never received!  My email has been weird - and I do not even know if I sent it to the correct address… After you read below- if you have questions please email me or call at work. 

All: Sorry to do this to you, but this is really important to (Derek) - and he has listed each of you individually as a special and important person in his life.  Fortunately we just found out he would be going on the Walk to Emmaus - a spiritual retreat - August 18-21, 2005. Unfortunately that gives me little time to mobilize you all!   This leads me to why I have sent the email - it gives me little time, and you as well, to participate in his walk.  At this late date - if you want to send him a note via email - I can print and stick in envelope for you or I can take it up Sat with me - last minute but as long as I get it by Sat we are good!!!  Thanks for sending him a note - sorry for the late notice!

Towards evening we found our way to the cruise ship dock where there were buses present to transport those that had taken the railroad ride back to their ships.  Here, we met a nice lady, Melissa, one of the bus drivers who was waiting for the train.  We talked about bears and eagles, and where can you see them since the salmon are running?  She told us that in Dyea, at the tidal flats, she had sighted bear one early morning.  She suggested we spend the night there, maybe see some bear, and stay for the ranger-led walk.  Off we went, and found a nice spot on the flats near a stream of the Tiaya River running several feet below us with many salmon in it.  There was evidence of a campfire just 2 feet from the truck, and another truck camper parked about 100 yards away.  Nice campsite!  It wasn’t too late, about 9 pm, but we decided to have an early night before tomorrow’s excitement.

Here's what it looked like.  Nice quiet spot, salmon in the stream a few feet below us. 

Now all we had to do was wait for bear.





Friday, August 19 - Tidal Flood

4:30 a.m. Ed wakes up, it’s nearly light, and gets up to see what’s out there.  Slosh!  He steps into about an inch of water in the camper.  “Oh, no,” he thinks, “the water tank has burst!”  Soon, Patty is awake, and both are trying to remove as much water as possible with towels, etc.  He looks outside….nothing to see.  It’s quiet out there.  Soon, it’s back to sleep.  “We’ll have to take care of this in the morning.”

5:30 a.m.  Who could sleep?  It’s light.  Ed puts on some clothes, and steps outside.  Bear? Eagles?  No, just salmon swimming in the pothole in the road.  Flood?  Curious, that watermark on the side of the truck…half way up the taillight on the passenger side.  High tide?  Oh, is it near a full moon?






Here are the pictures of the water lines on both sides of the truck. On the left side, water was up to the bottom of the tail light.  On the right, it was half-was up the taillight!  Over the wheel well!  That's the same height as the top of Ed's belt. 

The official tide table for Juneau, Skagway and Taiya inlet says low tide Thursday evening at 6:55 p.m. was 2.0 feet, high tide Friday morning at 12:58 a.m. was 19.2 feet.  The water had risen over 17 feet overnight, and was working its way down to the next low of -3.8 feet at 7:32 a.m.!

We spent the next 4 hours or so pulling everything out of the floor of the camper and the inside of the truck cab.  Water had been at least a foot high inside the truck!  Everything was soaked.  Curiously, it was fresh water, not a bit salty.  We took out our big box of black 30-gallon trash bags, and put rugs, car blanket, and the wet towels into one of them, books that couldn’t be salvaged in another, etc.  A box of gifts we had collected on our journey for those at home was soaked.  Books were thrown away, but we collected the t-shirts and other gifts that could be washed into another trash bag. Little by little, it was getting better.

We covered the seats (yes, the seat cushions were soaked) with black plastic so we could sit on them.  We needed to get to higher ground just in case we had to go through another tide cycle.  Ed tried to start the truck…it sputtered, but soon started and we were driving. After much steam from the exhaust, a little coughing and spluttering, we were feeling confident that we could get the truck somewhere off the flats.  We ventured slowly, stopping when necessary to let the engine settle when it felt overwhelmed.  We checked the engine oil…looks normal; but the transmission fluid…milky with some water. 

What we saw next was astounding!  In the road to the place we had parked, there were some potholes.  There were salmon swimming in the potholes!  Apparently, the water rose to some height above the road.  Too bad Ed didn't take a picture of that! Truly, we had salmon on our doorstep!

At the Y into the flats, we turned to the right, instead of the left where we entered, because the right was on higher ground.  Besides, there were tire tracks on the right that we could follow to get us out.  But in a sort distance, we were in a maze of small, rutted, tree-covered lanes.  We retraced our steps and were able to get out.  A man who lives here, rents horses that go onto the flats, gets to know our situation and says : “don’t worry…no problem…the water will boil out.” (Obviously, this has happened here before.)  That man also gave us peace in continuing our drive out.

The good news is that God is good (even when we do things that aren’t anywhere near smart)!  We don’t know how we kept from floating and getting deeper into the stream, why we didn’t wake up during the high tide, why our truck was miraculously able to operate.  Can you imagine the panic we could have felt upon waking up at 12:58 a.m. to a floating vehicle?  Or looking out the window and seeing ourselves in the middle of a rather large pond/lake?  We were surprisingly calm through all of this.  Because of our many “adventures” where God came through, we were less interested in our circumstances and more interested in what God was doing in all of this. 

We made it into town and spent the afternoon at the Laundromat again, washing and drying, and partially filling the dumpster with wet black bags of previous treasures.  While we are doing the clean-up laundry, Ed stopped to write a letter to speak into his son’s life re his Emmaus walk. 

We spent the rest of the day looking around town.  It was quieter, since only one cruise ship (2000 passengers) was in town.  Four ships come in each day Monday to Thursday, and one only on Friday and Saturday.  We pulled up next to a church for the night.  In the evening, we were still soaking up pools of water from the truck carpet…but the end was in sight, we thought.  We parked in town again.

This would have been Ed's father's 100th birthday. It is also a good friend's birthday, Marilyn Voris, a dear friend whom we knew in College Station.  We phoned her and sang "Happy Birthday" to her.  It made all of us feel good.  We needed that!

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