July 31, 2010

Pink salmon are starting to come up the streams in Dyea Flats. And there is a big black bear – probably at least 700 pounds – who hangs around the spot where the best fishing is. Thursday Randy went fishing there, and after awhile he decided it was time to call it quits. We heard from some other people at the stream that right afterwards the bear came running out of the woods and down to the river, right where Randy had been standing - close call!

Yesterday we drove back to Dyea Flats, hoping to either catch salmon or see the bear (safely, from a distance). The stream is pretty shallow, so it's usually easy to see the fish.

Right now the salmon aren’t interested in eating – the only thing on their mind is reproduction. So we didn’t catch any, although we did snag a big one on the fin. It’s illegal to keep a snagged fish, so we let it go. And we didn’t see the bear, either, so we’ll have to try again. But if we have to be somewhere not catching fish, it's hard to beat this place!

Thursday July 22, 2010

Last weekend we drove to Carcross. It’s just about 64 miles away but we have to take our passport with us because it’s in Canada. The goal was to see a bear. Bears should be coming into the Skagway area soon (not the town, but to the bays and streams) for salmon. They aren’t here yet, but everyone who drives to Carcross or Whitehorse sees them along the side of the road. And sure enough, we found one! This guy was standing on the side of the road, pawing over rocks and nibbling on whatever he found underneath. We pulled over and parked on the other side of the road and watched him for awhile, and he didn’t even look up.

As and extra bonus, the view was really, really beautiful. When we traveled this road into Alaska in May, it was covered in snow. That was gorgeous. This was a different kind of beautiful.

There were waterfalls everywhere - some of them as tall as the mountains.

Just outside of Carcross is an unusual geological area - the Carcross desert. It’s a tiny area of sand dunes, about 1 square mile. It’s a desert by definition of physical characteristics, not by temperature. The sand is from an ancient lake bed and is carried to this area by the wind. You’ve heard the expression “blink, and you’ll miss it”? Well, we must have blinked on the way up here because we missed it. But this time we saw the sign and turned around to see it.

July 18 2010

Today we drove out to the site of the old town of Dyea. It was a bit of a town before the gold rush, but during the gold rush it became a significant port and a boom town quickly grew up. A two-mile dock was build to receive the ships coming in with thousands of hopeful gold-rushers and their ton of supplies. And as quickly as it started, it was over. There is almost nothing left now. A few posts are all that remain of that massive dock –

And of the town, there is only one false front left from the 1898 town.

The rest of the town has disintegrated and a forest has taken its place. Some of the trees are odd looking – they have branches growing from the ground level, but only on one side. I thought they looked like porcupine trees, with their quills stilling out behind them.

The local spruce trees have unusual red tips – very pretty.

Probably the most significant event in Dyea history was the awful avalanche on April 3, 1898. On that Palm Sunday all the snow on the side of the mountain broke loose and fell. It is not clear how many people died, but there are 49 headboards in this cemetery, which is known as Slide Cemetery. My fascination with cemeteries continues so we visited this one. There is supposed to be at least one original headboard, but most have been replaced at some point.

At least one person in the cemetery was not a victim of the avalanche. The assumption is that Noscitur is a mis-spelling of "nescitur", which is Latin for "(it) is not known."

Saturday July 10, 2010

The weather has been great lately. One of the guys in the park, Charlie, has access to a boat and he has been kind enough to take some of us fishing. Thursday I caught a 24" King Salmon but I had to let it go because the minimum is 27" and the penalties may include impounding the boat. Gary, another Workamper, caught a 30" King and a Dolly Varden. I also caught one Dolly, so the fishing was pretty good.

On Friday we went fishing again. This time we caught 3 Dollys, one King (unfortunately only 24" again) and a King of undetermined size. When the second King hit, Joe started reeling it in and it was giving a great fight when all of the sudden the line began running at an unbelievable speed. The entire spool of line was gone in about 3 seconds. Thankfully the line broke free from the reel. Shortly after the line was stripped a Harbor Seal broke water in that area and seemed to be having a great time. We are guessing he just got a great meal thanks to our effort of catching his dinner for him.

The great part of fishing trip was that apparently the Whales and the Harbor Seals are arriving now because the salmon are starting to queue up to begin their run upstream. We saw 2 whales and many seals during our trip. One whale came up within 50 feet of the boat and was so close we could hear him blow. Apparently more whale will show up as more salmon get here. The salmon should begin their run upstream in about 2 weeks.

Another interesting part of being here is the various fishing boats that show up at the docks. The General Manager, Jerry, made sure we knew that the Salmon boat was showing up at 9:00 am. So we went to the docks and I got 2 nice Sockeye Salmons. The boat owner was fileting the fish. He took about 2 minutes to filet each fish. It was quite something to watch how quick he was. There was very little meat left on the bones. The next day the Crab boat arrived. We are now beginning to have fresh fish on regular basis and are still able to put a few in the freezer.

Just a couple of weeks ago, this was the view at 10 pm at night. Before we arrived in Alaska we thought about how to sleep through days with 20 hours of daylight. We have room-darkening shades on the coach windows but the bathroom has a skylight. At night we could close the bedroom door, but the cats interpret that as a violation of their rights and paw at the door endlessly, regardless of which side they are on. The door is just loose enough to rattle a bit when they push against it, and that get real annoying, real fast. So we bought one black, lined window drape and strung it on a rod over the door. It's long enough to cover the doorway completely and block the light from the skylight. We haven’t missed any sleep!
It's about 2 1/2 miles from our RV park to where we work, so Randy and I often bicycle to work. As we turn the corner into town, we are greeted by sight that is surreal in the lower 48 states, but perfectly normal here....a gigantic cruise shipped parked at the end of the road.