The Road to 65, Mile 202: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 11, Reflections While On The Inland Passage


June 18, 2015, Off Campbell River, BC-  On a full day of being ferried through the Canadian section of the Inland Passage, the focus turned inward.  Fleeting glimpses of places like Bella Bella were more a diversion than the main attraction, on this misty day.


Three central issues in my life flowed along today:  Worthiness, safety and perseverance.

In my late teens and in my twenties, I was a train wreck. I was taught social skills in my childhood, but never quite internalized them, until about age 30.  The less said about all my missteps and accidents in that decade or so, the better.  Things went along well, in my thirties and forties, the prime years of our marriage, and of careers.  My fifties were another rough patch, yet there I did learn perseverance, and that it is the natural outgrowth of commitment.  My family and friends have stuck with me, through all of it, and each of these years passed before me, in reflection, during the course of this day.

I have had a hard row, in feeling safe, in certain places, during the course of my life.  I felt alternately safe and threatened, growing up in my hometown, but learning to face adversaries is an all-too-common part of life.  I certainly feel secure, when in Saugus, now, of course.  So, too, has the list of places where I feel at ease and free from harm, been growing, over the past few years.

Maybe that’s the real reason why I have been in so many places, since 2011.  I have always wandered, as has been mentioned before, but perhaps the only way to know for sure as to security, is to go to a place, follow the normal protocols of safety and courtesy expected there, and prove to myself that all is okay.

Now, on my way back to the more contiguous reaches of North America, I am reminded of perseverance.  There is much ahead, in Prescott and vicinity, across Arizona, and around the southwest quadrant of the United States, over the next many months.  Family events will take me away, for a few days here and there, but the main focus will be the life of community.

So, as I read “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store”, and “Crota”, my mind considered the sacrifices made by the protagonists of both stories, the triumph over almost insurmountable challenges, and the three-dimensional nature of the antagonists.  My mind considered what I had overcome, when I had been a protagonist of sorts, and when I have been cast as the antagonist in an event- which has happened, more to my chagrin than I sometimes care to think.  Nothing beyond the mist is as foggy, or as clearcut, as we sometimes like to think.


Many things go on, like the lives of whales, largely beneath the surface.


Then, the truth surfaces, and distant realities also have to be considered, even as we marvel at the sight closest to our eyes.


I started to refer to the town visible from our port as “Port Hardy”.  A gentleman who is more seasoned on these cruises calmly stated the town was Campbell River, and that he had camped there in his RV, on a few occasions.

Oh, the joy, and humility, of seeing illusions evaporate.  I placed the freshly-completed copy of “Crota” back in the Purser’s library, and donated “Mr. Penumbra” to that collection.  It will appeal to at least a couple of inquiring minds among the ship’s crew.  In the morning, I would see the sight of Fairhaven, the ferry port at Bellingham, WA.  It is time for filling in the gaps, of my map of the Evergreen State.

The Road to 65, Mile 201: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 10- More Totems, and More Floating


June 17, 2015, Ketchikan- I was fortunate today, to have the hostel agree, European-style, to hold my bags until it was near time for my ride to the ferry terminal.  The ten-day Alaskan experience was coming to a close.  I have enjoyed a fairly good taste of “Southeast”, and this last day on land, in Ketchikan, was no exception.  I had breakfast in two different venues:  A street stall, across from the Cruise Ship docks, which had fairly good muffins and coffee.,and in Sweet Mermaids, where the steel cut oatmeal and fresh berries were accompanied by an hour of WiFi.

When I was first walking around the waterfront, this morning, a man called out- “You, from Arizona!  How do you like Southeast?”   Hmmm, do Arizonans stick out?  Of course, I told him I thought the region was exquisite and that I was having a great time.  Turns out, he is from Scottsdale, and knew the Methodist pastor, who is from Tucson.  Even in a busy tourist venue like Ketchikan, word gets around fast.

This is the street where the stall is located.


I spent some time walking along and observing the fisherfolk.  This craft was in the channel, just off Saxman.


Saxman, two miles south of downtown Ketchikan, is a Tlingit village, named fro a great local teacher, who died in the line of service to his community.


There are several totem poles, both honourific and modern, which comprise a public park.  Tourists wishing to visit the ceremonial hall and carving studio, must pay $ 5 per person, cash only.  The outside, however, is free of charge.  I bought a hand-made rattle, from the Village Store, and will use it at a Drum Circle which some friends back in AZ have, every month.

As you can see, many of the totem poles are well-maintained by their clan moieties.



Frogs are seen as protectors and sentinels of the water.



The guardian totems here are properly greeting the visitors.


Here is a view of the totem field.


Abe Lincoln stands in exile, so situated because of his treatment of the Lakota Sioux, to which the Tlingit and Haida people take great umbrage.


This is the exterior of the Ceremonial Hall, where drumming and singing take place.


This is the taxi driver’s pride and joy.


Street signs are in English and Tlingit.  The Tlingit language is offered in public schools, throughout southeast Alaska, and in coastal British Columbia.


Well, after this visit and a lunch at Polar Treats, downtown, it was time for me to head to the ferry. My Ketchikan friend, Ms. Chapman, took me to the terminal, and I bid a fond farewell to my new friends and communities of this magical set of peninsulas and islands.


The people who work the ship are also embedded in my heart.  After two days together, on the way up, several of the crew somehow remembered me, when I showed up again for meals and around the ship.

A couple of orcas were off the port side of the ship, as we left U.S. waters.


Green Island Light is manned by a Canadian family, who stay for a period of three months, then are succeeded by another family.


Cold and mist were the Alaskan farewell, as we headed into the waters off British Columbia.  I will be back some day.832

The Road to 65, Mile 200: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 9- Skyward to Ketchikan


June 16, 2015, Ketchikan- Actually, the flight from Sitka to Ketchikan lasts 49 minutes.  My friend in Sitka gave me a ride over to Gutierrez International Airport (all border fields are “International”), and from there it was a puddle jump, though in a conventional aircraft that was going from Anchorage to Seattle.

The Ketchikan Airport is on Gravina Island, from which one must take a $6, five-minute ferry, to the city proper, then a $5 taxi ride to the Main Ferry Terminal, from whence a city bus will take the visitor downtown.  I was told the Gravina Bridge was the Bridge to Nowhere that was never completed.  It was not a big deal to me- just a half-hour or so, of local colour.

Ketchikan does have its share of colourful characters, at all points along the human spectrum.  I found myself next to a tough fishwife who was loudly telling someone over the phone about how f*%#@ crazy her teen daughter was acting, as the girl was standing there, rolling her eyes.  A few minutes later, I arrived at the Methodist Church, where the kindly  pastor-emeritus welcomed me to their hostel and explained that only a church-approved Internet connection was available.  Since that link was not working, I ended up going to two different places to WiFi, the next day.  The hostel itself was adequate to my needs, otherwise.

My Ketchikan circuit began at the Tongass Visitors Center, a US Forest Service facility, which does an excellent job at explaining the various aspects of Tongass National Forest, its creatures, the surrounding sea and Man’s interaction with all of them.  There is a complicated balance at play here:  A thin soil layer, trees growing seemingly atop one another, the Native Alaskan understanding of land and sea use, European notions of said use and climate change- which is affecting the area far more dramatically than some other parts of the world, and people on Revillagigedo Island (pronounced by locals as it looks- Reh-vill-ah-GIG-eh-do), on which Ketchikan is located, are less skeptical of the changes than some are, elsewhere.685

Prior to a meeting with friends, later this evening, I made a circuit of the harbour, Ketchikan Totem Heritage Center, City Park, Married Man’s Trail and back to downtown.  As you can see, the fishing part of Ketchikan is very lively.


Stensland Bayside is constantly being dredged and monitored, for seabed shifting, due to low-level seismic activity.


Thomas Basin, the older of Ketchikan’s marinas, is the favoured mooring for Tlingit fishermen.


Traditional totems adorn the wharf.



I walked up through the Ketchikan Native Community, to this thoughtfully-prepared facility.


Both indoor and outdoor totems adorn this lovely park.  A docent does double-duty, between here and the Tongass Museum, a city property, not to be confused with the USFS Visitor Center.




As you might have guessed by now, totem poles come in all heights and tell various stories, depending on the clanship of the carver(s).  Below, is one of the original Tlingit totem poles in the Ketchikan area.


I followed Ketchikan Creek, from City Park, where it helps with a series of salmon ladders, to its confluence with the sea, near downtown.



The thin soil and the water action leave trees to fend for themselves, root-wise.


The Creek is variously calm and rambunctious, like all Alaskan waterways.



Married Man’s Trail takes commitment.744



African-Americans have had a key role to play in Alaskan life, since 1867.  Miss Annie was a fighter for women’s rights, before suffrage.


I met my friend, Ms. Chapman, downtown and went to a brief meeting at the Recreation Center.  While she was tending to other business afterward, I went over to Annabelle’s for fine Alaskan cuisine.


This tunnel goes under a rail link, and takes traffic from downtown to the ferry terminal.


I took these stairs to get to the hostel, where I again met Ms. Chapman.


From there, we went over to the evening meeting, which she and her daughter hosted.  This is a view from her neighbourhood.


this is a cat’s eye view of the world.


My hosts were gracious, in the Alaska tradition.


So, my first of two days in Ketchikan was certainly very full.  So, too, would be the second day.

The Road to 65, Mile 199: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 8- Under The Eagles’ Gaze


June 15, 2015, Sitka-

 It’s said by the locals here, that eagles in Sitka are like pigeons elsewhere, and that black bears are like rats.  I didn’t see any bears, anywhere in southeast Alaska, but there were eagles aplenty, thought they took exception to photography, most of the time.


There have been eagles perched on the steeple of the Lutheran Church, and atop the adjacent St. Michael’s Eastern Orthodox Cathedral.


The Lutheran Church was built to accommodate Finnish shipwrights, who were brought to Sitka, both to build and repair ships, and to build the Russian Bishop’s House.  The house was the residence of the man now known as St. Innocent.  The church was placed across the street from the Orthodox Church, mostly so that the bishop could keep an eye on the Finns.

Both churches burned to the ground, in 1966.  Both have, of course, been rebuilt, and both are still active institutions in Sitka life.


The Lutheran Church is austere, though it has a fine old organ.


The Orthodox Church is replete with the gold, for which that denomination is well-known.


After looking at the interiors of the churches, I went to investigate the central waterfront.  A local boy was quite impressed with the work of a Haida canoe builder.  He was busy telling some other unruly kids to stay out of the canoe.


The Russian Bishop’s House is the centerpiece of Sitka National Historic Site.


I took a guided tour of the upstairs.  The docent explained that the home was built by Finnish shipwrights.  Their methods are obvious here, even today.


The Southeast Alaska Marine Center keeps close watch on sea stars, and other key creatures, as well as maintaining active fish-spawning ladders, primarily for salmon.  Volunteers, including our hostel manager, Katherine, are checking the beaches, most days, for marine creature health.


616This is Whale Park, to which our friend, Mary, took us, as part of her guided visit to the north and south ends of the island.


I visited the Totem Pole Trail on my own, prior to Mary’s guiding my new friend, A.,, and me.

Every town in the Pacific Northwest has totem pole displays.


For the most part, the totem poles on display are replicas.  Those in the wire cage below, are originals.  All on this site, and elsewhere, are sacred to the Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida people, throughout the southeast islands and peninsulas.


This pole marks the site of the Battle of Sitka, in 1704, in which the Russians defeated an army of Tlingits.  To this day, Tlingits look upon Russians with grave suspicion.


A. and I were photographed separately, at the south end signpost.658

The north end of the island has an artesian well, from which many locals obtain their drinking water.


Our last stop in Sitka, that evening, was the Baranof Totem Pole,  on Castle Hill,so built for Count Baranof, one of the last Russian governors of the territory.


I ended my time in Sitka, early the next morning, flying out to Ketchikan, on which I began Mile 200.

The Road to 65, Mile 198- Southeast IS Northwest, Day 7: On Sitka’s Pinnacle


June 14, 2015, Sitka-  The fast ferry from Juneau made it through some narrow channels, in five hours.  Sitka is the premier site of preserved Russian influence in the United States.  There are other such sites, most notably Fort Bragg, CA, but Sitka was Base Camp for Governor Baranof and the Czar’s forces of occupation.  Only when financial matters took precedence, did Alaska pass out from under royal fiefdom.

I came here with a friend, met at the Juneau Hostel, and we determined to hike one of the island’s peaks, as the weather had returned to picture book perfection. The choice was Mt. Verstovia, two miles south southeast of town.

of course, we couldn’t start without first having a light lunch at a food truck.


A taxi took us the two miles to the trailhead.430

Mt. Verstovia had significance to the early Russian colonists, who heated their simple homes with wood and used charcoal for cooking.433

My young friend and her husband collect heart-shaped stones, so my penchant for coming across them piqued her interest.  Of course, being in a national forest. this stayed put.


At the 1.2 mile mark, this was the view to the west.



Most of the trail involved steps and switchbacks.  The moss made the descent a bit of a challenge- but what an unparalleled trail!


Mountaineers no doubt feel the call, when looking northward.


Once at the end of the maintained trail, the true peak of Mt. Verstovia called out, as well.  A few young men headed over to check it out.459

Most of us, though, were satisfied with Picnic Rock, and the 2480 foot ascent.


I have a long ways to go, in getting trim, but a few more like this will help greatly.


We spent about four hours on the mountain, including all the time spent gazing at the various surrounding sights.

Paternity and Patriarchy


June 21, 2015, Monroe, WA-  I will continue with my photoblogs and Road to 65, upon getting these thoughts out.  Today was my second Father’s Day with no father figure.  Every man who is older than I am, is now a senior peer- good for some advice, while not one who has emotional investment in my well-being.

I am now at the patriarchal stage of life.  This is the natural order of things, and something one ought to treasure- not as an authority figure, but as one who is a trusted mentor.  I am the eldest of my parents’ children, and though I have hardly always been the wisest, I feel responsible for my siblings, nieces and nephews, as well as for my son- though each and every one of them is doing just fine without my daily input.

A father is responsible for ALL his children.  Some time ago, a man said- “Well, easy for you to say.  You have one son and no daughters.”  That is happenstance.  Had I a household of nine or ten, it’d be the same. Every child matters- and fathers are needed by both genders of offspring.  I would dare say, further, that the more challenged a child is, the more he or she needs both parents to be actively involved in his or her life.

I have ached today, at reading some accounts by women who feel that they have no close bond with their father.  I have read posts by women who suffer, seeing that the father of their child has only a fleeting connection to that child- and the child in question is just as likely to be a boy, as to be a girl. Every child matters.

I was, and am, far from a perfect parent, and very much doubt that perfection exists in this aspect of our lives.  That does not excuse anyone from putting their best foot forward.  Both of my parents did their level best with their roles,as they understood those roles.  They knew parenthood to be their most important job.  This awareness was passed along to us, and we, in turn, have passed it along to our children.  My nieces and nephews are doing a fine job, in their turn.  I have observed Aram, in his moments as a surrogate parent, and he will do just fine, when the time comes.

My middle brother once said, “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Daddy.”  This is all too true- but it should not be!  A child should be able to follow the natural inclination to call his father “Dada”, “Papa”, “Dad”.  There will never be a time when that title, (first used by Aram towards me, when he was just shy of two and sang a song that he made up, on that very special Father’s Day of 1990), will not be the greatest I’ve ever held.

May the day come when each parent can be honoured on their given day, and every day, in all honesty, by each of their children.

The Road to 65, Mile 197: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 6 at Mendenhall Glacier


272June 13, 2015, Juneau- I elected to spend this Saturday, as an extra day here, so as to spend several hours in the vicinity of Mendenhall, the nearest and most accessible glacier- as well as being a prime example of the changes which our Earth is undergoing.

The glacier’s stewards have carefully marked its retreat, and masses of people from all over the world come here to walk the Trail Through Time, on which a docent carefully points out the now solid ground that was covered by the  Mendenhall, on given years in the not so distant past.  Now, it, along with Le Conte and other glaciers in southeast Alaska, is calving icebergs constantly, each year.


Despite its retreat, Mendenhall remains a thing of wonder.274

This is the closest that visitors can get to the great ice field.281

The icebergs, in turn are feeding this glacial lake.  Perhaps it, someday, will revert to ice.


Nugget Creek, and its great Falls, are new wonders, that have only recently been released from their prison of ice.


A random daredevil chose to test the temperature.  A ranger was en route to check on his well-being, as I headed for East Glacier Loop trail.


Part of East Glacier Loop is contained within the Trail Through Time, which tracks the glacier at its peak and through its retreat, by showing where Mendenhall was, in what year.293

This tree-hollow cavelet would have been far under ice, in 1950, for example.


So, too, would this rain forest floor.295



As with all retreating glaciers, great boulders are left in Mendenhall’s wake.301

East Glacier Trail offers a “top-down” perspective, on its creator.302

AJ Falls, west of Nugget Creek, is the cascade of one of two tributaries of Nugget Creek.303

Notice that ice is not the only expansive element in this area.  Moss is everywhere, in the temperate rain forest.305

The clarity of the Mendenhall’s ponds lends itself to some intrepid families allowing children to swim in them, provided there are no bears present.308

Nugget Creek, compared to its Falls, is a modicum of serenity.314

These are views from the crest of East Glacier Trail.



I spent some time at the crest, talking with a local tour guide.  She has lived in Juneau for over 40 years, Steep Falls

and has, to her chagrin, watched Mendenhall shrink, inexorably.  She, like many hikers, took a

counterclockwise approach to the trail.  I hiked in a clockwise direction, as is my wont, and thus went down these stairs, instead of up.319

Steep Falls, at the west end of the trail, is the second tributary cascade of Nugget Creek.



It remains to be seen, as to which direction the glaciers of southeast Alaska,and of the world, will go, as our planet’s history progresses.  Mendenhall, Tracy Arm, LeConte Glacier and Glacier Bay, are all worth monitoring, and that’s just in the southeast.  The rest of the Last Frontier more than hold sits own, in the ice field department-for now.

The Road to 65, Mile 196: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 5 On The Water


June 12, 2015, Auke Bay- This waterfront community is Juneau’s northern adjunct, and a vital part of the Mendenhall Valley’s maritime tradition.  This is where the ferries head in all directions, and where the major fishing marinas are.

One of the boats docked at Auke Bay is the Anna.  She took six of us out to Prospect Point and Barlow Cove, then safely back, by evening.


The sturdy lady is captained by Dave P., a master fisherman and mariner in good standing.


He was assisted by Hari Dave S., a carpenter and roustabout on the high seas.


Once all were aboard, and the kids were properly life-preservered, we were off to untold adventure.


Dreamers never quit, and our dreams were of catching the limit on dungeness crab and halibut.  So, we passed by the Chilkat Mountains, and Eagle Glacier.



Captain Dave was going for broke.


The girls were all set to help out.IMG_1019

Here, off Barlow Cove, we set two crab pots.


Then, it was off to Prospect Point, for a couple hours of the master fishermen going after halibut.


My task was simple:  Kick back, relax and make sure no one fell in the water.IMG_1030

Sea lions provided comic relief, and a cheering, or maybe booing, section.IMG_1031

The runt of the litter tried to get on board.  He had my sympathy.IMG_1033

In the end, the catch was….almost nonexistent.  The girls got a hermit crab to take home as a pet.  Any time with convivial people is well-spent though, and our day was indicative of so many days spent with a stick in the water.  The main thing is being at sea, and knowing that one of these days, the bounty will be provided.

After getting back to Juneau, I went to an Asian restaurant, which served multiple cuisines.  I stuck with the low mein, which also would stretch to another meal, in a day or so.  Tomorrow will be a different sor tof adventure:  A visit to Mendenhall Glacier.

The Road to 65, Mile 195: Southeast IS Northwest, Day Four- Juneau


June 11, 2015, Juneau- There is no such thing as a wasted day, unless one revels in wastefulness.  Rain fell, constantly, during my first full day in the Alaskan capital.  One must take what is, however, and so I first headed over to the nearest coffee house:  Heritage Coffee, in the heart of downtown.  I had about 1 1/2 hours of wi fi, for the price of coffee and a scone, before whoever runs the wifi pulled the plug, and I moved on.


Thus, I took in the fullness of downtown Juneau, and gradually moved uphill.


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church became a refuge for the Tlingit people, in the 1880’s and ’90’s, when American Christian groups insisted they give up their language and customs.  The Russian Orthodox missionaries made no such demand.  Therefore, the community remains strong in Juneau.

The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has thrived, since the Catholics learned from the success of their Orthodox neighbours.  In truth, the only way to really reach people, especially in spiritual matters, is through their hearts.IMG_0972

The Alaska State Capitol is under renovation now, so no one is allowed inside, as a visitor.  It is one of the most utilitarian, and unadorned of the state capitols, which suits me, and most Alaskans, just fine.


All this going back and forth was leading me to check my watch, and, yes, it was lunch time.  So, off to Rainbow Foods, the local natural foods market, I went.  Some of my fellow hostelers were stunned, STUNNED, that I didn’t go to Fred Meyer or IGA.  As capable as the chain stores may be, local has more of the ambiance I seek.


After the lunchtime interlude, I checked out Wickersham House, the early Twentieth Century home of a local judge, and his multi-talented second wife, who built strong, respectful relationships with the Tlingit and Haida people. The house is an Alaskan State Historic Site, and much of the judge’s native arts collection is preserved here.  Note the basketry, figurines and scrimshawed whale bone, below.



Next up, was a ninety-minute spiritual study with some local friends, then it was off to the heights above Juneau, with the hardiest of their number.


Our goal was Ebner Falls, which can be seen from a distance, below.





Above Ebner Falls, there rises Mount Juneau, accessible by a muddy path.


The rain was our companion, all during this hike, but the falls are a greater attraction than the precipitation was a deterrent. I went with my friend, Dave P., to his boat, to prepare it for tomorrow’s expedition.  After pizza and salad, with Dave and his wife, my evening was occupied with  helping a young friend to heal herself, with the help of some essential oils.

The Road to 65, Mile 194: Southeast IS Northwest, Day 3, Wrangell to Juneau


June 10, 2015, Juneau- Today was a gray, overcast, thoroughly rainy day, headed north.  It was alternately cold and mild, outside.  The sea was alternately deep and black or shallow and emerald green.  No worries here, though, as I was passing from one fabulous community to another.

The ferry this time was the Matsunaga, named for one of Alaska’s most famous valleys.


We passed by more exhilarating islands, coves and mountains, which I will let speak for themselves.  It was a pensive and relaxing day.







Our only stop, en route, was the largely Norwegian-American community of Petersburg.  I had scant time to leave the ship and explore, so I just stayed on board and was able to take these shots of the town, from deckside.  Note that the homes closest to the harbour are on raised platforms.  This feature reminded me of towns in Louisiana, or the coast of Guyana.IMG_0919


Patterson Glacier meets the sea, north of Petersburg.  The much larger Le Conte Glacier is just south of Patterson.


This wispy cloud, in front of the mountain, cast a disconcerting countenance.


We arrived in Juneau  around 6:15 P.M., and i was whisked to a local Baha’i gathering, where once again, I was welcomed as family.IMG_0956

After this hearty welcome, I headed to Juneau Hostel, where I will spend four nights. during three full days in Alaska’s capital.