Two weeks after we arrived in Anchorage, Mark and I hitched a ride to Whittier with our amenable brother-in-law, Jerome, where we boarded a ferry for an eight-hour trip to Cordova, in Prince William Sound.
We took a mountain tunnel to get to Whittier, passing the Portage Glacier, which is shrinking rapidly but still beautiful. This morning, a layer of thin ice covered the lake in front of the glacier.
The Aurora ferry sped away from Whittier, down a channel with the snow-covered Chugash Mountains rising behind it.
After a sun-blessed sail across the Sound, we pulled into Cordova at 7:30 pm and walked a half a mile to the Reluctant Fishermen Inn.
The economy of Cordova, which is only reachable by boat or plane, centers on fishing. The season would not begin for another week, but the harbor was busy with crews preparing their boats, the gillnets and seines.
The town of about 2,500 people was lively, with a huge new community center and library, built with funds from Exxon following the massive oil spill from one of its tankers in Prince William Sound. The Exxon Valdez oil spill is also depicted in a “shame pole” built by a local Eyak carver and on display at the Ilanka Cultural Center museum.
We hiked up a hill outside town the next day and walked through snow for the last thousand feet. The view from the top was spectacular .
The majestic bald eagle is almost common place in the Cordova area. In this photo taken during a hike, you can see five. Other eagles trolled the seafront, looking for tasty morsels.
Our second day in Cordova we rented a car and drove 35 miles west, following the Copper River which flowed out of mountains that were the site of huge copper mines in the early 1900s. A flood had washed out the bridge, cutting the only road out of Cordova.
The Copper River will be full of salmon by June.
Back at the Reluctant Fisherman that night, we feasted on fish – oysters, tuna, ceviche and a sushi roll.
It was a short trip, but one worth repeating because we left too many trails unexplored along the glaciers and hikes we want to take.
On our second trip to Alaska, we drove through British Columbia west of the Rockies, along Highway One. We spent the first night parked at a lake outside the town of Ashcroft.
The next morning, we looked around the town park’s display of local history since the Europeans settled the region were on display. Mining, first for gold then for other precious metals, began in the late 1800s.
The covered wagons that carried settlers to the region and the sod-roofed cabins they lived in remind visitors of the hardships they faced.
In New Hazelton, early settlers are honored for three major economic activities: Mining, lumbering and packing. Cataline, pictured below, was said to be the best packer in British Columbia.
Before the influx of settlers, the First Nation Peoples lived a nomadic lifestyle, following the fish and the animals they hunted. In Ashcroft, a historian noted that the gold seekers changed all that.
“A shortage of white women among the miners means that a lot of Indian women are taken as wives or housekeepers. Many Indian males become cowboys or handlers of horses. This sort of interaction with the white man effectively puts an end to their nomadic lifestyle and changes their life style forever.”
The next day we visited the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum along the Bulkley River, a replication of an ancient Gitanmaax village. Similar to those of other First Nations, these totem poles tell the story of an individual clan and communicate legends, history and culture.
In Canada, many First Nations Peoples have well-funded cultural centers and thriving economies but others, like these in a beautiful mountain setting near ‘Ksan, reveal poverty and neglect.
Ice-crusted surfaces on a lake in early May.
We continued north along the Cassier Highway, headed to the Alaska Highway.
We often drove without seeing other cars or trucks but one day we saw seven black bears on the edge of the forest. They were waking up from their winter habitation and hungry!
The snow-capped mountains grew in majesty as we went further north in the Yukon.
After five days of driving, we entered Alaska where we spent the night at the Eagle Trail and in the morning took our first hike in the state this year. Hello to the Wrangell Mountains!
The West Coast has surprisingly turned into a place where we can meet up with family. After a week in the redwoods with Margo and John, we drove north to Eugene, Oregon. Our nephew Tom and his partner, Judy, both recent graduates of the University of Oregon, are starting out in new careers. After a dynamite meal of Thai food, they came over to check out our rig, parked that night along a walking path, courtesy of a friendly retail mail. We had a few laughs and listened to the rain on our metal roof.
After Eugene, we stayed a night in Portland where we returned to Powell’s, the world’s largest bookstore, and had to sample some of the cutting edge food that gives the city its culinary reputation.
A day later we were in Seattle, sharing food at Molly and Allegra’s home. There is nothin better than food made with love and seasoned with the passion like that of this newly-wed couple. They made the thinnest homemade fettucine pasta I've ever eaten. Buonissimo!
After two days in Seattle, Mark and I went our separate ways for a week, Mark to D.C., me to Bangor to check in on my mother and sister.
Mattie and I went to Portland (Maine) the day before I left and we had a blast with our dear old friend Lizzie, seen here on beautiful Higgins Beach in Scarborough.
Mark returned to Seattle first, in time to find our friends David and Hanna at the Climate March.
We left the next day for Canada, then Alaska, with the enthusiastic support of friends and family.
Ever since we read the book The Wild Trees we wanted to visit the coastal redwoods and see close up the magic of the towering giants hidden in the rainforest of northern California. In mid-April we got our chance, meeting up with our sister- and brother-in-law, Margo and John, to spend a week hiking through the forest and looking at trees.
We started in Humboldt Redwoods State Park where the famous Avenue of the Giants winds through the tall trees. A high annual rainfall feeds the unique plants and trees that are only found there.
Not surprisingly, it poured most of the time we were there. We still managed to get out into the forest and walk among the trees, the tallest ones estimated to be more than two thousand years old and as high as 380 feet.
Inside the forests at Humboldt, and further north in Prairie Creek and Jedediah State Parks, we entered a remote eco-system where young trees sprouted on the remains of fallen giants.
On the ground, the roots of trees mesh together, creating a living network across the forest floor.
High above, the broad crowns of the tree are lush environments for plants, animals, birds and insects.
Miraculously, even fire could not destroy these trees. Charred bark and empty trunks on the first ten feet of a tree did not kill it and fresh green leaves flourished above. The empty trunks offered a shelter that would be perfect for a hobbit.
The Redwood forest of today is only a fraction of the size it was before settlers began to log the giants in the late 19th century. In 1917, naturalist Charles Kellogg fashioned a fallen redwood into a camper that he put on the back of a flatbed truck, then drove around the country to campaign to save the remaining trees. He called the truck the Travel Log.
Kellogg’s efforts led to the preservation of several redwood groves, though conservation protests in some groves continued into the 1990s.
In between camping among the redwoods we spent a few days on the wild Pacific coast in Trinidad.
We also stayed for two nights on the serpentine blue-green Smith river, at the lovely Hiouchi Bed & Breakfast. From Hiouchi we could access the remote Grove of Titans, a circular colonnade of the largest redwoods in the world, trees so enormous that one of the first biologists to find the grove cried when he saw them.
Our time among the ancient redwoods filled us with awe and gave us hope that others will be able to experience the majesty of nature in these groves.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.