Living on an island we’ve learned not to take too much for granted. Everything and everyone gets here either by boat or plane, and with the flight and ferry schedules there’s no way to come here just for a day. There are a number of little Bed & Breakfast places around town, many with a little kitchen (since there are so few options for dinner out), and those places are busy all year ’round. Guests in the B&Bs or one of our two hotels might be someone from the school system, the copier repairman, or the piano tuner. And when someone like the piano tuner will be coming to town the word goes out over the local radio station well ahead of time so people can take advantage of the rare visit. The same goes for a marine surveyor – he came with his own little camper to sleep in. Think of all the specialists that you might call on any given day – we can’t do that here, unless we want to buy them a plane or ferry ticket and arrange for them to stay over.
We helped a new friend last week – her new house was being delivered and she wanted some video of the process so Jim volunteered to help. Her new house is modular, and three of the four modules arrived on the barge from Washington, along with the low-boy trailer needed to move them. At the same time, the huge crane came on a different barge from Juneau, and the truck and crew came on the ferry from Juneau. Given our rather rainy weather, it makes a lot of sense to get a modular home rather than stick-built.
It was quite a production, watching the huge forklifts that normally handle shipping containers lift the house onto the low-boy trailer. In a small town an event like a new house arriving is Big News, so there were lots of people taking pictures as the truck made its way carefully up the road from the barge terminal, through the middle of town, and to the house site right on Frederick Sound – with a million dollar view.The real challenge was backing the first half of the house down the narrow driveway, through the huge evergreen trees. The crew impressed us with their skill and patience, and though it took well over an hour for them to finally complete the back-and-forth, wiggle-waggling – they succeeded in maneuvering 64′ of house section through an impossibly narrow opening without a scratch or raised voice.Meanwhile, the Humane Society fundraiser is still going on through the end of this month, where you can have someone’s house “flocked” with plastic pink flamingos for a $10 donation. It’s always fun to drive around town and see who the latest
victim lucky person is.Speaking of flocks, everyone has been very excited to see flocks of sandhill cranes flying overhead as they migrate north. The flyover only lasts for a few days, so it’s a real treat to see them – loose wedges of 100 or more birds, with their odd sound. They fly quite high – it’s probably easier to stay higher so they don’t have to fly up and down to get over the mountains.
In other news, a friend mentioned that she’s having “a mink problem”. In some places that might mean someone is having trouble with their winter coat, but here it means that a mink or a marten (members of the weasel family) are killing their chickens and ducks. A number of people just outside of town raise poultry, mostly for eggs, and the minks will kill quite a few birds at one time.
It has been a very busy month here in town. We’ve been celebrating National Poetry Month with people reading poems on the radio every morning, an event at the library, and our book club sharing poems at a friend’s house, looking out over the muskeg at the forest and mountains. Sunday was the annual Blessing of the Fleet, listing the names of the many fishing boats hoping for a safe and bountiful season, and listing the names of 11 fishermen and fisherwomen who lost their lives in the last year. The fishing season is getting underway and the harbor is buzzing with boats loading ice at the canneries or starting to offload their catch. The water is teeming with krill and tiny fry, as well as smelt and herring. People are often jigging for smelt from the dock, and it doesn’t take long to fill a bucket!Thursday there was an excellent lecture from a Forest Service biologist about lichens found in SE Alaska so we were much more focused on the various types as we headed out for birding and hiking on Friday. We started at Blind River Rapids for a picnic lunch by the water, watching kingfishers, mergansers, loons, buffleheads, and eagles work the shallow water at low tide.From there we got on the logging roads and drove across the island to hike around two of the three big lakes.
We saw eagles, pine siskins, and a number of deer, but only the tracks of moose and wolf. We stopped and looked at many of the different lichens, and I learned that one of my favorites has a great name: fairy barf. In addition to the lichens and mosses in the forest, the skunk cabbage has started to bloom with its bright yellow stamen and “flower”, standing 8-12″ tall. Just a few had some green leaves starting to emerge, and these leaves are important for the bears to eat as they come out of hibernation. Skunk cabbage causes diarrhea – not normally a desirable thing, but very handy for a bear that has been hibernating all winter.We had a great long hike, and stopped to savor the view across the water to the Le Conte inlet where the ice from the glacier is carried out into the Sound.We’re now trying to wrap up all the boat chores and projects that we procrastinated all winter, as well as taking care of the jobs that need dry weather. It’s time to get back out to cruise, and as much as we’re in love with the community and our friends here, we need to wander. Hopefully the weather will cooperate to let us finish things in the next week.