Holidays in a Small Alaskan Fishing Town

20141225 4049 boat xmas tree rI’ll continue to share a few photos from our holidays in Petersburg as we wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

People often ask us if we have a Christmas tree on the boat, and of course we do – it’s a boat-sized tree made for us many years ago by my old Sea Scout friend.  We enjoyed a quiet Christmas morning together, then joined a gathering of about 15 people for a pot-luck Christmas dinner – it was a perfect day, though the promise of snow turned into rain with warmer than expected temperatures.

Jim was busy baking his famous monster cookies, but I had to keep reminding him that Christmas is all about sharing them.20141221 3983 monster cookies rWe finally had a day without some rain so I could photograph the Sons of Norway hall – first at low tide on the slough…20141224 4004 son hall and low tide slough rAnd then at high tide.20141224 4009 sons of norway christmas high tide rOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe haven’t had many decent weather days in a while, though Saturday and Sunday were clear and cold with bright sunshine – finally!  We loaded up the cameras and decided to head “out the road” to see some birds, but lots of other people were out enjoying the good weather with their dogs, so the birds were pretty scarce.  We enjoyed hiking and exploring new parts of the island, and with the crisp temperatures the fallen leaves and the swimming hole were kissed by frost and ice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe muskeg meadows were misty and frosty, and it was great to take the time to notice nature’s little details like this Spanish moss on the evergreens.20141227 4028 spanish moss macro rWe made it all the way to the end of the road on the island, making lots of stops to explore along the way.  The sun was getting ready to dip below the mountain but it still cast a nice light on the snow-capped mountains across the strait.  We loved the views with every twist and turn of the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next day was clear and cold again, but we had a bit of fog in the early morning which froze into a very thick frost that covered the dock and everything.  I’ve never seen frost that thick, and it was very tough stuff since it remained intact even after two days of people walking on it.  The frost made everything sparkle like diamonds – so pretty.20141229 4045 thick frost rAnd from the beauty of nature, we turn to the insanity and/or hardiness of the people of Petersburg as the New Year is celebrated with a Polar Plunge.  Let me note that it’s a miserable rainy day – about 44 degrees which, coincidentally is the same as the water temperature!  Despite the weather, quite a number of people came out to take the plunge.  A safety swimmer was geared up and ready in his dry suit and the Volunteer Ambulance Corps was present… just in case.  The brave souls lined up on the launch ramp dock…20150101 4075 polar plunge brave souls rAnd someone counted down to the moment of truth!20150101 4077 polar plunge jump 1 r20150101 4078 polar plunge jump 2 r20150101 4080 jump 3 rMost people couldn’t get out of the water fast enough…20150101 4085 polar plunge get me outta here rBut a few folks paddled around for a little bit, enjoying a little harbor swim.20150101 4092 polar plunge swimmers r

Merry Christmas

The holiday season continues in full swing here in Petersburg with more concerts, a holiday fun run, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and wonderful hospitality from new friends.  We were walking down the street after working out at the community center the other day when we were gently herded into the home of new friends Grant and Lila for some conversation and some fresh-from-the-oven Norwegian kringle.20141219 3980 norwegian kringle rThe kindness and warmth of the people we’re meeting here is remarkable, and we’re enjoying learning more about the area and about the culture.

Petersburg really lives up to its nickname of “Little Norway” at the holidays, with the tradition of Julebukking taking center stage this week.  Julebukking is an old Norwegian tradition that was originally pagan in origin, but was later adapted by the Christians.  In its purest form it’s a little like Halloween at Christmas where people would dress up in costume and visit their neighbors, and the neighbors had to try and guess who they were.  Food and drink featured prominently.  It’s a variation on the idea of a holiday open house, and here in Petersburg it’s practiced by the various businesses around town (and you don’t have to dress up in a costume!).  There are so many local businesses hosting Julebukking that the paper had to publish a schedule of which places are hosting on which days, culminating with 10 different places today.  We finally came home early today – utterly Julebukked-out – but it has been a great way to get to know people in town and we’ve had a ball.  The holiday feeling here is old-fashioned – festive and happy.  People greet each other on the street and hearty wishes of “Merry Christmas!” are everywhere – between friends and strangers alike.

The best of the Julebukking was today at the hardware store where they had a nice spread of noshes, punch, and the feature:  “Moose Milk”.  “Moose Milk” starts with this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo which you add some liquor named “White Christmas”…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then you put it into the paint shaker…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd when it’s sufficiently shaken (not stirred), you pour it into an elegant bowl, and serve it with a dash of nutmeg on top!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonday night was a Community Concert where 16 different groups or individuals played a musical instrument and/or sang holiday songs.  To see that many people offer to share their time and talents was heartwarming enough, and most of the performances were extremely good.  Our favorite was a duet by Lila and Grant singing an old Norwegian carol, along with the story of how they learned the song and met as youngsters in Minnesota.

Saturday was our day for the Christmas bird count for the Audubon Society, and I joined a valiant group of volunteers on a cold, rainy, windy day – not the best for seeing a lot of birds.  The scoters are plentiful in the harbor and we’re starting to see some long-tailed ducks, and I’ve been assured that many more are on their way here for the winter soon.20141212 3924 oldsquaw 5 rI was on a little team with a local bird expert currently working on her PhD and a retired Alaska State wildlife biologist – which was fantastic.  We counted the trumpeter swans, buffleheads, mergansers, loons, pine siskins, etc. I got a nice tour of some good hiking and bird watching spots on the island and I learned a lot from them both – well worth enduring the cold wet weather!

We heard our names on the local radio station ( today announcing that we won the Christmas Light Contest in the “boat” category.  There was only one other entry in our category, but a win is still a win!  Jim gets all the credit – he’s the one who does such a nice job putting lights all around the boat and a big red ribbon on the bow.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or as the Norwegians say “God Jul”!20141217 3956 petersburg christmas tree r