Two More Minutes…

Today we have two more minutes of daylight! Winter’s Solstice was a couple of days ago, and from now until later in June the days will be getting steadily longer. With only 6 hours and 42 minutes of daylight on the shortest day, every little bit matters. Adding to the darkness of the “dark days”, it has been very rainy for the past two months – a good thing to help erase the drought, but not helpful when you’re craving some bright clear skies. We had some sunshine on parts of the island for a few hours just in time for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. It was a cold day, but not raining/sleeting/snowing and windy as it has been almost every year that we’ve been here.

Devil’s Thumb and Frederick Sound on Bird Count day

Everyone’s calendars are bursting with holiday activities such as the annual Winter Dance Recital. 164 children from ages 3 to 18 participated, often in multiple dance numbers. This year’s theme was “game night,” and the dancer’s energy and joy was a delight to behold.

Petersburg’s small Museum had a holiday open house, and the Oxford Carolers (which Jim sings in) provided a little entertainment to go along with the ornament auction and homemade cookies and treats!

Oxford Carolers. Jim is 2nd from the left.

Festivities continued with the Sons of Norway Holiday Julbord dinner. The lodge made turkeys and hams, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the members brought side dishes or desserts. Wow! The lodge is decorated beautifully, and we all enjoyed a terrific dinner.

Meanwhile, Julebukking got started a little early at the marine construction and welding supply company. You can get your propane tanks filled while you fill your belly, or shop for a new welding helmet. Their metal artwork was really impressive!

Santa stopped by the Recreation Center, arriving by helicopter! (The reindeer are resting up for the big night.) School band concerts were last week, first the high school concert and jazz bands…

High School Jazz Band

…followed by the Middle School Bands – the 6th grade Beginner Band and the 7th-8th grade Band. In our school, every 6th grade student is required to learn a musical instrument and play in the Beginner Band. Participation is optional after the year, but I think it’s a wonderful thing to expose all students to music like that. In addition to the band performance, the music director offered any of the 6th graders the opportunity to play a short solo at the beginning of the performance. Over a dozen young folks lined up at the microphone to play a solo or duet, introducing themselves and giving it their all. Such confidence! We absolutely loved seeing them stepping up like that. Bravo!!

Holidays in Petersburg means baking… everything made with “butter and love” as the motto goes. Jim has been busy baking different kinds of cookies every day, and I’m always amazed at how much he’s able to do in our small galley. The biggest cookie sheet that will fit in our oven is 12×14″ so he has to bake everything in small batches. He’s normally smiling, but he’s got his “game face” on in this photo.

The Master Baker at work!

Holiday parties and just general silliness infects everyone… You can’t live here unless you can connect with your Inner Child!

As I write this I’m relaxing after the final round of Julebukking around town – treats and eats galore! It has been quite a week.

Lee’s Clothing store

You can see that Sig’s salmon is pretty popular, as is his pickled herring and pretty much anything else that he makes!

Sig’s salmon plate

The airport, the radio station (KFSK – Fish Head Radio), the bookstore, the art gallery, the native crafts store, electronics store… the list of businesses hosting Julebukking is a long one, particularly on Christmas Eve. The spread at the Sons of Norway hall is the biggest of all…

…though the hardware store and it’s “Moose Milk” beverage – made from softened Tilamook French Vanilla ice cream and White Christmas liquor, mixed in a 5-gallon paint bucket and shaken in the big paint shaker – is a particular favorite. I’ll bet there are sticky spots on every shelf in the store after today!

The mist is hiding Petersburg and Bearclaw Mountains with their dusting of snow right now, but Nature gave us a nice Christmas gift with the sighting of some humpback whales in the Narrows passing by the harbor this morning! The harbor staff called the radio station so they could share the news, and I could hear and see them blow as they swam against the incoming tide.

The days may be dark and a bit gloomy, but the people and the spirit here is nothing short of Merry and Bright! We wish you all a Joyous Holiday Season, and a New Year filled with Health and Happiness.

No One Can Beat Petersburg…

…when it comes to the holidays. This place takes “festive” and “fun” to new heights, and I’ll share some of it with you in the coming weeks.

But first, I want to show you how Alaskans shop. I’ve probably mentioned that things are very expensive up here because of the transportation costs. We have it pretty nice because Petersburg gets two barges a week from Seattle, all year ’round. More northern coastal communities may only get a barge once in the summer months, and all the Interior towns have to rely on air freight. So whenever we’re “down south” (anywhere in the Lower 48) we try to shop for heavy and/or bulky things, or things that are expensive to mail order. This trip we bought new engine start batteries, wine, some Christmas gifts, paper towels, a new rug for the galley and lots of shelf-stable favorites from Costco and Trader Joe’s and loaded them onto a pallet for the barge from Seattle to Petersburg.

It’s just another part of the routine now that we live in an interesting place.

Meanwhile, the whales have been very active in Frederick Sound on the north side of town, breaching and blowing. It sure is nice to be back home.

North Harbor

I promised to show you some of the ways that Petersburg hits the ball out of the park when it comes to holiday events. First, we have the lighting of the town Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Here the Power and Light crew are getting the lights on the monster of a tree we have this year. When it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, it sure is handy to live in a National Forest.

The whole town gathers at one end of the main street, carrying candles (or light sticks for the tots)…

Santa leads us all in a parade down to the Municipal Building where the tree is waiting for the big moment. Some of the high school band members play holiday music…

and we all count down…

…and we warm up with some cups of hot apple cider that the Sons of Norway hands out. It’s old-fashioned and lovely and if that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit then you’re a Grinch or a Scrooge!

Right after the tree lighting the roller derby team hosts a “Brews and Stews” contest where we can taste all kinds of interesting chilis and stews as well as homemade beers, wines, cordials and meads. The chili pictured below was my favorite – I didn’t know that musk ox was so tasty! Venison, moose and elk as well as the more traditional beef and chicken were all represented. We have some really good cooks and brewers in this town!

Next up was the always popular (and VERY competitive) Pickled Herring Contest.

Other kinds of pickled seafood as well as smoked seafood round out a variety of categories, and judging is serious business.

Two guys ended up winning the top choices in every category… and the gentleman on the left has won the contest countless times over the years.

As soon as the judging is FINALLY over with, the assembled crowd devours what’s left. I wish I liked seafood because the spread here is some of the best you could ever hope to taste.

The last event I’ll report on in this post is the special presentation of a Quilt of Valor to Jim.

The Raincountry Quilters in town make a patriotic quilt for every Veteran, and this one was made by a dear friend of ours – making it even more special.

There’s much more to come… concerts, dance recitals, and of course… Julebukking! Stay tuned.

Crater Lake National Park

First it was a mountain, then it became a lake thanks to a huge volcanic eruption about 7700 years ago. Crater Lake is big and it’s really intensely blue!

Crater Lake is located in the southwest corner of Oregon at an altitude of about 6100′, though the lake level varies with precipitation. It’s the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1943′, but all the statistics and superlatives are eclipsed by the fact that it’s really beautiful.

Wizard Island, the most prominent feature in the lake, is a cinder cone from a subsequent eruption. Several other cinder cones have been left behind from other eruptions, but the rest of them are hidden in the depths of the lake.

These two photos of different parts of the rim try to show how high the lake sides are – ranging from 500′ to almost 2000′ above the lake level. It’s hard to grasp how big it is just peering down from the rim.

We were at the lake in later October, but most of the rim road was already closed due to snow. Crater Lake is a very snowy place, getting up to 533 inches a year!

Snow sticks

The second day we were there the plows managed to open up a little section of the rim road so we could explore the park just to the north of the lake itself. Distant mountains…

…and the Pumice Desert tell the unmistakable story of volcanic activity throughout the region.

Pumice Desert

As we wrapped up our fall road trip we realized that almost all of our stops were related to volcanoes and geothermal activity, though we didn’t set out with that intention. We covered roughly 4000 miles on our circuit around some of the western states and the fact is that volcanoes and faults and basin-and-range formations influence a significant part of the landscape in the northwest.

We’re sorry to take so long to get back to the Blog, but we arrived home and hit the ground running… and now we’re already in the very busy (and fun) holiday season in Petersburg. There’s lots to report about – the massive town Christmas tree, Pickled Herring, etc. The stores are stocking up on butter and other baking supplies, the dancers are making final preparations for their recital next weekend, holiday parties are filling everyone’s calendars, homes and our boat are colorful and sparkly with lights to brighten these days with so little daylight. Santa is coming!

More Lassen Volcanic – A Real Gem!

The final image in the last post was of the 700′ tall Cinder Cone volcano in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Formed in the 1650s, this basalt lava cinder cone was part of two eruptions. The hike to the top starts at over 6000′ of elevation, but we’ve spent most of the past couple of weeks at altitude so we were acclimated pretty well. I wasn’t sure I could make it up that steep trail… but the closer we got to it the more we just had to see what was up there!

Steep!

Trudging in the soft cinders was challenging, but we would take about 50 steps and then pause for a count of 50. The trail winds around the cone so the views kept changing, offering new rewards for the climb.

Lassen Mountain

You can see how steep the cone’s sides are in the photo above! I wouldn’t have guessed that I could do it, but we both made it to the top and it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. The reward for our efforts was well worth it!

Two tiny people on the rim

We scampered around the inner and outer rims, even hiking part way down into the center…

…marveling at the different colors of the rocks…

…and taking in the sweeping views of the Fantastic Lava Beds and Painted Dunes below.

The Fantastic Lava Beds were formed when basalt lava leaked out of the bottom of the cinder cone as it was erupting. It was overwhelming to grasp its size as we took in the panoramic views from the rim. Here’s what it looks like from ground level, next to tall Jeffery pines at the edge of the forest.

What a stunning landscape, with such stark and sudden transitions!

With names like Brokeoff Mountain, Chaos Crags, Devastated Area, Fantastic Lava Beds and Bumpass Hell – Lassen Volcanic National Park is a true gem of a place, well worth a visit. We enjoyed other hiking trails in the park – the variety of terrain offers something for everyone.

Lassen Volcanic is located in the midst of Lassen National Forest, and we found other notable features worth exploring in the National Forest as well. There just wasn’t enough time to see and do all of it! But we brought our flashlights and were able to investigate the “Subway Cave” that was just off the road between the park entrance and our campground. Subway Cave is a lava tube, formed when the lava at the top cooled as it was exposed to the air, while molten lava continued to flow underneath. The name “subway” is appropriate – it’s as wide and tall as a modern subway tunnel!

The tunnel meanders for about 1/2 mile, and it’s amazing to imagine nature’s forces at work as molten rock oozed along the smooth channels. The tunnel was found when part of the roof collapsed, revealing the secret underneath. As we drove past the area, we saw the terrain in a completely different way – with a better understanding of what we were looking at. We came, we hiked, we explored and we learned – it was a perfect visit.