Real Alaska

Yesterday was Seward’s Day, an official state holiday commemorating the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.  Secretary of State William Seward brokered the deal though he was roundly chastised for the purchase, called “Seward’s icebox” and “Seward’s folly” until people ultimately realized the rich resources Alaska had to offer: oil and gas, minerals, timber, and fish… not to mention incredible beauty.  Happy Seward Day!20150309 4519 petersburg morning eagles close rAs I write about life in a small Alaskan fishing town, I would be remiss if I didn’t focus on the most important garment worn by coastal Alaskans – XtraTuf boots, aka “brown boots”, “Sitka sneakers”, etc.  These boots are knee-high, usually made of rubber with a sturdy non-slip sole and everyone wears them, all the time.  Fishermen, high school girls, little tykes… people even get married in them.  20140616 8732 xtratuf display psrWe live in the largest temperate rainforest in the world so they’re great for trooping around town on rainy days, keeping warm and dry on the fishing boats, working in fish processing plants, hiking muddy trails… you name it.  XtraTufs are very comfortable, and they come in sizes to fit the biggest fishermen and the smallest toddlers.20140616 8735 xtratuf boot display vertical psrThere are even little crocheted baby booties made to look like XtraTufs called BabyTufs – it’s what any well-dressed Alaskan baby wears!

If you walk into any store in downtown Juneau or Ketchikan on a day that’s overflowing with cruise ships, everyone will recognize that you’re a local if you’re wearing your brown boots.  (Actually, I wear Viking brand because they fit me better, but they’re still brown!)  That’s part of the real Alaska…  which brings me to something I just have to comment on: so-called “reality” TV shows about Alaska which are anything but.  A gal from Petersburg was visiting friends in the Lower 48 recently, and someone asked her where she was from.  When she replied that she was from Southeast Alaska, the questioner said “Wow, you’re so well-dressed and articulate for someone from Alaska!”  Clearly the questioner wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I wonder how much of people’s warped ideas come from so many of these garbage TV shows portraying Alaska as a haven for the most bizarre and moronic people on the planet.

“Reality TV” has nothing to do with reality.  It was a trend started when Hollywood had a writer’s strike and they had to come up with some other way to fill the airwaves.  Instead of paying good writers, they found regular people who were willing to act like idiots for a fraction of the money.  The producers of these shows continue to find new and more ridiculous situations, and they seem to be in love with Alaska.  It’s a travesty!  Look away!!

There are two shows that really chafe the local population.  One is “Alaskan Bush People” about a family who supposedly live in the wilds of Alaska on their own.  They’re now living up near Hoonah, pretending to survive in the “wild bear-infested woods” when in fact they live in the Hoonah Lodge with the Discovery Channel crew and just go out to some nearby land (leased for them by the production company) for their play-acting nonsense.  Meanwhile they await trial on fraud charges from the state.  Petersburg locals were quite irritated to find that the Bush People and camera crew were in our town for a day recently to film something.  No one wants those nut-jobs anywhere near us!

Another show – “Battle of the Bay” depicts gillnetting in Bristol Bay, and has so mis-represented reality that the Sea Grant office of University of Alaska – Fairbanks here in town posted several pages of single-spaced points explaining how the show grossly warps reality.

I’ll climb off my soapbox and go back to the eagles and ravens and mountains now.  The fish processing plants are wrapping up winter renovations, and the airports are getting busier with fishermen and processing workers starting to come north for the season.  Daffodils are up and spring is in the air.  It’s a drizzly day today so I’m going to don my brown boots and head up the dock to run some errands around town.  20140616 8754 everybody wears xtratufs psr

Over 25 Minutes a Week

The amount of daylight here in Petersburg is currently increasing at a rate of over 25 minutes per week.  We’ve quickly moved from the “dark months” to days that are noticeably longer.  On the Winter Solstice (December 21) we had 6:46 hours of daylight, today we’ll have about 10:45 hours, and on the Summer Solstice in June we’ll have just shy of 18 hours.

Meanwhile, as the east coast continues to deal with a cold snowy winter, we’ve been enjoying mild temperatures.  Winter in Alaska – come here and warm up!

As boaters we’re much more in tune with the cycles of the sun and the moon, going up and down with the tide every day.20150221 4368 petersburg harbor office and ramp low tide rThe biggest impact on us with the tide is the steepness of the ramp from the floating docks to shore.  At low tide it can be a pretty good climb, though we’re lucky here in the North Harbor since the ramp is new and ADA compliant which means that it’s longer than the ones in South Harbor; the South ramps are scary steep especially at extreme low tides.

Here’s an example of the tide difference:harbor office high tide20150215 4349 petersburg grid low tide rWith the longer days and more sunshine lately we’ve been getting out to explore and photograph more – this week we ventured out some of the logging roads and did a little hiking.  One local hike is the Raven’s Roost trail across the muskeg (boggy, acidic soil) and up into the forest.20150202 4202 red squirrel rThe mild winter has kept a lot of the wildlife up in the higher elevations, but the views along the trail and at the overlook were beautiful.  We could see the Coastal Mountains on the mainland, as well as bergy bits from the Le Conte glacier nearby.20150227 4484 ravens roost trail view rIn the sun the temps felt like 55 degrees, but shady areas were kissed by frost and there was ice on some of the kettle ponds.20150227 4437 frost kissed close up rThe clear sunny days have been a real delight after an unusually rainy winter, and we caught the late day light as we were heading back towards town one afternoon, painting the town and mountains with gold.20150226 4405 petersburg looking north rI’ve been going out to try and photograph a local mountain peak called the Devil’s Thumb, hoping to catch some fleeting sunset color.  Although I haven’t caught the color that I’m looking for yet, it’s still beautiful.20150202 4193 mtns and devils thumb r20150226 4422 devils thumb and eagles rI didn’t notice the two bald eagles at the bottom of the photo until I saw the image on my computer screen.  The eagles have been very noisy in the harbor the past few weeks – there are several pairs calling out about their territories, and occasionally there’s a kerfuffle over some fish.

Our days here in town are busier as we’re getting to know more people and we’re getting more involved in various activities.  Jim was at the community center the other day and he saw one of the school groups in the pool learning about survival suits (aka “gumby suits” for surviving in cold water).  We think it’s pretty sensible for a fishing community to get its youngest citizens comfortable with donning and using survival suits at an early age.