3 Seconds

Today is the Winter Solstice. It’s a big deal around here – it’s the shortest day of the year (with about six and a half hours of daylight), and that means starting tomorrow, every day will get a little longer. Tomorrow will be 3 seconds longer than today – every second counts! We’re lucky to have daylight – unlike those in the Far North who haven’t seen the sun in a very long time, and they still have a long wait ahead of them.

Morning moon set over Bearclaw Mountain

We’ve been very busy recently, working on some volunteer projects at church, including replacing all the lights in the sanctuary. It was a big job over 2 weeks, with lots of exercise climbing up and down the scaffolding.

Now we’re focused on the holidays – feeling pretty Merry and Bright, though we’re tired from shoveling lots and lots of snow. We’ve had over six feet since the beginning of December, and none of it has melted. We’re running out of places to put it, when we can’t get it into the water. It sure is pretty though, living in a Winter Wonderland.

When he’s not shoveling, Jim has been baking up a storm, preparing six different kinds of holiday cookies to deliver to friends around town. This year he’s added Norwegian krumkake (pronounced “crum-ka-ka”), and we got together with friends so he could learn some tips for making them. Success!

We’re all decorated and lighted around here, feeling festive. I love putting out decorations such as this very special angel crocheted by my friend from something not much bigger than thread… wow!

Today was a uniquely Alaskan event – the annual state-wide holiday greetings on radio stations across the state. The FCC prohibits personal messages on the radio, except in Alaska. With so many people living off the grid, it’s a necessary means of communication. Even our local radio station (KFSK – Fish Head Radio) sometimes broadcasts “Muskeg Messages” to reach people in our area without reliable communications. But today is extra special and fun, with a 2-hour program where anyone in the state can call in to share holiday greetings to friends and family across the Great Land. Some greetings were spoken in one of the native languages, and we got to hear well wishes from places like Nome, Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Shismaref, Adak, and of course the North Pole! It’s a wonderful holiday tradition.

We enjoyed a few days’ break from snow, and the clear skies brought temps in the teens and 20s. Sunrises have been spectacular, and the best part is that we don’t have to get up early to see them. This photo was taken around 8:45am, just as the pre-dawn light crested the mountains. We send our warmest wishes to you for a Happy, Healthy Holiday season!

Bears, Whales and Ice

What – MORE bears? Haven’t we seen enough already? (No, you haven’t.) We were on our way north up Chatham Strait, and just had to make a stop at Pavlov Harbor on Chichagof Island – it’s a good stopping point on the way to Juneau via the northern route. And Pavlov just happens to be a great place to see brown bears!

Sow and her two cubs

We only had one afternoon to hang out with the bears, and the action was a little slow at the falls, but still… bears!

We couldn’t stay longer – we were meeting friends in Juneau and had to keep going, but it’s a safe bet that there will be more encounters with large brown furry things before the summer is over. In the meantime, we saw another large mammal – the humpback kind. This one was pec-slapping – making a pretty good racket by slapping its long pectoral fins back and forth. In the video, you can hear the delayed “whomp” after the fin hits the water. We could feel it!

We continued on towards Juneau, rounding the top of Admiralty Island to see the lighthouse at Point Retreat.

Making the hairpin turn around the point, we could see a fog bank towards Juneau. It was pretty to see, and fortunately it cleared up before we got there.

We met dear friends from New Jersey in town – they were there on a cruise ship for the day, so it was pretty cool to spend a little time with them. On our way out of town, we passed by a huge private yacht that we saw a few times over the summer. “Dreamboat” is 295′ long, built in 2019 for $180 million, and is owned by Arthur Blank – owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team. Tough life. The tender (small boat) shown in the second photo is probably 45′ long, and it’s just one of a fleet of boats carried by the mother ship.


Preferring glaciers to yachts, we headed south down Stephens Passage towards Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glaciers. As we crossed the shallow bar at the mouth of Tracy Arm, we could see the Sumdum hanging glacier. The name comes from the Tlingit language and represents the booming sound of ice breaking off.

We anchored nearby in a protected cove, and I headed out in the kayak to investigate some large blocks of glacier ice grounded in the shallows near the entrance bar. The colors and shapes are amazing, and the blue of the ice really stood out against the gloomy sky.

When you look closely, you can find some surreal formations and shapes, rocks trapped in the ice, crystal clear ice, blue ice, and all manner of textures. It’s mesmerizing.

Unfortunately, our plans to visit the Sawyer Glaciers were thwarted by the weather forecast. A big front was heading our way, and the wind was going to blow hard for days. We needed to move to a well-protected anchorage, and position ourselves for a planned trip up to Pack Creek a week later, so we cruised across Stephens Passage and tucked into Gambier Bay well in advance of the storm. It was an easy ride across, and we had a nice whale escort.