Words by Les and Kel Rohlf
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Lots more of that Southeast Alaska liquid sunshine today. Except for a few short interludes, a steady light rain fell all day. We untied and motored over to the ramp at 8:00 am to pull the boat for motor service. Conrad from Karl’s Auto and Marine Repair (the area Honda servicing dealer) met us with a big, 3-axle trailer onto which he loaded Intuition and towed it to their shop a few miles away. We’ve logged about 160 hours since the last oil change, so it was due.
For the three hours the boat was at the shop, we walked a few blocks to Starbucks for breakfast, browsed for a while at the Mendenhall Mall, and grabbed a load of groceries from Safeway. The boat work was done by noon, along with a power wash of the critters growing on the hull, as our boat does not have bottom paint. Given that we’ll probably add another 100 hours to the motor before we start our return trip south, I plan to swing through Auke Bay for another oil change near the end of our time here in the north part of the Inside Passage.
We were back in the water at Auke Bay looking for slip at 1:00pm. Thankfully, there was an open section of dock that was also near enough to access a 30-amp pedestal. Given this good spot, we’ll stay here through Wednesday and plan to start up the Lynn Canal on Thursday. We had date night at the laundromat this evening, so we now have clean and (mostly) dry clothes.
Thursday, July 15
Auke Bay to Haines
Miles today: 70
We left at 5:45am in hopes of making as many miles toward Haines before the forecast 3-foot waves rose in the northern Lynn Canal. The water was initially smooth and didn’t get higher than a light chop all the way to Haines. We ran at 14-15 mph for most of today’s run, except when we slowed for a couple whales and to make lunch. The Lynn Canal is impressive for the mountain ranges on each side – the western side guards the north and east sides of Glacier Bay, while the eastern peaks surround the icefields north of Juneau.
We received no answers from the Haines Harbor on either VHF or phone, so pulled into the harbor about noon and tied up to the transient dock. A couple helpful fishermen mending their gillnets pointed me to the dockmaster’s shack at the other end of the marina. It looks as if Haines has extended their breakwall and added a new ramp and dock at the south end of the harbor. The harbor is humming with activity from fishing boats steadily arriving and departing.
Haines has a little over 2,000 residents and sits on Portage Cove, an indentation on the Chilkat Peninsula. The whitewashed buildings of Fort Seward, an Army Post closed in 1947, now serve as homes for shops and businesses. We enjoyed wandering through Haines this afternoon. We checked out the very nice library and walked the mile to Raevyn’s Café, which serves Mexican and Cajun entrees. It’s a popular spot – all inside tables were taken, so we stepped outside and enjoyed our dinner in the drizzle. It’s located at the site of the Southeast Alaska State Fair, whose buildings were apparently built as part of the set for the Disney movie “White Fang”. We then headed (in the rain) across town toward Fort Seward where we checked out the tasting room at the Chilkoot Distillery.
Every good story, so I’ve been told, has a beginning, middle and end. As we left Auke Bay with partly cloudy skies and mountains that seemed closer and higher than any we’ve seen yet, I realized that the calendar tells me it’s the 28th week of the year, and the middle of July. We are heading into what we might call the middle of the journey. We’ve been in Alaska about a month.
We’ve witnessed the grandeur of the landscapes along the waterway to include mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, not to mention how the clouds like to add drama to the scene in various forms each day. We’ve listened to the hum of the boat motoring through smooth glass-like waters. We’ve heard the ravens speaking with the eagles, and to us in a sense. (Until this trip I had never seen a raven, nor heard their calls. Although we see eagles in the St. Louis area, I’ve never seen them in their daily routine. They chortle in various ways that differentiate them from the ravens.) The eagles circle and dive and eat the cast off chum of the fishermen. One time we saw one trying to get bait out of a beached crab pot at low tide. The ravens mostly try to get into the garbage cans, but one time I saw a group of them sitting on the back of a truck trying to take the packaging off a new refrigerator that was being delivered. They also like to peck at windshield wipers on cars parked in the grocery store lot. Both are majestic birds in their own right, and I marvel at their interconnection, not only in nature, but also in Tlingit culture.
One of the Tlingit traditions informs the choice of a spouse. The clan heritage follows a matriarchal lineage, further delineated by the Raven and the Eagle lineage. The tradition encourages a couple to marry someone from the opposite group. This fact intrigues me, and I wonder how the natural connection of the Raven and Eagle influences the marriage rites of the Tlingit clan. Something to investigate and ponder.
There is so much to experience, and as we enter the middle, I notice that I have begun to project us into the ending. That is easy to do, and my son likened it to a waterfall. My mind starts “waterfalling” into what’s ahead, rather than staying in the moment. Thankfully, I have practiced staying focused on the present, while being informed by the past and inspired by the future. So I take a breath, and remind myself to stay in the now.
Now, we are in Haines, and I wanted to share a couple moments that we encountered while in Auke Bay. As transients, people who are changing locales every few days, we tend to gravitate toward other sojourners, fellow independent travelers. (That’s what the locals call people who are here on their own, not with a cruise line tour.)
One rainy evening, we decided to do our laundry. We called it our date night. We were sitting reading our respective books, when a fellow sojourner entered the laundromat/shower house. He talked to us about his day, and how the nets broke on the gillnetter, and they now had to repair them. Without solicitation he told us of his life journey and how he was hired on this current boat, and he was elated to find a shower in town. He mentioned that paychecks come at the end of the work, and so we offered him some of our quarters, knowing from experience that the shower requires them. He took the quarters, and we were happy to share our bounty with a fellow traveler, because as we know a hot shower is a boater’s gift in this land of Southeast Alaska. He thanked us after and headed back to his boat to repair nets. We headed back to our boat with clean and mostly dry clothes, as Les said. Dryers eat quarters like candy.
We planned to get up the next day to visit Mendenhall Glacier. I have learned on this trip that some glaciers are near the waterways, and others are land locked up in the mountains, and others spill down into a fresh water lake. Mendenhall is the land/lake type, which also boasts a massive waterfall right next to it. After researching the bus schedule, we hopped on a bus and headed out for a day of hiking and exploring the grounds near the glacier. We could have hailed a taxi, but there is something romantic about taking public transportation. The closest bus stop near the glacier was a 1.5 mile hike to the entrance of the park. We enjoyed chatting, and noticing signs about bears and then about half way there we turned a corner. I exclaimed audibly, “Look at that!” It was the glacier. Such an awesome sight, which we experienced because we chose to hike there.
Before we left in the morning, Les suggested that I wear my tall waterproof boots, since we planned to hike to the foot of the waterfall next to the glacier. Little did I know that my choice would end up being a blessing to another fellow traveler. Les and I walked along the path noticing the flowers and mushrooms. We noticed little trickles of water, and a medium flow of water over rocks, and then we turned the corner to the sound of the rushing water, which silenced all other sounds. What wonder to stand near the foot of a glacial waterfall.
We noticed people putting their shoes and socks back on, and that’s when I realized I could wade through the shallow water next to the waterfall to get closer to it. My boots kept my feet and shins dry. Les stayed on the other side taking photos of the waterfall.
Two women arrived at the falls about the time I was crossing back through the shallow water. I tried to shout above the voice of the waterfall to encourage one of them to come across, she was shedding her shoes and socks. When I arrived, I explained that my boots kept my feet dry. She asked if I would lend her my boots. I gladly agreed and we celebrated the fact that we both had small feet. I don’t know whose joy was greater, but it was a shared joy indeed.
While the immensity of nature continues to awe and wow us, the shared experiences with strangers/fellow travelers fills us with light-heartedness and a greater appreciation for the gifts surrounding us each day.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Matthew 6:34 The Message