Finish the Mosaic 9/11/2019

Another great breakfast at the Roadhouse, and the day had to focus on finishing the mosaic. The other three gals went off to go fishing that day.  They left at 6:30 or so

Patty and Katherine and I went to check out the Denali Park Service Building which is just across the street from the salmon Center.  Patty read that it was the number 3 item on the Trip Advisor list of “Things to do in Talkeetna” so that put it on all of our bucket lists. It was actually pretty interesting.  It had tons of information about the climb and a movie about the preparation and the stages of the climb.  There was a very helpful ranger there who answered all of our questions.  The room is filled with wonderful flags from all the climbing team who have summited and I left with a big appreciation for the challenge. Nope, not inspired to try it. Maybe if I was about 40 years younger… too late!IMG_3877.jpeg

Mostly Patty and Katherine (I helped just a bit) did the final grouting of the sign.  It all went well.  It looks great, in spite of all the arguing of  it should be higher or lower or in another spot entirely.  I think we are all just marketing people and we want Jeff and Gae to get as many people to come to Susitna Salmon Center as possible so we are all fretting about the best way to get people off the main street to hike the extra 3 blocks to come to the Salmon Center.  Patty was thinking we might need to get them some of those weirdo blow up people who wriggle and dance, or maybe a bouncy house.  I think Jeff and Gae would probably hate all our suggestions. 🙂IMG_3891.jpeg

IMG_3913.jpegWhen the gals came back from their fishing expedition, they said that the guy they went with had completely misinterpreted their parting comments, so it turned sort of from a 5 star experience into a 1 star experience in 30 seconds. Which was too bad, since they had really loved it up until there had been some kind of miscommunication. They had caught tons of salmon, and had a great meal and laughed a lot and learned a lot. Susie took the time to call they guy up and make things right with him after the fact, which was very kind of her.  In fact, I was actually really impressed at the generosity that all three of them showed in talking about the poor guy who clearly took offense where absolutely none was meant. All three of them are really good folk.

Then Katherine, who is thinking about bringing another group of folks up to Talkeetna in a year or so, wanted to check out the inside of the Denali Overlook Inn and had called the guy who was there to arrange a time to visit.  We all drove back down and it was glorious.IMG_4005

We could almost see the top of Denali, and the inside of the Inn was beautiful.  It would make for a very special trip, with loads of quaint and beautiful loggy rooms from which to see the view!  Tim was an interesting cat, with loads of stories of his time in Alaska, and as a pilot for 51 years I am sure he didn’t even scratch the surface of the stories that he could tell.

IMG_3986.jpegWhen we got back to the town, we walked down to the river and Denali was starting to poke her head even further out of the clouds, which made for some really nice pictures. , I had a burr under my saddle that I wanted to see what the other big Talkeetna lodge was to see if was right for Katherine’s potential group.  So I took the car and drove over to it.  I hadn’t realized that it was the place that Will and Patty had stayed when they came to Talkeetna 15 years before on a Princess Cruise. So we had driven up and seen the sort of bland exterior and ignored it.  But I decided to go in and see what they had, and there it was, Denali, full out, in all her glory!  The start of the evening sun on her and out on the big deck everyone was happy with a beer in hand and taking pictures and nodding yes!  As I looked down the side of the building I saw a number of waiters and hotel staff grouped together for a bit, watching the show.  You knew it was something special.

IMG_4024Last night dinner was at the Wildflower Inn and it was scrumptious. I had something called Salmon Oscar with a crab leg on top of it. Yum!

We looked out for the northern lights that night, but our waiter at the Wildflower looked on his phone where he has an app that tracks the lights, and it looked like we’d not get a chance that night. And even though we all got up at various time to see if we were lucky, no cigar.  There was a party behind our house until 1:30 am.  Maybe they scared the lights away.

The last day was just travel travel travel back to Anchorage, back to Seattle, layoff, delayed flight, and then home, finally to SF at about 1:00am. Tired but happy.  A really delightful trip!


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Patty’s Birthday 9/10/2019

We ate breakfast the next morning in the Roadhouse, and I tried one of their pancakes which are bigger than the plate it comes on.  Surprisingly,  a woman who knew Patty from some long ago time came up and wished her Happy Birthday and gave her a little present!  What a surprise.

I think there was someone else that morning who also remembered Patty’s birthday.

IMG_3754.jpegThen we got to business and went back to affix all the mosaic tiles to the mosaic sign at the Susitna Salmon Center. It took awhile and there was a lot of handing pieces of tile up and down the ladder “cut a corner off here!” “No, here!” “You mean here?” “No here!” until we sorted out a little surface  on the top of the ladder.  That made things easier.  I did little except for dancing around at the bottom of the ladder getting in the way.

IMG_3752.jpegWhen that was drying in the sun (and still we had suffered almost no rain in the “40% chance of rain” week) we took a drive down 20 miles or so south to go to the birch syrup factory.

IMG_3757.jpegThat was interesting!  Birch syrup isn’t quite as sweet as maple syrup, so it takes a lot more birch syrup to make for a sweet piece of candy or bottle of syrup.  We did a tasting of 4 different types of syrup I was astounded by the difference between the varieties! We doodled back up toward Talkeetna and stopped off at a lake Katherine knew about and went on a GREAT GREAT hike all the way around it.

IMG_3791.jpegLoads of fun conversation about a variety of things.  I regretted not bringing the big camera, and only having the iPhone, because the light was fantastic, gorgeous, all golden light because of the angle of it so high in longitude were we.

IMG_3793.jpegI took some pics anyway, and the iPhone did itself proud.


IMG_3835.jpegKatherine stopped us at one point and made us all do a trick or tell a joke or something.  I got onto limericks and thought up a few while we were walking:

When Katherine finally awoke

She failed at telling a joke.

We said “Pay us money,

Then we’ll find it funny.

Or tell it after we toke!”


Anne, a bit of a prude

said “Your thinking of me is all skewed!

Because it once leaked

That I went and streaked

You all just think of me nude!”


Susie did just as she ought ‘ter

Except by a body of water

Then she would strip

and go skinny dip

And just hope that no camera caught her!


There once was a young girl named Patty

And we said her clothing was tatty

She mused “It’s these jeans,

or maybe it means

That you all are just awfully catty!”


It was a great hike, probably better that we didn’t meet a bear since the bear spray was attached somewhere to Katherine and I have little hope of it being readily available for spraying without it ending up in all our eyes while the bear laughed and laughed. Though I was sort of expecting a bear to jump out and wish Patty a Happy Birthday.

The hike was also notable for the general lack of gigantic mosquitos who would have no doubt had a field day with Patty for lunch.

Finally on the way back, we stopped at the Denali Overlook Inn, which was a super pretty boutiquey kind of log cabin place with a spectacular view of Denali, or where Denali would be if the clouds were not in the way.  A pretty green lawn, with chairs set up on it around a fire pit.  Clearly a great place to watch the view of the mountain and the northern lights.IMG_3842.jpeg

We had a really nice dinner at a grill place in town, and yet ANOTHER guy came up and his whole group SANG to Patty about her birthday!!!! It was awesome.




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Hurricane Turn Train 9/9/2019

The next day we ate at The Roadhouse which Patty had been introduced to the day before when we were out making a dent in the sky. Yummy breakfast.  I had eaten so much the night before I couldn’t finish the food.  They are an amazing bakery as well as a great breakfast/lunch spot.  Patty kept saying that it reminded her of The Beverly and she had a point.  It was filled with cozy places to sit, and things of all different sorts from all different times and places.  There was a room in the middle where one could sit and read or play games or work on one’s journal if the mood took you.  A great place that was our unofficial home.

IMG_3719.jpegThe train runs from Seward to Fairbanks through Alaska and there is a special train that runs on those tracks for the section from Talkeetna up 60 miles to a spot called Hurricane and back again which is called the Hurricane Turn Train.  It is a famous train as it is the last flagging train in the United States, that is, a train that can be flagged down.  A lot of people live just a mile or so off of the train tracks and when they want to go to town, they walk out to the train and flag it down.

Katherine was sort of lukewarm, but thought that maybe the train run of sixty miles up to the turn-around spot called Hurricane might be a fun day trip and we all agreed to go. 3 hours up and 3 hours back, no great food on the train, it sounded kind of dicey as a plan for the day, but whatever. It is a good mellow crew, Catherine, Susie, Anne, Patty and I, and we all were up for going.

IMG_3367.jpegIt was a big success.  We didn’t understand that there would be a guide who would narrate the history of the train, Alaska, the various folks who lived by the tracks, the people who ran the train, etc, all the way up.  There was a dome car that we could hang out in, which had a great view.  There were very few people on the train so we could wander as we wanted.  And there were many stopping points of historical interest along the way, which broke up the journey very pleasantly.

IMG_3674And the final stopping point was a spectacular viewpoint.  The train stopped right on a trestle bridge that spanned a chasm that went down 296 feet to Hurricane creek. It is both the longest and tallest bridge on the entire Alaska Railroad. The conductor opened the freight doors on the baggage car so we could get a good look at the drop below us.  Simply swell!!!


IMG_3597.jpegIMG_3608.jpegIt was a fun ride as well because I got to know my fellow travelers, Catherine, Susie and Ann much better.  We had a couple of fun conversations after the conductor proved herself to be a proud supporter of Sarah Palin.  I enjoyed her patter and gave her a tip, but I wouldn’t trust her to raise my kids!!!  Catherine is one of those kind of people who has a quiet way of looking around and summing up the situation just through experience  and observation with basic canny judgement. Susie is a pistol!  Ready for fun and a joke and a fight at the drop of a hat!  And maybe all three at once!!! And Anne has a really mischievous bent which is completely belied by her suburban mom kind of exterior.  They were all fun and intelligent and good company. I think they all have forgotten more about mosaic than I will ever master.

We dinnered at the pizza place in town which was really really good. Surprisingly good.


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Talkeetna 9/8/2019

Always fun to waken in a place you were not able to see the night before.  It was gloriously wet and green and yellow.  We had arrived in the Talkeetna fall.  And each and everyone with whom I discussed the weather commented on our excellent timing!  Everything was beautiful birch trees glittering from green leaves to gold, with a stripe of red undergrowth.

Talkeetna is a little town.  The railroad conductor announced that it was small enough that were no police in Talkeetna, but that the vigilante justice employed for any infraction of the law was rough and sure.  Hmmm.

Katherine had said that there was a place where she liked to get her coffee, and when Patty and I wandered out, we saw her and the other Catherine sitting at the picnic tables in front with cappuccinos in their hands.  The weather was lovely.  I had brought warm over clothes,  (Alaska.  40% chance of rain) but didn’t really need them. The sun was breaking out to be a grand day.  We ate crepes at Katherine favorite coffee place, and there were two crows who shouted back and forth to each other in the treetops.

58965404962__4BEA0321-11CA-48F0-B854-BBA9B9FE632B.jpgWe got a tour of the Susitna Salmon Center which Jeff and Gae had built.  They were researchers into the salmon life cycle and habitats and had built the center to educate people on how and why the place should be cared for in order to protect the salmon who run there. There are five kinds of salmon, the Chum, the Sockeye, the King, the Silver, and the Pink. (The thumb, the pointer finger, the tallest finger, the ring finger, and the pinkie finger).  We had arrived at the time the salmon were fighting their way back up the streams to spawn, to fertilize the eggs, and to die. The center is charming, with a gift store downstairs, and an earlier art piece of Katherine’s on the deck, which has very artistic interpretations of the 5 kinds of salmon on a pole.

IMG_3737.jpegUpstairs they keep fingerlings in a few tanks, which is evidently quite a challenge to manage as the fingerlings are very fussy about the water in which they are wiling to survive.  There is also a CHARMING movie about one of the most delightfully passionate activists I have ever run across, Mike Woods. Here is a review of the movie: and you can watch the movie itself at: The Super Salmon on Vimeo › Ryan Peterson › Videos

Anne and Patty and I followed Katherine down to the Susitna river, fast flowing, looking cold and opaque with the shale of glacial melt. Then across on a railroad trestle, to a rocky beach filled with a grand flourish of many colors of pebbles and stones. Spectacular colors of white and red and even green and yellow abounded.  We arranged white stones of quartz and some which were, I think, shell and bone, into the shape of a fish on the shore.

IMG_3038.jpegBack across the river, Katherine wandered off saying that she was going to see about getting us a discount ticket for the “Flightseeing” rides over Denali.  Talkeetna boasts the Natl Park Service Ranger station for Denali, and the three week trip starts with a flight to what is known as “Base-camp Strip” which is on a flat glacier at 7200ft. The mountaineers say that the climb to the top of Denali is a challenge for one’s ability to deal sensibly with cold and altitude sickness and bad weather, rather than significant technical climbing. HOWEVER, a number of people have died during that climb by just falling off the mountain, so it seems to me that it is a stinking hard challenge. About 1/2 of the people who climb it do not make it to the top and instead call “Mission Abort” rather than risk disaster. The weather is so changeable that any sight of a clear day becomes a high priority to take advantage of the opportunity and grab a flight.

When she returned, she announced that for $25, if we announced that we were the artists who came to work on the Mosaic for the Susitna Salmon Center, the K2 pilots would take us up, providing that there was space available in their flight. I think we were all worried that we should start by getting the sign up, taking advantage of the good weather and all, but she shooed us off, saying that was the last thing she was interested in doing today.  Patty wasn’t planning to fly, and she was more concerned that we actually get the mosaic up on the building, but the rest of us headed over to the airport to sort out when we could go up, leaving the two of them to sort out whether that mosaic was going to be attacked immediately, or later…

Enthusiastically, we kicked on down the main street and across the railroad tracks that stretch from Seward to Fairbanks.The streets are muddy and filled with puddles from the recent rain. Patty and I had brought Muck Boots and they were the perfect shoe for Alaska.  The town is filled with pretty little gift shops set up in old log cabins, lots of flowers in hanging baskets, and just off the main street, old cars sunk into thickets of bramble and antler strewn garages. The sky had a sweep of white clouds that were scudding across it, and there were just the tiniest glimpses of the mountains in the distance, because we were basically set in a clearing in a forest with no long distance view, except at the river’s edge.

It turned out that there were two big Denali flight-seeing operations, K2 and the Talkeetna Air Taxi service.  K2 was really cheap, but you had to be on stand-by, and I was thinking that the nice weather might get me booted off the flight when the time came.  Anne and I slogged down to the Talkeetna Air Taxi place, and they did give us a 50% break on the price, so it was $215 to fly.  For that we got to land on the Base camp glacier, and we got a reserved seat as well.  Anne and I decided to go for it.

IMG_3055.jpegMy Muck boots were perfect for the hop off on the glacier, so after Anne got fitted for some snow gators, we were set to go.  The plane was a Dehavilland Turbo Otter, built from about 1951 – 1967.  These a real workhorse planes, developed to be a solid STOL bush plane.  Ours was fitted with Ski-wheels that were hydraulically operated. The pilot’s name was Andy and I was happy to see him doing all the things that I knew of to ensure a safe flight, like starting the engine with his headset off so that he could listen to the revs of the engine without interference. We had excellent headsets, and we could hear Andy perfectly as we took off from the Talkeetna Airstrip.  The plane holds 10 people and we were only missing one.  A group of 6 sort of commandeered the front seats, but I thought that the rear seat would give us a better view in some ways as we were far back from the over hanging High wing. The co-pilot’s seat was captured by one of the other guests on each flight. Those were the only customers whose voices could be heard over the intercom, and Andy asked them to be sure to ask questions, but in neither case did he elicit even the slightest comment from them.


It was a fabulous day for a flight.  Clear as a bell.  I bet we could see 100 miles, if we had been looking anywhere but up at the big monster in front of us. The ground swept under us starting flat and stippled with forest, with glittering ponds and lakes sliding under the wings.  Then the hills started to rumple up beneath us, and the heights ahead started to demand the plane stretch upward. The edges of the mountains started to get sharper and sharper and the rough crazy ridges, cut by glacier after glacier, led the eye up and up to the high peaks above.  So magnificently deceptive is the clear air, the height, it feels like you can stretch out your hand and touch the rocky shards of mountain as you fly by.  The glaciers roll like huge highways of ice and dirt beneath, and the white cap of Denali was still above us, big, massive, bigger than you can take in.  Andy set the plane on her skis down into fresh snow on the glacier, on a slightly upward tilting flat, then slewing us around in the snow, to face down the glacier for takeoff. We piled out into new snow and were simply captivated by the overwhelming bowl of mountain range surrounding us. The usual horseplay and selfies were underway as Anne and I learned about Andy and his time in the sky, the history of the de Havilland Otter. You got the sense of someone who’d rather die than exaggerate their accomplishments. Can’t help but like that. I walked around the plane in our 15 minutes, looking at the solid struts, the carefully repainted siding.  It glistened with perfect care. For 50+ years old, she looked beautiful.

IMG_3140.jpegAs all the planes in the Talkeetna airport, she was a taildragger.  The prop has to stay high in the sky, important for bush landings.

IMG_3159.jpegIMG_3163.jpegIMG_3196.jpegA bit away from the posing and chatter, the mountains stared down at us, black rock, white shoulders, grey walls, our silly gamboling, so insignificant. “It will be quieter, better, when we leave.”  I thought.

Then Andy’s walk around the plane, his test of the prop, we pile on board, he listens without headset to the start and the rev of the engine, he puts on his headset, and we are off, quick as a floating bee. The STOL aspects of the plane are on display.  The ground disappears, and we are suddenly up hundreds of feet above the glaciers that are falling away below us.

The way back was super, still, sharp, the mountains and ridges, stunning, clear light falling across the early fall colors, ponds flashing the sunlight at us, valleys painted with stripes of greens and yellows and reds. “You picked the perfect time to come” said Andy.

IMG_3271.jpegIf I had wondered how lucky we were with that flight, my questions were put to rest. Another pilot asked over the radio, “I didn’t catch the weather, Victor Yankee? How was the view up on top?” “Stu-pen-dous, Victor Yankee, Stupendous.” Andy replied.

Anne and I smiled at each other.

When we got back the sign was already installed. Jeff, Mr. Susitna Salmon Center, had gotten up on a ladder, and evidently with much wrangling and declarations of “too high” “put it over the door” “Center it where the stairs are” it had been affixed to the wall.  It still needed the missing glass tiles over the screws cemented in place, and then those glass tiles grouted and cleaned, but the first step was complete.


Then Jeff took us on a hike along the river and we saw multiple salmon, in the river, right there, not 2/10 of a mile from the Susitna Salmon Center itself. I was enjoying the forest, the beauty of it, after seeing it from the sky. All the colors of fall. The yellow leaves on the path. The red berries everywhere. No bears.

We came across a couple of guys who had come across a big moose on their outing in a big aluminum boat.  They’d killed it. We saw the head and the huge antlers they had loaded into the big pickup.  They will eat the moose up.  I couldn’t tell if they had been out hunting, or had just happened on it. I felt sorry for the moose.

That night we made BBQd a dinner of the Salmon and salad fixings that we had bought at Fred Meyers.  Easy to fall asleep.

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North to Alaska! 9/7/2019

Katherine gave me a glance under her magnificent swooping bangs. “Come!” she had said, part invitation, part mildly surprised shrug of assent. It was Katherine, after all –   Ineffably cool in all things.

So I followed Patty’s lead in booking tickets, and time went by until sort of suddenly, there we were, in the airport, being dropped off by Will, and realizing that we had about 20 mins to get from one flight to the next in SEATAC.  Sheesh.

As quick as we could get out of the plane (which was not so quick in my case), we skedaddled through the airport, in a quickstep with shoulder bags bouncing against the hip, dodging the slower more casual travelers, slipping onto the train to get us from one Gigantic Terminal to another Gigantic Terminal.  We were racing to some escalators, when we heard a voice from above and there was the fabulous Katherine E., smiling down at us, leaning over for a moment, then vanishing as we struggled up the escalator. The top of the stairs, and we had to swing around looking for her, and there she was at a basically empty lounge area collecting her stuff. We raced over, were hustled through the gate, down the gangway, and to our seats with a crowd of passengers looking at us and we went down the aisle all with faces that said “So, you couldn’t be troubled to get here on time?  You just HAD to have that additional Venti Latte?”

Patty mentioned that she forgets about that “Connecting Flight” issue when she sees someone scrambling to their seat as the Flight attendants are impatiently pulling the door shut behind them.

Then the flight into the sky, and above the clouds, and essentially no view for the trip to Alaska.

IMG_2873.jpegOn the ground I got to meet the other 3, Anne, Susie, and Catherine. (NOT Cathy.) (Not unless you wanted to pull back a bloody stump.)  All part of Katherine’s Wednesday Mosaicing troop.  Each had done one of the pieces of the Mosaic we were to install on something called The Susitna Salmon Center. Whatever that was.

All I did was to affix a few more pieces of missing glass, and help Patty with tidying the project.  It was in 6 pieces and Patty had done significant labor on it already.  Katherine had done the most, of course.  She made some fused glass Salmon which really were smashing  (I guess one shouldn’t say that in reference to glass) and set up all the colors and letters.  She had assigned Susie and Catherine and Anne all to do individual pieces and Patty had cut out all the letters by saw from glass.  A real pain in the butt.  Some missed expectations about blocky Serif vs. less blocky Serif but when in my career have I known serif issues to be easy?  Never.

I was supposed to help pack it, but I don’t even think I did much work on that.  So I was sort of a free-loader on this trip sorry to say. We had some amount of fretting that we had to do regarding whether it would survive the trip unscathed, but I watched it being loaded and unloaded at the back of the plane and it was actually handled with care.  Thanks, Delta!

Katherine had rented a car, a big Cadillac Escalade from a woman who met us at the AirPort after only a brief period of us running around saying things like “She said it was on the 5th floor.” “There are only 4 floors in this building.” “But she said it was on the 5th floor.” “Do YOU see a 5 on this elevator?” etc.

The woman seemed very nice (the operative word being “Seemed”) and the car had both been just washed, I think, as well as just rained on, so it was fresh and clean. We did manage to pile in, but the luggage plus mosaic suitcase, and 6 of us, stuffed the car pretty full, so poor Susie in the back seat was crammed in with a suitcase sharing her seat, and most of us (including Susie) had bags on our laps. It was about a 2 hour ride to the little town of Talkeetna, the entranceway to Denali National Park, where our destination Salmon Center was waiting with baited (sp) breath for its mural/sign.

Katherine drove in her own fabulous style of driving/talking/drinking coffee/texting/inspecting every roadside attraction for interesting artwork and/or cute mountain men.  We stopped at a place called Fred Meyers (which I kept confusing in my mind with Fred Segal with which, let me tell you now, it has absolutely NO relationship).

IMG_2878.jpegWe stocked up on lots of food, probably too much, in fact, in hindsight, absolutely too much food, and saw our first MAGA hat.  An important milestone for arrival in Sarah Palin’s Muh-Laska.  (That is the blending of MY + Alaska).  Then we went to KFC for a quick eat in the car dinner.  Green beans. Yuk.  For future reference: Avoid.

Katherine was very good about not texting and driving after a request that she stop it. I know it was a sacrifice on her part and I want to acknowledge that. But I think she might well have been unnerved enough by the drive that texting was far from her mind. Nothing seemed wrong as we started out, but as the night got darker, there was clearly something amiss. As the driver, she could really see that the regular lights were simply not working.  There were fog lights (aka Pilot lights) which worked, dully, and the Brights which clearly blinded anyone coming right at us were working fine, but the regular lights were simply broken. It was one of those irritating cars which sets the lights on Automatic so you are never sure if the car is smarter than you are or not, and if the brights are actually ON or not. Well, they were not.

Katherine took to driving with the brights on, which worked great except for a small sense of pity for the drivers of the on-coming cars, but then we started to follow a pickup with a camper shell on it that had NO LIGHTS visible.  It turned out that it did have working brake lights, but as it didn’t brake, we had no way of knowing that.  It was just a blank dark block on a blank dark road directly ahead of us.  Sheesh.  Terrifying. She kept back mostly, but when cars were on-coming their lights blinded us, and the shape of the camper in the front was easily lost in the dazzle.  All we could do was HOPE that it hadn’t decided to stop for a moose or bear or whatever!

At any rate, we made it to Talkeetna and the camper turned right when we turned left down the main street.  Katherine took us right to the place we were staying which was three cabins all built right around the fabled Susitna Salmon Center itself!  We bundled into our cabin, a small efficient place with two beds in the loft room, and crashed out to sound sleep.IMG_2879.jpeg


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9/8 – Kangerlussuaq Fiord -> Reykjavik

Travel day.  Mostly a sort of dull torture.

We bundled ourselves up to get out of the rooms by 9:00am so that Gina (in our case) would have time to clean the room AND eat lunch before the next tour group arrived.

It was the last day to distribute photos and pick up photos from the Internet Cafe, which neither has Internet nor is a cafe. So I helped people a bit who were having trouble with dropping and collecting photos from the Macs there.

So it was all hurry up and wait. Finally taken off the ship in Zodiacs to the port of Kangerlussuaq. Then we were piled onto a variety of busses – old school busses included, and taken on a very bouncy and trip around the high lights of Kangerlussuaq. The main drag. The old abandoned military radio station.  The bridge that gets washed out. The view from the other old military radio station. The viewpoint where one might see a Musk Ox (Really? Yes! We did! One…at a distance…) and a view of the Greenland Icecap.

DSC_9707 2.jpg

Very fine glacial polish.DSC_9710.jpg

Ex-military radio station.


Then a truly bumpy ride back to the airport.  While the trip on the Explorer was never rough enough to have given Patty mal-de-mer I am convinced that the bus ride would have required the tossing of cookies.


Once we got on board, my seat was right next to the open door.  I got a picture down the fiord 10 miles to a shot of the Explorer, waiting there:DSC_9728.jpg

Then back to Reykjavik.


Then back to home. This is a shot over Greenland from the plane.  That is where we were – I think that is Baffin Bay below us stretching north:


I’m kind of sorry it is over, kind of not sorry. It has been a long trip. But I will always love traveling on the Explorer to wilderness places, and I will still think on it long after we are many years far away from there.

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9/7 – Kangaamiut – Kangerluarsuuat Fiord –

This is a deep fiord and we awoke to find ourselves already far into it.  We were in front of a frequently calving glacier, so crazy tourquoise blue.

DSC_9612.jpgI took pictures of it with my iPhone since I wanted to be able to justify the color tweaking that I was going to have to do to try to capture the feeling.

We Zodiaced to the rocks and just before we left we heard an announcement that there seemed to be more bugs here than we had seen previously. So Will said, NOPE.  And went on the Zodiac cruise instead, and I still signed up for the long walk.

I have found that when I long walk, I get hot, and have to take off my jackets, and then I am stuck carrying those jackets around.  Peggy has a great jacket thet has straps which are early draped around the body and the jacket is essentially OFF.  I end up sticking both jackets in my strap of my camera case, and that isn’t exactly great, but it seems to work sort of.

Anyway there was a magic stream and waterfall rolling down to the rocky beach where we landed.  Carl Eric was our leader for the long hike and we started to clamber up the hillside along the stream. 

DSC_9578.jpgDSC_9570.jpgIt was glorious, but very mosquito-y.  Luckily, one of the teachers, Kate, had brought a bunch of DEET-based insect repellant, and I think that helped a lot.  And when we surmounted the first rise, it seemed that we left a lot of the mosquitos behind.  As we went further in, toward the hanging glaciers that hung above the high valley we were aiming for the mosquitos were less and less. 

DSC_9586.jpgThere were about 5 rises, or saddles to climb up to get to the grand flat before the huge hanging glaciers.  From the first three one could look back and see the huge calving glacier to the left, and the waiting fiord stretching directly back to the horizon. 

DSC_9620.jpgWe climbed and climbed and it seemed that we were in a veritable jungle of plant life, as the wild lichen and flowers and strange plants grew bigger and bigger and more and more lush in this valley.

DSC_9630.jpgDSC_9611.jpgDSC_9579.jpgIt was wide open scape, but we suffered no wind and were fording tons of bright moss grown streams fed by the snow above no doubt. We lept from rock to rock and from tussock to tussock, doing our best to keep our shoes dry, and caught between taking pictures with the macro lens in the grass and swamp, and trying to capture the breadth of view of the massive ranges above us.  Probably didn’t capture either one, really.


I realized that the freedom we were enjoying in this hike had a lot to do with the freedom from concern about polar bears.  We were out of the territory of polar bears, and so they had given up carrying the rifles and had stopped requiring us to all move as a pack.  What a delight!  Kate had explained to everyone how to use the magnifier tool on our iPhones and so a number of people were just captivated by that feature and taking picture after picture in “Macro-mode”.  Joe hung way way back from all of us, kneeling on the ground exploring the flora.  We all were seeming to breath deeper breaths and strike out on our own.  It was glorious.

After a couple of hours of this, it seemed that it was time to get back down the hill. There was an older couple who were committed to doing everything, and always the longest walks.  He was generally sort of unsteady on his feet and he walked with two sticks as did his wife. It was a pickle because he just did what he wanted to do and he always wanted to do the longest walks, and so he was always struggling ahead, without looking at anyone from side to side, in a kind of a trance about keeping up.  Another young woman, Adele, and I decided to specifically say, “We will take the quick way down now” to try to encourage him to not follow those who had lept on like springboks before.  He said “Those others, did they do the traverses across here?” pointing at the “not the way down” path. And when we said yes, he announced that he would take that route and started off.  

We did go down the “Short way” and it did n’t feel all that short, because it was a long walk.  When we got back we overheard a call from Carl that said that the gentleman was insisting on going the further way, and it looked like he and the gentleman would be a good 15 minutes late.  And they were.  The ship was late in starting out. He wife was at one sense appalled and was saying “You won’t be able to make him go less.  He doesn’t want to – I can’t make him go less.” and at the same time saying “We paid the same amount as everyone.  We get to…”

Awkward. See earlier discussion.  I don’t know how Lindblad could manage this better.

Anyway, we all piled back on the ship finally, had a nice lunch as the ship sailed regally back down the fiord, to it’s opening, where there is a wonderful little town, Kangaamiut,DSC_9644.jpg built on the steep steep sides of the granite-ish rocks that fall to the sea.

All the houses are the typical Greenlandic with many colors, some with gorgeous trim.

DSC_9645 3.jpgThere are staircases going from the shoreline up to the houses above. 


DSC_9649.jpgWill and I took a nice hike up up up to the top of the hill above the town, where there was a picnic table for enjoying the view.

DSC_9669 2.jpgDSC_9673.jpg

DSC_9674.jpgand then a traverse across many boulders to the other top of the town, where we could look out at the monumental views.

DSC_9653.jpgWe could see a little cemetery, hidden amidst the rocks.

DSC_9678.jpgthen back down the other side. 

Will headed back to the ship.

I made a slower pass across the town.  I found Joe working on the last of the great photos that he no doubt took this trip.DSC_9687.jpg

DSC_9638.jpgThe detail on the little museum was charming.


And then it was time for the last night on the ship.

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9/6 Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island

DSC_9432 2.jpgThis was a whacky hike.  So whacky.  We landed (dry landing) in the town, and immediately as we were going on the long hike, were taken out of town toward the “Basalt columns”. 

DSC_9441.jpgWe hiked along the seashore, basically, without a trail to speak of, and since the trek was about 7 miles altogether, we really ploughed along. Will kept up with Jenny, but I was trying to take a picture or two and fell way behind. 

IMG_4951.JPGThen Kyra and I were talking and she started to feel like crap, and had to rest, so we let the rest of the team blast ahead. There was a stiff wind to deal with against us, which didn’t help. After a while, Jenny came whaling past us going back, and Kelly joined us, and the 3 of us started going back.  We went about 50 yards up the hill and found a lovely yellow-cairn-marked trail, which was straight and flat and din’t require climbing through bogs, or over hill and dale.  We got back in no time.  It turns out that Will had gone another 100 yards up the hill and found ANOTHER trail which was really more of ATV track, smooth and flat and practically paved, so an EVEN EASIER trail to take!!!

Anyway, with the wind behind us, it seemed to be only moments before we were back in town.  Will said no one actually saw any basalt columns.  

When I read the description of the town.  There is mention made of the Lyngmark Glacier that stands above the town, and well, I’m not sure I even saw such a thing!!!

Anyway, a totally whacky hike.  We did get some time to go into the little museum right at the dock.  IMG_4998.JPG

This is the closest to a narwal tusk I am likely to get


Wayne ready to hit the trailIMG_5005.jpg

In the afternoon I managed to give my little SWITCH presentation to Kelly and Kate.  Kyra was feeling so crappy she canceled. I’ll send it to her to read.

And then as we were starting to listen to Shaylin Potter talk about Phytoplankton, Russ got on the horn and said that two Sperm whale had been spotted!  Holy crap!  That was the end of that presentation… “We brake for Sperm whales.” said Shaylin…

They dive really deep so after the first sighting, we had about 15 minutes before they re-showed up. Big heads, hugely wide backs, one was sort of pale in color.  (A great white…?) Their blow is low on the horizon because they have a blow nostril to one side of their head – to the left.  

DSC_9506.jpgThey came up and went down again 3 times, and then, as they finally dove, both whales dove together, perfectly timed, and both showed their great tails to us.  Fantastic. No one had ever seen something like that.

DSC_9553.jpgI think for most people it was their first sperm whale. It was mine as well!

DSC_9462.jpgVery excited and happy dinnertime.

Everyone started to become busy with final things, signing up for the video chronicle, organizing what to sort out to pack first, etc.

Will and I are going to miss Hector and Rommel and Maria and Chris.  They take such wonderful care of us. And Gina.

I stayed up very late pulling out all the pictures of anyone of interest and identifying them and creating JPEGS etc.  I took it on myself to distribute all the photos of people we wanted to share, including those from Will and I think I did a good job.

Anyway, it was tedious work and I quit at around 12:30, and then had to read my silly Egyptian Mystery to put myself to sleep.

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9/5 – Quilkitsoq – Greenland

We had a long haul to get down the coast of Greenland that night.  We didn’t arrive in Quilkitsoq until 1:30 in the afternoon, and we had multiple presentations to take up the time in the middle.

In a small dark north-facing bay, with a little sheltered valley of turk and tussock-hummock grass, in 1972 a couple of young hunters found 8 mummies which were basically freeze-dried in the bitter wind and cold.  They were dated, eventually, to around 1475.  They tell a tale of hardship, and respect, for the care with which they were entombed was obvious. 

It is a dark, and sort of sad landing.  Very well respected, of course, and much was learned about the cultures from these mummies, but a huge amount of what I learned was that it was a cold, hard life, in Greenland, in 1475.

DSC_9361.jpgWe came ashore and made the tiny hike up to where the bodies were found, and then wandered back and strolled amidst the sacred places in the tiny green valley. The mosquitos were biting, so it seemed none too soon to go back to the ship, actually.  The little valley was facing north on the edge of a wonderful bay, huge, with mountains ringing it in a wondrous profusion. 


Sun lit the rocky edges and went back and forth across the icebergs that still littered the bay. Bright clouds streamed overhead and the south-facing town on the hillside across the bay was cheerful and many colored.

But the gravesite continued to be cold and dark.DSC_9383.jpg


DSC_9397.jpgDSC_9399.jpgIn the nighttime as we were sleeping, Russ awoke us to say that the northern lights were out in force. I struggled up to the above bridge deck, and it was cold, but we did see northern lights. 

DSC_9430 2.jpg

Thank goodness for Will, he actually got some pictures.  Maybe he will sell them to me.

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9/4 – Meville Bay – Holmes Island area

We travelled south to the south/east end of Melville bay over night and woke in a grand fiord with a stunning view.

DSC_9142.jpgI want to deal with a few “housekeeping” topics in this post.

Our cabin and rocking and rolling:

DSC_6290.jpgOur cabin, 348, is right at the back end of the ship, right next to the engine, so we hear it, often during the night, well, anytime that we are moving, actually.  It is a good bit louder than when we were in cabins up toward the middle of the ship, but neither of us has a problem ignoring it when it is time to drop off.  It is loud, like when someone is running a leaf blower on the front lawn, but at least with the window closed.  Sort of a dull roar.  I would say it was white noise, but it is deeper than that.  More like when your kid decided that getting a rock tumbler was mandatory.  And it is a kind of message that we feel comes directly from the captain to us:  “OH SHIT!  The engine just cut out! We are stopping!  Oliver found something! Get into battle gear!” And, being close to the back end of the ship (or in the middle actually) means that our cabin is more stable.  There hasn’t been pretty much any kind of sea action for the entire trip, so that has been fabulous!

Internet access:

When Will and I went on the first trip to Antarctica, in 2012-13, I bought internet access for the entire trip.  But we were at the south end of the world and the access was spotty, to say the least. So I would write a post (and the blogging tools were also much more primitive then) and then I would try to post and then it would be a long long LONG wait of attempting to post, and I’d be sitting there yawning in the Lounge at 12:00am (where the Wifi was better) and at the end of it I would often be rewarded with a “FAILED TO POST” message.  And then I’d sputter and try again.  I would end up getting only 4 or 5 hours of sleep, not for the good reason that it was so beautiful that I couldn’t bear to go to bed, but because I wasn’t getting my post posted.  Stupid.  So after dealing with this for 2 trips (I know, fool me once…) I decided to say PHOOEY! and just make notes and ignore the internet while on these trips unfriendly to the internet.  It could well be that things have improved enough that this kind of CURTAIN OF SILENCE is not necessary now.  But, you know, I kinda LIKE being completely out of touch with the world.  Can you think why?  Which brings me to our dumpy president.


The entire ship’s crew and staff (Crew being the people who work on the ship for stints of 8 or 9 months a year – Staff being people who were engaged for this particular trip and are naturalists, photo instructors, scuba divers, etc.) have been under a stern and wise invocation to not discuss politics. At all. Period.  And they have admirably acceded with this dictum. And, by and large (for an excellent description of the nautical derivation of that phrase, check this out: and without instruction, the guests also followed that plan.  It seems that people would prefer a trip like this to be civil overall!  BUT there have been a few lapses.  One evening, before the evening recap (which happened at about 6:15 each evening in the lounge, with drinks)

IMG_4655.jpgwhen a review of all the days activities and sightings was held and sponsored by Russ Evans, the expedition leader, I overheard an older gentleman on the seat to the right of me brandishing a copy of the Times Digest (A paper copy of a digest of the daily New York Times) and growling to the people in his circle, “They should all be sent to jail!” I leaned over and immediately added some kind of agreement, and then he went on saying “That Stormy Daniels woman! She had a contract not to talk and she is blabbing away. She should be locked up and they should throw away the key.” The person next to him said, “Well, that is a civil offense.  Not appropriate to go to jail.  Some kind of fine….” Ick.  I realized that I was in enemy territory. Will and I looked at each other with eyebrows raised to the maximum facial muscles would allow and cringed a bit leftwards in our seats.  I overheard a number of other ODD moments, but mostly, the people we struck up conversations with, after a few feelers were thrown out, were solidly anti-Trumpers.  You would think so, since this was an exploration of many many many hanging glaciers, which were melting away in our very faces, that the big fat climate change denier himself would not be particularly popular among this flotilla of passengers.  I wonder what the actual recorded count would be of Trumpers vs. non-Trumpers?


Actually, as much as I did hear, on occasion, various little bits and pieces of Republican stances murmured, when walking though the lounge preparing for recap, I was far more likely to hear “She got that hip, replacement, you know, but it just didn’t take so well.”, “I’ve been keeping up with all my medications on this trip! My doctor will be so proud of me!” “My shoulder just isn’t the same since I was moving that box down from the attic.” “Harry’s sleep apnea just makes it so hard.” So, I have to take a chill pill.

Hector and Rommel:

Will and I love Hector and Rommel.

DSC_6279.jpgThey look after us at breakfast lunch and dinner.  We have taken to eating together at a two seater table, often. At least partially because either he or I have ben sick for much of the trip and sitting there and coughing all over your new friends doesn’t seem all that neighborly, actually.  But the Bistro area where we eat has Hector and Rommel and Chris and Maria to take care of us and they are so wonderful.  We are both quite quite spoiled!!! We had a plot to smuggle Hector into our suitcase but it came to naught.IMG_5022.JPG

I really don’t know why I look so happy here, because I was actually quite sad about leaving them. Stupid selfies. This picture also includes Kate and Lindsey, two of the teachers.

Back to the trip…

We arrived at a grand fiord, high mountain walls on either side. 

DSC_9150.jpgThe “long walk” took us up high, high high to a lookout point from where we could see the ship, a glacier, icebergs in the distance, and another view of icebergs in the distance in another direction!  All quite spectacular.  It was another great hike, as it was ranked as very challenging, somehow those people who come along even though they really are terribly unsteady on their pins, decided not to come, which was great. So we only had people who were up for doing some hiking.

DSC_9159.jpgI hate to be a bum about it, but I am eager to do big hikes, and when someone is coming along and really cannot keep up, or you are watching and waiting for them to fall, or you are feeling like you have to pause and help them up each and every boulder in the way, it does color the trip.  I really wanted to be gracious and helpful and kind, and I feel bad about not being empathetic, especially since I think the chances of me getting Alz are rather high, especially if we are taking into account the current terrible memory I have for pretty much anything.  I found myself worrying about this one guy so much on the trip, that I was having difficulty concentrating on the view.  He wasn’t really all that appreciative, either.  I would try to start a conversation and he would ignore me or give me the brush off. I think he just didn’t have capacity to include other people in his world view. He reminded me of my Dad when he was in Alzheimer’s grip. My Dad had a great deal of pride and when he got something into his head to do, there was no dissuading him.  I think it was because he was finding it difficult enough to get anything straight in his head, so when he had something, anything, that he had decided, he would just stick to it.  Unable to shift or change when things reasonably required shifting and changing. Dennis, the doctor, DSC_8845.jpgis always so patient and kind.  He just would follow along with the person who was furthest behind, having the most difficulties, ready with an arm or a smile, or an innocuous comment.  He is a better person than I am. One of those people that you are very glad to see as a doctor.

I hope I have the grace and awareness to know when I would be inconveniencing others or putting them out by my requirements.  How much do I restrict my activities now because I don’t want to inconvenience others?  Maybe not enough.  Maybe I won’t get that right, and if so, I apologize in advance.

DSC_9181.jpgSerguei came along to pick up lichen, Kate got up on every erratic, Jenny led, the doctor was there in case anyone fell down.  A winner hike. 


DSC_9191.jpgDSC_9197.jpgLoads of Lichen on this trip.  We stopped on a cushioned pad of lichen and everyone lay down and enjoyed the quiet and the soft mattress beneath us. Deep calm fills us. 

Taken laying down:


The only thing missing  from this paradise is animals.  There just aren’t enough animals.

We got back to the ship and began to move further into the fiord.  It turned out that they wanted to take us to actually step on the Greenland Icecap.  There was a place they knew of where it had been possible in the past, so the ship moved gracefully through the narrows.

  • The sleeping glacier opens an eye
  • And winks at the captain changing tack
  • Our regal ship changes her course
  • And, with our shutters, we wink back

Far earlier than usual, two zodiacs filled with naturalists and staff zipped ahead of the ship. 

DSC_9214.jpgShe followed them, moving closer and closer to the end of the fiord.  As we come around the mountain bends, there is the sweep of a great glacier ahead of us, and above it – the ice cap!!!  Will and I are pulling out our gear and looking out the window and we can see the tiny bodies of staff and naturalists hiking up to the white crumpled sheets of ice.

DSC_9234.jpgDSC_9237.jpgDSC_9242.jpgEveryone piled out and made it over there. 

The view of the ice was phenomenal!


I think everyone was sort of suffering from “rapture of the ice”

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DSC_9269.jpg A Circuslike atmosphere, frankly, and it was sort of unnerving seeing so many of the weaker hikers all surmounting the top of the “ice Sheet hill” Will and I achieved the top and then scooted down it, because it was just getting too crowded and crazy. 

Then after a while everyone had gotten up it and then down it, and it was looking more sparse again, and we re-surmounted the top.  Daniel and Joe took our pictures, which was very nice,

DSC_9295.jpgand Alix came up in a dress and looked FABULOUS!  we did Vogue shots of her. 

DSC_9305.jpgWill insisted on getting too close to the edge and Jenny had to drag him back to safety. (Not really)

At the end of the afternoon, on the beach, the hotel staff had made a BBQ of steak sandwiches and beer.  DSC_9329.jpgKelly and Kate and Kiera and Will and I all stood around and debated who we liked better of all the late night political comedians.  It was a fun moment.

And now we are back on board and we are steaming (?) our way down the channel, and I think I will go out and appreciate the view of icebergs for the next hour or so as we leave the Greenland icecap behind!

DSC_9335 2.jpg

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