Sunday, May 27, 2012

"As You You Take Your Long Journey" from Eklutna

I have no idea.  Nary.  None.  But, it's kind of cute.

Just down the highway from where I live is the village of Eklutna.  More precisley, Eklutna Historical Park, where there is a fully functional "new" St. Nicholas Orthodox Church which was built in about 1954 and replaces the old log church that was built around 1870, by the Eklutna Indians.

New church

Old church

My interest in things historical naturally includes graveyards, and until I visited a small graveyard in Copper Center where the grave plots were all encased by little colorful picket fences, I had never seen anything like the ones there and in Eklutna with the obvious comingling of Christian and ancient Indian beliefs.  (These two pictures were taken in Copper Center village a few weeks ago.)

Copper Center grave fences
More Copper Center grave fences

The graveyard in Eklutna is an Orthodox Christian cemetery where most of the people buried are Athabascan Indians, along with some Russian people and Yupik Eskimos.  It is still in use today.

These little knee-high houses that resemble doll houses are "spirit houses" which are placed over the graves 40 days after the burial in order to house the spirits and possessions, or more likely, life tokens, of the deceased.  Side bar about 40 days:  I met a woman in Sand Point (Eastern Aleutians) who baked Russian Easter cakes for forty days after Easter.

The colors of the houses are specific to the families and in this cemetery; red and white colors house the Alex family while the blue and silver belong to the Chilligan family.  Shapes and patterns also designate family heritage, marking graves in a time when the peoples' language was not written.

Blankets cover and adorn the graves moreso than flowers.  I would at first tend to assume that this also has to do with family patterns and designs, but in the picture below you can see there is no design or pattern to this plain white blanket.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Conflagration in Copper Center

This is how I remember the Copper Center Lodge from my last visit there a few weeks ago. I was just finishing up another "most excellent" work trip, and, heading out of the area, I stopped in for a goodbye-breakfast. I had sourdough pancakes. They were wunnerful!  It was my birthday.

Quoted from Anchorage Daily News, "The lodge has played a central role in the Copper River Valley community for decades, (owner)Huddleston said.
The original roadhouse on the site was built in 1896 and served gold miners. It was rebuilt after a 1928 fire.
Huddleston's family has operated the lodge, which used to be known as the Copper Center Roadhouse, since 1948. In 2007, Huddleston's mother, Jean Ashby Huddleston, recounted her early days at the lodge to the Daily News: the scent of animal pelts (back then, roadhouse owners traded groceries for furs) competing with her mother's freshly-baked bread and Gold Rush old-timers with colorful biographies playing cribbage and spitting tobacco into the stove.
The roadhouse only closed for one year, after a freak ice jam and the Good Friday earthquake caused the Klutina River to flood into the lodge, according to Ashby Huddleston."

'It was absolutely one of the last of its kind,' he said. 'They called it the jewel of the roadhouses'." This is what happened to it yesterday:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Most likely faulty wiring.
A sourdough starter used to make locally-beloved pancakes was destroyed, but neighbors had some to spare. The pancakes will be back.

Read more here:

Monday, May 14, 2012

In Dutch

Dateline: May 10, 2012 Dutch Harbor/Ounalashka, AK
I'm wide awake at 4 AM in a hotel in the Aleutians with not much more to do than piddle around on a painfully slow internet connection ...OR write a little about more of my travel experiences. 

Just in case I was going to have a bit of extra time while in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, before I got here I looked up their chamber of commerce website and high on the list of things to do was "experience the weather change several times a day."  It didn't further explain that said weather instability would likely ground you from traveling out of the place again.

Of course, I'm neither surprised nor disappointed at this delay.  I'm actually more anxious about the possibility of not getting somewhere than not getting back from somewhere, meaning, when I leave Anchorage for one of these visits to village/rural/bush AK.  Several of these places get only one visit a year, so far, from our center and the appointments are set before I get here and some people have been waiting for months or longer.  I don't know if I've ever explained this before, but I travel with about 100 lbs of equipment just to show people what might be helpful to them in carrying on their daily tasks with as much independence as possible after they begin losing their vision.  We have grants and donations that enable me to offer about $100 of equipment and supplies--lighted magnification, sunglasses, household items, talking book services, etc.-- to each person I visit at no cost to them.  I have put together a little package of additional simple give-away items they can walk away with from our visit and the more expensive ones we have to order for them. 

So, once I've done that part, I have no more anxiety about getting somewhere, because it's not like I have to hurry back to work or to a family waiting at home for me.  I am already at work clear out here on the islands and I don't think my roommate's cats miss me a whole lot, (except that I think I give them more treats than I'm supposed to.) 

So, here I am.  I waited at the airport (yes, we're calling it that) for a couple of hours before they announced the cancellation yesterday.  Weather, this time, but a few times before it has been mechanical difficulties.  And then there have been extra fuel stops.  Sometimes mechanical delays, extra fuel stops AND THEN outright cancellations, as was the case yesterday.

There was more of this kind of baggage than real suitcases:  Fifty-pound boxes of fish.

There's only one hotel in town and on Monday evening after I already had a room, a flight was cancelled leaving a lot of people without a place to stay that night and they were scrambling around with roll-aways and shuttles to their other bunk-house "inn," doubling strangers in with each other.  Mostly, it was fishermen and dock workers who were used to that kind of thing, but it was hectic around here.  So, when my flight cancelled yesterday, I made a bee-line back here to the hotel and got a room and THEN went back to the airport to see about standby on the next flight that may or may not have got through.  And all this without my own transportation.  (The kindness of strangers and all that.)  It was easier and faster than trying to call.

The person I got a ride with first told me that the hotel was having a "king crab all-you-can-eat buffet" that night so if I was indeed going to stay I should look into that.  And boy howdee, did they ever.  Have a buffet, I mean.  Seafood:  beautiful food as far as you could see on long tables, sushi, fresh catch fillets poached in things like grapefruit buerre blanc with coconut curry chow chow, seared cod and NY steak skewers, creamy chunky chowders, deep-fried shrimp and calamari, salmon in several incarnations...blackened prime rib at the end.   And then a whole table dedicated to just king crab legs.  Just fat juicy, slightly sea-salty king crab legs.  Even the salad bar was very dressed up--ceviche, chutneys, more salmon (smoked and raw) with creme cheese and capers, tropical fruit salsas, caprese, asparagus in balsamic vinaigrette and some really tasty things I didn't even recognize.  Well, sure, of course a dessert bar. 

The place was hoppin' , I tell ya.  I saw someone sitting on the fireplace hearth with his plate in his lap. 

I forgot my binoculars.  A trip to the Aleutians and the dope forgets her binoculars.  My hotel room has a view out over a little lagoon and there are birds to watch from here, too.  Lovely, funny, weird-looking little birds.  Harlequin ducks, cormorants, auklets (but not whiskered, more's the pity,) and I think those might be black-headed gulls.  One seal.

The car loaned to me by the clinic. 

Pretty decent Mexican food within walking distance from the hotel.

Local subject by a local "Grandma" artist I met one morning.

The Dutch Harbor Mark.  This was actually a mild case.  On one particularly rainy period, my very messy Dutch Harbor mark went all the way up the back of my legs.  It's from pressing your leg against the runner on the vehicle to get in/out of the car.

So sue me; I can't seem to get my fill of taking pictures of sea-going vessels.

Last night "The Deadliest Catch" was on television and I fell asleep watching the Time Bandit crew haul in their nets, all in an effort to really soak up the experience of being in Dutch Harbor.  I may or may not have seen one of the ships' captains at the sea food blow-out last night.  Most likely not, but a girl can make stuff up in her head. 

The Bishop's manse.

They told me that in the summer when it greens up, this place looks like Ireland. I told them I wish they hadn't told me that because now I feel like I'm missing something.

Dang. I wish I could ever catch a break in life.