Sitting here at the tiny cafe in Pelican looking up at the cloud shrouded mountains and watching the constant drip running off everything in sight I can only laugh as the memory of the voice of a local in Ketchikanian echoes through my mind. While in Ketchikan we spent a couple of evenings at the local AA hall. The rooms were filled with men. Alaskan, tough guy, good ol boy, hunting and fishing and working hard kind of men. As in all AA meetings I have ever been to out of town they were warm and welcoming and full of questions about our planned trip as well as freely and warmly giving thoughts and suggestions about the local area. This one fellow looked at us and in a sort of Alaskan drawl asked us if we knew what it was we were in for as we traveled through "Southeast." "You do know its a rain forest, don't you?"
It has turned into a bit of a mantra for us as we move though the beauty of the area. Nearly everyday we find ourselves returning to that thought. Sometimes literally and sometimes in a laughing "well duh!" kind of reverence. Ketchikan receives 160 inches a year (read that as 13 + feet a year,) Juneau also receives a like amount except there more of it falls as snow because of their proximity to the great Juneau ice fields. We are now on the coast near Sitka just off the infamous Gulf of Alaska. As we got closer and closer to the coast the NOAA weather radio day after day consistently announced the current weather "Sitka, rain."
Coming from Seattle we are well set for the rain and we have a great dodger/bimini that closes us in pretty good even at the wheel. We have hot water and a working heater again. But, it gets a little tiring and the constant cold wears you out. Plus as I gaze out at the mountains and the sea looking for wildlife and vistas I find myself a bit irked that so much is cloaked from sight in the mist and waves. Nothing can beat a clear blue near windless day to spot bears and whales or even an occasional moose. ~sigh~
A couple of years ago as we made our way north towards the Queen Charlotte Islands we spoke with a man who told us in early July he had turned south out of Alaska in search of warm weather. Now I understand. We definitely want to make it Sitka but our chosen route takes us down the seldom traveled outer passage. There are spots to tuck in but at places there is nothing between you and the Gulf other than your rain gear.
A year or so ago Bill and I went to a movie, the plot had Sandra Bullock going to Sitka with her secretary whose family home was there. When they arrived they were ferried from the airport in a beautifully restored and highly varnished wood runabout. The scenery was stupendous, blue skies and flat water as they whisked to his parents estate worthy home.
Now, I have not been there yet but from what I have seen of southeast it is much more realistic to imagine them being picked up by an old friend garbed in rain gear and knee high rubber boots (Juneau tennis shoes?") They would be loaded in along with a large portion of the immediate family a neighbor or two and a dog into a big aluminum boat perhaps with a homemade pilot house precariously affixed as some protection from the elements that was loaded to the gunwhales with the monthly haul from costco. As they untied from the dock they would lift the kicker motor up (they fished on their way over) kicking in the dual Evanrude 250's and roaring out of the harbor towards home.
Instead of the "estate" the fictional family lived in they would pull up to 1/4 mile long dock winding across the mudflats that accommodates the huge tidal swings here. The home they pour into would be made up of loosely designed and seemingly randomly connected boxes and eaves and they would file through the open door to the mud room where they would dutifully hang up all their dripping rain gear and kick off all the rubber boots into a pile. To allude to the status and wealth of the family there would be bench seat available to slip into to help kick off those boots. I joke here, I love Alaska but it sure isn't Ballard and this isn't the movies.
I look forward to Sitka as I have to each new and unique Alaska destination but, Mexico is looking better and better all the time. Of course in Mexico I will rewrite the whole scenario featuring a panga, pseudo breezes so stifling hot they make you swoon and a language barrier that confuses every conversation and leaves you pantomiming every thought even to your husband.
Talk to you soon, Kat