Monthly Archives: October 2013

Totem poles tell tales

. . . that are reflected in Alaskan life and seasons.  Take the one about Fog Woman. She married Raven who came to live in her in the village. Unfortunately,  the village was starving at the time so Fog Woman asked her new mate to take his slaves and find food.  Raven went out hunting but returned empty handed. Fog Woman asked him again to go and again he returned with no food. She asked a third time and he left.  This time, Fog Woman was extremely hungry. She sent a helper to draw water from the river and bring it to her.  She looked deep into the bucket and called on fish to come to her then quickly tossed the water back into a nearby stream. Salmon swam up in such numbers the entire village feasted. Raven was jealous when he returned and begged Fog Woman to show him her trick.  Some say she did show him, others say she did not.  At any rate, each year to this day, the salmon swim up river in enough numbers to keep the people fed. I know the legend is true because I watched the salmon migrating and saw a totem honoring Fog Woman and Raven at Potlatch Park near Totem Bight, Ketchikan, Alaska. 

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Yeltatzie Salmon on Ketchikan Creek

Yeltatzie Salmon on Ketchikan Creek

Artist Terry Pyles named his salmon piece after James Yeltatzie, Haida carver of the original wood statue. The Yeltatzie Salmon resides on Ketchikan Creek, Ketchikan, Alaska

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October 29, 2013 · 9:44 PM

Leaving the Lower 48 . . .

… aboard the the MV/Malaspina still resonates in my mind. Considering the size of the state, Alaska does not have many roads for vehicles. Coastal communities make up for this with the Marine Coast Highway and a fleet of ferries.  These workhorses carry walk-on passengers, vehicles, and cargo to small communities and villages sprinkled among rugged inlets, fjords, and islands. They tread their way through channels so tight the captains depend on tides for adequate draft to avoid running aground. They muscle their way across choppy, rolling bays spilling into the open sea. Engines throb through fog so thick even a nightmare seems transparent. Sea lions bellow challenge to the long single note of the fog horn.

More than the physicality of these stout boats is the chance to rub elbows with sourdoughs or folks living in Alaska year round, cheechakos aka green horns, seasonal workers for the salmon industry and tourist onslaught, Native Alaskans, and even an occasional tourist.  It’s similar to riding a neighborhood bus around a city with its out-of-the-way places, crusty characters, and smorgasbord of lifestyles.  Not for the delicate or the picky tourist but just right for the intrepid traveler.

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Full Moon, Intercoastal waterway, Alaska

Full Moon, Intercoastal waterway, Alaska

October moon as seen from the deck of the MV/Malaspina, small ferry plying Marine Highway, Alaska

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October 27, 2013 · 2:23 PM