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Alaska Postcard #3 - Susitna's Family Roots

    “That can’t be our boat,” said Janet’s cousin, Karen.  “It looks too small.”  Indeed, it did look small, but it was our boat.  And the 18' aluminum outboard, coupled with the skills of our skipper Mark, proved more than up to the task of transporting seven of us 15 miles or so down the Susitna River, and bringing us safely back. 
    We’re at Deshka Landing.  Mainly because so few roads exist in this enormous state, it’s one of the few public access points to the Susitna. Cousin Karen worked diligently with local archeologist Fran who arranged this trip down river to visit a place called Susitna Station–the place where Grandpa Cy lived in 1910-11 and where his eldest son, Karen’s father, was born. Mark navigated the braided channel of the Susitna at high speed, watching intently for snags, rocks and sandbars–carefully avoiding things that weren’t obvious to the rest of us. Just before our arrival he took us to Seal Island at the mouth of the Yetna River, and sure enough four or five Harbor Seals lolled on the gravelly bar, a good 20 miles from Cook Inlet.  He said they followed the salmon up the river.


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Alaska Postcard #2 - Juneau, Skagway and Anchorage

     Standing in our Sitka hotel lobby at 11:00 A. M. without a room or transportation, we quickly jumped on the motel’s computer and scored three seats on a 6:30 P.M. flight to Juneau.  Our relief, however was leavened with a touch of resentment when we calculated that the 20-minute flight would cost us $176 each, or nearly $9.00/minute!  Compared with our Misty Fjords flight in Ketchikan at a little over $ 2.00/minute, it was sure no bargain, but then beggars can’t be choosers. We were glad to keep our reservations in Juneau and our trip on schedule.

     At 30,000 or so people, Juneau is by far the largest city in Southeast Alaska.  It’s the capital and home to University of Alaska’s Southeast campus.  We toured the state capitol, the state museum, and met-up with Janet’s childhood chum, Alice Mauldin Tersteeg (a retired university art professor).  Alice showed us around and took us out to Mendenhall Glacier–very impressive, notwithstanding that it is receding rapidly.  After Alice, the highlights of our Juneau visit were our accommodations at the Silverbow Inn and a dinner at next door Zephyr Restaurant.  The rooms at the Inn were modern, clean and stylish though the place had sort of a sophisticated counter culture vibe, with great breakfasts including fresh baked goods from their own bakery and wine-tasting in the evening.  Zephyr was a revelation with homemade pasta (we all enjoyed one form or another), a surprising wine list, delectable  flavors, and memorable service.


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Alaska Postcard #1 - Ketchikan and Sitka on the Inside Passage

    We didn’t have to wait long after we arrived at the head of Redoubt Bay.  A very large brown bear appeared momentarily from out of the trees, looked at us and then disappeared.  Reappearing moments later, he looked around unconcerned and walked deliberately across a large rock and into the water, swimming swiftly across a narrow channel and procuring a silvery meal enroute before climbing out and marching into the trees again. Our fingers hardly left our camera shutters the whole time.  Welcome to Alaska!
    Jim Seeland skippers a smallish, but sturdy and comfortable cabin cruiser around Sitka Sound, along Alaska’s Inside Passage, expertly guiding visitors to close-up looks at spectacular scenery and wildlife.  We spent three cool and sunny hours on the sound witnessing close hand a humpback whale surfacing and blowing, several bald eagles perched on trees or flying, sea otters floating contentedly on their backs, harbor seals sunning on rocks, and at the very last, one very large Alaskan Brown Bear (known elsewhere as Grizzlies).
    We’re on a three-week trip with Janet’s sister Gail cruising through Alaska’s Inside Passage on ferries, then on to Anchorage, Susitna, Denali National Park, Talkeetna and Kodiak Island.  In between and along the way we are working on family history with Janet and Gail’s cousin Karen and her husband Ish.  On this first leg we explore Ketchikan and Sitka.
    Sitka, our second port of call in southeast Alaska, exceeded our expectations, as did our first stop, Ketchikan. We arrived in Ketchikan on Alaska Airlines via Seattle and got a good look at the small town hugging the shore.  On advice of our innkeepers we met the water taxi driver at the terminal where an 18 ft. aluminum outboard took us to a dock across the street from the New York Hotel, our cozy home while in Ketchikan.
    Said to be the rainiest town in the U.S., Ketchikan turned out bright and dry for us.  Our water taxi passed a departing cruise ship so when we arrived the town was quiet.  We enjoyed the peace and evening sun as we wandered along the plank sidewalks of Creek Street, perched above the creek.

                      Gail, Stu and Janet in Ketchikan, Alaska

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