Little Norway Festival in Petersburg Alaska

May 17th, 2011

It’s Syttende Mai here in Petersburg Alaska–where the locals don’t forget their culture.  The day celebrates Norway’s Constitution Day in 1814, because the Norwegians thought they would get their independence from Denmark, who had allied themselves to Napoleon.  However, the Swedes stepped in and maintained control until the late 1800s and on the 7th of June, 1905, Norway became fully independent and then hired a Danish Prince (Prince Carl of Denmark) to become King Haakon VII.  Not a shot was fired….

Our guest cabin is tricked out and we’re ready….  Of course, the recently self-proclaimed Commodore of the South Kupreanof Yacht Club (yours truly), challenges anyone with a wooden rowboat to a race.  To generate interest, we tow our three rowboats in the local parade:  the SVEN, Onkel Ole and a recently acquired Norwegian faering:

Here I pull the SVEN and the Onkel Ole with my newly restored 1961 Model L Gravely tractor.   This is no easy fete as I have to drive the tractor out on my dock, wait for a high tide, winch it into my skiff, drive it over to town, and then reverse the process at the city crane dock; then tow over the three boats, find them trailers, etc. etc….  I’m still stiff and sore.

So we’re up and running….here is Martina and our good friend Lizzy in traditional dress.  Lizzy sports a spiffy bunad and Martina a Bavarian dirndl.  This place looks like a small town in northern Norway…..just look at these outfits:

Is this class?  These guys, dress in the traditional (Viking) dress and serve up (literally) finger food–shrimp, potatoes and corn right in the center of main street.   The beer garden is to the right….

And where there are Viking Boys, there are Viking Girls sitting next to small icebergs hauled out of Frederick Sound from the LeConte Glacier to keep the beer cold…..   Move over Madonna….

Back to the parade.  This is the faering boat I recently acquired (actually, three boats–to be published soon) and plan to stash one behind the house in our slough and conduct raids on the unsuspecting tourists as they motor up the narrows.

More Vikings.

OK–next the rowboat race as mentioned earlier.  This is the pace boat–this is really going to be the race of the century and notice the durable Yahama engine on the back of my skiff?  No more Mercury engines for me…..  The race features six boats and they must be wood and hand powered.  Entered in the race was the faering, the SVEN, Onkel Ole, Runamok, a wooden canoe and another Davis Boat.

And it’s off to the races!  Here Commodore Doug is hand-powering the Onkel Ole behind the SVEN and the faering around Buoy 59.  This course is about 1/2 mile from the North Harbor Dock around the buoy and back again.  The wooden kayak won the race, the faering second, SVEN took third, me fourth and Runamok fifth.   Oh well, I’m nearing 65 years old and it’s not that easy anymore.

After the race, it’s a boat show!  Look at these beauties–it’s hard to pick these or those beautiful hand crafted Norwegian wooden skis.

After all the festivities, we all work up a powerful thirst and retire to the local restaurant–The Beachcomber Inn–fabulous food and the Pickled Herring Band, no less……

Oh boy, next day, it’s five boats back to the South Kupreanof Yacht Club headquarters; three trailers to return, a tractor to crane up and down and guests to deliver to ferries and jets.  Oh boy…..  I’m all pooped out!


April 22nd, 2011

We took a hike last Sunday with some friends up Petersburg Creek thinking that it was nearly Spring weather.  As the day progressed, dark clouds roll up the Narrows and a few sprinkles occur.    The sedge grass is just poking up and many birds are arriving on their northward migration to the interior tundra.

Our hike takes us through the muskeg on this newly built boardwalk, thanks to the U. S. Forest Service.    The muskeg is an interesting biological unit with very unique plants including a Venus fly-trap like plant called a Sun-dew.  When these get active, I’ll put up a photo on this blog.

After visiting the creek, we hike back down an old CCC road and stumble upon this old truck–about a 1937 or 8?  It’s full of bullet holes, of course.   This road is a great trail along the shore and connects with our loop trail and Petersburg Mountain (posted here).

The Red Crossbills are showing up, along with the Sandhill Cranes and Hummingbirds.  April 16th seems to be the day.  These Crossbills are hilarious to watch–they hop around on the kelp and eat small kelp fleas (or whatever they are).  As I took this photo the one on the upper right zoomed by and made a perfect landing.  I put up this pole on our dock two years ago and not one bird perched on it for over a year–they need time to check it out.  Now, everyone  is fighting over it.

Here I am out walking the deer…..  Otters run up and down the beach–one crossed our front yard while we were working in the garden–completely oblivious to us.  And we’ve a squirrel that is raiding my caulking cotton in the net shed for a nest and runs right by me, within feet even, without showing any concern.  Spring is here….

We stop and talk with some clam diggers after pink necks–our most edible clam.   This fellow is 93 years old, born and raised here, and still digging.  Clams are abundant on our beach–our house is on the right in this photograph, so it’s a quick dinner opportunity if the tides are right.

This time of year, we are thinking garden–and I think of my new ‘old’ tractor and drag it out.  Watch this movie–is this a monster or what?  This behemoth weighs in about 300 lbs. and is no easy ride.    I took off the front wheels so I could really turn some soil–this hurk could dig a hole to China!

Here is a modern version–the new Stihl Yard Boss–what a powerful yet lightweight rig.  I’m driving this to town next week to show it off.  Stihl is a great line–I’ve a woodshed full of their chainsaws.   In 1973 I built a log home with a 031 (and a horse).  This saw later sunk for a week in the Frazer River saltchuck (aboard my ill-fated tug, Winamac)  and after a few sprays with WD-40, fired right back up.  Just had it completely rebuilt which was cheaper than having it bronzed for the fireplace mantle!

We find more “Mayan Ruins” in our front yard and decide to dig them out.  Beautiful old rock garden beds.  This used to be the front yard of an old white house which had a very nice lawn.

Here’s a photograph taken in May 1969 of the same area.  We’re motivated to restore these gardens and most of that motivation comes from a friend, we met in Antarctica, Maryann, who spent her holiday with us working.

Here’s the view the other way with the old house and the newly built corner of our current cabin.  Can’t wait to see the flowers bloom again.

Here, Maryann and Martina labor while I take pictures.  Our house is now finished and the gardens are the finishing touch with our (now) six year restoration.

This was taken Monday morning about 7am with the fog just lifting off the ferry dock a mile away; our sunrise is now 5:30am or earlier.    Devils Thumb and the Coast Range loom in the distance.  Below is another close-up photo taken a day or two later–spectacular stuff to look at–notice the shadow of the “cat’s ears” on the Thumb’s face.

Now, if it would just warm up.  Stay tuned.

Gators and Glades

March 16th, 2011

It’s that time of year when we attend the APPL park trade show–this year in Dallas.  We’ve now motored across from last year’s venue–San Diego and are headed to Key West Florida.  Instead of paying the labor unions hundreds of dollars to roll my Bambi Airstream into the convention center, Brian makes me a miniature…..check this out–complete in every detail including all the stickers/posters.   For two days we field questions about our unique WPA silkscreened historic and contemporary posters.  We’ve now about six others copying our style, and quite frankly the more they publish, the better we look.   Check out my genuine Route 66 necktie….and it comes with a ‘tacky’ trailer tie-tack!

We then drive east into the Bible Belt and are not surprised by the intensity of religiosity (expletive deleted); the radios were even worse….  so we keep driving to Pensacola where we meet with Martina’s brother who is perhaps the best barbeque expert I’ve ever known:

Check out his setup.  Three professional smokers and he cuts up hickory and tosses in a chip or two for flavor.  His steaks are three inches thick….

This is a heart stopper!  After this meal and a 17 lb./24 hour smoked beef brisket the following night, I take on a southern accent and have a great desire to collect guns and knives!

After three days in Pensacola, we turn eastward again but first visit Fort Pickens which was built with slave labor prior to the civil war and guards the harbor entrance here.  There are millions of bricks here–this is a massive fortress and others are even bigger.  The gun you see here was the largest guns of the war–and never fired–kind of like our cold war.  The designer was one of Napolean’s architects who directed construction of many of these around the southern ramparts of our country.

This is what the southerners mean by “walking the dog.”

So we drive all the way out to the end of the road–Key West, Florida.  This place is so tacky!….strewn with single-shot  bars and the typical tourist traps–the perfect cruise ship destination.    Both into Key West and back again, we stop for a night at Key Largo and visit many of the artisan shops in between–the essence of the Keys–quite nice actually.

Driving north, here is our campsite at Everglades National Park–our goal on this trip.

Opps!  wrong upload….here is the actual site–a very spacious campground, and this late in the season was nearly empty due to the increase of summer bugs and….rattlesnakes.   Note the Caribbean Pines that tower above our campsite.  Most of the Everglades and the gulf coast swamplands were populated with this species and have since been drained to raise paper-pulp species of pines (pinus radiata) as you will also find in most of New Zealand.   Lately there has been a big movement to reflood the Everglades back to the “River of Grass” restoring the natural ecosystem including the alligators pictured above.  Hope it works.  Meanwhile….

….we meet with the archivist and settle on a design for another poster in our series–this probably our 40th image.  We’re well on the way to completing our goal of publishing a poster of each park before the 2016 NPS Centennial.  This poster will feature many endemic birds and the alligators.   Are you ready?

This is our last night at Lake Gitch-e-goomie (or some such name) KOA–one of the nicest we found, but guess what……it’s a Christian owned and operated campground.  It took me two days of badgering them before they would let us heathens store our trailer there….   Maybe I didn’t give them the secret sign or perhaps it was our “Rubber Tomahawks” bumper stickers–don’t get me started….

Well, we two Alaskans finally made it to the opposite end of our country; as far from Kupreanof as you can get without getting our feet wet–and how opposite we found it.  We will continue this trip in the fall working up the Appalachian mountains through more parks.  Stay tuned.