Category Archives: Process

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Alaska Trip Part 2 – Friday June 3rd, rest and a little bit of sight seeing

Not knowing how my body would react to the Day of Travel, Scott and I planned for a very mellow first few days in Juneau. On Friday we did breakfast at the hotel, then walked down to the cruise ship docks to catch the Mount Roberts Tram. There were only two ships in port in the morning and they were only just starting to off load passengers for day tripping, so it was pretty mellow.

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Cruise ships at their docks and one seen from above.

The hardest part for me actually was the fact that all the boats and their attendant vans and buses meant that there was a lot of vehicle exhaust which I am allergic to. With my mask on it wasn’t too bad, but Scott got several lungs full of the stuff plus a burst of fake scents when we passed one of the perfume heavy gift shops.

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The Mount Roberts tram takes visitors up the side of Mt. Roberts and over the trees of the temperate rain forest. It took me a moment to digest the idea of this chilly damp city having a rain forest, but that combination is part of why they do. Mt. Roberts is part of the Tongass National Forest and is rich in plant and animal life including Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock trees, many of whom were dripping with pale green lichen, and an array of sub-alpine meadow flowers, grasses and ferns. We didn’t see any of the animal life, but we did hear a whole lot of birds.

thumb_IMG_4885_1024Mount Roberts as seen from the base / Tram statio  thumb_IMG_4883_1024   thumb_IMG_4887_1024

the Gastineau Channel as seen from Mount Roberts / Trees and lichen

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 Snow Crooked Pine trees  / Narcissus Anemone

The two trams that carry visitors up the mountain are decorated in traditional Tlingit designs for Raven and Eagle. The images represent the two moieties of the Tlingit and Haida people. “Tlingit people and Haida people are born into their identity through a matrilineal clan system: One’s identity is established through the mother’s clan. All Haida and Tlingit clans are organized into two major moieties: Eagle and Raven. In Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch’aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle). Each clan is made up of clan houses.” - http://www.ccthita.org/about/history/

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At the top of the run we were let out at the visitors center, which has a restaurant that we didn’t try, and two gift shops with lots of artwork and crafts from local artists, which we did indulge in. There was also this really gorgeous beaded hanging / art piece suspended from the ceiling over one of the main stairwells. Within the beads is an image of a forest (at the bottom edge) and a river with salmon leaping up stream. The work, created in 1998 by Bill Hudson and Clarissa Rizal called “Salmon Return”, was a commission from the Mount Robert’s Tram for the stairwell of their visitor center. “It portrays the yearly return of the Salmon People, shown swimming up a cascading waterfall made of approximately 180,000 glass and crystal beads. The sculpture is approximately 21 feet long, and about 5 feet wide at the bottom.” – Bill Hudson Productions

thumb_IMG_4852_1024“Salmon Return”  by Bill Hudson and Clarissa Rizal

There is also a movie theater that shows the documentary “Seeing Daylight” (Turns out you can purchase a copy of the DVD here )which is about the local Tlingit people, their history, myths, and customs. Its a lovely piece and hit me right in the thinky thoughts so now I have ideas churning in my brain about the similarities in how native cultures personify and interact with the land and Powers, and how there must have been a Norse and Celtic tradition in a similar vein. The artist and anthropologist in me has a whole lot of research to do.

The center also houses a rescued Bald Eagle named Lady Baltimore. She was found shot through the beak and right wrist and either as a result of that, or of the fall after, her left retina tore so she has no depth perception which means she is unable to safely fly or hunt in the wild. She is cared for on the mountain by the Juneau Raptor Center .

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After visiting with Lady Baltimore we walked a little ways up one of the trails to get a sense of the foliage and view from the top – both of which are glorious, and then took the tram back down the mountain.

We grabbed lunch at the docks in another of the local spots then trudge home, wiped out, to take a long lie down.

After our nap, we walked over to the less touristy end of the docks to purchase tickets on a day long fjord and ice burg cruise for Saturday, then walked the couple of blocks up to the Sealaska Heritage Center.

Sealaska Heritage was founded in 1980 by Sealaska after being conceived by clan leaders, traditional scholars and elders at the first Sealaska Elders Conference. During that meeting, the Elders likened Native culture to a blanket. They told the new leaders that their hands were growing weary of holding onto the metaphorical blanket, this “container of wisdom.” They said they were transferring this responsibility to Sealaska, the regional Native corporation serving Southeast Alaska. In response, Sealaska founded Sealaska Heritage to operate cultural and educational programs. The late George Davis (Kichnáalx—Lk’aanaaw) of Angoon spoke these memorable words:

“We don’t want what you did here to only echo in the air, how our grandfathers used to do things… Yes. You have unwrapped it for us. That is why we will open again this container of wisdom left in our care.”

Sealaska Heritage is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artist Committee. - http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/about

(I didn’t manage to take a photo of the lovely facade of the building, but there is this nice one from the Sealaska Heritage website)

Along with several other shops and galleries, the Center participates in Juneau’s First Friday’s open house. The Center was showing an exhibit of Tlingit art, featuring local artists and a native children’s dance group. We were too early for the kids, but got to see the exhibit and happily fell into the centers gift shop. We also poked our heads into several of the other galleries and shops. One of the more intriguing ones was a shop called Trickster Company which features work by local artists, most of whom are exploring the blend between traditional styles and contemporary ideas and techniques. They have a lot of very cool work. One of my favorites was this one of Light sabers by Rico Worl!

And then it was back to the hotel to fall the frak over.

Sadly the assorted exposures, plus a ton of walking and not enough water caught up with me in the shape of a late night pain flare. No fun, but I survived, which is really what counts.

Next Up: Glaciers!!

 

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Alaska trip 2016 – Part One Getting there!

I get to go see whales because my husband loves me lots!

How do I know my husband loves me so much? When the opportunity to finally take a real live, honest to Cernnunos, vacation for the first time in ten years came up, did he suggest Italy or France for a week of museum hopping for his Art History loving soul? Nope. He offered to take me to Alaska to see whales! Yup, true love J

After much planning, fretting, packing, repacking, more fretting and a plotting the sweetie and I set out for Juneau on Thursday June 2nd.

Day One, All the Traveling

Neither of us slept well the night before, but a little breakfast and coffee and we were good to go. Of course getting to Juneau from Oakland is a little on the complicated side. First of all, you can’t drive into the city, it’s walled in by water, tree-covered mountains, and a glacier. And yet, it’s the state capital, because why not? Secondly, it seems you can’t get to Juneau (from Oakland at least) without stopping in Seattle. The short description of our Day of Travel can be summed up thusly: “Two planes, three airports, a train, and a cab ride, we go thud now”. The longer version includes the fact that airplanes these days are sardine cans packed to the brim and not meant for people with shoulders or hips and that with two of us flying together one was always stuck in the middle. On the first leg it was Scott, while I got the window seat. On leg two, the slightly longer run, I took the middle and we lucked out with a nice lady who lived in Juneau and worked as a tour guide. So we got lots of tips and facts about the city and things to do.

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A fleet of Alaska Airline planes lined up and ready to go at Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

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Amazing view coming into Juneau Airport.

On the plus side, the Juneau airport is tiny and has really cool art work flying over head as you cross into the baggage claim area. With a little digging I discovered that the piece was commissioned as part of the city’s 1% for Art program and was created by Janice Criswell and Steve Henrikson. thumb_IMG_4818_1024

“Their hanging sculpture, “Wetland Wings,” is located in the two story vestibule of the east wing, near baggage claim. Flocks of migrating birds constructed of metal and glass in the Tlingit “form line” art style greet arriving visitors en route to the baggage area. The sculpture celebrates the birds of the Mendenhall wetlands, the 4,000-acre refuge that surrounds the Airport. The birds represented in the sculpture are Arctic Terns, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Mallard Ducks, and Snow Geese.” – http://www.juneau.org/airport/1_percent_for_art.php

This was only the second time I’ve been on a plane in the ten years since I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity . For a very long time I thought air travel was permanently out of reach, actually I thought most travel was out of the question. Thankfully many things in my life have shifted. While I am not “cured”, I am healthier and much better able to handle the chemical exposures that are part and parcel of industrial life. Being on an airplane, wedged in with 100+ other people is a little on the scary side for me, but now I also know that it is something I can do without taking much in the way of a health “hit”. It’s exhausting and requires a lot of pre-planning, but it IS doable.

thumb_IMG_4799_1024First Leg: OAK to SEA

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Since we had planned a week-long stay in Juneau sans car or side trips to other towns, we opted to stay at the Hotel Baranof. The Baranof is a Grand Old Lady of a hotel (http://www.westmarkhotels.com/blog/about-alaska/westmark-baranof-hotel-celebrates-75-years-in-alaskas-capital/ ). Built in 1939, she was an elegant retreat for executives and the hotel’s original owner, Walter Wooten Council and his family. These days she’s a little long in the tooth and showing her age, or perhaps a lack of attention by her current owners the Westmark Corporation, but her heart and bone structure shine through. We have a nice size room with a microwave and mini fridge and a very comfy king size bed. Even better, her location at the top end of Downtown puts us within walking distance of a ton of places to eat and things to do and makes for a great base of operations. We even found the local organic grocery story a few blocks away to stock up on supplies.

Our room looks out onto the hotel parking lot, which okay, is not the prettiest of sights, but looking just beyond that there is a row of homes and right behind those there is a wall of mountain. And I do mean wall. If you aren’t looking out over downtown toward the Gastineau Channel, then you are looking at the near vertical slopes of trees and rock with the occasional thin stream of water making its way down the side, all of which was carved out over the ages by the Mendenhall Glacier. It’s an impressive site.

 

thumb_IMG_4896_1024Looking up at the wall of rock from Edge drive (not our hotel, because that shot just didnt do the view justice).

Gastineau Channel is a huge part of why Juneau has their tourist trade, it divides Juneau into Douglas Island on one side and Juneau proper on the other. The first 9+ miles of the channel are deep enough for today’s massive, multi-story, 2000+ person, cruise ships. The ships come in starting late May and run into September, stay for a day of sight seeing and shopping, and then are off again. When we arrived there was only one ship left at the docks, a mid-sized beast that backed its way out of its slot, turned around, and slowly cruised back out to sea. Apparently that was the last of four ships that had been in for the day. We learned later that the summer season “started” on May 22nd with the arrival of six of the massive things. Sadly, the cruise lines have also taken over many of the shops and several of the eateries along the docks. The visitors think they are getting Real Native trinkets, but most of it is made elsewhere and shipped in, with the money going to the corporations instead of the town. There are lots of signs saying “locally owned” and where applicable “locally made”, so we’re keeping our eyes out for those places.

We ended our first day, which felt more like three days of marathons, with dinner at Hanger on the Wharf, a local hangout that also gets the tourists coming off the cruise ships. Mmmm fresh grilled halibut. Very tasty.

thumb_IMG_4825_1024Our view from dinner after a very full day.

Tomorrow: Resting and a little bit of sight seeing!