Yesterday, just before we gave our “Teaser” performance, we had cast loose from the dock at Ketchikan and set course for Juneau, capital city of Alaska. This morning, for a second time, we ordered room service breakfast, and just made it to our tour meeting place meeting place at 9:20 to go for a town tour of Juneau, a tram ride, and nature walk.
Before we left, I noticed that they were working with the lifeboat directly under our balcony. I couldn’t tell whether they
were trying to fix something on our boat that was broken (bad news), or running a routine drill (good news).
We boarded a minibus where Lars was our guide and Brian was our driver, and were reminded that Russia used to own Alaska, and sold it to the US for $7.2 million just before gold was discovered. Eventually, $5 billion worth of gold was mined. We got a real bargain. Mount Roberts, where most of the gold came from is full of holes, and the tailings from those holes was used to build part of the town of Juneau. The first gold from Alaska was obtained by panning. When that ran out the method became hard rock and placer mining. Placer mining is digging for gold in loose dirt or sand. The residents of Alaska get a Permanent Fund Dividend each year, which amounted to $1800 last year. We passed one of the oldest saloons in town, the Red Dog Saloon. One of their advertising gimmicks was a donkey was said, “Follow my Ass to the Red Dog Saloon.”
Lars is a naturalist and we learned quite a lot about what grows in Alaska. It seems to
be mostly the Sitka Spruce, the Western Hemlock, and berries. Also, Red Alder is the best wood for smoking salmon. To Lars, almost everything was a bit medicinal including especially Devil’s Club whose juice is a potent anti-inflammatory.
The Tlingit Indians told their tribal stories with totem poles, and now totem poles are a “flagship” industry of Juneau. Totem poles can cost anywhere from $1000-$7000 per vertical foot. The Tlingits are a matriarchal society, and are also born into either the Raven or the Eagle clan. Marriages are made
between clans and almost never within a clan. Our tram operator was a native Raven.
Our guide showed us the “Greeter” carving made 20 years ago. He told us about lichen such as the Witches’s Hair.
Early on, the natives placed no particular value on gold and even used it for bullets because it was so malleable. I can imagine how everything changed when they found out how much Europeans valued it.
The trail was a bit too steep and rugged for us so we relaxed and shopped in the local
visitor center. I asked about the northern lights and learned that it was too light to see them at this time of year (of course) and that they begin to be visible in August. We were served a sampling of teas and jam, including Wild Rose tea and jam, Blueberry tea and jam, Cranberry tea and Salmonberry jam. All were delicious. We had a quick lunch and then went to see a movie which told the story of Klinket Indians. The film was introduced by a native Klinket woman who finished her performance with a couple of songs accompanied by a single stick drum. Not that impressive. We started to leave and then for some reason, we stayed to see the next show which turned out to be a truly remarkable performance by four members of the Zahasky family, father, mother, son and daughter. They were a string combo that played native songs and bluegrass and told stories that brought more than a tear to my eye. One of the stories was the Wreck of the Princess Sophia, a passenger ship that ran aground nearby. The story begins with a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. After running aground, they examined the hull and The determined that there was no significant damage damage to the hull, and so they turned down offers of assistance to remove the passengers, expecting to ride off the bar on the next high tide. What happened instead is that a 100 mile-per-hour gale blew in that night. The ship broke up and all hands were lost except a small dog who managed to swim the 5 miles to shore. True story. The Zahaskys were so good we bought one of their DVDs.
Walking back to the boat along the waterfront, I noticed some strange contraptions
mounted every so often on the guardrail. I examined them quite closely, and noticed that the diagonal pipe was pivoted and when you tilted and let it swing it hit the other pipe and made a gong sound but I still couldn’t figure out how it worked and especially what it was for. I asked a passer-by what they were, and I learned that when it rained, the water was caught in the upper dish, drained into the diagonal pipe, and when it was full, it tipped over, emptied the water, swung back and hit the other pipe with a gong. I can imagine the sound with these gongs going off up and down the pier as it rained.
We then headed back to the boat for a special dinner, courtesy Gateway Tours, at the Sabatini restaurant. It was delicious.
Afterward we plopped down in the atrium for a piano and singing performance by David Anthony, which was lots of fun. (Maybe his name is Ray Cousinns. (sic)) I don’t know how to describe his style exactly, but you definitely get a lot of notes for your money.
By then it was too late for me to start playing poker, so we headed off to bed.
ALBUM FOR THE DAY
(Selected pictures that wouldn’t fit in the blog.)