We had lined up a local pilot to take us flight seeing over Glacier Bay today, an area often visited by cruise ships. He and we knew that the weather was iffy, but we told him our photographic aspirations and he called this morning to say he was delivering something in the area, which would give him a chance to check on visibility personally. While we were grateful for his honesty, we were bummed out once again when he called to say viewing conditions were not favorable. It's hard to complain about the weather to the locals. They have been dealing with incessant precipitation since the winter when they had thirty feet of snow. The road to Chilkat State Park which we visited the other day, was closed due to snow until June 1. It's bad for business and a challenge to the spirit.
So we jumped in the car and cruised around the area looking for animals and whatever else looked interesting. You have to have a sense of humor to live year round here and we saw plenty of evidence that people do. We stopped into the Hammer Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to hammers. The Hammer Museum provides a view of the past through the use of man’s first tool and displays over 1500 hammers, ranging from ancient times to the present. Many on display were donated by folks who visited the museum and had one back home not yet on display. I especially liked the electric hammer that featured a cord connected to a wooden handle.
In the middle of nowhere we came upon a home made recreation park. Black material covered the grass creating a basketball sized court with hoops on both ends. Skateboard ramps were placed in the middle. Other playground equipment was nearby. The only thing missing was the children. We also liked the phones that someone had attached to the trees - an Alaskan pay phone of sorts.
The people who live here at the end of the road are different from those in the lower 48. Few of the folks we meet were born here. Many came as young adults looking for adventure or a grub stake and when they went home again, they no longer fit in. Although they are open and friendly, having too many people around makes them uncomfortable. They like to rely on themselves and do their own thing. Government, rules and regulations are not for them. And in the endless darkness that is winter here, they hunker down by their wood stoves creating works of art out of wood and animal materials. And in the summer they sell them to cruise ship passengers.
We also really enjoy the local NPR station here, broadcasting to Skagway, Haines and Juneau. When we were in Skagway we heard a plea from two French tourists hitchhiking from Brazil who wanted a ride to Haines Junction. Then we got here and there were two French girls sitting on the dock drinking wine and madly smoking cigarettes - had to be them. The radio station also announced that a stuffed animal had been found on a hiking trail and gave contact info for the person that hoped to return it. Another ad described a lost charcoal gray athletic jacket that the owner hoped to get back. There are tons of temporary job openings. If you wanted to be a part time van driver hauling bikes to the top of the pass, you would be in great demand. I just heard an ad about someone selling a pair of rabbits. And you can find out what hours the local dump is open by listening to NPR. Rather refreshing after hearing about all the murders back home.