Travels with Annie and Elmo

Travel should be a journey where the destination is just another part of the Journey.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Across The Bay

June 18, 2006

We are riding one of Mako’s boats crossing Kachemak Bay. Mako is driving. He is a big man with a silver goatee and straight white teeth who smiles all the time even though it is almost seven o’clock in the evening and he worked all last night and all of today hauling people back and forth across the bay. David and grandson Birch stand on the deck in front of the little Cabin next to the red kayak watching the big ferry heading for Homer, probably from Kodiak. Birch thinks we are racing. The rest of us are in the cabin out of the cold wind. We are returning from Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast located on Kasitsna Bay about eight miles from Saldovia.

We stayed with Tony and Mary Jane and their youngest daughter at Across the Bay for two nights. Tony, formerly a college professor, came to Alaska in 1964. He bought the Across the Bay property about ten years later and board by board built the retreat. Guests stay in wall tents erected on wooden platforms hanging to the side of the mountain rising from the rocky beach. A creek tumbled and fell down the mountain next to the tent platforms. At the bottom of the hill next to the beach, was the main house where meals were served and where we could go to drink coffee or tea, read, write, and get warm. Close by was the shower house (hot water), and two outhouses, one a two holer.

With the exception of a few brief periods, it drizzled on us the entire stay. I have to remind myself that this is the rain forest. It should not be difficult. A climb up the trail from the beach to the old lumber road that leads into Seldovia reminds me. Damp moss, thick and spongy, covers soil, fallen trees, stumps, and anything else on the forest floor that would stay in one spot for twenty four hours. Out of the moss the rain forest grows in thick layers: first, flowers in any spot where light squeezes through, starflower, dwarf dogwood, wild geranium, currents and false solomon seal; then ferns, fiddlehead and horsetail, waist high; next blueberries, elderberries, and the deadly baneberry; after that the ever present alders, devils club as big as small trees, and salmon berry in full bloom; and above it all the towering Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Around all is sound: the gentle sound of water dripping from leaves, needles and branches; the steady sound of the little creek tumbling over rocks; the beautiful song of the hermit thrush; the telephone ring of the varied thrush; the squeaking squawk whistle of the bald eagle, and out on the bay behind the trees the steady groan of the Tolman skiff running toward the log cabin at the end of the spit.

Most of the time we acted like it was not cold and drizzling. Annie and I (Elmo wanted to come but was prevented by jealously of the proprietors dog) put on fleece, rain suits, Eskimo bibs, and life jackets, got in the red kayak and paddled over the crystal clear water along the coast to Jakaloff Bay, then across to Cronin island. We watched giant starfish in the shallows near rocky cliffs, passed harbor seals and otters, chased a pigeon guillemot and a flock of marbled murrelets, and sat still in the middle of the bay watching raindrops pock the still waters.

Mako was two hours late coming to pick us up. Tony waited with us on the beach talking to David and Joey about Alaska issues. Birch played in the kayak pretending it was the biplane out of a sequel to the movie about Balto, the sled dog who saved Nome, and Cole had a great time trying to fill the kayak and the bailing pump with gravel. Annie watched the boys, and I sat on a log and watched the dance of the bay and the mountains and the clouds.

Not long before Mako arrived the eagles started fighting over the scraps of salmon Tony had dumped on the rocks where the creek runs into the bay. A full grown juvenile with motley feathers managed to grab a scrap and head for the top of the nearest spruce. He was chased by two other juveniles and at least one adult, all screeching. Before he reached the tree, the adult, white tail and head brilliant in the misty light, attacked from above, talons down. They tumbled screaming and falling until the juvenile dropped the scrap. The adult released the juvenile and recovered the scrap from the rocks, and we saw Mako’s boat coming across the bay.


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