Category Archives: JVC: Sitka

Farewell Sitka: Best of, Worst of a Year on an Island in the North Pacific

I packed my bags to the point of bursting seams and said goodbyes to the point of exhaustion. I shed a few tears as I said farewell to my co-workers from the last year and flew over Sitka one last time before the low-lying clouds obstructed my aerial view of town.

What a year.

So, I’m in my home in Seattle, where I grew up, sun shining without a cloud in the sky, and the thought of taking on a crowd of several thousand at Bumbershoot or Dave Matthews at the Gorge  over this Labor Day weekend is overwhelming. I guess I’ll stick a bit closer to home and present my “Best of, Worst of a year in Sitka” list! Though there were several other adventures throughout Alaska this year, I tried to keep the list mostly related to Sitka, with a couple of exceptions, naturally!

Best Holiday: Alaska Day, October 18

U.S.A. and Alaska
Alaska Day flag raising ceremony on Castle Hill

Best Catch (2-way tie): 20lb. King Salmon, June 6; 50+lb. Halibut (thanks, Tyler), July 17

Me and My Fishy
Me and my King Salmon

Worst Flight: November 1, trying to return to Sitka from Seattle, plane struck by lightning outside of Ketchikan, turned around to Seattle after being unable to land in Ketchikan, Juneau, or Sitka due to weather.

Best Beer: Redoubt Red, Baranof Island Brewing Co. Honorable Mention: Sockeye Red IPA, Midnight Sun Brewing

Best Party: Top Gun, May 28 with Juneau JVs and DJ Bone (thanks, Chris!)

Best Camping Trip: Salmon Lake Cabin, May 6-8

Salmon Lake Cabin
Salmon Lake Cabin

Best Concert: The Wicked Tinkers, May 21 Honorable Mention: Red Molly October 8

Best Sitka Community Event: Alpine Adventure Race, July 23 Honorable Mention: Girls on the Run 5k, May 14

Girls on the Run 5k Prep
Preparation for the Girls on the Run 5k

Best Weekly Ritual: Beer on the porch of the Larkspur Wed at 5p.m., post-staff meeting, pre-community night.

Best Community Night (2-way tie): making pretzels in honor of Lent, photo-scavenger hunt.

Most Random Run-in: Matt and Anderson from Alta, Utah at the Larkspur, September, Honorable Mention: Steve Demmert outside Crescent Harbor, in town for Herring fishery, late March!

Captain Steve Demmert at work during a herring opener.

Best Housesitting: The Cunningham’s

Best Lunch at SAFV (2-way tie): Sushi Day December 23 thanks to Chris, Taco Truck Day, June, thanks to Vic!

Best Reality TV Show (2-way tie): Watching The Sing-Off with Nick (and sometimes Brandon), ABDC (America’s Best Dance Crew), Thursday nights with Chris and Brandon (“You always cease to amaze me!” -Lil’ Mama)

Best Bar Game: Shuffleboard at the Bayview

Chris and his Sing-alongs
Chris singing at the shuffleboard table.

Best/Worst/Only trip to the ER: July 2, after epic fall when an unknown curb suddenly jumped in my way while running.

Best Milkshake: Harry Race Soda Fountain, Medium Chocolate Shake

Best Failed Hike: Coastal Trail in Seward with Braden, January 15

Along the Icy, Snowy, Impassable Trail We Go!
Braden along the Icy, Snowy, Impassable Trail

Favorite Trail: Beaver Lake/Herring Cove

Best View: Top of Verstovia on a sunny day.

View from the top of Verstovia, looking toward Silver Bay

Best Coffee Shop: The Backdoor

Best “Grind:” the Fiddle Grind, February.

Best Zags Basketball Viewing: the Westmark at the bar with Nick.

Best Burger: The Wade Brevick, Bayview Restaurant

Best Sushi: The Titanic Roll, Little Tokyo

Best End of Year Exploring: Walking all the public docks in Sitka with Brandon.

Best Night at the P-Bar: post-Coast Guard Christmas Party with Chris and C.G. friends.

Best Month of Weather: May, Honorable Mention: September, 12 straight days of no rainfall, new record!

What Do You Know about Alaska?

When I thought of coming to Alaska the stereotypes came to mind: BIG mountains looming above valleys, bears roaming around catching salmon in rivers, glaciers carving through rock, the hard labor of fishing, and bald eagles soaring just above the tree-tops. Not bad, right? Why not hop on a cruise ship to see the sights?

Mostly, when I came to do JVC in Alaska, I thought adding Sitka to my resume of places I’ve lived would fit in nicely with Grand Teton National Park and a farm in Northeast Georgia; it shows my diverse interests and my ability to adapt. But, as always with each place I go, the land becomes secondary to the people I meet and come to know. Alaska isn’t the mountains, the bears (I haven’t even seen one yet, knock on wood), the powerful glaciers, the fishing, or the eagles, though that is all that many people know of this vast state. Perhaps this is not the most profound thought, but I’ve come to recognize that it is, of course, the people here who have effected me the most and, in getting to know them and their relationship with the land, I have gained insight into the stereotypes of Alaska that I crossed the border with last August. After a year here, with my departure looming at the end of next month, it’s only natural that a Jesuit-educated girl do a little reflecting. In a way, I believe I came to Alaska for all the wrong reasons.

With only 700,000 people living in the largest state in the Union, the social network of Alaska is actually quite small. Southeast (especially among middle and high school students) is often regarded as one giant social web; all the same sports teams play each other year after year as students grow up together, and the faces seen at each ferry dock along the Alaska Marine Highway become predictable for long-time residents. At the beginning of the year, my housemates and I acknowledged that Sitka is the same size as many of our colleges. Gonzaga for instance is roughly 6,500-7000 people, including the graduate programs. Sitka is roughly 7,000-8,500 people, depending on the season. With no car and the basic necessities close by, I often feel like I walk within a ten-block radius around my house in Sitka, much like on a college campus. When I arrived at Gonzaga freshman year, I often referred to living on campus as a freshman as being in the “Gonzaga bubble” having little understanding of the rest of the city of Spokane. This year, on numerous occasions, I have found myself feeling a bit stuck in the “Sitka bubble” getting caught up in small town gossip, thinking of only local news and events with little knowledge of what else is going on in outside realms. Part of me resents being so cut off and, of course, another part loves the ignorance that comes with such isolation.

As a way to close out my time here, I’ve dedicated my literary pursuits to reading only non-fiction books about Alaska this summer. Of course, I had to read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer earlier this year as it is probably one of the most famous contemporary books about going into the Alaskan wild, and I had to be able to answer “yes” to the many inquiries I received of whether or not I had read it. I’ll attempt to refrain from turning my blog into a book review, but the books I have read so far include The Blue Bear by Lynn Schooler (which I cannot recommend highly enough), Travels in Alaska by John Muir, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende, and I am currently reading Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic’s Edge by Jill Fredston. Besides just describing the sheer audacity it takes to row thousands of miles in Arctic waters, Fredston also compellingly reflects on her encounters with not only nature, but the people along her journey.

As I was reading Fredston’s words this morning, I stopped dead in my tracks, dog-earring the page immediately when she described the social ills that plague this large, misunderstood state. Below is a short excerpt from her chapter about rowing down the Yukon river through the Alaska interior. Though the land and people are not exactly the same as what I am experiencing here in Southeast Alaska, the themes of the human struggle in this state are common, and she describes it more accurately and articulately than I believe I am currently capable of. This section of reflection begins after Fredston and her husband arrive at the village of Kaltag, where there has been a death of a young man the day before.

The summer we floated the Yukon, there were ten such alcohol-related deaths in this region. By the time we reached Kaltag, we’d already passed several raw bluffside graves topped by heaps of plastic flowers. Some of these deaths were suicides; others, like the one in Kaltag, were labeled accidents. Studies from this same period, the mid-1980s, showed that ten times as many young Alaska Natives as Caucasians would take their own lives. There was a one-in-ten chance that a fifteen-year-old Native male would commit suicide, or at least try to do so, before he reached twenty-five. Statistics, however, cannot capture the grief and anger and numbness we saw etched into those faces in the dawn at Kaltag. They cannot convey the weariness of a culture being eroded by forces as undeniable as the river itself. Nor do they show the currents of hope that nevertheless persist.

The Native culture that binds individuals to the land and to one another has been beset by Western institutions, disease, and values. Subsistence, the term commonly used to describe Native dependence upon what can be gathered, hunted, and caught for food, shelter, and clothing, was traditionally far more than just a lifestyle. It has long provided an economic and spiritual base for the culture, a life that centered on sharing, humility, and respecting nature. For some villagers, unemployment checks and boredom replaced the subsistence framework. With limited local work opportunities, others sought full-time or seasonal jobs outside the village, on forest-fire crews or in construction.

Drinking is one way of numbing the turmoil of change. With it has come a huge increase in accidental and self-inflicted deaths, along with domestic abuse and other violence. Under the influence of alcohol, many Natives have frozen to death within sight of their villages, drowned by falling overboard, or died in high-speed snowmachine collisions. In the wake of this widespread destruction, there has been a growing sobriety movement in which some communities have attempted to assume more control over their lives through sovereignty. Many have voted themselves “dry.” Native elders like Uncle Al have been a moral compass in trying to rekindle their people’s sense of independence, self-esteem, and purpose, in part through the teaching of traditional skills.

(From Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic’s Edge by Jill Fredston, p.98-99.)

I am grateful for her words that convey profound insight of a place and people few will ever see or understand.

The Sun Attempts to Shine and My Ten Minutes of Fame

 Summer decided to make an appearance in Sitka yesterday, but conformed to the usual low-lying clouds this morning. Good thing, since I was sweating far too much for it to be only 70 degrees! The end of the year has been moving rapidly toward the completion of my contract with JVC at the end of the month. Work continues to be busy (borderline out of control, to be honest), and we’re packing in the community events with housemates before the first one of us leaves town in just under a week!
As JVs, we have certain procedures to follow as we approach our departure, including creating our photo collage of the year to hang on the wall of our house for the incoming JVs to enjoy (Can you imagine how many photos we had to sift through? Six girls, seven cameras, thousands of photos… literally), a “dis-orientation” time of reflection and closure with our community members, creating a calendar for the 2011-2012 JVs, and this morning we started what could become a new tradition, the six of us spoke live during the morning interview that aired for the local NPR radio station, KCAW, or Raven Radio. I am working to find out how to download the interview so I can post it the my blog permanently, but for now, you can click on the link to the radio website and find the morning interviews on the right side of the webpage. Look for my name and click on the link!
Samsing Cove Cabin
 This past weekend we headed out to Samsing Cove Cabin in Tongass National Forest, about a 20 minute boat ride across the waters from Sitka. We managed to have no rain, which was incredible considering the first week of July was dreary and cold (I even managed not to see a single firework on the 4th, though I heard many) and we spent a quiet night reading, enjoying the beautiful sunset, and hanging out by the campfire. We woke to sun blasting through the cabin windows (a near-miracle as far as I was concerned) and the six of us promptly began sunbathing at 8:30a.m. fearing we would lose our chance to absorb some UV rays any minute.
Holly, Samsing Cove Sunset
 About a month ago, I spent a day on the water, not catching any UV rays, but attempting to catch salmon with my friend Lucas who was in town. Lucas managed to arrive on the perfect day in early June when we had the chance to go out on a charter fishing boat for free (these trips usually cost several hundred dollars at best!) with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. Lucas and I hopped on board with a local kiddo who I’ve gotten to know this year and enjoyed a wild ride out to Salisbury Sound (about an hour boat ride north of town) where we anchored in the swells and tried casting and catching. With the help of the captain and deckhand, we managed to take home a king salmon that we filleted and threw on the grill just a few hours after we pulled it from the water. We even had enough left over for two more dinners that week, so Lucas got an authentic Southeast Alaska experience and cuisine!
Me and Lucas Fishing
Me and my King Salmon

My good friend, Chris Bonner, left town at the beginning of July as he is being transferred to his next assignment with the Coast Guard at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. We had one final night on the town here in Sitka, filled with shuffleboard, Chris’s sing-a-longs, and even a trip to the ER after I tripped and fell on a rather exposed, yet sneaky, cement wall/curb (don’t worry, I only pinched a nerve in my arm and had several colorful bruises the following days!). Chris’s farewell was the first of many goodbyes to come over the next couple months.

Me, Chris, Brandon

But for now, I’m soaking the days filled with “liquid sunshine,” trying to avoid too many tourists wandering Lincoln Street, and awaiting the arrival of my parents in just a couple of weeks! Finally, if anyone is interested, I made an appearance on the Krista Foundation website, when I was featured on their blog last month. Thanks to Annie, who helped them write a lovely article!

Bethel: Where Alaskan JVs See Russia

Alaska JVs in Bethel

Ok, not really, but last weekend, I made my first trip to western Alaska and visited the largest town in the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta Region: Bethel, a town of about 6,000. The other Alaska JVs and I gathered there this past weekend for our final retreat of the year. Due to extremely expensive flights in and out of Bethel, the JVs have not had the chance to gather there for several years. Thanks to the Bethel Alternative Boarding School (BABS), which employs a JV for the year, we were able to stay in the now-empty boarding school and use the classrooms as our retreat center for free, allowing JVC the opportunity to fly us there for our retreat! Father Ted, a Jesuit priest who lives in St. Mary’s, Alaska, joined us to facilitate our retreat and led us through a weekend of wonderfully thoughtful reflections. We were also joined occasionally by Father Chuck, the comedian (he sang a song about the 7 constipated men in the Bible at our coffeehouse social, highly entertaining) and resident Jesuit of Bethel. Though we are a part of Jesuit Volunteer Corps, this was the first retreat this year (besides orientation) where Jesuit priests were in our company which offered a delightful reminder of why I loved them so much during my time at Gonzaga.

Bethel serves as the YK region’s largest population center, offering a grocery store and health care (among other things) to hundreds who live in outlying villages. There are no roads that connect Bethel to any major population centers, so boats on the Kuskokwim River, planes, and snow machines in winter are the only ways in and out. The river becomes a large frozen highway in winter, carrying snow machine traffic to villages that are otherwise unreachable during summer. Father Ted mentioned that in past years there has been talk of building a road to Nome, but ultimately the people conclude that they are satisfied with their way of life and don’t want that sort of development. With just six miles of paved road, at times Bethel reminded me of my trips to Mexico in high school or my travels to Zambia (though the infrastructure was noticeably better).

Bethel is dusty in summer with plenty of bugs flying around, big city cell phones don’t work (AT&T, Verizon, etc.), boardwalks connect most places because the ground is so swampy, the buildings stand on stilts to avoid flood damage, the sewer and water pipes are above ground to avoid freezing in winter, kids walked around town somewhat aimlessly, and the BABS playground was full of basketball players and neighborhood kids until midnight or later. Bethel is clearly a town built for winter: the small windows, heavily insulated buildings, and double entry-ways everywhere serve as reminders of the negative temperatures that rest in the tundra all winter. Currently for residents of the region, many have traveled up the river to “fish camp” where king salmon fishing is the top priority as they stock up on food for the coming cooler months. The pace of life is much different than even the similarly-sized town of Sitka and it was refreshing! Who really knows how late I was out on the playground myself or how much sleep I actually got this past weekend, because I lost all sense of time with the nearly 24-hour daylight. Eleven in the evening looked like sunset on my porch in Seattle at about 8 p.m., and dusk lasted for hours.

JVC began at the Copper Valley School in Glennallen, Alaska in 1956 and has since become JVC Northwest, JVC Domestic, and JVC International. As JVs in Alaska, we like to think we’re pretty special being so close to the breeding grounds of such an incredible program,  but last weekend we got even closer to the core of the Corps; Bethel is now JVC’s longest standing placement site still in existence. This weekend, outside of my Sitka bubble, I caught a glimpse of what originally brought the volunteers to this state: the need for education, accessibility to social services in rural areas, and the growing influence of Jesuit missionaries in Alaska. The volunteers have since left St. Mary’s, as well as other communities they once served including Nome and Fairbanks, but the JVs have maintained their reputation in Alaska and are generally greatly respected.

As I headed toward security at the airport on my way out of town, I showed my I.D. to the TSA agent who asked if I was with the large group of JVs flying out. I replied that I was and he proceeded to quiz me on JVC history asking where and when it started. I replied with the correct answers (we had recently reviewed at retreat) to which he praised my knowledge and remarked that he had been a student at the Copper Valley School when the JVs ran it! He thanked me for my year of service with JVC as I headed through security. I have to say that for all the times I’ve seen people from the military fly and be thanked publicly on planes and throughout the airport while they are in uniform, it felt pretty great to be recognized for the service I do, too.

So we said many goodbyes last weekend, to our Area Director who has listened to and supported our journey through this year and to the other community members in Alaska, as we travel in 27 different directions come July 31 when our JVC contracts end. After such a nice conclusion, it was a bit strange to return to work in Sitka with everything running as normal. The year is not over yet, and the summer has just begun!

Salmon Lake, Girls on the Run, Busy Fun!

The days are long with it getting dark around 10:30p.m. now, the adventures are many (even able to fit in a hike after work on Tuesday), and the sleep is minimal! Lots of events from the past month, I’ll update with photos as much as possible. The cruise ships are also back; tourists now frolic by the hundreds through our downtown streets, and several times a week Sitka Sound flaunts what looks like a high-rise building in the middle of the water–a rather jarring image out our window the first time it appeared a couple weeks ago!

Work continues as usual, but the weekends have been full of fabulous fun. The first weekend in May, I did not hike Mt. Edgecumbe as originally planned. It’s been a late spring here and there is still a lot of snow at the top, so it was postponed a month. However, my wonderful friend Chris rented the Salmon Lake Cabin in the Tongass National Forest for that weekend and invited me, Brandon, and a few of his Coast Guard friends for an incredible weekend in the woods.

Salmon Lake Cabin

We enjoyed some sunshine on the dock and even took the paddle boat out for an impromptu Alaskan photo shoot!Alaska Photo Shoot III

Boat, Book, Sunshine = Happiness

It was an awesome weekend of relaxing, sitting around the campfire, and sighing while looking into nature and saying, “Ahhh… the great outdoors!” (That was Chris’s favorite line from the weekend anyway). We didn’t see any bears at the cabin or on our hike, but when we returned to the trailhead at the beach, the dingy we used to row to shore was absolutely mangled and only slightly resembled a boat still. Our trusty captain, Chris, stripped down and went for a very brisk swim to retrieve our ride home which was tied up to the buoy offshore. We made it home without any other issues and were all grateful for the fabulous weekend!

The following weekend was the 5k race for the Girls on the Run program I have been volunteering for this spring. Girls on the Run is an empowerment program for elementary school-aged girls that explores ideas such as self-confidence, teamwork, self-image, and media influences through activity-based lessons and running routines. The 12 week program culminated with the 5k race on the beautiful Saturday morning of May 14th! Each girl had the chance to decorate a t-shirt, get her face painted, her hair sprayed with crazy colors, and have a “running buddy” by her side throughout the race. The event was wonderfully successful and brought about 100 people out to cheer on the 25 race participants!

Girls on the Run 5k!

Enthusiasm Runs Wild: Chris shows off his Girls on the Run tattoo on his nose!

Chris's GOTR Tattoo!

Girls on the Run with Attitude: Brandon and I are feeling hardcore with our GOTR tattoos.

Brandon and me, showing our Girls on the Run Attitude

Brandon takes a moment to show his artistic side with facepainting.

Brandon Working on his Artist Skills

The totem pole mentioned in a blog post from a couple months ago was raised on Sunday afternoon May 15th, which brought out hundreds of community members to the waterfront of Sitka National Historical Park. It was a beautiful cultural celebration.

Last weekend was the Second Annual Sitka Seafood Festival, which I got to enjoy with my local friends and Braden who came to town for his birthday weekend (Yay!). We got to watch the rather ridiculous halibut head toss, the fish head bobbing contest, and the fish tote races in the harbor. The Seafood Festival also brought one of the strangest/greatest bands to town to perform, The Wicked Tinkers, a tribal celtic band from California. After dancing to their rhythms Saturday night, Braden and I got a chance to slackline and hike around Beaver Lake throughout the rest of the weekend. It was a fabulous time.

In just two days the JVs from Juneau arrive to spend the weekend checking out the other Southeast Alaska JV location. A “Top Gun” theme party has been planned for the weekend and we’re all looking forward to their visit. After the Juneau JVs depart, my good friend Lucas, whom I haven’t seen in a year, arrives a week later!!! I couldn’t be more excited about my fabulous visitors headed this way 🙂 Finally, on June 10-13,  all the Alaska JV communities will meet in Bethel, Alaska for our final retreat of the year. Busy and exciting! So the end of spring and beginning of summer goes!

Herring Finale, Horizontal Totem Pole, Folk Fest!

Another jam-packed blog post! So much excitement in spring 🙂

Thursday April 7, I added to my “Once in a Lifetime” list when I hopped on board the F/V Julia Kae, courtesy of Captain Steve Demmert. I happen to have been good friends with Steve’s son, Michael, at Gonzaga and knew that they have family roots and a history of fishing in SE Alaska. About a month ago, while enjoying some springtime sun by Crescent Harbor, a man walked by who looked pretty familiar. I jumped up and asked  him if he was Steve and explained how we knew each other. We chatted for a bit catching up on how we had both landed in Sitka, and then he offered me a front row view of the herring fishery in action! Though many of the herring openers are called by the Department of Alaska Fish and Game in the middle of the day, I told him that my co-workers and boss were excited about the herring fishery, and even if one was in the middle of the work day, I would try to play a little afternoon hooky!

The process of herring fishing had been explained to me several times, but seeing it first hand helped all the details come together. I joined Steve and his two-man crew at the dock a couple hours before the opener and we headed out of the harbor, following the parade of fishing boats all headed to the designated fishing grounds.  I was full of plenty of questions, as just about everything was new to me, and before we got started fishing I had the chance to chat with Steve and one of his crew members, learning all the details I could. The Julia Kae was tendering (collecting the fish caught by another boat, as opposed to setting the net and making the catch) and shortly before the opener began, Steve received a call from a fellow captain telling him their whereabouts and that they would likely need the assistance of a tender. We headed out to meet the boat, Pillar Bay (apparently a rather well-known and successful fishing boat here in Southeast as I later found out from friends), where they had set their net.

Pillar Bay, Setting Their Net

This type of fishing is called seining. I really won’t do well trying to explain the method, so click on the link if you want to learn the basics. We were fishing on the boundary of the designated area, almost completely out of the sheltered bay, feeling the swells hit from open water. My mom had reminded me to focus on land on the horizon if I felt queasy, which I didn’t think would be necessary advice. However . . .  I may have used this tactic a couple times 🙂 We waited a few minutes for them to begin pulling in the net before coming alongside their boat, bow to stern, stern to bow, to help keep tension on the net so the fish didn’t swim out (I understand that pictures would be helpful at this point for the explanation. Unfortunately, not all of them are posted yet, but they will be soon! Perhaps I’ll put together a little photo essay later).

Once the net was tight between the two boats, each boat put a giant fish vacuum in the water to suck up all the fish from the net. Seriously, a fish vacuum! The fish then shoot through the tubes going up and across the deck of the boat where they are then stored below. It didn’t take long for the Julia Kae to fill up. Steve estimated that they had 70,000-75,000 pounds below deck. The fishing industry is particular about how tightly the fish can be packed below. If they are too tight, it’s possible to squeeze the eggs out of the fish–not so good when herring roe are the sought-after item! We headed back to town around 5p.m. (opener was called at 3:25p.m.), Steve radios the appropriate people and gets his name on the list from which he will later be called to drop off the catch at the processor. Until then, they wait back at the harbor, flushing the fish with sea water so they are clean and chilling them to stay fresh. My apologies that this is not the most scientific or accurate way of explaining the herring fishery process, but it gives a glimpse! And, of course, a HUGE THANK YOU to Steve for a fabulous outing and incredibly unique experience!!

Another springtime happening that was supposed to occur was the raising of the centennial totem pole at the Sitka National Historical Park. Due to the potential government shutdown, they had to postpone the ceremony, despite many Tlingit elders and other visitors traveling to Sitka to participate in the events. The totem raising will now happen on May 15, but I wandered down to the park on Saturday April 9 anyway, just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. The newly finished totem was completely prepared, sitting on dollies, ready to head out the door of Totem Hall where old totems are now preserved at the Cultural Center.

Old totems at Totem Hall.
Totem HallOld Totems

 Images of new Centennial totem.

Beautiful Salmon Woman's Face
Eagle, Raven Haida Totem Representation

Clockwise from upper left: Salmon; woman’s face depicting Mother Earth; Eagle and Raven, two moieties of the Tlingit people; Representation of a Haida totem pole (note: the people of the Tlingit and Haida tribes make up most of the Native Alaskans in Southeast), within a Tlingit pole.

Finally, the last bit of excitement to report on is the Alaska Folk Festival that I attended in Juneau this past weekend. This is an event I have heard about since the beginning of my JV year since it is typically the only, rather large,  informal (not a designated retreat)  JV and FJV gathering of the year (it’s hard to get around in Alaska after all!). Each of the four Alaska communities were represented there this weekend, and we spent a fabulous time together listening to concerts, jam sessions, impromptu fiddle competitions . . . you name it and if it has anything to do with folk music, it happened there this weekend! I’d heard stories of food, drink, and music flowing freely, and it turns out that the stories were, in fact, all accurate. At times, it was actually difficult to find a place where you couldn’t hear music. If a person wants to listen to folk music all day (yes, through the night) for six straight days, it is very possible to do so in Juneau on this weekend. Musicians (and there were plenty!) from all over Alaska, and a handful from outside of Alaska, performed at Juneau’s Centennial Hall, but when their 15 minute set was over, everyone headed to the bars or the houses designated as “Jam Spots” to continue their tunes. Political, religious, original, cliche . . . it was all there in the music! Braden and I spent a good portion of the weekend trying to keep up with the pace of the festival (I even talked him into a contra dance or two!), but we couldn’t compete with Ian and three of the other Juneau JVs who walked in from their night out at 8:30 Sunday morning. Unbelievable! They had closed the bar, started a jam session in the street, headed to a house to continue their music and dance pursuits, finished playing music at 6:45a.m. while watching the sunrise and headed to breakfast! Needless to say, it’s quite an eventful weekend, full of fun, music, dancing, and . . . a bit of relaxing too! 

Enjoying a mimosa with Braden on the deck of The Hanger in downtown Juneau (with sun)!

Back to normal here for now. Town is a bit calmer, but it’s not long until cruise ships and fishermen float in for the summer season.  I am looking forward to climbing Mt. Edgecumbe on May 7 with my friend Chris, Sitka Seafood Festival in May, and plenty of visitors coming to town in the next couple of months! YAY, winter is over!!

Herring Update, Juneau Photos

The third herring opener has been called this afternoon at 1 p.m. here in Sitka. After Friday’s opener and the drama of the Infinite Grace almost flipping completely over, the herring fleet has caught 7.1 tons of the allotted 19 tons for the season. The fishermen took the weekend off to allow the processors to catch up from Thursday and Friday’s openers and were back at it today. Living just a few feet from one of the harbors here allows me to keep close tabs on where the boats are and whether they are out on their latest pursuit. The boat, Infinite Grace, happens to be parked at Crescent Harbor (when not tipping over in the ocean) and I feel like I’m beginning to stalk the guys on that boat because of the frequency with which I see them at the harbor and around town . . . awkward!

Finally, some photos from retreat weekend in Juneau and one of my favorite outings of the year so far to Mendenhall Glacier!

Under perfectly clear skies, Ian and co. begin the trek out on the frozen lake toward the glacier.

Ian Trekking to the Glacier

Across the lake we go, it was farther than it looked!


We stopped by a few large ice chunks to show off their size!


Once we got to the glacier, our path across the lake was obvious. Look at all those tiny people out there!

Line of People Trekking Across the Lake

Then we had a photoshoot on the glacier, naturally. Ian, Braden, and Conor, some of Alaska’s most attractive JVs! 😉

Three of My Favorite Boys, How Bromantic!

Braden, showing off his soaking wet leg after falling in thigh-high!

Saucy Braden Showing Off his Soaking Wet Leg

And then we had to smile for the camera while the sun was in our eyes . . . and that awesome hunk of ice was behind us!

YAY, Braden and Me at Mendenhall!

And, of course, Ian and I got an awesome snowball in the face from Bridget while showing off our icicles!

Bridget Snowballs Us!

A fabulous outing, indeed! Sorry for the delay in posting photos. At this rate, herring photos will be up in July 🙂