Friday, August 14, 2015

Haines, Day Two

The day after our boat trip to Juneau we had hoped to do a flight seeing tour--we had booked it several days in advance where we would fly over Glacier Bay, see several glaciers, and fly out over the Pacific and land near a glacier.  Alas, the weather, which has been so spectacular for most of our tour, didn't cooperate.  It was pretty overcast, so the visibility was poor, but the main thing was the wind.  The pilot said it was just too windy to fly, and we were glad that his better judgment took priority over his desire to sell another trip.  So, we spent the day visiting shops and museums in Haines, and found a lovely quilt shop right down by the harbor that's run by a couple from near Greensboro, North Carolina!  It was not only a great little store, but it was fascinating to hear this couple's story of how they had retired, built their retirement home in North Carolina and were looking forward to retirement there.  Then, 14 years ago they took a cruise to Alaska, came to Haines and, after several days, they were standing out on the bow of the ship and said to each other, well, we should really think about moving up here.  They did it the smart way, too, saying that they had seen it at its best, in September with the colors out, very pleasant, so they said let's go back in February to see it at its worst.  They decided that they could handle the winters, bought a lot and then asked the man who sold them the lot if he knew anyone who built log cabins.  The main said, you're looking at him, and then showed them one he was building, at about 75% complete.  The couple said we want you to build one just like it on the lot you just sold us and he did!  So they've been there 13 years, saying that they planned to stay until they were 75, when they figured it would be wise to move back closer to home for health reasons.  They are doing that now, but a couple years earlier so they can help their adult son who is facing some serious health issues.  Anyway, it was just remarkable to listen to them talk about their decision, how much they loved living in Alaska and this small community.  I can totally get why young people  looking for adventure, wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle would come up here, but it just seems counterintuitive to me that folks in retirement would do so.  This was not the first couple we'd met who had done that, having met a woman in Homer who had lived in Atlanta, working for Coke, and then retired to Alaska.  Somehow this just seems so much more daring for folks to do this at retirement age.  Alaska is truly a place of beauty beyond description, but it is still very far away from friends and family.

We went to lunch at a local restaurant we had read about, mainly because it had Thai food, in addition to the more typical local fare.  We met a couple of Thai women who were waitressing and were so happy to hear of our adventures to their country last October.  It was great food, and we had another interesting experience.  Kathy and Ken were with us and as we sat down we noticed a long table with a group of about 12 to 15 people next to us.  After a few minutes, Trisha said, I'll bet that's a group of school teachers who are just starting back to work before the students arrive.  So Ken leaned over and asked this one guy if they were teachers and, bingo, Trisha gets the prize!!  We had a fascinating conversation with them about teaching school there--several of them were new to the system, while the principal and most of the others were veterans.  This man was a music teacher and described how different the school experience is for the students than what we're used to, primarily due to the geography of southeast Alaska.  Since the only way to get to many of the other towns is by ferry, sports teams and music groups, like band and chorus, will go on trips of several days duration on the ferry, visiting schools in other towns for competitions.  The principal said for some of the students who are active in these groups or teams, they may miss up to 30% of the required number of school days.  So they have this whole infrastructure set up to handle this, with instruction time on the ferry, mandatory study hall time, etc.  The kids just bring their sleeping bags and lay them out on the floor.  When they arrive in a new place, typically the local school principal opens their gym for them to sleep.  She says their view is that this is the way to get these types of normal school activities, plus the opportunity to teach the kids self sufficiency, how to organize their time, etc.  Just such an interesting way of life that's so different from ours--what a great thing it was to run into them and to learn about how they live life here!

At the Bald Eagle Foundation rescue center, beautiful flowers outside the entrance

Trisha, trying on various bird hats in the gift shop before we went to see the eagles

This place rescues bald eagles that have been injured and nurses them back to health.  If possible they release them back into the wild, but in some cases, as with these two birds, their wings are too injured to enable them to fly so they won't be released, but will stay at the rescue center.

Beautiful and majestic birds.  It was interesting to see that in the aviary room where these two birds were, as we talked to the the two caretakers who were in the room with the birds, they explained that they need to tear things with their claws in order to be healthy, so they have a couple of phone books on the floor so the eagles can come tear the pages out!
A small owl
This was in the museum part of the center

Later, we saw this cute and literal "house" trailer, all fitted out with the typical amenities as a travel trailer, but designed to look like a log-sided house!

The sign on the back reads "Tiny House, Giant Journey"

outside the Thai restaurant where we ate lunch

A new totem pole that's being installed outside one of the museums
Some of the exhibits in this cultural museum

There was also a Hammer Museum, which is basically a rather unusual collection of thousands of all kinds of hammers--I guess some folks will collect anything

That evening as we drove out along the harbor and beyond, toward a state park where some folks had seen bears feeding, we came upon this yard with lots of stone structures just out in their yard
Where we had hoped to find some bears feeding along the river banks, but no such luck!

An old truck alongside the road
Evening approaching

Passing a ferry, where folks were waiting to board.

Evening in Haines

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