Friday, August 7, 2009

Sitka, Day 6 With Friends

Our short visit today in Sitka would be focused upon seeing and enjoying our friends Cindy and Mark and their two boys, all of whom we have not seen for years. Today will be a treat. Ray and Donna, and Pete and I got off the tender, and there she stood: her bubbly smiling self, a picture of health and one who looked as young as ever. Undoubtedly Alaska had been kind to her.

Lots of hugs and kisses and we were off to the store to see Mark. Talk about time standing still... he and his ever smiling face, was exactly the same as we remembered.

Outside their store, amazingly... eagles are everywhere. Mark indicated that a tree that once stood next to the store housed 20-30 of those creatures. Extinct they are not.

We chatted a while and then decided upon a game plan: a little driving tour until the boys returned from their lessons, Mark would gather them, and we would all meet back at their home, followed by lunch at a favorite restaurant, and it would then be time for us to leave.

We first drove six miles north of downtown to the "End" of the road, a stop Cindy likes to make for a photo op and then to the Old Sitka Historic landmark (only) where Russians had built a settlement in the early 1800's. We stood upon the bridge viewing the water, rocks and lichen below us while Cindy spoke of the vast tide fluctuations of their waters. 60 to 70 degrees F is our average summer temperature, she said.

We turned to see this view of the Starrigavan Estuary to where we would now go.

Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) everywhere

Extending from the spiny stems are large palmately lobed leaves of Oplopanax horridus, Devil's Club plant (aka as Devil's Walking Stick).

Beneath a column of trees, a section of the boardwalk trail had been closed due to a brown bear and her cubs... granted, not palatable, but an important note of caution. One must always be aware of where you are.

Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, low growing vegetation and evergreen shrubs surround us.
A bird viewing shelter and a view of the grasses and estuary.

One more stop: the Alaska Raptor Center which borders the wild Tongass National Forest of nearly 17 million acres. This center is one of rehabilitation which rescues and treats 100-200 eagles, hawks, falcon, owls... per year.

Quickly he turned his head. Was he thinking what are you doing here?!
Admiring you!

This fella had just gone into a tirade protecting his turf. Although he cannot fly, the eagles flying overhead did not know that.

Off to Mark and Cindy's and a spectacular view from their deck.

My husband and I had not seen the elder son since he sat at our kitchen counter as a toddler eating every fresh strawberry before him and the younger when I held him on my lap and helped to ease his colic. Time does fly. The boys stood before us, one about 6 feet tall and the other 5' 10", both healthy, handsome and full of vigor.

Cindy decided we needed a little champagne to celebrate our gathering and made a cobbler of the wild berries she had picked. Dessert before lunch she said. We did go to lunch and enjoyed the company of everyone including her father who had arrived several weeks earlier. Regrettably it was time to depart and be tendered back to our ship. A most joyful and remarkable time, and guess what, they may be coming to visit us within the next week.

Back On Board

(Unpalatable for me and before we go on, I must take just a moment and be done with it, for I care not to be reminded and have it a part of photos of a remarkably beautiful country, but it must be said. We had a non-smoking cabin; however, right next door to us was a smoker. My question to the cruise lines: what kind of rules of establishment allow one person to smoke and ruin the experience for those around him?)
Continue to Day 7...