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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Beach

I sent this picture to a friend back home, and I figured I'd share it with everyone. This is a local beach near town. The beaches here aren't sandy like they are down south. They're gravelly and rocky. It's cool all the same, a good feeling of isolation and resignation to the higher powers in place. Just you, the ocean, some trees, distant boats and planes... pretty nice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Like Steve Miller Said...

Fly like an eagle... here is a juvenile bald eagle. The one in my last long post was also a baldie. I didn't know that the bald eagles who weren't mature were all brown with light spots. Crazy. These juveniles are as big as the adults, too! They're loud when they fly over!

So I finally got some wifi back, and that means that this post will be catching you all up on some pictures, since I'm a few days behind. Here goes...

This is a shot of Carlanna Lake, a quick, five-minute hike from Ketchikan. A popular fishing spot, it has a very well-built trail around the entire south side of it. It's an old reservoir, and the trail starts at the dam and ends at the inlet creek. This quick walk takes you through a thick, old-growth forest and has very nice bridges and edging throughout, including three docks out on the lake itself for fishing. Next to the trail, there's a few of these big, fallen trees, the bottoms of which are 10-15 feet all and covered in moss. This is a rainforest, and it doesn't take nature long to virtually swallow everything that's out of place.
Last weekend, my new boss took me out fishing on his boat. I didn't actually fish, though. I didn't buy a lisence or anything. I just went along for the pictures. I got one looking out the back of his skiff, and I took a picture of Guard Island, where the local lighthouse is. We didn't get really close to Guard Island, but we did see some humpback whales right off the bat, which justified the experience altogether. I didn't get any pictures, but we saw them dive, complete with tails out of the water and everything. That was pretty spectacular.

Here's another excellent sunset, this one from my second journey to the secret cabin. This time around, there were a few more bugs, but I fared just fine. We skipped the fire this time and just cooked on a little Coleman stove, which was plenty for what we did, cooking brats for dinner and frying bacon and eggs in the morning. Waking up in that place is always an amazing experience. I could live forever in a small place like that.
Last, but not least, I grabbed this shot of a couple little baldies on my way in to shower this morning. They were just hanging out right outside. I guess they're like crows or chickens up here. It's awesome to just hang around with them.

"Who's Scruffy Lookin'?"

I figured this would be a good time to catch you all up on what life looks like without a consistent place to shave. I'm even letting the mustache go this time around. I've met several people with a full face of hair, and it looks like I'll be in good company. Oh, how I wish I had a new Sportsmobile...

Anyway, the weather here is fine this morning. It's 52 degrees and cool. There are four ships docked here today, including two Mercury-class ships operated by the Celebrity X cruise lines. They're big ships. One can only imagine how big the Nimitz or the Enterprise is after one of these ships. Considering the crew and guest compliment, it's almost as big as my home town, good old Salida.

Friday night was a camping-lite trip to the secret cabin. Yesterday, for breakfast, we made scrambled eggs in bacon grease. It's one of those things that hurts so good.

The local Ketchikan King Salmon Derby started yesterday, and I've noticed the town get a little quieter as the fisherman, both amateur and pro, have gone out full force to win the trophy this year. I took the opportunity to walk around town, including a stint on Water Street, an elevated concourse with houses built into the hillside. The street itself is built on scaffolding and pilings. It's a pretty spectacular view from up there, although I imagine the real estate prices reflect that.

Meanwhile, from my perch here and now, I'm watching float-planes come and go, a big ferry depart for the south, bald eagles and ravens flying around, and a seal poke its head above the surface occasionally. It's not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, all in all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Place, Old Thoughts

Since I have come to Alaska, I've seen lots of new and exciting new things. I've experienced things that I never imagined i'd have the opportunity to be a part of. I've also learned things about myself that either i'd never realized before or simply had been denying.

It took a huge leap of faith for me to come to Ketchikan. It wasn't a big risk for me to live in a van in Colorado. I had friends and family and got to travel a little bit more than I would have otherwise. This, however, offered me no safeguards, no fallback. I stepped out of the airport with two backpacks and a sachel (Indiana Jones had one). I really wanted to push myself into facing some things I hadn't before.

I've learned, as a result, that there is a part of me that is, well, me, my own. There are aspects of my thoughts that can travel thousands of miles and not change. I'm figuring out that memories aren't things you take with you. Memories are things you create every day, things you collect and dust off when you want to share them with someone. When all you do is drag them around with you, you're denying yourself the opportunity to create more.

I've also learned that I'm capable of more than I thought possible. In the span of a month, starting out with next to no money, I've made friends, bought a van, been invited on adventures that I will be able to tell the next generation.

I'm thankful for this new place, for dusting off the old thoughts and helping me to remember the good excitement of youth and innocense.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Good Day for Sailing

Today, I snagged a picture of a sailboat, one on dozens in the Narrows today. It is a beautiful day here on Revilla Island (Revilla is short for Revillagigedo, but the locals don't mention gigedo (pr: gi-GAY-doh)). The sun is out. It's almost 60. A slight breeze. It's pretty spectacular.

Last night, a friend from work invited me to camp out. I grabbed my bag, and we hiked about a half mile to this beach, just farther up than where we'd gone last weekend. We brought tents, but didn't use them. We just slept out under the trees and the clouds. I woke up and took in a deep breath. It seems to be a reminder as to while I'm here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I found a dog on Sunday, and I need to dedicate a whole blog to her, because she's an amazing dog. Today, I called the animal control officers and officially reported her, which means her real family could claim her any time. While this would be great for her, I'd be sad, and I'd miss her. She's loyal, smart, sweet, and chill. The only issue that I've had so far is that she doesn't get along with my boss's dog.

Now that I've reported her, I'm obligated to take her in to the authorities if nobody claims her. After 72 hours, I can offically adopt her, and then the courts are on my side. However, they need to check with my landlord or inspect my residence to make sure it's suitable for a dog. I live in a van. I don't think they'll see that as suitable. The officer sounded like it would be cool to keep things on the sly if I don't hear anything from her owners, and that would be great. But, just in case, I am writing this tribute to the dog I've had for four days and three nights, the dog that gets excited to see me, the dog that buries her muzzle under my neck while I sleep, the dog that likes hiking and plays fetch and comes when I call her.

She's named after Mount Shavano in Chaffee County, Colorado. The mountain has a prominent "angel" that forms from snow every winter. The legend goes something like how the angel looks over the valley, and every spring, as she melts, she "sheds her tears", fertilizing the valley below for the people to grow food and be healthy.

I always thought Shavano would be a great name for a dog. I just never thought I'd own a Heeler mix. I wanted to, eventually, get a Saint Bernard. Then again, a month and a half ago, I didn't even see myself living in Alaska.

So anyway, Shavano, this blog's for you. Whatever's in your future, I wish you the best. You are proof that not only do all dogs GO to heaven, they come from some place similar, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trunk33 on the Misty Panhandle

Warning, what follows could be construed as a shameless advertisement for me and a good friend of mine:

I had packed up some essentials, two backpacks worth, destined for a new frontier. I'd be leaving behind my life, my friends and family, my job, and my cozy apartment, trading it all for a new life and a new way of living it. My only code was to continue my BattleWagon Chronicles, to explore the human and the natural realms, to see new places, and to push myself beyond my small and limited box of existence. The things I carried for luck included my watch and my pocketknife, both of which my dad gave me... and my Trunk33 charm, hand crafted and personalized for me in honor of another epic adventure I shared with a good friend.

As I explored, I made new friends, in spite of the homesickness I felt. I saw sights that I couldn't even conjure up in my vivid imagination. I felt the spiritual world of nature work its way into my soul, and into the soul of those who had helped me get where I am. My new BattleWagon is a beast, a behemoth with ample space and a cozy, if not the most attractive place for me to contemplate these thoughts, and hanging from the rear-view, to protect me from the bad and to guide me towards a bright future, is my Trunk33 charm.

This evening, it's 52 degrees. The clouds are gently covering the mountaintops like a blanket. The mist has a serene and insulating feel. The rain taps gently on the roof, as if mother nature is telling me it's okay to sleep. I look forward from my roost, and I see these things. I see friends, family, love, home, and an amazing place that so few people are lucky enough to see. I focus on the foreground, and I see my Trunk33 on the Misty Panhandle.


They're almost three inches long, and they're disgusting. That's all. Never seen a slug this big!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Behind Walmart

This is one of the most spectacular "behind Walmarts" I've ever seen. When I was a kid, we loved going behind Walmart. That's where the big dirt half-pipe was, where all those tall cottonwoods grew, where the Little Arkansas ran by. It was an adventure. That was pretty, and this is, too. They carved out a nice cliff, and made a waterfall to boot! Yes, it's artificial, and yes, it probably could have been left alone, but still, it was neat to see! The kicker: before I left, I saw a three-inch long slug! I've never seen that before. Throw in the whales I saw yesterday... this place is so cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Carlanna Lake

Today, I took Shavano (the name of the dog I found) and walked out of Ketchikan to Carlanna Lake. I took the trail around the lake as far as it would go, taking in the scenery as I went. Shavano is very smart, and was excellent around the other dogs we met. It was a prett good day.

The Adventure Continues

The hits just keep on coming! The other day, I was parked at my favorite daytime spot, eating a cup of Pacific Clam Chowder (delicious, by the way). It was low tide. I sat in the new BattleWagon looking down onto the beach at low tide. There, I saw a new friend, an eagle. Not a bald eagle. Maybe a golden eagle? At any rate, I got a picture of it before it spread it's wings to their five foot width and took off. Crazy!

Friday, after work, some co-workers of mine took me camping in a top secret cabin owned by a friend of the family of another friend. That's as far as I can really go into it. We drove north on "the highway" here for a few miles, and pulled off into what looked like a simple parking spot on the side of the road. No posts. No mailboxes. Nothing that would indicate that it was anything more than a pull-off. We grabbed our gear, and walked through a thicket of salmon berry bushes. Once we got through, the world changed. The forest opened up and the ground dropped down. There were suddenly wooden stairs before us. We climbed down the stairs and across a series of wooden boardwalks, then down a path to the cabin, about a half mile from the road. From the deck of the cabin, this was the view: This was the postcard Alaska I was expecting. Holy crap! It was amazing! I'd never seen anything like it!

We stayed in this cabin Friday night, made a fire in the old cast-iron fireplace, and just took in the view. For my co-workers, this is the norm. For me, however, this is mind-blowing experience! You could see for miles, as far as the Cleveland Peninsula, including Back Island, which has a naval submarine base on it somewhere. The conspiracy theories started kicking up in my head!

The next day, we got up, hiked out in the rain, and went into town. We met up with our boss, who had scored us a zip-line tour in exchange for some vehicle graphics we'd done. The gear was similar to climbing gear, so I was already familiar with the locking caribiners and harnesses, etc. Still, this was very new to me. We all got in the back of a Unimog and were ferried up to the top of the course. They had platforms built on the trees. We were, on average, 100 feet off the forest floor. I felt like an Ewok in "Return of the Jedi". It was spectacular.

After the zip-line adventure, we stopped on the way back into town at Ketchikan's version of the Bucksnort, called the Hole in the Wall. Pretty cool place. Dollar bills tacked to the walls and pictures all over the place. It was very cozy, but it smelled horrid. However, we did see a seal in the water in the marina there. That was sweet.

After that, my boss and I stuffed our faces with some BBQ, and I went to bed, stuffed from food.

This morning, I got up, went for a short drive, and found a potential new best friend. He hopped right in the van, and unless I find out who lost him, I'll keep him around. I don't know his name yet. I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Random Picture

Thought the lushness would be cool to see. I had more stuff written up, but it got deleted along the way.  Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So Much To See, So Little Time...

I woke up Sunday morning after my first night in the new BattleWagon, and I drove down to one of my favorite spots, the spot where I can see all of the ships come in, the seaplanes come and go, the birds diving for little fish on the water. You can also see downtown Ketchikan from here, when it's not obscured by the massive ships that hog the view. Sunday morning, it was slightly foggy. I thought it would be a beautiful day for a hike, so I set off.

I went northwest on the island towards Ward Lake, where I stopped and walked up a trail for a while. Near Ward Lake is a place in the forest that I like to describe like someone opened a giant can of moss and poured it all over the forest floor. The trees are thick and the sun doesn't shine through it too much. After walking around there, I noticed that the moss was also poured all over the branches and stumps and fallen trees of the forest. It's a pretty spectacular rain forest up here. I also noticed that there was a very strong smell. I later found out this is skunk cabbage, and where it grows, it comes up in patches. The huge, single, yellow petals make the landscape look like something out of a Star Wars movie. It's very cool.

After that, I kept driving, further into the island. I followed the road until the pavement ended, and then kept going until the maintenence ended. I wound up driving as far as I felt comfortable on an old logging road, and it was amazing how much the landscape changed. Before I knew it, I was in country that almost looked familar. It almost looked like Colorado. I was stunned.

Then I drove back in town, and I took some pictures of the signs I've helped to install since I've been here. Some of them were really cool. The neat thing about working in a small town is that you really get to see the fruits of your labors. In Denver, I saw what I had made, but only to a small degree. Here, I see it all the time!

I also grabbed a good shot of the ship at the dock next to a bus. It really shows just how massive these cruise ships are. I'd much rather have a raft or a skiff or something. But then again, a raft doesn't come with room service.

Life so far is great here. I just wish everyone was here with me. Hence this blog is here for a reason.

Alaskan Humor

My new co-workers suggested I put some hot, flashy, pimpin graphics on my new BattleWagon. Bear in mind I work at a graphics shop, and independently and with the shop, we've done tons of high-end vehicle wraps. That being said, I thought this was a creative homage to some of the greatest times in TV sitcom history... the generic food and beverage boxes. It's still making me laugh!

Alaska Rain

I woke up to, and consequently, was gently rocked back to sleep by a nice, constant Alaska rain. It's not like Colorado where it will typically rain a few minutes or maybe a few hours and then quit. This rain has been constantly drumming down for a while now, and I have a feeling that it will keep going all day. The high for the day is 45, and the forecast simply says "Rain". I do love the rain, and this is a good fit for me. I'm excited to have the opportunity to raise a family up here someday. It looks like this could be a long-term thing, especially if I get a boat to explore in. Maybe the BattleSkiff Chronicles is in our future?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Search for WiFi Ends!

I've had so much time to explore and to meet people. I've got so many pictures to share. I really don't have much to write about since I have been pretty regularly, so now I'll just go into some pictures and describing them. Most of this stuff happens on Saturday, the day when I used to walk around looking for either a room to rent, a couch to crash on, or a car to buy. Part of my ritual, coincidentally, has been to run into the people that gave me a ride to the hostel from the airport my very first night in town. I snagged this picture of some of my new friends before we went into the picture framing shop for an impromptu accoustic jam session. I'll always remember going for that first cruise around Ketchikan listening to a song from Eddie Vedder's soundtrack to "Into The Wild." It was awesome. Anyway, digressing, they played some classic hits. My mouth stayed shut as my mind asked if they knew any Cat Stevens songs. Either way, it was a great moment, and I soaked it up. It reinforced my desire to learn to play the accoustic guitar. Yes, Bob, I know... bass players are cooler, but unfortunately, I don't know any accoustic bass soloists out there to emulate, so guitar will have to do.

Later that day, I found a local paper and happened upon a listing for a van. I thought it could be the time, so I called him up and walked out to this guy's place, out by the local Walmart. I checked out the van, went and cashed my first paycheck, and took his 1987 Ford E-350 off his hands. Watch out! Two birds with one stone! Transportation AND a place to live! AND... it's now, legitimately, the BattleWagon Chronicles once again! This is the BW:III! She's not much to look at, but she's HUGE inside! While I'm excited about my new-found freedom, I must extend my deepest gratitude to Steve, the owner of SignPro of Ketchikan, who was so incredibly kind as to let me stay in his home for two weeks. I have to thank Sydney, too, for giving up her room for a while. You guys didn't have to do that, and I really appreciate you giving me the chance to get some footing up here. Freedom found, I went crazy Saturday night. I drove to the southern end of the road, something around 10 miles from town. On the way out, I snagged a picture of the sunset, thinking that I didn't have a lot of time to grab a good one. Little did I know that the sunsets last forever up here. On the way back into town, I grabbed some more pictures. I stopped next to some giant trees. My guess was cedar, and it was reinforced by some info I found later on that night. (You'll have to read on.) I parked the van and took two good pictures. I'm posting them both so you can get an idea of for how tall these trese are and how steep the hills are. It's a absolutely a rainforest up here!

I drove on and saw this great cascading waterfall, thundering out of the hills and shrouded by bushes about a hundred feet above me. It was spectacular. Just spectacular.

I drove back to town, through town, and headed north. I was a passenger when I first went past a place that looked intriguing, and that was my destination. I wasn't expecting it to be what it was, and I was awed by this pleasant suprise! I pulled up to this Alaska State Historical Park called "Totem Bight". It was hidden in a thick patch of green, green trees, and I thought it looked amazing without actually seeing it. After I parked, I noticed a staircase leading down to the ocean, which was halfway out because of the tide. I walked on the beach, and I went way out on this point that, at high tide, would have been underwater. When I got out to the end, I looked up, and I saw one of the most glorious sunsets I've ever seen. I stepped back, set the camera with a timer on a tall rock, and went ahead with the "hero shot". What came out blew my mind. If I ever want a picture to be the catylist for my time in Alaska, so far, this has to be it. I mean.... wow.
After this... I called it a night.
More pictures and more stories to come later. Now that I've found my WiFi, I can do this more regularly. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Big Ships in a Small Town

Since last Thursday, there have been cruise ships in and out here in Ketchikan. Carnival, Celebrity, and Norweigan cruise lines have had ships here, the biggest and most flashy so far being the "Carnival Millenium".  (I know ship names are supposed to be in italics, but I'm using quotes since this is from my phone.) The ships get here, carrying between 1,000 and 4,500 passengers, a large chunk of whom get out and stretch their legs on the touristy city streets. I haven't weathered a winter here yet, but I've definitely discovered the tourist season is this town's bread and butter. It seems like every business in town geared up for it, which makes me wonder how badly they will all wind down once the last ship leaves in the fall.

Either way, I hope to take advantage of the season and get to know some people from overseas. Met a bunch of older Brits today. It's funny, but the "humor" that annoys we who install signs seems to be international. People with British accents saying "it's crooked," "it's spelled wrong"... apparently it doesn't get old. I like the people who say that I make what I do look easy. I ask them what they do, and say I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to do that. It's a great ice breaker. People are good at what they do. F

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Just to get my bearings straight, I'm sleeping in the Walmart parking lot here in Ketchikan. It's not flashy, nor is it the best spot on the island by any means. It is, however, a nice, comfortable reminder of a life I've lived before, sleeping at Walmarts in Canon City, off 6th Avenue, Colfax, in Stapleton, in Westminster, even in Aurora... life can't be all bad when you're, in an odd sense, home.

BattleWagon III

This is the beast that will cater to my needs here in Ketchikan. Larger than I've ever been able to live in, this machine has a queen-sized bed built in. My next mission: to explore strange, new places; to seek out new people and new cultural differences; to boldly go where I, alone, have never gone before. (I apologize, but I've always wanted to tailor that to this blog somehow!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Day of Exploring

I don't know how many miles I walked this morning, but I was out of the house relatively early this morning and went on a walk-about around Ketchikan. I thought it was going to rain all day, but after a cloudy start, the day turned into a partly-cloudy, bright day. I walked what must have been 7 or 8 miles, and my feet even hurt a little bit, but it was well worth it.

I walked south-east along the ocean for a while. They've built an incredible system of boardwalks along the docks here, so that the cruise ship people can access the town easily and walk everywhere. Lots of the parts of town built by the ocean stands on pilings, huge structural foundational supports that are driven deep into the floor of the bay. It seems to me like a massive feat of engineering, but I guess it's been done for hundreds if not thousands of years. Still, it's really neat to be able to walk across these walkways suspended about 30 feet above the water. A lot of the houses and shops are built on the steep hills and have stilts and steep wooden stairs to get to them. Most of them have connected wood decks, like boardwalks, and they're actually marked as "streets". It would be great to live in a house off one of these streets, but where would you park? How would you get the groceries up?

Before I headed into downtown proper, I stopped and snagged a picture of the Aleutian Ballad, one of the ships featured on the Discovery Channel's show "The Deadliest Catch". In my head, I heard Mike Rowe and some narration about that ship leaving Dutch Harbor... and then I heard Bon Jovi... and it's been stuck there ever since.

I started exploring downtown after that. I walked through the area with the narrow streets and the businesses. The town itself is very small, very cute, very tourist-oriented. Everything revolves around the cruise industry, which starts on Thursday of this coming week. That's when the first cruise ship gets into town, almost doubling the population as soon as it docks. I'm curious to see how that will be to see a huge ship docked here in this little town.

One of the neatest things here in Ketchikan is Creek Street. This is one of the boardwalk "streets" I was talking about earlier. It's suspended above the creek, and it's packed with restaurants and shops. It used to be the red light district, full of brothels, saloons, and hotels. during the prohibition era, I guess the crooks with the booze would come up at high tide and sneak under the shady places and send up their hootch through a trap door in the floor of their back rooms. I love it! The honest need for booze and the means by which people went to procure it... so fascinating to me.

After Creek Street, I walked up to the city park, where there was lush greenery all around. There was a big fountain, and the creek was partially diverted to make these little streams and pools throughout the park. All of the benches and picnic tables were soaked, but still... it was pretty damn neat.

My final photographic link to my story involves a sit-down at the local Safeway, experimenting with my panoramic tool on my camera. The resolution isn't that great, as I don't have awesome software on this computer, but the general point should be construed. Here's the ocean from Ketchikan:
Now that it's up here, it's much too small. I'll have to build another one soon. In the meantime, enjoy!