Montana Wolf

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just Another Day in Alaska

We pulled out of Auke Bay harbor a little after 7:00 a.m. I'd say dawn but there ain't no dawn up here because there isn't really a sunrise or delineation between dark and light. I wonder what my body is thinking? No moon to chart the monthly cycle. No sun to follow or get one's directional bearings. I'd already untethered from job, marriage and my southwest home of over 25 years. But this level of cosmic flotation was a total, incomprehensible surprise.

We were on our way to Barlow Cove on Admiralty Island, traveling at low tide. The idea was to hit this secluded sandy beach an hour before the tide peaked low; that's when the rednecks showed themselves with an inch-long slit in the sand. Seas were calm as we left the harbor; whales spouted and rolled about the water on both sides of the skiff. Seals bobbed up and down. This little boat (what I'd call a metal row boat) was a rougher ride than the big gal, but she was also much faster and easy to maneuver. I was decked out in rain gear head to toe, Teak between my legs, not quite sure about the up and down of it all.

We arrived the beach an hour later and anchored six feet off shore. Teak leaped for land and grabbed the nearest stick. R. instructed me on what to look for but those little slits in the sand just weren't there. He was devastated; accustomed to digging buckets of the large clams in a short time. Could it be the red tide? There was a warning not to gather shell fish along the islands, including Juneau where one woman had eaten clams and died.

We were about 45 minutes from changing tide when those dark slits magically appeared in the sand, giving away the positions of the hidden clams. I identified the spots and R. dug w/a spade. They were never more than one foot down. WHAT FUN. These beauties were fist sized and larger. Hardly anyone knew about the rednecks, R. said. I knew lots about rednecks, but not the clam variety. Sure wasn't used to seeing them on a beach.

It's dramatic when the tide turns; it marks a amazing energy shift. In just a few moments our tracks were covered, holes were filled and one bucket sat in several inches of water. Clamming time was over as we packed up and headed for another shore. Three deer emerged from treeline...rust/orange beauties, one a 2-pt buck in velvet.

We chose a shore with beautiful shale-like rocks where we sat and shucked. R. showed me how to cut the muscle and extract the soft fleshy clam from the shell. Teak and I walked the seashore...miles of harbor and not another soul. We feasted on smoked salmon dip I'd made the night before and a camenzola cheese; topped it off with a bottle of Gewurztraminer wine. We toasted R.'s birthday right about the time the sun came out. Bliss, anyone?

It was mid-afternoon when we headed back to the bay. The winds picked up and the skies began to darken. It was a rough, slow ride. The seas calmed down a few miles from shore so we stopped at a small island where we hiked, bird watched (saw a sweet little winter wren) and threw some fetch sticks for Teak. Hot pink fireweed grew amidst sharp rock outcroppings; moss hung from feathery hemlock in soft, lovely circles. A bald eagle monitored our movement from his perch in a snag. Alaska, the land of extreme contradiction. This little island gifted us with not one but two white tail feathers from a bald eagle.

That night R. finished cleaning and preparing the clams as in split them in half, remove the gut, pound out, bread and fry. They were the sweetest pieces of 'meat' I had ever tasted. I guess you could say we'd cheated death by staring down the red tide. But then again, I feel I cheat death every time I go out the door around here.

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