Montana Wolf

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Departure from Juneau

August 30th.
Up at 3:45 to catch the 6:30 ferry for Skagway. Yesterday's final day was a flurry. I'd finished LaPerla prep by noon so we'd have the rest of the day to play but a call from Ron's friend detoured us to his house to pick up 18 crab he'd just collected from his pots. They were cleaned and cooked; now we had to pick them of their meat. Ron dropped off 8 to friends (their lucky day!) and back to the house we went to get to work. Sunny afternoon sacrificed to the crab goddess. No bike ride. No final walk through the old growth forest to the spawning pond. But I had six packages of fresh crab. Ron wrapped them up good, marked them and stuck them into the freezer.

To bed early. Up early. One last sniff of the Sitka rose on the table.

I dressed in four shades of grey with a red scarf. A ton of sadness weighed me down. I'm terrible at goodbyes. At times I've skipped them completely -- pissed off some friends and hurt others. I'm not proud of that.

I drove into the bowels of the Columbia, locked up the truck and marched 3 stories to the viewing lounge where I hid far away from chatter in a rear back seat. Tears began to stream as whales breached in the distance. The shore passed by as I remembered Ron's instruction on how to tell if you're drifting while setting anchor on the Thea G. Line up a near point with a far point and watch to see if they separate. I was definitely drifting. Oh, was I ever. The rain battered the windows as the Columbia rolled north towards Skagway.

A couple of hours passed before I moved. I found a kid's play area with gymnastic mats and did my stretches. I passed by the chef eating from the vending machine, glad I hadn't planned to eat on board. I returned to my seat to hear a forest service woman give a talk about glaciers. All of the ferries were named after glaciers, she said. The Columbia glacier was in Prince William Sound. The Juneau Ice Field, with 38 major glaciers, extended 100 miles north and covered an area the size of Rhode Island. 37 of those glaciers were in retreat.

I debarked in Haines to walk Teak. We came upon six 20-somethings loading their skiff onto a trailer when they suddenly cranked up the tunes and started dancing. A crazy, hilarious scene. What to do? I joined them. One of the guys told me they were celebrating their big catch. I didn't ask what. I didn't even take a picture. Damn.

Four cruise ships were docked in Skagway harbor. I got outa dodge as quickly as possible, working my way through throngs of people toting t-shirt sacks. The drive up the mountains was a stunning array of sharp (glacial) peaks, standing water, and clouds. I made the border mid-aftenoon and my luck, was pulled over for what they called a random check. A woman searched La Perla; a man was assigned to the truck. Ninety minutes later (I was pissed!) I heard a loud crash inside of La Perla. An agent from the office came out and handed me my passport; said I could go after he checked with the other two. The woman in charge of La Perla had a strange look on her face that I couldn't put my finger on. I went inside and saw a boken ice cube tray on the floor that explained the crash. At least she'd put the ice in the sink. I opened the freezer to see she'd been through it and burst out laughing.

Ron had labeled the packages of crab accordingly: deer, musk ox, sheep, moose, caribou. He'd added 'cock' to every one of them.

I was ready to leave when another Colorado truck pulling a trailer was pulled over and the agents began their drill all over again. If it hadn't been crab I'd have given some to the old man from Littleton to put into his freezer. Made her day TWICE.

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