Chapter 5. Anchorage Area
© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2002 All rights reserved.
(Shari) We all needed the free day yesterday to recover from our fun in Nome. Now we are ready to party again. Wally says I plan the weather just perfect. Bert mentions that Whittier has over 310 days of clouds, rain or snow and today is just one of 55. Today is gorgeous to say the least. We just have to stop for pictures along Turnagain Arm, now with green mountainsides. And again after passing through the first tunnel to Whittier, Portage Glacier begs for 35mm. In past years Whittier could only be reached via train traveling through the tunnel built during World War II. Now, cars share the tunnel and the flow of traffic changes every half hour. I feel excitement and apprehension both as we enter the cavern that goes right through the mountain. We are to keep our headlights on and not follow the car in front of us too closely. Wally is a good driver and we emerge from the tunnel in one piece. The vista we see before us is out of a tour catalogue and I notice Pat snapping pictures madly. Everyway she turns is another good view that needs capturing on film. Bert tracks a Gray Jay and a Dipper, finding a nesting Bald Eagle instead, while Pat, David, Nancy and I shop and eat the best fried halibut in all Alaska. Nancy and I find some neat little gifts for our grandkids and help the local economy with our purchases. On the way back we have an unexpected treat. The tide is just coming in and we actually see a bore tide. This is something Bert and I have tried to see each time we have visited this area but have been disappointed. We see a wave of water quickly approaching and when we realize what it is we ask Wally if he can stop. Wally quickly turns left on a dime into the viewing area with David not far behind. What a thrill it is to watch the churning wave as it rolls past us toward the end of the narrow bay. It has been a splendid day.
(Shari) Unencumbered by male comments like "Hurry up," or "Why do you want that?" or "No," Virginia and I enjoy three and a half hours browsing the Saturday Market in downtown Anchorage. We walk up one aisle and down another, stopping at every single booth to see what it has to offer. The market is bigger than I have ever seen it before, with over 300 vendor booths selling everything from produce, salmon, and jerky to artwork. Everywhere we look something is going on: kids are getting their faces painted, a juggler entertains a group of teenagers, and groups of people gather around local musicians playing guitar, dancing the hula, entertaining with bagpipes or singing. It is times like this that I wish I had a house. I find beautiful sculptures made from moose antlers that would have looked great on my mantel in College Station. An eagle head carved out of amethyst almost parts me from my money, but where can I display it in a motor home? I do find some presents for my daughter and granddaughter though and do not leave the grounds empty handed. Plus, with all the food vendors we succumb to the smells and buy breakfast tacos. During a "hen" happy hour, we catch up on what others did with their day. Nancy and David went to some museums, Jim went fishing but caught nothing, Pat had a nice long chat with her granddaughter, Wally fixed things on his truck and Bert and his computer were one. All in all we each did what we wanted and had a marvelous time at it.
(Shari) What a great sermon! Wally and Virginia accompany us to Central Lutheran Church this morning and we are treated to a pastor (forgot his name) who must have acting lessons since he does the whole sermon in character as Mathew, the tax collector. You know the message is good when it creates later discussion and different meanings come out for different people. The congregation is so friendly also and we meet many people we would like to know better. One couple knows someone we know (remember Walt and Carla from our Mexico travels?). What a small world! Later in the afternoon six of us go on an outing to bird the mudflats. The only reason I go along is for the promised pizza and beer afterwards. ;) We drive past Ship Creek and see "Combat fishing." Literally, standing shoulder to shoulder these fisher people, hip or shoulder high in waders, throw their lines into a muddy shallow river awaiting a hit from a salmon coming in with the tide. Even our fisherman, Jim, says they are nuts. When we arrive at the birding spot, Wally and I take off and walk the path along the shore. We walk about a mile, turn around, walk back, and find the birders discussing the knobby knees of a yellowlegs. We continue to walk another mile and come back. The birders are in the very same spot they were the last time. This time they are joined by another couple that coincidently was in Nome the same days we were. As we go back to the car, we meet another "friend" from Nome. This is a day of small worlds. Finally it is pizza and beer time. We find a Pizza Hut not far from our home camp that has their Sunday and Monday buffet. Good salad, lots of choices on pizza including a delicious cherry and apple dessert one, good company, and of course great beer. Another great day in Alaska!
(Bert) With strong purposeful strides the pair of Bald Eagles wings across the marsh. I knew from my 1998 visit that the eagles nested here, but so far have been unable to see the nest this year. We keep our binoculars trained on the pair, hoping they will lead us to the nest. They cross the marsh and then alight atop a spruce tree. Lining up my spotting scope I can see one adult perched adjacent to a large crisscrossed pile of branches and, in the nest, two eaglets trash anxiously. Behind the nest a steep slope is capped by a road, so we head off in that direction. I find an overlook I've visited before, but it does not overshadow the nest. Fortunately, another birding group sees us and tells us about a footpath that leads to the nest. From this vantage point, hidden in the trees, we have an eye level view of the nest only a 100 ft. ahead of us. I've seen lots of eagle nests, but none from this advantageous perspective. The adult is busy tending one eaglet, while the second eaglet clamors for attention, largely ignored, on the left. The eaglets are three-fourths the height of the adult, but less than half the bulk, looking scrawny, dark and mottled. Unlike the cute fluffy yellow Canada Goose chicks that we saw earlier in the marsh, the eaglets look like gangly prepubescent kids that only a mother finds attractive. The eaglet's bill, still trimmed in yellow skin, is outsized for the head. With jerky motions, the bird leans forward, arches its back and unfolds scrawny wings that have partially grown feathers, jagged with irregular growth. These wings are still too wimpy to support flight, but like a wayward teenager, the eaglet seems anxious to leave home. The eaglet continues to stretch and flap its wings as if exercising for a future flight. Only once or twice does the adult pay attention to this offspring, being preoccupied with the one whose view is blocked by her large body. The eagles act oblivious to us, intent on carrying on their normal routine. If we can see them, I'm sure they can see us. Perhaps they have become indifferent to observers; perhaps building a nest so close to a subdivision of homes and an expressway have tamed them to human presence. But they are indeed wild birds and our opportunity to spend twenty minutes attuned to observing their private life in the wild is precious.
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