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Ferries and fawns in Southeast Alaska

Heather Lende
Ferries are a critical -- and preferred -- method of transportation in Southeast Alaska. Courtesy: Alaska Department of Transportation

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Friday, Feb.1 at the blog of Haines writer Heather Lende.

HAINES -- At about 9:30 a.m. Chip came back from work -- he had forgotten his empty growler for the brewery. It must be Friday.

It also must be February, as we now have eight hours of daylight -- and much longer "nautical twilight" making evening walks, skis or snowshoes easier. Also, the cold has broken and now it is raining, ever so lightly, and 30 degrees, which means a new kind of weather advisory -- for ice up to a quarter-inch on everything, making "driving and walking hazardous."  

Speaking of beer, the Southeast Alaska State Fair's Beer Fest tickets are now on sale, and they do sell out. While you are buying yours, check out the Southeast Fair's newish website, and note that the Winter Olympics are coming up. Tonight, the new exhibit at the Sheldon Museum, "People of the Chilkat Valley," a biography series, opens from 5-7.

In other news, the girls basketball games scheduled over the weekend were postponed because weather kept the Wrangell team from flying out to Juneau and catching the ferry north.

They weren't the only ones. We had moved choir practice from the museum to the church because of Thursday's scheduled government hearing by the Bureau of Land Management on the Ring of Fire management amendment. We moved it back to the museum when the meeting was canceled.

"You know why they canceled the meeting?" one of my fellow altos whispered.

I said no, but I had been away. She laughed.

"The government workers didn't check the ferry schedule," she said.

I don't know if that's true, but it did make us all smile, as we have been having ferry issues lately. Or more accurately, state powers-that-be seem to be not so well-informed about how much we depend on reliable ferry service, especially in the winter, and are now back at cutting ferries and pushing construction of a new road.

Then, ironically, we practiced the old Andrews Sisters' "Ferryboat Serenade," which we are learning for next summer's 50 years of ferries celebration in Southeast Alaska.

"Even if I could afford a steamer," we sang, "I will take the ferryboat all the time. I love to ride the ferry (the ferry) where music is so merry (so merry...)"

Our leader, Nancy Nash said she chose that song because "we do love our ferries." It is no secret that residents of Haines and Skagway want improved ferry service over a new road up the East side of Lynn Canal -- which would still involve shorter ferry crossings and new boats and terminals. There are lots of economic and social reasons I agree with. But there is a spiritual reason, too. While I was in Florida we took a hike in the Ocala National Forest, a huge remote scrub of a place set aside as wilderness by Teddy Roosevelt back when Florida wasn't nearly as populated. We hiked about four hours into the brush, and quickly were out of modern Florida and even cell phone range.

We saw black bear tracks, deer sign, and then a white-tailed deer leaped in front of us, just like the young fawn Flag of "The Yearling." I had been humming a little, since we were really in nowhere, and an unfamiliar nowhere at that, and singing comforts me. But after we saw the deer we kept very quiet, like we do when we are hunting, hoping to see more. We did.

But that's when I heard it. The hum underneath the almost-silence. Traffic moving on a distant interstate. Highways criss-cross Florida. Even in the middle of one of the wildest places in the state we could hear a road. Shouldn't there be some places where you can't? Especially if it is not necessary? If not for us, then for our grandchildren? 

Heather Lende writes from Haines. Her most recent book is "Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.