Alaska is all uphill from here.

Haines, Alaska, is famous for the winter gathering of bald eagles that come to feast on salmon in the Chilkat River.

I saw more bald eagles than Subarus and there are many Subarus in Haines. I love watching the eagles watch. I love watching people watch the eagles watch.

Haines is a site for soar eyes. Everyone had eagle eyes. The Haines Highway parallels the Chilkat River, a portion of which has been set aside as a bald eagle preserve.

A man told me that when he dies, he'd like to be chopped up and tossed out with the salmon in the Chilkat River. "That way you would feed the bald eagles," I say.

He said that way his friends could gather, wave and say, "Goodbye, old chum."

The salmon spawning run into the Chilkat River in this order - sockeye (red), king (chinook), pink (humpy), chum (dog) and coho (silver). There is overlapping, but the sockeye has the longest run. The preference of the palate varies, but sockeye and king are the favorites that people eat with coho next, followed by pink and chum. A simple way to remember them is that your thumb rhymes with chum. Your forefinger is something you might use to poke someone in the eye, sockeye. Your middle is your largest finger. The king is the largest salmon. Your ring finger might carry a silver ring, silver salmon. And your little or pinkie finger reminds you of the pink salmon.

Why do they call it a salmon run when the salmon can't run? When do the smoked salmon run? I don't know.

On an area called the Council Grounds, a confluence of three rivers (Klehini, Tsirku and Chilkat) creates an alluvial fan. Upwelling water keeps the water ice-free. This allows chum salmon to spawn late into the season. Chums spend two to four years in salt water before coming back to fresh water to spawn. They provide the primary food for the eagles. Human harvest of salmon is managed with subsistence fishing allowed.

It's a place where the magic happens and not only brings amazement, but drags understanding with it.

I ate fish along with the eagles. I ingested eulachon (candlefish), known locally as "hooligan." The small-smelt like fish are rich in oil and are rendered for that oil. This oil was such a valuable trade commodity that the original trails from Haines into the interior were known as "grease trails."

Magpies labored over the river, pulling their long tails in flight, looking like Holstein pheasants.

The American dipper, with its white eyelids and rotund gray body, dipped as it hunted the cold, moving water. Its dipping actions might help the bird see, confuse predators or is a method of communication in an environment where communication is difficult.

A woman asked a question about the eagles. I answered her before asking one in return.

"Are you a birder?" I asked.

She smiled and replied, "No, but I'm about to become one."

Haines typically gets the first snowfall at Halloween and the first heavy snow at Thanksgiving. This Halloween, a brown bear went trick-or-treating in Haines. It broke into sheds and damaged vehicles. A homeowner fired bottle rockets at it. To a bear, there are two things in the world, bears and food for bears.

When God made Alaska, he was showing off. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65 percent of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as national forests, parks and wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 23.8 percent of the state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The State of Alaska owns 24.5 percent and just under 10 percent is managed by native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Private interests own less than 1 percent.

A sobersided gentleman told me that he lived in the bush, far from any store. He said he didn't go shopping until he'd run out of many things.

Gas is expensive and there isn't much fast driving. A Haines friend, Dave Olerud, has owned a van for 23 years. During that time, he has put 68,000 miles on the vehicle.

Michael Marks of Haines drove me to the ferry terminal. One of the other passengers asked Michael how much it cost to put a car on the ferry.

"I don't know," answered Michael. "If I knew how much such things cost, I'd never leave Alaska."

Echoes From Loafers' Club in Seattle

"Does it ever stop raining here?"

"It does."

"When is that?"

"When it starts snowing."

I've learned

Hotdish is made for people who like it when foods touch.

Before climbing a ladder, I should make sure it's leaning against the right wall.

I should live each day as if I want it to last.

Oh, me-o, my-o, I was in Ohio

I was engaged in a book signing in Ohio. I went for a walk beforehand. It was windy and the rain was falling at a good clip. I had rocks in my pockets and holes in my shoes. Folklore says if you find a rock with a white line or band completely around it, you'd have good luck and a wish granted. I found one. I gave it to another who needed some good luck.


If you could have eight days a week, which day would you want to have twice?

Is "recycle bin" a collective noun?

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Office Max

I needed ink for my copier. It drinks ink like it's coffee in a church basement. I was in Owatonna, so I stopped at the Office Max there. It's soon to become an Office Depot store. I visited with a helpful employee named Adam. He fixed me up with what I needed. Adam told me that his wife's name is Eve. Fittingly, this Adam and Eve were married in Galesville, Wis., an appropriate location because once upon a time, after reading the Bible 25 times, the Rev. Van Slyke came to the conclusion that Trempealeau County was the home of the Garden of Eden.

Traveling tales

Mark Twain encouraged me by writing, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

My wife loves to travel with me. That way, when she uses an airport restroom, there is someone to watch her bags.

After some shambolic travel, I was happy to return home. I love traveling and I love coming home. I'm Minnesota grown. I have a severe case of Gopheritis. Whenever people complain about the state's weather, taxes, roads or politics, I tell them TIM. Not TMI, which stands for "Too Much Information." It's TIM, which means "This Is Minnesota."

From the family files

One in the family is working weekends and after school. He wants to buy a car. He has a driving ambition.

My father loved creamed asparagus on toast. I didn't much care for it. I ate it reluctantly. Then one day, I munched on it and I liked it. It was the dawning of the age of asparagus.

Did you know?

Research conducted at the University of Sussex showed that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or coffee and taking a walk.

There are 1,790 townships, 853 cities and 87 counties in Minnesota. Iowa has 1,661 townships, 947 cities and 99 counties.

Thanks for stopping by

"I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." - Charles Lindbergh

Mahatma Gandhi hung this on his wall, "When you are in the right, you can afford to keep your temper. When you are in the wrong, you can't afford to lose it."

Meeting adjourned

Two wrongs don't make it even. Be kind.


© Al Batt 2013