In the last week, Haines has really opened itself up…both literally and figuratively. Last Wednesday, I woke up to a jolt from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that set the ground rumbling for a startlingly long amount of time. A quote in the local newspaper put it at 40 seconds. I’m not sure it was quite that long, but it’s hard to gauge when you’ve snapped from a REM cycle to being tossed around in your bed (I exaggerate—it wasn’t quite that powerful). The San Andreas Fault runs all the way up here, so there are pretty regular small earthquakes, but it’s somewhat rare for them to get above a magnitude of 4. Later that day, there was a sunshower and a double rainbow formed right over the boat harbor. It ended in front of the cruise ship–a great marketing shot if I’ve ever seen one.
In terms of figurative “opening up,” we’ve been busy almost every night. There have been multiple jam sessions, sporting events, open-mic nights, a letter-writing party at the library, bonfires, trips up to Chilkoot Lake (9 miles out of town), and pie-making parties. Hence the infrequent updates—because it stays light so late here, it’s pretty easy to stay out until midnight or 1 AM. And there’s a barn dance this Saturday. In spite of my confusion of left and right, and general inability to dance, I’m really excited.
Anyway, the day of the earthquake turned into a sunny, 62 degree day, plus it was cruise ship day, so the museum was packed with 179 visitors over the course of 9 hours. Hate on tourists all you want, but I rather like them. If you think of people like books, everyone has their own unique setting, plot and story, and I almost always enjoy learning what those stories are. And since the cruise ship folks are primarily older, they’ve had more chapters written—they also come from all over the place, so that keeps it interesting, too. You might also be surprised at what a display of 2,000 hammers draws out of people. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone delightfully exclaim that their dad had this or that hammer in his toolbox, and that prompts other stories about where and when they grew up, other museums they’ve seen with interesting collections, and so on.
We’ve also met a bunch of non-cruise tourist folks that have passed through, and they’re just chock-full of interesting stories. After we came back from a jet boat ride on Friday (more on that later), we had the pleasure of meeting Jason and Daisy, who are on their way from Anchorage to Argentina…by bicycle. They had left their Long Haul Truckers parked next to the giant hammer, and Jason caught me gawking at them. When he came over to ask if he should move them, we wound up chatting with them for about an hour. They were both quite gracious in allowing us to interrupt their lunch with dozens of questions. They have a year and a half of time to kill, and Daisy is also writing her dissertation in statistics as she pedals her way down the continents. What a pair. Check out their website and/or their Crazy Guy on a Bike journal.
Speaking of capturing stories–yesterday, the Haines library held a day-long workshop (free for folks from non-profits in town) about creating small documentaries. It was taught by Travis Gilmour of Indie Alaska, and I highly recommend that you check out his work. He threw around the phrase “democratization of media” a couple of times, so Emily and I are excited to try our own small project (with a Canon PowerShot and an iPhone…we’ll see) about Dave and Carol and the Hammer Museum.
Most of the people attending the workshop were a part of the Haines community, and I was once again struck by how tight-knit this town really is. People are so supportive of each other, whether they’re from here or moved here just a couple of years ago (in Eastern Canada, the term for that is “come-from-away,” and there’s a lot of folks like that here). The radio station got a special dispensation from the FCC to broadcast “Listener Personals,” which are sort of fun to listen to. I mentioned that there was an ad about a lost necklace last week—someone found the necklace. Also, someone named Dan had a package at the airport for four days, and he eventually picked it up.
Of course, on the flip side, I get the sense that everyone is in everyone else’s business in a town this small, which can be both good and bad. The police blotter in the Chilkat Valley News is hilarious because they have to write down every call they get. My personal favorite was something along the lines of, “A caller reported a missing box containing a stuffed penguin. Police responded and the box was found down the road, still containing the penguin.” Another reported a “juvenile” plugging in a device outside the library. When police responded, the juvenile could not be located. My host, Eric, is on the local EMS crew, and they got a call from someone about a cruise ship passing by with its lights off. People leave their cars open and their bicycles strewn everywhere because it would be really, really difficult to get out of town if you stole one. You’d either have to go through Canada or get on the ferry, and someone would be likely to catch you before you managed to do either.
I also can’t talk about living here without mentioning the dogs. Along with knowing each other, everyone knows everyone else’s dog. People tend to leave their dogs in their truck beds or their cars, and they park these cars outside the bars, so especially on Friday or Saturday nights and weekend mornings, I’ll see dogs roaming up and down the streets. They’re not strays; they have collars, so I suspect that they get tired of waiting and venture out on their own. No one seems too concerned, so I’m guessing that these pups usually find their way home.
Contrary to popular misconceptions about moose roaming free on the streets here, dogs are the most frequent wildlife we’ve seen. We were given free spots on a jet boat tour on Friday, and although we spent 2 hours looking for moose calves, we didn’t see a single one. The scenery was beautiful, though, and we did manage to see some trumpeter swans (they’re huge). Once the tour was over, they had scopes set up so we could see some mountain goats on a nearby mountain, so that’s something. And up at Chilkoot Lake the other day, we saw an eagle sitting in the river patiently awaiting dinner, while another one devoured its kill on the shore nearby. We’ve also seen two active eagles’ nests, and on a run the other day, I saw eagles burst out of the trees just above my head. It appeared that they were chasing a hawk. Though once the salmon start running, there will be bears aplenty along the river, and people keep promising me that if I spend enough time out of town, I’ll see a moose (I don’t know how I feel about that). Plus, there are 260 species of birds here. So despite the lack of megafauna, it hasn’t been disappointing.