Berry Bonanza and full time whaling

The candle is officially lit at both ends.  I’m back to working full time as a whale watch captain.  I took over for a friend who is going to grad school.  I wish her luck, despite her selection of Ole Piss.  I mean Ole Miss.

My days off from boat driving are Wednesday and Thursday.  With scouts on Wednesday evening, I won’t have any chance for overnight trips elsewhere till the end of the season in late September.

Roy emailed and said the cherry trees in Haines were overflowing like never before.   They’d picked what they wanted, and I was welcome to the rest, and would be good if I came sooner than later so he didn’t have to keep telling others no.  I got tickets for the small plane to Haines for Thursday.

Roy’s brother Ron was finishing his trip here and headed to see his granddaughters in Fairbanks Thursday morning.   I drove him to the airport, parked the car, and went to my terminal.  It’s a pure delight flying the small air carriers.  No TSA.  No luggage screening.  No nothing.  Just say hello, leave your luggage, and we’ll call you when we’re ready.  On this trip, I even knew the pilot.

The flight from Juneau to Haines on a calm clear day is spectacular.  Mountains come right down to the water on both sides of Lynn Canal, with many glaciers, small lakes at the end of the glaciers, and then waterfalls that tumble for hundreds of feet down to the ocean.

About a half hour later, I arrive in Haines, where Roy picks me up.  We have coffee.  Brenda leaves for work when I take Roy to the airport to start his week of forestry work down near Wrangell.  Then it’s just me and the cherry trees.

I brought four 5-gallon buckets and a berry rake with me.  The most cherries I’d ever picked was 10 gallons with Andrew, but I wanted to be ready just in case.   When I had over 5 gallons by noon, I knew a record was in the making.  Brenda came home at lunch time, and we went downtown to eat after she pitted a small pail of cherries and loaded her dehydrator.

We returned an hour later and I continued picking.  By 4 pm I had picked another 5 gallons.  By now, I had picked all the low hanging fruit I could reach from the ground, and was now using a step ladder to get the higher cherries.  At 630, I had four more gallons, and it was getting difficult to reach some of the higher berries so I called it a day.  At the airport, the cherries weighed out to 100 pounds.  On the trip home, I sat in the same seat as I rode up on, so saw the other side of Lynn Canal, and it was just as spectacular.

Sara was glad to see all the cherries.  Jeanne’s sister Deanna and her husband Albert were here with Ron fishing last week, and the two of them went to the cabin with me to pick berries.  We picked blueberries and blue huckleberries and a few red huckleberries.  We got  about 7 gallons.  I was surprised when they didn’t want any to take any berries with them, so we got them all.  I’ll send them some jam from the recipe I used with Eaton.  Sara spent the next day cleaning the berries, and we vac packed them in twenty seven four cup packages.  We’ll pack the cherries whole in similar packaging and remove the pits when we use them.

The summer here has been hot and dry.  It’s been in the 70’s and 80’s here.  The interior of Alaska has seen lots of rain and flooding.  Just the opposite of what the climate is supposed to be.   The berries seem to like it.  But the salmon won’t if there’s not enough water in their streams here to spawn.

This is my 8th season driving a whale watch boat.  A couple of the humpback whales have been returning since I started, and one has a calf this year.  Three other whales have calves as well.  It’s the most any can remember.  Whales can be identified by their unique tail shape and markings.  Some tails are all black on the underside.  Some virtually all white, and some have varying degrees of white and black.  The first seven years I worked one, or at most, two days a week.  Working full-time is a real job.  Eight to 11+ hours a day, including prepping the boat before the first tour and fueling and washing the boat after the last tour.  The days fly by.  Most tours are different depending on whale location, water conditions, and the tide.  At low tide we can see critters like harbor seals that haul out.   Sometimes I switch routes if patches of the water have rough seas.  If killer whales come through the area, we my be able to reach them in the two hour and fifteen minute tour once or twice but by the third trip they are too far away.  Life and the seas are always changing out the boat cabin window.

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