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Hello From Sweden Little Dog

Dear Aki, 

           Your other human and I send you greeting from Stockholm, Sweden. Hope you are enjoying your stay with Cedar and her humans. We’ll be home in a couple of days. I tried to send you some letters earlier but ran into insurmountable technical difficulties. 

        Before we left we told you that this was a trip for renewing friendships in Sweden and Norway. Food was another incentive. I had long been craving pickled herring on hardtack and filmilk over cornflakes. 

        We stopped first in Uppsala, where the weather was hot but we still manage to visit Linneas’ garden where butterflies clung to flowers that swayed in a cooling wind. We also rode bikes out to the royal burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala. 

        Afterwards we visited an open air farming museum where every building had been painted rust red. It’s the unofficial national color of Sweden, more unifying than the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag.

       While drinking coffee with a 92-year-old friend, we learned the red paint tradition started long ago in Darlana, when people learned that painting their building with iron oxide from the Falun copper mine preserved them. Today many houses and most barns in Sweden are red with white trim.    

        Later in the trip we moved to Avesta where an old friend and I rode bikes along the Dalälven (river) and out to a crossroads church that had thick walls and old window glass that distorted the images of surrounding birch trees. We passed sheep and horses, which you would have tried to herd. It’s a good thing you stayed home. 

      After Avesta we flew to the Lofoton Islands of northern Norway to spend time with other long-time friends. They are nice and like dogs. You would have been popular in their home until the two moose calves stopped by to sample plants in their garden. 

        Each morning I borrowed a bicycle and rode along bays, disturbing herons when my brakes squeaked. This was fishing and farming country with farm houses and fishing huts painted as red as a Swedish barn and bare wooded pole racks where folks dry salted sides of arctic cod.  

      It rained during most of our visit to Lofoton but the clouds rarely blocked our views of the island mountains, many shaped like battered witches hats. I first saw the mountains over thirty years ago from the deck of a coastal mail boat. We had spent most of that trip from Narvik in a tiny parlor where the only chairs formed a circle around a coffin containing a body being brought home for burial. Cod fishing and salmon farming drove the economy then. Now, like Juneau, it’s becoming an international tourist destination.  

            Well, little dog, it’s late and we have an early flight to catch in the morning. We will pass part of the travel time telling Aki stories. It’s a thing people do when they are missing their dog. 

See You Soon 


Letter From Uppsala

Dear Aki,

It’s a good thing that you didn’t travel with us to Sweden. You hate airplanes and it would take you days to recover from the jet lag. Yesterday your other human and I rode bikes from Uppsala to Gamla Uppsala. You hate bicycles. We visited an open air museum with a bunch of beautiful old farm buildings, which you probably would have found boring. They had pigs, which you dislike and chickens, which you would have tried to herd, which would have gotten us all in trouble.

Don’t steal kibble from Cedar’ bowl.

Your human

Leaving Tenakee

In an hour or so the MV LeConte will stop at Tenakee Springs. A line of all terrain vehicles, most driven by people with gray hair, will form at the dock. As soon as the ferry lowers its boarding ramp, the ATV drivers will motor onto the ferry’s car deck and start loading boxes onto the luggage cart. Passengers who rode the LeConte from Juneau will struggle to carry their belongings up the ramp against the flow of in bound traffic. The LeConte crew won’t try to bring order to the chaos. One or two will stand by the stairs and elevator. No one will be allowed past them until purchasing a ticket for the ride to Juneau.

I’ll wheel my ice chest down the boarding ramp after the initial rush. It will be heavy with frozen silver salmon that my friend and I caught during the stay. It will take eight hours for the ferry to return to Juneau after first stopping in the village of Hoonah. That will give me plenty of time to reflect and read.

Disneyland, But Without the Crowds

A friend and I are enjoying another morning cruising Tenakee Inlet. Rich, almost Mediterranean light ramps up the beauty level of simple things. A spit covered with living and dead spruce trees looks like the work of a Tuscan master. Silver salmon in transit from the Pacific Ocean to their spawning streams swim though schools of herring, making the smaller fish leap into the air. Gulls swim over the herring schools and try to pluck the flying fish from the air.

We temporarily leave Tenakee Inlet for Fresh Water Bay, rounding a point guarded by two bald eagles.

A brace of swans is swimming along the edge of Pavlov Bay when we enter it. Passengers from a high end cruise ship in a bright orange kayak flush the swans to flight. The birds fly over our boat and then circle the bay, apparently looking for a place to land away from tourists and us. My friend slowly drives his boat out of Pavlov and heads back to Tenakee Inlet, where the other night we saw whales.


This morning Aki watched me board the MV LeConte for Tenakee Hot Springs. I thought about taking her but she would have howled during the entire voyage. It was hot and sunny as so many of our mornings have been this summer. Many of the other passengers were Tlingits returning home to Angoon. This was the first ferry to reach their village since the ferry strike ended. Many of the villagers were loaded down with things purchased in Juneau. Two large panel trucks full of inventory for the village store were parked on the LeConte’s car deck.

They had placed more boxes full of food, supplies and toilet paper on the luggage cart that is driven off and on the LeConte at each stop. Toward the end of the strike the Tenakee was out of beer and toilet paper as well as other staples. Angoon was probably in the same boat.

Bear Fortress

Aki is in Sitka. She and I flew here from Juneau yesterday. It was over 80 degrees when we left Juneau and 65 here. The little dog had two firsts today—tasting salmon berries and sniffing brown bear poop. On her home trails in Juneau, she has intimidated black bears. That won’t fly with these Sitka brown bears. Rather than standing tall and yelling, which works with black bears, the only way to survive a brown bear attack is to play dead.

Before the hike, I visited the Fortress of the Bears. Aki stayed in the car. The fortress founder has filled the scoured out mixing tanks of a defunct pulp mill with orphaned black and brown bears. Except for a clownish black bear, the critters in the fortress have retained their natural dignity. From a safe view point above the tanks, you can watch the bears feed and wrestle with driftwood logs. Ravens and eagles skulk in the trees that line the tank enclosures. I enjoy the views but was thankful not to share them with the little poodle-mix.

Kettle Valley Trail

It’s 31 degrees centigrade. I am riding a mountain bike up the Kettle Valley Trail. But for a washout I would have missed seeing a family of geese tucked against the opposite shore of the river. There are fluffy chicks hanging closely to their mom.