Picking Spruce Tips

Jack and Ron picking Spruce tips for syrup

Today is our day off…”Off from what?” While walking our rounds in the campgrounds, Jack catches a small mouse that hops across the gravel road. I pull the mouse from Jack’s mouth, and toss it into the bush. The bush happens to surround a young spruce tree, with healthy buds hanging from the limbs. Mare and I heard about spruce tip syrup, so we decide to pick the buds before they become cones…add water and bring to a boil. The buds then steep all night. In the morning I strain, add water and sugar, and then simmer a few hours until we have spruce tip syrup. Called a cold remedy by some, on account of loads of vitamin C, jellies and brews are also made from this delight.

Jenn and Preston

Jenn and Preston

Ranger Preston and Naturalist Jenn come to the cabin with parts for the pump. Once we attach the pump-handle, Mare and I feel like we just got a new kitchen sink. No need to go into town today…we showered yesterday at the laundromat, and look forward to hanging in our delightful cabin.


Waterfalls bleed from the belly of Rainbow Glacier

Rainbow glacier hangs in the Chilkat Mountains across the Inlet from us, bleeding 1,000 ft. waterfalls from its belly. The numerous falls grow thicker each day as summer approaches. Icy water splashes on the rocks below, forming a forest delta that dumps into the Inlet. Fishermen float their boats in this area with hopes of catching King Salmon, who slow their swim to smell the stream, in search of their origin, where they will spawn and then die…of course they must also survive predators, such as bears, fishermen, or bigger fish during the fantastic journey. (Not to mention oil spills)

Speaking of fish…we live in a fishbowl, where people from all over the world walk on our deck to absorb the view. We travel without leaving our cabin. Ironic that we move from Phoenix, a city of seven million people, and find that it is here in Haines where we are never alone. In Phoenix we were alone, amongst the crowd. The only privacy here can be found in the outhouse, where we don’t spend much time.

Chocolate Lily

Chocolate Lilies and Escholtz Buttercups

Daily photo tour groups come to our cabin deck for the obvious view. Bob Adkins, renown photographer, leads groups to the reflections and frames of spectacular scenes. He graces us with an autographed copy of his book and returns later with yet another photography book for Mare to study. Another visitor, and expert “birder” knew of my birthplace, Mingo Junction, Ohio, as he tracked a rare Raven who nested there about two years ago. He explains that one must always have two hummingbird feeders, with just one you promote violence within the species. Another fellos, a Jamis, a fisherman from the Yukon, advises me to buy some “pixies” to use as lures for the upcoming Sockeye run. He also suggested we read a book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

A new technique

Mare tries one of Bob's photography tips

We plan to learn how to fish and crab, especially after talking with some of the serious fishermen who drop baskets for crab and shrimp  while hunting down Chinooks. Since we cannot afford a boat, perhaps we could get a kayak…and I could be the only fisherman on the Inlet hoping to not catch something too big. Although the thought of being pulled around for several hours by a big halibut sounds delightful, with only about 8 minutes of survival time if spilled into the cold waters, for now I’ll do my fishing at Dejon Delights. As a matter of fact, I caught a 1.5 pound fresh King Salmon filet at that shop just the other day, even watched the monger slice the chunk of meat from the side of a recently caught 20 pounder.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mare takes photos of flowers and catches blisters from a Wild Celery plant. The stalk of this plant causes severe dermatitis, but is edible if peeled. Hmm…think I may pass on that one.

Ron in headgear

Ron enjoys wearing this head gear a little too much

Okay, the next day we cut grass and weed-eat. Then we go into town for a potluck ( a friend from our previous employment calls them”macaroni massacres”) and meet the other camp hosts, as well as the bear monitor. Turns out to be an excellent meal of spicy shrimp, grilled salmon, spinach salad and my meager chips and salsa. Nice folks, these camp hosts. We let Jack out of the box, (my pick-up) and he promptly attacks the ranger’s cat. No worries, everybody is so laid back that they hardly notice me putting Jack back in the box.

After the potluck Mare and Jack and I take a hike along Battery Trail, where we get lost and enjoy views of the Lynn Canal and surrounding forest. Okay…we earn a beer at the Harbor Bar, part of the Lighthouse Restaurant. “We’re open until five o’clock in the morning,” Tim the bartender says. “And no good comes of it.”  We laugh.

A few young women get ready to leave. “Go out and enjoy the sunshine,” a fellow drinker says to them from the bar. “We will,” a gal responds. “You enjoy the fluorescent lights and cheap beer.” On that note, we decide to delight in the sunshine and head out to our cabin in paradise, where glacier calving, boulders rolling and waterfalls surging send the sound of thunder across the Inlet.