SUMMER ADVENTURES: Alaska and the Gustavus Inn

Our friends, Ron and Pat, invited Dean and me to accompany them on a trip to Alaska and Canada in their private jet. How could we possibly pass up such an opportunity?

The Eclipse jet attracted a lot of attention. Most of the staff at the airports had never seen one.

The day after we returned from California, Ron called to say the weather looked good and that if we could find rooms in Sitka, he favored flying up a day earlier than we had planned. We just had time to do the laundry and repack.

It took two tries to land the plane in Sitka, due to an unexpected rainstorm. Dean had managed to find two rooms at a hotel that billed itself as “the oldest hotel in Sitka,” but it had heat and hot water, so it was adequate. We arrived late and asked the desk clerk about food; the only place still open within walking distance was a Subway. We took a wrong turn and asked a passerby, “How do we get to the Subway?” He looked puzzled, but after a long pause, he said, “Oh, you mean the restaurant!” We got there just before they closed; they had already stacked most of the chairs on the tables—we got a chuckle from the signs on the bottom of the chairs:

“Do Not Put Chairs on Table at Any Time.”

The next stop was Gustavus, where we spent one night at a lovely old farmhouse Inn. The manager picked us up at the airport and prepared a mid-afternoon lunch for us of carrot-ginger soup, spinach salad, rosemary focaccia bread, cheese, butter, and oatmeal cookies. (Note to myself: the soup could be made with pumpkin instead of carrots for a lower-carb version.) There was a chalkboard in the dining room that listed the featured items that were from the garden, fresh caught, or wild. The wild harvest included beach asparagus, kelp pickles, wild strawberries, and spruce tip syrup.

Me in front of the Gustavus Inn.

The Inn viewed over a field of fireweed.

The Inn provided family style meals for guests and had a sign out by the road with a movable arrow to let the local folks know what was on the menu in case they wanted to join us. The sign listed salmon, crab, halibut, and sable fish. The arrow pointed to salmon.

For dinner, we passed platters of blackened salmon and bowls of steamed vegetables, garlic potatoes, and mixed green salad. The waiter brought baskets of fresh, hot rolls with butter and a relish dish with rhubarb and raspberry jam and kelp pickles. Dessert was a choice of apple crumb or frozen grasshopper pie, with mint tea and coffee. (Don’t ask.)

I had poached eggs and bacon rather than pancakes or cereal for breakfast, but couldn’t resist a sample of the spruce-tip syrup and a taste of the stewed rhubarb, which grew in abundance in the huge garden filled with flowers and vegetables visible from the windows. After breakfast we were off to meet Captain Mike Nigro for a chartered tour of Glacier Bay on the Kahsteen.

Next: A chartered cruise, otters, whales, calving glaciers, and a natural cook.

(C) 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

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