I was very excited to get to Craig, not just to see Josh and Shelby, but to see my niece, Greta, again. I ran into the living room with a huge smile and walked right up to her as friendly as could be. She took one look at me and totally freaked out, crying and turning around in her mother's arms to try and get away from me. I was heartbroken. Fortunately this proved to just be a phase, and within a few hours we were good friends again. Unfortunately she had recently gotten sick, as everyone would during the week and half I was in Craig. Josh and Shelby keep a busy schedule, and I diligently rose at 6am each morning to accompany Josh to school and get some work done myself. Shelby teaches half time in the mornings, and then spends the rest of the day with Greta, a full time job and then some.
For most of my visit, Greta was pretty miserable from being sick. She was restless, breathing loudly through her nose, and complaining frequently. My final day in Craig, however, she started feeling well again and was a totally different person. She entertained herself on the floor, nearly able to crawl, and would happily be held without complaining. I even got a chance to feed her, though more of the food ended up on the two of us and everything in between rather than being swallowed.
On my way south from Haines, I visited in Juneau with my good friends Keri and Ajax for a few days. We took in a local opera, played around on the wintery streets on bicycles, and generally just enjoyed ourselves. I then caught the fast ferry to Sitka, the trip taking an impressive 4.5 hours, a very fast, beautiful ride.
In Sitka I stayed with my friend Bill on his sailboat, the Remedy. My first memories of Sitka are from visiting it as a kid to attend the Sitka Fine Arts Camp on the Sheldon Jackson campus many years ago. More recently I also spent a couple months there winter commercial fishing for King Salmon. It was nice to see the town again, and to hang out with Bill who's hard at work building a new clinic for his physical therapy department at the hospital.
I arrived in Haines shortly before Christmas, spending the holidays with my parents at their farm 37-miles out the highway. After 7 years of living in South Florida, any snow seems like a lot of snow, but this really was a lot of snow. They've had over 20 feet fall out of the sky already this winter, and with many winter months still to come it looks like it's going to be a dramatically record breaking year. Through Christmas until New Years involved hours every day of moving the white stuff with my dad, making paths to the animals and clearing buildings so they wouldn't collapse under the ever growing weight. Perhaps the extra exercise sufficiently counteracted the extra eating I was doing thanks to being spoiled with mom's home cooking -- all my favorite dishes, many multiple times (including potato salad four times, my personal favorite).
I'd lived at 37-mile alone for three years about a decade ago, so it was familiar country. I got out snowshoeing as much as possible with friends, visiting with wonderful neighbors, and simply taking in the impressive beauty of the area.