Alaska Days – A Hike

On this trip’s best Alaska day we took a hike – with lucky fine weather and great companions – two boys, nine and four, and their mom. We walked the little gravel track through Powerline Pass in Chugach State Park above Anchorage – a broad valley with a creek and many possible hikes – one of my favorite places in the world.

Lady Baby toddled a good way (considering the length of her stride), then, shaded by a blue umbrella, rode in a pack on her dad’s shoulders, carrying her pink “bey bey,” and keeping her eyes fixed on the antics of the two boys and Lady Cora. They ranged ahead of us, came back. And tore off again. (Four-year olds are not good at conserving energy and it dissipates early on, sometimes meaning a heavy armful for mom!)

Sitting on a heathery flank of the mountain, fragrant and warm in the sun, we ate a lunch of apples and egg salad sandwiches. No bugs – Alaska bliss. Her steps unsteady but determined on the springy ground cover, Lady Baby offered around a bag of chips. The boys repeatedly climbed above us, ran or rolled down, and tossed balls to Lady Cora.

Exactly 20 years ago, on most Wednesdays from late May to September, I walked in Powerline Pass. I wanted to make a record of the passing season and noted the retreat of snow, bloom dates, bearberry’s turn to red, and the first snowfall – and I filled pages with drawings of wildflowers. Those were great days.

But this day was even better.

monkshood, coastal fleabane


Alaska Days – A House

Alaska was beautiful this July – sunny, warm days with rain often in the night – green and clean and not plagued with forest fires, the mosquito torment from earlier in the spring subsided.

Every day Lady Baby and I set out for one playground or another. Sometimes I pulled her in an updated Radio Flyer wagon (plastic with seatbacks and seatbelts – but still trademark red). Fearless on slides and climbing structures, she runs along ramps and wants to try and walk the balance beams – so far from her first steps in February!

She’s 18 months old now, and calls her important people by name, mama and da (when she says these, she savors the sound). To my delight, I’m Kay-tee.

We name objects and critters – woof, meow, cat – switching back and forth from animal sound to animal name. Most anything we say she echoes in some form, the exciting bulldozers and yellow machines in the next-door neighbor’s back yard are “sheens.”

And companionable “yeahs” – drawn out into two expressive syllables – “eyeah.” Pushing her in the stroller one day, I told her about something that had happened, ending with “…but he gave it a good shot,” and she said “yeah” with so much compassion. Walking home near dinner time, Mrs. Hughes asked her if she knew who would be home when we got there, and the answer: “Yeah, Da!”

One evening I saw playhouse possibilities in the cardboard shipping box from a newly arrived chair. I cut little windows, used the box’s side fold to make a swinging door (easy to close), and with poster paint sticks (perfect for decorating cardboard, thick and colorful) drew on window frames and a window box with flowers. Mr. Carson suggested an “upstairs,” and we cut a hole in the roof making a dormer (with an opening window), so the homeowner could stand and look out. As a finishing touch Mrs. Hughes folded a piece of cardboard to mimic a peaked roof – like Downtown Abbey’s.

We went to bed, proud of ourselves but secretly thinking our construction might be one of those things that amuse adults, without pleasing the target audience so much. But next morning Lady Baby quickly accepted the house as a place for her to retreat with stuffed woofs, sit on a cozy blanket, and close the door.

Or peek out and greet passers by with her enthusiastic “hi” or “bye!”


The Grand Bazaar

We visited the Grand Bazaar twice. One late afternoon we made a “scoping,” toe-wetting, exploratory, exciting foray to “get a feel.” It’s bigger and more fascinating than I even imagined – more than 4000 shops offering everything from tourist trinkets to antiques – textiles, silver and gold jewelry, ceramics, silken ware, light fixtures, prints, books, and much, much more – all along street-like arteries and byways, under a high curved ceiling of tile or patterned paint.

Persistent shopkeepers assail would-be customers with jokes in English (and probably jokes on us in Turkish), “Do you feel like seeing some of my rugs. I could feel like showing you some of my rugs!”

At one point the trail boss said yes (his spirit of adventure to bargain strengthened by the sweet bride who has been bartering all her life at home in Thailand), and we climbed tiny stairs inside a shop to a low-ceilinged space. Of course the salesman was charming, calling my good-natured husband “uncle,” offering us tea and chairs, and explaining the quality of his carpets by showing the double knotting and describing the natural dyes.

So, so beautiful. I am no good at bargaining anyway – and speechless in front of these glorious rugs. (I love the worn and bedraggled rugs we have, many tufts gone from the one in my studio – the pattern fragmented – but still a constant, daily pleasure.) So I tried to stay quiet and drink my apple tea, only reminding the trail boss quietly that he had a birthday to celebrate coming up.

The salesman quickly figured out the styles and colors most tempting to the young people (who kept saying “so beautiful, but more than we can afford”), and instructed his assistant to bring carpet after carpet to unroll and spread out, till we were surrounded by carpets on the walls and in layers on the floor.

Then one after another he’d ask, “This one you like?” An irresistible question, our minds want to make that decision. Soon just a few remained spread out on the hardwood floor – not large rugs, but alive with peachy warm tones and blue and red in geometric designs, both mysterious and utterly satisfying.

But no agreement on price. “Thank you for tea, the rugs are beautiful, but more than we can afford.” Much regret all around.

On our second, more deliberate day, the trail boss having figured out how to decode the maze of shop addresses, we returned with a list of shops in hand (I wanted linens for a wedding shower present for the daughter of my clever friend and found large Turkish towels in muted stripes with tasseled ends, and also rose kilim pillow covers for the young writer’s reading couch). And, we went back to the carpet store.

The trail boss is by trade a good negotiator, but admitting defeat in the face of desire, he named a price, heard the counter offer, the sweet bride suggested a third number – and suddenly, deal done, the rug was wrapped tightly in a whir of strapping tape and paper into a carry-on duffle for the airplane.

A grand day at the Grand Bazaar and a rug for a lifetime and beyond.

The Grand Bazaar

On the Bosphorus

Touts repetitively beseech you with “Bosphorus, Bosphorus, boat boat boat ride!” when you walk down Istanbul’s broad sidewalk waterfront. They are right. The boat’s the best.

We live on the Strait of Juan de Fuca across from Canada, and it is wider and has much less vessel traffic than the Bosphorus strait. There we watched all kinds of ferries, fishing boats, cruise ships, and tankers perpetually jostling for clearance. Mosques, hotels, summer homes, palaces, bridge access, and recreational beaches line the shores of the Bosphorus, both the European and Asian sides are completely developed.

We caught the 10:30 a.m. excursion ferry, and sat by the window for the hour and a half it takes to arrive at Eminönü on the Asian side, a fishing village become tourist destination. From the water we could see our goal – Adadolu Kavagi Kalesi – a ruin with a strategic position and a breathtaking view.

People piled off the ferry and dispersed. Like us, many began the steep hike up a street to the medieval castle. Rain caught us half way up, forcing a lunch stop with a view back toward the skyscrapers of Istanbul.

At the top a guard let us through the castle gate, and we leaned against a sturdy wall (only fragments remain from the original eight towers), thrilled to view the Black Sea and two continents!

Back in Eminönü, we caught a local bus full of shoppers juggling their baskets on wheels and rode past military installations, farmer’s markets, and small villages. In Kanlica, another steep climb led us to an elaborate residence, Hidiv Kasri, its impressive gardens now open to the public (and popular for wedding photos).

Back down the hill to the ferry stop, and across the strait to our beginning dock – just at sunset.

Bosphorus, Bosphorus! Yes!

Bosphorus Day