Texans in Paradise

In June 2022, an early morning sunrise on Alaganik Slough brightens the trip to our Pete Dahl cabin. Dick Shellhorn photo

The temperature in Austin was 104 degrees when our daughter, Heidi, and grandkids, Huck and Liesl, arrived in Cordova in mid-June.

Needless to say, the Texans were delighted to be greeted by 60-degree weather. In fact, many of the activities during the two-week visit centered on “chilling” out.

Liesl, Heidi and Huck, left to right, enjoy the view from midway after sledding beyond the top of the ski area in June 2022. Dick Shellhorn photo

One day we strapped a plastic sled on a pack frame and hiked up Mt. Eyak to find snow. Right beyond the top of the ski hill, we found ample white stuff that made for exciting moments, especially when we discovered bear tracks at the end of one of the runs.

A trip to Sheridan Glacier is always part of the agenda, and the dynamic Longhorns packed back chunks of clear ice to cool our drinks at the Sheridan Mountain Trail campground.

Foggy conditions on the Crater Lake trail forced us to stop at the midway lookout, but diving into the nippy waters of Eyak Lake from the raft at the Skater’s Cabin made it all worthwhile. With chattering teeth, both grandkids admitted it was a bit cooler than the water in their small backyard pool in Austin.

A river boat trip to our duck cabin at Pete Dahl is a tradition, and this year we were forced to travel at 3 a.m. due to high tides. While bundled up for the chilly dawn, we were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise over the mountains to the east.

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The gang played like otters in the mud and swam in the slough in front of the cabin, and they shivered in delight when doused off with refreshing Copper River water. They also helped Grandpa put in channel markers to help navigate the ever-changing Pete Dahl byway, which is silting in more each year.

While there, Huck noticed a pair of roof-jacks I had made for working on the peak of our cabin. He said they were perfect for the popular game “corn hole,” which they had discovered near The Whale’s Tale at Orca Adventure Lodge. Grandma made bean bags out of old socks filled with sand and lead decoy weights to toss, and we were in business.

Back in town, when it inevitably clouded over, we stopped at LFS Marine Supplies to fit the pair with brightly-hued hoodies with seine boat logos. We later discovered that an otter in the harbor was enchanted with their apparel, which they can’t wait to show off at their school playgrounds when temperatures finally drop in the fall.

In June 2022, a sea otter seems fascinated with Huck and Liesl, left to right, in bright LFS hoodies and obligatory XTRA-tuf boots. Dick Shellhorn photo

Huck, who is a budding engineer with Lego’s, was thrilled to have a chance to chat with crewmen aboard the F/V Northwestern, of Deadliest Catch fame, as they were fueling up at the Shoreside dock while here to tender on Prince William Sound. He was fascinated with all the deck work and their friendly banter, and he is excited to tune into that show this winter.

Every visit has its particular highlight as seen through the eyes of youth, and Liesl, who is seven, won this year’s prize.

We had gone down to see the second Norwegian cruise ship arrive and were bemused by how far the vessel anchored up Orca Inlet and then ferried passengers in small boats.

We waved and took pictures of them as they stopped by the fish cleaning station at Fleming Spit, which is a magnet for bald eagles feasting on salmon remains.

They seemed a merry lot, all clad in reddish jackets with yellow collars. Liesl, who is quite the social bee in her first-grade class, wondered if they spoke English and how they would be received.

Later, driving on Main Street, we noted a couple walking together, one in the requisite colorful jacket, the other in a black hooded windbreaker.

From the back seat of the car, Liesl brightly observed, “Look! That Norwegian has already made a friend!”

Alas, the troops are now back in Texas where it is still more than 100 degrees.

They shall return. For much to our delight, both grandkids claim to be half-Alaskan, and they are already dreaming of coming back to cool off next summer.