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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SUMMER ADVENTURES: Our First Close Encounter with a Bear and Very Expensive Pizza

After returning to the airport in Gustavus, we flew to King Salmon, the last stop before Brooks Camp. It was another beautiful flight, executed flawlessly by Ron, our pilot. There was one complication after we landed, however. We were greeted by a bear on the runway. We quickly retreated back to the plane and closed the door to wait for our transportation to the hotel. Ron radioed in a report about the bear while it roamed around, in and out of the brush-filled ditch by the runway, and around and behind our plane and another one next to it. Before long a car showed up that followed the bear around for a while. It didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave the area, so eventually someone opened the gate so it could get out if it chose to do so, and the car left. Our ride showed up while the bear was out of sight and we went on our way.

There was one more glitch; when checking the map while we were in Gustavus, Ron realized that the hotel where we had reservations was 200 miles away from the airport. The main hotel in King Salmon had burned down, but we managed to find two rooms in the “old” part of the one remaining. It was a bit short on amenities, but again, we had electricity and hot water, and the manager even let us use the hotel’s laundry to wash our clothes. The next order of business was to find dinner. We asked the manager where we could go to eat. She gestured to indicate that we could go one direction to one place, or we could go the other way to a very good pizza place. We decided to try the pizza place and called a taxi. We neglected to ask how far in that direction we had to go. After about 20 minutes the taxi arrived and we headed off.

The car had multiple cracks in the windshield (due to gravel roads and no repair facilities?), and the window on my side seemed to be held in with duct tape. The driver was recounting his life story as he drove, including how the Veteran’s Administration regularly sent a plane to take him to the hospital for his mental evaluations. He talked and he drove, and drove, and drove—and drove. Finally we came to a building where he stopped and said that the restaurant was upstairs. The bill for the ride was $76.00, one way, not including the tip. We went upstairs and through a bar to a beer-bottles-on-the-table sort of place. Ron and Pat ordered a pizza. It cost $30.00, but it did indeed look delicious. I had a chicken Caesar salad and Dean had a steak. By the time we got back to the hotel, our trip had set us back about $300.

Next: Brooks Camp

© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

SUMMER ADVENTURES: Glacier Bay and the Kahsteen

We left the Gustavus Inn to join Captain Mike Nigro on the Kahsteen, his 42-foot charter boat, for a two-day excursion in the Glacier Bay Wildlife Preserve.

Captain Mike named the Kahsteen after a Tlingit woman who sacrificed herself to save her clan after a young girl foolishly called down the glacier. Someone had to stay behind when the glacier came looking for the person who called it. They believed that Kahsteen continued to live under the glacier and that the sparkles in the water from the falling ice were her children.

Captain Mike, a former Park Service ranger and commercial fisherman, has operated boats here for over 30 years and he knows his territory. He took us to a place where the sea lions hauled out on the rocks and one where the water was dotted with otters. We visited a bay where we saw humpback whales spouting and flashing their tails. We saw bears, and eagles, and a lone wolf on the shore. We anchored in secluded coves where we watched huge chunks of ice break off the creaking and groaning glaciers and splash into the sea with a great boom that the native Tlingit called white thunder.

The whole structure above the dark area on the glacier, which Captain Mike estimated to be the size of a 10-story building, came crashing down as we watched.
Most of the time we were completely alone, as the bigger boats and cruise ships couldn’t come into these places. I had the feeling that we were seeing everything just as it looked to the first inhabitants and to the early navigators who explored here.

On shore, Pat found a sample of the kind of kelp used for pickles at the Gustavus Inn. The long tube is sliced crosswise and cooked with sugar to make very crisp, sweet pickles.
Captain Mike’s daughter, Megan, a natural beauty as well as a natural cook, kept us well-fed and happy on our cruise.
The cozy cabin was warmed by the cooking stove and filled with the enticing aromas of chopped herbs and garlic, hot bread, and fresh coffee. Everything was made from scratch and she didn’t seem to use recipes, except perhaps for the chocolate chip cookies that were served hot from the oven as a mid-afternoon snack. She had the timing and organization of a master chef, chopping, baking, and cooking in the small space with five other people underfoot. There was bacon for breakfast, but the focus of the other meals was seafood: salmon chowder, fish tacos with fresh salsa, and cioppino with olive bread for lunch; our three-course dinners featured grilled salmon and steamed crabs and included wine and dessert: cheesecake the first night and rhubarb crisp with ice cream the second. (I asked her where she learned to cook—she said, “here and there.” Her stepmother, who drove us back to the airport, said Megan had always been an intuitive cook; that she could tell when spaghetti was al dente just by looking at it when she was 11 years old—she attributed the talent to Mike’s Italian roots.)
More pictures of Glacier Bay, Mike, and Megan are available on the Kahsteen Website here: and on the National Park Service site here:
Next: Our first of many close encounters with a bear and very expensive pizza.
(C) 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

Friday, July 25, 2008

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SUMMER ADVENTURES: Southern California and Dr. St. Amand

I’ve been traveling for the past three weeks. I will blog my way through my notes about the interesting things I encountered, food-related and otherwise. The first leg of our travels took us to Southern California for a family trip touring the theme parks and tourist attractions with my daughter, Glenda, and her family. My son, Nathan, who lives in L.A., took the week off to join us.

This picture is of my two kids and my three grandchildren at Legoland. Left to right: Glenda, Dee Dee, Nathan, Brandon, and Aidan.

I can report a slight improvement in park food in the last few years, although most of it is still a lot like the fried Twinkies and funnel cakes found at county fairs, which seem to be trying to outdo each other to create the most deadly concoctions. (The latest fair horror story I’ve heard described a hamburger on a split Crispy Crème donut, dipped in batter and deep-fried.) Most of the parks now have fresh fruit available if you are willing to search it out. The new Legoland in Carlsbad, 30 miles north of San Diego, was better than the rest, understandably, since they are specifically trying to attract the 3 to 11 age group. I didn’t always agree with what they considered healthful, but at least they are trying. An example of a misguided effort: apple fries. They used apples instead of potatoes, then rolled them in cinnamon and sugar and topped them with white fluff extruded from a machine. It’s fruit, so it must good for you, right? At Sea World, the children’s “healthy” plate was pasta with meatless tomato sauce, carrots and raisins.

The picture above shows a sign at Universal Studios advertising an “All You Can Eat Pass” that covered your snacks in the park. From my angle, it looked like it said, “Fat Pass,” which would have been quite appropriate.

I managed to be good through most of the trip by starting with a big omelet for breakfast to keep me from getting hungry and having a salad topped with cheese and steak, salmon, or chicken for lunch. My biggest splurge was at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm. They serve hand-made biscuits just like the ones my mother used to make. They were small, but I had two with butter and Marionberry jam. Confession is good for the soul.

We flew in to LAX on our California trip, so I skipped a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits with the family for an appointment with Dr. St. Amand, the fibromyalgia specialist who has his office in Marina del Rey. My previous posts about the doctor (We Need a Hero, Parts 1, 2, and 3) are here:, here:, and here:

I had been taking guaifenesin as part of his protocol for about 5 months, gradually working my way up to larger and larger doses with no results. It didn’t take the doctor long to determine that it had indeed been ineffective. He suggested that I consult with his assistant, Claudia, to go over all the products and supplements that I had been using to see if I had overlooked a source for salicylates that could be blocking the guai. He also gave me a prescription for guaifenesin and said that they had been experiencing problems with the over-the-counter brand.

The bad news is that I have to start over from scratch, so back to 300 mgs twice a day to work my way up from there until it kicks in. I was up to 2400 mgs a day before, so the good news is that I may get results at a lower dose this time.

I went to the on-site pharmacy and stocked up on officially sanctioned products. It was encouraging to talk to another customer there who had successfully reversed her fibromyalgia with Dr. St. Amand’s protocol. She definitely considered him to be her hero. I waited until July 20, after I returned from my second trip, to start the guai again.

More to come: an Eclipse jet, very expensive pizza, a natural cook, glaciers, sea lions, otters, whales, and LOTS of bears.

(C) 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I just got back (a day later than expected) from a fabulous trip. I'll blog about my adventures as soon as I get unpacked, do the laundry, and catch my breath. Here is a preview: a private jet, glaciers, volcanoes, great food, and LOTS of grizzly bears!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Checking In

I'll be in and out for the next couple of weeks. I"ll be back soon with lots of new recipes ideas to test and share. Hope you are having a great summer!

There's always lots of good info on Dr. McLeary's blog:

This article was in the news yesterday. A pediatric Doctor's organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, is now recommending statins for 8-year old children! They also advise putting children on low-fat milk at the age of one year. What next? They will probably advise putting all babies on soy formula because mother's milk contains fat. Is there no end to this insanity?

Here's a great video about diabetes that was on Fred Hahn's blog:

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