Serendipity: My Hovercraft Is Full of Eells

The Eells in Question Was the Reverend Myron Eells

In preparation for a projected trip along the Inside Passage to Alaska, I am reading Jonathan Raban’s Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999). The book is full of delightful historical anecdotes about Captain Vancouver and other early explorers and settlers. Some got along well with the Indians: Others didn’t. One in the latter category was the Reverend Myron Eells, known for his “garrulous moralism.” More than fifty years after he passed on, he was still remembered by old people who, as children, been on canoes with him. In 1934, William M. Elmendorf interviewed a Skokomish elder who spoke of Eells as “that awful man.” The elder went on to say:

People didn’t like him very well. He was collecting Klallam words from some Klallam Indians who were visiting here one time. I had to translate for him. So he would ask them for words like father, mother, house, dog, and so on. And those people didn’t think much of Eells, so they would give him all sorts of dirty, nasty words, and he would write them down in a book. Then he would try to use some of these words. thinking he was talking Indian, and people would just about bust trying to keep from laughing.

If you have any interest in primitive languages, it would help first to see whether one is on the same wavelength as one’s interviewees. (Oh, and my apologies to Monty Python’s Flying Circus!)

Leaving the Heat Far Behind

One of the Seagoing Ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway

We’re barely into July, and I’ve already had it with this summer! It started with triple-digit daily temperatures in New Mexico and continued with a Mexican Monsoon heat wave in Southern California. I am looking to take a vacation along Alaska’s Inside Passage using a combination of a flight and a series of short trips on the Alaska Marine Highway. I would not consider taking a regular cruise line for the following reasons:

  • I don’t want to eat myself into an early grave.
  • I don’t want to be sociable with other passengers: I would rather grimace at them than play in their reindeer games.
  • I don’t want to pay a ridiculous single-traveler penalty—because I would be going alone, me and my Kindle loaded with 1,500 books.

The places I would like to visit include Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier, Skagway, and nearby parts of the Yukon. Ideally, I would go after the first frost has killed off most of the mosquito population. I understand there is a narrow gauge railroad that connects Skagway with Carcross in the Yukon, and I would not be averse to visiting Whitehorse.

My question is: Can I manage to afford two vacations in one year? Perhaps, if I’m lucky. But I have a strong desire to leave summer far, far behind me.