Dark news on a bright day

Everyone in town was talking about the accident yesterday, an avalanche that killed a 35-year-old Colorado heli-ski guide and badly injured a client, apparently, although news on the survivor is still sketchy, according to Trooper Josh on the KHNS radio news. It was such a lovely day, and there was so much spring sunshine that it was a little hard to imagine anything bad happening. And yet, just walking puppy Pearl to town she was frightened by the rumble of a distant snow slide. For the first time in many years the avalanches across the inlet from our house have been plowing right to tidewater. A huge avalanche earlier this winter at Pyramid Harbor reminded me that the old cannery warehouse there was leveled by one back in the 1880s or so. On the radio yesterday morning the history talk was from Skagway, and all about the Palm Sunday avalanche that killed over 60 prospectors at a camp on the Chilkoot Trail in 1898 during the Gold Rush. That year Palm Sunday was on April 3. Now that is the height of the heli-ski season. Obviously heli-skiing is thrilling and dangerous, dropping down these rocky, steep, wilderness slopes is not for sissies. (Or me, for  that matter.) Spring snow can be wet and heavy. Of course, none of that is any consolation for the families and friends of the victims. Or for parents of snowboarders like me, who now have another good reason to worry. People do die backcountry skiing, and now, even right here in Haines. Then again, I'd rather my son was out in this wonderful world than in a dark room playing digital games. I just want him to still be enjoying the outdoors when he has a gray beard. I pray that is true. Right now, I'm just so terribly sorry for the families and friends of the lost guide, and hoping that the injured skier recovers.

Avalanche chutes on the Chilkat Inlet this morning

Speaking of gray beards, Paul Swift says there is 16 feet at the measure stick at 2,000 feet on Mt. Ripinsky (the snowshoe trial is packed) or there would be if you could see it, but that's how tall it is and it is now buried. Paul says that our season snowfall total in his backyard on Union Street as of yesterday (we did get about an inch last night) is 354.7 inches. You do the math, but that's about as tall as my house, and I have a tall house. The old record of 307 inches was passed on March 3. In other news, if you are ready to work your hands in the dirt, or just dreaming of a place where the ground is green, there is the Greater Lynn Canal Garden Conference this weekend, beginning with a talk by Farmer Bob Henderson Friday night at 7PM at the Chilkat Center on the history of agriculture here. Charlotte Jewell of the incredible Jewell Gardens in Skagway will speak 9am at the school on Saturday-- I'm going to that one for sure-- and there are workshops all day Saturday and Sunday. Call George Campbell for more info, at 907-723-0435 or email outback@alaska.net. Sunday night at 7:30pm in the Chilkat Center (so you can enjoy the later daylight) the Haines Arts Council will broadcast the Oscar nominated short dramatic films. (Next Sunday at 7:30 they'll show the animated shorts.) I mean, we haven't  seen any of the big movies either, and I don't know about you, but I have no idea which one won, so it will be fun to see if our pick matches the Academy's.

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