I’m at Mile 35, Haines Highway. The mileage marker tells how far we are from Haines Alaska, Five more miles would take us to the Canadian Border. Slowly low clouds lift from the peaks across the Chilkat River to offer us something to paint.
Aki, who has little patience for watercolor painting, is back in Juneau so I sit alone with a mentor. She has come to this milepost many times to paint a hanging glacier that spits two alpine shaped peaks. A bit older than me, this is may be her last chance to capture the contrast of high summer green hills with the blue and whites of the river of ice.
Imbued with patience by years of successful painting, she tells me to slow down and use applications of different paints until a honest color match shows up on my paper. I stop painting and watch — her brush then the glacier then her moving brush. Her pigments tells her story of the mountain and ice and her many hours spent painting Alaska mountains. Depicting dark gray mountain granite with an equal shade of purple, she slowly moves Milepost 35 into her world.
Having made a good start with a few hours of work, my mentor puts away brush and paint and we return to Haines. Latter with only a couple of hours before I have to board a ferry back to Juneau, we drive along the shorter Chilkoot River and spot a fishing Brown Bear. It strolls through chest deep water, passing men fishing for Sockeye Salmon until it finds the head and backbone of a recently filleted salmon.
We leave the car to stand with other visitors, some sipping from beer cans to watch the big animal feed. Being only a hundred feet away, we all have a great chance to watch the bear tense his muscular humped back while ripping off strips of red salmon flesh. He is a beautiful wild thing who could kill anyone of us in a flash but we all stay. He only reacts to our presence when my mentor speaks. Then he looks at her — not in anger but with a little concern.