Anniversary / by Caroline Van Hemert

Ten years ago (actually, yesterday!), on a similarly blustery day, Pat and I stood on the beach at Glacier Point while my sister read our vows. A few dozen of our hardiest friends and family members donned their wool socks and long underwear to join us at our not-quite-finished cabin for a not-quite-formal affair. That summer, we were three seasons into the building of our log cabin on Lynn Canal, which, like every such project, was slower and harder than we had first imagined. We cut and stacked the trees by hand, poured concrete footings with water hauled from a creek and gravel collected from the beach, and learned the many nuances of living in one of the windiest stretches of coastal rainforest in southeast Alaska. Just days before our guests arrived, the place looked like a bombed-out construction site rather than a wedding venue. But, with some hard labor from a small super crew of helpers, we avoided any calamities and spent a glorious weekend feeling loved, honored, and truly blessed.

Although neither of us are particularly sentimental, it’s impossible not to think about where we’ve come in a decade. So many things have changed. So many things have stayed the same. Back then, our laundry consisted of fewer pee-soaked items. Our mornings were quieter. Our hours were spent chasing our own wild desires, not those of two tiny dictators. But, even now, our evening conversations still follow a familiar trajectory: which adventure, where, how? The cheap box of wine seems to disappear just as quickly, while oatmeal remains our breakfast of choice. Communications are spotty, and we’re again a bit behind on our professional commitments. We’ve since traveled many more miles together and now have two boys, who make sure we will never again take ourselves too seriously.

I can’t remember what element or precious metal is designated to mark the ten year anniversary, but we’ll settle for oatmeal and strong coffee. I’m sure the boys have a celebratory dinner planned, and have arranged for a babysitter. Or maybe they’ll be pulling their usual routines, sobbing over a broken banana, chasing salmon in the shallows, woo-hooing when we hit big waves and go “rocking and rolling.” It will be just another day, but one for which I am infinitely grateful.

We have taken our time working our way up the east coast of Baranof Island, which so far has been rich in whales, salmon, bears, waterfalls, and hot springs. From here we’ll continue up Chatham Strait, possibly taking a detour into Icy Strait before heading into our home waters of Lynn Canal. We left Bellingham exactly two months ago, and we’re nearing the northern end of the Inside Passage. After more than a thousand miles on the water, we still haven’t figured out how to draw more time from each day, especially alone adult time, but we’ve certainly found a rhythm in our constant movement. I won’t miss the many hours spent each day planning, and re-planning our route, the fact that I still can’t get a dozen feet of separation from any of my family members, or the duffel bags of clothes that swallow socks and underwear. I will miss (and already do), the feeling that came in the first weeks of the trip when we had no real agenda and no rush to get anywhere. I will miss exploring new places each day, and needing only as much as we have with us. But the cabin will be its own reward, with its 700 square feet of living area feeling more spacious than ever. The 3-6” of rain expected to come with this latest storm might help nudge us in that direction as well! From there, we can scheme about where to go next, and how. Or perhaps we’ll just stay put. Our upcoming year is a mostly-open slate, with plans still to be determined. This uncertainty is by design, and we are excited to make good use of the months ahead.

 Limestone sea cave on Kuiu Island.  

Limestone sea cave on Kuiu Island.  

 Watching a brown bear on shore. 

Watching a brown bear on shore. 

 Salmon under sail!

Salmon under sail!

 View from the mast. 

View from the mast. 

 Flying our 1970s-era drifter (a light wind sail). 

Flying our 1970s-era drifter (a light wind sail). 

 The crew. 

The crew. 

 Baranof Warm Springs. 

Baranof Warm Springs. 

 Hot springs tub soak. 

Hot springs tub soak. 

  Hiking up a salmon stream to a waterfall.

 Hiking up a salmon stream to a waterfall.

  “Can we take a shower here?”

 “Can we take a shower here?”

 Rainy day beach adventure. 3-6” of rain was expected in two days. 

Rainy day beach adventure. 3-6” of rain was expected in two days. 

 Happy hiker. 

Happy hiker. 

 Rainforest climb. 

Rainforest climb. 

 Rough water sailing. Pat took a wave over the cockpit. 

Rough water sailing. Pat took a wave over the cockpit. 

 The end of the storm. 

The end of the storm. 

 Lunch of choice. 

Lunch of choice. 

 Anniversary hike. 

Anniversary hike. 

 Blueberry picking. 

Blueberry picking. 

 My hiking partner. 

My hiking partner. 

 Chaika from above. 

Chaika from above. 

 Berry bliss. 

Berry bliss. 

 A tired sailor.  

A tired sailor.