July 28, 2015 – Haines Alaska – Of all the posts I wrote and lost, this is the hardest to faithfully recreate. An incredible series of events lead to a several decade reunion of old scouting friends in a most unlikely place far from either of our homes. A couple of hours of action packed stories arcing over a quarter century of full lives. Smiles and laughs and sighs. Alas, no pictures, we were so pressed for time and no one thought of it.
Dan and I were in the same boy scout troop as teenagers and spent at least a weekend a month all year round hiking the trails of our home Washington. We shared a love of Northwest Coast Culture and Art, which for him became a passion and career. We had tried contacting one another over the years, but random events like a typo in an address or the timing of a changed address, and not to mention busy lives, kept us from connecting.
When I realized I was heading to Alaska I tried contacting him again, but I didn’t have a definite plan for how to get to Juneau where he lives. Juneau is on an island and while served by the Alaska Marine Highway, those of us pulling trailers need to make reservations far in advance. I was planning this trip a day or three in advance, so it seemed like I was going to have to do some kind of walk on, or leave the trailer behind to remain flexible. With flexible being the key word. Once again our emails ended up being misrouted and we hadn’t connected while I had been on the trip. So as I arrived in the area there had been little in the way of communication for months.
Haines is a good jumping off point when coming from the North to Juneau, so I figured to connect when I was getting close there. I tried connecting when I got close but didn’t get a response. On a whim I decided to call his father back in Seattle. He told me that Dan and his wife were planning a once in a lifetime rafting trip on the Tatshenshini river and had just left Juneau for the mainland. So they should be on the river tonight and for over a week, and I had pretty much missed them by a just a single day. But in the call I was able to correct some faulty contact information. In particular I got his wife’s email, apparently his connection to the social world and keeper of his calendar. 🙂
So I sent off an email and resigned myself to have missed this opportunity. I registered at the local trailer park and settled in. It was early but I was hungry, so I headed into town and to dinner at the Fireweed restaurant. Nice salad and a calzone, and soda water, great service and I was pretty happy. As I got in the car and started back to the RV park my phone indicated a new email. A quick glance suggested it was a reply to my newest email inquiry to Dan’s wife. The social director said they were *in Haines tonight* and that I might be able to say hello tonight if I dropped by the hotel. Well I dare say it was only a block away, so I found a parking spot and settled in. I replied to let her know to look for me.
I went into the hotel and checked at the desk. I explained the circumstances to the owner at the desk. He knew the outfitter leading the trip and he took me over to say hello and check on Dan’s whereabouts. I explained the circumstances again and he said they had a group meeting coming up, and that everyone should be back soon. They were over having dinner… at the Fireweed. I had missed them by perhaps five or ten minutes. I was probably walking out the door on the water side as they were entering the other. Of course with both of us 25 years older, and being so far out of place and mind, chances are good one of us could have held the door for the other without it registering. At that time I had assumed they were on a raft in the wilderness, and they hadn’t heard from me for a couple months.
I took up a place outside the hotel where I could see the approach from the restaurant. Now his wife hadn’t met me, and I think the story goes that she hadn’t had time to mention that we’d been in contact either. So as they were walking back, about a block away, she started telling him. “Do you remember your friend from way back? The one who emailed he was coming through Alaska a while ago?” Something like that. About then, Dan looked up and spotted me, and that was the mutual moment of recognition. I saw his manner and he spotted mine, from three quarters of a block away, the years fled chased by the familiarity of a shared youth.
Grand greetings and an introduction, I’d known that he was married but nothing much more. I met his wife Cameron and Dan and I started immediately in with stories. Now they did have work to do getting ready for the rafting trip. The meeting first. I tagged along and stayed out of the way.
After the meeting they had packing to do back in their room. We settled in and took turns telling stories in between the necessary conversation about where to pack things. The time passed quickly and they had a schedule to keep, so I faded into the night and we each proceeded on our grand adventures.
Alas, I’m sure I’ve lost some of the spirit and details of the meeting in my many months old retelling of it. But it was certainly a blessing to share this brief reunion.