Monday, October 15, 2012

If Not By Land, Then By Sea

Or lake, as it were.

I went to Aleknagik last week -- a small village 30 minutes drive north of Dillingham. The district superintendent also had to go to Aleknagik so he gave me a ride. No one mentioned that we'd only be driving to the boat launch. When the road ends you hop a boat to the school. I did not know this. Along the drive, the superintendent kept making comments that I thought were odd but didn't think anything about them.

"Might be a bit choppy on the lake today", he said. I thought he was making general conversation about the weather so I replied, "Yeah, it was really windy up in Manokotak yesterday". No, he was talking about us crossing the lake via boat.

A few miles later we passed a road-side emergency phone. Dave pointed out that years ago, one would stop and call the school to let them know you were on your way. That's weird, I thought. Why would you need to do that on the drive up? Wouldn't you have already told them you were coming? Turns out, if you want someone to pick you up in a boat, you'd best call first. 

And then he proceeded to tell me about the new bridge being built to cross the lake and how you'll be able to just drive right up there and won't that be great. "Cross the lake to where?" I wondered in my naivete. To the school as it turns out.

Shortly before the boat launch is a parking lot. Many cars were there. I asked Dave why all the cars. "Extra parking," he said. "For people who live on the north shore. They can leave their car here." Nothing about what he said made any sense to me. But I nodded my head and said, "oh, of course."

When we arrived at the boat launch all these tidbits started to congeal together forming a picture I wasn't sure I liked.

We have to cross the lake on a ferry, I said to myself. Well, that was partly right -- we would be using a water vessel. But when Dave donned extratuffs, a wool-lined ear flap hat and parka, the full truth seeped through me just as I imagined the cold lake water would if I fell in. There wasn't going to be a ferry with coffee on board. We would be crossing in a small motor boat. A skiff, really.

In my mind, I imagined myself being like Tippy Hedren in "The Birds", the picture of glamor and poise, siting in a row boat while tootling across Bodega Bay in her heels and 3/4 length fur coat; her coiffed hair moving nary an inch. Alas, this likeness resided only in my head. Reality was quite different.

When the boat arrived, me, Dave, and three kids on their way to school, climbed aboard. The kids jumped in first and as they strapped on their PFDs I got in boat. I had with me a 41 pound suitcase full of assessment materials. I stepped onto the boat with one foot, the other foot on the rocky shore. Balancing, I hauled the suitcase over the side of the boat. I was wearing my Dansko clogs -- not proper footwear for boat hopping. I managed not to knock any kids overboard, or fall in myself. I could imagine the announcement being made at the school: "Don't expect the Smith kids today. The speech pathologist knocked them into the water."

Ride back to the boat launch.
How you *should* be dressed for
a lake crossing.
Good thing I keep extra gloves and a stocking hat in my backpack exactly for these "you never know" occasions. Without them I would have been an ice pop. The crossing is less than 5 minutes and it was only 34 degrees. No big deal. I'm guessing when the lake freezes over this winter it'll be a snow machine crossing. Next time I'll be prepared!

The Aleknagik School is on a hillside overlooking the water. Best views on the lake, I suspect. I'd love to kayak there.