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Betsy Albecker

Betsy Albecker was interviewed on October 9, 2018 by Karen Brewster at her home in Skagway, Alaska. In this interview, Betsy talks about the effects of environmental change that she has observed, including receding glaciers such as Laughton Glacier that she walked to when she was a kid, variation in plant species that succeed or fail in her garden, changes in the length of the growing season, warmer winters with less snow, and this summer’s hot and dry weather. She also talks about the successful growth of cedar trees that her mother planted at Nahku Bay, the effect of glacial rebound on the landscape, differences in insects, an increase in jellyfish, the disappearance of blue snails from the beaches, a decrease in birds, and changes in the frost, planting and harvesting seasons. On October 10, 2018, Betsy provided a tour of the Nahku Bay homestead and garden, including the cedar trees, apple trees, and her formerly productive garden space. Photos of this are included as the Betsy Albecker Slideshow.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2018-14-07

Project: Observing Change in Alaska's National Parks
Date of Interview: Oct 9, 2018
Narrator(s): Betsy Albecker
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Ruth Sensenig
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Personal background and family ties to Skagway

Women photographers in her family, and running a business

Gardening at her cabin at Nahku Bay, and hauling water

Growing flowers and vegetables, planting fruit trees, and increased rainfall

Using seaweed as fertilizer, and observations of change in the local seaweed

Observations of change in the blue sea snail and mussel populations

Effect of glacial rebound on the seaweed, and gathering of seaweed from the beaches

Observations of change in the wind and winter snowfall

Observations of change in the length of the growing season

Observations of change in wild blueberries and berry picking

Observations of change in insects and grass growth

Planting of cedar and fruit trees, and success from increased rainfall

Observations of change in summer and winter temperatures


Observations of change in the glaciers

Effects of construction of the Glacier Highway road to Whitehorse

Observations of change in insects, and harvesting of eels

Observations of change in raspberry bushes

Observations of change in grasshoppers

Observations of change in jellyfish

Observations of change in fish, shrimp, crab, and giant sea snails

Observations of change in mushrooms

Observations of change in erosion, and the West Creek glacial lake flood



Observations of change in bears

Mountain goats and lynx

Wolves and wolf control

Observations of change in bird populations

Forest fires

Observations of change in storm patterns, and flooding

Timing of freeze-up and first snowfall

Ice skating

Winter temperatures

Cross-country skiing

Ice skating on the frozen river and reservoir

Observations of change in crab and shrimp, and bird populations

Bats, and mosquitoes

Octopus, eel, mussels, and water pollution

More about the planted cedar trees, local tree species, and impact from logging

Observations of change in treeline and productivity of apple trees

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster, and today is October 9, 2018, and I’m here with Betsy Albecker at her home in Skagway, Alaska. And this is for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Bering Land Bridge Climate Change Project. Thank you, Betsy. BETSY ALBECKER: You’re welcome.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, before we get into the meat of the conversation, can you just give me a little bit of background about yourself. You -- were you born here in Skagway?

BETSY ALBECKER: Actually, I was born in Seattle, Washington, because the army owned the town, and they were not having a pregnant woman in Skagway. And she -- she had to leave.

I moved to Skagway in April of 1945 when I was about four months old.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. And your mother’s name was? BETSY ALBECKER: Barbara Alice Dedman.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. And she raised you here? BETSY ALBECKER: Four kids. KAREN BREWSTER: By herself? BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: She was married to my dad, Edward Kalenkosky, who was a sergeant stationed here during the army occupation.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. But, yeah, your mom’s family, though, goes back -- BETSY ALBECKER: Came here during the gold rush. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Um, 19 -- 1898, my great-grandmother arrived from California, two days after Soapy Smith had been shot, to meet up with her husband, George Dedman, who at that time was running a laundry service.

But they quickly expanded. They purchased a building called Skagway Mercantile, and it was the Golden North Hotel. They transformed it. They moved it from this -- where this house was. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: And moved it over.

And then my grandmother came up as a school teacher in the -- about 1916 or ’17. My mom was born in ’24. KAREN BREWSTER: Here? BETSY ALBECKER: Here in Skagway.

My kids were born here in Skagway. My son was born right across the hall from where my mother was born in the same old hospital. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow, that’s cool. BETSY ALBECKER: So.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then your mother was a photographer, but you said her -- BETSY ALBECKER: So was my grandmother. KAREN BREWSTER: Your grandmother. BETSY ALBECKER: My grandmother and my grandfather met because they had a mutual interest in photography.

And all the new schoolteachers were new blood for the young bachelors in town. All the young ladies. She came up with three other young ladies, and they were all married within a year or two. And stayed.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, it’s pretty -- pretty neat that women in your family as photographers. It’s kind of unusual.

BETSY ALBECKER: Um, there’s a family story behind that. My grandmother did not intend to work as a chamber maid. She did not intend to work as a waitress in the hotel. And she didn’t like school teaching.

And they did not like married schoolteachers. You were not encouraged to be a teacher if you were raising a family. Your place was at home. And she could do that.

She did the overnight photography for the ships. The cruise ships stayed in overnight, but they weren’t daily ships. Once a week, or maybe even a little less.

I can remember back in 1953 and ’54 going down to the Prince George with her, and she would pick up the passengers’ film in the morning, take it home, develop it, then print it out, dry it, and the next day we would take it back down to the ship and hand them their photographs of their trip. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Cool.

BETSY ALBECKER: So that’s what she did. And she also did framing, and they sold lots of Christmas cards. They did the -- they would take a photo, and then the families would have their names -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right. BETSY ALBECKER: Put on them, order ’em that way.

You didn’t go down to the -- there were no supermarkets. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Or drugstores to buy Christmas cards in, so. So that’s what she did.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then your mom continued that tradition? BETSY ALBECKER: Business. And then my daughter bought the business from my mother, and they just sold it last year.

Because it was too intense, and the complications of hiring extra help to run a big tourist business in this town, or any town. Nobody was getting any family time. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: So they sold it, and my daughter and I proceeded to have a really fine summer, spending time with each other, doing stuff. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Because my business is off Broadway. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: So I’m not really impacted by the tourists themselves, just the people that work with tourists, and they’re only available on slower days. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: So mine is more of a "call me up and I’ll open the store for you."

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And you also keep winter hours in that way, as well. BETSY ALBECKER: But I’m -- I usually say, "Just call." I tried being there very regularly, and half my customers were calling anyway, because it wasn’t convenient for them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, I see. BETSY ALBECKER: One to four, they’re working. They’re not on lunch break, or whatever. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I finally go, this is dumb. I live upstairs. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: So just call me if you want to come in. It doesn’t work for everybody. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But it especially works well for summer people because their schedules are so erratic. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: And they’re young enough not to worry about, "Oh, I might be interrupting her." You know, so many people, "Well, I just waited for your sign to be up and you to be open, ’cause I didn’t want to bother you." Well, you know.

Look at what I’m doing. KAREN BREWSTER: You’re remodeling a house. BETSY ALBECKER: And gardening.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, um, you grew up here, but did you leave for awhile and then come back? Or have you lived here all your -- BETSY ALBECKER: Well, if you call Haines and Juneau and Fairbanks and Anchorage leaving. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s leaving.

BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Always came back in the summers for my gardening. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Out at -- out at the, uh, country place, seven miles out of town. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. At Dyea, or? BETSY ALBECKER: Dyea Point, they call it. It’s on Nahku Bay, around that point. It’s on there. I’ll show you a picture in there. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: If you’re interested. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Very challenging, no fresh water. Had to haul everything to water everything. So I know what the climate was like then, because I had a little -- I had -- I ran through three different pick-ups.

I could put twenty-three five-gallon buckets in one of them. And I would haul water once a week, at least. I had a little shallow well dug out at my place.

I had a little barren meadow spot that looked like it would be marshy and mucky, and it always was dried up by the first of June. It would be completely bone-dry, and I would have to haul water the rest of the summer. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we very seldom got rain in the summer, which meant all the fruit trees I had had to be watered every week. Everything.

And I had to build my garden beds because it was all on granite rock. So I would make dirt by bringing in sand and dirt from Long Bay, and seaweed and leaves, and I came up with pretty good soil.

But when I was taking care of my mom, I did not have time to go out there. I couldn’t go out there and spend time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And the grass invaded everything, and now it’s solid grass.

And we got wetter years.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when did you start that out there? BETSY ALBECKER: In the late 1970’s. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Early 1970’s. 19 -- late 1960’s. I lose track of time. KAREN BREWSTER: And --

BETSY ALBECKER: By 1969, I was working on the foundation. KAREN BREWSTER: Of a cabin? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. And trying to garden.

And I’ve got pictures that show just this nice, big, bare patch, and now it’s all totally covered.

I dug two wells, drilled, and they both hit salt water. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: The wa -- the ground, it’s -- my garden was on top of a bedrock that was pretty thick, granite bedrock, and there was just no place for the water to go, so in the spring it was all wet and soggy.

And I thought I could dig a well. My well was about six feet deep is all, and it would, like I say, first week in June, it would be bone-dry and stay that way for the rest of the year. That’s why I drilled. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Right. BETSY ALBECKER: To get through that rock.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But then you hit salt water? BETSY ALBECKER: The salt -- it wasn’t seawater salt water, it was just full of a lot of different contaminants.

It looked crystal clear. It was gorgeous. It was twenty-seven gallons per minute, steady, around the clock.

I left the pump running for three days, hoping we would -- had just hit a bed of salt and would get to fresh, but we never did.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it was sort of like, mineralized? BETSY ALBECKER: Um-hm. Requires -- KAREN BREWSTER: From the rock. BETSY ALBECKER: Requires osmotic-type filtering system. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Which, when I got quotes, they wanted $7000 back then. I think they’ve come down a bit, and if I ever got it installed, I could just buy new filters each year. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Unfortunately, that’s too large a lump sum, and every time I thought I had -- you know how it goes. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: The refrigerator dies, the furnace goes, the car says, my turn. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Nickel and dime you to death. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: So.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, I keep hearing a ding, like texts or something. Is -- BETSY ALBECKER: It is. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you turn that off? I’m sorry, I didn’t mention it before. I forget this modern technology. BETSY ALBECKER: I have to check and see if it’s customers. That’s what it’s for. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Ok, that one I can take care of with a phone call.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh, so what kind of things did you plant out in that garden out there? BETSY ALBECKER: Started with potatoes. Potatoes and garden peas. Few carrots.

And flowers. Lots of different columbine and some berry bushes. Red currant. Black currant. Gooseberry. Uh, lot of pinks.

That’s a dianthus that I could get off the beach, so I knew it did well in drought. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: I put in fruit trees, and laboriously kept them going for many, many years, but never got any fruit. They didn’t pollinate well.

KAREN BREWSTER: What kind of fruit? BETSY ALBECKER: I put in apple trees, mostly, and some cherry trees. And I tried, um, nectarine. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Or Japanese -- can’t remember if it was a certain type of nectarine, peach or it was something from -- Siberian plum, maybe that was it.

Things that were supposed to grow well in really cold weather, but they did need a lot of watering.

And just about the time we really started getting enough rain that it was noticeable, I had a porcupine visitor that wiped out all but three of the trees. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, no.

BETSY ALBECKER: I had about twelve that were starting to produce, because people were keeping bees in Dyea. They were starting to get pollinated, and they were starting to, um -- and the wet. I didn’t have to water them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: They managed to hang on and just -- they were starting to grow and turn into real productive trees, and this little -- it was a baby.

I saw it on my beach, and I thought it was safe down on the beach ’cause everything’s salty down there. It’s far enough away, I didn’t think it would make it up to my garden but it did. ‘Cause everything was girdled just about that high off the ground. KAREN BREWSTER: Six inches high. BETSY ALBECKER: Yep.

I have one sweet cherry left, which I don’t get anything of because the crows come in. And by the time I realized I had a sweet cherry that had thrived, it was too big to prune back. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And they come in and strip it and break the branches. I mean, it’s just horrendous.

But it’s pricy to hire a carpenter to build something, and you can’t just throw a net over it, not if you’re my size.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. And so, you said the weather started to get wetter. That helped those trees. Do you remember when that was? BETSY ALBECKER: It’s been in the last ten years.

It was already getting wetter when -- getting -- we no longer had sometimes --

I used to could count on super dry no rain in April, no rain in May. No rain in June. No rain in July.

What they called rain would be sputter-sputter and maybe a quarter of an inch, half an inch of the ground would get wet. But we didn’t get Juneau rain. It didn’t soak.

KAREN BREWSTER: You didn’t get the soaking? BETSY ALBECKER: No. Never.

I tried raspberries. They needed way more water than I could do out there. I have a few little ones, but that’s all.

I put in everlasting Egyptian onions that did fine until I tried to move some of them to town.

I had a really good French sorrel that grew like crazy. I moved pieces of it three times and didn’t know enough about the dirt to make it thrive in town, and there’s nothing left of it. That’s all been choked out by the grass. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: I had lots of daffodils out there. Tulips in town.

I had a really good garden in town. That one was easy, ’cause I had water. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Um, I was called the "crazy seaweed lady," because I used seaweed around everything for several reasons. Heavy-duty mulch would keep down the weeds and keep ’em from drying out so fast. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Besides supplying nutrients. And all you have to do is watch one year, and watch the grass.

And the grass out here is like this, and the grass where you put the seaweed around the trees is huge and dark green. KAREN BREWSTER: So, like two -- like two inches to -- BETSY ALBECKER: From two inches to twelve or fifteen inches.

I grew a yarrow plant over there in my garden, just one of these little wild ones that are scrawny along the side of the yard. If they get a foot high, you say, wow, that’s pretty big.

I had one that was over six feet high growing. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: And my nasturtiums, I had to quit growing because the leaves were so big, you couldn’t find the flowers ’cause it was too rich.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. That was from your seaweed concoction? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Seaweed and there’s some real iron-rich dirt on the east side of Long Bay that I used to grab, too. Very heavy. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: But it worked.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So you would collect the seaweed from the beaches? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: A particular kind of -- ? And have you noticed -- BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, I can tell you what kind. The kind that the wind blows loose, and it gets up on the tide line. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: If you -- if you haven’t had a windstorm, you do not have seaweed in windrows. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s gotta blow in because it’s loose.

And it’s very wet and heavy, and I don’t touch it until it’s dried out. Because when it’s dry, I can carry two buckets in each hand. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Full of seaweed.

When it’s wet, it takes two hands on one bucket to lift. Besides which, you don’t have very much.

The Skagway seaweed is much better than most other places because of all the fresh water coming down and washes it. It’s not too salty. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: If you’re somewhere farther south, you really need to rinse it off well before you put it in your garden. But here, we can get away with it. And I still rinse it somewhat.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, you’ve been collecting seaweed since the late ’60’s? BETSY ALBECKER: Yep. KAREN BREWSTER: To -- through now? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, I still do.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you notice a difference, like different kinds, more or less, or it’s coming out in different places? BETSY ALBECKER: It doesn’t always lay on the beaches the same way, but that’s because of the tides and the winds, and the erosion along the river banks that make it lie in.

Um, what I have noticed in the way of climate change is, when I built my cabin, it was usable.

In 1979, we could go walk -- we would walk the low tide, super low spring tides in April. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Get you down to a minus four, and I have about a ten-foot strip, right down in front of my cabin. It’s bare sand.

We used to laugh about it. It’s kind of mucky, but I had a sandy beach front. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. BETSY ALBECKER: That you could see three times a year if you were lucky. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BETSY ALBECKER: If it was daylight.

And it was bare sand. Then it turned into ribbon kelp about twenty years ago. I was really surprised when in about 2005 or ’06, you can’t see any of the sand. It’s completely buried in seaweed. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And it’s the ribbon seaweed that looks like kelp, but it’s not. But it doesn’t have the big, bulbous heads. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: On our beach.

The same thing went all the way around. ’Cause we would walk as far as we could down to the Dyea Point or up to the head of our road.

The seaweed has three layers. There’s the yellow-brown, which is what you used to get most of. And then there’s a dark red. And then there’s the ribbon.

The dark red is -- my information is that’s the kind that the Natives like for dulse. And they pick it and dry it.

But I didn’t try drying it much. I was busy doing other things. And we would pick mussels, of course.

Now, most of the seaweed that washes loose and comes up is the red seaweed. More of it than the brown. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: I couldn’t tell you which is more nutritious.

There were summers I never got any seaweed because we didn’t get the right weather combination. It just didn’t tear it loose.

There was one year when we had a couple of horrendous south storms with the wind really ratcheted up, and I got a -- I filled the whole back end of my pickup with seaweed one year.

We were able to drive down, just south of the dump where the TEMSCO is now. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: And just load it in like that and stamp it down.

I had so much seaweed, it was unbelievable. Only ever saw that happen once.

KAREN BREWSTER: That -- was that just one big storm? BETSY ALBECKER: Big, huge storm.

And the way it came in, it just laid in beautifully. There was nothing, no brush in it, no leaves, no -- just this lovely, clean -- and it was spread out over the rocky beachfront, and just pick it up. Then we had hot sun, and it dried out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember what direction the wind was that summer? BETSY ALBECKER: It was south wind. KAREN BREWSTER: It was.

BETSY ALBECKER: It’s always a south windstorm that knocks the seaweed loose.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Do you remember what year, about, that was? BETSY ALBECKER: I could look it up. It was somewhere in the late ’70’s. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Early ’70’s, late ’70’s. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t remember without looking in the albums. KAREN BREWSTER: No, just a general decade helps. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: You know, something like that that happens.

BETSY ALBECKER: My brother was married to his second wife, so that’s when it was. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Because she helped me dig it up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And it was early in my gardening career out there, so it was probably around ’72 or ’73.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. That’s close enough that, you know. Sort of when there’s a rare event, kind of trying to put it at least -- BETSY ALBECKER: It was a very rare --

Well, we -- my mom made a Christmas post -- Christmas card very year with photos from the family all year, and I’ve got a collection of them from 1947 right up to when she couldn’t do it anymore.

And I couldn’t do it because she took up too much time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. To take care of her. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, well, it’s interesting that the different kinds of seaweed, it sort of has changed.

BETSY ALBECKER: That’s not all. When I was a little kid, my brothers and sisters would run around on the beach. We had tons and tons of these little blue snails.

I don’t know what kind they are. They aren’t very big. They’re never -- they’re not as big as my thumb nail. They’re smaller than that. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: And they were only -- I don’t know if I can get the tides right for you. They were not on a regular low tide, your twelve-foot or ten-foot. They were a layer lower than that.

And it was ten or twelve feet, maybe fifteen, that was just covered with these little things. There was no way to walk on that section of the beach without squashing ’em. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: There were so many of ’em. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of ’em.

And the little tiny, round coolie hat things, too, that don’t get much more than an inch across. Which are really tasty, by the way, but they’re so hard to get off the rock and so tiny that it’s --

KAREN BREWSTER: So they’re like ku -- kuliaq? It's a -- BETSY ALBECKER: Coolie hat, Chinese hat. That’s what they look like. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok. Oh, I know what you’re talking about. BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know what they’re called. Never looked ’em up. KAREN BREWSTER: No, I know what you’re talking about.

BETSY ALBECKER: I started going to school down in Washington in 1981 or ’82, and at that time, we no longer had any of the little blue snails. They were completely gone.

KAREN BREWSTER: But you remember them when you were a kid? BETSY ALBECKER: For years. I -- I didn’t know. That was the first thing I noticed. "What happened to all the little wee snails? They’re gone." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: There’s none of ’em.

Some years you get a windrow of mussel shells because there’s a red tide that wipes everything out temporarily, and then mussel shells will come in thick and deep, like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Like a foot thick? Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: Um, the little blue mollusks came back temporarily in the ’90’s, but they weren’t as thick. And now, I don’t see them again, but I wasn’t spending lots of time out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: There for a number of decades, I was out there just almost every single day. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: But once I got my business on Broadway for ten years, I was working seven days a week and averaging between 110 and 120 hours a week in the store.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right. And then you had -- you took care of your mom, which is a full-time job. BETSY ALBECKER: In 2005. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: So there was a big period there that was just dead. ’81-89, I didn’t know what was going on.

KAREN BREWSTER: But that’s ok. It’s good to know what it was like back in the ’60’s and ’70’s. That’s great.

BETSY ALBECKER: We -- it’s not just climate change, it’s also the glacial rebound that’s coming way up and making -- that’s what makes the difference, in my opinion, as to how the seaweed lays in.

You change the topography by two or three inches, and the current’s different. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And if the seaweed’s loose on a super high tide versus just the normal, it --

there’s been more regular seaweed in -- for the last, gosh, almost every year since 2005 or ’06. Almost every year, you can count on finding seaweed. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: One of the things that helped was down at the boat harbor, because it’ll lie in around the boat ramp to put your small boats in. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I early on decided that that was probably not a good thing for my food crops. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because that basin is contaminated, and the seaweed draws up trace elements, so it’s grabbing the worst of the worst. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: So when I couldn’t get enough seaweed out at my cabin, I would pick that seaweed, but I used it out front around lilacs and flowers. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t put it on my food beds. I didn’t carry it out to my cabin for my food beds. I did without seaweed. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I laugh when I watch people picking up seaweed that’s wet. Heavy and wet.

Um, I have a deal with the little boys that stay in my cabin in the summer time. They’re not even close to teenage yet, and I swapped them. This year, I swapped them a tent, and they got me buckets of seaweed. They’re closer to the ground, and they can pick it up clean.

Clean seaweed is nice after a big storm, but usually Skagway has enough wind that the last few years, seaweed’s been blowing loose. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: All summer long.

KAREN BREWSTER: So speaking of wind. BETSY ALBECKER: Speaking of wind.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that -- is there a difference? BETSY ALBECKER: It’s not consistent like it used to be.

When I was a child, and even up into high school years, my mother would write us a note getting us out of school if we had one of those beautiful snow days with more than three or four inches of snow and no wind, because by 4:00 in the afternoon, it would be rainy and wet and yucky, and you couldn’t play in the snow.

And she would send a note to school for all four of her children, saying, "My kids are needed at home today." And take us out to play in the snow.

We did not get to do that every single year, but that was rare enough that she made a point of it.

And you could almost make book on it that if it was beautiful snow in the morning, it was going to be a sloppy, wet mess in the afternoon. The south wind would come up. It would warm up and be a mess.

The first time I saw snow on the ground from October to spring was after I moved home to take care of my mother.

KAREN BREWSTER: So before that, it didn’t last the whole time? BETSY ALBECKER: It never would last. It would either blow away, or some time it would warm up.

And it’s never thick enough snow, either. You’d get a snowfall. A heavy snowfall was four inches. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: If you got more than that, boy, you took advantage of it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But when you moved back, in what, 2005-ish? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, 2005. KAREN BREWSTER: It would --

BETSY ALBECKER: And I don’t remember what year it was, but one of those years, we actually had snow that you could see in piles all winter. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Down here in town? BETSY ALBECKER: In town.

And I was just -- how? This really looks weird. What’s wrong with it? Oh, I know. The snow is still on the ground.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And everybody talks about, you know, the temperature is warming. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s warmer. KAREN BREWSTER: But that --

BETSY ALBECKER: But the snow stays on the ground. What seems to have happened --

Well, here again, you get a difference of almost a month if you’re a gardener. Because you have the roses and the lilacs, and when do they come out? Do they come out -- ? Do you have roses, Sitka roses, on the Fourth of July or not?

And one year, when my mother was a junior in high school, I’m not sure which year that was. She would have been about seventeen. Twenty-four, thirty-four, so it must have been about ’47, they decorated the gym the first week of May with apple blossoms for graduation. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: That’s way early.

What I’ve noticed that is spring is running late instead of early, but fall is running very late.

KAREN BREWSTER: So does it overall give you the same length of growing season, or is it a longer season? BETSY ALBECKER: Well, this year I lost half my potatoes, because I left ’em outside overnight to harden off, and it got cold enough to frostbite ’em. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: We never get frost in September. It’s cool. KAREN BREWSTER: So you got a frost in September, huh? BETSY ALBECKER: We got three of them, three nights in a row, that were heavy-duty enough to kill stuff. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: Not everything, but it got -- I thought they were still good. I didn’t realize they were nipped. I brought ’em in and thought, fine, put ’em in the porch, and the whole big flat, the majority of what I dug, that I had waited to dig, started reeking. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I’m going, you know, what happened? I left them. KAREN BREWSTER: Frustrating.

BETSY ALBECKER: I’ve always left them out. I have never lost a potato to the frost because we don’t get --

I brag about it to the tourists. We don’t get heavy frost in September. It’s always October before we get it, even if it’s cold out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, but you mentioned the lilac and the rose. So are they blooming at a different time than they used to? BETSY ALBECKER: They’re blooming later. We’ve been having Sitka roses in bloom around the Fourth of July for years.

And the raspberries. I’ll tell you what. What happens with the late spring, especially if it’s as late as it was this year, is the plants that are acclimated still are kind of watch -- I don’t know what they watch. If it’s the daylight. I’m thinking it’s got to be programmed on the length of the days. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because it used to be very careful. You would get the gooseberries, and then you would get the raspberries, and then you would get this, and then you would get this.

And several years ago, I took a picture of a bowl of raspberries that I had picked with a bunch of potatoes I had dug. Never.

’Cause when my kids were little and when I had that store, there was never a raspberry in sight on late July.

I would come home -- if I was out of town, I would come home late June to pick the raspberry crop. Because I’m fond of raspberries. KAREN BREWSTER: Yes. BETSY ALBECKER: And I stick ’em in the freezer, so I watched them like a hawk.

There were no raspberries to pick this year at the Fourth of July. They didn’t ripen 'til after the Fourth.

And then there we were. Everything was ripe at the same time, the currants, the raspberries, and it’s very, very not fun for a gardener when all your stuff harvests at the same time, and you’ve gotta deal with it. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Gooseberries.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now, so all those berries, raspberries, gooseberries. BETSY ALBECKER: Red currants. KAREN BREWSTER: Red currants. They’re all in your garden, or do some of them grow wild? BETSY ALBECKER: For me, they’re in my garden. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: Blueberries are another story, because most of your people pick wild blueberries, and most people want to be the first person to pick a blueberry.

And you want to get to your patch before anybody else robs it. So hardly anybody knows what a really ripe wild blueberry tastes like because they start picking them in August.

And when I was a kid, you never picked ’em until September, mid-September. You really wanted to wait until a little bit of frost had hit because it doesn’t hurt the blueberries. But it’ll take, it’ll turn the leaves yellow, and if you’re lucky, the wind’ll blow the leaves off, and it’s really easy to find them.

You pick berries, don’t you? KAREN BREWSTER: I do. BETSY ALBECKER: I can tell.

But I haven’t been out wild blueberry picking for awhile. I have a really bum hip, and nobody wants to be slowed down. They’re clambering over the rocks.

And all my favorite spots that were close enough to go to, we’ve had so many hordes of visitors, that they’ve all been discovered, and they’re picked clean a month before I’m ready to go up, and see -- let’s see what we’ve got for a crop.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so now is the blueberry picking up in the pass area, up above tree line? BETSY ALBECKER: We used to -- no. We used to go up to Glacier Station on the railroad when I was a kid.

And then after that, you could go up West Creek out in Dyea. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Or drive up the road. Driving up the road was nice and easy. There were a couple of really killer good spots.

KAREN BREWSTER: The road, you mean the Glacier -- the highway? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. And there’s still lots of ’em if you take the time and wander around. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: But the nice easy ones --

And the new bridge that they’re putting in totally wiped out the closest one to town that I really scored on, like several years in a row. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: 'Cause I could just park my car just this side of the bridge, and just thirty feet in, and I was in blueberries. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Oh, ho!

KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, so the location of the berries hasn’t really changed that much? BETSY ALBECKER: No, hm-um. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Just the number of people trying to pick them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I did not notice a good crop this year everywhere I checked. There’s still one place I can get to and check that most people don’t seem to know about, but it was too hot for too long before we got the -- or maybe they didn’t -- they're -- they didn’t pollinate well. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because we have a few wild bushes out at our cabin that we transplanted so we wouldn’t have to go up the mountainside. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: But they didn’t bear well, either.

And I think it was a bug thing. When the flowers were out, the bugs were still not doing well because it was so cold. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Maybe. I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: But bugs is a good question. As a gardener, you must notice bugs. BETSY ALBECKER: Lots more. Yeah, I notice bugs.

And the other thing I want to make sure you get on your tape is the grass. Between the uplift of the glacier and the climate change, because grass loves water, both Long Bay beach and our beach.

Not both, all three of them, the Skagway beach, too, they used to be all bare rock or sand. And they’re not. They’re covered with grass way down into the tide area. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: The high tides aren’t coming up as much, but the grass is what’s bad. ’Cause when we were little kids, the first cabin my folks built was destroyed by a fire, which took out all the big trees that had grown right down to the beach. High tide line. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Which I can’t even remember, ’cause I was so little. I was only three or four years old.

All I can remember is all these big huge trees just crisscrossed all over. And we played on the rocks on the beach because that was the only safe place for us to play. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we just took off our shoes all year, all summer, and raced around on the rocks. Back and forth and around.

You can’t see the rocks. They're covered in high beach grass. Way down now. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: You really have to be very careful going down, and there’s no racing around on them because the grasses, it hides the rocks. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: So badly.

And I notice when I drive by Long Bay now, even below the tide line, half the sandy beach is covered in high sawgrass. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, I don’t know if it’s sawgrass, but it’s nasty. KAREN BREWSTER: Some kind of -- BETSY ALBECKER: Some type of that heavy-duty beach grass, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, you also mentioned that the grass invaded your garden. BETSY ALBECKER: That was -- that was lighter grass. Clover. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Clover grass. KAREN BREWSTER: And that’s a --

BETSY ALBECKER: And it’s just sol -- it’s matted right down, solid root. If you wanted to garden again, you would have to pry out all the rocks, like I used to do.

I said I gardened with a crowbar because I would move the rocks around and make a bed and then put the dirt in. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Never anticipating.

But the grass didn’t invade bigtime until we had plenty of rain, and then it started moving.

The best story about the rain, and I still can’t give you the things. My mom used to haul cedar seeds from all over, red cedar, yellow cedar. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: She wanted cedars to grow in Skagway.

And this is not cedar country. It’s too dry. So we -- all her projects, I got to go help with. Extra hands, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Never got any credit for it, but I was there.

So she would start a batch of seeds every spring and forget about them usually. And most of them would die, but there’d always be a few that would make it.

And we’d go out, and she’d just pick a few spots out on our homestead property. And she’d put four stakes around them, paint the stakes white, slip this little seedling in, and then we would water it every year, all summer.

And we did this for three or four years. And we had twenty-some cedar trees that actually looked like they were growing.

But over the years, it dwindled down to about eighteen or nineteen.

And when I first got home in 2005, we had eighteen or nineteen cedar trees. ’Cause that was one of the things -- she would sit in the car, but I would still go out and walk around. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because they got bigger, bigger, over our head. We couldn’t water them anymore because she was too old. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And I didn’t have the right kind of car.

And I’m not as young as I was way back, either. Go clambering through the woods with buckets of water.

But I counted the trees, and they all looked good. And they were growing. And they started putting on shoots like this. KAREN BREWSTER: Eighteen inches.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, the only way they can -- eighteen, twenty-inch shoots, you don’t do that without water. And we were not watering them.

So about three years ago, might even been four now. I have to date things. I had cancer in 2014, and this was after I had cancer.

So you know it wasn’t more than four years ago. It was probably three years ago. She was interested in trees. She’s a weaver. Cedar bark and everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I said, "Oh, we have cedar trees out there." And she wanted to see the cedar trees. So we went out, and we started counting the cedar trees.

And up on the north side, we found five more little cedar trees that were only three feet high. I mean, they were little guys. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: There’s no seeds on our cedar trees. Nobody’s planted a cedar tree there since Mom and I planted them. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: So I really studied them, and I walked -- and every one of them had four stakes around it. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: So I said to myself, remember when we went to Iceland, and the only way they could get the birch trees to regrow was to fence off the land.

The roots would be 200 years old, but they were getting eaten down every year by the sheeps that were all over Iceland.

I said, "These cedar trees have been just hanging on 'til we got enough water in the air in the summer. Now they’re growing." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: That’s the only way they can be growing. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because there’s still no seeds on any of those trees. I don’t know if they need more water, or if they need to reach a certain age of maturity, which is slow because of the dry conditions.

But that is my -- that is my final yes, we are getting way more rain than we used to. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Way more.

I even planted a couple of fruit trees out there last year, because I knew I didn’t have to worry about watering them because it’s been so wet. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I think it’s a permanent change. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: I really do, because I have -- it’s still dry in April and May, with the wind, so you lose stuff. Because you’re thinking it’s too cold to water, and the plants are just --

This is sandy soil. And the water just goes through them like that. You’ve gotta water at least twice a week when you’ve got that. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Preferably three or four times. It doesn’t stay wet.

I planted honeyberries so I didn’t have to go hiking for berries. I put in sweet cherries, and I’ve got three pear trees, and just all kinds of stuff that would not have produced thirty or forty years ago. They just simply couldn’t. KAREN BREWSTER: It was too dry? BETSY ALBECKER: Too dry.

KAREN BREWSTER: What about temperature? BETSY ALBECKER: We used to have some hot nights when I was in high school, ’cause I’d sleep with my window open and listen to the guys racing their cars around.

But, I think our hot weather was hotter and our cold weather was colder. But according to some of the records, that’s not really true.

But I think we had longer spells. Because we would go -- like one summer we were up at Lower Lake every day swimming, three o'clock in the afternoon. Well, you didn’t swim up there until the snow was gone and the water could warm up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Now, I find out you can get a wetsuit for under a hundred bucks, and the girls go up and swim from one end of the lake to the other in their wetsuits. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Not fair.

And the cold weather was definitely really cold. We would get several super cold spells when I was a kid. Because we had to walk to school. It was one-car families, and Dad had the car. All the families. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And you weren’t allowed to stay at school, unless it was below zero, with your lunch. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so -- BETSY ALBECKER: You had to go home. You had an hour, you know, so.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And was it more windy then? Or less windy? BETSY ALBECKER: It was always windy in the afternoon.

You just -- you just knew it was going to be windy by the time you got out of school. Most of the time, that was just the way it was. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: And if it wasn’t, then it was, wow.

KAREN BREWSTER: And now it’s different? BETSY ALBECKER: Well, this summer was.

But it was weather pattern up above that caused it. I don’t remember ever seeing a spell that long without any wind, as what we just had. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: My son and his wife were here for her first trip to Alaska. They were here ten days, and we’d already had an unseasonably long no-wind spell.

And today’s the first windy day we’ve had. This isn’t wind. KAREN BREWSTER: No. BETSY ALBECKER: But it’s not dead calm. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: The last long spell I remember is when I was a bartender back in the ’60’s, and that big huge rock came down off the cliff and got stuck in one of those big fuel tanks.

In Septem -- early September, I think it was. A fishing fleet was in, and we didn’t have a breath of wind. And if they hadn’t just filled that tank, it would have wiped out the whole town.

And every day, you’re walking around -- They wouldn’t let any of the fisherman or anybody into the harbor because the slightest little spark would set that stuff off. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And everybody was walking on eggshells, and we went -- I don’t know, it was five or six days. It seemed like forever.

You’d have to check the newspaper records somewhere for that. Because I was barmaiding. I wasn’t writing down stuff like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I just remember the fishermen were not happy, 'cause most of them had already sailed south, and they couldn’t even go down and check their boats. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And it was just -- you could smell the gas in the air. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s horrible.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that was -- that area that now is that rockslide, that was that? BETSY ALBECKER: That was -- yeah. Big huge, huge boulder came down, smashed, and stopped right in the middle because of the fuel. KAREN BREWSTER: The fuel tanks were over there?

BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. And they moved all the fuel tanks immediately. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Maybe under a rockslide that comes down every year isn’t such a good plan after all. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Let’s just build a road to Juneau on this same side where we have all these rock slides. That’s a better plan.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. You had mentioned Laughton Glacier? BETSY ALBECKER: Yes. Laughton Glacier.

My family -- my grandfather -- my mom was a little girl. She was about seven years old, and they took a little mop dog up with them and hiked up to Laughton Glacier, saw the glacier, were hiking back. And it was, I want to say June.

This would be one of the stories that’s on those tapes I was telling you about. KAREN BREWSTER: That you did with your mom. BETSY ALBECKER: That I may not have super accurately. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: What she remembered about the trip was they had a great horned owl following with them, and her dad, my grandpa, carried the dog all the way because they were all afraid that that owl was just going to swoop right in and pull the dog away. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So that was the memory on that.

KAREN BREWSTER: But you said something about hiking up to the glacier, and it being -- people don’t do that anymore.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, the glacier’s melted so far back, you can’t even see it. Even from the cabin.

I took my kids up years ago when they were about four or five, and we overnighted at the cabin. And we did hike up and get -- they walked on the glacier and all then.

But now it’s a major expedition, because you can’t even see the glacier from the cabin.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So when your mom -- they did it, it was an easy walk to get to the glacier? BETSY ALBECKER: It was a -- yeah. Yeah. It was still down on the flat. That’s how far back it’s gone. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: All these glaciers around here. I take pictures of that one every year. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s Face Mountain? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Or no, Harding. BETSY ALBECKER: Harding. Mount Harding. Mount Harding, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Mount Harding.

Yeah, but it’s interesting to hear about Laughton ’cause it’s farther out of town. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

I think this was -- You know, it might have been Denver Glacier that was closer. Whichever one is the closest.

We stayed at Laughton and I took my kids up, and that one you could -- you used to be able to get right up onto, too, real easily.

They’ve both gone way back, but I’m thinking Denver might be the one that you could hike to from town real easily, although I’ve never been to it because it had already melted so far back, it wasn’t a fun day trip anymore. Just go to the glacier. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Even -- BETSY ALBECKER: What glacier?

KAREN BREWSTER: Even from the road? It was, it’s -- BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ’Cause when your mom -- when they did it, there wasn’t the road? BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: They had to hike from town. BETSY ALBECKER: You hiked. You hiked along the railroad tracks. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Or I guess maybe the train could drop you off or pick you up? I don’t know if they did that. BETSY ALBECKER: Um, that’s how we did it for picking berries up at Glacier.

And the tourists just dearly loved that, because here we’d all be with those old Trapper Nelson backpacks with our berry buckets in them. "Oh look! Live Alaskans."

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, did you -- I was just thinking about that road going in, how that might have changed things. BETSY ALBECKER: It was great, because when the Parkies took over, the railroad -- the railroad went under when the road went through. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I think -- I don’t know what all the politics were behind that. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Mine prices were down. It wasn’t feasible to keep it running anyway.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But I was thinking what had changed. You said now a bridge has wiped out a blueberry patch. What other things having a road? BETSY ALBECKER: The best part for most of us was we could get to medical attention. KAREN BREWSTER: In Whitehorse?

BETSY ALBECKER: Now, the Canadian doctors can’t treat us for anything. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: You can’t -- if you have a broken leg, you have to wait to get to Juneau, even if you’re right there in Whitehorse, practically. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But for awhile there, it was real handy. You could just go up there for all your medical stuff. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And you didn’t have to wait for a long train. Ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch, ch.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, we were starting to talk about insects and bugs. BETSY ALBECKER: Insects and bugs. Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because I know as a gardener, those are something you notice. BETSY ALBECKER: Up until about four years ago, this killer big elderberry bush out there -- I brought it in from out at the Landing. It was out on the rocks. That’s what we call our homestead. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And for years, it never got past four feet in height. Lucky to get that high. It would have a couple of berries, and the crows would break it every fall, too, just snap off the branches.

So I brought it to town. I felt sorry for it. And about four years ago, in the spring, it was infested with little -- a lace-wing aphid. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we’re not talking a few dozen. We’re talking several thousand. Every leaf is just covered with them. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: You can go outside right now and see dead ones still caught in the stuff on the shingles.

I don’t know where they came from. I cannot get rid of them. I tried spraying them. Wash ’em off with your hose, every day, two or three times.

And they’ll -- they just -- they’re there. So that’s one thing that I have noticed.

KAREN BREWSTER: And have they affected the growth and productivity of that tree? BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know about the growth, but it still has tons of berries and flowers every year. And every year, it’s higher.

I didn’t know they could get higher than your roof line, but it just keeps going.

But they just make a secretion, a real sticky, little yucky thing all over it. They put some holes in the leaves, but, basically, I can’t -- it’s not damaging the fruit production. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: I’m trying something new I saw online. It can’t hurt, might help. Banana peels and aphids are supposed to be very incompatible. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Call me in three years, and I’ll let you know. All my banana peelings are going out there.

I also get, um, different kind of aphid, more of a mealy-bug type aphid on my -- on my, um, oh come on. Sorry about that. KAREN BREWSTER: It’s ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: Columbines. I have purple columbines on the front bed.

I didn’t do much to the yard this year on that side, because the highway is going to rip it all up and the sidewalks. And they can come back up to six, eight -- they can come back up to eight feet into my yard if they want to. KAREN BREWSTER: So they -- BETSY ALBECKER: But they have to replace the pavement.

And they’re going to replace the sidewalks, too. And I have no idea of what sort of devastation they are going to do, so I’m just kind of seeing what’s wintering and moving the best stuff over here.

KAREN BREWSTER: So they’re going to redo State Street? BETSY ALBECKER: They’re gonna do half of it one year, and the other half the next year.

And first they were going to do it this year, and then about a month before, about March or April, they told us, no, they changed their mind. They’re gonna do it in 2019.

And now they’ve told us it’s going to be 2020. But in the meantime -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So.

KAREN BREWSTER: So besides aphids, any worms or moths or -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: We’ve got those black and yellow, um, caterpillars.

They’re not the same ones, woolly worms, that we had when I was a kid. The ones that I had. KAREN BREWSTER: Woolly bears, those? BETSY ALBECKER: Woolly bears.

They are -- when I was a kid, they were seldom over an inch long, and they were much, much skinnier. They were a different brand of the same bug. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Now they’re huge, and they’re all over the trees all over town.

I had some on my apple tree, but I took ’em off and put ’em in the freezer because I really didn’t want them all over.

I did not find them on any of the other fruit trees in mine. I have seen other apple trees in town that were just absolutely devastated with them. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: The renter that stayed out at my cabin documented a ton of bug damage out there on various things.

These same woolly bears were on the -- some of the trees, the um -- KAREN BREWSTER: The ash? No.

BETSY ALBECKER: Not ash. The other one that starts with "a" -- Your f -- alder. KAREN BREWSTER: Alder. BETSY ALBECKER: Your first cover crops.

There was a different kind of worm on the, um, cottonwoods and the -- also the alders.

The alders usually get a little caterpillar-y thing that makes a tent. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: But not bad. But this year they were really bad.

There was something on the fireweed. I tried, but I never got loose of work to get out there so that she could show me everything that was out there.

But it’s -- there were three different kinds of bugs that she noticed. And she’s -- she’s homeschooling her boys, and they’re like six, eight, and nine, so they nature-walk all the time and look at everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: The little boys have been playing on the beach and fishing.

The little boys found eels, which I only ever remembered two eels in my life finding. And we -- when I was a little kid, we turned the rocks over all the time, too, but we never found eels. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Never.

He’s also catching fish, like we did. Um, what other bugs have I noticed.

KAREN BREWSTER: Are there any good bugs that have come around, or are all -- BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, there’s a beetle that I hadn’t seen. Nice, big beetle with bright orange markings. I took a picture of him ’cause he was -- he looked like he was from Egypt. Only a little bit scrawny. Maybe only half Egyptian, and I thought, I’ve never seen this bug.

So distinctive, so easy to find online. He’s a good bug. But he wasn’t a stranger. He’s been in the area for over twenty years. How I missed him? So not very prolific yet. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: A few of the gardeners knew him. A few of ’em didn’t.

When I was a kid and the raspberries were ripe in June and done -- part of the thing is there’s more everbearers, but my bushes are descendants of those bushes that were when I was a kid.

My black currant bush is the same one that was there when I was a kid. So it’s the climate, if they’re the same bushes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Meaning that -- BETSY ALBECKER: Descended from the same. It’s the same raspberry patch that I picked when I was a kid.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And it’s the climate, meaning what? BETSY ALBECKER: That the berries are ripe into July and August. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Inste -- because they were always done. They --

But they obviously aren’t June bearers because something about the climate is making them bear longer. Way longer.

And they’re bearing for several months instead of ten days or two weeks. Used to be, you know, boop! That’s it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So I don’t know why that is.

But we had beautiful big, huge fruit spiders in them all summer long. You had to really be careful if you didn’t like spiders.

And since my mom had a phobia of them, all of us inherited that. Thank you, Mom.

And especially, we were the right height for them. So you were really careful when you picked your raspberries because they were the same size as the raspberries. And you could get awfully close to ’em before you noticed them, and, "Aaaa, bug! Don’t pick this bush."

I don’t see the fruit spiders in the raspberries anymore, neither over at the old house, or at this house. They’re just not there. KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting.

BETSY ALBECKER: I saw two fruit spiders in a friend’s raspberry patch last year, and I took pictures of them because it was -- I hadn’t seen ’em.

And I don’t remember a summer that we didn’t have them when I was a kid. They were just part of the -- you had daddy longlegs. You had a few of the little woolly worms. Never an infestation like this.

Grasshoppers. We had grasshoppers when I was a kid. We had tons of empty lots. All over town there were empty lots. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because -- you look at the old pictures, and there were lots of old buildings, but there were lots of empty lots. And we would catch ’em.

They were little grasshoppers. They weren’t those great big crickety things. They were -- I don’t know, they were little brown guys like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And you were always happy when you found them because that was good swimming weather. Hot and sunny. And that’s when you’d find the little grasshoppers.

I haven’t seen a grasshopper here since, I couldn’t tell you. Not since I was married and divorced and moved back home to really be here. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And that was in ’68. 1968, I moved back. KAREN BREWSTER: Is when you moved back? BETSY ALBECKER: And I have -- and I was only in Haines then. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: I was coming back and forth. But I have not seen a grasshopper. KAREN BREWSTER: Since 1968? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, that I can consciously say, "Yeah, I saw a grasshopper." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Jellyfish. The fishermen -- you need to talk to Andrew Beierly, 'cause -- KAREN BREWSTER: I have. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, ok. The jellyfish -- ’cause he was out on the water all the time.

When I was building my cabin, I was out there all the time, working on the foundation and stuff. Never saw a jellyfish in Skagway. Ever. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Except maybe a dead red one, once. Maybe twice. That was all.

And three or four years ago, I was out there in early spring. And now they’re epidemic.

Every early spring, we’ve got great big huge ones. They’re clear. And they’re from little bitty to great big, hundreds and hundreds of them.

And so I asked the fishermen, and they said they’ve been there quite -- quite a few years, but I don’t know how many is quite a few. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I couldn’t find someone that would tell me, yes or no, we had ’em.

We did not have them in Skagway when I was a kid. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: I'm sur -- Because some of them would have been on the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we would have been watching for ’em. Because we were the family that watched for the hooligan and picked them up.

And we watched for the herring runs, and we picked the mushrooms, and, you know, by the season. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: You do everything by the seasons, so you know.

I didn’t see jellyfish 'til I was living in Haines and we were on a fishing boat.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, yeah, that’s -- is it that they’ve always been out there in the ocean, but now they’re only coming ashore? Washing up, you know, there’s -- BETSY ALBECKER: These weren’t washing, these were all swimming.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you’ve seen -- all the ones you’re seeing are swimming? BETSY ALBECKER: I’ve got beautiful pictures of them, and they’re huge. I know because I know the size of the rocks they were up against. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Because I take pictures of that stuff all the time.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So you saw them in the water? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Not washed up dead on the beach. BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: Never did see, hardly any, on the beach.

But the jellyfish were another sign to me that, "Hey, oops. What’s happening here?"

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, you mentioned the fish. So hooligan -- the herring? And salmon and halibut? Or that’s kind of -- BETSY ALBECKER: Salmon and halibut. Bowheads.

We caught a skate one time out there. Got a cod, ling cod, not real common.

Tom cods are real common. Um, a Dolly Varden. They’re all wild fish.

And the oldest kid out there is a natural fisherman. He’s been catching Dollies. KAREN BREWSTER: In the ocean? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Right on the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right on the -- BETSY ALBECKER: Right off the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s good fishing there. We’ve got several good fishing spots.

KAREN BREWSTER: So has there been a change in any of those fish runs? BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: You have to talk to a fisherman. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I just thought maybe you --

BETSY ALBECKER: When I was a kid, my dad would throw a crab pot -- a shrimp pot off the back of the freighter when it came in. And then pull it up after the evening shift, ’cause they’d go back at seven o'clock and work till nine or ten. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And he would come home with dishpans full of shrimp. They’re all big ones, two different kinds. But very big.

And they always fished right through the egg-laying season, which I do not understand and they still allow up here, which really annoys me.

Um, we have big sea snails out in Long Bay, but once -- once too many people found out about them, the place got stripped several summers in a row.

And I know there’s a few have made a little bit of a comeback, but that’s sad, because as soon as they start making a comeback, that’s the only place they breed, is the Long Bay area, and they will get stripped again.

Because they take all the great big ones, and they don’t think of leaving any for reproduction.

KAREN BREWSTER: So people collect them and eat them? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. They’re delicious. KAREN BREWSTER: What are they again? BETSY ALBECKER: Giant snails. KAREN BREWSTER: Giant snails? Sea snails. BETSY ALBECKER: Big sea snails. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: Very good. Very good eating. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: But you have to let ’em sit in cornmeal for twenty-four hours to process and get the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. Clean ’em out? BETSY ALBECKER: Clean them out. And they’re a bit rubbery. They’re better if they’re ground up like burger. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: And then they’re very good in spaghetti sauce or anything that you would use a ground meat in. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: They don’t taste fishy at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Ah. Never heard of that.

BETSY ALBECKER: But too many harvesters in too small an area.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Now you mentioned mushrooms. So you -- you used -- BETSY ALBECKER: We did mushrooms, too.

KAREN BREWSTER: And have you -- I don’t know if you’ve continued, if there’s a time. BETSY ALBECKER: Bad hip, and long working hours. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I’m just curious if there’s been a change in the mushrooms out there.

BETSY ALBECKER: Jack Inhofe is your best bet for -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Talking mushrooms. Or Terry Williams. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Both of them, they go regularly. They can find ’em.

I know what we used to get and the seasons that we got them, but I have not looked really hard for a lot of years now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Ok. You also mentioned erosion. Is there a -- do you mean the river, or you mean along the coast or -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: Erosion along the Dyea River is really bad. I watch a sandbar coming out towards our space.

That would include the West Creek river coming down off that glacier.

There’s erosion along the sides of the road. Because I had one really good spot to dig my dirt from. And I also pick up rocks to make walls and stuff with, so I check every spring to see where the best flat rocks have come down. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Which is caused by erosion.

And there’s places along the railroad that come down every year, that they go up and dynamite to make come down. Because they are going to come down, and they are going to knock a train off the edge. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: So that’s a major problem all along there.

And if you ride the ferry, you can look at the old rockslide areas. You can -- you can see the avalanche areas. They’re very conspicuous. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

And so they’re consistent, or have there been new areas formed? BETSY ALBECKER: Not any really new ones. You’ve got the same spots year after year. Some of ’em don’t come down every year. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: That’s the only difference.

But there’s one up there just south of the Gold Rush Cemetery that has been coming down since my -- that comes down every year. They’ve got a big barricade for it. You just know it’s going to come down. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: It came down when my grandpa was a kid.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I didn’t know if the glaciers are changing, how that affects the avalanche areas or the rivers coming out of the glaciers? BETSY ALBECKER: The West Creek one had --

You might not even have heard about it. I forget. Something bad happened down in the outside world when the West Creek Lake up at the glacier broke through and flooded really badly out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: And it could have been devastating, but it was early morning before the tourists had hit the area, so nobody was hurt.

But that brought down so many tons of dirt, and it’s still washing out the road and stuff really badly.

We have a lot of road machinery lovers out there, and they fixed the road before the city or anybody got -- state -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: You know, they hand did it.

But, I can watch the sand moving closer from the Dyea flats down to my cabin because I’m right out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And boy, that laid a lot and the trees. Ever since that West Creek thing happened, there’s been just so many dozens of trees. I even want to say maybe several hundred that have washed out into the bay and down, and they just keep coming.

And the Dyea River is busy being a braided river. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Which is what they do, so --

But there’s so many snags out there, and the snags catch the sand, so it builds up, and the grass moves in.

So if I can hang on for another twenty or thirty years, I might get to see it right out front and just wave to people at the end of the beach.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that West Creek flood. Do you remember when that was? BETSY ALBECKER: No. Jeff Brady would be the person to talk to. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, yeah. I mean, I just thought -- BETSY ALBECKER: Jeff’s got all that in his head.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, I was wondering if that is an unusual event, and it can be related to -- BETSY ALBECKER: Well, it was the glacial moraine that broke through, so you won’t get that happen again for a couple hundred years at least.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that was just a fluke? BETSY ALBECKER: It was a fluke. It was a one-time -- There was a lake up there, and conditions got just right, and it broke through. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: And they do that all over the world. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s -- BETSY ALBECKER: But they don’t -- you don’t know when they’re going to do them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And that’s what I was wondering. Is that a natural process? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Or was it warming, and the moraine got less frozen and broke through? BETSY ALBECKER: Well. KAREN BREWSTER: Or more water in the lake?

BETSY ALBECKER: More water was a large part of it, because the glaciers here are all moving back. They’re melting back.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that lake got more full? BETSY ALBECKER: Bigger, and there were more rocks to absorb heat.

And, who knows, it might have been a small earthquake set it off eventually. You know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Those things just --

I don’t think anybody’s ever predicted one of ’em, that I can find out. Can you? KAREN BREWSTER: No. I don’t know if they can. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t think they can, because it’s -- how much water is running underneath to make a big enough -- all of a sudden, k’shoong!

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I know there’s some glaciers who do it, like every -- more predictably. There are some, I think, who -- BETSY ALBECKER: I think you’re right, yes. KAREN BREWSTER: It depends on the -- BETSY ALBECKER: The glacier. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and the geology and all that.

Animals. You mentioned porcupine, and that’s something I haven’t talked to other people about. I keep forgetting about porcupines.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, we had this big huge porcupine on the beach for about four years. And he was big. Oh my gosh, I didn’t know they came that big.

And I think he didn’t like the baby one there and chased him off the beach. The big one hung out down there. He never came up into the garden, or if he did, he wasn’t interested in the low thing.

He ate the plants that were on the beach for his salt. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BETSY ALBECKER: And he was very happy with it. And he looked like he should have had a vest with a gold watch on it. I mean, ’cause he’d stand up there and just look around at you.

I walked over to one of the rocks he was standing by one day to see if I could get an idea, and he -- he was at least three feet high on his hind feet. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow, he’s big. BETSY ALBECKER: And I just, huge.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now is that typical, having porcupines around and that big? BETSY ALBECKER: To be that -- ? No, I’ve never seen one like that.

I talked to Art Johns from up in the Yukon. KAREN BREWSTER: Carcross, up there? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, and he said -- that area. And he said that wasn’t that unusual, but, to me it was.

And I remember more porcupines when I was a kid, but they’re kind of cyclical. And usually when there’s a lot of construction going on, you see more of ’em, but this last bridge job, they -- I just haven’t seen a ton of ’em. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: But, usually, you’ll see one or two during the year, and I haven’t this year. I haven’t since the year of the baby, and I still kick myself for not getting rid of that baby, but it had big blue eyes, and it was so cute. And it was just scuttling around.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, yeah. So that -- you -- But you remember when you were a kid, you saw more of them? BETSY ALBECKER: We saw more of ’em. Not tons of ’em, but you saw ’em regularly. And you’d see ’em on the side of the road regularly. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: What I did see this year that I have never seen before, so I asked Art Johns again, because he was a hunter and guide like his daddy, was a jackrabbit. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I did not know we had jackrabbits in this country. All I’ve ever seen are the cute little bouncy bunnies. You know, just regular rabbits. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, I saw this guy three times out at my cabin, going across the road, and he was not a cute little cuddly bunny. He was a pchew (sound effect) with huge ears, big legs, and just going like. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I’m going, really? And Art said, yes, really. So I defer to him on that one, totally.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Um, what about bears, wolves, coyotes, other kind of bigger -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: Well, never saw a bear out at the Landing up until about ten years ago.

And when I asked the hunters how come we have epidemics of bears now, they said that way back in the day before the Parkies took over, the local hunters would take at least a dozen bears out of Dyea every year. And that kept the population down.

And when the Parkies put a ban on hunting, they overpopulated.

And we had a beautiful, big grizzly that decided my -- our place, even without a creek and no fish, was a great place to live. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: For the summer. Or at least prospect.

I ended up putting a couple of bear alarms out there to try and scare him off. Didn’t work.

And I was happily at the foot of the hill unloading my little blue pickup, and I’d reached in like this and took a great big thing out of it. And turned around like this, and put it under a tree. And turned around like this, and right on the other side of the pickup was this huge grizzie walking up the hill. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: He was at the passenger side, and I was down at the tail end, so I was like -- and it was a little pickup, one of those little wee ones. I was here, and he was there, and he had come up the road behind me all that way, and I hadn’t noticed him. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. BETSY ALBECKER: Hadn’t heard him, hadn’t seen.

I was focused on, get this, put it there, get this. Oh my god.

And I just watched him finish going up the hill and didn’t do any more work out there for the next -- that was the other factor for not gardening out there. That big bear was out there.

I got pictures of him sitting underneath my lilac in bloom, eating dandelions. From my deck, because I was inside. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And walking past the little red car, just below my cabin. I was on the upper deck, thank you, Lord. And I just didn’t think it was a good idea to be out there. KAREN BREWSTER: No. BETSY ALBECKER: Not even.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But when you were growing up here, were there -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: I never saw a bear in my life.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you as kids weren’t warned about being careful? BETSY ALBECKER: Never saw -- No, there were no bears out there. And I still say, we don’t even have a creek. There’s no water. There’s no fish. Why would bear --

I smoked salmon every year in the ’70’s for about -- I started in the ’60’s -- eight or ten years. And I had a smoker out there, and I would set my salmon out to dry. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: After you brine ’em for twenty-four hours. Out there at my cabin. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And do ’em in a cold smoke twenty-four hours. Never saw a bear. Didn’t worry about it.

You couldn’t pay me enough to try and smoke fish out there now outside like that because there’s so many bears in Dyea.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. What about around town, when you were a kid, would -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: No, I never saw a live bear in my life. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: We heard one time that there was a bear up at Lower Lake, but nobody ever actually saw it. Maybe one of the hunters. I don’t know.

But all this, "Bears in town, bears in the garbage. Watch your -- don’t put anything in your compost." Like, excuse me? Give me a break! There’s no bears here.

Well, there are bears here. But when one of my clerks came down. She was living in the cabin over on the hill right there just the other side of the railroad tracks. She comes bouncing in the store, "A bear! A bear! There was a bear peeking in my window." We’re going, "Yeah, right, Cathy. You can’t snow us." She really did see a bear.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so you don’t think that’s climate change? You think that’s ’cause there’s no hunting anymore? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

And the road makes super easy access now. If you’re a bear, good grief. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Or a moose. Moose have come down over that.

We had mountain goats, is what we had. KAREN BREWSTER: So you used to have mountain goats around here? BETSY ALBECKER: We still do. KAREN BREWSTER: You still do? Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That hasn’t changed?

BETSY ALBECKER: Trophy-size mountain goats. Good mountain goat country.

We don’t have local deer, but there have been a few, very few instances of deer coming in. There again, the hunters would know more about this stuff than I do. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: I have seen lynx. Lots of people have seen lynx. You don’t see a lot of them, but they’re here. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: They live here.

Coyotes. My dad was part of the group that poisoned out the wolves back in the ’50’s, so they could plant deer here. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: At the time, they thought that was how you did it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: It didn’t work at all.

But, so, I remember growing up when I was a little kid, listening to the wolves howl out there, and about 1953 or ’54 was the last time we did -- got to hear that. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: I might be off by a year or two. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, that was the -- BETSY ALBECKER: That was in the mid-’50’s.

KAREN BREWSTER: The ’50’s was when they did that wolf bounty all over. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: And they just exterminated them.

I think there are wolves around here again now, but they certainly aren’t as vocal as they were when I was a kid. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: They’re much more, um, shy. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: At least in this area.

KAREN BREWSTER: What about birds? Different birds than there used to be? BETSY ALBECKER: Not nearly as many of anything. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Nothing.

And there again, I didn’t have a digital camera. I wasn’t a serious watcher. I just kind of took some notes and marked things, but hooligan run in the spring.

I can remember staying out there, and the raft of seagulls and ducks would be two thirds of the way across the bay. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. BETSY ALBECKER: Over -- over to the other side.

I haven’t seen -- I have not seen congregations of birds like that since I got done with my business in the ’80’s. That there -- I don’t know when they quit being that huge, but they just aren’t there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is that hooligan run in the Skagway River? BETSY ALBECKER: Eh -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Dyea River. KAREN BREWSTER: Dyea River. BETSY ALBECKER: Usually Dyea River. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: And they had a big hooligan run a couple years ago, but I, but the birds were not out there like I remember them being.

And we used to get more eagles during that. And so many different kinds of ducks. It was just -- but the seagulls. And so noisy, they won’t shut up at three o'clock in the morning, either. They just took turns. You had your day birds and your night birds, and it was every spring they came in like that.

So I watch the birds, and I see various ones, but I can’t -- I’m not a good person to say, "Oh yeah. There’s way more of these or that." All I know is that there used to be a lot more bird call around there. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I have noticed over the years, these last ten years, there’s been more predator birds. Small hawks, goshawks. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: Hanging out, out there. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t there before. It means I didn’t notice them before. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right.

You did mention the crows. BETSY ALBECKER: The crows were not ubiquitous when I was in school, high school, here.

When I was growing up, you would go over to the city dump, which was over at the mouth of the river, where TEMSCO is. You would see seagulls. Practically all seagulls. Maybe a raven or two. But you didn’t see flocks of crows.

The crows didn’t start really invading the town until you had more than four cruise ships coming in regularly. And that meant more garbage all the way up, because they used to throw a lot of the food stuff overboard. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

BETSY ALBECKER: How do I know? It would float in on our beach. Sack of onions. Sack of oranges. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. BETSY ALBECKER: Or, you know, just food garbage. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: So I’m not sure that’s what brought the crows, but it certainly didn’t hurt. And all of a sudden, you’ve got crows here all summer, every summer.

I had -- I grew up in this house, and my bedroom was upstairs at the far end, and under the eaves, barn swallows nested every year. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: And the little babies would cheep, start cheeping about 3:30, four o'clock in the morning, which I really liked. I mean, I --

the swallows eat mosquitoes, and they’d fly, and they’re gorgeous, and they were all over town.

Well, I moved into the house. The other side of that, it’s got stucco on it. My grandma gave it to me. And I -- when we refinished the outside, I put in a little nesting box out of glass. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So we could look at them from the inside. But so they would be safe. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, cool.

BETSY ALBECKER: And I didn’t notice any this year, but I don’t go that way because of the tourists. So I don’t know if they nested.

They’ve been a little iffy the last couple years. But there hasn’t been a swallow nesting in there. KAREN BREWSTER: In this house? BETSY ALBECKER: For over thirty years, because the crows can reach the babies under the eaves. There’s not safe nesting for them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Huh.

BETSY ALBECKER: And so, you don’t see swallows. It used to be when you went out in the evening, you saw swallows all over the place. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Oh, right. BETSY ALBECKER: You don’t see them.

Once in awhile, you’ll see one or two.

And I keep wondering if there’s a way we could build nests for them that the crows couldn’t reach the babies. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: ’Cause I think once they’re past being a -- I don’t know if the crows get ’em when they’re learning to fly, too, or not. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I don’t know.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I would like to see the swallows back again. But that’s how I really noticed the crows. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BETSY ALBECKER: Was when, when I moved back home, and I wasn’t hearing the baby swallows, and they weren’t there. And that was crows.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Now, do the crows spend the winters here? BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No. BETSY ALBECKER: They migrate.

And I don’t know where they go. KAREN BREWSTER: No. But, um. BETSY ALBECKER: But they have a good thing here, and there’s probably three or four hundred of ’em here every summer.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I just didn’t know if warmer winters meant the crows could stay. BETSY ALBECKER: They can, and I think there’s a few that do, just like there’s always a few.

One year, there was a hummingbird that stayed in Dorothy Jean’s garage all winter. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: There’s always a few crazy birds. We have a real live city pigeon here right now.

We got invaded by the Oriental ones. What are they called? KAREN BREWSTER: Ring-necked dove? BETSY ALBECKER: Ring-necked doves. Because they go to my girlfriend’s feeder regularly, and I’ve counted sixteen of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. BETSY ALBECKER: At one time. I’ve got pictures of ’em. But she says she’s gotten eighteen.

And three years ago, they were still super bashful. All you had to do was pick up your camera and “csh” they’re gone.

Now this year, they were all over town, sitting there, "coo, coo, coo, coo, coo." You could hear them. They have -- they are here to stay.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But they migrate out in the winter? No, they stay all winter? BETSY ALBECKER: No. They stay all winter. And they have invaded successfully.

Same with the terns. We always had terns, but we didn’t have tons. We didn’t have that nice colony down there that doesn’t like tourists or anybody near their babies. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. Right. BETSY ALBECKER: "Go away. Kapoom!"

KAREN BREWSTER: And that’s out at the beach? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: By the ore terminal down there? BETSY ALBECKER: Right, yeah. Which is ok. They’re ok birds. The crows are the biggies.

The ravens, we still have. And ravens are still not as social here. Juneau’s my favorite place for ravens. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Oh, my gosh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I thought I’d see more ravens here, 'cause I think of ravens and Southeast. I associate them together.

BETSY ALBECKER: The crows are so nasty to them. I think the ravens just kind of pulled back. You see them more in the winter time.

They’re socialized, too, though. They come -- I had -- I put out a turkey carcass one year, just to see which birds I would get, and I didn’t have my camera charged up. And a raven couple came and demolished it, right on my deck out there.

And I’m going, "Aaaah! You’re not charged up! I need to do this again."

KAREN BREWSTER: The other thing you mentioned was a cabin that had burned down in a fire, so I’m wondering about your memories of forest fires. BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t remember any of the forest fires. They all happened before my time. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: What I remember is going all over the Point picking "squirrel towns." We used to sell the pinecones to Iceland.

And there were all these snags everywhere, and now there’s houses everywhere that we used to go. And it’s all developed and grown up.

The big one up on that hill -- KAREN BREWSTER: By the Dewey Lakes? BETSY ALBECKER: My grandma remembered that for the next couple years, the blueberry picking was outlandishly good. You’d just run up there, and it was great.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that was a fire on that hillside during -- BETSY ALBECKER: Took out a hotel. Back in the teens. KAREN BREWSTER: During your grandmother’s time?

BETSY ALBECKER: That was before -- just before she got here, I think. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. In the teens. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: But in your lifetime, there hasn’t been any forest fires? BETSY ALBECKER: House fires, but the only forest fire we’ve had was over in Dyea. Uh, the east side where the road is.

And it took out what looks amazingly small, but it took ’em a couple of weeks with -- with the planes that pour water -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right. BETSY ALBECKER: -- on because it’s so rocky and so many crevasses, it just kept burning and burning and burning and burning and burning. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But we had the right kind of weather, and it didn’t really spread anywhere.

There’s just this spot on the hill. If you’re over on the flats, you can look over. You can pick it out real easily. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: It looks like it was burned. And the vegetation is, you know, first generation.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, but even though for how dry it was here, there’s not a big history of fires. BETSY ALBECKER: No. Partly because we have had good snow cover most years. And the years that we haven’t, especially lately, it’s been wet enough.

We used to get the smoke from the fires. I remember one summer when they were having bad ones in the Yukon, close to Whitehorse, and it was just -- the temperature went from the high, mid-seventies or above right down into the fifties and stayed that way the rest of the summer.

KAREN BREWSTER: 'Cause of the smoke? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. And all you’d see was this haze.

This little ball going across, and think, it could have been swimming weather, but we can’t even breathe.

KAREN BREWSTER: But that was unusual? BETSY ALBECKER: Um -- KAREN BREWSTER: Or was that a common thing for awhile? BETSY ALBECKER: Not super common, but not super unusual.

We used to -- several years we got thunderstorms regularly for part of the summer, and it would come down and rain for half an hour and stop. Not every summer, but enough summers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because I’m wondering, yeah, if the fires up in the Yukon may be changing. BETSY ALBECKER: They are lightning. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they’re lightning? BETSY ALBECKER: They’re lightning.

The one that’s going right now that’s been going for weeks now, has been, gosh, for months now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, if they’re getting more fires up there, I wonder. BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know if they’re getting more, but that one is just -- they’re lightning strikes. Practically all of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we don’t get the lightning storms here. KAREN BREWSTER: No. That’s a more interior thing.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, when we get fires in downtown, and the one that took out our cabin over on our property, that was set by a cigarette or something. It’s careless people. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s not lightning. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we had a terrific thunderstorm through here last summer or the summer before with really wicked lightning, and we all thought there was going to be a fire. We really did. So.

KAREN BREWSTER: So has the storm pattern changed? Like, are you getting more fall or winter storms, or more severe storms? BETSY ALBECKER: I can’t tell. I can’t tell. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: I really can’t tell.

Just judge it by the -- by the debris that comes in on the beach.

We’ve had -- and by the number of trees that get knocked down over my road, in the -- when we get -- we usually get one really bad windstorm in the fall that knocks trees down.

And spring storms are kind of unusual.

But most of the huge floods that we’ve had, I’m trying to think, were they spring floods or fall floods? They’re usually spring because the ground hasn’t thawed out yet. So if you get super heavy rain, it stays on top. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But my mom saw all of the -- she saw 300-year floods here in this town. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? BETSY ALBECKER: But I’ve -- I’ve managed to be out of town for every single one of them. Got pictures in the albums. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: But I haven’t been here for them.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, yeah, it’s not like it’s flooding more now than it used to? BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t think so.

KAREN BREWSTER: ’Cause if it’s raining more than it used to? BETSY ALBECKER: It’s raining more, but we have way more dirt, and the trees are way bigger, and the glaciers are up way higher, so the rain has farther to go.

And you’ve got a dike system everywhere. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: And so I really couldn’t say.

We’re going to have some major slide issues on the Long Bay Road on the east side, because our just recently retired DOT supervisor that was here for the last ten years did some crazy cutting of the trees on the side of the road for about a mile and a half.

And just chopped them off like that all along where they were holding the dirt, and already the dirt is coming down, and the trees are hanging over the edge, and everything is sliding.

And so, if we get one of those killer storms this fall -- it’ll either be this year -- you know, it’s going to happen.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, and I would, too, it it's -- is it freezing up later so there’s a longer time where that dirt is not frozen and so is more likely to slide? BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know.

Always figured that by Halloween, we will have -- that week of Halloween, we will have snow on the ground here. But it might only be a quarter of an inch. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And one year when I was in high school, it was ten below zero. It dropped on that morning. KAREN BREWSTER: On Halloween? BETSY ALBECKER: And that night, we had the north wind going like crazy.

It’s like that Princess Sophia storm. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Which was early.

But I only remember one zero Halloween all these years. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s usually kind of nice.

But you can expect that the snow will move down. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And then melt back, and you might not see it again 'til after Christmas. KAREN BREWSTER: I see. Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: You know.

KAREN BREWSTER: But when you were a kid, if it snowed in October, did it stay? BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No, you said it -- BETSY ALBECKER: No. Never stayed. Never stayed.

KAREN BREWSTER: What about -- did the temperatures stay cold enough in the winter, like for ice skating? BETSY ALBECKER: Oh, yeah. We had an ice skating rink right over there where the housing is right by the bridge across to the Lower Lake trail system. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, by the Westmark stuff. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

They could just lift -- the power company would just lift the -- they had a little spillway, and they would just -- so we had ice all winter long when it was cold.

And they could do it on a nice, calm night and get us good -- and we had, we had homemade boards, shovels. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right. To keep the snow off? BETSY ALBECKER: To scrape it off, yeah.

'Cause you get just enough snow to wreck the ice, is what would happen usually. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: But -- ’Cause then it would warm up and stick. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And then it would get cold.

So we didn’t have lots of good outdoor winter playtime in it. Usually a little too windy.

But we did put in many hours over there, ice skating, because it was back there enough to be sheltered a little bit from the wind.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And nowadays -- BETSY ALBECKER: They skate up at the school, but it -- that’s right out where the wind blows.

And they have to go through a major production with the fire engines to bring the water truck and flood it, so it doesn’t always get flooded at the appropriate time. ’Cause it’s gotta be calm, or it won’t freeze smooth enough to skate on.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And does it stay frozen all winter now? BETSY ALBECKER: It warms up here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s like Juneau. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: It doesn’t stay cold.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it used to? BETSY ALBECKER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No? Even when you were a kid? BETSY ALBECKER: It never stayed cold.

KAREN BREWSTER: What about your mom? Did she talk about it? BETSY ALBECKER: Weather patterns? It would get warm. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: That’s why she’d take us out on a nice day. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: It would get warm and wet and slushy, and then it would freeze and get cold and nasty, but not until it was treacherous underfoot. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And then we’d get more snow, and it would get warm and melt.

I have been just watching the winter in bemusement. It snows, and it’s still there the next day. Ok.

And the highway department would plow. It plows if there’s less than half an inch of snow. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So then they pull all that snow together, and you’ve got a berm to walk over. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Whereas, if they just left it alone, it would melt and go away.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And now, when you would do those play -- did you guys ski or go sledding? BETSY ALBECKER: We skied.

We carried our skis up to Lower Lake, almost, because we had brushed out a little ski trail. There was no good place to ski.

We’d drive out to Dyea and play on that hill. And they didn’t have the road built here, so sometimes we’d play on that road.

But mostly, we did Dyea with our skis, and cross-country. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: No downhill. KAREN BREWSTER: No, no. Cross-country is what I was assuming.

BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah, but we didn’t get very much good ski weather. You could go a whole winter and not have one snowfall that was good enough to ski on. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: Here.

If you lived in Dyea, they get way more. We get one inch, they get four inches. KAREN BREWSTER: Really? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

BETSY ALBECKER: The weather pattern is so different. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. That’s interesting.

BETSY ALBECKER: And lots of times, we’ll get the wind down the White Pass, but they don’t get it out of Dyea.

KAREN BREWSTER: And could you ski on the frozen Skagway or Dyea rivers? BETSY ALBECKER: Never.

We used to skate on the Skagway River, but they built it up with rocks and stuff by the bridge. I can’t remember why, because I wasn’t here when they did it.

And it’s way too treacherous. There’s no ice good enough for that now. KAREN BREWSTER: Now.

BETSY ALBECKER: We used to drive out to Liarsville and put our skates on and "pssshh," all the way down to the dump. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: Which was -- and one time we found a Dolly frozen in the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: A Dolly Varden? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

BETSY ALBECKER: And one winter, it was super calm long enough for the reservoir and Lower Lake to freeze. And the reservoir froze clear, and the ice was like fifteen, eighteen inches deep.

Mom would keep us off until it was twelve inches. That’s what she learned from the older generation. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And it was -- it was hard to go out on that ice the first couple times, because it was like plate glass. All you could see was the mucky bottom. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. BETSY ALBECKER: It was fabulous.

And we went up every day. We didn’t get out of school 'til four o'clock, and we’d light the Coleman lanterns and go up and go skating, and then come back down again about 7:00, 7:30, eight o'clock. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because it was just like a piece of plate glass, just setting on that whole thing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And that was just one particular year? BETSY ALBECKER: Just one year in my whole life. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember, like how old you were? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. It was 1960 because I got an A on the essay I wrote about it in high school. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Great.

BETSY ALBECKER: It was gorgeous. And it lasted for a little over a week, and then it snowed.

And we went up and played with our sleds, and we forgot a sled. And it thawed like it does, and when we went back up to get the sled, it was already too far down. Had melted down into the ice and was not salvageable.

And so we looked for it for years. We could see it down there for a couple years from the banks.

KAREN BREWSTER: Eventually, it probably rotted out. BETSY ALBECKER: It did. It just got covered with leaves, like they do. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I kept -- we all kept hoping there’d be another nice year like that for skating.

We didn’t even bother going over to the Dewey Lake, because the reservoir was so perfect. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: Wow.

’Cause we were skaters. We were skiers. We did everything.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. That was my sense of your family. You were big outdoors people.

BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. If it was nice, you dropped everything and go. KAREN BREWSTER: Yep. BETSY ALBECKER: Because it might not be nice later in the day. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: It usually wasn’t.

And these long days that we’ve had, a series of ’em, I’m going like, wow! This is great. I’ve never seen this in my life. Not here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, um, any other changes that you can think of? BETSY ALBECKER: Well, we don’t have very many crab anymore. We don’t have very many shrimp anymore.

But I sit out at my cabin and watch the commercial fishermen come in and lay their pots for six weeks or more with twenty or thirty pots.

Well, gee, I wonder why we don’t have ’em?

KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t realize there was a commercial season up here, this far. BETSY ALBECKER: There shouldn’t be. It should be strictly subsistence. There aren’t enough people. But that’s another story.

What else can I think of? The birds, the eagles are still here. The magpies are still here. The jays are still here. The robins are still here.

KAREN BREWSTER: And they all were here when you were growing up? BETSY ALBECKER: They were all, yeah.

The magpies I never noticed 'til I went to Haines, but I found out later they lived up at the other end of town. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: And nowadays, they come down a little bit. They’ll all eat at Debbie’s feeder. And the only reason I don’t put in a feeder is because there’s too many crows. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And I’m darned if I’m going to feed crows. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Not happening. KAREN BREWSTER: No.

BETSY ALBECKER: I want the swallows. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: And we had both kinds of swallows.

We had barn swallows and the other ones, the purple ones and the green ones. There’s two kinds.

KAREN BREWSTER: I know cliff swallows, but that’s not right. BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Yeah, I think it is. Because they had ’em up -- they have ’em up in the Yukon. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: Because I had -- one year, I had two kinds in my nest. One of ’em -- one of the birds couldn’t find the right kind of mate.

I had three adults, and two of ’em were green and one was purple, and they were all feeding the babies. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: It was very bizarre. But they were -- they’re not out at my cabin anymore either. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t see swallows.

I don’t see the bats. I’ve been told we still have bats, but I haven’t seen any. Has anybody reported any? KAREN BREWSTER: I haven’t -- no.

BETSY ALBECKER: We had ’em when I was a kid. KAREN BREWSTER: You did? Ok. BETSY ALBECKER: We could see ’em up at Lower Lake.

The bats were along on that walk to the glacier with the big owl. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: There were bats out then.

And I haven’t seen any here for years. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: And they were just -- just little guys.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that makes also -- I was going to say, we're talking about insects. Mosquitoes -- has been there. There’s always mosquitoes. BETSY ALBECKER: There’s always mosquitoes.

KAREN BREWSTER: But is there a change? Are there more or less now, do you think? BETSY ALBECKER: I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: I mean, you were saying, you know, like barn swallows maybe ate them, or maybe the bats ate them, but -- BETSY ALBECKER: We still have lots of mosquitoes, but the -- those kind --

The biting bugs are so dependent on how warm or wet it is through the summer.

You -- you -- One year, you have a ton of the little white flies and no-see-ums. Another year, it’s all deer fly. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: Another year, it’s the horse fly.

Another year, it’s mostly mosquitoes. It’s just comple -- and I never watch them closely enough -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: To correlate it to which one is what.

We don’t have as much high grass, so maybe that cuts down on something. KAREN BREWSTER: You mean, in town? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: People’s lawns and stuff, you mean? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah.

And so many -- you don’t have all those empty lots anymore. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: So, who knows? KAREN BREWSTER: Who knows? BETSY ALBECKER: Who knows? KAREN BREWSTER: Who knows? BETSY ALBECKER: Only the shadow knows.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, Betsy, thank you so much for your time. BETSY ALBECKER: You’re welcome. KAREN BREWSTER: Unless there’s anything else you can think of.

BETSY ALBECKER: Ask about octopus. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, octopus. BETSY ALBECKER: Um, when you’re talking to other people, about water.

We found one little octopus on our beach in the 1970’s and those two eels, and that was it.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you’ve never seen ’em since? BETSY ALBECKER: No.

But the little boys showed me the eels they found, and they were the same kind of eels. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: So. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

And, of course, the ore terminal, that -- well, not just the terminal, but the lead-zinc pollution issues in this town. It’s not climate change. It’s more environmental. BETSY ALBECKER: It’s pollution. Yeah, it’s an environmental thing, and it might be exacerbated with the pollution, but who knows? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: You know?

I still pick the mussels out at our place.

I have noticed -- I noticed this year, I have mussels down in front of my cabin, which I didn’t have as many of before.

And the seaweed is much thicker on my rocks these last two summers than it’s been because I used to scramble along the rocks all the time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: When I was younger, it was fun. Especially at low tide. That’s what you would do. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: You’d scramble the rocks.

And they’re really covered with seaweed. And same with picking the mussels out on the other beach, the north beach on that side, it’s got more seaweed, too. You can’t see them.

And I’m guessing that the proliferation of the seaweed is because it’s warmer. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

But the mussels seem to be the same? BETSY ALBECKER: They’re the same mussels, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: They haven’t changed. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: They're just -- And they’re better picking on that side. You don’t have to go -- it’s not as steep. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And you can watch the water coming in better, and just be more leisurely about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, very cool. Fun thi -- oh, the cedars that you were talking about that you and your mom planted? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: What type of cedar? Was it yellow or red or? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Both. KAREN BREWSTER: Both, ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: She’d -- and the paint got lost over the years and everything. She had cedars from Sitka and cedars from Juneau, and cedars from down in Washington state, and I couldn’t tell you what is which or where. I’m --

KAREN BREWSTER: No. Well, it’s interesting, because I’ve been wondering whether, historically, this used to have cedars in this forest. BETSY ALBECKER: No. Never did. KAREN BREWSTER: It never did? BETSY ALBECKER: Spruce. Spruce forest right down to the waterfront when Captain Moore got here. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

BETSY ALBECKER: And it was apparently the same out at the cabin, but I don’t have a single picture of it. I would’ve loved to have seen what it looked like.

KAREN BREWSTER: So all these deciduous trees, the cottonwoods and stuff, that’s -- BETSY ALBECKER: From the logging.

They did logging over there for lumber for the town. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. BETSY ALBECKER: And pretty well, there’s not much in the way of old growth until you get practically down to Sturgill’s. And Dyea, it’s three or four miles in.

And there’s old growth timber about two-thirds of the way up AB (mountain), too. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. BETSY ALBECKER: But all the rest of it was either logged or burned. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. And then so the --

BETSY ALBECKER: So now you’ve got -- yep -- KAREN BREWSTER: Cottonwoods and stuff grew in? BETSY ALBECKER: And the cottonwoods in Dyea were timbered in, um, the ’50’s by Hosford, so you’ve got -- that’s all new growth.

But it’s -- it's almost harvestable, and the beach is just covered with little spruce trees marching down because there’s no horses out there now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So that’s not climate change. That’s just ’cause there’s no horses? BETSY ALBECKER: Right.

Because when they had twenty horses out there year-round, they kept everything down. And it’s been incredible to watch the difference in that. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BETSY ALBECKER: With the shooting stars and the fireweed and everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BETSY ALBECKER: ’Cause you can see the color from the other side. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: And we had horses, so we’d go out there and bring ’em in in the spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, so, have you noticed with the cottonwoods and everything growing, are they going higher up the mountain than they used to? BETSY ALBECKER: Yeah. Everything is higher than it used to be. It’s just gradually moving up.

And we noticed -- we took the train trip, which I hadn’t been on for a long time, when my son was here last week. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BETSY ALBECKER: And we got on the last train of the season.

And the little itty-bitty trees, getting up into Canada, are actually tree-sized, some of them, now. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

BETSY ALBECKER: ’Cause the first thing I ever noticed on my first train trip was, "My god! They don’t have any real trees! Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee!" You know. So yeah.

But that’s where you know -- and the variety of fruit trees that people are trying and actually harvesting fruit.

I’ve got -- this is the first year in three years I haven’t had fruit off my pear trees. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh. BETSY ALBECKER: And they take rest, like apples do, occasionally.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they do. They don’t -- oh, I didn’t realize that they don’t -- apple trees, they don’t produce every year? BETSY ALBECKER: No. They will, every second or third or fourth year, they will take a break and rest and relax and recuperate.

I’ve got sweet cherry trees. I've got --

KAREN BREWSTER: So your apple trees, are they -- when they do produce, is there -- are they producing more or bigger apples, or -- ? BETSY ALBECKER: Get nice, big apples this point in time.

When I was a kid, all I remember are crabapples and something they called an Anilka (sp?) (maybe is referring to Anoka apple variety?). There were probably one or two others, but I wasn’t aware of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

BETSY ALBECKER: But in the last ten years, all of a sudden, there’s all kinds of apple trees around here that are producing fair size fruit. KAREN BREWSTER: They’re doing well.

BETSY ALBECKER: Well, I -- mine is Honeycrisp, and they’re beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

BETSY ALBECKER: But I didn’t get fruit like that thirty years ago. And you couldn’t keep ’em alive thirty years ago, hardly.

People just didn’t grow ’em because they didn’t grow here. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And now they do? BETSY ALBECKER: And now they do.

Plum trees. I got a wonderful plum tree. This was the first year it didn’t produce in about four years. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. Cool. All right.

Well, I know you have places to go, and so do I, so. BETSY ALBECKER: Well, I’m -- KAREN BREWSTER: I appreciate the time.