To the east of Bethel there is a slough with many abandoned ships aground on the shore. A couple were old steamboats; thus the name. The weather was bad and we went up Steamboat Slough on the way to the fish camp to try to avoid the big waves on the main river. It was still pretty rough water and my camera does not have stabilization. Only one abandoned ship pic was not fuzzy. I put one of an old steamboat anyway. Who knows, it may be the one in the novel "Steamboat Slough" by John Schettler. Little did I know at the time that my soul was at risk...
"There was something under the ice at Steamboat Slough, something lost, buried in the frozen wreckage where the children feared to play..."
"Something has come upon sleeping men for millennia, a malevolent presence that leaps upon them in the night and saps their strength; steals their souls. It has been reported in the mythology of every culture on earth, from as far back as the ancient Egyptians to the present day. It haunts the gossamer thin region between wakefulness and sleep, prowling at the edge of a dream. Yet, its victims report a startling reality to these experiences, and now modern science has determined that when the 'entity' appears, the reporting victim is actually not asleep at all!"
"In Egypt this thing was called Isis. In the old Sumerian tradition she was 'Lilith,' the first wife of Adam who refused his domination and fled to a cave to mate with serpents instead. Now she hungers for the life and breath of men with an ancient, primal lust that can never be satisfied, and every culture has given her a different name. In Alaska, the Eskimos called her 'Paija,' and her spirit was said to lurk in the wreck of an old paddle-wheeled boat that had run aground on Steamboat Slough.”
Wahhhhhhh, I am lucky to be here to even write this tip!
When you are out on the river, you see an occasional fish camp but mostly there are just miles and miles of tundra and water. This happens to be the confluence of the Kuskokwim and Gweek Rivers, maybe 8 miles north of Bethel. You can read about this year's Campout Race on the frozen Gweek River in an excellent Tundra Medicine Dreams blog. It tells you firsthand what it is really like to live on the Kuskokwim at the end of winter.
Bethel is famous for the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race. The Old Friendly Dog Farm is the name of the Angstman family dog racing kennel. Their web page tells us that Myron started mushing in the 1970's and was instrumental in forming the Kuskokwim 300. He went on to win the race two times. He has also competed in the Iditarod. All of the Angstman children have competed in dog racing also.
We went there to see if they had an extra white fish (they catch fish to help feed the dogs) to make our agutak (eskimo ice cream). It gave me a chance to see what a premier dog racing kennel looks like.
In the 1996 Tundra Drums article on Michael Faubion which sent, "Greetings From Paris on the Kuskokwim," the Bethel Actors Guild was mentioned...
"All across Alaska, Bethel is a dirty word. But those of us who live here know the shocking truth: It's a special case, it's a happenin' place ... No, it ain't exactly heaven; sometimes it's downright grim. But to me it'll always be Paris on the Kuskokwim."
Faubion said he got the Paris phrase from a teacher, Mike Lane, who said it after coming from a village to enjoy the amenities in Bethel, which seemed by comparison a metropolis.
"He was talking about eating a steak at Gloria's, seeing a Bethel Actors Guild play, and going over to Video World afterward and how you don't know how good it is," Faubion said. "He said when he came around the bend he could see the lights across the river and it was like being in Paris on the Kuskokwim."
I happened to take this picture of the Bethel Actors Guild when I was in Bethel in Aug 07 (it is right next to Dimitri's Restaurant). I would say that times may have changed. Maybe the Guild has just relocated to finer digs. BTW, Gloria's is now Yolanda's Restaurant (her daughter).
The building across from the AC Value Center used to be the town disco. When I went over to take a pic, the door was open and I could hear music. It is now the United Pentecostal Church. I am thinking the music in this building has changed a lot.