Haines and “The Glacier Priest” 6/25-26/2009

The weather on the ferry from Juneau to Haines and our first day in Haines was damp and somewhat rainy. The view on entering Haines was spectacular. It seems the scenery keeps getting better and better. We don’t have many pictures yet due to weather and us forgetting the camera at various times.

When we got on the ferry, we took a tour of all the decks since we hadn’t been on this particular ferry before. We noticed a sign near purser’s office saying that satellite Internet wasn’t available as of 1/1/2009 since they were changing vendors. When we passed a room set up with cubicles for laptops with electric plugs, we noticed a woman sitting in one and went to ask here if she had Internet access. Then, we noticed she had a sowing machine and was making quilted squares. We started a conversation. About 15 minutes later, Fred mentioned that his uncle was a priest in Alaska and had a street ministry in Juneau. “There is no street ministry in Juneau, What was his name?”, When Fred told her his name, she exclaimed, “You have to be kidding, you are Fr. Ron Dunfey’s nephew!”. She went on the tell us that she was a good friend of Ron’s and that everyone on the Yukon knew Ron.

She went on to relate a number of stories of expereinces she had with Fr. Ron. She told us of common friends they had in Ruby. It seems she also stayed with the same friends on Douglas Island as Ron did when they were both in Juneau. She lived on Kodiak Island. She told us she understood why Ron would use the term street ministry to describe what he did.

We talked about land that Fr Ron had bought and where it might be. Fred mentioned to her that he was thinking of going to Ruby (a remote villiage on the Yukon). She told us that there were no places to stay there and we would have to stay in a tent. She told us of Ron’s friend Edna who resides in Ruby.

This woman is Kristine Harder and she designs and sells pewter. Her Website is www.NorthwestPewter.com

We exchanged email address. Kristine has plenty of photo’s on Ron which she plans to share with us.

She gave us the name of another man who knew Ron and lives in Haines, John Svenson. John Swenson has a design studio called “Extreme Dreams Gallery”.

kristine was not aware of Fr. Ron’s death 12 years ago. She also did not know that Fr. Ron was interviewed by Charles Karault on nationwide news on Mount McKinley (Denaili). I told her I had the video of that interview, parts of which were replayed on Saturday TV mornings under the title “Serenity”.

We got to Haines on the Ferry at 9:30 PM. We decided to go to Chilkat State Park about 8 miles south of town on the Chilkat Inlet.

When we got up in the morning, we located the Extreme Dreams Gallery advertisement in the Haines Vistor Guide. It turns our his studio is located at the entrance to the State Park in which we were staying.

When we showed up and introduced ourselves to John Svenson. He was shocked. He hadn’t met anyone in years who knew of Fr Ron and that past gone era.

He told us that Fr. Ron was known as “The Glacier Priest!”

It seems he was a legend. Mountain Hikers and climbing expeditions sought him out to bless them before their hikes.
All the mountain hikers knew him. He was a fixture in Telketna and other spots around Denali where hikers gathered. He often bought rounds of beer. It seems that Ron liked the company of these mountain climbers and they enjoyed his company. John told us that it was so odd for a Priest to be in such places. The subjects of religion and philosophy were often discussed with Fr. Ron always telling them what he really thought.

After meeting John, Milly just said to Fred, “Maybe Uncle Ron’s spirit is guiding us on this trip.”
According to John, we are camped in the best campground in  Haines. It  just happened to be  right next to Jim Seversons studio and we didn’t know it until we went to find him!

It seems that our Uncle Ron was the character that we knew. He was true to himself and the stories he told did reflect what he did. He was a faithful Christian servant of God. Some people loved him and some despised him.  He didn’t like authorities especially religious ones. It appears he made his mark in Alaska. He truly was an eccentric Alaskans eccentric.

We almost blew up or got asphyxiated

To reach our Chilkat State park and campground, we had to travel on a rough gravel road, down a steep winding grade. The road was a washboard. Unknown to us, our coleman grill was put away in rear storage compartment under our bed with the propane canister still attached.

When we set up, everything seemed okay. Our electric hitch was working off the trailer battery. We noticed a slight smell but assumed it was from residue grey water that had overflowed into the bathroom tub the prior day – Fred forgot to pull the grey water lever to have it empty into sewer drain and the grey water tank filled up. Then, we noticed that the lights didn’t turn on inside the trailer.

Fred checked for a blown fuse inside the trailer.All fuses looked okay. He went to the outside storage compartment to check the battery fuse. When he opened the door, you could hear noises like something was running. Fred realized the noise was propone gas coming from the grill. He pulled the grill out and turned off the gas. The grill had been jostled coming down to the campground and the gas was turned on.

After we oppned the windows for a while, the lights went on and we noticed the carbon monoxide/Propane alarm was blinking. The alarm must have shut the electricity off.

Close calls and learning experiences. We are still having them. Lesson: Don’t do stupid things!

 On inside passage,  if you want fresh vegetables, know when the barge comes in. In Haines,  the “Food barge from Seattle arrives each Tuesday”.

Here are pictures taken in our campground in Haines when the weather wasn’t very good.


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