This morning I got up early for a special breakfast Helga was cooking to send off her church group guests happy and full before they left Tok. She made a Dutch Baby which is kind of like a giant egg soufflé. I helped out as much as I could in the kitchen. The plan was we all were going to get a mini tour from Bill at his work in Mentasta, an Athabascan community East of Tok and South on the Glenn Highway. I rode with Bill and the group followed in two cars. We had some great conversation and I especially enjoyed the mountainous scenery along the way. Bill showed us his ongoing project in the village, a log cabin style community center that has been built over the past 4 years. There was another volunteer organization present, a group of about 40 high school kids associated with Visions, which is not affiliated with religion and does volunteer service in communities where there is opportunities for cultural exchange. I had some small talk with the kids as they ate breakfast. We then went out to Fish Creek where Bill told us about a 9 ft tall male grizzly bear who lived there and was feeding on the red salmon as they swam up the creek to spawn. We didn't see the bear, but I enjoyed the view out to the nearby lake, seeing the bald eagles and checking out the salmon from the bridge with their vibrant red color. Of course, the mosquitoes here horrendous, but Bill said that always means good fishing in the water. The church group had to be on their way and start toward Fairbanks, so we said goodbye at Fish Creek. Bill then took be back to Mentasta where he was to do a little more work on the community center before we headed back to Tok later in the day. Bill has been very involved with the native communities in the area for a number of years and it's been great talking to him about his experiences with them. As he gets older, he wants to be able to take on more architectural responsibilities and have the natives learn how to use logs to possibly create jobs but also build up their own community. I walked around the village a bit then I returned to the community center to start a hemp necklace for Helga. A few young local girls ranging from 10 to 14 years old, all sisters, came by to see if the Visions group was around. They had gone on a day hike, so Annie, Christina, and another sister sat and talked with me a little. Before I knew it, the necklace was complete and 3 o'clock had rolled around, so Bill and I headed back to Tok. He stopped at a creek to see if we could see any fish. We talked about the local animals like the beaver and their peculiar ways. Bill has a lot of respect for this animal, probably because they are both architects. We stopped at the grocery store in Tok and I bought some food to cook for Helga and Bill. I figured it would be a good gesture since they just finished hosting 7 people for the week. I got prok chops and stuff to make french onion soup.
When we returned to Helga's Off the Road Roadhouse, she had just finished her housework including 8 loads of laundry! Helga informed us that it was John's Birthday. John is 16 and he's a little slow but enjoys doing crafts at Helga's. He and his family were going to come over later tonight and celebrate. I made onion soup and we enjoyed it with two more young townies that passed by during the day, Jeff and Vince. Vince told me about a music festival in Dawson City coming up soon. I am excited because I will be there just in time. He also said he would see if his grandmother who lived there would possibly host me. Cool! Later we had over the birthday boy and family and had a nice fire in the fire pit and good conversation and good cake and ice cream. After everyone left, we BBQed the pork chops and made a late dinner. I made sure Helga and bill knew how much I appreciated them opening up their home and allowing this personal exchange of ideas and stories. So far, I am having a wonderful time here in Tok and I've especially enjoyed the unique opportunity of a close up view of the native villages as well as the insight on their history and existance here in Alaska. After dinner, we relaxed talked and then all headed to bed. Helga offered to let me sleep inside but I told her I'd spend one more night out in the tent since it was already up.