Alaska wasn't on a list of places I wanted to see, but it was on Cindy's dad's list. So when Cindy's parents signed on for a cruise to Alaska, we decided to join them. And I'm glad we did. The trip was FABULOUS--from the spectacular scenery to the decadent life aboard a cruise ship. We only saw a tiny portion of Alaska as we traveled the Inside Passage, but it was enough to make me truly appreciate the beauty and ruggedness of the state. We took over 600 pictures so it was hard to choose a representative selection to share here. Also, I wrote nearly 100 pages in my journal chronicling all that we saw and did so the report and images here are a mere sketch of this amazing trip. I've divided it into two parts, one covering all but one of the ports we visited and the second will be about life aboard ship and our last port of call.
I knew it was going to be an amazing trip as we sailed out of San Francisco Harbor under the Golden Gate Bridge. We stood in the wind on the bow of the boat with many of our fellow 1900 passengers, where we were nearly swept away with awe. The fog, the wind, the majesty of the bridge let it be known that this would be one incredible journey.
After two days at sea (more on this later), we reached our first stop: Ketchikan--the southern most city in Alaska and the salmon capital of the world. The weather was awesome as it was for most of the trip, cool and sunny. We visited a museum, walked about town, including a boardwalk called Creek Street, and rode a funicular to the top of the mountain-side against which the town is built. At the top, we got a chance to see a "grove" of old totem poles, incredible historical relics seen all over this part of Alaska.
The next day we landed in Juneau, the capital city to which there is NO road access. The only way in is by sea or air. We visited the Mendenhall Glacier. Pictures can't do justice to the beauty of this geologic wonder, but in the one below you might be able to see the blue tone of the ice. We also visited the Tongass National Forest, riding in a four-wheel drive cart up a steep mountain road deep into the rain forest where we saw an eagle nest but not the eagle. This was when I got in touch with how attached I am to the earth and things that grow, for the forest filled me with joy and respect.
On the third day, we traveled up Tracy's Arm, a channel which is frozen in winter and where the ice was just breaking up. We could not go as far as planned because the ice was still too dense to be safe, but it was amazing to see big chunks of it in all sizes and shapes floating in the water.
Our most northerly stop was Skagway where we rode the White Pass narrow gauge railroad to the top of a 2200 foot peak that the gold miners had to cross (before there was a train) to get to Canada and the Klondike gold fields. We rode into the mist at the summit and saw the border between the US and Canada marked by flags. The views were spectacular. At one point, we could see down through the pass to where our ship was docked. I found immense satisfaction in the deeply fragrant forest of spruce, cottonwood, and birch. A storm blew in as we descended and we had to walk in fierce winds to make it back to the ship, giving us a tiny taste of the weather Alaskans deal with all winter.
As we sailed away from Skagway, Cindy and I climbed to the uppermost deck despite gale force winds to take pictures of the surrounding mountains and the pass through which we had just traveled by train. The wind took our breath away, and it was nearly impossible to walk, so we leaned on the ship's rails and marveled at the majesty of the land and the force of the weather. We had turned south towards home, but it would be four days until we would again land in California. Stay tuned for Part 2, life aboard a cruise ship.