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[Comments] (2) Travelog, A Miniseries: May 24 (day 1): Flew John Wayne to Seattle. The trip including flying over Catalina Island, B-town, Yosemite, and other California scenic areas. It was pouring rain upon arrival in Seattle and I thought to myself, well, this is it. I must interject here that the Seattle airport is, without a doubt, a disgrace. Our terminal had only one place to buy food. And the selection was sparse, so we ended up eating turkey wraps. They were overpriced and bland. Anyway, then we flew to Anchorage. I didn't realize that there is such a thing as Alaska time. I always thought they were on Pacific time. So the flight time was an hour longer than anticipated. Which is good, I guess. I got my whole ethics take home test done on the plane ride there.

About 30 minutes prior to landing, the rainy cloud cover disappeared and we got some sweet views of Seward and Anchorage. There was lots of snow to be seen. We landed in Anchorage, and thus the journey began.

Susie and I were uber-prepared for this journey. So of course we were already wearing superflous layers of clothing in anticipation of our arrival. Well. Anchorage has a mind of its own. It was 70+ F in Anchorage with the sun barreling down on us. We boarded a bus for Whittier, a trip of about 100 miles. The bus also had a mind of its own. The air was broken, so it was like 85 F on the bus. Which is truly unfortunate cuz all I could think of was getting off that bus, in spite of the constant scenic eye candy out the bus window.

Getting onto the Seward Highway, we saw a moose. Just chilling on the side of the road. Then on the Seward Highway we saw Moroni, and the rest of the Anchorage temple. Continuing on this highway, we saw mountain goats and doll sheep just hanging out on rather aggressive cliffsides. They've got guts, I tell you. I'm not sure how they get there, or how they leave, but there they were.

The mountains in Alaska just jut right out of the ocean like there's nothing to it, and I think that's what makes them seem so much more impressive to me than the mountains in Utah. The water is a murky green color in the Gulf of Alaska because of all the glacial silt. The bus driver told us that you can't go out on those beaches cuz you'll sink and this machine has to pull you out. That brought back a memory I may have made up, cuz Susie doesn't remember this, but I think I remember being at Kristin & Aaron's home and Aaron was regaling us with a tale of how a woman in Anchorage went out too far to where the machine could not reach her and she slowly sank to her death. At the time I heard this story, I didn't expect to see these sights for myself.

Right outside of Whittier lies the tunnel of doom. It is a one-way passage, so it alternates traffic direction every 30 minutes. Trains also share the roadway and must be accomodated as well. Luckily we only had to wait 5 minutes and into the tunnel we went. The speed limit inside the tunnel is only 25 mph, but it took us a full 10 minutes to go through the tunnel, meaning that the tunnel is about 4-5 miles long. That doesn't seem long, but it is. Everyone was very very quiet while we went through the tunnel, as though we were on sacred ground. I think some people were holding their breath. But we survived the tunnel and the hot bus ride and arrived in Whittier and our boat.

Now, about the clientele. I would never have guessed it, but probably about 50% of the passengers on our boat were from the south. I guess that makes some sense, cuz most of the old people were from Florida. But there were a lot of people from Alabama and Mississippi. The age makeup was about 65% retirees, with about 15% honeymooners (I guess we fit that category, whether we like it or not), and the other 20% young families with kids way too small to be going to Alaska, IMHO. So the crowd was very mellow and laidback, which was nice.

[Comments] (1) Captain's Log: May 25 (Day 2): We went to bed Wednesday night around 11 pm, and were promptly awakend about 6:30 to see the Yale, Harvard, Smith, & Wellseley glaciers in the College Fjord. We went outside and the sun was already high in the sky for 6:30 am. It was pretty chilly out, but with hat and gloves and a long-sleeve shirt I was fine.

There were huge icebergs floating in the water around us, and in the background we constantly heard what sounded like thunder. This thunder was actually "white thunder," or glacial calving. It was pretty cool to get right up to the Harvard glacier and see these massive chunks of ice fall right into the water.

The rest of the day was spent lounging on the boat and relaxing. We went to some wildlife classes they offered onboard and went out to the hot tub. The hot tub wasn't hot enough and was very splashly, so we didn't stay long. That night the fog started rolling in as we entered the Gulf of Alaska and it got quite chilly. But still no rain! With nothing to be seen, we headed to bed that night at 8 pm in anticipation of a full day ahead of us.

Now, about these cruiseships. The decor is so tacky that words really can't describe. And you can't take pics, cuz your camera will break. But Susie got it right when she told me "I think they make the ship look so blatantly ugly so that it'll never look out of style because it could never have been in style to begin with." Truer words were never spoken.

I should also mention the food. It's not that great. The appetizers can be quite exotic and fun, but the rest of the food is nothing I couldn't do on my own. And the desserts are too fancy, and always have some sort of coffee or liquor ingredient in their chemical makeup. The menu was basically the same as last year's cruise, so we didn't get too excited about eating. So why did we decide to cruise again? Well, last year we went to Mexico so we could go on a cruise, but this year we went on a cruise so we could see Alaska. See the distinction? We felt the best way to see such a large state was on a very organized boat that did all the legwork for us. A majority of cities in Alaksa cannot be reached by road. So cruising left me more time to relax and enjoy the ride.

Day 3: Sitka: We arrived in Sitka Friday morning. Sitka is a tender port, meaning that going ashore is a pain. The boat stays a couple of miles out and smaller boats take us into port. We got onto land around 10 am and walked around town. Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska, and is where Cap'n Seward bought Alaska.

Just by setting foot on land, we knew Alaska was better than Mexico. The town was five minutes away, and thus did not require being taken advantage of by taxi drivers. Anything and everything is within walking distance. We went to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and went shopping and wandering through town.

It was overcast all morning, but cleared up around noon and the skies were very blue. In the afternoon, we went out on a boating expedition to see sea otters and sea lions. The sea otters tie themselves up in the kelp and just kinda hang out. They are very cute sitting there cleaning themselves, but they hate humans so the only way you can see what they are doing is through binoculars. The Russians practically killed them all off for their pelts, but the otters are doing better now. The sea lions were perched on the end of Jacob's Rock, the last rock between us and Japan. The water was swelling a lot out there, and Susie had to take a vomit break.

We still couldn't believe that we had no rain. But we were not complaining!

[Comments] (3) Next Stop, Juneau: This morning we boarded a helicopter bright and early at 9 am to fly over the Mendenhall Glacier. It was my first trip in a helicopter. I'll take a helicopter ride over an airplane any day. The ride seems so smooth and natural. The pilot played Enya music and LoTR music on our journey, and I felt like I was flying to light a beacon in RoTK. From above the glacier we could see large crevasses and large pools of Windex-blue water. The water is so blue because the ice is so condensed that all colors enter the glacier but only blue can get out, as it has the shortest wavelength of all of the colors. We could also see footprints in the snow on the tops of the mountains, which I would assume were made by mountain goats.

Landing on the glacier, our next leg of the journey was made by dog sled. These huskies were the most friendly dogs I've met. They were friendly, but not overly so. They didn't really jump all over me like some dogs, but just let you pet them. We got to take turns driving the dogsled. The huskies don't like it when we would stop for pictures. They really live to pull dogsleds. They nearly lifted me off the brake a number of times. Talk about service! At the end of the journey we got to see the husky puppies! Our puppy liked chewing on Susie's shirt. I've decided it's because she spills all over herself and the puppy was well aware.

Even though I was on a glacier, we only wore a light jacket and, of course, sunglasses. We also saw some small avalanches happen. The trip home was sad, as we didn't want to leave. But the next leg of our journey took us on the Mt. Robert's Tramway to the top of, you guessed it, Mt. Roberts. Here was got a great view of the city, and went on some limited hiking trips. The hiking was limited because the snow on the mountain was melting and the trails were all quite muddy. But we did manage to see a marmot up there. They also have a bald eagle up there held in captivity due to an injury. Although it's not the same as seeing them in the wild, you could really see how majestic this bird is. I was told that Ben Franklin hated bald eagles and wanted the National Bird to be the turkey. I'm glad he didn't get his way. Sorry, Ben.

Today it hit 70 F, and we were sweating in our layers upon layers of clothing. Still no rain; not even a raincloud! The trip just kept getting better and better!


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