Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Raw Trip Report


Dear Diary,

Yesterday we got up at 4:30 AM to get to the airport by 7:30 in order to catch a 9:00 flight to Chicago.  After three hours waiting in Chicago, we caught a 4 hour flight to Seattle. I’m glad I paid extra for the slightly more leg room seats.  We needed it.
When we got to our hotel, it wasn’t quite four, and we were already starving. Four in Seattle is Seven at home.  After we got dinner we fell into bed and collapsed.


And woke up this morning at three. Went back to sleep. Got up at five and got dressed, and went downstairs to breakfast at six, but the restaurant didn’t open until six thirty.
We went back and packed up, and then, with still time to spare, walked two blocks to catch the monorail. It took us straight to the Space Needle, so after peeking through the fence into what we could see of the Chihully garden, we went up the Space Needle.  Spent some time looking down on Seattle. Mount Rainer and the Cascades look like watermarks in the sky behind the city.
At noon we caught the shuttle to the boat, and took an hour to get processed and on the ship.  Then we had to wait for the cabin to get ready.  Spent the rest of the day relaxing and eating and watching the boat sail out of port. Watched a police boat chase a Catamaran out of our path.
Watched the sunset, an orange line on the horizon to the west with dark mountains all around.


Dear Diary,
Woke up again at three.  Forced myself to sleep until five-thirty, when I rose and watched the sun rise while eating a smuggled bagel.  (Well, I didn’t know until I walked onto the ship that we weren’t supposed to be bringing food on or taking it off.)
Today was a sailing day.  We sailed in the open sea beyond the coast.  Sometimes we could see the cliffs and peak of the coast line, dark or gray with streaks of white. Mostly we saw fog, as we sailed in and out of fog patches.  We hit the first right at noon, and it was a like a wall of fog.  It was so thick that we could see nothing beyond the rails, and the ship blasted the fog horn.
In the morning we went to a lecture by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the history of his profession. They were originally created to deal with the problems arising from the alcohol trade.  It was called Whiskey, but “Kickapoo Juice” from Fort …” Which had little alcohol, but a lot of other stuff, including tobacco.
The upper deck was very windy and cold, especially after we went into the cloud bank.

In the afternoon, I slept while Steve worked out.
Tonight we gain another hour.  I’m likely to be awake even earlier.
In the late afternoon the sea got rough, could have been worse. That’s the price of going up through the open Northwest Ocean.
Dinner was formal, with photos and the captain’s address afterwards.  There was free champainge for everyone, and at the end, male dancers performed inside the chandeliers in the concourse. A lot like Cirque de Soil.


We arrived at Juneau two hours early. We’ll have to tender in, as the dock space is taken up by the bigger Cruise ships, such as the Radiance of the Seas and the Island Princess. Celebrity’s Milleniun. The weather is foggy and moist, a bit rainy. (It turns out that we had to tender in because the cruise ship extended its stay by a month, but too late to reserve wharf space.
The mountain on either side of the harbor are tall, covered with fir trees, and streaked by fast mountain rivers. Juneau doesn’t seem like a large town, after the Ohio towns I’m used to.
After an early lunch, a bacon salad – the breakfast menu hadn’t quite turned over to lunch, we took the tender into town and walked around for a bit. We saw the state capital, a squat brown building about the size of Dayton City hall. The rest of the government buildings covered a short city block. The town library sits on the top floor of the town parking garage. We tried to visit the Red Dog saloon in Juneau, but it was too crowded to admit us. We looked at other things, fought the crowd to visit a few shops, then caught the bus to the Mendenhall Glacier.  Our tour guide was friendly, telling us all about the town and inviting us to her house for dinner.
The glacier was impressive, even if it was well broken up with deep crevasses. It was indeed a bright blue color, which comes from the crystalline structure of the compressed ice. Some chunks were out in the glacial lake, just sitting. Apparently glacial ice does not float as well as regular ice. Good that we saw it before it was completely gone. We saw no one trying to slide down it on their raincoats.
Driving to our next event, there was a porcupine curled up by the road.
The salmon bake was in an outdoor camp.  Good food, but by that time the rain had turned steady, and the singer – a mellow tenor who looked a lot like a friend I knew in college – sang accompanied by the drum of raindrops.  In the gift shop, a pair of two year old twins were attacking each other with stuffed “killer salmon.” Brought back memories. Afterwards, we went and looked at the river and waterfall.
We went back to the ship and vegged for the rest of the eveing, except for a drink in the high lounge.


Dear Diary,
When we got up at 5:30 this morning, we were already in Skagway, a hour and a half ahead of schedule. And it was still dark.
We grabbed an early breakfast and went out on the dock to catch the bus to the train. That was a wee bit absurd, since the train depot was a block away from the end of the pier – but it let the tour guide introduce us to the driver for the second half of the trip and to put us on the correct car of the train. We rode the train up the White Pass to Frazier, BC, passing through a glacial valley on the way. Then we boarded the bus and went on into the Yukan, and visited a suspension bridge over the river. There was a log cabin on the other side. Then the bus went back down the pass, and we saw the same things from a different perspective.
One unique feature was a suspension bridge, suspended from only the south side. It crosses the intersection of two active fault lines, and thus is only anchored to one side so that the other side can move away from it. I could see where the road had been mended several times, and there was already a one-inch crack at the edge.
The mountains folding up around me made me feel very sheltered, very secure. The tops were snow-streaked, the first snow of the season. The snow was solid in the mountain valleys, scoops along the craggy tops, and in the furrows between the sawtooth mountains. The mountains below were dark and rounded, then below that, covered with the temperate forest.
The glacial valley was windswept, strewn with boulders, craggy. Fireweed (red with pink flowers) and yarrow (white flowers) grew in abundance. Yarrow is good for repelling mosquitoes, some which seemed to be the size of small Cessna aircraft. Fireweed is good for honey.
We also learned that Spruce tips, while edible and vitamin C rich, are bitter – unless made into beer. 
I took a lot of pictures.
After the drive, we went to a place with a buffet lunch that included barbeque ribs and fried salmon, and then had us all pan for gold.  I got about six flakes worth. It was difficult work for six flakes.
Afterwards we shopped, and I bought two pairs of gloves to replace the glove I lost yesterday. I had to use my silk liners as gloves today, and it was cold and my hands are chapping. Then we came back and ate dinner, and as the ship left dock, again, after dark, we watched an aerial artist show. The best were the synchronized bungee-jumping dancers.


Dear Diary,
Today we saw glaciers and I saw a whale.  Finally.
We woke up early as the ship was just turning into Endicott Arm Fjord and rushed to get into Windjammer along with all the other early risers. It was like a land rush when the doors opened, and I staked a claim near the very front of the ship. Since the Windjammer has glass walls, this gave me one of the best views as the ship worked its way up the Fjord.  We were supposed to go up Tracy Arm Fjord, but there was too much glacial ice in the water. Glacial ice is very dense, and while it floats, it doesn’t move very well. Hitting it is like hitting a boulder, so going into that would bang up the ship.
We were allowed to go into Endicott Arm and approach Dawes Glacier. After breakfast, I went back to the cabin and watched the trip from my balcony. We actually got very close, and with the binoculars I could bits and chunks falling off the face.  I could hear the glacier crack with booms like gunshots, or cannon shots.
Glacier ice is very blue and streaked with grit. The grit shows the path of the glacial ice as it curves to the sea.
The captain was excited to get so close, and went out with the rescue boat to capture some of the 10,000 year old ice. Afterwards, he put it on display on the pool level.
It was indeed cold and windy near the glacier. I’m glad my sister recommended that I bring long underwear. The ship was selling hot chocolate spiced with alcohol, but I got a virgin. It tasted like cinnamon or nutmeg had been added, and was delicious.
After turning about to see the glacier, the boat went out
I saw several seals sunning themselves on the ice floes. And flock of birds. Auks? The one I could see through the binoculars was short winged, black on the tips, with a duck like body and a short beak.
After lunch we went out into the inside passage, but the clouds were low and the fog was thick. I ended up napping for a bit during the afternoon, and then running about doing errands.
We dressed up for dinner. “Formal night” is pretty much “Wear a shirt and a nice shirt night.” I don’t mind. Then we went to a talk by the Canadian Mountie on the Mountie training school. On our way to dinner, I paused to look out the window, and saw a curving head, I think there were knobs, then a spout, then a curved back, and then a nice dark whale tail!  Apparently a pod was swimming past, and I caught the one.
After dinner we got pictures taken.


Dear Diary,
Today we visited the largest of the Alaskan cities, Ketchikan. We arrived at sunrise, in the fog, and conditions deteriorated during the day. Rain, not mists, and up to 35 mph gusts meant that all the air and sea tours were cancelled.  That included ours. Instead, we went shopping for souvenirs and collecting harm tokens, which became shopping for jewelry. Then we ate lunch and visited two of the three museums in town.
One was a national parks museum, a Tongess Forest discovery center, and the other was the Ketchikan town museum, which shared a building with the public library. The Ketchikan creek ran behind the museum, and it was raging, too rough to see the salmon.
We missed the Totem Heritage Center, because the rain was really pouring by then, and we were cold and wet.
We left the port at sundown, and now it is pouring again and the boat is shaking.


Day at sea. Packing. Humpback breaching. Orcas or dolphins by the boat. Dudley Do-Right and Due South Mountie talk. 560 feet deep – and two inches.
Ice cream cups on the deck with an Australian named Rodney. He was handicapped, and asked me to get him an ince cream cone, as the ship had finally opened up the machine. It was out of cones, so I put the ice cream in a cup, and then had to walk the entire length of the ship to find spoons. But then I got a cup and we sat and talked, and it was nice.


Dear Diary
It’s going home day. We woke up with the ship pulling into the Vancouver Port. The Radiance was already in port, and the Celebrity ship was just pulling in. I took some picture in the dawn light, and we got breakfast, packed our carry off bags, and went to the “Shall We Dance Lounge” to await our time off the ship. When our time came, we went off – and into mass confusion.  Three cruise ships disembarked at the same time, with all the people struggling to get somewhere. When we finally made it onto the shuttle bus to the airport, the driver said, “Welcome To Mass Confusion.”
We arrived at the airport with three hours to make our flight, and needed almost all of it. First we had to check in at a Kiosk, and then we had to go to the desk to get our luggage tags, but the printer had jammed, so the clerk printed a new set.  We then went to the line at next place, where we put our bags on the security belt. Then off to the next check station, where we were asked how many bags did we have? Apparently the security system takes pictures of all the bags, and there were no pictures for the first four. We explained, and were told, be sure to tell customs. Then we went to another room and stood in another long line. By the time we got through that, we had to walk about a mile to get to our gate, and had only half an hour to get lunch. The lunch selections for the people flying to America are much poorer than those for people flying within Canada.
On the flight over, reality returned. We were shoehorned into seats, each of us with a tv screen on the seat in front of us. We could pay for programming, just swipe the credit card, but since we didn’t, we were treated to non-stop commercials and the same half hour sitcoms repeated over and over. We were allowed a drink, gratis, but had to pay for the snacks. After a week of luxury, to be common cattle once again…
We made it home, finally, just after midnight.

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