Cruise Down the Inside Passage

LEAVING ALASKA

Jan and I had wanted to take a cruise down the Inside Passage for several years.  We had heard such great stories about the scenery and the trip that we decided to do it this fall.  It started with us driving our 5th Wheel to Seattle and leaving it with Chris and Mark while we spent the summer at the Kasilof RV Park.  Our plan was to take the cruise back to Vancouver, have Chris and Mark pick us up, then drive down to California to visit Cody’s family and meet Jan’s daughter and husband and his parents for a tour of the wine country.  We would then take our time traveling home visiting some of the National Parks that Jan had never seen.  So follows a brief description of our trip with photos.

Chugach Glacier

On September 11th, we finished closing down the park for the winter then drove to Anchorage to leave the pickup for the winter.  On the 12th, we took the Alaskan Railroad Cruise train from Anchorage to Seward.  I had wanted to take the trip for years as I had heard the scenery was spectacular.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The cruise train provides viewing cars with huge windows to enjoy the scenery.  It travels south from Anchorage at the edge of the Turnagain Arm and we saw whales chasing the salmon.  Then we crossed the grassland bogs at the upper end of the Arm and climbed into the Chugach mountains past several glaciers.  The trip to Seward was truly a treat and should definitely be the mode of travel for those meeting the cruise ships in Seward.

The Statendam at dock in Seward

What a pleasure to arrive in the beautiful port city of Seward.  The cruise train pulled right out on the boarding dock at the edge of the Statendam, Holland-America’s ship for our trip down the Inside Passage.  Our luggage was taken aboard by the porters and we joined others from the train to obtain our boarding passes in the cruise dock building.  Even though there were over a hundred people boarding at the same time, the process was efficient.  We quickly boarded and were shown to our stateroom, very nice.  The one and only problem with taking the cruise train was it’s arrival time.  After the five hour trip from Anchorage, we were too late to enjoy the afternoon boarding and information parties on the ship.

We left port in Seward at 8 pm that evening while we were having our first wonderful dinner in the main dining room of the ship.  It was a five course meal with several choices including Prime Rib, Alaska King Crab, Alaskan Salmon bake, plus others – the food was delicious!  By the time we got out in the Resurrection Bay, it was dark and from there to Whittier we traveled at night.  We missed College Ford due to a heavy fog as well as the trip through Prince William Sound.  However, as we passed through the straits at Cape Hinchinbrook and into the Gulf of Alaska, the skies began to clear and we had beautiful crusing through the rest of the afternoon.

Lunch at the Pinnacle Grill

Another night traveling along the Glacier Coast between Cape St. Elias and Cape Spencer, so we missed most of the huge glaciers coming out of the St. Elias mountain range although we were well off shore and barely in sight of land.  By early morning we had passed Cape Spencer and entered Glacier Bay.  We had been given a free lunch at the Pinnacle Grill as part of our ticket purchase and we chose to take advantage of the it during our cruise up Glacier Bay.  As good as the food was in the dining room, the Pinnacle Grill was even better plus we had a beautiful view of the Fjord from our window.  When Glacier Bay was first discovered by the George Vancouver in the early 1700’s, the bay was covered in a glacier out into the Icy Strait.  Now it has receded over 80 miles into the mountains with five major Inlets containing tidewater glaciers.


John Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay

People Viewing Hopkins from Foredeck

We proceeded into the John Hopkins Inlet to view the glacier.  It is one of the most active glaciers in the bay, calving regularly.  The Glacier Bay National Park Ranger that gave us a lecture about the bay and glaciers indicated that we were really lucky to have sunny weather for our trip.  Normally it is cloudy and rainy and they had only 12 days all summer with sunny weather.  We cruised to within a quarter mile of the face of the glacier and stayed for almost an hour.  The Captain moved the boat with the back side thrusters giving each side of the boat ample opportunity to view the glacier.  There were a huge number of harbor seals resting on the ice banks in front of the glacier and often we could hear the glacier cracking and popping.  Occasionally it would calve a huge of chunk of ice into the inlet.

Osterdam approaching the glacier

Osterdam near Hopkins glacier

As we were leaving, Holland-America’s ship, the Osterdam cruised into the inlet to view the glacier.  We got a good perspective of the height of the glacier when we could view the Osterdam in  front of it.  Since it was the same size as the Statendam, it became apparent how high the glacier face actually was.

Statendam at Haines, Alaska

We traveled again at night and woke dockside at Haines.  Haines is different from the other cruise ship stops on the Inside Passage.  It is a small town with only one cruise ship dock.  The streets are not lined with curio and jewelery shops, just ordinary grocery, clothing and hardware stores.  We had decided to take our only prearranged tour here and were happy that we did.

Sow and Cub Brown Bears

It was a Nature and Wildlife Tour up the Chilcoot river and lake.  We were in an old bus with ten couples from the ship and two women guides.  The older woman, ex-school teacher, drove the bus and took us on a walking tour through the rain forest above Chilcoot Lake.

Sow eating a dead salmon

The younger one was the narrator for the tour and spotted this brown bear sow and her cub fishing the waters of the Chilcoot river for pink salmon.  Soon the sow found a dead one and began eating it.  She was a big bear and seemingly unafraid of the numerous people watching her from the other side of the river.

People watching sow eating

The young woman said that the sows often bring their young cubs to the river where there are always people along the road. They have learned that the large males, which will kill the young cubs, don’t like to be around people and stay away from the river.  The sow feeding in the river below the people on the road had two small cubs hidden in the bushes on the bank.

Brown Bear Sow

She had a collar around her neck for tracking purposes by the Fish and Game and has returned t0 fish in the river with her cubs for several years.  The river was full of pink salmon swimming up to their spawning grounds and the many dead carcasses  that had spawned already were thick in the bushes and rocks.  She also took us through a tour of Fort William H. Seward which had been decommissioned after World War II and now is a National Historic Site.

Jan & Statendam at Haines

When we got back to the Statendam, I got Jan to pose for a photo of it in port at Haines.

Enjoying a drink on the upper deck

It was a beautiful afternoon when we got back to the ship so we decided to sit in the sun on the upper deck.  There was no wind, the scenery was beautiful and the company was great.


Norwegian Star leaving Skagway

That evening as we were enjoying an afternoon Tangueray and Tonic in the Crows Nest on the top front of the Statendam, the Norwegian Star cruise ship came cruising down from Skagway on their way north to Glacier Bay. We would see her sister ship a few days later in Ketchikan.

Norwegian Star

It was a beautiful scene with the mountains in the background.  We left Haines around dusk and sailed down to Juneau for the next day.

We were disappointed in Juneau.  Gold was discovered in 1880 above the current town area, however, the initial easy to find gold was quickly gone and hard rock mining became the only way to obtain it.  Soon the high grade ore was gone and massive stamp mills had to be used to extract the gold.  These mills produced vast amounts  of tailings (20 tons of ore for 1 ounce of gold).  The tailings dumped along the shoreline provided the flat land for the town.  The gold brought the territorial government and then the state government to reside in Juneau after the gold ran out.  Beside the state government there is a new gold rush in the town brought by the multitude of cruise ships that stop there every week during the spring, summer and fall.  The streets are lined by shop after shop of curio junk occasionally separated by a jewelery store.  We had found Skagway to be similar in 2008 when we visited, but at least Skagway had some character.  After the stop in beautiful Haines, Juneau was a disappointment.


Three Island Lighthouse

Again we left after dark and cruised down the Inside Passage during the night.  However this time, we were still cruising when we woke in the morning. We passed this pretty light house  called ‘Three Island Lighthouse’ out in the bay.   Actually there are three islands although the other two are just a few rocks sticking out of the water in line with the light house.  There are a lot of lighthouses on the Inside Passage and I enjoy photographing them;  however, it is difficult to see them in the middle of the night when you are cruising.


Ketchikan Dock Space

We arrived at the Ketchikan dock around 11 am.  Notice that there is a parking place between the first ship, the Celebrity, and the second, the Norwegian Pearl, the Star’s sister ship.  The third ship was the Osterdam that we had seen in Glacier Bay.

Parallel Parking a Cruise Ship

We were all fascinated to see how the Captain was going to park our ship between the front two. It was fascinating as the Captain slowly pulled the nose of the ship in behind the front ship, then use the rear outside thruster to slowly push the ship sideways into the dock.  Of course the entire upper deck of our ship was lined with passengers to watch a lesson in parallel parking a cruise ship.


Totem Museum

Creek Street in Ketchikan

Ketchikan was a lot more fun than Juneau.  Although the boardwalk had it’s share of curio and jewelery shops for the cruise ship passengers, the town was more quaint and interesting.  We took a tour bus out to the Totem Museum and the salmon hatchery on the upper creek.  Ketchikan was known in the late 1800’s as the Salmon Fishing and Totem Pole Capital of Alaska.  Creek Street was the red light district of Ketchikan and the creek itself was a major salmon spawning river for the island.  During the early days lumbering and fishing were the primary sources of work and income in the area.  Creek street became known as the only place in Alaska where the fish and fishermen both came to spawn.  Now Creek Street bordellos cater to the cruise ship passengers selling them curios and clothing, but it was fun.

Dressed for Dinner

Again we left Ketchikan at night, there was approximately 650 miles left in the trip.  We cruised all night and woke to the ship traveling through Hecate Strait between Queen Charlotte Islands and British Columbia.  As we got further into the Queen Charlotte Sound the land became distant in the east and the rain clouds filled the skies, the first time on the trip.  That evening, the last of the cruise, we dressed up to celebrate Jan’s 71st birthday with dinner in the Pinnacle Grill.  We had another wonderful dinner of gourmet food with good wine.

We arrived in Vancouver the next morning early and our group were told to depart the ship at 8:15 am.  The departure procedure was very quick and efficient.  We left the convention center at 9:30 and found Mark and Chris waiting for us in our truck.

It was a beautiful trip on a great ship.  The food was excellent and anything you could want.  The scenery was fabulous although I would prefer to have spent more time cruising through the Inside Passage during the day and less time in the towns, but I realize that the ports need to make their living of the cruise passengers.  I would definitely recommend the cruise to anyone interested.






END OF SUMMER

SPIKE-LESS

Sorry that Grandpa took so long to post this blog.  Seems like he and Grandma have been goofing off ever since they left here.  I mean why would you want to spend time tasting grape juice (although the leaves and vines might be okay).   Then they go to a desert to look at red rocks???  Well anyway, they are finally getting around to post my blog.

Hey, I’m back!  Well I seemed to have a bit of a problem this summer, but it worked out well in the long run.  Here’s the story:

Seems that I was frolicking around in the forest in July.  Since cute little Colie left, I was kind of lonely and I met this cute little female that was born the year before with me in the woods across from the park.  Her mom had taken her up to the big lake during the winter so I hadn’t seen her lately.  She came back down this summer when her mom had new twins.  Anyway, I was kind-of showing off for her, prancing around and jumping across the ditches in the woods.  Darned if I didn’t stumble over the top of Billie Brown Bear where he was sleeping.  Now Billie is really ornery when he is awakened from a deep sleep.  He was really mad and was chasing be through the trees in the woods.  I’m a lot faster than he is, but he was staying pretty close to me.  I looked back to see how far behind he was and ran smack into big birch tree.  I hit it so hard that it knocked both of my spikes off and gave me a really bad headache!  Billie started laughing so hard at me stumbling around that he sat down in a patch of Devil’s Claw.  That didn’t help his disposition any, but he was so engrossed at getting the thorns out of his rear that he forgot about me.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

The good part of this story is that since I don’t have any spikes anymore, the hunters can’t shoot me this fall.  They will think I am a female – hee-hee!  You see, young male moose with spikes are legal to hunt in the fall.  Then once they have horns with paddles, they are no longer legal to hunt until their horns are 54 inches across.  By next year, I will have horns with paddles – Yeah!  Unfortunately the pretty little female now thinks I’m a clutz and ignores me.  Oh well, next year!

All the fishermen and women left at the end of July.  Most of the campers left when the Red season was over although a few kept coming into August.  Grandma and Grandpa started cleaning up the park concentrating on chopping all the cottonwood saplings and pine tree clippings down by the well house.  They had a fire in the pit burning all the scraps.  Soon the space was cleared.

ROAD PAVING

TRUCK HAULING GRAVEL

In early August, the state started paving the gravel road in front of my park.  There were sure some big trucks running up and down the road dumping all kinds of rocks and sand on it.  Now it used to be hard enough getting across the road from the woods with the automobiles bouncing their way 60 miles an hour down to the corner with all the potholes and wash-board.  But now with the road paved, the automobiles with be going 80 miles an hour.

You know what is really fun.  You stand down in the ditch by the side of the road in full view and as soon as a car comes screaming down the road, you step up on the side of it as if you were going to cross.  As soon as the car starts squealing it’s tires on the payment, you run back in the woods.  I told Grandpa to buy a tire shop as we could really have a good business.

GRANDMA’S SISTERS

Donna & Rachel

Skip cleaning rug

Donna and Skip (her name is really Shirley, but she used to skip around a lot when she was a little girl, so they call her Skip.  I don’t understand humans too much, but then they called me Spike.  I wonder what they call me now?) are Grandma’s sisters (she told me that they were her older sisters.  I don’t know why that was important!).  I think they came up to clean up the Lodge.  Anyway they also brought Donna’s granddaughter, Rachel and she took pictures of everything (I hid while they were here because I didn’t want more pictures taken of me without horns!).  The Gramps really had a good time with them while the were here.


Jan & Skip Halibut Fishing

Halibut Catch

Skip and Jan went Halibut fishing with Uncle Don.  He’s a crusty old Captain that made Aunt Skip pay attention to the end of her pole because she was busy watching the mountains instead of fishing (I call him Uncle because he and Uncle Kevin are great friends.  Both are crusty old farts!).  Anyway they came back with a lot of good Halibut (actually the green bushes in the background look better to me, but the Gramps think that Halibut is great!).


Homer Spit from Ridge road

Girls at Homer

Rafting on Johnson Lake

The Gramps took the girls down to Homer for the annual scenic trip (everyone has to go to Homer, the end of the road).   The Spit extends out into Kachemack Bay providing a shipping and Ferry port plus lots of tourist shops and seafood restaurants.  Then they took them on a rafting trip on Johnson Lake.  Grandpa had both sisters on the pontoon boat with the trolling  motor pulling Rachel and Grandma in the raft.  They thought it was fun, but I had a heck of a time following them around the lake.

Donna & Rachel Seward

Skip at Sealife Center

If that wasn’t enough, they took the sisters and Rachel over to Seward so Donna and Rachel could go on the Sealife boat tour.  I didn’t go with them, but Grandpa told me all about it.  The Gramps put them on the boat for the trip out in Resurrection Bay and Grandma and Skip visited the Seward Sealife Center.  Grandpa drove out along the bay and took photos of the Otters playing.

Obviously, Grandpa and Grandma had a great summer!  I sure enjoyed it with them and I hope they will let me come back next year; however, I just might find some young little female that catches my eye and I might just start a family with her. So we will wait and see what happens next year.  I understand that Grandpa is itching to tell all about their trip down the Inside Passage on the cruise ship, their wine tasting weekend and their trips to several National Parks.  So goodbye for now, but I hope to tell what is going on next summer.                                                                                                                           SPIKELESS