A tug at the ‘ole heart strings

I was driving through Destruction Bay, Yukon this afternoon when I saw an example of government keeping it’s promise to a local community.  Many years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police made a promise to the people of Destruction Bay to provide them with police protection against crime and traffice offenders.  But just like the economy has hit all of us in the lower 48 hard…local, state and federal programs are endanger of being cut.  BUt the RCMP have kept the word and have maintained their presence in Destruction Bay.

While I was in Gustavus, I stayed at the Homestead B & B owned by Sally and Tom McLaughlin.  They have two rooms upstairs and a third room used as a sitting room.  For breakfast the next morning, Sally fixed smoked salmon hash, two scrambled eggs laid by the chickens in her hen yard, fresh juice from a variety of local fruit she’d picked and homemade wholewheat toast.  They also have bikes for guests to use to see the area.  I rode around, hiked a two-mile trail not far from the house and then rode the bike about a mile and a half to the dock for my whale-watching cruise.  When I got back, Sally had arranged for a taxi to take me back to the airport.

Apparently the bears here aren’t very bright because they seem to need to put up signs so the bears can find the strawberries.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the ferry system and my trip to Sitka.

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The Ferry’s and other things/Sat. July 23

Good morning!

One of my readers suggested I put the date on my posts and I thought that was a good idea.  Sorry I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

As I’ve said, I boarded the ferry from Skagway and took my truck with me to Haines where I left it.  I continued on the ferry to Juneau since you can’t drive to Alaska’s capital.  It’s either fly or take the boat.

There are two basic ferrys within the Alaska Marine Highway system.  The slow ferry and, I believe, one fast ferry.  The ferries run from Bellingham, WA to Kodiak Island and just about everywhere in between.  The slow ferries have cabins, a liveaboard staff, a car deck and a galley.  I had a great breakfast on the slow ferry from Haines to Juneau.  The fast ferry doesn’t have a galley but more of a convenience store approach of pre-packaged sandwiches, desserts, etc.  Still good but not cooked to order.

This is the M/V Malaspina.  It’s the slow ferry I took from Skagway through Haines to Juneau.

The car decks hold about 35 vehicles.  Once it’s onboard you can’t access it unless your are in port.  Pets have to be left on the car deck.  You can bring anything on board from a bike to a motorhome.  Only the charges change.

The forward lounge is very comfortable with windows all the way around.  This is the lounge on the fast ferry.  The one on the slow ferry is pretty much the same. The fast ferry is newer.  THere is also a Ranger onboard giving short talks on the ports, whales and other sights along the way.

After arriving in back in Juneau after my whale-watching trip to Gustavus I took the ferry to Sitka.  While in Skagway, I met a young guy from North Pole, Alaska (10 miles from Fairbanks).  He’s a drafting and welding teacher at the high school there.  His wife works with disabled kids.  Anyway, Mike was staying at the same campground I was at and we got to visiting.  He was on his way to Juneau for a three-week class to finish his Masters.  He had his truck with him.

One of the disadvantages of the ferry system is that they don’t usually come in near town.  In Skagway, they docked downtown but in Haines it lands about 5 miles from town, in Juneau it’s 12 miles and in Sitka about 8-9 miles.  Buses don’t run to the ferry terminals either so either you take a cab ($40 in Juneau to town, $30 in Sitka) or someone picks you up or you have your own vehicle on board.

Mike had his truck on board and we teamed up for a day of sightseeing.  Since we were going to the same places it worked out great.  The owl and eagle were shot at the Sitka Raptor Center and the bear at the Fortress of the Bear.  THe raptor center rehabilitates birds hit by cars or hurt in some way.  The homeless bears (?) spend time before ending up at your local zoo.

Mike saved my about $150 in taxi fares.  I treated him to lunch one day, dinner in Juneau and gave him a little extra cash.  It was well worth it.

I’m in Homer today having lunch with a fellow alumnus of Girard Rural High School in Girard, Kansas.  I’ll pick up the story from here next time.

Have a great day!  I am!

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Juneau and the Tracy Arm cruise-July 24 posting

After leaving Sitka last Sunday on the fast ferry Fairweather back to Juneau, Mike and I had dinner downtown and then he dropped me at Juneau hostel.  I’ve never stayed in a hostel before but for $10 per night, showers, laundry facilities and the close proximity to town I thought I’d try it for at least one night.  I ended up staying three nights.

The hostel has rules: no alcohol or drugs, the doors are locked at 11pm, men sleep upstairs and women downstairs, you had to leave by 9am and couldn’t come back uptil 5pm and you had to sign up for a chore.  I vacuumed two rooms downstairs one night, a hallway and stairs another night and two other downstairs rooms the last night.  My room had three bunkbeds but there was never more than three of us in the room.  One of my roommates was bicycling from Anarctica to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  He’d been on the road seven months and was ahead of schedule.  Another roommate was from Sweden and was traveling around Canada, the US and Alaska (yes, I know Alaska is part of the US but it seems like a separate place).

The weather was typical for Juneau.  Wet and chilly for two of the three days I was there.  The last day was beautiful.  Sunny and warm.

On Tuesday, I took an all day cruise to Tracy Arm fiord and glaciers.  There was about 35 on board and the weather meant you dressed in layers.  I had a long sleeve shirt, insulated jacket and windbreaker with a wool cap.  I was actually quite comfortable.

This was an example of the floating ice just below the East Sawyer glacier.

The owner/captain Steve Weber took the boat “carefully” through the ice to within about a mile and a half of the glacier.  We also encountered floating iceberg that were 10% above the surface and the rest hidden.

Yes, they are blue just like in the picture.

After the East Sawyer glacier we moved to the North Sawyer where we were able to get within a quarter mile of it.  You have to stay back in case it calves (large chunks break off and fall into the water).  We saw one decent size piece calve but not the hugh pieces that are sometimes seen.  This is a tight shot of that glacier.  It’s about 200 feet high.

If you are looking for a vacation where it’s sunny and warm, Southeast Alaska is not the place.  Here’s a couple of my fellow cruisers.

We saw a variety of birds and harbor seals laying out on the icebergs.

Well, that’s it for today.  More to come.  Thanks for the feedback from everyone.  I appreciate the nice comments and suggestions to make this better.

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Juneau cont’d and more-July 25 posting

My last day in Juneau was last Wednesday and it was sunny.  The high was forecast to be in the high 70’s.

When cruise passengers disembark they are greeted by numerous booths offering a variety of sightseeing options if they haven’t already signed up on their ships.  Here’s a sampling.  There are booths like these at several locations around the docks.

Other than a school crosswalks when was the last time you saw a crossing guard at a downtown street?

One of the best known glaciers is north of Juneau.  It’s the Mendenhall glacier.  The Mendenhall is a section of the Juneau icefield.  It is not a separate piece of ice but is one finger of a larger icefield that has numerous other glaciers coming off of it.  The icefield actually covers something like 1500 square miles.  The Mendenhall is a part of that.

When I got off the shuttle at the Mendenhall glacier there was a nearby stream with red salmon in it.  That’s where this photo came from.

After Juneau I had a ferry ride back to Haines where I picked up my truck and headed northwest toward Tok.  As I’ve traveled I’ve spent most nights at roadside pullouts like this one near the ferry terminal.  Often there are other campers there but not always.  Here it’s dinner time and I’m enjoying a nice bag of beef stroganof.  Actually, I’ve found the freeze dried dinners to be pretty good.  I have a Jetboil stove that heats 16 oz. of water in about two minutes.  Pour it into the bag, close it and leave it set for 8-9 minutes, stir and enjoy.

This was also the location I got my only sunset so far.

The drive between Haines and Tok took all day.  It’s about 400 miles.  Here’s a  scene along the way.  Truthfully, if you stopped a took a picture of every great scene you’d never get to your destination.  It’s one continuous calendar scene.

The following photo was taken as I approached Anchorage.  There are several mountains in this range that are 12,000 to 16,000 feet.

More soon……

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More drive to Anchorage…July 25, part 2

I ran out of space on my last post so I’ll continue.  I’m trying to get up to date.  Between finding time to download  pictures from my disks to resizing and adjusting them and then finding a wi-fi location, I’ve fallen behind.

Here’s a couple of shots of two moose (or is the plural of moose, meese?).  Anyway, these were located at a pond 30-40 miles outside of Tok.  I shot with my 150-500mm lens.  The closer shots were with a doubler that makes the lens a maximum of 1000mm.

I arrived in Anchorage Friday night about 6pm.  After I did my post that evening, I continued on toward Homer where I was planning to have lunch with a fellow alumnus of my Kansas high school.

I was about an hour out of Anchorage when traffic came to a stop.  There had been two serious accidents on this two lane highway. As reports moved down the line from the accident scene, we were told the road wouldn’t open until about 6am Saturday morning.  I had already pulled off the road to save gas.  At about 11:30pm I curled up in my sleeping bag in the back of the truck, set my alarm for 5am and called it a night.

I woke up about 3am and heard traffic moving so I continued on to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula arriving about 6:30am.  I found a laundry with showers and spend the morning doing my household duties before heading to my friends for lunch.

I’ll pick up the blog from there as soon as I’m able to download my pictures from the weekend.

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The price of tea in China….July 26

Actually, it’s more accurate to ask…What’s the price of gas in Alaska?  I feel a little like a radio talk show host, “Lee in Atlanta ask, ‘How much are you paying for gas’.”

Well, since leaving three weeks ago today.  (It doesn’t seem like that long ago.) I’ve paid as little as $3.32 in Wyoming, $3.58 in Great Falls, MT, $6.25 in the middle of Jasper National Park, Canada (I only bought $25 to get to the next town outside of the park), between $4.66 and $5.50 in U.S. dollars in Canada depending on how remote the location, $4.40 in Seward and the low price winner since crossing the northern border of the lower 48…..$3.87 here in Anchorage.

With the way gas prices fluctuate, there could be a $.20 variation since I was in Wyoming, Kansas or home in Texas.

Since I was doing some price comparison on gasoline, I decided to check out some grocery prices at Fred Meyer here in Anchorage.  Fred Meyer is kind of an upscale Wal-Mart.

Seedless grapes                          $3.48 per lb.

Bananas                                        .84 per lb.

Fresh Corn on the cob                     .78 each

Hamburger (93 % lean)                  5.73 per lb.

Home Pride wheat bread                4.49 each

House brand wheat bread              2.19 each

Fred Meyer 2% gal milk                 3.39

Kelloggs Raisin Bran 20oz              4.99

24 pack of 12 oz Coke                 10.99 (on sale.  Reg. price 14.99

A Red Box DVD movie rental is still $1

Saturday, I was in Homer and met a fellow alumnus of Girard Rural High School in Girard, Kansas.  I didn’t know Ron Hess when I lived there because he was 4 years older than me. Therefore, we were never in the same school.  He had a sister, Judy, who was a year older and when I was in the seventh grade I wanted to go out with her.  She wouldn’t have anything to do with me.

When I got to Ron and Marilyn’s home Saturday morning, they were in the process of canning salmon.  Due to the fishy odor, they had cleaned the fish outside and was heating the pressure cooker on a propane stove.  It was their first attempt and Ron emailed yesterday telling me they only lost 4 jars out of 52. Not bad!

Anyway, Ron spent 20+ years with Unisys and ended up in Anchorage with them.  Ron and his wife live down a narrow, winding drive on a bluff above the ocean about five miles outside of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. One of the things Ron had always wanted to do was write a book.  He’s done that several times now.  I bought “A Murder in Fire Bay” from Amazon and finished it about a week into the trip.  He has a couple of eBooks available, too.

We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant at the, literally, end of the road in the U.S.

A fisherman heads out from Homer.

More later…..

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Seward and Anchorage…July 26, part 2

Originally, I had considered camping on the beach at the end of the Homer Spit on Saturday night but it was a windy, chilly, wet day and well, I decided I would head toward Seward.  Ron and Marilyn had graciously offered me a place at their home but I headed toward Seward.

I spent the night about 20 outside Seward beside a river and the highway into town.  I had company of another camper though we never talked.

I was up and moving about 6am.  I headed into town and grabbed a quick breakfast and camped at the Safeway/Starbuck’s checking email and working on a blog posting.

I got these bird pictures in Seward.

This is a Horned Puffin.  I had hoped to go to a Puffin rookery when I was in Sitka but the captain wouldn’t take the boat out there unless conditions were perfect.  He didn’t want a boatload of seasick customers.  I couldn’t agree more!

This is a Tufted Puffin.  Notice the yellowish tufts behind the eye.  Otherwise, these puffins are identical.

Another Tufted Puffin.

This is a Pigeon Guillemot.  I shot a number of these while on the Tracy Arm cruise in Juneau but couldn’t get this close there.

This is a King Eider.  No, I’m not a birder.  I spent an hour at the Anchorage library today making sure my notes on these birds was correct.  Fact checking is so important for us bloggers. 🙂

Seward, like Homer, is a big fishing location.  Here are a group of guys with their catch of Silver salmon and one halibut.

From here it goes to the dock where these guys get their fish cleaned.

Seward is also the ending/beginning of many Alaskan cruises.  People are put on a bus to Anchorage for the trip home or come in on a bus and start their cruise.

I also went to Exit Glacier about 9 miles outside of Seward.  I took a Ranger guided tour.  The young guide explained that along the trail were these small signs.

The 1951 indicates that this were the glacier ended in 1951.  Sixty years ago, the glacier extended this far down the mountain.  I’m not sure of the distance but I’d guess it to be less than a mile.

I’ve been in Anchorage for two days.  Last night I went to the foot of downtown to the end of Turnagain Arm Sound to shoot a sunset.

This was shot at 11:10 pm.  I hit my camping spot about midnight and there was still a light sky.

I slept in until 7am this morning before sending my first blog this morning then I headed out of town around the Turnagain Arm.  I walked a boardwalk looking for birds in Potters Marsh.  No luck.  Then came upon these fishermen/women along Bird Creek eight or nine miles out of Anchorage.

I think that brings me uptodate with my travels.  Obviously, I’ve got hundreds of pictures that haven’t made it to the blog.  Actually, I’ve uploaded close to 1300.  I’ve also deleted a hundred or so that never got out of the camera.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Brooks Lodge at Brooks Camp in the Katmai National Park.  It’s a couple of hundred miles southwest of Anchorage.  It’s actually a little southwest of Homer and north of Kodiak Island.  I fly from Anchorage on PenAir to King Salmon then change to a bush plane to Brooks Camp.  I’m taking my computer to upload pictures to but I doubt if I have wi-fi there.  Therefore, you probably won’t get another blog until Friday.

Ok….you can go back to work now except for my friends in Grand Island, NY .  I don’t think any of them work….

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