Friday, October 24, 2014

Skagway and Some Hiking

Photo of Mount Roberts Tramway

Shopping seems to be a big feature of cruising and I have to tell you I'm not much of a shopper. I'm sure you can guess that Chris isn't much for shopping either so whenever we hit port we looked around for other things to do and this being Alaska the great outdoors beckoned. We planned ahead and packed our hiking boots and outdoor/all weather gear to make this easy.
After our amazing Mendenhal  Glacier experience we still had plenty of time in Juneau to explore so we took the Mount Roberts tramway to the top of the mountain overlooking the city. There are wonderful views and hiking trails but it was VERY expensive so I'm on the fence about this one.
At the top of Mt. Roberts
Hiking, walking really was lovely and rainy. Not a problem since we were prepared and there were some beautiful sights around almost every corner.
Tree totem hidden away atop Mt. Roberts
We managed to find places to get away from the tour crowds at every stop.
There's no such thing as bad weather...just the wrong clothes!
A selfie taken from a rock!
I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK!
After Juneau our next port was Skagway and this was by far my favorite Alaskan town although I can't say exactly why. Perhaps because it looked the most like a gold rush town with the buildings in their original condition and not a modern structure in sight. The town relies on the tourist season and very much caters to the cruise ships but is still very charming.
This was the jumping off point for the great Yukon gold rush of 1897/98 and we made it a priority to take the White Pass and Yukon train trip which traces the route used by gold rush hopefuls up the White Pass. What an extraordinary excursion it turned out to be!
All Aboard!
Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a designation shared with the Panama Canal, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. The WP&YR climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.
I was standing outside on the small platform between cars to take pictures. Freezing cold I might add! That's the front of our train about to go over the first of many trestles.
Ghost trestle
More than a little hair raising!
The gold seekers followed this route on foot and there are places that we could see the path they made worn into the stone itself so many men had trudged up the mountain before the railway was built. Be sure to follow the links to learn more about the Yukon gold rush it really is awe inspiring and completely different from the California gold rush experience that I'm familiar with living here in Georgetown, a gold rush town.
This was a wonderful day, we loved every minute with a very knowledgeable conductor to fill us in on all the local history. By the way, there's a FABULOUS quilt store in Skagway where I dropped quite a bit of cash. I'm not opposed to all forms of shopping!
Rushin' Tailor's Quilt Alaska. They have a web site too with lots of beautiful kits all with the flavor and color of Alaska.
Next on the itinerary is another highlight - Glacier Bay! 

Until next time,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Juneau & High Adventure

From Ketchikan we spent a leisurely day at sea enjoying whale watching and looking out for wild life on the shoreline cruising the inside passage up to Juneau.
Marsha, Bill, Carol & Chris
We found a spot in the bow of the ship and put our binoculars to good use. It is windy up there so all that protective gear came in handy. Down vests and silk long underwear turned out to be really good investments for the next leg of our trip as well.
Arriving in Juneau in the early hours of the morning we could hardly wait to get off the boat, we had BIG plans for our day!
Side note* Just look at the difference in size between our ship and the Princess liner docked next to us! I thought our ship was plenty big but that thing was enormous!
Can you guess from this photo what adventure we had planned? I had been waiting for this for months. Ever since we first talked about taking this trip all I wanted to do was walk on a glacier and the day had arrived! Not only were we going to walk on a glacier we were going to helicopter there. Good Golly Miss Molly! I've never been in a helicopter before and don't plan on being in one again, what an experience.
Taking off!
I sat up front next to our pilot, I could see absolutely everything!
This is where we're headed, the Mendenhal Glacier. We're taking the scenic route.
Those colors don't look real I know, but the pictures don't actually do this justice. I can't convey just how breathtaking a sight this really is.
It was an overcast day or we probably would have been too dazzled by the sun on ice.
Crevasses, seen from above. Don't fall in! The black is from a combination of crushed granite ground up by the glacier as it moves and air pollution trapped on the ice surface. The darkness attracts heats and contributes to melt. 
Coming in for a landing.
I'm standing on the surface of a glacier looking up!!! Yes, I'm excited!

Glacial river
I couldn't resist, I had to taste it. Yes, it was cold, very, very, cold!
We spent about a half hour walking around on the surface of the glacier while a naturalist explained all the features to us and answered our questions. I took so many pictures it's ridiculous.
 The most amazing color I've ever seen.
This truly was a once in a lifetime experience. The helicopter trip turned out to be not a big deal, I wasn't scared at all. 

We actually had time for more sight seeing in Juneau once we got back I'll show you next time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Adventures On The Last Frontier

You knew it was coming and now it's finally here - time for the Dowell Alaskan Travelogue! I'll try not to bore you with too much detail but I do want to hit the highlights if only to fix this amazing trip to memory for myself. Chris and I sailed on the Holland America ship Statendam out of Vancouver. Now, we have never been on a cruise before and so had no notion of what that experience might be like. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable we were, I could certainly get used to being pampered 24 hours a day I can tell ya.

Chris, Carol & Jay on deck, day 1
Happily, we were joined on our adventure by good friends Jay & Carol and Bill & Marsha. I can highly recommend a group of like minded travel companions to make for a good time. As you can tell Vancouver graced us with perfect weather to start our trip and really the weather cooperated the entire trip - how lucky can we be?

Sailing away from Vancouver.
We got started right away planning our activities for those days in port. As you can see Marsha came armed with guide books and notes as did we all. We had plans, BIG plans.

First stop -

My quilting buddy Kathy spent most of her life in Ketchikan before moving back to Sacramento and so I had the inside scoop on where to go and what to see here. What a pretty town this is and we lost no time exploring on foot. Most everything is within walking distance from the port.
This beautiful sculpture on the outskirts of town commemorates the salmon run and we got to see salmon spawning in the streams which run through town a truly awesome sight. It was the end of the run so I'm glad we didn't miss it.
Ketchikan is famous for displays of totem art so of course we headed to the Native American Totem Museum just outside of town where we could see their collection of totems saved from the destruction of weather and encroaching population. Ketchikan Alaska has the largest collection of totems found anywhere in the world –over 80 poles scattered throughout the city.

Totem poles were not worshiped by the natives or considered religious in any way. They were built to tell stories, myths & legends and to commemorate events including births, marriages, anniversaries, death, or a shameful act.
Totem Poles were never fully painted, only details that helped bring a figure to life were painted - ears, eyebrows, lips, & feet. The reason was that the paint was a very labor intensive process! The female tribal members would chew on salmon eggs and spit them into a bowl. The salmon eggs were the base to an oil-based paint, the saliva was the binding agent, and then powders were mixed to create the four main colors found on a Totem Pole:
  • Black came from charcoal or lignite

  • Red came from iron ore

  • Turquoise was copper oxide

  • White was from clam shells
Beautiful and inspiring with a very spare and modern sensibility. Lots of quilt inspiration here I wished I'd brought my sketch book thank goodness for my camera. Be sure and check out the website to learn more. 
The once infamous red light district has been turned into a shopping district with lots of little galleries and small eateries.
 Since there were three couples traveling together with diverse interests we spent some port days on our own meeting up for dinner to sharing our day's discoveries.
Time to get back to the ship and set sail for another port.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Behind the Scenes

Bulletin board at the fair grounds
There's a lot that goes on in the background when any major disaster happens. Most of the public will never see everything that goes into fighting a fire as huge as the King fire thank goodness, so I thought you might like a glimpse into some of the behind the scenes stuff.
Mobile command posts are brought in
My husband Chris is a volunteer with El Dorado County Search and Rescue and is often called out on searches for lost or injured hikers, Search & Rescue is also activated at times like natural disasters. He spent a couple of days at the County Fair Grounds helping out and took a few pictures when he could spare a moment.
It takes a lot to keep personnel in good shape.
The fairgrounds acted as the evacuation point for farm animals from the fire zone. This little guy had been separated from his mama and Search and Rescue volunteers are acting as surrogates to get him to eat.
All kinds of animals waiting out the fire at the fairgrounds. My husband was on manure detail keeping things clean for the critters. I wonder how I could get some of that stuff up here to Dogwood Lane now that the danger has passed?? I hear alpaca manure is great for the roses.
Fire trucks filled the super market parking lot across the road.
Hoses being straightened out, inspected and dried before being deployed again.
While Chris was at the fairgrounds I stayed here at home ready for what ever might come our way. Glad we can breathe a sigh relief and get on with things. So grateful to the amazing firefighters from all over the country who came to our defense!
If you're on Facebook check out the King Fire Firefighters Appreciation Page from the Community for wonderful expressions of gratitude and KING FIRE.

I will be returning to regular life soon I promise.

Until next time,