Sunday, 22 January 2012

Alaska Ferry

With the bike tucked nicely on to the ferry in Haines Alaska, I settle in myself on the dry warm deck upstairs.

It appears that the last few motorhomes are making their escape from Alaska just in time like myself!

Last views of Haines and that big old white house I stayed in, second one at the top on the left.

It's still raining like crazy but never mind.. how gorgeous can it be?  Rain or sun, I don't care much.  I'm happy to make it on board and mostly find the 'weather' quite mystical for my journey out of the top end..

Views from the ferry..

The ferry was pleasant, only a few hours to Juneau Alaska where I will be getting off for a couple days.  You can take a direct ferry to Bellingham Washington, however, I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn't take the option to stop and see Juneau while I'm here.

On the way we pass another most amazing glacier.. Davidson Glacier.

Never tire of seeing these glaciers, they are mesmerizing! Always keeping in mind how much they are melting and all the media around it.  But I also think about when much larger areas of the planet were carved out by glacier ice thousands of years ago, right down into Indiana where I was born.  I remember learning that the reason the top end of Indiana is flat is because of the ice.  The bottom bit of Indiana has lots of hills and boulders that were supposedly pushed and deposited there before they started retreating.  And that was long before car exhaust and commercial global warming!

Now arriving Juneau.. where I get off. I get on to another ferry in 2 days for Belingham, Washington, so I'm looking forward to my short time in this capitol city of Alaska.

I see more float planes here than boats that float! ;-)  Just kidding, but there is certainly a huge presence of them here and everywhere in Alaska.

Juneau was a super cool place to visit.  It is unaccessible by road. So once you are there with your motorcycle, there's not much exploring to be had!  The road from Juneau goes only a few kilometers from town in either direction.

This is as far on the road you can go from Juneau on one end.. I feel a wee bit trapped! ;-)

I saw this boat on the side of the road and had to stop for a photo.. It's my nieces name all the way back in Indiana.. very cool! It's spelled a little differently, but still made me think of her.

I am lucky again to have a host here.. My host from Anchorage Alaska has a very good friend here in Juneau who then put me on to stay at his daughters house right in the city center!

And due to the rain and wind, they opted to show me around Juneau by car.. thank goodness!  That weather was seriously rough!  In the distance through the window of four cruise ships.  This is literally the LAST DAY for cruise ships in Juneau until next summer 2012.  The locals are doing the hallelujah dance big time!  A few months of peace for them coming up!

I didn't realize this, but seeing a bizzillion fancy jewelry stores in Juneau, they explain to me that they all pack up the $$$$$ jewelry and ship it down to the Caribbean cruise ship stops to sell during the winter.

And they proudly display their one and only Sarah Palin as a great photo opportunity for the cruise ship passengers who decide to shop here.. Who wants a photo with Sarah?!?

(I opted out of the photo "opp" ;-)

I did find this great old Russian Orthodox Church while riding around the bike a bit later.  It was a great feeling to know I was so close to the people and the land I traveled just one year ago. and right across the pond..  The United States purchased the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867.

My host family took me out to a great local pub for dinner, a couple beers, and all in all I can say stopping in Juneau was a great decision!

Next day time to pack up the bike in the rain and make my way to the next ferry.

Luckily the heavy morning rain stopped for now, which meant I didn't have to be thoroughly soaked while waiting.  Here comes the Kenicott!

This is quite often referred to as the poor mans cruise.. No fancy cabins or large continuous buffets.  You can book a cabin at a ridiculouly high price.  The cost of the ferry with me and my bike was more than enough cash so getting a cabin was out of the question.  What they do allow is camping outside on the top deck!

I was very worried about this, but quite prepared.  I slowly dragged me and my tent up the 3 or 4 flights of tiny ship stairs to the reception.  Once I arrived the clerk says that there is ONE very small bed available, and he can offer it to me.  It was an extra $90 for the 3 days, which was a no brainer for me.  The cabins for sale online were closer to $900!!

I can sleep in my little closet, and when I say little, there was no space to walk between my bed, and my pack to open the door.  However, the good news is that I can keep all my belongings locked up and feel safe about having my computer and cameras on hand when I want them.  Score!!

After setting sail, I went up to the deck and there were several tents there who were not offered the same deal, so I can only be so lucky!

Views on board.. one of the things I was most wishing for is to see the whales.. and we did!!!  Sorry for the poor photos, they were too far off in the distance to zoom anymore..

These guys were breaching, it was so exciting!

We get to make another really cool stop on our poor mans cruise, Ketchikan Alaska. I quite like how the local native language spells it!  Only here for a few hours, I take in as much as I can.

I met these two Alaskan brothers, Roger and Bob, who were taking the Juneau ferry to Ketchikan. Here they get off and grab a smaller ferry to an island where they are building a little shack.  I really enjoyed talking to these guys and they offered to show me a special part of Ketchikan called Totem Row.

This is the worlds largest collection of Native totems, including poles from Tongass, Cape Fox, Pennock and other island villages.  They carry a similar spirit but still very unique to the totems I have seen in Native areas of the lower 48.

 I like the fox!

Back to explore the town of Ketchikan.. I came across this window sign, which reminded me of the one very hot topic in this part of the world.  Glad to see it's a topic for them as well!

Ketchikan is full-on Alaska.  I have loved every bit of Alaska, but this town seems to sum up for me what I "imagined" the inner passage of Alaska living to look like.

Welcome to Creek Street! How good looking is this!  And can you believe I missed the photos because they are too fast, but I startled some seals just beside me in the water.

This part is quite known for being the 'brothel' area.  Ketchikan used to the the "Canned Salmon" capitol of the world, but business is business, and during it's heyday, "Married Man's Trail" had 30 brothels to supply however many fisherman!

Now this part of town is tastefully refurbished with cute shops for the cruise ship tourists.  Interesting history, both native and recent; and still a very unique lifestyle here, I would definitely put this town on your list if you can.

I got too excited about exploring and remembered at the last minute that I am due back to the ferry but wanted to get some snack food for the boat.  I ran, literally! around three kilometers, (probably should have taken a taxi) into the grocery, both soaking wet from rain and sweat, and got some goods just in time.

Back on the ferry for the next 3 days.. whew!

And the weather clears nicely AFTER I changed out of my wet clothes.. but better late than never!

One thing I loved about this trip was all the really cool people I met.  Of course we left Roger and his brother behind, but I got to learn so much about these guys and their lifestyle growing up in Alaska.

Who I seem to meet most on board now are bush plane pilots!  I wondered why until I asked more and it's the end of the "season" for these seasonal pilots, and they are either headed home or to another destination for work.

This is Scott and Chip.. Scott flys a seaplane and Chip is a Helicopter Pilot who is going home to his wife after 6 months working in Alaska.  (I have no idea what I said, but it must have been funny!)

Scott being a very smart pilot came well stocked on board with vodka and cranberry juice.. which he was kind enough to share and we enjoyed our "cruise" in style! ;-)

(We could never really figure out why a boat load of passengers are not back here enjoying the sunsets as well, but no complaints from us! ;-)


Next day, more whale spotting... awesome!

 And heaps of dolphins.. love it!! Really liking this trip.. ;-)

I might mention that I lost my iphone on this trip.  I swear I remember taking it out of my pocket and setting it on the towel rack in the restroom.  I searched a thousand times, and eventually went to the pursar to make an announcement.  If somebody took my phone from the toilet, I would pay a reward to get it back due to the travel contacts I have in there.  He made an announcement twice, no luck.

Meanwhile, Scott did his best to keep me entertained with movies on his computer and more of those great drinks to keep my mind off of it!  Thanks again, Scott, you helped me survive that drama! (I was really upset about my mistake)

I met this guy, can't remember his name, darn it, but he was coming home after 20+ years of service.  He's been a prisoner of war, and served in so many amazing countries.  He tells me he's not sure where to start when he actually gets "home".  In the meantime, he gets on to his buddy downstairs who I later heard in the hallway talking to somebody about the fact I need my phone back.  You know what he did?  When we got within mobile range, he called my number without telling me, and somebody answered in dag gone Ketchikan Alaska!!  Gee whiz, I could have sworn I lost it on the boat!  I actually left it at the small grocery store when I was in a hurry.  (They took my details and mailed my phone to me to my contact in Washington.. again proving TIME and AGAIN how many good people there are in the world...add to that they wouldn't even let me pay for the shipping..!)

Anyway, I've waffled on as I do.. here's my military friend..

And while he was out on deck, we took one last opportunity for a photo with Scott before getting off the boat at 5:00 AM the next morning.

I am officially out of the north and will be heading straight south to South America from here on.  Cheers!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Haines Alaska

Finally!  I've made it to Haines.   Being here was a big goal, as I know from this point, the threat of a big early snow (which I have been warned plenty about)  is not likely and even if it did, it's where the port is to catch the inside passage ferry which means it can snow all it wants now!  I didn't get snow, but I kind of wanted it to so I can do the "nanny nanny boo boo" dance.. ;-))  Instead it gave me lots of very cold rain and mother nature did the dance for me instead.. ha!

Coming into Haines late in the afternoon means I run straight to the visitors center.  Canada and Alaska are great for having these centers in all the important stops, full of easy great info on accommodation.  It's been raining too much that I could use a break from camping, so I go in search of a cheap hotel.  Cheap is not possible in this town!   After making several calls, I talk to a man who owns one of those white houses up the hill.  He is also in his last week of work before shutting it down for the winter, so he gives me a super great deal on a little room in that big house.. I must admit I didn't get much sleep, it is old.. like super old with many rooms, attics and basement and I was the only one in the house all night.  I jumped at every little sound!

These houses were built between 1902-04 for the officers of Fort William H. Seward. The name of the first Army fort built in Alaska honors the man who had negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians.  A huge amount of history here, and staying in a tiny room in such a large house just gets my mind to wandering a bit too much.

Wolf skins for sale!! ??????????????
 Whale skin boots with fur seal.. ;-(((

Seal and beaver slippers.. ;-(((((

Haines is well known for bears bears bears !!  As well as salmon and the American Bald Eagle Foundation..!  I saw one post stating the Haines is the adventure capital of Alaska..I can believe it!  Plenty to do here! I went to the American Bald Eagle Foundation and met the founder/director.  What a great guy with so many questions for me about riding a motorcycle.  His passion for the bald eagle and the foundation's museum are very clear.  A man in a wheelchair who humbly didn't tell me who he was, his staff did.  A few years ago, the building we are in caved in while under construction leaving him paralyzed. Not stopping him, if I can recommend any place to stop and see, it's this one.  The displays and animals are so well done, and will certainly clearly teach about every animal in this area as well as a very good looking rescued bald eagle you can meet. Here's a link to his page:  Why no pictures from me?  I ran out of the house I was staying so close by, excited for the eagle feeding, forgot the dag gone thing, and didn't have time to go back and get it.

So the owner of the house I'm staying is very keen to find out if I'd like to see some grizzly bears... sure!  Just need to ride the bike about 5 km down the road to Chilkat River, and I'm likely to see them feeding on the salmon.. I'm there!

Chilkat River
Bears spotted in no time...!

A reminder of the land I am on.. part of the river bank is not to be walked on as a Native allotment.

And this is their peace totem.

Ok, back to the bears I keep spotting more... WOW!!!

Look out Mr. Salmon!!


Oops, missed that one..

His buddy got a nice red salmon.. maybe needs to teach his/her friend how to catch one too! ;-)

Too cute!  and amazing there is no fence around, the bears couldn't give a crap about the humans standing so close for photos... it's all about the salmon here!

I didn't notice until I was on the bridge with the bike leaving, these 3 heads coming up stream.. dag gone seals!!  How cool!  I didn't expect to see them here, but makes sense.  They also are up for salmon dinner tonight.

Not only the seals, but the crows and seabirds are feasting away as well.  This is the land of ABUNDANCE!

My time in Haines comes to an end far too early, as usual. Really, this is the official end to my time in the far north of the Americas on my bike.  Kind of sad!  However, I'm excited to get on this ferry as well. The rain is bucketing, and not having to ride through it all day long is a bonus.  I'll be well tucked away under the roof today.

Waiting for the ferry in Haines, Alaska.

The ferry arrives and I meet this guy who works on board right away, Hal.  He's so enthusiastic to see a lone female biker and straight away offers a house to stay with him and his wife in Juneau (my next stop on the ferry, where we have an overnight and change boats).  One thing I can sum up about the people of Alaska, and my final example, they are super kind and helpful - always!  Can't say enough about my experience in this part of the world.. can't wait to come back and do it again!

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