Thursday, October 3, 2013

North to Alaska! To Alaska We Must Roam

Seattle to Juneau

In 2009 or 2010 I made a promise to my apartment mate, Sherb Valli, that I would take him on a cruise one day to repay all of his many kindnesses, constant patience & generosity. I do like to honor my promises.  So, in 2012 I booked us passage on a 7 day cruise to Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Late in August 2012, Sherb  and I left Hawaii for Seattle. We arrived before noon and rather than pay the individual $27 shuttle bus fees to get to Seattle's cruise port from Sea-Tac Airport, we chose to ride the city bus for about an hour and a half for less than one dollar each. We received a price break because we are seniors, the only drawback was that the bus dropped us off in the middle of an overpass high over Smith's Cove where one of Seattle's two cruise ports is located.

Info about the city bus from SeaTac airport to the cruise terminals. Click here

Information about Smith's Cove Cruise Port - Click here

Sherb loved the walk, but I didn't!  Lucky for me, a shuttle bus going from long-term cruise parking directly to the ship, stopped to pick me up. I arrived first. I purchased a bottle of water for Sherb at a small snack shop in front of the embarkation building. I knew Sherb would be thirsty after his long walk.
Click here for a brief history of Seattle

The ship departed Seattle about 4 PM leaving during a beautiful summer evening. The weather was splendid the whole time we were in and out of Seattle. In fact, Seattle was in the middle of a long drought. 

Our itinerary included Sea Days cruising the Inside Passage, a stop at Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, cruising into Tracy Arm Fjord up to the face of the Sawyer Glacier, back down the Inside Passage and a final stop at Victoria, British Columbia, before arriving back in Seattle.  Sherb and I both have relatives lining in the area we wanted to visit before heading back home.

Seattle from the ship Rhapsody of the Seas. Note the small sea plane heading to land on Lake Washington just to the left of the tallest building

Almost to Juneau, Alaska

Bridge over the Gastineau Channel at Juneau

Celebrity Millennium at Juneau

Our ship and the Celebrity ship were visiting at the very end of the season for visitors coming to Alaska.  The population of the city drops precipitously during the 9 winter months.  Summer workers leave in great numbers and the city goes into a long, boring hibernation during the winter.

The local area and ice fields near Juneau

Public art & sculpture near Juneau's waterfront

My friend Sherb in downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau.

Note how the city is squeezed between the channel and the steep mountain slopes. Much of the city is located directly below avalanche chutes. 

Juneau, Alaska with aerial tramway car in the background

The Red Dog Saloon and Mercantile

Entertainment is served. The Red Dog Saloon has a great pulled pork sandwich.

Wyatt Earp checked his pistol in at the US Marshall's office on his way to Nome, Alaska in 1900. His ship sailed out before the Marshall's office opened on June 29th, 1900.

Tour buses at the Mendenhall Glacier

Walkway to the visitor center.
Learn  more about the Mendenhall Glacier Click here

Moss growing on rock scoured by the glacier in the past - life goes on

Evidence of the glacier's enormous weight and force 

The visitor center. There are both a ramp and elevator for the disabled available.

Beautiful "Tlingit" Native American inspired design on a doorway

The Mendenhall Glacier
In the 1990's the glacier face retreated an average of 90 feet per year, In 2010, the glacier retreated over 400 feet. The ice field above the glacier is supplied by snow from the moisture brought to Southern Alaska by the Pacific Ocean's Japanese Current. As the snow packs down it becomes ice. The enormous weight of the deep ice fields follows the slope of the land, sliding slowly down hill carrying rocks and gravel which scour "U" shaped valleys on their flow down hill.

As the glacier flows over uneven ground, the ice fractures into crevices and jumbled seracs.

Dirty ice, loaded with pulverized rock at the face of the glacier

Photo through the visitor center's telescope

Posting of activity at the glacier's face

Can you spot the "telltale vegetation ring"? See the photo above for explanation.

The glacier is not only a conveyor of rocks - it is a grinder of rocks. Some stone is ground down finer than powdered sugar as the weight of the moving ice scours its path. The fine stone particles give the melt lake and out flowing streams their light "milky" colors.  The visitor center displays samples of the small gravel down to rock powder.

Stuffed black bear at the visitor center.  Had he been from deeper in Canada or Alaska's interior - he would be called a grizzly bear.

Next time - Skagway & White Pass - one route to the Yukon Gold Rush

I will be on another one of my journeys starting tomorrow until November 3rd. I will continue bogging about my Alaska trip upon my return.  

Where am I going you ask?  To the South Seas and "down under, Mate, down under!" 

Please click the colored link to view my other blog about living in Hawaii "Life in the 50th State"

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I use a Canon G-11 digital camera on a mono pod - usually without flash

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Your comments and criticisms are my reward for the effort to do this blog – they are appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my travels.

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