Sunday, December 1, 2019

Ketchikan, Alaska to Vancouver, Canada



Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage and the state's southeastern-most major settlement.  It is known as Alaska's first city and the Salmon Capital of the World. (All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)



It is also a popular cruise route along the state's southeastern coast, as you can see from the number of cruise ships docked in its port when our cruise ship arrived.




As our ship dropped anchor in the bay and we waited to tender ashore, my first impressions of Ketchikan were a multitude of prop planes taking off and landing and many fishing boats navigating the waters.



We boarded the smaller tender ship and went to shore, where we picked up our excursion's tour bus.



Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, including some of the oldest ones in existence.  The historic part of town also has a multitude of colorful homes perched along the shore's cliff rocks, which have long wooden staircases leading up to their front doors.  If you'd like to learn more about the native cultures of Ketchikan and its history after colonists began setting here, there are some wonderful movies to watch on this link from the Ketchikan tourism web site.



My husband and I wanted our last excursion in Alaska to bring us into the Tongass National Forest, which covers most of southeast Alaska. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Coast Mountains and Canadian border on the east, the Tongass National Forest spans 500 miles of Southeast Alaska.  It is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world!  



We took a Ketchikan Rainforest Canoe and Nature Walk excursion.  A bus drove our group to Harriet Hunt Lake where we put on life jackets and maned a native style canoe. We rowed to the opposite lakeshore, enjoying the beautiful scenery.


There was a campsite located on the shore, where we were served a Native American style snack of smoked fish, clam chowder, bread rolls with wild berry jams and beverages.




Next, a guide led our group on a short nature walk in the rain forest, while highlighting the interesting vegetation and wildlife that lives there.




The lush forest floor was full of an amazing amount of thick greenery...



...so much large flora and fauna...




...and a canopy of large old-growth Red Cedar, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce trees.




The variety of mosses, lichen, and fungi in the rain forest were very interesting to see.





We were told that this fallen tree was now a "tree nursery" as seeds fell on its soft moss surface and began growing new trees, which will eventually anchor their roots in the ground as they grow.



Usnea Lichen, also known as "Old Man's Beard." was seen growing off many trees.




After our forest hike, we returned to the canoes and rowed back to the opposite shore and back to the bus.





Back on our cruise ship we again passed magnificent scenery as we sailed south to Vancouver.




There was a special treat offered to all at dinner--Baked Alaska Ice Cream!


Early the next morning our ship reached its final destination of Vancouver, Canada, where we disembarked for a bus ride to the airport. Someday we'd like to return to Vancouver and British Columbia, Canada, for a longer visit, but we had been away from home for almost two weeks and it was time to return to Colorado, as we missed our children and grandchildren!  



It's always a thrill to fly over Colorado and see the Rocky Mountains and the changing topography of our state. We were Home Sweet Home!  Thank you for following my blog all these weeks as I relived our Alaska Land and Sea Voyage that we took in June.  I'll now return to blogging about our adventures close to home.

For all Americans, I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving! Our family had much to be thankful for this year as my husband's cancer is in remission and our daughter recently had a successful emergency mitral valve repair surgery. We have been busy helping her in her recovery, but she is getting stronger every day and most likely by the new year she will return to normal activities. We are very grateful for the good medical care they both received and the prayers of many. Please continue to keep them in your prayers--thank you!


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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Juneau, Alaska



Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane.



A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers, and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Center, dedicated to local birds.


We took an excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier located in part of the Tongass National Forest.  Mendenhall is located 12 miles from downtown Juneau, on land owned by the Federal Forest Service, which provides a visitor center, park rangers, trails, and year-round exhibits and educational outreach.



The glacier is a 13-mile ribbon of ice that flows from the Juneau Ice Field. which is a 1,500 square mile frozen plateau that feeds a total of 38 major glaciers. The Juneau Ice Field is the fifth-largest ice field in North America and is leftover from the last ice age.  Mendenhall Glacier has been in a period of retreat.  In fact, there were various markers that were placed on the lakeshore, and in the visitor center, that showed how the glacier at one time covered those areas in as little as 60 - 90 years ago!



It certainly was a beautiful glacier!






Double click on the photo above to enlarge it and read this informational placard.



Double click on to enlarge

Although there are many negative effects of the recession of the Mendenhall Glacier and glaciers in general, there are also a few positive outcomes. With the retreat of the Mendenhall Glacier, the Mendenhall Lake has formed. The lake has a unique ecosystem and is a nursery for a variety of fish including several types of salmon, Dolly Varden char, and cutthroat trout.


Click on to enlarge

In the ever-changing landscape of Mendenhall Glacier, even the Nugget Falls waterfall has moved since a 1952 photo seen in the placard above, was taken.



There is a 45 minute round trip trail that leads to Nugget Falls.




We were tempted to take the walk, but we knew our allotted tour time here would not allow it... 




...so we went inside the visitor center to enjoy the views of it there, as well as the other exhibits.


Double click on to enlarge

There were many informational placards in and around the visitor center...



...and beautiful examples of a forest reclaiming the former glacier land with the growth of flora, fauna, trees, and lichen.



Our next stop on our excursion was the DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Fish Hatchery.  

The goal of Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc. is to sustain and enhance valuable salmon resources of the State of Alaska for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of all citizens, and to promote public understanding of Alaska's salmon resources and salmon fisheries through research, education, and tourism.  At the Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center, we learned about the fascinating life cycle of salmon, their nearshore marine environment, and the inner workings of a hatchery through a variety of exhibits and commentaries.




The hatchery raises just over 130 million chum, king, and coho salmon annually and is designed to allow visitors to see the outside operations of an active hatchery.




There were many placards along the walkway by the freshwater pens holding the young salmon.  They explained how salmon eggs were harvested and fertilized, the stages of salmon development, the freshwater rearing phase, the saltwater rearing phase, and then their release.




Salmon are assisted in spawning to ensure their numbers are not depleted by fishing by men or wildlife.  

During the months of July through September, millions of salmon swim up a 450-foot fish ladder outside the fishery and gather into holding ponds until they are ready to reproduce, and the life cycle begins again. We were visiting too early in June to see this sight but the photos we saw of it are amazing!





We enjoy eating salmon and usually purchase sockeye or silver (coho) to eat at home, but we did try samples of all the rest during our cruise.  King salmon is especially rare and delicious!



After leaving the fishery our excursion bus drove to a beautiful forested area in Juneau and there, under tall pine trees, we were treated to an authentic Alaskan Salmon Bake and buffet.  




There were unlimited pieces of fresh wood fire-grilled salmon and many different sides to enjoy in the buffet, plus beer and wine for purchase if desired.



Everything was so good!



Back on our cruise ship, we soon set sail again and enjoyed gazing at scenic views of the Alaskan shoreline from our balcony.

Our last stop in Alaska was ahead--Ketchikan!


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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Skagway, Alaska and the Yukon, Canada


Skagway, Alaska, is located at the northernmost point of the Inside Passage in Southeast Alaska. It's home to many gold-rush-era buildings that have been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The streets are lined with wooden boardwalks and colorful, restored buildings, looking much as they did over 100 years ago. When our cruise ship docked in the Skagway port for the day we had an opportunity to walk around this charming little touristy town before our bus excursion into the Yukon region of Canada began.



Double click on the map to enlarge to its fullest to see the gold rush trails in the small box.


The Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896 when gold was found in the Klondike region of Canada's Yukon Territory. On July 29, 1897, the steamer Queen brought the first boatload of prospectors to Skagway. More ships brought thousands of hopeful miners, called "Stampeders," into the new towns of Skagway and Dyea, where they prepared for the 600-mile journey to the goldfields in the Yukon region of Canada.



To prevent mass starvation in the remote Yukon Territory, the Canadian government required every stampeder to bring a year's supply of goods with him before crossing the border. Chilkoot Pass, a high mountain pass through the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains in the U.S. state of Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, was the first route the Stampeders used, and as you can see in the vintage photos above, the men carried their heavy loads of supplies on their backs. As the gold rush progressed, three aerial tramways and several surface hoists were constructed and operated briefly over the pass. 


When the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was built and connected Skagway with Whitehorse, Canada, the Chilkoot Pass route fell out of favor with miners.


A view of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad from the Klondike Highway. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad runs past the famously steep Chilkoot Trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada. 




As we walked around Skagway we saw many tourist souvenir type shops, but we did learn of a few historic places. The "haunted" Golden North Hotel--seen in the center of the top collage photo above--is the oldest hotel in Alaska. We also learned that the Arctic Brotherhood Hall--the building on the extreme right in the lower photo above-- was built in 1899, and has more than 8,883 driftwood sticks nailed to its facade, is thought to be the most photographed building in Alaska! The club was formed by a group of gold prospectors who arrived in Skagway from the City of Seattle ocean steamer, to set off for the Klondike gold fields seeking fortune. The club was a place for miners to connect and look out for each other.


The Red Onion Saloon was built in 1897 and operated as a saloon, dance hall and one of the finest bordellos in Skagway. It is now a bar, restaurant, and museum, with also a "haunted" history. Tours of the saloon by "good time girls" are available for $10

When on a cruise, one has to plan day excursions in advance, especially if you don't want to be closed out of a popular one. When my husband and I looked at the available excursions for our ship's day stop in Skagway, Alaska, we decided to pick an eight-hour bus ride tour of the Canadian Yukon, instead of staying in town or riding the White Pass Railroad.


I was excited to see this legendary part of Canada--the historic land of the Klondike Gold Rush, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the land of rugged natural beauty and wilderness.  Another influence for me was my love of the book Mrs. Mike that I read as a young adult.  I remembered it was the most thrilling and poignant book I ever read at that time of my life, and it made me hope to be able to see the wilderness of western Canada someday. I had visited Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Alberta, Canada a few years ago--click here to read that post--and now I was excited to see a small part of the Yukon.




We began the bus ride in Skagway to Carcross, on the Klondike Highway.  The highway links the Alaskan coastal town of Skagway to Yukon's Dawson City. Its route somewhat parallels the route used by prospectors in the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush.



The weather was overcast and misty. That seems to be fairly common for Alaska in the month of June.



We passed waterfalls that ran down the entire mountain...


...and emptied into the beautiful winding river.



At one point we're excited to see a moose running across the river! Can you spy him in the photos above?  Click on the collage to enlarge it for a bigger view.




We saw beautiful vistas during the drive ...



... of White Pass, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Lake Bennett. Our bus driver, who was also our tour guide, was very informative and told us interesting stories about the Yukon as she drove and at each stop along the way.  Bove Island in Tagish Lake can be seen in the photo above.




We stopped at the Carcross DesertIt is often considered the smallest desert in the world. The Carcross Desert measures approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km2), or 640 acres. 



We also made a stop at Emerald Lake.  The color derives from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, at the bottom of the shallow waters. The high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water here comes from limestone gravels eroded from the nearby mountains and deposited here 14,000 years ago by the glaciers of the last ice age.




We visited the Yukon Suspension Bridgewhich is 200 ft (60.96 meters) long and stretches 57 ft (17.36 meters) over raging rapids on the Tutshi River Canyon.



Along with the spectacular views at this location, there were trails, an outdoor museum, a restaurant, and shops located at the bridge site.



My husband fit right in with this vintage photo of Royal Canadian Mounties that was part of the outdoor museum! The North-West Mounted Police maintained peace and order in the Yukon and protected the gold seekers from themselves.




Our next stop was at the Caribou Crossing Trading Post where there was an Alaskan Husky Dog training camp! These are the breed of dogs that are trained to pull dog sleds over the heavy snows of winter, and also to race in the Iditarod.




There were adorable new puppies and star athlete dogs to view!


Please double click on the photo to enlarge to read

Some interesting information about Alaskan Husky Dogs on these placards.



The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Museum is also located at this site. It commemorates the role that the Mounties played in the developing Yukon with interesting exhibits.





We learned what it took to manage this vast and environmentally unforgiving terrain. It certainly reminded me of what I read in my favorite novel, Mrs. Mike.




Taxidermy creatures of Yukon animals in realistic poses, both from the past and the present, were also on display.  These were just a small portion of what we saw.




The scenery at the trading post was also very impressive!



Next, we drove into the town of Carcross, also know as Caribou Crossing



We unboarded the bus at Carcross Commons where 18 artisans’ boutiques, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a playground are located. The Commons also hosts the Skookum Jim’s House, which is currently home for Parks Canada – Chilkoot office and a Mac Bride Museum exhibition about the Gold Rush.


Examples of Tagish First Nation (CTFN) totems.  Totem poles have deep meaning to the Carcross-Tagish people, representing clan stories and accomplishments.

 Please click on to enlarge photo


St. Saviour’s Anglican Church was founded in 1904. In 1903, St. Saviour church saw the foundation of the Chooutla Residential School, the largest residential school in the Yukon.


In the upper right of the photo collage is the Carcross Learning Centre, which showcases art, culture, and history of the community and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation people. It exists to help users learn and understand the culture of the Inland Tlingit and Tagish peoples' way of life. This multi-purpose facility also serves as a central gathering place for the Community.




The Matthew Watson General Store is the oldest store operated in the Yukon. Established during the Gold Rush, the original two sections building was moved to Carcross in 1909.



On our ride back to Skagway, Alaska, we again passed by beautiful scenery.



Our bus driver made a bouquet of wildflowers that she picked at each stop along the way of our tour and placed them on her dashboard.  The dandelion flowers we saw in the Yukon were the largest I ever saw!  We had about an hour before we had to return to our cruise ship for its sail away from Skagway, so my husband and I stopped in at The Skagway Brewery to try their Spruce Tip Blonde Ale Beer.  We heard so much about spruce tip beer all through our Alaska voyage, from most of our tour bus drivers, and we were curious to try it. 
Spruce beer is a beverage flavored with the buds, needles, or essence of spruce trees. Using evergreen needles to create beverages originated with the Indigenous peoples of North America who used the drink as a cure for scurvy during the winter months when fresh fruits were not available, as the fresh shoots of many spruces and pines are a natural source of vitamin C.  The Skagway Brewery beer was very refreshing and had a nice citrus taste.

I know this was a very long post--thanks so much for reading it and allowing me to re-live our wonderful day in Skagway and a portion of the Canadian Yukon.  My next post will visit Juneau-the capital of Alaska.  I hope you will return next week!

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