What a beautiful place! As we experienced Alaska and saw things we’ve never seen before, on many occasions Chris and I just looked at each other, shook our heads and said WOW!
The sheer size of the mountains, the quiet in the wilderness, the barrenness of the tundra, all the different wildlife, the history of the gold rush, the people, the water, ice and snow. Even the way of life in these “remote” areas were amazing (to us). In Skagway, there are about 850 year-round residents. A doctor visits from Juneau once a month. A vet visits once every 3 months. Our tour guide put things into perspective for us when we stopped at a lake to take some pictures and he joked that we’ll never see anyone out on a boat on the lake. With so few residents, he told us to imagine a place the size of Manhattan having only 2 residents – the odds of running into someone is very low.
There are no roads into Juneau or Ketchikan – you have to fly in or arrive by boat. There are lots of seaplanes in the area. Supplies arrive on a barge. If a store is out of a product, you have to wait for the next shipment.
We were lucky that we got to see quite a bit of wildlife: a bear munching grass on the side of the road, a moose trying to cross the road (twice!), mountain goats, a porcupine, humpback whales, an orca (we even saw the tail!), seals, eagles, ravens (these guys are huge!) and lots of other birds.
As we traveled further north, the sunrise and sunset times changed.
- May 18 Seattle – Sunrise 5:27am, Sunset 8:44pm
- May 20 Ketchikan – Sunrise 4:27am, Sunset 9:00pm, Weather high 12C (54F), low 8C (46F)
- May 21 Tracy Arm/Juneau – Sunrise 4:18am, Sunset 9:32pm, Weather high 17C (63F), low 9C (48F)
- May 22 Skagway – Sunrise 4:11am, Sunset 9:46pm, Weather high 11C (52F), low 8C (46F)
Although there were drizzly moments, most days were simply overcast with the occasional shower and it wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be. Layers are good. Due to the longer days, their gardens are in great shape due to all the extra sunlight.
We tried to shop at stores run by locals as much as we could (instead of the stores owned by the cruise lines). They have truly wonderful artists.
We purchased dolls for our nieces and a White Pass train car for our nephew (it says “Klondike River” on it):
Chris bought a honey comb/spoon, I got a little jade bear with a salmon in its mouth. I also got dream catchers for my mom, my sister and myself (they were so nice I couldn’t resist). I wish I could have bought so much more but time and budget helped restrain me. 🙂
And since this trip was so amazing, we decided to choose an Alaskan-themed Christmas ornament for our 2012 ornament. We picked a handmade black cottonwood bark carving trimmed with beaver and reindeer. The mask has been carved by hand from the bark of the Black Cottonwood tree, which occurs in the lowlands of Alaska’s southcentral and southern coastal forests. The bark comes from trees that have been dead for 5 to 6 years. It is then possible to remove bark that is up to 6 inches thick.
We’re also planning to get some of the pictures blown up and hang them along one of our hallways that contains other trip photos. The scenery was just spectacular. Truly a trip of a lifetime – we’re so glad we went!
So – that being said, I was able to cross off multiple Life List items with this trip. More on that in the next post! 🙂