Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alaska Day 24-25

Thursday June 8, 2006 Skagway Alaska USA
We began the day by visiting the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park visitor center in downtown Skagway. After gathering a supply of maps and information, we struck out on the jeep road to Dyea and the start of the Chilkoot trail. This trail was the start of a long hard journey to the Klondike gold fields near Dawson City Yukon Territory. After making many trips hauling the Canadian government required supplies up and over White Pass from Dyea and Skagway, the early prospectors reached tributaries of the Yukon River. Here they had to build boats and rafts to carry them and their supplies on to the Klondike. Most of them never found an ounce of gold. Many died, among them 45 killed in an Avalanche and buried near Dyea. Dyea currently is a ghost town, Skagway has 892 permanent residents, but swells to several thousand each day in the summer when the residents mine the gold brought by the two to three cruise ships that dock here each day.

After returning from Dyea, we rode our trikes through the crowded streets of Skaqway and found a nice halibut lunch at the Bonanza Bar and Grill. An afternoon of riding around and exploring Skaqway brought us to dinner at the Fish House near the Small Boat Harbour for some more halibut. Are we enjoying the fish?? You bet we are. We made arrangements with John, the proprietor of the Garden City RV Park, for our excursion to Juneau tomorrow on the Fjordland Express, a diesel powered catamaran which will take us down the Lynn Canal to Juneau. John agreed to walk Jake several times during the day while we are away. We were lucky to find such an accommodating host.

Friday June 9, 2006 Skagway to Juneau to Skagway
The day begins early, as we need to walk Jake, get ready for the day and board the Fjordland Express by 7:45 AM Alaska Time. The people who track that sort of thing tell us that we are having nearly 19 hours of daylight. But it never really gets dark even when they say it is not daylight. At two o'clock in the morning, it is still plenty light enough to walk around without a light. We go to bed at 10 or 10:30 and still can see sunlight glinting off the mountain peaks.

The sail to Juneau began with seeing the different colored watermarks on the rocks lining the channel, which showed the levels of the tide. Our Captain Mark explained that there could be 22 ft difference in high and low tide in a day. The change today was 17 ft. The trip was a wealth of viewing wildlife, beginning with loons and eagles. We slowed and even stopped many times so we could film the action. Eagles were resting in the trees, on tops of pilings in the Haines Harbour, on buoys, and we were fortunate to see a beauty in flight just over the boat.

On the rocks there were several "communities" of sea lions resting and sunning themselves, and making lots of noise as they communicated with each other -- or us! One even looked over his shoulder cunningly, like Jake does. The excitement built as we began to see the humpback whales spray and spray and spray, then surface partially. It will be interesting to see if we got that part on video. More eagles along way.

After a great lunch of halibut (Wilma's sister Meryl's favorite fish -- it must run in the family) in Juneau and (Myrna picture this!) a BIG cone of pecan praline ice cream, we shopped the touristy stuff, then were taken to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center to see a glacier up close. Temp was cool, but some people were sunbathing on the beach, and children wading in the water. One lady found a basketball sized piece of glacier and brought it to us for photographing. It was very cold and much denser than refrigerator ice cubes. The beautiful blue color of the ice is from compression, which lets only the blue light rays reflect to our eyes.

Our daughter Roxie will be interested that the rangers all had bear spray containers attached to their belts. One of them magically appears in a photo we took.

On the return trip to Skagway, we saw another glacier, Eagle, in the distance, and encountered some black and white porpoises frolicking in the water. No pictures on the blog, as they were too frisky and fast. We slowed the boat to allow them to catch us, as they like to go all around and under the boat. They were playful as six-month old puppies.

It must be a God thing. We need to do a telephone interview with the search committee for Fr. Bob Blessing. The committee wants to interview Herb at 9 AM tomorrow. Our cell phones have not worked since Fort St. John several days ago. While we were in Juneau today, Verizon must have turned their system on in Skagway as when we returned, as we now have full service including internet on our aircard. Now we can keep our appointment with the search committee that we thought we would have to postpone.


Walldog, Willie and Jake

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