Sunday 3rd August 5:00 a.m southbound ferry, Inside Passage, Alaska
Wow! What an incredible way to end my Alaskan experience! Juneau has just been unreal. On my first morning in town, I set off on the two mile hike to the top of Mt Roberts, which sits behind Juneau like a backdrop. In fact, the steep slopes of Mt Roberts once plunged straight into the sea. The town of Juneau is actually built on reclaimed land- tailings from the gold mining in the mountain. I found out later that there are over a hundred miles of tunnels throughout Mt Roberts, with some mine shafts running a thousand feet below sea level. It was raining lightly and probably not the best idea for my cold, but it just felt good to be getting some air in my lungs. Besides, these were the first decent sized trees I'd seen in all of Alaska. Everywhere else, the landscape has been covered with stunted little 'pecker poles' rarely more than fifteen or twenty feet high, and not much bigger round than a man's arm. It felt great to be back in nature. Even though I was never more than a mile from the harbour, the thick cloud made it feel like I could have been in the middle of a huge forest.
Meet Cessna, the bald eagle. I should have also photographed Brooke, Cessna's gorgeous brown-eyed carer. What a sweetheart. *sigh* Cessna was hit by a light plane, and will never be able to fly again. The wildlife service has adopted Cessna and has her on show at the top of Mt Roberts to raise awareness for the plight of this powerful but vulnerable bird. If I could have stopped coughing, sniffling and sneezing, I would have asked Brooke if she'd like to catch up after work. Oh well....
I was wandering back through town, dreaming of brown haired girls with sparkling eyes, when I heard someone call my name. Sadly, it wasn't Brook but Peter, my host, standing in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant. He'd been inside waiting to have lunch with his brother when he saw me walk past. Would I like to join them? Sure! So I got to meet Peter's brother Reber, and enjoy a plate of Jalapeno nachos. After lunch, Peter and Reber returned to their respective jobs, and I posted a small birthday present home to Mum, investigated a few of the tour companies, then checked out a couple of the local pubs. Peter met me after work and we drove across to his brother's house. A couple of Reber's friends were moving on from Juneau, so they were getting together for cognac and cigars as a little good bye. It wasn't a late night, since everyone seemed to have lots to do.
And guess what I did yeserday? YEAH BABY...SEA KAYAKING!!
This was something I'd wanted to do ever since I dreamt of coming to Alaska! And here it was, glacier and all. It was a three hour outing with Alaska Travel Adventures. The drive to and from the launch area was worthwhile in itself, with our driver giving us a commentary on Juneau's history, from the early gold rush days all the way to the recent arrival of MacDonalds.
We saw seals, bald eagles, and even orcas. *okay, so we didn't see orcas* Just being out on the water in Alaska, with Mendenhall Glacier winding it's way down the slope in the background, was something I'll remember the rest of my life, or at least until I get Altzheimer's. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah...food. I raced back to Pete's place, since there was only an hour to spare before I had to be on the ferry. Pete had fired up his barbecue on the rooftop, and cooked up a couple of chicken sausages to get me on my way. We scoffed down a couple of sausage sandwiches and sped to the ferry port.
It took a little longer than either of us had thought, but it wasn't as if the ferry was going to take off at exactly eight o'clock. The ferry I'd caught from Skagway to Juneau was forty-five minutes late departing. It was a minute past eight when I puffed my way into the terminal. My heart stopped. The terminal was in darkness; all the ticket windows closed. Outside at the dock, the ferry sounded it's horn. The ramp was up. The ropes were off. It was on its way south. "Run" yelled Peter. "If you run down there, they might drop the ramp for you. It's been done before." Peter had told me earlier that he worked a summer at the ferry port, so I took his advice and ran. Laptop in one hand, Camelbak in the other, and a fifty pound backpack on my back, I ran as hard as I could all the way down the pier to where the guy was controlling the ramp. Dozens of passengers were leaning over the railing above, staring at me. The staff were all teasing me, saying that I could get on if I bought each of them a beer. Finally, some guy up high on the ship stepped out to the rail and gave me the thumbs up. I returned the gesture and the crowd cheered. The ramp lowered and I skipped onto the M.V. Malaspina like an excited child.
It's five o'clock the next morning now. The foghorn woke me an hour or so ago as we entered Petersburg. That seemed like a good opportunity to jump in and get a hot shower before peak time, and since it's now raining fairly solidly, I thought I'd take the opportunity to creep downstairs and write my journal. It's not as if there's going to be a spectacular sunset this morning. After we pulled out of Juneau, there was still a few hours of daylight. Boy, was it beautiful! I can see why this passage is considered to be one of the most scenic ferry journeys in the world. Besides the pristine scenery, I even saw a humpback breach in the distance. All the deck chairs were taken, so I picked a spot on the ground in the shelter of the solarium, the covered, heated area at the back of the boat. It's closed in on both sides, but open to the rear so you have shelter from the wind but still experience the open air feeling. I was a little miffed when a guy in a poofy looking uniform confiscated my tiny bottle of peppermint schnapps, but I would have been really crooked if he'd taken my peach schnapps as well!! *hee hee*