I have some really bad habits-habits like playing certain games for hours on end on Facebook, when I am not working. I do this despite having so many other things that I could be doing. Playing those games is my way of chilling out, and I do a LOT of chilling out. Anyway, I finally got the “bug” to do something besides those games. When we took the cruise to Alaska, I had bought a panel and four corner squares from a quilting store in Skagway with a wolf theme for my son. Now that it sat for over a year, I finally decided to get back to it. I went and bought the coordinating fabrics, a new sewing machine-since mine from 36 years ago finally died, made the design on paper and got to work. I just didn’t want you to think that I totally forgot about the blog for no reason. So here it is, all pieced together. I have since put the layers together and starting to do the actual quilting.
Skagway is another place that has changed so much in 19 years, but still has a really small town feel. A few things have changed to accommodate the big ships. They have seriously enlarged their docks and lengthened the railway line if I remember correctly. The dock we were at gave us immediate access to the railway once we got off the ship, if we had an excursion that involved the train tracks. Also the rock cliffs where we got off the ship have signage (graffiti) from crew members from all of the different ships. There is a beautiful park right there too. On my last visit, the town was basically 4 blocks wide by 8 blocks long. I would say it might be a little bigger now. When ships are in port, it grows between 6,000 and 12,000 people. My boys went off to do some more four-wheeling and ziplining. I went off by myself for a couple of excursions.
First I went to the Liarsville Experience to visit a spot where there used to be a camp for those getting ready to climb up to the Trail of ‘98. It also was the base for reporters of that time to do firsthand reporting. Actually they were more inclined to deal in hearsay in a secondhand manner and embellish it-thus the camp became known as Liarsville. Now the group of actors doing the reenactment put their hearts into it. There is a gift shop and we all got to pan for gold. Everyone comes away with 2-3 specs of gold-it is planted in the dirt that you pan with.
Next I headed up the pass by bus and crossed over the border into Canada briefly. The top of the pass is near the Trail of ‘98, where gold miners entered into Canada to get over to the Klondike to strike it rich. So many miners were not surviving in the early days of mining, that Canada instituted a policy of requiring that anyone entering Canada come in with certain provisions. I have heard different versions of the requirements, like 6 months worth, a ton, and there actually was a specific list of what was required. In reality, it was really hard for miners to get all of their things up to the Trail of ‘98 and into Canada, because it often meant multiple trips during which their belongings at the top would get stolen. I love that period of history, but I don’t think I would have done well living it. Since I really, truly enjoy landscapes and the sun started peeking through the clouds just a little bit-I got some awesome pictures. The bus driver was full of information. When I returned to town, I shopped a bit, then headed back to the ship to catch up with the rest of our party.
Nineteen years ago, my husband and I took a 7 day round trip cruise to Alaska. Let’s start there! We were on the Sky Princess, a ship that was returned to P & O Cruises and Australia. Princess became my preferred cruise line over time. If you have never cruised, but hope to-then I do have some tips for you. I had been on small boats on lakes, the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast. I had been on paddle boats on Lake Tahoe and I had been on a car ferry across Long Island Sound. There was no way I was going to get sea sick. We boarded the ship in Vancouver, sailing out between the mainland and the islands on the Pacific side. All was good for the first day and a half. We were even lucky to see three Orca whales come alongside the ship. I got so excited, I forgot how to use my video camera. Yes, those were the days of old technology. Luckily I remembered how to zoom in so I could actually catch a little more of them before they got out of range.
So the second morning, I get up to head to breakfast and find someone has gotten ill. I couldn’t believe that anyone on that ship could have been drinking so early. I didn’t even think about someone getting ill because of the movement of the ship. It hit me about an hour later. Despite having stabilizers, that ship was pitching. I started to feel it while I was shopping in the on board store. Once I made the statement to my husband that I didn’t feel well, the ship employee quickly told me to try the Sea Bands. I would feel fine quickly. She wasn’t lying. Sea Bands work on the basis of acupressure-something I immediately believed in after about 10 minutes. They put pressure on the nausea points and can be helpful to some expectant mothers also-but I can’t say I have ever heard a doctor say so. I wore those navy blue sea bands with everything including the formals, but they worked miracles. Don’t be shy of trying them if you need them. I did find on subsequent cruises that I didn’t need them anymore.
So let’s get back to the cruise. Our first stop was Juneau. It was a real treat watching the sea planes as we were coming into dock. We chose to take the excursion on a sea plane up to Taku Lodge for a salmon bake. We flew over humongous glaciers that gave us some “blue” color since our weather was quite nice. We landed on the river, walked down the dock into the center of maybe 5 or 6 buildings with the largest being Taku Lodge. All of a sudden I hear an adult telling an older child to get the other kids inside because the bears are here. Out comes the camera and I go in search of the bears. I guess I felt pretty safe because all of those buildings were there if I needed to run inside one of them. Sure enough, there was a mother bear and two cubs. I kept a respectful distance and filmed the entire time, including the mother bear crawling up on the grill after they pulled the salmon off of it. She knows where to go for food and I am sure she knew exactly which days of the week that salmon bake happened. So after eating and a short hike with some more picture taking, we headed back to Juneau. Flying back in and looking at where the sun was in the sky I would have sworn that it was maybe 8 pm. Turns out it was really about 10 pm. Alaska does have really long summer days and the farther north you get, the longer the daylight. We did take the time to stop at the famous Red Dog Saloon though before boarding the ship.
Our next stop was Skagway, where we took the train up to the Canadian border and the Trail of ’98. That would be 1898. Skagway was the way up the mountain to the Trail of ’98, which was the gateway to the Klondike. If you have ever seen all of those people climbing up those packed snow steps up the side of the mountain, then you have seen a picture of the Trail of 98. Miners had to get up that pass to the Canadian border where they would be stopped unless they had enough provisions to survive the winter. I have heard different measures including 6 months of provisions, one ton of provisions, and specific lists of exactly what was needed. Once they had what was required by the Canadian government, then they were allowed up the Trail of ’98 and could proceed into the Yukon and Klondike territories to mine for gold. That train excursion was definitely the highlight of Skagway for me. I have lived in small towns and very large cities. Skagway nineteen years ago was about 4 blocks by 8 blocks. That is small! It gets even smaller in the winter when they don’t have the cruise traffic.
The next stop wasn’t even a stop. It was cruising Yakutat Bay and watching for the glacier to calve. This is nineteen years ago, so I am filming with the old video camera-the one that you can see what is going on with the single eye viewfinder. I waited and waited and waited some more. I snuck back in to warm up my hands in the sink before returning deck side. After a couple of very small teasers, it finally happened. Everyone on board actually cheered as a piece about half the size of the ship calved off. Thank goodness I captured it well on the video camera so I could watch it multiple times at home later. The ship was more than 2 miles out when it happened, but we watched as a large wave rolled toward us and we fell that wave as it passed under the ship. We were also lucky enough to see the most adorable harbor seal there too.
Onward we sailed to Sitka. In Sitka, we walked around the totem pole park, learning all of the intricacies of the different types of totem poles. Then we stopped by the Raptor Rehabilitation Center for a look at bald eagles, owls and other raptors in rehab. Alaska has a lot of cloudy, rainy weather in the summer, so when the sun came fully out-all of the storekeepers came out to enjoy it. It was the first really sunny day they had seen in a long time.
It was a fabulous trip and it got us hooked on cruising. However, during the next few years, we had quite a few friends who did the cruise tour and did the train on land. So we were determined to return some time in the future to do the cruise tour. It just took us 19 years to do it.