Monday, August 8, 2016

Alaska: The Last Frontier Part VIII - Skagway

Rob mentioned that he wished I'd get back to the blog so to chronicle our lives. This is the last Alaska installment.

So much has happened since we were in Alaska a year ago. We traveled to New England, down the eastern seaboard, saw family and friends, and I've had cancer… twice. Through all that, I've realized there are so many things I want to accomplish such as taking drawing lessons, painting classes, expanding on my woodburning and wanting a place to do it all. It's impossible in a motorhome. So, yes, I'm ready to settle down again. Where? We have an idea. In California? Not likely. When? Don't know for sure. I have to go for checkups every six and four months, respectively, depending on the cancer we're speaking about. It makes traveling away from the medical home base a little less, well, convenient. Not impossible, but a hassle.

I will caption the photographs since they will jog my memories of Skagway, the last Alaskan city we visited and one of the most interesting.

This is the ferry we took from Haines to Skagway. We did the calculation and realized that it was less expensive to take the ferry for the hour and a half long journey than it would be to buy diesel for the 350 mile trip back up into Canada and then down into Alaska again.

Rob at the stern of the ferry.

A murder of Ravens.

This guy was keeping an eye on me because I kept trying to get closer to him. I snapped the shot before he got too nervous and took off.

Another spectacular Alaskan waterfall. This one along the Chilkoot Inlet.

A common sight in Skagway: Cruise ships. When we arrived on the ferry, there were four cruise ships in port. Surprisingly, the street and shops never felt overly crowded from the thousands of passengers. Maybe many of them took the scenic train ride or other available tours of the area instead.

The Days of '98 show about Soapy Smith and the gold rush days. I walked the main street of Skagway alone as Rob decided not to partake and, while doing so, a few of the actors were at the entrance to the theatre trying to get people to come see the show. I'm glad I took them up on the offer.

The Days of '98 Show has been playing since 1923. The actor, Jonathan Baldwin, played Soapy Smith who was Alaska's most notorious outlaw. He ruled Skagway during the craziest and wildest days of the Klondike Gold Rush. The production was lively and fun.

And there is always one audience member who gets the honor of humiliation participating in order to entertain us all. This fellow was a really good sport and had us laughing hardily.

I forgot about these women who were dragged on stage. They seemed to have fun but you could tell they were uncomfortable. They ought to be glad there were only about 20 of us in the audience.

The can-can was bawdy entertainment for excited miners with gold dancing in their eyes.

If I recall correctly, this is the burnt side of a Klondike era building which was the Frye-Bruhn Refrigerated Warehouse. The charred wood was actually very interesting and beautiful.

The Moore Homestead. Captain Moore recognized the importance Skagway would have in the future and settled there around 1890. He met a Tlingit native and took her as his wife, which was meant to provide an alliance and friendship with the natives. They built a reputable business, a sawmill, and helped shape and grow the town. They later suffered from the attitudes of the gold rush miners who brought their prejudices with them.

The Moore Homestead in 1901.

I spent a bit of time in this antique shop. The colored glass was beautifully arranged.

If only I could have bought several of these lanterns. They were all so interesting and I can only imagine the stories they could tell.

Beautiful Skagway, beautiful Alaska.

The theatre where The Days of '98 plays. Those doors were opened to the street at one point during the performance. From inside, the doors were part of the stage backdrop.

A grave monument in Dyea. All the miners had to come through Dyea to cross the glacier on their way to the Klondike.

The many gravestones for the miners who all perished on April 3, 1898, in the Chilkoot Trail Avalanche.

As you can see, W. Carl was from San Francisco. I wonder if he has any descendants.

They were everywhere. Poignant.

You've read before about the beautiful Fireweed in Alaska. Throughout the entire season, Fireweed could be found at the beginning of it's bloom right next to Fireweed at it's end, sending out it's fluffy seeds to propagate next year's carpets of beauty. In this small meadow, however, all the Fireweed was in seed and the breeze carried them far and wide. It looked like a snow flurry. We never did see another sight like it. Be sure to click on the photo to make it as large as possible on your screen.

Salmon trying to make their way upstream. These were the latecomers, though. A tour guide told us these fish would likely all die. The bears were no longer coming down to the stream to eat them. They were past their prime and no longer tasted good.

Looking toward the inlet where the miners began their long, arduous trek to the Klondike. 

Cute little mushrooms.

The owners of this property decked out the place for the enjoyment of passersby with mannequins and colorful signs at the 'Skagway Jail.'

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Alaska: The Last Frontier Part VII - Haines

Haines was one of our favorite towns in Alaska. It has strong Tlingit influences. Enjoy the photos.

Chilkoot Inlet

Beautiful and wild Bald Eagle.

The marina in Haines.

One of many cruise ships that navigate the Chilkoot Inlet on their way to Skagway.

A murder of bathing Ravens.

Near Chilkoot Lake.

A beautiful, peaceful forest always calms the soul.

Bear food.

Rooted in beauty.

A family coming back from fishing in Chilkoot Lake.

A sizable example of Tlingit art.

Lovely old homes at Fort Seward in Haines.

Proud of this photo.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Alaska: The Last Frontier Part VI - Arctic Circle

On our way up to Alaska, we crossed paths with a woman who had decided that if she was going all the way to Alaska, then she was going to put her toe in the Arctic Ocean. She intended to drive the Dalton Highway all the way to Prudhoe Bay to do just that. I don't know whether or not she actually got there, but it inspired me. I knew I could only wish to get to the Arctic Ocean but, thanks to the woman in the office at our RV park who gave us several brochures on the many things to do and see in the Fairbanks area, the bus trip to the Arctic Circle jumped out at me. I looked at my sister, Pam, and asked "you wanna go to the Arctic Circle?" Of course the answer was yes.

The tour to the Arctic Circle started out at the tour company's office on the back side of the airport at about 6:30 in the morning. Everybody was given a sheet of paper to tick off our choices for lunch, then we boarded a commuter type shuttle bus and set off on our fifteen hour day. Our tour guide was a real estate agent making a little extra money on the side. He was full of interesting facts about the the Dalton Highway, the history the area and the Alaska Pipeline.

I've asked many people since that day what they think of when they think of the word tundra. Most people respond with exactly what I imagined when I thought of the tundra: A vast expanse of ice and snow as far as the eye can see and not much of anything else except a polar bear or two. Well, I was wrong. At least in the summer months. The tundra is an amazing place teeming with beautiful, colorful plants. We got to walk onto the tundra and it is like walking on a sponge. It is soggy with water and sits upon permafrost. The tundra is very delicate and can damage easily. Our guide described how if a truck drove across the tundra its tracks would fill with water, killing the plants, and leave behind black swaths that last for ages. The growing season is only 60 to 90 days long, which isn't enough for the plant life to grow over the damaged areas.

Getting to see and walk on the tundra was the highlight of the trip for me. The second highlight was standing under the Alaska Pipeline. The building of the pipeline was big news during my teenage and early adult years. It provided a lot of people good paying jobs.

Surprisingly, finally getting to the Arctic Circle felt a little anti-climactic but, just to know, just to say that my sister and I have been that far north on this earth, to have been beyond the mighty Yukon River, to have the memories of it, to point to it on a map, to have gone somewhere I never dreamed I would ever go, is, and may forever be, one of the greatest highlights of my life. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Not a damn thing.

A beautiful birch forest that was damaged by fire.

Just a little color to decorate the side of the outhouse at the Wildwood General Store.

Our tour driver, Aaron Lojenski, on the left. Such a cute place located along the Dalton Highway in Joy, Alaska, just about 95 miles north of Fairbanks. Joy is named after one of the original founders of this outpost, the Wildwood General Store. It is now being run by the second generation.

I loved this handwritten sign. I guess you just have to keep running.

The great engineering feat called the Alaska Pipeline.

Pamela standing under the pipeline.

The Dalton Highway. That beautiful pink patch is none other than Fireweed. Love, love, love Fireweed.

Pamela's feet sinking into the beautiful tundra.

The tundra is made up of so many colors and textures.

Looking out across the tundra to the Black Spruce in the distance. Those trees which look to be maybe 8 to ten feet tall may be well over 100 years old.

Our tour driver, Aaron, showing folks the permafrost under the tundra plants. 

Pamela's special ceremony marking her official crossing into the Arctic Circle. Aaron said we were actually about 20 miles inside the circle, which I thought was extra cool.

We walked a little way into a birch forest.

Tree roots growing along the surface.

Just so beautiful.

More arctic/tundra plants.

I love this photo of Pamela.

The mighty Yukon River next to the Yukon River Camp where we picked up our lunches on our way up and stopped to have dinner on our way down. This photo was taken about 7:00pm.

Some of the beautiful, windblown grasses by the Yukon River.

Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, AK. This was the hottest hot springs I've ever been in.

Alaska colors.