Continuing my dream vacation by Barbara Edwards

Because I lost my internet during the trip home, I stopped posting and never got back to share the second half of our trip to Alaska.
Here is more of what we experienced in the wild, vast country.
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Wrangell
Wrangell View from the park
Wrangell
Wrangell The road up
Wrangell
Wrangell

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Wrangell
Wrangell

Day at Denali by Barbara Edwards

Denali
Denali

Denali finally. We waited three days for the rain to clear before heading out this morning. It’s going to reach the 70s with a bright sunny sky. Denali is the Indian name for the region. Mt McKinley is 20,230 feet high and growing 34 of an inch each year.

I’m so excited. There is a photo turnoff and I get my first clear view of the mountains ahead. I can’t talk. My mouth is hanging open. Is that the Mountain? If not its huge anyway. Denali is the native Indian name for the region. Mt. McKinley is 20,230 feet high and growing 34 of an inch each year,

 

Denali
Denali

Signs warning of moose crossing the road are frequent. It is low, wet forest along here. Lots of yound birch and aspen.

The drive towards Denali is long. Soon the land belongs to the government. I’m disappointed because we see little wildlife. A few caribous are in the park, but the photos are too distant.

The road into the park is 80 miles long and only the first twenty drivable with a car. A bus must take you on a 12 hour ride back and forth.  Hiking is the only real option to see the interior.

 

Denali
Denali

Bill and I have decided most of the trip has been fun. Some parts boring since neither of us can hike the trails. I have the binoculars for spotting  animals. He’s had two knee replacements and doesn’t take chances. I get out of breath with exertion.

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A trip glitch by Barbara Edwards

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ImageOn the Kennicott going into Whittier. Its three thirty am and dawn is breaking. I’m always awakened by the light. I look outside at the water. The mountains rise like the ancient gods to terrible heights. Snow and ice glitter in the increasing light.

The voyage on the Kennicott is an adventure for a staid lady like me. This time we found lots of space in the Solarium on the lounge chairs to sleep. Of the 499 passenger capacity, there are about 200 and most took cabins. Image

How did we get here?

On our final leg across, the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system had to reschedule us. To my vast disappointment, we could get a ferry to Gustavus, but no return to Juneau for the Whittier leg. Fly the agent said casually. That is a common method of travel up here, but I really don’t do well in small cabin planes. And what about the dog and trailer. Oh well. I am flexible I assure myself. Then the leg to Sitka got awkward. 2 am boarding didn’t work out with a five day layover.

With Bill poking me, I asked why we couldn’t get on the ship leaving for Whittier right now. The agent gave me a smile, called the crew and said okay, go get on they have space. It meant leaving our lawn chair and water hose at the campground, but we saved ten days of potting around waiting for the next ferry out.

The dog is upset. He’s confined to the camper with six hour potty breaks.

ImageThe voyage lasts thirty-seven hours with a stop in Yakatak to unload people and cargo. A tiny island it makes me feel lonely to look at the shore.

The full day has us out of sight of land with four foot waves rocking the ferry despite the stabilizers. I can’t concentrate on writing and stare at the rough water. I’ve seen several whales, a pod of porpoises, an Orca and seals alongside the ship.

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We disembark in Whittier at six am and the adventure continues. I thought I’d missed the glaciers, but am stunned by the one hovering over the town. ????????????Wow. There are 26 glaciers within a day trip from Whittier.

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Wrangell, Alaska is frontier country by Barbara Edwards

On to Wrangell.

House in the Narrows
House in the Narrows

Traveling up the  Narrows we pass a single house on an island mid-stream. The feeling of isolation is overwhelming. What person would spend time so far from everything? I have thought about light-house keepers, but this is different. A home so far from people.

The Narrows slip between rows of mountains. I know they are broken onto individual islans, but it’s hard to find the breaks.

Mountain view in the Narrows
Mountain view in the Narrows

Clouds hover low and sometimes I think its another mountain range, but it disappears. The sun is shining in a spotty manner.I can see it reflectied on the forest in one area and another it looks like it might be raining.

Wrangell
Wrangell

The forest is changing. More exposed rock, fewer trees. Still steep. A tiny strip of exposed beach along the shore.

And tow whales close enough to see but not photograph.

Snow caps the mountains more often than not. The breeze is chill.

We drove aboard in Ketchikan and backed into the front space to leave first. The ship id twenty feet below the dock and we drive up this steep ramp to exit. I’m nervous at heights and this is narrow.

Wrangell is a small place. Of  course I couldn’t find the campground even though I have to maps so I ask directions. The men laugh and say take a left then go down the road. It is easy to find the city camp ground. It’s on a small shelf above the water and the view is breathtaking. Wrangell reminds me of New England fishing villages. I  hope they don’t think that’s an insult since they’re very independent here. It has the boat repairs places, marinas filled with a variety of fishing vessels and the processing plant. The shore is the most noticeable. Broken black shale, boulders and driftwood logs are predominant. It looks like rough walking, but I’ll do some later. This is not a cruise town. The stores cater to the locals with a few for tourists that have real handmade items.

At the visitor’s center I find my local stone. Garnet Ledge is a boat ride across the bay in the national forest. Only kids are allowed to gather the garnets. They use hammers and chisels to pry them from the rock. They are imbedded in micashist, sparkly grey stone almost as pretty as the garnets. They had a variety of sizes but i got one still in the micashist. I’m not going to say what I paid or everyone would take a trip just to get them. The lady at the center recommended a place to grab lunch explaining we should split the plate since the servings are huge. She was right. I spoke to a local at the next table about her research on four generations of Tlinglits and the problems collecting stories from the older generation. I wish her good luck since it’s an important project.

In the evening we’re unwinding. Bill is complaining about the persistent rain and there is a knock at the door. The camper next door, a fisherman, brought us a platter of Dungeness Crab legs. Oh my. What can I say? They were delicious. It would have cost us a lot to get them in a restaurant and we had enough to stuff ourselves. Even Keeno got a couple bites. Fresh from the water, steamed and eaten, the flavor is indescribable. I’ll never have anything as tasty again.

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Ketchikan by Barbara Edwards

IMG_0087Ketchikan, last day. So what’s special? Mostly the people. They’re friendly, helpful and fun to talk with. The waitress told us about the Salmon fishing contest. She’s trying for the woman’s prize of $10,000. I hope she wins its three weekends of competition.

We drove the eitheen miles of road from end to end. Its a diverse area,IMG_0057 fishing, boarge and towing, lumber, the cruise ship dock with its resort bling, and at either end are the local homes. People have water cisterns catching the rain from the roof. Odd in an area with so much water.

It’s raining again today.

Creek Street
Creek Street

We walked on Creek street, the old bordello location until the 1950s. Now it’s a historical area, with a funicular up to the top of the mountain and a hotel.

I’m not disappointed because of the rain. It’s part of the charm. If I wanted sunny days I could go to the Caribbean. This is what I wanted to see. My country. It is the most beautiful on earth, believe me. I know because I’ve pushed foreign tourists out of the way to take my photos. Hehehe

If it weren’t cold, I’d be happier. The clouds hang low over the mountains. Sea planes take off every few minutes from the harbor area and the tourists are staying close to the cruise ships. We board the ferry early in the morning and are planning to park in the Marine Highway terminal overnight. The trip from Bellingham to Ketchikan was 616 miles.

 

IMG_0059 IMG_0090So I want to remember the story about the white black bears. Before reaching Ketchikan is an area with waterfalls, snow and steep forested walls. A local mentioned this is where they found the legendary white bear. Not an albino, but a black bear colored white. A National Geographic story in the 70s told the story and took photos. I have to research it.

Then there are the blue black bears. Another research subject.

I like the Asylum bar yesterday. The owner, from Brooklyn, and his family were so friendly. We stayed for hours. I had too much to drink. They let Keeno inside and he loved halibut nuggets and French fries.

Two whales are spotted near the ship. I can’t see them very well, but they do spout a little then dive with the tail up. What kind? I don’t know, but this is only the beginning.

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Ketchikan AK by Barbara Edwards

Getting to Ketchikan on the Alaska Marine HighwayImage

We pass tiny Bellabella and Clearwater, a few lighthouses and night is approaching.

Getting off the ferry in Ketchikan was fast and easy. We were the last on so off we went. Spent some time eating a leisurely breakfast, and visited the forest service campground. Wow. In the middle of a real wilderness. It was only five dollars, but Bill wants a hot shower.

Alaska, to Ketchican2 168So we find the only private campground. It’s at a marina. Spectacular view over the water, marina.

 

 

Did I mention that the dawn is at four am? I have awakened both days and have to get to bed with the sky still light.

Alaska, to Ketchican2 192The port reminds me of every cruise ship port we’ve been in. Lots of little stores and restaurants. No bargains, but loads of souvenirs.

 

 

 

 

Alaska, to Ketchican2 179We stop at the Totem Bight State Park. Its trail goes from totem to totem, past a clan house where a related family would live, and along the shore. It’s a lovely place. Short walk and I learned a lot.

 

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One more day by Barbara Edwards

Bellingham
Bellingham

Bellingham Washington is spread out over miles. With Marina, Malls, historic areas and the ferry terminal.

 

 

 

IMG_0186We found the historic Fairhaven to be charming, the business center to bustle with foot-traffic and the surrounding area to be lush and green.

The well-maintained houses march up the steep hills and I wonder what it must be like to look at the view every day.

IMG_0189I love living near the water, but this is more than a lake or stream.

We’ve been lucky to have nice weather. The temperature goes from the fifties in the morning to the seventies. And the sun has been shining.

The ferry terminal is a large building next to the dock. I stopped to check our itinerary and they gave us our tickets. Suddenly the trip is real. I am choked by excitement. After planning so long, we are finally going to see Alaska.

I can’t seem to keep the details straight. We can sleep in the lounges on the ferry, book a cabin or pitch a tent on the deck. There’s no WiFi so I’ll be out of contact for several days. There’s a restaurant, microwaves or some passengers bring coolers.

So many choices. I’m used to a cruise where everything is done and I just  have to show up. This is so different. Good for me to stretch my skills.

North to Alaska, like in the John Wayne movie, North the rush is on.

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At long last, Washington, by Barbara Edwards

Washington state is different in many ways from Connecticut.

IMG_0168Rocky cliffs line the shores here.

Larrabee State Park
Larrabee State Park

 

 

 

We found a nice campsite at Larrabee State Park to wait for the Ferry.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0207The park is located on Chuckanut Road. This byway is purported to be the most beautiful scenic road in Washington. I agree. Narrow and cut into the cliffs, the road winds for miles along the shore.

 

Chuckanut Road
Chuckanut Road

With our truck camper, we have to stop and ease over when traffic heads toward us. Up is the forest down is more forest dropping until it reaches the narrow beach or rocks.

 

 

IMG_0152Puget Sound is a deep blue dotted with green islands that are heavily populated. We plan to spend the day doing little trip details like repacking the cabinets and getting a few items at the store.

 

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Sequoia, 2nd day by Barbara Edwards

Leaving Sequoia and King’s Canyon

Leaving camp
Leaving camp

I wore my thermal shirt, quilted vest and scarf since it was 44 degrees this morning.

IMG_0041Driving up and out of Sequoia took us past King’s Canyon, a glacier carved gash in the mountains.

 

 

 

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There is a fire burning in King’s Canyon and we are passed by fire trucks.

 

 

 

The sequoia forest is just as impressive as yesterday

Sequoia Trees
Sequoia Trees

and I take more photos. We climb over 7,000 feet again and it made me feel yucky. I drank more water and waited to descend into Fresno.

Another place we by-passed. It spreads out flat and brown except for the orange groves and vineyards. Cattle are in the huge fields.

I keep thinking we have to return and stay longer. I know our goal on this trip is Alaska, but I wish I had more time to see and do more. After all, I have friends all over the place from my writing loops.

Got on 41 which was empty and a straight shot into Yosemite. I should rephrase that. It is a fertile land with resorts, fishing areas, farms, vineyards and homes. We pass through Squaw Valley. It’s known for winter sport.

We arrive at Yosemite, with 22 campgrounds only to be told its full.

campground
campground

I whip out my handicap pacared and there are a couple places after all. As we’re getting out reservation done, the ranger mentions its going to snow tomorrow night. People are leaving like flies from bug spray.

 

Hah. We like the spot we have. Its in the Wanona campground, just inside the entrance and alongside the river. Trees tower overhead. It got all the way up to 70 degrees and I shed my vest. Now I’m going to put it back on. We have the fire going in the firepit, I saw bear skat on the ground when I walked to the latrines. My dog snapped his collar running at another dog and scared the heck out of me. He gave me the most sheepish look when I called and he came right back.

the road ahead
the road ahead
My husband and me

IMG_0015 IMG_0019 IMG_0026 IMG_0030Day One: April 12. I always am restless the night before traveling and Friday was no exception. We were up and leaving by seven thirty with the goal of driving four hundred miles. My only request way that we stop every two hours so I could stretch my legs. Luckily, the dog needs to relieve himself so that is a given. The route from Connecticut West is familiar. I’ve been over it hundreds of times. Maybe it’s too familiar. The softly rolling hills are covered with Maples, oaks and a few Birches. Buds are small, not ready to show a hint of green because of the continued cold. New York, then Pennsylvania. Not much changes. The hills are considered mountains, but still roll. Wide valley; s are spanned by high bridges and I try to avoid looking down. Huge farms are spread along the road. Corn fields from last year are waiting to be turned, the chopped stalks spread around. Eventually it gets flat. I read the town names and am reminded that the area was settled by immigrants escaping religious persecution: Promised Land; Bethlehem; Sharon are interspersed by Stubenville, DuBois and other ethnic names. We cross the Allegheny several times and the Susquehanna. Both are muddy and high. There is a brush fire alonside the highway and I notice the fire trucks are blue. Finally we stop in Clearville, Pennsylvania, do some shopping at WalMart and set-up for the night. It’s warm in the low fifties and I fall asleep at eight while my husband is walking the dog.