Escaping Smoky Skies in Nevada – Part 2

Continuing with our 2018 Summer Tour, we visit a historic railway, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, Cave Lake State Park, and a mining town, all within a short drive from Ely, Nevada.

 Nevada Northern Railway Museum, a National Historic Place and a National Historic Landmark District

Originally owned and built in 1905 by the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company, the railroad and yards served the copper mining region of White Pine County.

Nevada Northern Depot
View of railroad yard at Nevada Northern

The depot, built in 1907 in the Mission Revival and Renaissance Revival, provided service for both freight and passengers.

Nevada Northern Railway Museum

Kennicott Copper Company took over the mining operations in 1933 and gained control over the railway, yards, and depot. Kennecott discontinued passenger service in 1941 although they continued to occupy the offices until 1985 after donating the yard and railway to the local non-profit for preservation.

Not only did Kennecott leave behind train engines and cars, they also abandoned office equipment and all of the accounting records dating back to the inception of the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company. The state of Nevada then acquired the depot for the museum in 1990.

After riding the rails in Skagway, Alaska, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, we decided a guided tour of the machine shop might be more interesting to us.

Waiting for the train to cross
All Aboard

On the tour, we saw building after building of old train engines, train cars, and all the equipment needed to keep them in working order.

Engine 40 at Nevada Northern
A cat named Dirt is the mascot of the maintenance yard
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Dies for casting various wheels
A 200-ton steam-operated press
Maintenance building with a crane and a complete machine shop for restoration and repair still in use today
View from inside maintenance building looking out

We’ve seen recreated and renovated train depots before, but never have we come across one that contained mostly original furniture, office equipment, and documents that date back 100 years. It was a researcher’s treasure trove of payroll and other accounting records. Genealogists would be in heaven if they wanted to fill in the story of an ancestor that happened to have worked for the railway in the past.

The docent who gave us a tour of the offices
Supply room with office equipment and supplies
Note the ergonomic desk. I didn’t know they made them like that. I sure could have used one when I worked in an office and typed all day.
Mimeograph, check printer, and rubber stamps of all kinds

Cave Lake State Park

Cave Lake is a 32-acre reservoir open for fishing and boating for catching rainbow and German brown trout. The no reservation camping facilities looked nice with a fire pit and grill, a table, and space for parking. Showers and flush toilets, but we didn’t see any sites with hookups so campers need to come prepared.

Cave Lake and dock
View of canyon driving to Cave Lake

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

The Ward Charcoal Ovens are accessed on a seven-mile gravel graded road about 10 miles outside of Ely. When I see gravel roads on the map I cringe, but there is no need for shying away from Nevada graded roads. They are sometimes in better condition than our California concrete or asphalt roads.

Charcoal Ovens

So what was the purpose of these beehive structures? The 27-foot diameter and 30-foot high ovens, constructed during the mid-1870’s, were stacked with up to 35 cords of wood which was burned for 12 days to produce 50 bushels of charcoal per cord. The smelters required 30 to 50 bushels of charcoal to separate silver and lead from one ton of ore.

View from inside a charcoal oven

In three short years, the silver boom went bust, the trees were stripped from the mountains, and the need for charcoal ended. Prospectors, stockmen, and maybe even a few stagecoach bandits, used the ovens for shelter until it became a State Historic Park.

We took a short trail to the remnants of kilns, and along a stream that gave us great views of the valley.

Remnants of a kiln
View from Charcoal Oven trail
Equipment found along the Charcoal Oven trail

Today the ovens stand as a reminder of Nevada’s history and allow us to peek into the past.

Ruth Mining

Someone recommended that we drive out to the town of Ruth where mining operations are still underway. I’m not sure what I expected to see in Ruth, but the last thing I thought I’d see is a town looking to be swallowed up by the stair steps of a mine.

A neighborhood in Ruth, Nevada

Ruth was founded in 1903 as a company town for the Robinson open-pit copper mine, which as of 2018 was still in operation. In 1955, the houses were offered for sale to the occupants who had been renting. In 1978 Kennecott closed the mines in Ruth and the town went into decline. The mine reopened in 1996 only to close in 1999 and reopened again in 2004.

While some of the homes showed signs of pride of ownership, other buildings looked like they were sitting there waiting for the bulldozer to show up.

This old church has seen better days

Where did that deer come from?

We didn’t expect to see deer near here

Current mining operations not far from the town continue in 2018.

And the mining continues as of 2018

As much as we enjoyed our visit to Ely, Nevada, it was time to pack up and continue our forward motion toward Colorado. Next up, we move out of Nevada and into Utah where we make our first stop in Fillmore.

Safe Travels

Escaping Smoky Skies in Nevada – Part 1

While in Mammoth Lakes, smoke continued its invasion into the Eastern Sierras making the sky look as bad as when we drove through Yosemite a week earlier. On July 28, 2018, we headed north on Highway 395 toward Carson City, Nevada. A four-night stay at the Silver City RV Resort in Minden would afford us time to clean out the trailer, wash our clothes, restock the pantry and fridge, and plan our route to Colorado.

We gulped the clean air free from wildfire smoke when we got to Bridgeport, only to be disappointed to roll into Minden, Nevada, where a layer of smoke hung over the valley. Each day the foul air from California consolidated with that from a fire north of Reno.

We scrapped our sightseeing plans around Carson City, turned on the AC, and stuck close to the trailer to avoid breathing in the particulates. The highlight of our time in Carson City was seeing Bobby Freeman’s 1959 Rockin’ Piano in the RV Park.

Rockin Piano

The owner turned it on and played a couple tunes for the other RVers in the park. He was on his way to Hot August nights in Reno/Sparks, which is held each year during the early part of August.

By August 1, the smoke was at its worse as we drove east on Highway 50 toward Ely, Nevada. The smoke finally started to clear a few miles past Fallon allowing us to make out puffy white clouds in the sky. We stopped in at the Toiyabe Café in Austin, Nevada, for lunch where we found space to park and enjoyed a good old-fashioned hamburger and salad.

The weather was cooler in Ely than it was in Minden and much less smoky. Lightening streaked across the sky with very little thunder and no rain. The KOA was a perfect place to stop and explore the area. I loved waking up to the sound of doves cooing and we had a clear view of the goat pen where we could watch the animals play king of the hill while we ate our breakfast.

With air that we could breathe, it was time for some Ely, Nevada, sightseeing.

City of Ely and Renaissance Village

With murals decorating sides of buildings and statues planted out front, visitors get a sense that the City of Ely celebrates the arts. The city also celebrates its heritage with restored historical buildings. The art focus is thanks to the Ely Renaissance Society, which was founded in 1999. They commissioned the murals to depict the history of the city.

Mining Mural
Train coming to town
Communication past and present
Tsaam Pll Wai Hyunna Yewekante (“Living Well Because of Mother”) by Joe Pachak
White Pine County Courthouse
Garnet Mercantile Restored in its 1920 Art Deco style

The group also purchased a piece of property made up of 12 shotgun houses and a barn that we were told once housed brothels. Each of the houses is decorated with a different nationality.

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Village General Store

Living history presentations and re-enactments are held in the village. Although the village was closed on the day we visited, a woman watering the beautiful gardens opened a few of the houses so we could peek inside.

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Shotgun house bathroom
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Shotgun house kitchen
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Shotgun house living room

Not all of the buildings in town have undergone renovations and gambling and bordellos continue to draw people to the city. This is Nevada, after all.

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A little TLC, please
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Local Saloon & Brothel
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Hotel Nevada Gambling Hall

It may not look like Ely, Nevada, has much to offer while driving by. Digging a little deeper, though, we came to embrace the small town charm that brings tourists in to stay awhile and visit. There are no fancy highrises or gourmet restaurants, just good old-fashioned western establishments that bring to mind American history and a slower pace of living.

Next up we continue exploring the area around Ely, Nevada, visiting the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, Cave Lake State Park, the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, and Ruth Mining.
Safe Travels

 

Mammoth Lakes Fishing, Fishing, and More Fishing

Coldwater Creek Campground in Mammoth Lakes was our next destination on our 2018 Summer Tour. We met our daughter Laura and her family at the campground on Monday, July 23. Laura had procured reservations for two sites across the street from each other, which made it convenient for visiting and sharing meals.

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Coldwater Creek Campground Campsites for the Cougar and Westfalia

There are plenty of things to do in Mammoth Lakes: ride the gondola, hike, horseback ride, bicycle around the lakes, visit Devil’s Postpile National Monument, wander around town, shop, and much more, all of which we have done at one time or another during our many vacations at Mammoth. This trip turned out to be all about fishing.

It was time for the grandkids to catch their first fish so off to Lake George with poles, tackle boxes, and a stringer to secure all of the caught fish.

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Lake George

Our grandson Jackson caught the first fish of the day, which was his first fish ever caught. Way to go Jackson!

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Jackson Silvey not only catches his first fish, he catches the most fish for the day

Papa Jon demonstrates the perfect cast while Maya considers his technique.

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Hmmm, was that the right spot?

The hatchery truck showed up, not too far from where the gang was fishing, and dumped out a load of fish to add to the lake.

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More fish to catch

All in all the day was successful. Well, at least for the grandkids. Jackson caught three fish, Maya caught one, and they skunked Jon. That’s okay, though. He had fun showing the kids how to put on the bait, cast the line out, and reel the fish in. Even our daughter Laura and son-in-law Chris helped with the tasks.

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Maya Silvey catches her first fish while Mom and Dad look on

My job was taking photos to document the event and when the action slowed, I sought out other things to photograph.

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Mountain Whitethorn

Squirrels and chipmunks can usually be counted on to pose for a photo.

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Chipmunk

The surroundings and the view are also good subjects.

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Lake George

The next day, my daughter Laura, Jackson, and I took a hike up to Lake Barret while we waited for our son Kevin, his girlfriend Bailey, and Bailey’s nephew Patrick to arrive. No fishing included on this day, just a walk through nature. When we returned from our hike, Kevin, Bailey, and Patrick had their tents set up.

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Barrett Lake
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We arrived!

The next morning, we all chipped in on a pontoon boat for a half-day of fishing. It was well worth the investment. Everyone fishing caught at least one fish and Jackson and Kevin competed for the most caught.

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A great day for fishing

A Croman helicopter flew overhead at one point. It must have been on its way to or from one of the fires on the other side of the Sierras.

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Croman Helicopter

One of Kevin’s many fish caught for the day.

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Come to Papa

Brother and sister work together for our dinner.

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Is it too small? Should we put it back in?

Maya and Bailey work together.

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Maya, I’ve got a secret
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Jackson catches another fish

The gang waits patiently for a bite.

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Here, fishy, fishy, fish

On our last day together as a family, we chose an activity other than fishing, or so we thought. Devils Postpile National Monument won out over a drive to Bodie Ghost Town, no one wanted to sit in a car for an hour drive. We loaded into two vehicles and took off only to find out that we had to ride a shuttle to the monument and no one wanted to wait for the shuttle. Instead, we stopped off at the Earthquake Fault before going to back to our campsites.

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The trail to the fissure

The Earthquake Fault, which is not a fault at all. It is actually a fissure that opened around 550 to 650 years ago when magma pushed its way to the surface.  Although the sides are 6′ to 10′ apart, in places you can see that the sides would fit together like a puzzle. Other areas have experienced erosion and the sides don’t quite match up anymore.

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Fissure

When we got back to camp, everyone agreed that a hike up to Arrowhead Lake for more fishing would be a great way to spend the rest of the day. Jon left his fishing gear back at the trailer and helped out the others when needed.

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Baily works with a lure while Patrick raids her tackle box
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Mom and Dad kick back while Jackson enjoys a snack
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The tedious part of fishing, tying leaders

While the gang fished, I wandered around the lake catching the cliff jumpers in action and finding remnants of wildflowers.

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Cliff jumpers
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Spent purple wildflower

Camping with our kids again brought back so many memories of the vacations we spent in the Eastern Sierras and we had plenty of fun camping with them again. Seeing the smiles of the grandkid’s faces when they caught a fish was priceless and watching Maya cast a line as if she’s been doing it for years made me so proud of her. I’m hoping we can all find the time to have more camping adventures in our future.

On Saturday, July 28, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. While our kids headed to their respective homes, Jon and I turned north to Carson City, Nevada, for a few days to clean the trailer, wash clothes, and relaxation, then a stop in Ely, Nevada, as we worked our way to Colorado.

Safe Travels

Summer 2018 Tour – Mono Lake

We headed out on the road again a month after our Alaskan Cruise. With the truck and trailer in tiptop shape after regular maintenance, we had the State of Colorado in our sights. Before leaving California, though, we headed up to June Lake, California, on July 21 for altitude acclimation before meeting our family at Mammoth Lakes for a week.

It was sad to see that smoke from the Ferguson Fire, which had started on July 13, had filled Yosemite and surrounding areas. Smoke followed us through Yosemite on CA-120 until we transitioned onto US-395 toward June Lake where blue skies and cottony clouds prevailed.

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View from Vista Rim of the World Overlook on CA-120

Although we took it easy while in June Lake, we did manage a trip to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. A few years ago, we had visited the south side of Mono Lake taking the trail to the tufas. This trip we stopped in at the visitor’s center, too.

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Mono Basin Visitor Center

Outdoors is a display of huge boulders of the types of rocks that are found in the area ranging from obsidian to granite and a trail around the center with information signs pointing out the views and discussing the types of birds that visit each year during their migration.

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JT takes a look at the obsidian boulder

Inside, we watched a movie on Mono Basin, which summarized the history of Mono Lake from the Paiutes to Los Angeles stealing water in 1941 and ruining the ecological environment.

Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America, is estimated to be at least 760,000 years old. With no outlet, minerals carried into the lake by streams and evaporation of fresh water has created a lake that is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean with an alkaline content of 100 times more. No fish can survive in the lake but brine shrimp and alkali flies thrive in the sodium chloride and baking soda enriched water, providing food for migratory birds.

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California Gull

The efficient food chain in Mono Lake is the key to keeping the migratory birds healthy for their long trek. Bacteria break down decaying matter providing nutrients for algae. Trillions of brine shrimp, along with the alkali flies, eat the algae. Then the millions of birds that stop at Mono Lake during their migration, eat the shrimp and flies.

Designated as an International Reserve in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, thirty-five species of shorebirds, totaling nearly 2 million water birds, stop along their migration route. Each year, 44,000 to 65,000 California Gulls fly into Mono Lake to breed on the islands. Unfortunately, after a couple of days, smoke had pushed its way over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, shrouding the islands in a haze.

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Negrit and Paoha Islands

The larger island, Paoha, formed about 300 years ago when magma rose underneath the lake and pushed sediments above the water level. Volcanic eruptions occurring between 300 and 1,700 years ago, formed Negit, the smaller island on the left.

On the south side of the lake, a trail leads to the tufas. Along the way are signs that indicate the level of the lake at certain points in time and one sign shows where the water’s edge will be once the level of the lake reaches its mandated 6,392 feet, the elevation in 1963. Some of the tufas may no longer be visible when the lake achieves its goal.

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Trail to tufas

A few wildflowers lined the sides of the trail in addition to the tall grasses.

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Blazing Star

Up close the tufas look pretty gnarly. I wouldn’t want to get scraped by one.

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Tufa formations

Those black spots in the photo below are the alkaline underwater flies. The flies were a delicacy for Native Americans who also traded the food with other tribes. The many birds that fly in during their migration also feed on the flies. When I heard there might be flies I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the water’s edge. I had nothing to worry about. As people walked by the pools, the flies would hover above the water for a few seconds before settling back underwater. They had no intention of bothering us humans.

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Alkaline underwater flies

The tufas come in all shapes and sizes. Freshwater springs bubbled up through the carbonate-rich lake water to form the tufa shapes under water. They are composed of calcium carbonate, a whitish limestone deposit that forms the basis of the tufa formations. In 1941 Los Angeles diverted the streams that entered Mono Lake causing the lake to decrease in size revealing the tufas.

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Strange tufa formations

The hazy cloudy skies made conditions perfect for picking up mirror images on the smooth-as-glass water surface. I could have sat for hours watching how the light changed across the surface of the water and played with the tufas. I couldn’t pick just one, so here are four.

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Reflections 1
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Reflections 2
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Reflections 3
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Reflections 4 – Can you find the peregrine falcon’s nest at the top of one of the columns?

While traveling along US-395 each year on vacation during the 1980s, we watched Mono Lake decrease in size and wondered about the white formations that stood like sentries at the south end of the lake. In 1982, the lake was only 69 percent of its 1941 surface area, and by 1990 it had lost 50 percent of its volume. While the tufas are interesting to look at and photograph, I’m glad to see the lake recover and continue as a stopover for migratory birds and a breeding ground for the California gulls.

What would have happened had universities not performed studies to sound the alarm that LA’s diversion of the streams had caused significant ecological damage? Where would all of the migratory birds have gone? It took over a decade of litigation for the California State Water Resources Control Board to issue an order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams on September 28, 1994. A lake level of 6,392 feet above sea level is the goal for restoring the lake. On August 1, 2018, the lake’s level was 6,382.1 feet according to Monolake.org.

Safe Travels

Victoria, B.C.

Day 9 of our Alaskan Cruise, found us docked at Victoria, B.C.

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Good morning Victoria, B.C.

We had visited Victoria twice before taking a bus to Butchart Gardens, roaming around Beacon Hill Park, falling in love with Craigdarroch Castle, and touring the British Columbia Parliament Buildings. A stroll through the downtown area was also fun as we walked in and out of the stores and read the menus outside of the restaurants, but this trip there was no time to take in these activities.

With limited time ashore during this visit, we stuck close to the ship. A one-mile walk took us to the Empress Hotel where we had earlier made reservations for tea through Open Table. Our sightseeing in Victoria consisted only of our walk from and to the ship along the harbor.

The Johnson Street Bridge opened on March 31, 2018. The single-leaf bascule (moveable) bridge is the fourth bridge crossing the span.

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Johnson Street Bridge

The Friendship Bell, located in Centennial Park at the corner of Belleville Street and Pendray, was gifted to the city by Morioka, Japan, on May 19, 2015. The bell marks the 30th anniversary of the cities of Victoria and Morioka, Japan, becoming twin cities.

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Friendship Bell

We might not have been able to get to Butchart Gardens, but there were plenty of colorful plants and flowers along our walk.

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Allium

We also walked past Fisherman’s Wharf, a colorful collection consisting of a fishing fleet, live-aboards, float home dwellers, and transient vessels along with commercial operators.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

We arrived early for our reservation so we hung out in the hotel’s lobby. Jon read while waiting.

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Jon busy reading

I, on the other hand, picked up the camera and gawked at the architecture, the stairs, the windows, and a view of the Parliament building.

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Empress Hotel Lobby
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Lobby through the railing
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Hallway to hotel and restaurant
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View of the Parliament building from the Empress Hotel

By the time we settled into our seats for tea, I was so immersed in the quiet atmosphere that I forgot to take photos. A piano playing in the background, white tablecloth and napkins, and an attentive server combined to set a pleasant mood. It was an expensive treat, especially since we upgraded to the rose champagne, but oh so worth it when the three-tier tray piled with mini pancakes topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon, scones, and other treats arrived.

Back on board we went up on the Lido deck and watched the horizon of Victoria B.C. fade away.

Victoria, B.C., skyline

As we neared the open sea, the pilot boat pulled alongside to pick up the pilot that had steered the ship through the channel.

Pilot boat

We kept busy during our last day at sea. There was a presentation by the head chef, with assistance from a couple of his sous chefs, and the head maitre d’ on stage where we learned about how they made the food for all the passengers and crew members. Afterward, they took us behind the scenes into the galley that seemed to go on for a mile. The tour ended with the chef and maitre d’ signed copies of the Princess Cookbook. Ongoing was the end of cruise sale where passengers (including us) picked through tables piled with clothing and other goodies.

The library seemed like a quiet place to relax after the presentation and shopping. Situated along a narrow walkway opposite of the Crown Grill, the library was not the quiet spot I had envisioned. Sounds of a violin, bass, and piano rushed through the open doors from the piazza. Clapping ensued when the musical tempo increased. Jingles and jangles of keys on belts and patters of feet cushioned on carpet announced crew and passengers that passed by. A crew member slid a folding table on its side. Another pushed a luggage cart. A couple’s hush tones snuck in from a table nearby. A boy explained something to his father. Mahjong game tiles clattered against each other. Cards shuffled. Laughter erupted. Knives sliced against a butcher block. The murmur of several conversations melded into a cacophony. Couples and groups gathered in front of the restaurant waiting for the host to seat them.

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Cruise ship library a hub of activity

We headed back to our cabin to pack and get ready for our departure the next morning.

Taking a 10-day cruise was just what we needed to relax and set aside all of our household chores, fifth-wheel maintenance, and technology for a few days. Our interest in Alaska has us thinking about a trip in our RV so we can explore in more depth. Another cruise to Glacier Bay might also be in our future.

Safe Travels

Sitka, Alaska

Welcome to Sitka, Alaska, day 7 of our June 2018 Alaskan Cruise.

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Dockside at Sitka, Alaska

No excursions planned for us this fine drizzly day. We didn’t have much time since the last shuttle back to the ship left at 1:00 p.m., so we decided to tour the town on our own. This strategy was probably a mistake on our part, though.

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The Western Mariner brightened the dreary landscape

After checking my cell phone for service and seeing I had none, I put it back on airplane mode and stuffed it in my backpack. Then we proceeded on our leisurely walk around the city to see the downtown area and historic sites. The Old Harbor Bookstore looked inviting, perhaps we would come back and browse around.

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Old Harbor Books

The Sitka Hotel seemed popular. I wondered if they had good food.

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Sitka Hotel

The Alaska Pioneers Home promised a historical story. We wandered inside to check out the gift shop and had a nice conversation with the volunteer who watched over the cash box. Residents of the home had made all of the gift shop items.

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Alaska Pioneers Home

The Alaska Pioneers Home housed indigent single men beginning in 1912 after the United States Marines abandoned old barracks and officers’ quarters. When the military facility became dilapidated, the current building was constructed in 1934 from funds appropriated by the federal government and the territorial legislature. A north wing was added to the main building in 1956, and the structure has since undergone extensive remodeling and renovations in order to house both men and women, single and married.

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The Prospector

What a lovely old building it would be to call home. Outdoor seating areas occupied space behind the windows on either side of the main entrance. I could imagine myself sitting out on the porch with a cup of tea and looking out over Totem Square and the suspension bridge.

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Totem Square and suspension bridge

The United States Post Office seemed like an enormous building for the population of approximately 8,700. On further inspection, we learned the post office also housed a courthouse and municipal offices for the city and borough.

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The all-things-government building

St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral with the clock tower was noted as a must see in Sitka. Unfortunately, the historic building was undergoing renovations, so no tours for us.

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Sitka street scene and St. Michael’s Orthodox Church

The Sizzling Chow might be a good place to get a bite to eat after we toured around. Perhaps we would come back if we had time.

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Sizzling Chow Cuisine

On our way to the Sitka National Historic Park (Totem Park), we passed the Sitka Rose Gallery, which advertised the finest in Alaskan art from sculptures, paintings, native art, and jewelry. Maybe we could stop in on our way back to town.

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Sitka Rose Gallery

Or we could tour the Russian Bishop’s House at the Sitka National Historical Park. First, I wanted to see the totem poles, especially after watching Kelly White working on the initial carving of one on the ship.

Russian Bishop’s House

The bayside walk of our tour also held interesting views and with a name like Lady Linda, the fishing boat was truly beautiful with her blue paint.

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Sitka skyline above the harbor
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Let’s catch us some fish
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The Lady Linda

As soon as we arrived at the visitor center, I walked around and took photos of the totem poles in front. When I finished and spun around to find Jon, he was not in the vicinity. I waited outside for a few minutes then went into the bathroom. When I came out, still no Jon. Maybe he went inside. I needed to get my passport stamp anyway so in I went. But no Jon.

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Sitka National Historical Park and Totems

Okay, I’ll wait outside. This happened once before when we were in Canada with no cell service. We had made a plan that if we were separated again, we would return to the last place we had seen each other and wait. So I waited, and waited, and waited. I watched the minutes tick by, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen, then twenty. Should I stay and hope Jon will eventually turn up? Or, should I head back to the shuttle? The last shuttle was in an hour and I still had to walk back to town. He could be there waiting for me.

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Totems, totems, and more totems

I bet he went back to that little restaurant we passed to get a bowl of chowder. I peeked into the tiny space, no sign of Jon. I scanned the crowds in front of me and behind for a sign of him as I walked back to the shuttle bus.

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Close up of a totem

While I stood in the long line of passengers, thoughts that Jon may be hurt, sick, or at the emergency room popped in my head. Since I didn’t hear any sirens, I dismissed those reasons for my missing husband. He must have gone back to the ship. I shouldn’t have waited so long for him. He’ll be there when I board.

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Hmm, what does the upside down animal tongue mean?

As I waited in line for the shuttle, I bounced from one foot to another and stood on tiptoes, searching all around for a sign of Jon. Oh, wait, a navy blue jacket. No that’s not him, he wasn’t wearing a hat.

Worrying occupied my time while I waited. What if I boarded the ship and Jon was sitting in the hospital in Sitka somewhere. What would we do? How would I get back to Sitka? We’ve got another day at sea. How far is it from Victoria to Sitka? I wasn’t sure I wanted to fly in one of those seaplanes to come back if I had to. They looked scary.

I finally boarded a bus, grabbed a window seat, and peered out hoping Jon would pass by. All the passengers loaded, the door shut, and I scanned the crowd one more time, but no Jon.

Back on the ship, I rushed to the cabin. No Jon and no note. I used the ship’s app and sent him a message. It was another 30-40 minutes of waiting before I heard back. So where was Jon all that time? He saw a trail where more totem poles were and assumed I had gone down the trail to photograph them. When he didn’t find me, he went back to the visitor center and waited, then left to board the last shuttle. I saw the trail, too, but I would never have gone without him, not after the Canadian separation fiasco.

After eating lunch and sharing our stories, we walked around the ship while it shoved off and watched Sitka fade into the horizon as we sailed out to sea. There was much more we would have liked to experience in Sitka had we not spent so much time waiting on each other. What we did see we enjoyed and would love to return in the future.

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Bye, bye, for now, Sitka, Alaska

Next time perhaps we’ll book an excursion. A tour guide would surely prevent us from wandering off alone. Or we could keep in touch with walkie-talkies for those times when we don’t have cell service, that is if we remembered to pack them.

Wishing you Safe Travels and Not Getting Lost.

Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier

Rain tapping on the sliding glass door woke me at 5 a.m. on day 6 of our Alaskan cruise. The ship felt stationary in calm waters. Fog and low clouds swirled around tall mountains rising from the surface of the water. It was time to grab the camera and see the sights.

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Glacier runoff waterfall

Glacier runoff and snowmelt rushed down the mountains in waterfalls entering the sea in a splash. Scarred mountain faces wore the signs of a glacier movement from years past.

Glacier carved cliffs

Draped in green, hanging valleys appeared midway down from the peaks.

A waterfall cuts through a hanging valley

The ship sailed through mini icebergs floating in the water, their white and blue colors sparkling under the cloudy skies.

Icebergs come in all shapes and sizes

Years of compression forcing out tiny air pockets between the crystals creates denser glacial ice over time. The dense ice absorbs a small amount of red leaving the bluish tint in the reflected light that we see. Tiny air bubbles are still encased in the ice that we see as white.

Deep blue means denser ice compared to the white
Another iceberg

Shorebirds hitched rides on the icebergs. An eagle even gave us an aerial show. Unfortunately, bears, goats, deer, or harbor seals did not appear for a sighting.

Gulls take a ride on an iceberg
It’s not everyday we see an eagle

As we navigated toward the Sawyer glacier, the overcast skies, occasional rains, and stately mountains on either side of the ship created a spiritual atmosphere that was humbling given the forces of nature that created this magnificent environment.

 

Humbling sights

We weren’t the only tourists to experience the scenery. We shared the splendor with a smaller cruise ship and a private yacht.

The Seabourn Sojourn
The Serenity

The triangular shape of the North Sawyer Glacier came into view. Although the ship had to keep its distance due to the ice floating in the water, it was a sight to behold. The rubber boat, filled with passengers from the smaller ship, gave the massive cliffs perspective.

 

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Sawyer Glacier
Up close and personal                

Obligatory selfies, of course, were required to document our presence near the glacier.

After seeing the Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm from a distance, we wondered what a trip to Glacier Bay might reveal. Hmm, perhaps another cruise is in our future.

Stay tuned for our next stop Sitka, Alaska.

Safe Travels