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.

IMG_8776
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.

IMG_8763
Shotgun house bathroom
IMG_8764
Shotgun house kitchen
IMG_8765
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.

IMG_8760
A little TLC, please
IMG_8758
Local Saloon & Brothel
IMG_8759
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.

IMG_8491
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.

IMG_8495
Lake George

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

IMG_8518
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.

IMG_8502
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.

IMG_8529
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.

IMG_8555
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.

IMG_8565
Mountain Whitethorn

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

IMG_8508
Chipmunk

The surroundings and the view are also good subjects.

IMG_8498
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.

IMG_8569
Barrett Lake
IMG_8570
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.

IMG_8617
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.

IMG_8623
Croman Helicopter

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

IMG_8583
Come to Papa

Brother and sister work together for our dinner.

IMG_8624
Is it too small? Should we put it back in?

Maya and Bailey work together.

IMG_8577
Maya, I’ve got a secret
IMG_8590
Jackson catches another fish

The gang waits patiently for a bite.

IMG_8654
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.

IMG_8659
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.

IMG_8660
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.

IMG_8670
Baily works with a lure while Patrick raids her tackle box
IMG_8673
Mom and Dad kick back while Jackson enjoys a snack
IMG_8675
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.

IMG_8682
Cliff jumpers
IMG_8677
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.

IMG_2190
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.

IMG_8437
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.

IMG_8438
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.

IMG_8480
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.

IMG_8441
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.

IMG_8448
Trail to tufas

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

IMG_8449
Blazing Star

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

IMG_8453
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.

IMG_8458
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.

IMG_8460
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.

IMG_8457
Reflections 1
IMG_8461
Reflections 2
IMG_8462
Reflections 3
IMG_8468
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.

IMG_8400
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.

IMG_8382
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.

IMG_8383
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.

IMG_8384
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.

IMG_8398
Fisherman’s Wharf

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

IMG_8396
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.

IMG_8386
Empress Hotel Lobby
IMG_8394
Lobby through the railing
IMG_8387
Hallway to hotel and restaurant
IMG_8390
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.

IMG_2157
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.

IMG_8325
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.

IMG_8328
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.

IMG_8331
Old Harbor Books

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

IMG_8332
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.

IMG_8337
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.

IMG_8336
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.

IMG_8335
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.

IMG_8340
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.

IMG_8341
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.

IMG_8342
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.

IMG_8344
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.

IMG_8355
Sitka skyline above the harbor
IMG_8350
Let’s catch us some fish
IMG_8370
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.

IMG_8363
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.

IMG_8367
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.

IMG_8362
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.

IMG_8368
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.

IMG_2152-2
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.

IMG_8065
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.

 

IMG_8292
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

Skagway, Alaska

Puffy clouds and blue skies in Juneau gave way to cloudy, rainy, and windy weather in Skagway. An early morning walk along the promenade deck revealed majestic mountains rising from the bay.

IMG_7986
Arriving in Skagway, Alaska

We weren’t the only ship in port. In the foreground is where the ferry docks. Note the tube that passengers walk through on their way to shore.

IMG_7983
Other ships in port

Our excursion for the day was a ride on the White Pass Yukon Railroad, an International Historic Engineering Landmark. We arrived about 30 minutes before the departure time and joined the queue. The best thing to do when waiting in line is to pull out the camera and find things to photograph. Geometric shapes will do.

 

IMG_7989
Raindrops on wrought iron fence

Thank goodness the crew allowed us to board early when the drizzle turned into a full-on rain. Many of the passengers carried umbrellas to ward off the drops. While waiting for the all aboard, I spied this pair walking beside the train.

IMG_2138-2
Watermelon umbrella

Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the narrow gauge train climbed 2,865 feet in elevation from the port to White Pass Summit. Crewmembers pointed out mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, and historic sites as the train traversed the rails through tunnels and atop trestles during the 40-mile round trip tour. It wasn’t the best day for seeing all the sites as clouds shrouded many of them.

IMG_8040
Mountains, valleys, trees, and clouds, oh my

We shared a train car with other tourists and a triplet of older couples from Germany. One woman in the group from Germany was so excited she reminded me of a hyperactive child who forgot to take her Ritalin. In and out the door she came and went, hogging the space on the platform, snapping photos on her mobile phone, humming, and chit-chatting with her family members, all the while with a big smile on her face. I doubt she sat down for more than five minutes.

IMG_7994
Waterfall tumbles over rock-faced cliffs

After the woman shoved me aside a couple of times while I attempted to take my photos, I gave up. Perhaps she would cede possession of the platform and let the rest of us take photos on the way back down the mountain.

IMG_2139-2
Glacier runoff on its way to the sea

During the Gold Rush, mounted police stationed at the cabin shown in the photo below checked the provisions carried by people wishing to enter the territory to ensure their supplies were sufficient to sustain every man, woman, and child for at least one year. If provisions were not sufficient, entry into Canada was denied. The flags of the United States, Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, and Canada fly next to the cabin.

IMG_8015
Flags and cabin at White Pass Summit

The train switched direction at Summit Lake. We all stood up, moved the backs of our seats from rear to front, and changed seats from one side of the train to the other. This allowed everyone the opportunity to have views from the windows, either going up the mountain or down.

IMG_8002
White Pass Yukon Train engine

Yes, my turn to take photos. I hurried out the door to claim my space on the platform, snapped a few shots and let a couple take my place. I was shocked when the woman barged out the door and muscled her way between the couple so she could click away with her phone.

IMG_8017
Crossing a gorge

I must admit I may have been a bit rude myself on the way back to the dock in order to capture the photos I did. The woman just would not budge otherwise. This was my last opportunity to capture the Ghost Trestle and I wasn’t going to miss out.

IMG_8027
Ghost Trestle
IMG_8046
Yes, all cars made it across the bridge
IMG_8050
Another bridge on the other side of the canyon
IMG_8042
More mountains, valleys, trees, and clouds

Isn’t Bridal Veil Falls beautiful? I wondered how many falls are called bridal veil falls. Wikipedia lists 24 in the United States, 5 in New Zealand, 4 in Chile, 3 in Canada, and 8 in other countries.

IMG_8061
Bridal Veil Falls

We looked forward to exploring the little town of Skagway when we returned to the station, except the rain and cold pushed us toward the ship instead. We were sorry to miss out on the Klondike Gold Rush National Park and the seven blocks of shops and restaurants that line the colorful Victorian storefronts along Broadway. Another time perhaps.

Back on the ship, Jon and I opted for a two-top table that night. We needed quiet time to ourselves after a day spent with annoying strangers. Then we posed for a photo, watched comedian Russ Nagel perform his act in the Princess Theater, and ended the night with a stroll around the Promenade deck.

clp_5741_r
Portrait on the Grand Princess

We hope to return someday to the town incorporated as a city on June 28, 1900, and as a borough on June 5, 2007. I’d like to see how the 750 Skagway residents accommodate up to 8,000 visitors when 5 ships dock for the day.

Next up on the itinerary was a cruise up and down Tracy Arm Fjord to see icebergs and glaciers.

Safe Travels