Onward, To Alaska!

Still in edit

So on Friday, June 16th.....
...Liz and I board a plane in Vandalia, Ohio, and via Chicago, we end up in Anchorage Alaska about 8+ hours later. In the above pic you can see a typical tourist shot of an airplane wing and hazy mountain type things in the background.  A few months ago my mom had quite the bee in her bonnet and decided to plunk down some major coin and take 16 family members to Alaska. 

On the plane I started reading this.  It's a thousand+ pages, I'm back home now and up to page 600 or so.  Nice book.  I have not read a lot of Michener, I remember reading Hawaii when I was in my teens, probably because I would read anything laying around and it was probably a Reader's Digest condensed version. He has quite a few books that look to be interesting reading.  He wrote a book entitled, The Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System. A quote from a book review read, "In this eye-opening nonfiction account, world-renowned author James A. Michener details the reckless gamble U.S. voters make every four years: trusting the electoral college". I've seen the electoral college dictate the outcomes of 2 elections in the last 20 years.  Apparently, Mr Michener certainly didn't think too highly of the process/system either. 

But anyway....enough of books and politics. So in Anchorage, which is along the coast, the average summer temperature is 60s and 70s.   It does not get very cold, does not snow all that much, and is generally pretty temperate. The weird thing is since you're so high on the globe(latitude), the sun is pretty much on all the time.  If you wake up at midnight it is still pretty much light out.  The pics above are the bay that was at the end of the street where the motel was that we stayed at in Anchorage. 

Ms. Abs, Caleb, Alex and others in the group are waiting to board the train here. 

So the next morning, we headed down to the train station to take a train to Whittier, Alaska, which was where we were to meet up with our cruise ship. This was to be a first cruise for Liz and me. That would be the back of my lovely bride's red hair.

As we sat in the train we rolled by some ocean and mountains.  Beautiful and stuff and a train is a very comfortable and refined way to see the countryside.

The above shots are from the train ride to Whittier.  The train just wound it's way around up the coast.  The pics were done with my cell phone, which really does not even remotely do justice to the incredible majesty and vastness that is Alaska.  I probably should have take my regular camera, but space was tight and I thought I'd give it try.

This is a shot of the pool on the top deck of the boat.  It was pretty crazy swimming outside looking up and seeing mountains.  I swam in the mornings, which is a great way to start any vacation day. It's pretty ironic/amusing to be doing my morning swim, where James Cook, about 250 years ago sailed up the coast for the first time with a ship not quite as luxurious as the one I'm on.  

The shots above are from various glaciers. and soon to be iceberg chunks. The blue color is real, I didn't edit it more blue, it's just the way it looks.  We did not get real close, I guess the captain saw the Titanic movie. and 'kinda chickened out.   

I rented a bike in Skagway and peddled around.  The rhubarbs plants in Skagway were huge!  Weirdly no rhubarb pie was seen. I wished I would have taken more pictures and stood next to it for scale.  A lot of the coast of Alaska is pretty habitable, with reasonable temperatures(less warm and cold than Ohio), lots of growing plants, and plenty of fish.  Not a lot of good soil though. 

I followed this river out of town on the only road in and out.  Great ride. 

Present day Skagway is very much a town that caters to Cruise ships although rich in it's own history.  I should have gotten some pictures of the docks the ships were moored at.  Liz and I had never been on a cruise ship and the largeness of it is pretty amazing.  The shots above are taken as I peddled out of town.  I heard it was about 125 miles to the next town.  The very short bit I was on followed a small river and the ride  was gorgeous.

This is a waterfall outside of Skagway I rode by.  Ice cold water tumbling down from out of the mountains.  I remember standing there in complete awe. I lack words to convey the wonder of the whole place.

Walking by the water, on the docks leading from the ship, you could see jellyfish moving about in the water.  A strange life form to be sure.  This is a shot I got from Megan.   I think someone in the group posted some video of them moving.

So then we get to Junneau.  It's pretty much like any other small town except it's surrounded by beautiful black mountains and ocean!  We just walked around.  Nice day for it. 

We left Junneau, with one ship ahead of us.  It was a great day to be standing around on the deck, looking at the passing scenery.  A camera does not do it justice.  

This is a shot of Ketchikan, as we are descending upon the gang plank.  

The original part of the town was built upon poles over the water.  You can still walk out over water on the boardwalks and go in the various shops set up to sell you all manner of items to take home.  I met someone who goes with their father to northern Alaska, into the permafrost, to hunt for fossilized walrus and mammoth tusks.  Which they bring back to make into jewelry.  I would love to do that, but I'm thinking that's quite a commitment of time.  

Outside of town is a park dedicated to totem poles.  Great big pieces of cedar carved into various shapes of tribal/cultural significance.  Pretty ambitious work!  In the old days they were carved and stood into place by hand and the cooperation of many.  No less amazing today, still big stuff.  The surrounding forest is considered a rain forest: ferns, slugs, moss, and a rainfall of about 150-200 inches per year. The temperature is fairly moderate and temperate with the record high being 89 and the record low of -1. 

The above shots are just us walking around on the beach, outside of Ketchikan.  The tree trunks Naomi and Abby are waking around on are big, and it's crazy to imagine the violence of storm that deposited them there.  

After a beautiful day of walking around, it was time to head back to the boat and have a Cappuccino! 

After we left Ketchikan I just went to the observation deck, walked around, and gawked at the mountains and the ocean. I have to go find my pics or get some from Liz's camera, the next stop is Vancouver and plane ride to Detroit and then Vandalia! Delta coming back was better that United going.   

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