So if you have been following my Facebook fan page then you would know that I went to Alaska at the end of August. This was not a paid gig, just a family vacation. A little event was sponsored by my uncle (my mothers brother) who lives in LA. This is the Emmy wining writer of such shows as Fresh Prince of Bel AIr, Murder She Wrote and everyone’s favorite The Cosby Show as well as many others. He is still the funniest uncle I could hope to have. We seem to get along very well even though we can argue. Anyway it was my uncle his daughter her kids Talia and Maya and my mum who flew in from Los Angeles (my mum flew to LA viaToronto). We all met in Seattle and boarded the Princess cruise ship. I have to say that I never thought I would find myself on a cruise ship but it was the only way to Alaska that I could see at this time. My expectations for cruising were low and I was not let down in my expectations. I often say cruises are for newly-weds and nearly-deads. I was not disappointed! This was a boat full of older folks. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those demographics. The only issue is that I’m definitely not the first and hopefully not the latter. I was amazed at the entertainment on the boat it was like being transported back to Las Vegas circa 1972. This giant floating mall that seemed to have done a big sponsorship deal with Citizen watches (only on the boat could you pick one up for 50% off US prices).
Of course there was the food! Another Vegas style event, It seems we had only just boarded the boat when we made our way to the buffet, if you didn’t know, boats are known for the all you can eat at anytime type of feeding zones. This boat was no different. People sat down while still in port and began to eat like it was the last thanksgiving of their lives. Wasting food as if grew from the very oceans we would be cruising on and I’m not just talking about fish!
I can go on about the gluttony, the waste and the odd entertainment but the truth is the boat was simply a means to get ourselves to Alaska. We left Seattle on Sat morning and set out for Juneau. The weather although not cold or rainy was not really nice enough to enjoy the pool on the deck so I spent time in my room reading. I finally made my way through the Keith Richards bio “Life” … not bad but I’ve certainly read better. GIve the bio on Lenny Bruce a try.
Two days later we arrived in Juneau: In 1880, it was slow going for Joe Juneau and Richard Harris as they searched for gold with the help of Native guides. After climbing mountains, forging streams and facing countless difficulties, they found nuggets “as large as beans.” From their discovery came three of the largest gold mines in the world. By the end of World War II, more than $150 million in gold had been mined. Eventually the mines closed, but the town Joe Juneau founded became the capital of Alaska and the business of gold was replaced by the business of government.Some 30,000 people live in Juneau. Its total area makes it one of the biggest towns, in size, in the world. Only Kiruna, Sweden, and Sitka, Alaska, exceed Juneau’s 3,248 square miles.
Today Juneau is famous not only for gold and government but also for its breathtakingly beautiful glaciers and stunning views of both water and mountains.
Beautiful views awaited greeted us from the boat as we headed into port, The water was almost green and certainly very cool. Small ice bergs dotted the water. Trees on the either side of the boat gave the smallest taste of the forests that make up so much of the land.
The key thing to do when you take these Alaska cruises is to get off the boat and do an excursion. For me I decided to take my chances and go for a helicopter tour of the Mendenhall Glacier. This amazing glacier is 12 miles long, a half-mile wide and from 300 to 1,800 feet deep. Stretching from the Juneau Ice-field to Mendenhall Lake, it has been slowly retreating since the mid 1700s. This was an amazing experience and such a beautiful location. Somewhat sad as we realized how it has receded over the years. What once coated so much of this area has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be. The helicopter ride was very cool if a bit scary. It was my first time being in one and i was not exactly excited for the ride. I was lucky though because based on my weight and size I was placed in the front seat beside the pilot. I asked if he was a war veteran and of course he said that he was a vet from the first gulf war, I felt safe in this guys hands. He told me I could open the small sliding window and shoot out but to be careful because the suction could pull the camera out. Since my favorite camera store Fotocare was kind enough to allow me to use a great 70-200 I was less inclined to hang it out the window. The 24-105 and the IPhone I thought sure why not.
After Juneau we headed off to Ketchikan.
Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” because it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north. Located on an island, Ketchikan began life as an Indian fishing camp. The name Ketchikan comes from a Tlingit phrase that means “eagle with spread-out wings,” a reference to a waterfall near town. In the early 1900s, when gold was Alaska’s claim to fame, fishing and timber industries were established in Ketchikan. The growth of these industries helped make this Inside Passage port Alaska’s fourth-largest city.
Unfortunately both my cousin Jenny and I were a little late making any definitive plans for this one so by the time we tried to book some kind of exciting excursion it was too late and nothing of any interest was available. Not to worry though, we had some bonding time and must have walked close to 10 miles that day. Through the town that had more T-shirt stores and assorted jewelry stores selling native art as well as yep you guessed it…. Citizen branded watches than you could shake a totem pole at. We wondered to a very cool old cemetery and then hiked up to a beautiful waterfall. That’s where I took the requisite waterfall images with the slow water and the fast water (shutter speed tricks).
Back on the boat and it was off to Skagway, I can’t help thinking that it’s called Scankway but that’s not very nice haha! This time Jenny and I had our shit together and we decided to go zip lining and since Jenny’s married name is Zipkin I decided that when I post on all social media for the day I would say we were #Zipkinin pretty clever eh? don’t answer. So we took the school bus out of town while the driver delivered her prepackaged story that lasted just the right amount of time and finished as we arrived at the Zip Line start. This is a town that used to rely on logging and fishing but now it’s almost entirely down to the cruise ship tourists. The day was great the zipping was fun and nobody got hurt or broke anything. It should be mentioned that even though my IPhone weather (Yahoo?) was telling me that it would rain every day on this trip it was anything but. Sun and blue skies.
Our next stop or place to see was Glacier Bay National Park. I will just copy and paste what Princess Cruises says about it because they do it better than me: Just west of Juneau, this breathtaking national park and preserve boasts some of the world’s most spectacular tidewater glaciers, such as Margerie Glacier, which often drops colossal chunks of ice into the sea. Not surprisingly, Glacier Bay National Park and its epic ice giants are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising Alaska’s magnificent park system.
Skagway was the last stop so the next day we turned and headed back:
Skagway was the gateway to the gold fields for the thousands who flocked to Alaska and the Yukon with the hope of striking it rich. Skagway may have boasted the shortest route to the Klondike, but it wasn’t the easiest. Over 100 years ago, the White Pass route through the Coast Mountains and the shorter but steeper Chilkoot Trail were used by countless stampeders. Many a would-be miner perished on the treacherous Chilkoot Trail.
The gold rush was a boon and by 1898, Skagway was Alaska’s largest town with a population of about 20,000. Hotels, saloons, dance halls and gambling houses prospered. But when the gold yield dwindled in 1900, so did the population as miners quickly shifted to new finds in Nome.
Today, Skagway has less than 1,000 residents. It still retains the flavor of the gold rush era.
The cruise back was fine and uneventful, we stopped in Victoria, BC for a few hours at night and that was nice since I had never been but we really only had time to grab a bite, walk around a bit and then get back on the boat. The next morning we arrived in Seattle. I said goodbye to the family as they all headed back to LA while I was visiting friends in Seattle. I actually arrived in Seattle a couple of days before the cruise so I had some time to kick around. From the Experience Music Project to Pike Place Market and Broadway where all the old grunge tattooed people are hanging out. I had a chance to go sailing with some friends and even see Brue and Brandon Lee’s grave. One yummy place I ate at was Glos Cafe where I had the best egg Benedict I had ever had in my life. Of course the coffee is good in that town.
Here are a bunch of assorted IPhone shots for your viewing pleasure.
So those are the words and the photos that make up this Alaska trip, I hope you like it.