Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Some Personal Notes & Adventures in Alaska

I continue to be so far behind in getting my travel stories published. Since we returned from vacation, we've been crazy-busy. We spent a weekend with Katy's family in San Antonio. We've been to Houston to see the boys for a long weekend. We try not to go more than a month without seeing them in person. We want them to know us and be comfortable with us. We've had the princesses down for a visit. I've had a couple of really big sewing projects to do. I went back to Houston to take care of the twins so the Aggie Engineers could get away for a long weekend. It just seems like time gets away from me.

We also had to make a trip to Waxahachie to celebrate the life of Patrick's sweet Aunt Carrie as she was laid to rest. She was an amazing cook and raised a beautiful family. I never once saw her when she didn't bring a smile to my face. I will miss her at our family gatherings. I'm not sure what Uncle Paul will do without her, but I know his family will be there for him. Rest in Peace, Aunt Carrie.

Only two days after that, we celebrated the life of my good friend Beverly's husband, Tim. Tim was an Alzheimers patient who had been in a full-time care situation for a while. Beverly was completely devoted to making sure that Tim was taken care of. I know it was hard on the entire family. Tim and Beverly were so much fun to be around. They always had a gentle "war of words" going between them. They played off of each other like only couples who have been together for many years can do. He once told me I didn't have to worry that something was going to break Bev's heart, because she didn't have one. I will always remember how they gave each other a hard time, but he was always at her beck and call. Anything she needed, she only had to ask. Tim is the first of our group of friends to pass. I guess we've reached that age. Rest in Peace, Tim.

So now, back to our vacation.

Day 4

On Sunday we arrived in Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. Even though it is the second most populous city in Alaska, it's still kind of a small town with a population of around 32,000. It is also the second largest city in the USA in terms of area. It's larger in area than both Delaware and Rhode Island. One of the unique things about Juneau is that it is not connected to the rest of Alaska by road or highway. The only access to Juneau is by boat or airplane. Since our trip mostly hugged the coast, we found this to be the case in a lot of places. Often the houses we saw along the coast had a boat or seaplane parked with no indication of a car or driveway. It's definitely a different lifestyle.

Our first order of business was trying to get my camera repaired or buying a new camera.

Right in the port area, just where we got off the ship, is a Visitor Information Center. We headed straight there to ask about a place that might be open on Sunday. The visitor's center was staffed by two really nice and amazingly helpful volunteers. It turned out that one of them was the mailman. He knew everyone and he knew where everything was right down to their actual address. When I told him what I needed he said, "I'll find someone who can help you." He took out his cell phone and started calling people. Then he marked two or three locations on the visitors map and told us how to get to each one. All were within walking distance so we headed off down the street.

We got help at the very first one, less than a one block walk. He took a look at my Nikon and knew immediately what the problem was. He explained that the Nikon J-1 has a sensor that often goes bad. Nikon will fix it, but in his experience, it doesn't stay fixed. He recommended not putting any more money into that camera because the problem was likely to recur.

He showed us several inexpensive options for a replacement camera. We bought a little point and shoot and were on our way in less than thirty minutes.

We had several things we wanted to see and do while we were in Anchorage. First thing was a trip out to Mendenhall Glacier. We took a shuttle bus which was very inexpensive and only about a ten minute ride. On the trip out we saw dozens of eagles along the waterfront. Our bus driver was a local artist whose work is displayed in the Anchorage Museum. He was very entertaining and funny. He gave us our first lesson about the Tlingit Indians. Tlingit is actually pronounced like klink-it. All members of the tribe are either Ravens or Eagles. He explained that Eagles marry Ravens and Ravens marry Eagles. Whether you are an Eagle or a Raven is determined by your mother.

Upon arrival at the glacier, we took a short hike on the one of the nature trails. When we arrived it was about 60 degrees and drizzly. We were hoping to see some wildlife, but didn't have any luck. But the hike was quiet and peaceful. We only saw a couple of other people on that trail. Next up was a hike out to the waterfall and glacier.

It's roughly a mile hike out to Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier. A two-mile hike didn't seem like very far, but it was very tiring. We were definitely ready to sit down when we were finished. This trail was fairly crowded with a lot of people making the hike. I'm a slow walker so we got passed a lot. It was definitely worth the hike. It was the closest we got to any glacier; we saw about five glaciers during our stay in Alaska. The waterfall was beautiful. What doesn't show up in any of the pictures is that there were dozens of little birds who kept flying right into the front of the falls. They were small, about the size of the purple martins we see in our neighborhood. We could not figure out what they were doing. The native flora was so different from what we see in South Texas. I really enjoyed seeing it everywhere we went.

We took the shuttle back to the port area and took a tram ride up to the top of Mt. Roberts. It's an 1800 foot ride up one of the most vertical trams in the world and runs right through the rain forest. At the top are trails, a gift shop, a theater, and a restaurant. We had planned to do a little more hiking, but just as we got to the top, a thunderstorm blew in. It was rainy and windy. Instead of hiking we decided to have some lunch at the Timberline Bar and Grill and take in the movie. We split an order of crab nachos which were delicious and more than both of us could eat. The views of downtown Juneau and Gastineau Channel are spectacular. There is also a Raptor Center for the rehabilitation of injured eagles on this mountain. The theater features a show about the native Alaskans and how they have worked to preserve their language and their heritage. It was very interesting and we learned even more about the Tlingit culture.

Because it was raining, we did not get to explore the area outside of the restaurant and visitors center. With a good wind blowing, the ride back down the tram was rough. At this point, we decided to head back to the ship and get out of the rain. It was a good day.


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you really did have an amazing trip. I'm glad you were able to find someone reputable to help with the camera situation. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.