Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon In Northwest Canada

CRUISE SHIPS still need old-fashioned brawn, a firm grip and low-tech ropes to secure huge modern vessels to relatively small piers in Skagway.

It was a fascinating process to watch but not as spectacular as the road ahead with The Skagway City and White Pass Summit Tour adjacent to the train route that was popular during the late 1800s. Prospectors first braved a very rugged trail hoping to find gold in the basin of the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon.

It took a whole lot of muscle and bravery to blast a road through inhospitable terrain over terrifying heights. During our visit, except for the heritage train loaded with tourists and the tour buses, there was very little traffic along the track or highway outside Skagway. Although fog and snow will eventually blanket the view, in summer it is a scene of endless evergreens.

The weather had been particularly dry this season but we did see, and drink from, a waterfall bouncing down the boulders.

Ancient mossy patterns bubbled quietly behind the curtain of rushing water.

Our tour guide said “lift your feet” as we jumped the invisible border from the US into Canada and back again. It took more than 80 years of stops and starts to properly complete the Klondike Highway that somewhat follows that original trail from Skagway in Alaska through to the Yukon.

We drove over the Captain William Moore Bridge that was constructed about 40 years ago with just one anchored end. It was built to be flexible because there is an earthquake fault line beneath the gorge some 110-feet below.

Back in Skagway there were the usual shops filled with trinkets and jewelry. There were several churches and a pastor who, we were told, was also the sheriff. He would have been as amused as we all were at the antics of the young lady (pictured below) enticing tourists to see a show about a colourful character named Soapy Smith who reigned in Skagway during the gold rush.


We opted for the museum where there were lots of interesting things to see.

I admired the craftiness of the heritage trunk. Its façade of driftwood reminded me of Camp No. 1 (pictured below) in Skagway built for the Arctic Brotherhood.

When miners came to town, the Brotherhood supported those who were members in various ways as they prepared for the arduous journey over the Chilkoot Pass to the Klondike gold fields.

The contraption (below) is an early snow plow designed to set in front of a train engine to clear the tracks. Impressive ... but out of commission nowadays.

Skagway was originally spelled Skagua (meaning windy place) by the Tlingit who were the first people to cut through the rocky, forested terrain. Although we experienced only a warm breeze, there is a cold wind that blows and about 260 inches of snow annually that might be welcomed by the population.

With almost one-million visitors yearly, I am guessing the some one-thousand souls, including the pastor/sheriff, who live in Skagway breathe a huge sigh of relief when flakes fall and cruise ships stop coming after September.

Up next: Glacier Bay and scenic cruising.

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view BC scenes.

To see more sights from around the globe visit OUR WORLD at the sidebar.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau & What I Forgot

LAUNCHED in 2006, the Noordam is only 9-years-old yet already shows signs of being a faded beauty. The bust of Juliana, former Queen of the Neatherlands, and other decorative features add class and character to the ship. But if one looks closely past the decore the rust and wrinkles are also there. Perhaps that is to be expected with some two-thousand tourists day-after-day traipsing through the lovely façade of what is considered to be a mid-sized ship.

As with any cruiseline, you are meant to feel like a star at Holland America.

I was charmed by this large brass and glass artifact dangling over the spiral staircase to the ship's office. Is this a nucleus orbited by electrons or an artistic impression of a mariner's imagined constellation? Nautical themes, of course, could be seen throughout the Noordam.

This was my first cruise so I explored the ship with interest and imagined being as happy as a clam in chairs designed for mermaids, queens and emperors. An ancient throne replica (below) overlooked the pool.


There were nooks and crannies where one could read quietly or gaze at the scenery away from the crowds. I could feel royal yet comfy in the chair below.


People once roughed the seas in vulnerable vessels, including my parents, but my first cruise was about pampering as well as adventure.

I would have cheerfully slipped into that robe and relaxed were it not for realizing the first night on board that I forgot to bring important tickets and details of the three tours my travel agent at Flight Centre booked for me.

Because I did not forward this information (as I should have done) to my Hotmail address, I was not able to access it. I was also surprised to learn our pre-paid non-refundable tours had NOT been booked through Holland America.

This translated into stress and needing help from onboard customer service. A fellow named Jason who appeared to be a Dutch officer saved the day. It took several phone calls and the weekend to access the data but eventually he was able to provide me with the necessary papers. He even sent a bouquet of flowers to our room because he could see how upset I was. Thank you, Jason!

Hooray ... I could finally relax and look forward to Juneau and our first tour.

The statue (pictured with me below) is of an English bull terrier named Patsy Ann, the town greeter. The much-loved pet of a local always knew when a ship was coming around the bend even though she was deaf. She was laid to rest in 1942 near where her statue and welcoming spirit still remain.

Little did I know how hot it would get in Juneau ... hotter than the weather we left behind. Although I was sweltering in my sweater, it was the last layer left to take off so I was stuck wearing it.

The rush to find our aptly named Last Chance tour made my temperature soar even higher.

Our cruise ship did not dock at the pier in Juneau. Rather, passengers boarded covered lifeboats to get to the shore. People booking tours with Holland America had priority to disembark. Since ours was not one of those, we were scheduled to get off last. Luckily, our tour was delayed so we need not have worried about being late.

As our mini-coach skirted through the bustling waterfront, I learned that jobs in Juneau are mainly in government and tourism nowadays.

The gold that once attracted adventurers was replaced by store after store of souvenirs made in China and diamond jewelry mostly owned by cruise ship companies. Our guide pointed to one of a few shops owned by locals.

The House of Russia (pictured above) was a reminder that in a remarkable lack of foresight Russia sold Alaska for a pittance, giving strategic advantage and a wealth of natural wonders to the United States.

We set off for what I expected would be mountains of glorious shimmering finger-numbing ice. The most impressive "diamond" of all was the shrinking but stunning glacier that is attracting tourists from around the globe.

This once powerful glacier seemed headed for extinction. Mendenhall Lake at the foot of the mountain resulted from a run-off from the glacier. The lake has continued to grow since its formation in the early 30s.

I dipped my hand in the water. It was refreshing but far from cold. Temperatures are warming in southeast Alaska as evidenced by the fallen ice sculptures melting into the water.

For a brief moment it could have been Shangri-La when we approached Mendenhall Glacier at a respectful distance.

Mini-mountains rose from the glacier like frozen sand dunes. The blue hue is a natural phenomena. As I understand it, when ice is extremely old and dense it absorbs the entire spectrum of colours except blue, which it then reflects.

With hot summers like these, I wondered how long this glacier had left before it disappeared completely into the lake.

A robin grooming its feathers in the sun was the only wildlife I saw in Juneau.

We bid farewell to the little bird and the glacier and began our journey back into town to board a lifeboat to the ship where I would thankfully swap my sweater for lighter wear. Next stop Skagway and perhaps cooler weather!

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view BC scenes.

To see more sights from around the globe visit OUR WORLD at the sidebar.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver

MANY ON board the Holland America Noordam sailing to Alaska perched like seagulls over the railings to say goodbye to Vancouver. That includes my husband hoping for a fresh breeze to ruffle his feathery hair.

Eager to leave the unusual and record-breaking heat of home in the southwest corner of BC, nothing sounded more deliciously cold than Alaska.

Before departure someone got sick apparently and left the ship. This delayed sailing by nearly an hour.

Health was our concern, too, since my husband has yet to resolve a neurological/muscular disorder that came upon him suddenly almost four years ago. His difficulties with speaking and eating made us hesitate to take a trip where socializing and food were keys to enjoyment and it felt a bit risky leaving the comforts of home.

We counted on cooling off, seeing spectacular scenery and possibly wildlife, experiencing what I imagined would be the unique rugged flavour of Alaska and, of course, taking pictures of new vistas. Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan would be our ports, in addition to cruising Glacier Bay National Park.

When we finally set off, hundreds of cameras came out and tourists from Canada, the US, Australia and around the world started snapping. I used my small Panasonic handheld throughout.

Anticipation grew due to the delay so when we started to drift away from the shore it was exciting. I said goodbye to Canada Place. Our car was conveniently parked there while we were on the short 7-day excursion.

People waved to us from the old-fashioned paddlewheeler.

We had a great view of the rounded restaurant and building that now houses the downtown Simon Fraser University campus. In the 80s, it was home to the BC Hydro Engineering Department where my husband worked. The building faded out of sight as we headed beneath the Lion's Gate Bridge that looked quite frail from this perspective.

As you can imagine, I came away with hundreds of photographs during our spontaneous trip this early July. I will post a few in a series of stories to follow. It is nice to be able to share a new-to-me part of our beautiful old world.

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view more BC scenes.

To see more sights from around the globe visit OUR WORLD at the sidebar.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Canada!

CANADA sure looks good for a 148-year-old, especially at Crescent Beach where the hot weather is tempered by a cool breeze. The early morning scene was serene as people from diverse cultural roots started to settle onto grassy lawns and sandy shores. Sailboats, kites and sun umbrellas were popping up everywhere and I could not help but wish the entire world co-existed with as much harmony as this glorious place at this moment in time.

video
Please enjoy "O Canada", the national anthem I posted previously that is sung a cappella by a barbershop quartet my daughter belonged to several years ago.

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view more BC scenes.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms