Tuesday, April 28, 2015

z - An Incredible Journey!

(Episode j - y do not exist either - not yet............ the z is
especially for you, Denny!)

The time has come, the walrus said........... well, whatever he said, I
have changed it to: the time has come for me to be home, to stand on
something that does not move, shake, shudder or roll, fly or float.

The train, the Ocean Starlight, slowly rumbled down the tracks, going
down some good switchbacks on a very steep hill and past some stunning
ocean views - even seeing a whale. I recognise some of the places along
the way from other times I have been out here. Lunch was great, the
wine refreshing, chatting with Becky fun, as always.... the views are
ever changing - from vineyards to strawberry fields dotted with brightly
clothed people bent ove,r filling baskets, to very worn out farm homes
where one can see that scratching out a living has taken a serious toll
on whole communities. There are a good many homeless people sleeping
along the railroad tracks, some in little tents, others with stretched
tarpaulin and some sadly only with cardboard shelter from the elements..
Trundling past pretty middle class housing right now and everything
looks dry already - it reminds me a bit of South West Africa with the
brown grasses waving in the wind and the cattle clumped up in the shade
of the trees.

I really am loving this, but two days is going to be a perfect length of
time. It seems as if the train might be about an hour early into Los
Angeles which will give me even more time to get myself to the airport
and checked in there. Lovely. Every meal I have been seated with
different people, all of who have been so easy to chat to and come with
really interesting stories. All food on the train is included in my
ticket but any wine or beer is extra. Yesterday I joined in with the
wine tasting event - they had some good wines and I felt quite mellow
afterwards. Tonight, almost two hours from Los Angeles, we could see
the Channel Islands out on the horizon and the setting sun is turning
everything a sweet orange tinge. The views of the ocean along the way
were just stunning and we sat soaking it up, regularly interrupting
sentences to catch the view with the cameras. Perfect evening.

Last night was a very long night - I really did not want to go to sleep
and it was so peaceful looking outside, but eventually I gave it up,
snuggled down, got my mind quiet and managed to sleep for a little bit.
Until dear Maggie lovingly thought of her Grannie Annie and just had to
text her - at 4am my time! I had a chuckle, dozed a bit till sunrise at
around 6am. So, my last day on the train has been a long one, but it
will probably help me sleep on the flight home tonight.

We did arrive in Los Angeles a little early and after yet more goodbyes,
hoiked the backpack on my back and set off to find the Skyflight bus to
take me to LAX for the final leg home. Here is fair warning - any of my
friends or family who move to Los Angeles, should not hold their breathe
for me to visit if I need to drive! Oh boy - that traffic was a
nightmare! The bus driver was definitely boss of the road and there
were a good many times that I had to close my eyes, and that was not
from lack of sleep!

After a couple of hours wait and chatting to more people, I boarded the
flight. What a treat it was to look out of that window and see us
screaming out on the bay, with the lights of the city looking like gems
flickering in the moist night air! It took my breath away. That view
is such inspiration for writing fairy tales. And so as the miles flew
by, I tried to doze, but that did not work and about five hours later,
arriving in Charlotte, I was weaving on my feet. It was interesting to
see that we flew almost directly over Chattanooga on the way to
Charlotte - oh how I wished for a parachute right then!

It was lovely to get home finally, to be on my own turf..... everything
looks so green and beautiful and that smile is still firmly plastered on
my face.

That night on the train, as the stars swept past my window, I was
thinking of the highlights of this adventure of mine.... and there were
so many that I could not possibly name them all without writing
everything all over again and then some extra - which I wont do. But the
best was the anticipation, the imagining how it would be, with both the
train and ferry and then finding out that it was SO much better, so much
deeper, that the experiences were so much richer than I could ever have
imagined. The snow capped, pink tipped, towering mountains stretching
way back behind, and in front of, the ferry, were beyond description.
The peace out in deck while the wind whipped my hair and kept that smile
plastered to my face was priceless. The easily forged friendships, the
many laughs and shared excitement was so very welcomed and now totally

All the way, at every level I have felt so incredibly fortunate to be
able to do this. Starting the trip is always a bit hair raising for me
- I begin to doubt myself on a good many things and wonder why the heck
I would do it, but once I am into that first airplane door - that's it -
the game is on! I feel as if I am learning at every step, learning to
just be, to accept that some things change. One of the main concepts to
accept on a trip like this, has been that everything can change -
whether its because of the tide, rain or someone else's misfortune.
When we were all about to get off the ferry, we were told that there
would be a delay. Apparently one of the ropes that was used to tie us up
broke, and snapped someone's leg. They are huge big ropes and it must
have hurt like heck. I have had all my flights changed, so far, the
ferry was changed from one ship to another, the tide held us up at one
point, eliminating the ability to go ashore, even for a little while
seriously messing with some peoples forward travel plans and even the
train has had some slow downs every here and there........ but its all
worked out beautifully. And so it does, usually.

On airplanes, boats, buses, train and more airplanes - I have done an
amazing circle of this incredibly beautiful country! I really should
calculate the miles - its like a huge lassoo of the western USA. From
those misty views, majestic mountains, the regal eagles floating those
inner passage skies to the rumble down the rails, showing everything
from riches to rags along side the road, it has been and incredible
ride. And that does not touch on what was most precious... the meeting
up with wonderful friends, both new and old, new connections made,
laughter shared and memories made. Totally priceless!

So with a huge thanks to my dear friends Debs and Tom, to Karen and Jere
and all the Road Scholar group and to everyone along the way who shared
a meal, a story, some quiet time, laughter and joy - you will forever be
a part of my memories of this fantastic adventure.................. till
next time.

Love and light

Monday, April 27, 2015

i - Clickety clack down the track

After two totally relaxing nights and a whole day and a half with Debs,
feeling almost totally unwound and with newly sculpted arms (all arm
flab gone from the weight of lifting both those cameras all week long),
they dropped me off at King Station in Seattle for my journey down the
rails to Los Angeles.

Oh my..... I really had no feelings regarding this part of my trip - it
was a add-on, an afterthought of sorts. But what a surprise. The
station was beautiful! The benches were loooong wooden benches which
were totally comfortable. I did not have long to wait until it was 'all
aboard!" The thrum of the motors underfoot, the huge windows and the
atmosphere has such a magic feel to it. I was told where to find my
roomette - on the upper deck. Well, I thought the cabin on the Ferry
was small.... I walked into the room, and that was all there is. Two
oversized chairs that face each other, a bed that will be folded down
tonight and a perfect window with a small fold down table under it. The
chairs become a bed at night too. Although there is a lovely window,
there are so many more windows all over the train, so I wont be spending
much time in the roomette. Its totally sufficient for me, but it did
make me laugh when I first saw it.

So, after a few hours on this train - The Starlight, I am still feeling
all revved up. We are passing through Oregon now and everything and
green and so lush. The train horn blows regularly adding to the magic
of the ride and there is quite a lot of movement, but the sound of the
wheels on the track is a lovely constant background sound - not noisy,
but lovely...... clickety clack, clickety clack. This is lovely,
relaxing and beautiful! People wave as the train goes by, but it seems
to be quite a normal thing for most people to ride the train.

I made friends with another lady traveling alone and we chatted for a
while, got off at Portland and wandered around there together before
heading south again. She is not going all the way to LA, but thats ok -
I am! :)

A glass of wine is adding to the perfect-ness of the hour :) Now - many
hours later. We have clicked past Portland, Tacoma, Salem, Eugene
Oregon and now are almost at Klamath Falls Oregon. Its almost 11pm and
they are already saying that we should get into LA almost an hour
earlier than scheduled. Hmmmm, I feel a little cheated. I guess this
means that I am loving this leg of the trip too.

Lunch was had in the more casual dining room this time because both
myself and Becky - my new partner in crime, wanted to try something they
had on the menu. We were seated with another lovely couple and and hour
or so passed beautifully, filled with shared stories and much laughter.
Afterwards I wandered around the train, just exploring to see what there
was to see. Interesting place - especially where the cars join and you
have to press a button to get the door to do an 'open sesame' thing,
then you step onto .....well, its not really something that you step
onto, but a few somethings that seem to be moving together to conspire
to grab any toes that happen to be out there. The floor plates move as
the train rumbles down the line, until you press the next door button
and go into the next car. I love it and will have to video it.

I sat in the observation lounge for a good many hours, just watching
some beautiful lush scenery go by - large fields with sheep and cows,
little towns, towering mountains and oodles of pine trees. A bit later
in the afternoon we climbed higher and I even felt my ears pop. The
views were just lovely and by then three of us were sitting at the
table, chatting and snapping photos through the windows. While I was
sitting alone, a guy - Paul, came to chat for a while which was nice as
just then they announced a 'wine tasting' - thats always much more fun
with company. After that was over Becky came and joined us again and
shortly after that we went to dinner in the fancy Dining Car, where
Patsy joined the table too. It was a happy group of easy chatting and
fun stories being shared.

Its astounding just how fast today has passed - did someone put this
week on a 'fast forward' program? Now its past time to go to sleep as I
want to be up to see the sunrise. My beds were made by the porter,
Mahdee (Gras?), who has one seriously fun grin. All my stuff is on the
top bunk, the door locked and curtains shut. I wont have to the blinds
on the windows as I am on the top floor - no one can see in.... so I
should be woken up by the sun - that would be wonderful. Have I already
said that this roomette is small? Well, sitting on the bed with my feet
up in sleeping position, if I lift my left arm up so that my elbow is at
shoulder height and then bend it at the elbow (well, where else would my
arm bend?), my elbow touches the window... now take my right arm and
stretch it out to the right and if I make a fist, then I can straighten
my elbow of that arm and my fist touches the door. Yup - cozy. Very
cozy. And amazingly, nice.

I have the lights off and while I am typing, I am watching the outside
go by - its mostly dark with lights marching along the horizon way in
the distance and only the occasional puddle of light, showing off a
house or a little corner store. Every now and again the Starlight pulls
into a side track to let a freight train pass by and its amazing how
hard it is to see it passing by. The ride is very smooth - a little
bouncier than the ferry, which I love. I know - I am rambling.... I
dont want to end the day! I dont want to go to sleep. I feel like I am
about 8 years old on a serious adventure! How can I sleep through my
only night on the train??

OK, ok, I will try
Till later
oh - ps.... the train blows its horn regularly which is not helping me
sleep - and not because of the noise - its just adding to the wonderful
feel of this leg.

Ok - I tried - I really did, but I cannot sleep...... the stars are
amazing - just filling the sky and the trees are tall, strong sillouttes
standing like soldiers against the slightly less dark night sky. Every
now and again we go around a bend and I can see the front of the train -
its lights glimmering on the tracks in front of it, leading the way. I
keep thinking of my Aunt Jans (Tante Jansie) who went on a train trip
long long time ago when I was a very small little girl. I clearly
remember seeing her off at the train station and when she got back, she
had brought me the most perfect little tea set in a little brown box. I
treasured that set for years. And now that I am all snug as a bug in a
rug in my little space on the Starlight - I wonder how different it was
for her.

And that brings me to the bed............ its not the most comfortable
by far, but also better than the ferry beds - at least it does not
squeak and crinkle.... but - the blanket is somehow tied to the matrass
and............ well, it does not behave like a blanket or top sheet
should. Weird, but not uncomfortable.

This is so incredibly peaceful - I cannot hear anyone else on here -
they are probably all sensible and have gone to sleep..... the clickety
clack of the wheels is a constant, along with the bumping, moving,
swaying sounds - but none of them are bad - they all just 'are'.

The moon comes and goes as we go around corners and hillsides. I wish
this part was also in the daytime - the area is beautiful. Its around
Crate Lake, which is stunning country. PIty - maybe next time.

I am going to try again to shut my mind down and go to sleep. My
eyelids are starting to feel like lead doors, which is a good sign. I hope.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

h - No more Ocean Motion....

What a ride! Booking this ferry trip was almost accidental - I was
looking at volunteering at the Raptor Recovery Center in Sitka when I
found the Ferry System and that just clicked for me. Well, I know I
would not have it any differently than it worked out. It still sort of
surprises me that I take off and do these trips by myself..... Standing
at the yawning open belly of the M/V Malaspina on that day so long ago
that was only one week past, I wondered at the adventures to come,
wondered about how I was going to deal with doing this on my own. I had
no doubt that I would have a fabulous time, but wondered anyway. Well,
I was not on my own after all.

Finding my way around the ferry was, in itself, an adventure - often
finding myself in the totally opposite direction of where I needed to
be. Thankfully, having met up with a couple of others who were also on
this trip, it was nice to bump into them on board and see that they were
just as confused as I was. One of the first things I noticed was that
everyone spoke to everyone - well, generally. It was so easy to strike
up a conversation with anyone and really interesting to hear their
stories....... from leaving Alaska, to heading up for summer jobs. One
lady had sold up everything in Alaska and was headed south with her
daughters to see what she could see, another leaving to care for a sick
relative, another to work with kids in the reservations in Montana, yet
another heading South after 'marking off Alaska from my bucket list".
So, so many interesting people with fascinating stories.

The views were indescribably beautiful all the way there and back -
whether it was a grey and gloomy sky with ominous looking waters, or the
bright sunlight touching up the color on everything all around. The
constant anticipation of seeing a whale, or bear or even pink flamingo's
(plastic) in the trees, kept us all on our toes and scanning the waters
constantly. The short but interesting trips off the ferry were just a
glimpse of a life and a way of life that I would like to find out more
about. There is a laid back, relaxed sense in Alaska and its people.
Not lazy at all, just that it seems that people are more accommodating
of changing circumstances (stretching rubber bands), like when the ferry
was delayed. No big fuss was made - life goes on and everyone adapted.
Its a lovely attitude.

Leaving the dock at Bellingham last Friday heading North to Alaska, it
felt like a lifetime was stretched in front of me, with quiet, ocean and
scenery. Little did I know just how incredibly quickly this week would
pass by. Before I knew it, we were in Skagway which declared the trip
half over already! But I also had no idea of the friendships that
would be made, the laughter and sharing that was ever present from
beginning to end.

The Road Scholar group, led by Karen and Jere, were instrumental in
making this week simply amazing for me. They all accepted me into their
group pretty early on and I was invited to go along on their excursions
and to join in their meetings. I did not go to the meetings as I felt
that this is what the Road Scholar members paid for, and I had not
booked the trip through them. But I did join them on the day trips, and
we all mixed in during meal times and around the boat. I know my week
would have been very different and not nearly as wonderful had it not
been for all of them - so a huge big THANK YOU to Karen and Jere and the
rest of the group. I clicked nicely with a couple of the women on
board, but Dorothy and I ended up chatting, just sitting and watching
the ocean go by, or walking together during the outings. Lovely lady,
and along with Susan, Mary and Jan, we all seemed to bump into each
other regularly - many times to chat about the stories we had heard.
Dorothy and I often sat longer after dinner times, sipping slowly on a
really special lemonade we found. All in all it was a really wonderful
group of people and I felt very honored to be allowed to 'hitch hike' on
their trip. Mary and her friend traveled on the Greyhound with me to
Everette, Washington, after we got off the ferry - what a lovely
couple,really inspiring and so full of fun.

I also met a good many that were not a part of this group and hope to
keep in touch with at least a few of them. It was hard to say goodbye
when we all stood on shore again, waiting for luggage, buses or taxis.
And I kept on taking pictures of the Malaspina, with her mouth wide
open, waiting to gulp in the next load of people that would see the
wonders we had and to create more stories in their own lives. I envied
the new passengers, and yet, was ready to be on to the next stage of my
adventure. I would miss being curled into a corner of the bunk,
snuggled up warmly to the pillows and feel the gentle rocking all night
long and the occasional swishing of the bow wave. I will miss that.

This part of this adventure has been totally wonderful - I know that
once I get home and rested, when I can go through my photos and gently
savor the moments, the many very special moments, that I will truly be
able to soak up just how amazing it has been and how fortunate I have
been to travel on the Alaska Marine Highway. There is a ferry that goes
to Dutch Harbor almost at the end of the Aleutian Chain of islands of
Alaska.... and I know someone who would love to take that trip with
me........... Serena??

So - after a week of gently swaying to the ocean motion, I feel a sort
loss, this first night on terra firma, but it's wonderful to be with my
friends Debs and Tom for a day or so. On Sunday I get on Amtrak at
King Station in Seattle, travel for two days down south to Union
Station, Los Angeles and then on home again.

Till later

Saturday, April 25, 2015

g - Fast forward down South

Last night we were all very happy to hear that we would get to see the
Wrangell Narrows in the daytime and many of us were up and about
early... Me included. 7am found me clicking away as we came into dock
at St Petersberg. Its a small little place and in the sunrise, with the
peaks of snow behind it, it looks like part of a fairy tale. And the
mist was swirling around creating wonderful photographs. The water this
morning was glass quiet - with absolutely stunning reflections that now
live in my cameras :) They have scarecrows on the docks to keep the sea
lions off the decks - apparently they make a memorable mess! The snow
capped mountains are a back ground to almost everything around here -
the cameras have taken on a life of their own!

After less than an hour, we left St Petersberg and headed the short
distance to the Wrangell Narrows entrance. As we rounded a bend in the
Inside Passage, the mist closed in totally - it was total whiteout all
around us. So much for seeing the narrows in the sunshine! Slowly the
Captain tickled the ferry closer and closer to the entrance, the we made
big circles in the water - going around about twice...... headed closer
again and....... nope - around we went again.

Apparently the mist on the way to St Petersberg slowed us down and the
tide went out and now there is not enough water in the Narrows to allow
the ferry through. So, the anchor was tossed overboard and we will be
hanging out here for a few hours waiting for the tide to come back in
and fill the narrows again. The difference between high and low tide
here is also around 20 foot each tide, so its makes a big difference and
it would not be fun to be caught halfway down with an outgoing tide!
That would be an ugly mess.

So I took one of the deck lounging chairs on the top deck, dragged it
out of the solarium and into the warm sunshine facing some of those
majestic mountains - and fell asleep!! It was not the most comfortable
thing to sleep on, but it was absolutely lovely, refreshing and great to
get warmed to the bone with that sunshine! Felt almost like Florida -
except that I was wearing thermal longs, jeans, wind pants, two jackets
and a neck warmer - oh and a pair of long socks too. But that sun on
my face was glorious! Almost every one is enjoying the delay - but there
are some that needed to be somewhere on time - they are the ones with
cell phones glued to their ears and muttering oozing from them as they
changed their plans. Everyone up here is used to plans changing in a
minute - so there was no one really grumbling, just a little bit of
discontent until everyone enjoyed the beautiful quiet, on glass still
waters. It really was a bonus - and many people said that afterwards
too. I don't know why my cell phone will not pick up a signal at all!
Nothing. I gave up a few days ago and it serves as my alarm clock till
I get to Bellingham again.

After a good few hours, the anchor was pulled up and we headed slowly
through the Wrangell Narrows.... Wow - the sandbanks were sliding by
just feet away from the Malaspina's hull. The tide was not fully in yet
and most of the houses along the banks were still a good long way from
the water. There are serious markers all over the place and it was
fascinating to see just how the Captain maneuvered through the many
adjustments needed to get through there without touching the bottom.
The water swirled viciously around some of the marker bouys, like
whirlpools - again just feet from the hull. Some of the houses along
the banks are really lovely homes, and others look more like cabins
visited occasionally. One of the passengers who boarded in Petersberg
was telling me that its lovely to stay there - many trails and so much
to do and also that the people are all wonderful. I guess that out in
remote places like this, the only thing to do is to stay close as a

After the narrows came more towering mountains, less with snow on them
now and those that I could see were way back behind the tree covered
ones. At times we sailed really close to the banks that it was easy to
see and photograph the bald eagles in the trees, and other times the
banks were a good long way away, with mountains sort of layered in size
and shades of a dusky blue/grey. Just lovely.

After dinner last night the Road Scholar group had one of their ladies
singing, so I went to join them. The singing was good and the company
and laughter that happened afterwards was just wonderful.

We are almost at the end of this adventure - heading straight for
Bellingham through open waters now - Milbank Sound. The coastline is
all Canada and we dont stop anywhere. The Malaspina is bouncing along
really beautifully right now. I am sitting in the Observation room
getting a great view of the open waters.. One minute the windows are
filled with only a view of the water and the next its pure cloudy sky
filling the entire views. I love this motion and could easily curl up
somewhere and sleep - its so soothing. The Captain has warned that if
we move around, one hand is to hold on to some part of the boat, watch
the kids and....... take your medicine if you have an issue with motion
in a boat! I stood out on deck again, just savoring the spray in my
face and the sound of the hull crashing onto the waters, the swish or
swoosh of the water being parted at high pressure and the feeling of
freedom that brought. I took a few short videos of it as well -
hopefully I will be able to feel those feelings again once home.

We just passed another lighthouse. They are not lighthouses like I
always thought of them - tall, perched almost out in the ocean and
battered by the waves. These look like proper houses, all white with
lovely red roofs. There are other buildings around them, helipads on
some and what looks like whole communities at others. We saw some Dahl
Porpoises again today, but once again they were too quick to capture
good photos. A couple of eagles were swirling around above the ferry as
well, but nothing much else on the wildlife front today.

It was a lovely relaxed day all in all. I woke up very late, feeling
thoroughly grotty and just stayed in bed till around 8.30am. I was
surprised that most of the others did too - so it was a gentle slow
start to the day, spent mostly chatting to others, and watching the
ocean go by. Everyone chats to everyone on here - and there are so
many totally fascinating stories that I have heard - its really lovely
to hear parts of people's lives. A few times each day there is an
announcement and people who have animals on board, can go down to the
car deck and walk them around, play with them or feed them. Today I
went down to see what its like. Wow - what a great vibe! Dogs being
led all over the place, so well behaved. Some really big dogs that turn
out to be only puppies, and the array of different vehicles is
interesting too. There was a small over-the-cab rv that had a great
paint job of bear paw prints on it, little flowers in a flowerbox.......
well, its hard to describe - you are just going to have to wait for the
photos - but it looked like an adventure all ready to go!

I went to the Road Scholar meeting today - it was the last one of the
trip, and they showed a short power point presentation made up of some
photos they took along the way. Lovely! We were all very grateful to
Karen and Jere for all the hard work they did to make this adventure a
success..... Its lovely to see just how people really started caring
for each other during this week....

The crew of the Malaspina baked a cake to say goodbye to the Road
Scholar group and almost everyone in the dining room got a piece - it
was huge! What a lovely thing for them to have done.

And so, after a lovely meal, one last look around the wet cold deck, I
headed inside to pack - only about twelve hours left of this leg of the
trip. I feel sad. Sad to leave but so incredibly happy that I have
been able to see this astoundingly beautiful coastline along with some
little towns along the way.

The Malaspina is running about three hours late because of our wait at
the Wrangell Narrows, so we will get into Bellingham later than
expected, which seems to work very well for most of the passengers - me
included! Unfortunately the stops that were left, had to be scrapped,
well, shortened enough that through passengers could not get off. Ah
well - most of us were tired anyway, but I just know we missed out on

Ok - time to get some sleep.
Till tomorrow.............


f - Haines, Skagway, Sitka...........

"Episode C" does not exist.... sorry - that comes from typing late at
night with my eyes closed and not checking......

The trip is going by so incredibly fast now... we seem to be swinging
into and out of ports faster than I can remember where we are! So,
while I am mulling over how to express the experiences of the last day
or so, let me describe the ferry a bit. The part where the cars and
people get on is the full length of her - bow to stern. I find it a
fascinating place with strange things to hook chains into to tie off the
vehicles. There are doors leading off to places I want to explore, but
don't think its wise to - lines depict the lanes for the vehicles and a
broad yellow stripe for us on foot to use when going to the stairs or
elevator up to the living space of the ferry. There is a door down in
the bowels of the ferry that says crew quarters - but it seems so small
- maybe it leads even further down....... if so, I am glad I am not a
crew member, that would feel too much like being a mole, I think..

And so, typically, most of us head up the stairs as the elevator is
quite small and its not that far up - about one story puts one on the
deck that has the cabins... mine is all the way forward, right near the
Pursers desk. Up one more flight is all the happenings on the
boat....... the kitchen and cafeteria is right in the stern. To get
your food, you head into the kitchen door, lining up along fruit,
juices, coffee, hot water, sandwiches and so on. At the far end (it
about 10 people long) you put in the order for what food you want and
wait for it it be cooked right there in front of you. Then you head
into the seating area, which is big and is also surrounded by windows so
there is little chance of missing something beautiful. There are
various rooms like computer station, meeting room, movie theater (small)
are along the length of this floor.... right in front of the boat,
looking over the bow, is that glorious observation room with the windows
that let you see the world as it goes gently by. Also, there are three
sets of doors that one can walk from the one side to the other, through
the inside of the boat, so I don't have to walk all the way around to
get from port to starboard, as well as a passage that runs the length of
the boat on the inside for wet windy days. There is so much to see and
we all tend to watch the others who are watching for wildlife and also
watching us in case we see something. There is an unspoken bond by now,
that as soon as something is seen, its loudly announced and some people
will even run through the connecting part doors to tell the others to
come and see. Its such a lovely vibe.

When I go up to the Observation room at night - the vibe is very
different from the daytime vibe. In the daylight, everyone chats, moves
to sit next to others and its a generally wonderful happy relaxing
place. At night the lights are turned off and a sort of hush fills the
place. People still go there and sit quietly, almost reverently, in the
dark. Its almost church like. If anyone talks, its very quietly and I
find that, unlike during the day, anyone coming in or out of there,
particularly later at night, is left to their own thoughts. I sit there
as long or as short a time as I want to, as do others - its so
incredibly beautiful when its like that. The marker lights gently
flicker on the water as the ferry glides through the water..... I know
my thoughts become deeper when sitting up there at night. Its beautiful
on many levels. A gentle, soulful place.

The food is really good. I had salmon and veggies tonight, there are a
good many options from the normal hamburger and fries, to deliciously
cooked pasta, pancakes, steaks, etc. Its really much better than I
expected and reasonably priced too. There is unlimited coffee and hot
water. The coffee is coffee - it serves the purpose it was born to do -
keep me awake and warm. I have started getting extra lemon, adding some
honey and hot water and enjoy that more than the coffee.

Ok - one deck up from this deck, which one can walk all the way around,
is the tent and solarium deck. You cannot get to the front of the boat
from here and its east to get to from a narrow outside stairway at the
stern of the boat and two very narrow outside staircases outside on the
sides of the boat. This deck offers a fantastic view almost all the way
around, but the wind really whips up and batters anything up there.
Tents are duck taped to the deck and often the owners stay in there to
keep them from blowing away if the wind gets bad. Its lovely to see
them up there - its colorful and just screams 'adventure!'. In the
solarium up on this deck, one can claim a lounging chair - like a pool
lounge chair, pack out your sleeping bag and camp out there for the
duration.. There are heaters on the roof of the solarium that keep is
snugly warm even when its bitterly cold.

The solarium is........... well, it takes up about a third of this top
deck, has the sides, back and top closed in leaving it open the full
width of the deck. This offers a continual stunning view and its very
popular with the younger crowd. On the same level as the Solarium, but
inside is another lounge with really comfortable chairs - many people
sleep up here instead of getting a cabin. At the end of the cabin deck,
there is a kiddies play room and also an aft deck meeting room..

My room is small but absolutely sufficient. A double bunk setup with
about three foot to a hanging closet and a basin. The window is on the
far end of the room from the door, although 'far' and 'this room' really
don't belong in the same sentence. Its about 12 foot in length.... ok,
so when you open the door (inwards), the bathroom door would be right
behind the now open door. There is a toilet and shower - basic. There
is room for a chair in the closet, but unless one wants to sit halfway
behind and in-between your clothes, its not really the greatest place
for a chair. There is place to put it on the other side of the sink,
but the trash can is there and then it would be much more crowded.
There is plenty space under the bed to store stuff and I have unpacked
all my non hanging clothes onto the top bunk. I don't put other stuff
up there, like camera stuff, because when we have hit a rocky
spot........ well, the top bunk empties out onto the floor. Yep - I
learned that early on.

My favorite memory of that top deck will be something I just happened
across. During the past days on board, I have occasionally spoken to a
very nice young man who is headed to Alaska for a summer job of about 7
months. He has worked at multiple organic farms in the USA and is madly
excited about being in Alaska. When someone else asked him what he was
going to be doing - he held his hands out as if he had rich dirt filling
each palm, his eyes lit up and his mouth curved all the way around as he
said: "I am going to GROW things!" His passion was obvious - it was
lovely. Anyway - back to the top deck. Our most northern stop on this
trip was Skagway, where he got off. As we were coming into dock, I
headed up to the top deck to get some photos from up there. As I
climbed the ladder, I heard a soft lovely song and wondered where it was
coming from...... and then I saw him dancing on that top deck. It was
not a ballet, but more of a...... I am not sure just how to say it.....
it was like a ritual dance, a meditation, methodical, beautiful,
sensual, grateful, open and very masculine. My thought in seeing it was
that it was both his hello and goodbye - hello to a new part of his life
and goodbye to the ferry, which he loved riding. I just knew that this
was not something for the camera and tried to back down the ladder
without disturbing him - but he saw me... we chatted for a minute and
then I left him alone again. It was just beautiful and its one of those
photographs that will only live in my mind and will be as clear as any
of the others I have taken.

Ok - today.... I had to check my cell phone and am not even sure that is
right - but lets assume it is Tuesday.. Today we left Skagway and
headed to Sitka. In the very early hours of this morning we stopped for
a short while at Haines again - I peered out of the window, saw the dock
with another ferry there, snapped a photograph and went back to sleep..
That must have been around 4am - it was mostly dark. Today's sailing
was through some of the most beautiful waterways...... towering snow
kissed mountains marching regally into the distance, milky mist, fog and
clouds hugging them for a good part of the day - but the sun came out to
play and it was simply glorious! The water shimmers, making it like
liquid silver, with the waves crashing onto the shore in pure white
plumes against the green trees - absolutely stunning. It seemed as if
half of us got a late start today - I only clawed my way up to my first
cup of coffee after 7am and there were many others looking just as
whacked and bleary eyed as I did. Hmmm - just remembered that I did
not mention the quick, cold, thankfully short walk-around we did in
Skagway. None of the shops are open, it was blowing a bitter wind and I
was so tired. Karen and Jere from Road Scholar, have so many
interesting stories and history and information to share, but I am
afraid that my brain was full up, closed down or something.. All I
wanted was a chair with a view and a hot cuppa something - anything!
There is no way one can do that, or any town, justice in such a short
window of time - we only had about an hour and a half.

And this morning as I was still scrabbling to wake up, I remembered that
my camera lens had given up on me. I tried and tried, the purser gave
me some alcohol wipes to clean it - I was almost tempted to suck on
those wipes, I was so frustrated! Nothing worked. I was giving it yet
another try out on the deck - hoping maybe that some fresh air would
wake it up, when a new passenger noticed my problem and immediately
offered me his spare lens! I was so surprised that I refused and
thanked him profusely, but then....... well, I love that big other lens
but it just wont give the big picture in many other scenes passing
by..... so I humbly found him and asked him if he really meant it. Two
minutes later, my baby camera had new eyes!! And boy did she have fun
playing around today.... The mountains slid by as we all watched for,
and saw, Dahl Porposes, Orcas and otters, none that presented well for
good photos, a good many eagles that posed beautifully, many ducks,
seagulls, a sea lion, otter and many 'blowers" aka whales that can only
be seen when they blow, but hide when the cameras come out. All in all
it was a stunning ride. Some people saw a few deer, some rear ends of
bears as they headed back into the trees and some bald eagles feeding.
I tried being everywhere, but that does not always work out and I am
really happy with the photos I have from this trip already, I cannot
wait to see them on a screen big enough to see the details.

There was a bus to the town of Sitka - about 7 miles from the ferry
dock. I boarded with the Road Scholar group and headed into town in the
afternoon for two reasons - to get a new lens of my own and to visit the
Raptor Rehabilitation Center.. Neither worked out. I could not find a
Canon lens, or a canon camera............ so I ended up buying a
freaking Nikon! I could not loan Mio's lens any longer - it just felt
wrong, and he also leaves the ferry in Ketchikan and I have too many
days left before getting home to do without a lens. So...... a freaking
NIKON :( Damn, what am I coming to?? Anyway - she plays like a dream -
has more megapixels than my big baby and is incredibly lightweight. I
might just get to like her enough to give her a name too.

By the time I had run all around town looking for lenses or camera's,
there was literally no time for the Raptor Center. Sadly I gave that
idea up and headed to a pub where I heard that they were offering free
wifi. Everyone referred to it as 'The P pub'. I went where they said,
I went where they pointed, but no P pub......... only a Reynolds Pub.
And as I took the first step in the door - there it was, in much smaller
letters "Pioneer Pub". They did have free wifi and a house full of
rugged Alaskan bearded male faces that turned my way when I asked for
the wifi. I did not dare order a beer as that might invite someone over
and by now I was in a hurry to get and send emails and get back to the
bus on time. Its lovely getting updates from home when I am
away.....Thanks! Kate - you are never getting those socks back! Lisa -
I am SO proud of what you have achieved these last couple of weeks -
well done!

So, back to the ferry - and back out through those glorious, now
pink-tinged mountains. I sat chatting to Mr Lens Lender for a good long
while - he had some really interesting stories to tell. Apparently, in
........ oh hell, did he say Juneau? The land is rising about a quarter
of an inch every year, due to the glaciers melting... I had never
thought of that and wonder what will change because of that....... never
ending cycle. I missed the sunset because we were chatting - but
sometimes that is worth more that another photo of another mountain, no
matter how majestic.

Anyway... Its very late now, I am about to go up on deck and check for
the Northern Lights - ever hopeful, and then crash for the night. My
eye is becoming progressively puffier and I need some more salt and hot
water too. We are going to be going back through that very narrow part
- the Wrangell Narrows - early in the morning! We are all excited about
that. My camera batteries are all charging nicely, getting ready for a
play day again tomorrow,

Time to quit for tonight.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

e - Wrangell Narrows and northwards

  The emails are in order of the alphabet letter in the subject line

We are headed up to Wrangell, Alaska, where the stop is just an hour or so… no plans to get off the ferry.  These short stops are good to relax, take a breather, go to the bathroom or have lunch, if the timing is right.  When the ferry moves, there is stuff to see and I cannot sit in one place at all.  Anyway, we headed up to Wrangell, all stood peering over the deck railing as we were tied up and others left the ferry for places further inland.  It was sort of sad to start saying goodbye to many people I have spent days talking to. 


About 45 minutes into our layover in Wrangell, I got the idea that I wanted to set foot on Wrangle soil - to be able to say that I had actually been there!l.  (Nothing was close enough to walk to, and to take a taxi into town for the short stop is way too risky, in my opinion).  So I gave my camera to one of the women I had been talking to, ran like a bat out of hell down into the dungeons of the ferry, dodged and hopped over chains and ropes, past tied down cars, trucks and trailers in the car hold – spurring many pets to start barking – and finally out the huge gaping hole in the side that led up the ramp to Wrangle soil!  Ha – Up the ramp I ran, cutting the minutes very short, I got to the top, did a happy little hands-in-the-air jig, circled around a car and started to head back down again.  Oh no!!  I was stopped by security there – firmly told to stop and wait..  There were a couple of others waiting to walk on to the ferry as well – mostly people I knew by now.  One of them said ominously "do you have your boarding pass and ID?"  Shit!!  No!!!  I had not even thought of that at all!.  I quickly checked for my belt thing that I ALWAYS have on me, that has my passport, money and credit card in it.  Nothing – missing, gone,……. left in my room after a shower earlier.  I could hear each beat of my heart in the ends of my hair, in my finger and toe tips…. I felt instantly super hot and clammy and cold and sweaty and the thoughts just whirled around my mind -I could almost see the ferry leaving with me standing dejectedly on the dock and they blew the horn goodbye.  It was not a good moment at all.   When I looked up, the securtity guy had a laugh in his eyes, quickly joined by a smile and he waved me on down the ramp, back into the belly of the ferry.  I can say for certain that I have never walked the ramp with such shaky legs - and a grateful mistiness in my eye!  Now there is not a minute that I don't have those papers on me – not a minute!  Oh, and the woman who had my camera??  She got it all!  Even a very funny one of me looking at the security guy with pure horror on my face!

I enjoy so much seeing the scenery go by, that when we are on land, I am almost impatient to get back to the ferry and views so freely handed out.  After the short stop in Wrangell, we headed up to Haines - another short stop - about an hour or so. But first we had to go through the famous Wrangell Narrows.  I was sorry to hear that we would be doing it at night time, but still - it was quite and experience.  The bouys passed so clost to the ferry, that we could not see them from the lounge - and the trees were, at times, mere feet from the deck.  Lights lit up the way in a constantly blinking array of what looked like Christmas lights at times.  It was raining too - but it looked more like snow in the powerful beam of light that roved the waters in front of the bow of the ferry.  Everything was so quiet - we were moving slowly and tacking through the curves.  Everyone in the observation deck was quiet too - its an unbelievably narrow channel.  I would love to see that in the day time, but apparently the ferries go through there according to the tides...... so on the way down, it will be at night again..... according to the schedule, so far.  It was a magical experience passing a few houses so closely that we could tell that there was something playing on their tv's, but not enough detail to see what - but close!

Coming into Petersberg in the middle of the night - well, I could not miss that either, so I do have some night time, twinkling lights, reflections in the water photos of that too.  There was not much to see at all, but still.

We got through the Narrows after midnight and I was sooo glad to get my feet up and eyes closed - especially till there were only a short 5 hours till it was light again outside - I cannot bear to miss anything!

When in Juneau, I once again joined the Road Scholar group - they are really wonderful people!   We all piled into a bus and went to the Mendalhall Glacier.  It was funny, but the bus driver seemed to not have any stories, so he read off where every store was, by name, as we passed them by.  Interesting way of doing things.  The Glacier was magnificient - there were small pieces broken off floating all over the place, and a beaver happily having his bath in the freezing waters.  Down a little path was the way to a really beautiful waterfall, but I chose to get photos of the glacier from that view point first and then hustled down the path to the waterfall - sadly I did not make it all the way there, but got some great photos from the viewpoint anyway.  We only had a couple of hours in Juneau, so we hustled back to the ferry and got ready for the next two stops.  Its sad that there is so little time to explore, but I am getting an idea of what is around an maybe one day will come up here and hop ferries and stay a few days in a couple of the places we had a sampling taste of.

The air out here is lovely, it feels and tastes clean and you can feel every cold breath going down all the way.  I know I am going to miss it - its like drinking clean, cold water, feels great.

Another short stop in Haines and the ferry dock was a few miles from the town and I did not want to get stuck there either, so I checked my pockets twenty times for my papers, then set off up the ramp to Haines soil.  A few of the passengers who have pets on board, take them on land for a walk, and I got chatting to a lady there who I conned into taking a photo of me at an Alaska sign.  At least I have proof now that I was here :)

Haines to Skagway just out did itself!  Its not as narrow by far, as the Wrangell Narrows, but we were surrounded by more mountains that just called for stories to be written about them.  My camera's have really been working over time and I just know that when I get home I am going to wonder why I took so many.  It's fantastic to be sitting with these huge windows in front of me with the fairytale snow capped mountains all around and a clearing sky and really small little towns gently slipping by, dwarfed by unbelievably beautiful snow dusted mountains, or glaciers, waterfalls and lush lush greenery.!  I was standing out on deck, again, with the fog and mist closed all around us, leaving only an ethereal, magical quality to everything - and then, dimly through the whiteness, I saw a snow covered mountain very slowly push its way into reality.  Every few moments that mountain grew clearer and the clouds parted a bit more, but it was if the top of the mountain hung suspended as  the fog was still thick on the water.  I have an amazing photo of a window through the clouds to this truly beautiful view of the mountain.

There is something special about coming into, or leaving a dock..... there is no fanfare and its so incredibly smooth and effortless.  I love watching the walkway being disconnected, the hand signals of the crew, ropes being tied off till next time and then the gentle rock and roll under foot as she heads out again.

After Skagway last night - I was exhausted.  I can clearly feel the difference in me because of the food I am eating on the ferry.  My eye developed a sty or pimple and I am now treating that as well as bugging the kitchen staff for as many lemons as they have - lemon, honey and hotwater - as much as I can get down.  I also have my baking soda here, grab some salt from the cafeteria and am gargling to try and stop my lurking sore throat from developing.  But I dont feel sick at all - just a tad run down, very tired and its going to take a while to wipe this grin off my face!

I slept late this morning - woke up at 6am and then just lay there for another hour.  I did look outside, but figured that a snow capped mountain or two could pass my by.  Gypsey and Bella, (cameras)were sleeping under the bed and could not complain about that. 

And then - yup - my lens broke!  It did not shatter, it did not tell me it was giving up, she just gently died and now only makes gurgling sounds when I switch her on. Its not my big long lens, but the lovely lens that has been with me for the past eight years almost.  I am sad.  So when we stop in Sitka in a few hours, I will be hunting a camera shop for a new lens.  While I was trying to figure it all out, hoping that it was not the camera that had given up, one of the  passengers who joined the ferry in Skagway, offered me one of his lenses!  At first I hesitated, but then took him up on his offer.  Thanks Mio!! He is a very good looking, way too young for me, guy, who just did me a really amazing favor! He will be on board until we get back to Ketchikan, but hopefully I can give him is lens back later tonight!  This truly is a ferry full of wonderful people.  A funny thought crossed my mind though.... Mio did not know my name, neither did he ask.. but when I went to get my camera to put his lens on her, I grabbed one of my business cards, wrote my full name and phone number on it as well as my cabin number....... So here I am, traveling alone on the ferry, giving out all these details to a total stranger! 

We are going through a wide part right now on the way to Sitka, but a stunning part is about to happen - so I am going to close this up now, get a warm jacket, neck warmer and hat and head out to the deck again.  Its been a lovely laid back morning, chatting to others, and just watching Alaska waft by these windows.

Sometimes I think I could do this all the time - but I just know I would be way too tired, or it would just become 'normal' and this is way too special to become normal.

Oh - I hope to find a lens quickly and still have time to head to the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka.  Researching that is what got me to find the ferry trip, so I would love to see what goes on there and maybe come back one day to volunteer there.

Till later

d - Ketchikan and surrounds

About 3am this morning, I woke to a glorious rocking and rolling…. At first I was conscious of my feet being higher than my head and was sort of surprised that I waited till my head was higher than my feet before drifting into a hazy sleep again.  It got a little bouncy soon after and I lay, curled up against soft pillows in the corner of the bunk bed, enjoying the motion tremendously.  It was still pitch dark outside so I was quite happy to stay horizontal and just enjoy the ride.


And then my alarm went off – I had set it because this morning I was going into Ketchikan as soon as the ferry docked.  The Road Scholar group has been fantastic in allowing me to tag along with them and seeing as it was a drab and rainy day, I could not think of anything better than not to have to think about what to do in very limited time.  So, I was excited to join them all.


Back to my alarm….. it screeched at me persistently and I had to scramble onto all fours on the floor, reach waaaaay under the bed to fish it out of there – the rocking and rolling has slid it from next to the bed to a deep crevasse somewhere.  By then I was totally awake, quickly got dressed and ready to go.  I opened my blind, only to be met with a solid slate of black.  That really got me confused for a moment.  Until I actually looked at my cell phone.  The time.  My phone had not changed to Alaska Time yet, it stubbornly will not pick up a signal for me.  So…there I stood, all ready to start the day, realizing that it was only 5am!  The ferry only docked in Ketchikan at 7am and we were only leaving at about 7.30.  Damn.  So, off came my shoes and I lay down on my neatly made bunk bed, curled up under my jacket and dozed for another hour or so.


Ketchikan is a strange, sweet little town.  Quaint in many ways, with some buildings looking terribly run down and others all spick and span. The town is built right on the edge of the water and a large part of the town is built up on a dock with wooden and metal pilings, reclaimed land – it seems solid enough, but weird.  Ketchikan has a tidal difference of 20 feet per tide!  Almost all the shops were closed as the first cruise ship only gets here in a couple of weeks time.  Some people were starting to do the typical after-winter repairs to get ready, but Dorothy and I felt like the only people walking around there.


The tour into Ketchikan took us up to the Totem Pole place – I really forget all the names of these places – they sound wonderful, exotic, exciting and all – but I tend to forget and don't have the time to look them up again right now.  Anyway – starting off at the totem pole place, we heard some stories, the old folk tales about what the totem poles meant.  Apparently its not just a casual thing – there are different meanings, types and a large number of meanings for a totem pole. We saw one that was under construction – it was huge and had already take this one man almost 7 years to get it to the point where it is almost ready to go! 


Dorothy is one of the ladies from the Road Scholar tour group and we get on very well, and tend to pair up and explore together and occasionally separate from the group too.  She has a quick smile, lovely sense of humor and keen to explore stuff other than gift shops….. so off we tootled down a path to see the old, ancient made totem poles.  What a lovely walk that was – on a lovely little path, winding itself through rain forest type foliage that gave way to the ocean right behind it.  In one part of the forest lay three totem poles – being :returned to earth",  When they fall down, they are not put back up – they are allowed to gently return to where they came from.  It was literally like looking at a graveyard. Sad, and yet the right thing to do.


After that, we were taken up to a lovely place for a delicious lunch and then back down this incredible hill for a walk.  Along the way were many interesting places and things to see – one that sticks out was the log people's homes.  They tied logs together, built houses on top of that and still live there.  I swear I am never going to complain about my house again!  There are float planes everywhere around here – some are really really small but they all look ready to wake up again after the winter months.


Before heading out for the shortish walk, we were all told where to meet up.  Well, I never listen to those sorts of instructions – I am totally directionally challenged.  I can turn around once and never find my way home.  After walking and exploring for about 15 minutes (we only had about 30 minutes walking time before the ferry left dock again), I discovered that Dorothy is the same!  She looked at me and asked where we were to meet the bus! 


I quickly checked that I had my extra money, credit card and ID on me – just in case we needed to get a taxi back to the ferry – or in the worst case, missed the ferry and had to fly to the next stop to catch up!  We both looked wide eyed at each other for a second, but then I remembered something about the Fire Department and we headed that way – all fine, but now we have learned to listen!


The town was almost totally closed up – nothing is open until early next month when the cruise ships come and deposit thousands of people here.  It was great to be able to walk around and actually see the town without the crowds.  The buildings obviously take quite a beating in the winter, and thre is a lot of cleanup to do before its tourist crowd ready again.


Back on the boat, I was quickly told that there are whales!  No rest for this weary, very tired lady!  But I got the perfect shot!  Whale tale with water pouring off it!    There are a good many other shots, but that is my favorite – so far.  I also captured a good few bald eagles, but they were a good distance way, so those photos did not turn out too well at all.  Soon I will get some close up photos of those J


There were a good many sightings of whales, dolphins and eagles, but with the rain, it was hard to stay out on deck too long with the cameras and also, the whales seemed to be playing with us – staying under.


Chasing and sea  lions or seals, all who don't seem to want to be photographed, is quite tiring.  It requires a constant presence on the cold deck outside.  I have found little spots where the wind does not get all its icy tentacles, but that also changes with the direction of the ferry's path.  Often I pop inside to the observation lounge, but as sure as no whales are no whales, there will be a sighting just as my feet and hands are warming up…. So out I go again.  But its so stunningly beautiful that I don't have a single complaint in me at all.


I know that I could happily sit in the warm observation lounge, or the cafeteria at the stern of the boat and see everything there is to see. – but I have this insane need to capture as much of it as I can and fill up those cameras.  Its lovely when its dark – I can part them (they are very heavy) in my cabin and happily, with no 'guilt' or worry about missing a shot – walk around.  Again, not complaining – this is absolutely what I want to do – back strain and all J


Tonight we are headed up the Wrangell Narrows, first a short stop at Wrangell and then the narrows at night.


Till then



Sunday, April 19, 2015

b - From the observation lounge

Oh the excitement of getting on the ferry! She loomed way above the
dock, looking like an adventure to happen. and I was oh so ready!

I got down to the ferry terminal around lunchtime, happy to wander
around for the four hours till check in time. I had my luggage stowed
early as I did not want to carry that everywhere I went. I was sort of
astounded at the weight of my backpack, and the much smaller carry on
bag - they grounded me totally - literally. Anyway - I took a wander up
the road to the little town of Fairhaven - it has a lovely hill, where
you have the opportunity of testing out your leg strength and lung
capacity. I met a couple of other women who are also on the ferry and we
wandered through the town enjoying the peaceful effect before heading
back down to the ferry terminal.

The next couple of hours was spent wandering around, taking way too
many photos of her - the M/V Malaspina. The ferries are also known as
the "Blue Canoes". Slowly people arrived, dragging all shapes and sizes
of luggage - some had boxes on home made carts, others fancy, high
dollar luggage with all the matching labels. It was interesting to sit
and watch this mixture of people all heading North. Everyone has a
story and I sat there drooling at the opportunity, not just for the
photos, but the stories!

After asking whether I could board and getting permission, I took that
long walk down the loading ramp into the belly of the ship. I sort of
giggled/snortled when I stepped in - it was like walking into the mouth
of a huge big whale. And then my eyes got used to the dark inside and I
wound my way through the tightly packed cars to the elevator and up to
the Pursers office where I could go and claim my cabin.... my cabin with
a view.

Its hard to describe the feelings of just this part so far. I was
obviously excited, teetering on the edge of my comfort zone, and yet so
much at peace, totally comfortable and............ well, lets just say
that I did not have to go and hunt a smile - one was wrapped firmly
around my face.

And so - after claiming my cabin, exploring the boat, heading down to
claim my luggage from the car deck,which is as far as they deliver it, I
was ready for some picture snapping. Grabbing Gypsey, we made a good
few circles around the entire boat - again.. There are not too many
tents on the top deck and the heated solarium is not very crowded either
- it almost makes me wish I had just camped out up there.

The most glorious sunset arrived on the horizon not too long after we
left Bellingham, and about the only sounds heard for a while was the
ooh-ing and aaah-ing along with the click of multiple cameras, as the
sky softened and the sun slide behind a mountain and then lit up the
clouds all around.

Talking to others on the boat is easy and free - almost everyone is
friendly and so easy to start a conversation with anyone. The food is

Right now, sitting in the observation lounge, going through Queen
Charlotte straight, lovely scenery - countless little islands all
over. The Canadian Geese are heading north in huge flocks and the snow
capped mountains slide continuously by. It is so absolutely peaceful
and the ferry is much quieter than I thought it would be. We have just
taken a left turn, the zig zag through some of the islands here - on my
right is a view right out of my dreams.... water, mountains, snow, geese
and in front of us now is a narrow channel through two islands and
another right in front.

We have had two whale sightings, smaller whales, and they were not at
all energetic.... I snapped some photos of bald eagles way up in the
trees as well, but the views of the mountains, the snow caps, the
waterfalls and just the softness of the sky today was definitely the
winner. Both cameras rubbed my neck raw today, so I will have to make a
plan about that..... if I just use my camera harness for the heavier
one, it would help, I would imagine. The obnoxiously big camera has
been performing so incredibly well today and wow, I could not have got a
few hundred great shots that I nabbed today, without it! At first I was
a tad reluctant, almost embarrassed to walk around with the two, but now
I really dont give a hoot. And there is an added bonus - people now
come looking for me when they see something interesting!

Much of the time has been spent chatting out on the decks, sometimes
while cowering in a nook away from the wind and other times braving the
wind and icy cold to try for that perfect shot. Many of the folks on
board are headed up to Alaska for jobs, to go home again,and in the case
of a few - on a whole new adventure of just packing up to see when the
road takes them. It's fascinating to hear their stories of their lives
and how utterly different is is from the lower 48's. Conversations
start easily and are just as easily put on pause and something else nabs
attention, and then later in the day, that same string is carried on
again as if no time had passed. Lovely.

I am sitting in the dark observation room again, its about 10pm and its
beautifully peaceful in here. There are three others in here, but we
are all just keeping to ourselves, its almost like in a church - you
know not to talk - not now. Everyone is watching the darkness go by,
with the occasional blinking of the navigational light or the spotlight
of the boat lighting up something. I wish I could stay up here all
night long.

Tomorrow morning early, we will arrive in Ketchican, Alaska. Our cell
phones should get signal again, which is almost a pity, its really been
great without the ringing of phones all around. I figure about a third
of the passengers get off tomorrow and anticipate and almost empty boat
for the ride back down next week. There is a travel group on board -
RoadScholar and the leader of the group has invited me along on all and
any of their tours. I think I am going to go with them tomorrow - but
might break away and just wander around. We have 5 hours there, but the
tourist season is not yet open, so almost everything is closed down.
Not quite sure what I will end up doing and might go and talk to the
Purser before tucking in for the night.

It has been an incredible day. The views have moved me to misty eyes at
times, the air is fresh and crisp - apart from the one guy on board who
smokes a simply delicious smelling cigar! Its wonderful to be here. I
am going to watch the darkness go by for just a few more minutes and
then off to call it a night. The motor has a gentle throb to it, very
soothing, and very early this morning I woke up to the knowledge that my
feet were higher than my head, and then it slowly switched around - I
just lay there with a very happy grin on my face until I drifted back
off to sleep. So far its been a really quiet ride with only a little
bit of bumpiness earlier, but I still managed to walk with a cup of
coffee and not spill it - so it was not too bad at all.

More tomorrow


Thursday, April 16, 2015

a- On the move again!

5am found me with barely opened eyes, sitting at Chattanooga Airport watching people stumble by, seemingly much more awake and aware than I was.  Kate stayed with me last night and took me to the airport when no other sane people were out on the roads yet.  The animals were having none of this going to bed early and kept me awake with various antics till after 1am!  The cat decided that it was time to try to kill my luggage and the doglets were puzzled by the extra body in the house and some other stuff I never figured out.  When the alarm went off at 3.45am I was definitely not ready for the day.  But it started anyway.

Coffee did not seem to help wake me up - maybe it did and I was just too far gone to notice.... but slowly I came alive and the excitement started!  I was sitting there thinking of the person I was 30, 20,10 and even just 5 years ago and..... yes!  this is a new and improved (I think so anyway) me.  Again.  I never dreamed that I would or could do this, to up and go to amazing places on my own.  So with that thought, the adventure began. I was a little nervous, amazed and a tad outside of my comfort zone, which is all good.  But all feelings except excitement leaving, I boarded the first leg of the day, with just a hint of a bounce in my step.

The first flight was one of the smallest 'full size' airplanes I have ever been on. My carry on luggage was legal size, but too big to fit into the overhead bin, so I quickly yanked some stuff out of it and smooshed it into my handbag so that they would not check it - it had most of my camera stuff in it.  The first 45 minutes was a really interesting (huh) bumpy, rollercoaster ride, and only when it smoothed out did I realize that I had no problem with the take off.. no white knuckles or sweaty palms - just that lovely feeling of adventure around the corner.  That really was a great surprise.

The sunrise tipped the tops of the big heavy clouds and the whole lot looked a bit ethereal - reminded me a bit of The Neverending Story.  The clouds looked a bit like huge Giants rising up into the sky, drawing themselves taller and taller, getting ready for a fight.  All pink and all.

Yeah - I have a 'thing' about clouds - it must be serious as they kept me from dozing off. To me watching clouds from an airplane is like lying on the grass, watching them form all sorts of shapes and also like watching snowflakes fall - puts me in a different world.

On the approach to Dallas - everything was going nice and sweetly, when suddenly we all heard and felt the wheels slamming back up and we went into a really amazingly steep climb.  There was "a sort of hush all over the plane" - everything, except the screaming engines, was dead quiet.  Shortly afterwards the pilot came on over the intercom and said that another plane had "got slowed down and too close in front of us."  Yah.  After circling away my connection time over the airport, we finally landed and I had a fair sprint and train ride to the far side of Dallas Airport to get my next connection.

No window seat this time, the guy there said he 'was going to use it' when I asked him whether he would consider swopping places, and then promptly closed the blind and went to sleep.  No open window seats, but I passed my camera around to a few others who had a seat with a view,  to get photos of the Grand Canyon and other lovely views.

After three and a half hours layover in Las Vegas, resisting the slot machines, finding many things to photograph, I was more than ready.  To go to sleep!  Wonderful views flowed beneath my window, but countless times I found myself waking up with a start, Gypsey (camera #1) slowly sliding off my lap.  There are so many snow capped mountains here and coming into Bellingham was just lovely!

The hotel sent a van to pick me up at the airport and after settling in, going for a good long walk, doing some shopping, I am about ready to call it a day.  The lack of sleep, time difference between there and here and the excitement has totally worn me out.

I am one seriously happy lady - with one burning question.  Camera #1 was named by a friend a good few years ago and goes by the name Gypsey - thanks Gloria!. I am totally comfortable with her and she snaps to attention sometimes even before I do, and almost does the work all on her own.  Camera #2 has this long, almost obnoxious, heavy 500mm lens attached to it - like an elephants trunk, but not bendable.  Its as heavy as all get-out and about as comfy to carry as a camel.  But - this is the one that is going to capture those whales, and bald eagles, and dolphins and and and..  And I need a name for 'it'.  Any suggestions?

Tomorrow I get on the ferry in the afternoon.  The M/V Malaspina will take me from Bellingham to Skagway, Alaska, with many stops in the towns along the way.  I have a cabin on board, but plan to spend a night or two at least out on the deck - especially if the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) decide to come out and play.

I am not sure when I can send out emails , but will try when I go and explore the towns along the way - the ferry does not have wifi.  The subject line will have the letters of the alphabet first - read the emails in order according to this.

Below are some specs of the Malaspina.  Know that you are all along for the ride with me!


The full trip plan is:  A week on the ferry; two days with my very dear friend, Debs in Seattle topped off with a two full day train ride with Amtrak from Seattle to Los Angeles.
Year Built: 1963
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Staterooms- 3 berth:
Staterooms- 2 berth:
ADA Staterooms- 4b:
ADA Staterooms- 2b:
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TravelBlog Update: Annie S, On the move again!

Dear insidepassagealaska annie,

Annie Steward (aka alaskabyferry) has added a new blog entry:

READ: http://www.travelblog.org/fred.php?id=880293 - On the move again!

Best wishes,


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Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Ready...

North America » United States » Alaska » Inside Passage
March 27th 2015
Published: March 28th 2015EDIT THIS ENTRY

Less than 3 weeks till I head North to Bellingham, WA and the Alaska State Ferry for what I know is going to be a totally amazing adventure.

I had forgotten just how much preparation there is before a trip away - dogs, cat, bills, shop, family, house, general stuff and then the job of deciding what to pack and getting all the camera stuff ready. I am loving it! I have even taken on knitting a neck warmer, which is just a knitted circle that goes around the neck sort of like a scarf without the ends. I am making my big enough to be able to pull up over my head, covering the back of my neck. I am not too friendly with the cold weather.

The M/V Matanuska is the name of the ferry I will be on for the week at sea. I have booked a cabin with a window and private bathroom, although the idea of sleeping outside in the Solarium was very tempting, I think I am 'getting on' a tad and probably would do better in a cabin with a bed. If there is space, I can always stay outside, but this way I have a choice.

Many people camp out in the solarium and others pitch a tent on the deck for the duration. I cannot wait to mix and chat with everyone heading on the same trip. I hear that most are locals or people going to work in Alaska - its going to be very interesting.

And the idea of all those photos! I would love to see Orca's and the Northern Lights (again), lots of Bald Eagles and bears..... but the scenery is stunning - so just that alone gets my camera (Gypsey) revving her engines.

My job tonight is to clear off all the camera cards, at least one 8GB card per day, format them and check that they are all working well. The camera's will be cleaned and prepped with new batteries a few days before I leave. My little travel laptop is all shiny, email loaded and ready to be filled up with 10 000 jpg's.

I am sure that there wont be internet access on the ferry, but I will try to update this blog as often as possible.

After the Ferry trip, I have two days in Seattle and then onto Amtrak's Coast Starlight train for a two day adventure from King Station in Seattle to Union Station in LA - and then a quick hop to the airport, a long overnight flight home where I plan to shut the world out ........... and sleep! Debs in Seattle and Amtrak both have internet access - 😊

What with the long days in the Inside Passage at this time of year and the constantly passing scenery and possibilities of much more, on both the Ferry and Train, I know I wont get much sleep at all until I get home again.

The sad thing is............ one month from today, I will be having the last hours on the train and almost heading home. Somehow I think I will be almost ready. Besides...... I will be one month closer to my next trip!!

Till next time