Well, of course I’m excited. I’m preparing to go on Alaskan Dream Cruises Chichagof this coming week. And though I’ve traveled to 90 countries, I’ve never been to Alaska. When asked by friends why I haven’t been before, I usually respond with, “I’m saving the easy trips for when I get older.” To which a friend (?) replied, I don’t think you should wait any longer. Harumpphhh!
I live in Hollywood, Florida (the OTHER Hollywood), and one of the difficult things about packing for a trip to a cold climate when you live in a hot climate is imagining how cold it might be. Right now, the temperature here in Hollywood is 92 degrees. So I looked up the average June temperatures in Alaska, and got an average of 62 degrees daytime and 48 degrees night. OK, I can deal with that. Good chance for me to air out my cold weather gear (lots of Gortex), though the locals will probably be in shorts. The cruise line suggests I bring a bathing suit, should I want to join the “Killer Whale Club” by jumping into the ocean in a wilderness bay! Really?! I don’t even swim in Florida until late May!
My cruise starts on June 13, in Juneau, but due to the way the flights run from Florida, I will need to get there a day earlier. No problem. I’d like to take a look around Juneau anyway. And the cruise line even provides a city tour for early arriving guests. On alternate cruises, they begin the cruise in Sitka.
Day 1: Juneau in June. In Juneau, I’ll be staying at the Westmark Baranof. That will be real convenient, as Alaskan Dream Cruises has a pre-cruise hospitality suite there for arriving guests. As I’m arriving a day early, I’ll have the opportunity to explore Juneau.
Day 2: We’ll be at Glacier Bay National Park. A National Park Ranger will introduce us to 8 glaciers and (hopefully) lots of wildlife. The cast of characters typically found in this area includes both brown and black bears, wolves, mountain goats, Steller sea lions, and humpback whales. The Margerie Glacier may produce some dramatic video for me, as it is known for its calving displays. And there should be no shortage of ice for our drinks. Native Huna Tlingit interpretive naturalist will also be on hand to tell us about the cultural ties of the region.
Day 3: Glacier Bay National Park & Icy Strait Here, I’m anticipating up-close and personal nature experiences. Kayaking is on the agenda, and possibly whale encounters. We’ll also get to put our feet on the ground, as we hike through old-growth forest. The area is rife with coves, bays, and inlets. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a bear foraging for his supper? (From a safe vantage point, hopefully!) We’ll also be hiking in Glacier Bay National Park, with visits to Reid Glacier and the Huna Tribal House. And who knew there were rainforests in Alaska? That’s something I’ve always associated with warm climates.
Day 4: Skagway. What a rush! We get to explore the gold rush town of Skagway. Not only but also, a train trip on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. Just like Sheldon, on the Big Bang Theory, I love trains. OK, maybe I’m not quite as obsessed as he is but…..still…. This train trip takes us up 3000 feet over 20 miles, with countless vistas laid out before us. Passports in hand, we’ll cross into Canada.
Day 5: Taku Harbor & Orca Point Lodge Today, we’ll journey into Taku Harbor and venture along the shoreline. The evening at Orca Point Lodge looks to be relaxing. It’s an exclusive day-lodge on Colt Island. And the guests of honor at the dinner in the lodge are salmon (Alaskan, of course), king crab (Alaskan of course), and prime rib, if you’re not a seafood fan. I’m sure a highlight of the day will be the beachside bonfire.
Day 6: Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness No one has explained the “terror” aspect of this stop. Should I be afraid? Probably not, as from the descriptions I’ve read, it’s all about pristine waterfalls and natural beauty. Granite cliffs, huge icebergs, and harbor seals will prompt all the cameras to action. Maybe the terror comes from all the selfies likely to be happening. This is considered by many to be one of the most scenic areas in Alaska. And we’ll be able get close to it all with the Chichagof’s skiffs.
Day 7: Frederick Sound I have a feeling that this will be a banner day for me, as the area is known for the humpback whales and other marine mammals. Wouldn’t it be incredible if a whale breached alongside our boat? And wouldn’t it be even more incredible if I were ready with my camera? Time to test my reflexes. If the weather cooperates, there will be a shore excursion to the Five Finger Lighthouse. I’m trying to imagine where that name came from.
Day 8: Petersburg & Thomas Bay Today, we’ll visit the fishing town of Petersburg, aka “little Norway,” on Mitkof Island. It was established by Norwegian fishermen in the late 1800s. Some of the Scandinavian heritage will be displayed by a folk dance show, put on by local kids. This will be followed by a bus tour of the Thomas Bay area, an opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and skiff exploration.
Day 9: Wrangell Talk about an identity crisis! This town of 2000 has been under 3 flags, and ruled by 4 nations: the Tlingit, Russia, England, and the U.S.A. There will be a walking tour with a stop at the Wrangell Museum. There is also Petroglyph Beach, the state historic park, where the highest concentration of petroglyphs in SE Alaska is found.
Day 10: Eastern Baranof Island & Kake This will be a day of exploration of coves and inlets along the “Waterfall Coast.” And when we get to the Tlingit Native Village of Kake, we’ll see native dancing and totem carving and the world’s tallest totem. Now if I could just figure out how to get a totem home to grace my backyard!
Day 11: Sitka The journey’s end. Alaskan Dream Cruises will provide complimentary transportation to the airport or lodging. I’m planning on spending a couple of days exploring Sitka, staying at the Aspen Hotel and Suites. Sitka is a town with an interesting blend of Alaskan Native and Russian history. Though I haven’t finalized the Sitka portion of my trip yet, there are several animal rehabilitation refuges that sound interesting, including one for bears and another for raptor birds, that should provide an opportunity to view those critters much closer than in the wild. And the narrows, north of the town itself, is no stranger to wildlife. It’s the only community in SE Alaska that faces the open ocean of the Gulf of Alaska.
Stay tuned for more details of my experiences as I progress on the journey. Subject to the availability of the Internet, of course. There will also be a video following the trip.