Alaska/British Columbia

Introduction to the Alaska/British Columbia trip posts

“The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.

“‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’”

Here’s how this travelogue works. I posted my notes from the journal that I kept during the trip, along with scans of sketches and selected photos from that day, under the actual date that I experienced it. [I included my thoughts in hindsight in brackets, like this.]

If you are considering going to Alaska, I hope that these photos will convince you to go. I’ve been to a lot of pretty places, but Alaska beat them all. I never knew how beautiful a glacier was until I saw one face-to-face. It seems like a living thing. Go see one before they all melt – they’re melting fast.

So, to begin at the beginning, click here, then follow the links at the bottom of the posts for the next post in the series.

Alaska/British Columbia, Canada


Sunday, July 19 8:18 a.m. Waiting to disembark the ship with a tour. Dread going through all the customs & security lines. [Wasn’t nearly as bad as the day we came, when we had to go through Canadian and then right back through US customs within a couple of hours!] We are sitting in Pacific Heights looking at the Vancouver waterfront.

There was an incredible sunset last night and we passed several coastal villages. I looked at the rock and driftwood strewn shores and imagined myself there walking along the water.

[More writing and photos to come about Vancouver and my thoughts about the trip in general, but that’s the end of my handwritten travel journal.]

Alaska/British Columbia

At Sea, Saturday, July 18

[Sunset from Friday night – the sun didn’t set until around 10 p.m.]

around 10 a.m.
we are back in the inside passage on our way back to Vancouver tomorrow. Yesterday’s waves and sun and clouds were a nice change but I started getting sea sick after dinner because the ship was rolling back and forth so much.

We both played bingo yesterday and we both ate linguini with lobster tail, shrimp, snapper, and mussels for dinner. I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how good the food is. I had suspected that we would have to go to the restaurants that charge extra to get anything close to what we have been eating in the “free” buffets & restaurants.

Just saw a whale! Drinking coffee and juice in “Pacific Heights” a whale jumped out of the water and showed its head, then rolled.

I should go to this bingo thing that just started but I am so happy sitting here. There is a raffle for a free cruise after bingo & you have to be present to win. We got tickets when we played yesterday. It has been the only cruise directed thing we have done. [I went, I didn’t win!]

Sandy wants to at least play the slot machines before it’s over but we have been happy looking at the scenery and reading our books. [We tried the slots and didn’t see the appeal. A more boring and faster way to lose your money as far as I can tell. Video poker was a little more interesting way to lose a few bucks. I’m not much into gambling, as you might guess.]

3:30 – aggravating development: the camera is not functioning. I’ll have to get a disposable camera for Vancouver. Hopefully I will be able to find the warranty I bought when I get home.

[So there you have it. I’ll post the stunning sunset from later that evening and the Vancouver photos when we get the other photos back!]

Alaska/British Columbia, Klondike Gold Rush National Park, National Parks and Monuments

Skagway, Alaska

[The following was written the day after we visited Skagway because I tended to write first thing in the morning.]

friday, july 17th – AT SEA-

About halfway through the day yesterday, l lost my capability to use words to describe the beauty we were seeing. So I’ll have to print out of lot of photos when we get home to fill out this journal. At a certain point in Tracy Arm Fjord, I was overwhelmed. I kept seeing scenes that were more beautiful than the last most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. The train ride up to White Pass Summit and back was much the same way.

Today and tomorrow will be very lazy & relaxing. The ship is on the Pacific Ocean now. I slept so long and deeply last night and this morning. I took a lot of Dramamine yesterday because I did not want a repeat of the Tuscany trip disaster!

We spent a few hours on our own in Skagway, learned the story of the town and I bought some button made from fossil walrus ivory. We had a light brunch at Olivia’s Bistro next to (and part of) Historic Skagway Inn. It had a beautiful little garden and we ate bread pudding & rhubarb crisp at little tables outside. I chose the rhubarb because I had never eaten it before but more importantly it had been grown in their garden. [Recommended! Local food experience #2 of 2 of the whole trip.]

[I loved the Arctic Brotherhood building, which was covered with thousands of pieces of driftwood. We tried to steer clear of the hokey tourist places and concentrate on the local businesses and the Klondike Gold Rush National Park buildings and exhibits.]

After that we went on the tour we purchased. A bus took us to Gold Rush Brewery where we tasted some really great beer and then panned for gold at their “Klondike Gold Fields” there. Was kind of cheesy [but great fun] because it was seeded with paydirt from Dawson City, but the tour guide was fun and the location was lovely. It was next to the Skagway River. I wanted so badly to go down to the river but there were signs warning us not to. I don’t think that it was forbidden and I wish I had done it anyway. It was blue, cold glacial water and I collected a lot of smooth granite stones.

[I said to Sandy and the tour guide that putting me next to a river for a couple of hours and telling me not to play in it is like putting a kid in front of a closed toy store with a hundred bucks in his hand.]

[And just for fun:]

[Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful.]

Alaska/British Columbia, Canada, Klondike Gold Rush National Park, National Parks and Monuments

White Pass Railway Ride

[These photos do not do this experience justice. Not only were we trying to get photos from a moving train, our camera, like those poor pack horses and mules worked to death on the Trail of ’98, was on its last legs. This was an expensive ride, and well worth the money.

Sandy took many of these photos from between the railcars, since I was drugged out on Dramamine and pretty much reduced to smiling and nodding.]

[It’s a good thing that folks can’t get off the train by the time they see this scene. There were a few scary places with straight down views.]

[Thank God this bridge was no longer in service!]

[One of the two original Klondike Gold Rush trails. This was the harder, yet more travelled trail because it was a bit shorter. Unbelievable how many people and pack animals came over this steep narrow rough trail.]

[This lake is actually at the summit of White Pass in Canada.]

Alaska/British Columbia

Sawyer Glacier

[Just when you thought that it couldn’t possibly get any prettier, we came to Sawyer Glacier.]

[The way back.]

[The following was written the next morning.]

Thursday, July 16. 7 a.m. the ship is barely moving as it moves in to dock. Had a light breakfast only because of meds. I am overstuffed from eating all week. Sandy is still in bed. We have a tour this afternoon. It is sprinkling. We have gone to bed before sunset EVERY night! [It was overcast and the sun set around 10 p.m. and we are old married people.] Our days have been full of activity and beauty and too much good food.

It was good to be with Sherri yesterday and not feel so touristy. Got the perspective of a 12-year resident. Now we are back to cruise ships lined up along docks. It will be fun today I’m sure but the wilderness and natural experience of yesterday will be very hard to top.

I bet I took 200 photos yesterday alone before I finally became overwhelmed by the enormity of what I was seeing.

I guess that it is fortunate that I am having a lot of intense hot flashes [here] because I was out on the deck in shorts and sandals a lot while everyone else bundled up & shivered in the cold. It is too hot inside the ship for me.

Alaska/British Columbia

Tracy Arm Fjord

In the afternoon the ship sailed through Tracy Arm Fjord up to Sawyer Glacier. It was the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen. So many waterfalls and I never knew that a glacier would be so stunning. Blue icebergs and harbor seals. Bald eagles. Fascinated by so many icebergs and the shapes and patterns. Never expected to see the kind of thing even in Alaska in July, and getting so close up to a glacier.

This is where the color of the water changed to glacial water.

[There were so many waterfalls that I gave up trying to photograph them all. It was crowded on the deck and difficult to get shots without heads in them, so a lot of these were shot with my arms extended over my head.]

[Hooray! The sun FINALLY came out and what great timing it was!]

Alaska/British Columbia

Juneau, Alaska

juneau, ak wednesday, july 15

6:300 a.m. on the aft deck. A bald eagle just flew about 10 feet directly over my head. Crows strutting around waiting for someone to drop some food.

We will meet Sherri & her boys around 9 am in town and she will take us to Mendenhall Glacier where we hope to see bears

what a great morning
what an incredible afternoon!

Short walk through Juneau then met Sherri McDonald and her sons Trey (10) and Clayton (4) for a trip to Mendenhall Glacier. We also went to her house where we saw her studio and then took a little walk on Sandy Beach where I put my fingers into the Alaskan waters and picked up barnacled pebbles and pink shells for souvenirs. Saw a porcupine near the Visitors Center at Mendenhall. Lots of bald eagles near the fish hatchery.

[Sherri is a paper/book and collage artist. Her Alaskan landscape collages are made from lots of tiny bits of handmade papers. She was a gracious and generous hostess who gave us a twelve-year resident’s point-of-view and sent us home with a print and a card of her work. You can see how lucky we were at

It was also very nice to spend time with Trey and Clayton. They were very good, informative, and fun guides to the glacier park, which you’ll see in the next post.]