Last year (2008) while we were in Holland at Dirk and Hetty's house we discussed
plans for the future. Where did we want to go? Alaska was high on the list for
both them and us. So we made early plans to go to Alaska. After all we were going
to bring the White Dragon home and that would give us two bikes in America.
As in "The best laid plans of men and mice..." things changed dramatically when we
wrecked the White Dragon in southern Italy. Dirk and Hetty came to Italy and rescued
us and we flew home.
But that didn't end our Alaska plans. Our bodies healed and we bought another bike,
a 1983 GoldWing 1100 Aspencade. After some maintenance work on the brakes, tires
and timing belts it was ready to go. I made reservations on the Alaskan ferry system
for the route through the Inside Passage from Prince Rupert, BC to Skagway, AK and
Dirk and Hetty made plane reservations to America to match. After they arrived at
our house we took a couple of days to pack the camping gear and get over jet lag. Then
we were headed north.
It was three days to Prince Rupert. Three days of sun, rain and rainbows. We hoped
that this rainbow at the campground in Quesnel, BC was a good omen for our trip.
We have the same tent that we used in Europe and we bought a tent for Dirk and Hetty
to use. That tent will become ours when this trip is over. The older one is giving
out after having been set up and taken down over 400 times in dozens of countries. It
has served us well but is just wearing out all over. Dirk and Hetty brought their
sleeping bags and we have air mattresses to sleep on, chairs to sit in, a folding
table, two rain fly's and stove, dishes and silverware to go around. It makes for
a comfortable camp. We have created a "kitty" for joint expenses like camping fees
and road food. Kathy is in charge of it; and at regular intervals she comes and
tells us that the kitty is hungry and wants to be fed. I didn't know that a little
kitty could eat so much!
We arrived in Prince Rupert in the afternoon and followed the signs to the tourist
bureau parking lot. Next to the parking lot was a couple of dumpsters and about
6 or 7 Bald Eagles fighting over the contents. Our national bird, dumpster diving,
Our plan is to ask the tourist bureau for a cheap hotel. We have to be at the ferry
dock at 3:30 in the morning and we don't want to have to pack our camp at 2:30 in
the morning. They suggested several and we took one. The room is $164, even in
Canadian dollars that is not a cheap hotel. The breakfast was skimpy but the room
was quiet and we slept well.
Because this is an "international" trip we have to be at the dock two hours earlier
than the departure time, just like at the airport. We get there, check in and then
we stand around and talk to the other passengers for an hour and 45 minutes before
boarding. At least there we didn't have to put everything through an x-ray machine.
The ferry stops at several towns as we follow the Inside Passage north, Ketchikan,
Wrangell, Petersburg, and then Juneau. As we approached Juneau we could see large
cruise ships docked right downtown. We also watched seaplanes take off and land. Juneau
is the capital of Alaska and a busy town, even if it is only accessible by air or
water. We got off in Juneau and spent the night in the campground at the Mendenhall
Glacier N. P.
We walked around the National Park's tourist center and up the trail to the base
of the glacier. It ended a couple of hundred yards away where a large stream of
melt water cascaded down the mountainside.
We also toured the downtown area, looked at the tourist junk in the shops, marveled
at the huge cruise ships parked 100 feet away and generally wasted the afternoon. After
riding on the ferry for 24 hours and seeing the hundreds of cruise boat tourists,
I decided that there could not be a much worst vacation than one where I was trapped
on a ship running between tourist traps. Without hiring their own taxi they are limited
to the organized tours run by the tour company or walking, both poor options in my
opinion. The first is crowded with long lines to get on and off the buses and in
and out of the stops and the second limits the distance one can travel.
We had our own transportation and went up to a gold mine museum above the town and
found some hobby gold miners working the creek. We talked with them and one even
offered Kathy a couple of the gold flakes he had found that morning. They were about
the size of the period at the end of this sentence. These guys were not going to
get rich this way, but they were having fun and keeping fit. Shoveling and panning
the gravel is hard work, especially for the waistline.
We got on another ferry the next day and rode on up to Skagway. The views along
both ferry rides have been spectacular. The mountains, waterfalls, islands, snowfields
and glaciers have overloaded our senses. This lighthouse on the island makes this
scene look almost like a castle in the Alps. All along the route we have seen Bald
Eagles flying or sitting and watching.
But we are ready to start riding again. This standing around hour after hour is
getting to us.
We reach Skagway late in the afternoon and stayed two nights. The day in between
we rode over to Dyea, the ghost town is a few miles away and at the start of the
Chilkoot Trail. This is the famous trail that the gold seekers heading to the Klondike
took over the mountains and into the Yukon. There are famous pictures of a string
of hundreds of miners packing their gear up the staircase-like trail in the snow. We
found that the town of Dyea is gone and the famous climb is 12 miles up the trail
so we didn't see anything except scenery and seven miles of gravel road.
The building behind the old man and his dog is the Camp Skagway No 1 of the Alaska
Brotherhood, a benevolent association started here in the gold rush days. It is
covered with a checkerboard pattern of short sticks one to two inches in diameter. It
was originally built and decorated in 1898, this is a reconstruction.