September 17, 2013, Category: Alaska, Travel

The mountains are black shadows that disappear into clouds. It’s dark and quiet except for the churning engine. Pitch black and we keep pushing up through the dark, narrow canyon. There are lighted buoys in the still water and the captain navigates the boat through the middle of them. Everyone is asleep on the deck chairs around me under the heated lamps of the Solarium. It is very peaceful. I’m on a boat going to Alaska. Crazy Awesome. Read on for more…

Day 2: Riding the Alaska Ferry

Check out the novel: Trudge On, Soul

The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.
The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.

The Adventure Continues...

When I went to bed last night I had a slight scratchy feeling in my throat. I told myself it was just an allergy type reaction to the smell of diesel fuel. Being on the top deck of the back of the boat put us behind the smoke stacks, and yes, it often smells like diesel. The second reason the camping spot one deck lower would have been better (the first being protection from the wind). But during the night, my throat got worse.

DSCN0097The wind and the rain made quite a racket as tents flapped and snapped. Between the diesel smell, weather, and my throat, it was hard to sleep. I tossed and my mood fell. Three weeks. Three weeks and thousands of miles ahead to go and we were heading into a rain forest…at the peak of rainy season (thanks to our uncompromising work schedules). I started imagining riding in constant rain and setting up/breaking camp every day with wet gear. And on top of everything else to worry about, I had something new from yesterday. Before we boarded, my bike wouldn’t start. It acted like the battery was dead and then a few minutes later it started up fine. What was that all about, would it be a problem, what should I do? I tried not to think about it.

IMG_0792I caught myself spiraling down, something that happens to me in the middle of the night from time to time. I know when I get like this, it always passes by morning and over the years I’ve learned to catch it. And there is always an incident early on in each of my trips that gets me down and discouraged. I reminded myself that the early rough patch passes and I’m not in my right mind during my middle of the night panics. It helps. Eventually I dozed off knowing things would be better in the morning. And as usual, they were. I woke up stoked to be on my way to Alaska. But I also had a full blown cold.

DSCN0096The hot weather from Bellingham was far behind us. It was rather chilly and rained often throughout the day, sometimes quite hard. Most of the others had to fight their tents (especially along the back rail). It sometimes required extra help from the rest of us to keep them from flying off the back deck. Duct tape was passed around, heavy objects were placed in the tents, and water was sopped from the inside. It seemed quite miserable for some of them. Our two tents held like champs: strong, stalwart, and dry inside. Our duct tape didn’t budge. I noticed several others inspected our ducting technique as they re-secured their own tents. It didn’t work as well for them (tacking down with everything wet) but with some effort everyone got their tents secured.

Time after time I mentally thanked my son and wife for talking me into getting a new jacket. The North Face Gore-Tex raincoat and down lining were dry and warm. My old jacket would certainly not have cut it. In fact, I was walking around and smiled at a guy and he said (with an approving nod), “Nice Jacket.” What the heck?!? Yes, it is a nice jacket, thank you!

IMG_0779During the calmer weather, we’d watch fish jumping and the massive masses of land that rose up out of the ocean on both sides of us. These mountains were like giant granite chia pets; the forest sprouted and clung to every rock that dared peek out of the water. We searched for bears and Mike stated that he really wanted to see a bear lumber out of the woods. I asked him if he’d be disappointed if it was sauntering or moseying instead. Did it actually have to lumber? He shot me a dirty look, “I was trying to be poetic,” he said. I replied, then we’ll put lumbering bear on our list of things that we must see. I innocently harassed him about “lumbering bears” two or three times a day, every day, for the rest of the trip. As a side-note, he did eventually get to see his lumbering bear.

WP_20130818_008I spent most of the day lounging about in my sleeping bag under the heating lamps. I took some Dayquil which knocked me out for a few hours (a nice break from my congested head and the rocking open water, which can make me seasick). When I woke up we were in the calm waters of the inner passage. Mike said that he had seen tons of whales, which got me up. We scanned the horizon for sprays of water, and then through the binoculars watched the humpbacks swimming south for Hawaii. Eventually they would dive deep, waving goodbye with their tails before disappearing.

DSCN0063Most of the whales were quite distant. We had an excellent view of one about 40 yards off to the port side. We watched him swim along for a couple of minutes before he vanished. Later the two of us were leaning up against the railing (starboard side, gotta throw out some nautical lingo), talking and watching the land roll past when a loud noise which I can’t even describe made me jump. Directly beneath us and only a few feet from the boat, a humpback surfaced, sprayed, and then dove. My camera was hanging around my neck and I managed to turn it on and snap a quick picture, although there was no time to zoom in. That was amazing and got us all riled up. For a split second or two we had an extremely close up view.

DSCN0092We took some time in the afternoon to sit in the cafeteria with the Milepost and did some planning. Mike had chatted with the bartender the night before (after I had gone to bed early because of my cold) and said we needed to add the Kennecott mines to our journey. We decided from Haines we’d head towards the mines, hopefully with a stop at the Red Eagle Lodge in Chistochina (we had heard excellent reports about it). Then we would try and catch the Valdez ferry (tight schedule), explore the Kenai Peninsula, and head to Anchorage. From there north to Denali, Denali Highway east, Top of the World to Dawson City, and then start the journey home. It was a rough agenda but a good start. We just had to leave Dawson City before the morning of Sep 3rd to make it home in time for the Seahawks opening game on the 8th (and work on the 9th).

DSCN0095We had been told by several people not to get our hopes up about seeing Mt. McKinley. “It’s too cloudy on most good days, and you are going in the rainy season.” This was a huge disappointment, seeing the largest mountain in North America had been one of my top objectives.

We went all out for dinner and took advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet they offered that night in the restaurant. I ate way more than the $18 I paid for, and I don’t regret it. Three desserts. Yeah baby, I’m on vacation!

Before bed I sat under the heated lamps and made this final entry in my journal:

“The mountains are black shadows that disappear into clouds. It’s dark and quiet except for the churning engine. Pitch black and we keep pushing up through the dark, narrow canyon. There are lighted buoys in the still water and the captain navigates the boat through the middle of them. Everyone is asleep on the deck chairs around me under the heated lamps of the Solarium. It is very peaceful. I’m on a boat going to Alaska. Crazy Awesome.”

Click here to continue to Day 3.

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One thought on “Day 2: Riding the Alaska Ferry

  • By Angi - Reply

    Love sharing your adventure through your blog…can’t wait for tomorrow!!!

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