Day 58, Thursday, July 16, 2009
We caught the MV Malaspina ferry over to Juneau at 9:00 AM. This ferry is capable of carrying 499 passengers and 88 vehicles. We saw two lighthouses, lots of whales in the distance, salmon jumping, someone saw sea lions, but we didn’t. The forest ranger onboard did a good job of sharing information regarding shipwrecks and verbal traditions of the area. When we embarked, we found the Mendenhall Lake USFS Campground and set up camp in a tent site which was nicer and had a better view than the RV sites. We were camped in view of the Mendenhall Glacier. It was a beautiful day so we took a short hike, took photos of the forest with moss ground cover, grilled burgers for dinner, and watched the movie, “As Good as it Gets” for the umpteenth time. Once again, Jack Nicholson cracked us up!
Day 59, Friday, July 17, 2009
We started the day by deciding to skip Ketchikan and go straight to Prince Rupert. We are tired and would have to spend almost four more days in Ketchikan. We drove out to the ferry office and changed our tickets. The Shrine of St. Therese was out that way so we stopped in, but it was closed to the public because they were having a retreat there this week-end. We drove into Juneau and stopped at the Coast Guard Dock and then drove up by the Governer’s Mansion and State Capital. We stopped at Fred Meyers for groceries, then drove to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor’s Center, watched a video, and took lots of up-close photos of the glacier. It was impressive. We returned to our campground and made dinner. We must be at the ferry dock at 6:00 AM to arrive in Sitka at 12:30 PM. We checked email and the internet told us that Walter Cronkite died today…so sad. He was the biggest news icon. We both remember him from when we were just little, coming in sweaty from catching lightening bugs with our friends. He was reporting on the circular black and white screen. No matter what the news he was reporting, he was like a family member and made us feel safe and secure. Those were truly the good ol’ days.
Day 60, Saturday, July 18, 2009
Because it rained all night, the 5:00 AM alarm was somewhat of an intrusion on our restless night’s sleep. We were at the ferry dock at 6:00 AM (requirement by ferry officials) for our 8:00 AM departure to Sitka on the MV Fairweather. This luxurious ferry is newer and much smaller, but also much faster than the MV Malispina. It goes twice as fast as other ferries in the Inside Passage, up to 38 knots which is ??? miles per hour. So our would-be 9 hour trip to Sitka took only 4.5 hours. Okay by us! As we went through Peril Strait, an area known for lots of wildlife, we had hoped to see whales, sea lions, and maybe eagles, but Ed thought he saw two porpoises. The overcast skies had some impact on visibility so we could have just missed them. We arrived in Sitka and were delighted at this little town. It is very quaint and especially pretty from the McConnell Bridge with all different colored houses and shops along the seashore. There are several marinas all varying from small fishing boats to large luxurious ocean liners. We decided to check out a few of the campgrounds, then we went to the II Level for lunch. Ed has his Penn State cap on so of course, we met some people from State College, Pennsylvania. After lunch we walked through a few stores and museums and then visited the National Park Service “Russian Bishop’s House”. It happened to be a “fee free day” so there was no charge. The tour was incredible. The Park Ranger enthusiastically did an excellent job of explaining the construction and décor of the house and was able to answer all our questions. He even let us climb the very narrow stairs to the attic to show us the construction up there. We decided that it was one of the best tours we had ever taken. We drove out to the “end of the road” and did a drive through of Starrigavin USFS Campground and it worked well for our needs…no hook-ups and $7 per night with our Senior Pass. And… there is a female grizzly with two cubs in the area. May be a photo op!!
Day 61, Sunday, July 19, 2009
Today, we toured the city of Sitka in steady rain. We toured the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, where they celebrated their 40th anniversary today. It is supported and operated by the US Forest Service and again had a “fee free day”. They displayed Chilkat robes, along with many articles and work implements. There were local Indian artisians looming, working in wood and copper. We visited Totem Trail where totems are strategically placed along a trail in a rain forest. We met a very nice couple from Colorado just as we began raining heavily so we decided to leave. We did a drive by of the St. Michael’s Russian Church and the Russian Cemetery. We were late arriving at the Sheldon Jackson Museum so we only had about 45 minutes to peruse thousands of items from the Alaskan Native culture gathered from 1888 until 1898 and donated by missionary Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson. It is Alaska’s oldest continually operating museum. We wish we had more time there. We arrived at the Sitka Ferry Terminal about 7:00 PM and made dinner, watched a movie and waited until mid-night when the ferry arrived to transport us and the RV to Prince Rupert, our last stop on the Alaskan Marine Highway. Finally we boarded the MV Matanuska, found our cabin, quickly unpacked and both were in bed by 1:00 AM. Oh God, I pray the fresh salmon in the RV freezer doesn’t thaw and ruin in the next 36 hours!!
Day 62, Monday, July 20, 2009
This morning we woke around 8:30 AM and took LONG hot showers. In the RV, we take short hot showers. We cleaned our tiny room and went exploring on the ferry. This boat is older and needs some renovation, but there is a full service cafeteria, a solarium with windows all around, a movie theater, and a whole floor of cabins. We stopped in Petersburg and Wrangel for an hour each during the day and Ketchikan during the night.
Day 63, Tuesday, July 21, 2009
We prepared ourselves to leave the ferry this morning, then had lunch in the cafeteria. We arrived into Prince Rupert at 2:30 PM PT, drove through Prince Rupert, got gas and headed up the Yellowhead Hwy toward Prince George. Our drove as far as Hazelton and found the ‘Ksan Indian Village and Campground owned and operated by the Gitxan Indian Tribe. It had nice level sites located in a grassy field on the river. We put a pork roast on the grill and sat outside. We commented how cold and rainy it was every day while we were going down the Inside Passage, but the minute we got off the ferry, the weather turned warm and sunshiny.