DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

Alaskan Cruise - Day 3 - Ketchikan, Saxmon Totem Park, Lumberjacks, and the Temperate Rain Forest...

Our alarm was set for 6AM today, but at just after 5AM, this god-awful noise started happening under the boat. It sounded like the bottom was dragging, and this was followed by something that smelled like metal or something. It was very loud.

This stopped, but then happened again a few minutes later. Geez, what is that?

It stopped. It happened again, about five minutes later. I said to Vivian, "Oh, it's just that noise again." And we rolled over like we were timeworn travelers with ennui from the maritime mundane.

Vivian was "not into it" this morning, so I volunteered to get mom and dad to the Stardust Lounge by 7:30 for their excursion today, which was:


Tour Code: KTN-029

Approximate Duration: 4 hours

Level 1/ Physically Limited

Become absorbed in the rich living culture of Southeast Alaska’s Native Americans and also enjoy a rip-roaring lumberjack competition on this tour. Your first stop will be a visit to Saxman Native Village. In this Native community, tribal elders and others have worked hard to pass on many of the traditions that have long defined the culture of Southeast Alaska. A short video program introduces you to the culture and history of Saxman, then enter the Beaver Clan House, where you are welcomed by song and dance. You move on to Saxman Totem Park, one of the largest gatherings of totem poles in the world. Your guide will help unravel the mysteries of these towering, majestic poles that stand as sentries over the present generation. The next stop is the Village Carving Center where world famous carvers work and pass on their skills to eager apprentices. A visit to the Village Store provides you with the opportunity to purchase some of the finest Native art available. On the return trip the fun begins with a stop at the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show. Hardy lumberjacks bring to life Alaska’s colorful forest history with an action packed competition in the partially covered and heated outdoor arena. Cheer on your team of World Champion lumberjacks in events such as chopping, sawing, tree climbing and much more.
Note: There may be a short wait prior to the Lumberjack Show. Time can be spent on your own or in the rustic company store located at the Lumberjack Show.

At 6:15, we headed up to the breakfast buffet. I didn't eat, as I was to eat later with Vivian after getting them on their way.

After depositing them in the Stardust Lounge, their departure meeting point, I ran back to their cabin to get Mom's jacket and cell phone.

When their tour was called, I walked them to the gangway, and went as far as Deck 3, where if I'd've gone any further I wouldn't have been able to turn around. "Thank you, John," dad said.

I went back to our cabin, and then Vivian and I headed up to breakfast. We were to meet on the pier for our excursion today, which was:


Tour Code: KTN-104

Approximate Duration: 2 1/2 hours

Level 1 / Outerwear

A delightful eight-mile coastal drive takes you to the exclusive Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, located in the forested mountains at rustic Herring Cove. Abundant wildlife co-exists here in a pristine natural environment. Eagles, bear, seals, a variety of birds and many other creatures are attracted to the major salmon runs in this marine estuary. You will be greeted by your naturalist and guided along the trails through the heart of the dense forest, amongst tall stands of hemlock, spruce and Alaska cedar. Stops will be made at strategically located viewing areas. Your guide will lead you to a protected open estuary. Follow Eagle Creek along elevated wooden trail over grassy wetlands. Watch and listen to the symphony of wildlife and bird activity in this spectacular setting. During the spawning season bears and seals feed on salmon in Eagle Creek and the likelihood of viewing these fascinating animals is good. Mink, marten and wolf also frequent the area. Seasonal ecosystem changes result in varying levels of wildlife activity. At the conclusion of the half-mile trail hike you will be guided through the Herring Bay Lumber Company sawmill, established by legendary pioneer Ben Fleenor. Explore and learn about this historic site and receive a sample of aromatic Alaskan cedar. Enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages in the Interpretive Center and browse through the Alaska-Yukon Trading Company general store.
Note: Wear comfortable walking shoes and warm clothing. This tour operates in all weather conditions. Rain ponchos provided.

Since our meeting point was on the pier, instead of aboard ship, we had to get tickets for the tender before proceeding to the gangway. We got them on Deck 7 in the Champagne Lounge, went to the gangway, and got in line for a tender.

Here's Vivian on the tender:

Arriving at the pier ashore, we were faced with an ungodly climb from the base of the pier up to the street, and at once, wondered how in the hell mom and dad navigated it. Hopefully, they spoke up and asked for wheelchairs.

Up at the street level was the little town of Ketchikan, and we walked around for a little while, as we had about forty-five minutes until our tour left. We stopped in a grocery store, where I bought 20 post cards, and Vivian bought two.

They told us where the post office was, and we walked one block over and two blocks up. On the way, I checked in by cell phone with Robert, and Vivian tried to reach Jeff both at work and on his cell phone, with no luck.

During this walk around town, we noticed the Celebrity cruise ship docked along the shore, and saw several gay flags hanging outside some of the state rooms.

There were gay men and couples all about, and my eyes thirsty for people like me took them all in.

We boarded a bus and had about a 45-minute ride to the Sanctuary, where we were deposited and left in the care of two tour guides. Our group was split and half, and we got Collin as our guide, which I was pleased about. He was not beautiful or anything, but easy enough on the eyes.

This entire excursion was the approximate half-mile walk we did through the sanctuary. It wasn't that bad of a walk, but we took it slow learning about everything we were seeing, and it took about an hour. It's a good thing we swapped mom and dad out of this excursion; they would never have made the walk.

In retrospect, it's annoying that we spent about 10 minutes talking to the folks at the excursion desk on the ship about this excursion. "Is there any way that my parents could stay on the bus for the half-mile walking part of the excursion?"

"No, they really can't, because it's not the same bus that picks you up at the other end."

"Well, couldn't the bus driver drive them to the other end, and just leave them there to wait for us?"

We went back and forth with them about options or possibilities for avoiding this "half mile walk" described as part of the excursion.

Hello! How about saying, "Sir, that half-mile part of the excursion is the excursion. The rest of the excursion is the ride to the sanctuary and the ride back to the city!" But I digress...

Collin started off our tour by telling us that there is a possibility that we'll run into a black bear or two in the forest. "It doesn't happen often, but it does happen, and we need to be prepared if it does."

"The first thing we should do if we spot one, is to all come together like we're going to have a group hug. The bears have terrible eyesight, so if we're all in a bunch, they think we're one big thing that might be a challenge for them instead of a lot of little things they can easily gobble up."

"Let me ask you a question. Can you run faster than 35 miles? No? Then I wouldn't recommend running. You don't want to do that."

"How about climbing a tree? Think that's a good plan? Think again. These bears can climb up a tree like that (snapping fingers), and as high as 300 feet."

Perhaps you should play dead. How about that? Well, black bears love to drag away dead things and eat them."

"How about screaming?" Vivian asked.

"Actually, that's not a bad idea. They are confused by a lot of noise, and that's liable to make them go away."

Lastly, he showed us a can of mace that he had in a belt around his waist. "This mace is three times more powerful than normal mace, and it should do the trick if all else fails. It should be comforting to know, however, that none of us has ever had to use our mace out here. So that's good."

After all that drama, we commenced our trip, never to spot a black bear the entire time.

Collin pointed out a lot of the foliage in the forest, and taught us a lot about the eco system, and what goes on out there. We learned about nursery logs, and the increasingly aggressive way black bears mark their territory as they get closer and closer to the salmon farms and hatcheries.

We got up very close to a stream in which salmon were traveling upstream to spawn.

Collin explained to us that salmon always return to within 30 feet of where they were born to spawn. How interesting.

Later we were to learn that they start in fresh water, and for a year or two of their lives, depending on the species, they can go out into the ocean, and then, to return to the same spot at which they were born, return to fresh water. Very interesting little critters.

Continuing through the forest, we saw several kinds of berries and plants, and ended up at a hatchery. This area had a lot of flattened grass along the shores where the black bear fish for salmon and tear them up for dinner.

As much as they can, they just rip the top layer of the salmon off, which contains the omega-three fatty acids they need to store in themselves to get through hibernation.

We saw very large salmon on the shore, dead, ripped open, and most with their eyes pecked out by gulls or bald eagles as seen in this photo:

In this area, I spotted some movement in a tree, which turned out to be an immature bald eagle. Collin took a few minutes to tell us about the bald eagle at this point. They get that identifying white mark on their head when they reach sexual maturity, generally around 5 to 6 years old. Just before that, often, their tail turns white temporarily.

The last wildlife we saw on this tour was reindeer, which was very cool. There was some natural vegetation nearby, which they like to eat, and we were invited to feed them. Cute little buggers.

The tour concluded with a tour of an old sawmill, in which we watched a video about how it used to operate. We then saw a master carver working on a huge totem pole being carved out of red cedar, with a due date of the end of September. He gave a short talk and demo on what he was doing.

As we walked out we were given a small piece of Alaska red cedar in a bag, which also contains a website that will be available when the totem pole is finished in September. The web site will also contain the story told by the Totem Pole. This is the website, but it did not contain the information at the creation time of this blog entry.

We had about an hour to shop once we got back into town. I checked in with mom and dad by cell phone, and they were nearby shopping. While Vivian shopped, I checked out a saloon, which smelled too much like cigar smoke for my taste, and another combination liquor store and bar, which was a possible place to sit and have a drink once Vivian returned.

As it turned out, by the time Vivian finished shopping, mom and dad had returned to the area, and we were all ready to head back to the ship. The line for the tenders was ridiculously long, and I went up to the front to see if mom and dad could go down by wheel chair.

They said yes, and I went to the end of the line where they were to wave them up front. They came, and I waved Vivian to come too, assuming we'd go down with them.

The guys working up there weren't communicating with each other, and though the one had told me to bring them up, he hadn't told the other guy hepling people start down the plank, so mom and dad just ended up walking down. At least they got to go to the front of the line.

Vivian and I, however, were not invited to escort them, and by the time we walked to the back of the line, it had about doubled itself. It moved pretty quickly though, as each tender held about 120 people.

Back on the ship, we met mom and dad for lunch, and shared our excursions with each other. They did have to do a little more walking than the excursion folks had led us to believe, but their biggest complaint was about a lack of snack during their four-hour outing.

And, they actually had walked up that unbelievably steep and long plank when arriving to the pier this morning.

We all took afternoon naps, and then went to the Observation Lounge on Deck 12 to have drinks, and to listen to Big Band music. It was a little cold in there when we arrived, so we moved from sitting under a fan to over by the windows that are all along the Observation Lounge (hence the name), where the sun was shining in the windows, and it was noticeably warmer.

This turned out to be a very fortuitous move, as after a little while, a whale surfaced just outside the window at which we were sitting. Suddenly, we were very popular, as people rushed over to the windows in our area.

The band was quite good, and this was just a nice time. Dad recognized a lot of songs, and was in the best spirits to date on this trip.

After that, we went to dinner at the Garden Cafe, followed by a meeting in the Champagne Lounge, where we viewed today's pictures on my laptop.

Dad went to bed, and me, mom, and Vivian went to the Windjammer Bar on Deck 6 at around 10:00. Tonight's entertainment included a "sing-along," which started at 10:15. Kezia handed out printed copies of the words to about 50 songs, from which we sang about 20 or 25, I'd say.

It was a lot of fun even if I didn't know several of the songs, and, as a group, we weren't that good of singers. On and off, Kezia stopped singing and played softly to listen to us, and it was pretty pitiful at times.

We had a lot of fun with one song, for which she wanted a "big ending," and we had a hard time delivering one. She worked with us, though, and we finally made her proud.

The sing-along finished at about 10:30 or 10:45, I guess. Christine, whom I had sung with the other night, and who had sung so beautifully on her own arrived at about the third to the last song of the sing-along.

It ended, and Kezia introduced her while there was still a little bit of a crowd there, and she wowed them as she had us the previous night. After a couple of songs, Kezia asked me to come up and sing one with Christine.

I wanted to do one we had done last night, but Kezia insisted that we do a love song. She and Christine chose, "When I Fall in Love." I was scared to death the entire time that Christine was going to go off the melody and harmonize, which would of course derail me from singing the melody, but it turned out pretty well, if I may say so myself.

After that, Vivian and Mom headed down to bed, and I hung out a while longer.

Kezia played a few more songs, and Christine sang a couple more songs. Ron (from the other night, too) sang a couple of songs, and then I requested "Margariteville." Christine said, "Come up and sing it with me."

This time she did veer off the melody in a couple of places, but I actually manged to hold the melody, which was very cool, and made it a lot of fun.

Kezia concluded the night with a beautiful instrumental piece, and then "closed down" at about 12:15, at which time I went to bed.

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