We were told it rains about 300 days of the year in areas of Alaska... That's almost 85% of the time. We beat the odds and scored 2 of 7 days without rain.
Of course, they don't mention this in travel brochures. Despite the weather, we managed to experience some really amazing scenery.
If nothing else this trip wet our appetite for a more ambitious excursion to the backcountry in the years to come.
Our route along the "Inside Passage" will certainly remain a special memory forever and I hope that my collection of thoughts and
observations along the way might inspire some of you to experience it for yourself.
All photography in this ensemble was taken by yours truly using a very much appreciated birthday gift :) All photos are available
in high resolution for printing upon request.
"Alright! We're in...Ketchikan?" Nothing too interesting in the city. The cruise ships block any significant view the city has to offer. You can see in this photo that our ship (which was 14 stories and 3 football fields long give or take), is taller than the houses on the cliff. I'm sure that's annoying.
I'm really only including this photo to give some idea of what a beast our boat was. Keep it in mind for some of the other photos where we are parked next to glaciers.
It's obvious that Ketchikan's economy depends entirely on tourism. Locals are super nice, but almost everything revolves around tours, jewelry, t-shirts and other misc. crap that some of you might score for Christmas this year.
Had I known this would be our only sunset without cloudy and diffused light, I would have taken a billion more photos. At sea, if it's clear you'll get a horizon in every direction. It was completely dark to the southwest and this photo is facing northeast. There was an entire gradient from dark to light with a full moon to boot.
Probably one of the most remarkable sunsets I've ever seen.
Actually, I did take quite a few shots. Unfortunately, I discovered later that engine vibrations run up the side of the boat and into the rails. I had used the rail to steady my camera for almost every shot. Short and tight vibrations aren't filtered out by the camera's motion correction, so I ended up with mostly fuzzy shots.
This was my best result, but it's noisy because I had to set the camera's ISO high to work in low light. It should still print pretty well since I have it in such a high resolution.
This was taken at the top of the sky tramway, which was easy to spot when we first arrived in Juneau. It takes you up to the peak of Mt. Roberts where you can hike around a loop for a few miles. Of course,
it was raining and almost impossible to take a photo without getting water on the lens. We were hiking with umbrellas and Karyn made me go first so she could scream and point at me if a bear were to
jump out of the bushes and attack.
That little "boat" in the middle is actually a massive cruise ship heading back out to sea. I didn't catch our altitude, but it had to be about 5-6 thousand feet at least. I know the tallest mountains were about 7-8 thousand. A guide said that being at sea level, that's about as tall as the Colorado Rocky Mountains which are about 5,000 above sea level.
This was at the end of our hike. The trail kept going up the mountain, but people coming back down said there was nothing to see but fog at the top.
After leaving Juneau, I was messing around with my camera a bit--trying to figure out how to take pictures in rain. The sepia filter on my camera actually picked up light pretty well and I got this shot of some random island. No, it was not really this orange.
Later that evening after the rain finally quit. Sunsets take a really long time the further north you go. There's a lot of ambient light to work with that can make for some really wicked looking clouds.
My favorite photo of the trip. This was taken from a moving train and turned out so sharp, I just can't figure it out. I think the light must have been absolutely perfect
for it to have captured so much detail.
We lucked out because we were seated in the last car of the train. This was taken from the rear as we headed away, and it was the first signs on blue sky since we had left Vancouver.
Another picture with amazing detail. The entire train ride was beautiful and I'd do it again in half a heartbeat.
A photo of our train going around a bend and about to enter a tunnel.
Frasier--just on the edge of the Alaskan-Canadian border was where our train ride from Skagway ended. The borders have a buffer zone between them because it was never really decided who owns
This was one of the only blue skies we saw and it was amazing. The purple flowers in the foreground are called "fire-weed" because apparently,
they're one of the first things to grow back after a fire.
Another photo that turned out well of that same mountain. I'm not sure what's going on with these trees.
After we left this area by bus we saw some other really interesting stuff. Unfortunately, we didn't stop to look around, but we passed these
granite fields that were kind of like marshlands. Apparently, it was the remains of a glacier retreat that had crushed granite and left a bunch
of clear water ponds for as far as you could see.
This was one of the first coastal glaciers we pulled up next to--and we almost missed it. Karyn and I were bumming around our cabin all morning because we didn't think there was anything interesting going on.
When heading to breakfast, we found all 3,600 people crammed up against the portside rail taking photos.
A glacier falling into the water is insanely cool. This photo doesn't show it very well, but this glacier is probably about 15 stories high. When a chunk breaks off, it's
lets off a loud thunder and seems to drop in slow motion. It's kind of like watching a 20 ft. wave break from shore. I would occasionally see a bird fly near the glacier
and it would really put size in perspective.
The clouds (as annoyed as I was with them) could get pretty unreal. At one point I wanted to just pack up and go home because I felt like the clouds were
hiding so much of what we were there to see.
Later I realized that we were experiencing Alaska, even if it wasn't what I expected or had hoped for.
It was moments like this that restored my faith in what the remainder of the trip had in store for us.
I shot this focused over the Grand Pacific Glacier. The clouds on the horizon cleared just long enough to see what they were hiding most of our time in Glacier Bay.
BIG mountains. This was the densest area of icebergs we passed through. The water was so still it seemed frozen itself. Our boat would send
out ripples that looked like oil and it would push the ice around.
All of the glaciers in College Fjord are named after Ivy League schools by the scholars that first discovered and studied them.
This is just a close-up of one of the glaciers. The detail of the ice was even more amazing in person. The blue ice really is that blue (especially
when it is cloudy). The more blue it is, the fewer air-bubbles it has.
The "dirt" on top comes from all over the world. Geologists study the layers of dirt because it dates back so far, and supposedly holds records
of every major volcanic incident since the early years of Earth's existence.
I thought this was a pretty interesting looking mountain. You can see the horizontal tearing left by a glacier's retreat. I still can't imagine
how ice is strong enough to tear through rock, but apparently that's what happens.
This is a close-up of Harvard Glacier--the largest glacier in College Fjord. This thing is immense. From the 14th story of the boat it seemed like we were
almost half as tall. I'm willing to bet it was about 25-30 stories tall. Someone said it was about 5 miles wide, but to me it looked more like 2 miles. It's
extremely hard to judge the size of something when you are on a juggernaut.
This is Harvard Glacier zoomed out. If those mountains are even 5,000 feet tall, that maybe puts things in perspective. We kept our distance, but
you could hear thunder in the distance when the ice cracked. A small section broke off while we were watching, but nothing significant.