“Captain, There Be Whales Here!”

(Scotty in Star Trek, The Voyage Home)

DAY THREE – Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Up at 7 AM; by 8:25 AM, we were whale watching! The Captain’s announcement that a large pod of hump-backed whales was in the vicinity came just as we were sitting down to breakfast – we ate with more-than-usual haste and made a dash for the Navigator Nightclub (our favorite viewing location, even when they’re not serving libations – LOL!) The whales put on quite a show; none breached, but there was a wealth of tail-fin sightings and spouting. By the time the pod had passed us (or we passed the pod?), the Captain estimated 15 to 20 whales. Very cool way to start the day!!

It was a lazy morning – no rush, as we weren’t scheduled to dock in Juneau until 1 PM. I tried to push the first vacation blog, but had a disagreement with my wireless connection to the ship’s internet (LOL! Yep – when you bring a computer, you’re bound to bring problems!). I went through the Juneau portion of the ship-board shopper’s guide, ear-marking bargains and free gifts from various stores, Tom & I did more ship reconnaissance, and Ah, yes. . . . .I also went back to the shop aboard Mercury and bought the beautiful, fiery opal bracelet that I could not get out of my mind; it’s a spectacular souvenir.

At 1 PM, we watched from the bow as Mercury docked in Juneau, Alaska’s Capitol. (The Governor’s travel budget must be generous, as he cannot leave the capitol except by boat or plane! You cannot “drive into Juneau” from anywhere!) While waiting for the port authorities to clear us for disembarkation, we watched several bald eagles put on a breath-taking aerial display. They are beautiful birds, and normally not this easy to view. We even identified a pair and their nest high above the town – a sighting confirmed by a clerk during our shopping and sight-seeing in town. There were many tours (fixed-wing flights and helicopter tours of the Tongas National Forest or nearby glaciers, hiking, etc., but we opted for less rush and more ambling. Good thing, too – we did enough “ambling” that my feet barely carried me back to the ship!

Late-seating dinner in the main dining room (8:30PM) occurred before I had recuperated from our hike – umm, amble -, so we had room service. Delicious, but I imagine our table-mates believe we were stranded on a glacier or left behind in Juneau! Tom received Father’s Day cell phone text messages from Shan & Thomas – we’ve really managed to stretch out the celebration of the day!

DAY FOUR –Monday, June 18th

Hehe, not so leisurely a morning, today! Mercury arrived dockside in Skagway at 7 AM, and we received a (unrequested) wake-up call at 6 AM. It DID get us up and moving early enough to watch the docking maneuvers, but I wonder about the person who requested the call. . . . .when did he/she/they awaken?!

We were the fifth ship into port in Skagway and tied up at Ore Dock, which meant we had a Really Looong Walk into town! (Last time, prophetically, we were tied up at Moore Dock.) Fortunately, Skagway packs its charm and architecture (not to mention its shopping opportunities) into a five block long main street. The entire town, home to 20,000 souls at the height of the Klondike gold rush, now occupies only a 5 block by 20 block area. (Current population: 800 to 1000, depending on your source of information.) That may not sound like a promising source of several hours’ entertainment, but the town is packed with one-of-a-kind structures, fun sites and prospecting lore. Tom got a couple of good photos of the “main oddity” in town, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall. Its entire exterior is covered with logs and sticks, some forming intricate patterns and others seemingly slapped on at random! There is one common theme in all the towns I’ve visited in Alaska; flowers boom abundantly in hanging baskets, window boxes, store-front planters and private gardens – when winter loosens its grip and the short growing season arrives, the gardeners get busy! (10 years ago in Homer, AK, our friend Eva Asbury hauled me to three or four nurseries in one day – spring was here and time was flying!)

I had a wild, totally imprudent idea of taking a horseback tour of the surrounding area. Fortunately (for my well-being and Tom’s general comfort, our foray into the shops took up the time that plan would have needed. We had seen the Trail of ’98 Museum on our first trip to Alaska – it’s a “must see”, but took up much of our time ashore then; this time, we concentrated on the native arts shops and watching the local characters. Skagway lived up to its’ name on our return trek to the ship – dubbed The Place of the North Wind by nearby tribes, there was an amazingly strong (and cold) headwind to battle ! Not sure which I was holding more tightly; Tom’s arm, or my Hanger Hotel baseball cap, which was attempting solo flight the entire way! LOL.

Back aboard, there was time to enjoy our new (calorie laden) addiction, Aspen Coffee and roam the shops again before dressing for dinner and attending an incredible show in the Celebrity Theater. Jean-Claude and Gaby are both classically trained ballet dancers, and much more. They have choreographed an amazing mélange of dance and aerial acrobatics which takes your breath away – some elements of their performance seem totally impossible, others are simply amazing as they fly directly over the heads of the audience! After the show, we joined our merry band for dinner at 8:30PM, and didn’t leave the table until almost 11 PM!

A final stop in the Navigator’s Club for Aspen coffee and a twilight view of the water, and we called it a night. Well, tried to; I had overdone things a bit, and my left shoulder “discussed” this with me until 3:15 AM. (I see a nap somewhere in tomorrow’s plans!) Fortunately, tomorrow will be spent cruising to Hubbard Glacier and beyond – no shore excursions and shoulder bags to carry.

More later – hope everyone is well. A bit of news (storms and flooding in Texas) has reached us in our somewhat isolated locale.

2 Responses to ““Captain, There Be Whales Here!””

  1. Shannon says:

    All is well here. The Texas flooding you’re hearing about is, at least prior to Wednesday morning/afternoon, limited to NORTH Texas. We did see heavy rains in San Antonio all day Wednesday, including a wicked lighting and rain shower.. but none of that nasty downdraft wind we had before you left, and no damage to your neighborhood or ours (but watch for new potholes coming home Friday night, as more rains are in our forecast!)

    Love the travelogue and hope you have your USB cable so you can throw a photo or two over to your Flickr account while you’re underway… that, and you could email our photo frame — yours or mine, I’ll see both. :-)

    Love you both and am so glad you are taking this trip. Continue to enjoy!

  2. Jerry (Justin\'s Mom) says:

    We have enjoyed your travel journal very much – are looking forward to the rest of it. Hopefully we can visit Alaska soon. You are a great writer!

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