Our final port of call-Ketchikan

DSC_3245_tonemappedIt’s time I conclude the final post on our May trip while I can still remember the details. With the continual creating & shipping of my driftwood furniture the keeping up with my journalism endeavors has been sorely neglected. DSC_3247_tonemappedOur final stop before heading back to Vancouver & then home was to the port city of Ketchikan, the southernmost city in Alaska. The excursion that we chose to go on was the spectacular Misty Fjords National Monument, lying just 22 miles east of Ketchikan & is a natural mosaic of sea cliffs, steep fjords and rock walls jutting 3000 ft straight out of the ocean. Extending 2.3 million acres across Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords is the largest wilderness in Alaska’s national forests and the second largest in the nation.

DSC_3258_tonemappedThere’s 2 ways to experience the beauty of this wilderness-by seaplane or by boat. After reading about a tragic plane accident that took the lives of some Holland America passengers last year, we decided the boat ride was the way we wanted to go.DSC_3390The air was chilly, the skies were crystal clear & the views were breathtaking, including the chance encounter with a small pod of orcas or killer whales. DSC_3328

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For the next couple of hours it was just the wonder of soaking in the splendor of this landscape.DSC_3518_19_20_fused

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DSC_3531A few seals just catching some sun as we all scrambled to take their pictures.

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DSC_3578_tonemappedFinally back to our floating home for the week to board & enjoy one more night before returning to Orlando. A truly remarkable & memorable time to spend with my family & to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

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Our Alaskan cruise-Glacier Bay

DSC_2842_tonemappedIn preparing to go on our cruise, I researched & became familiar with what to look forward to on our excursions into Juneau, Skagway & Ketchikan. What I didn’t anticipate was what turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip….our daylong venture into Glacier Bay National Park. As late as the 1700’s the whole of Glacier Bay was choked with ice but by 1879 had retreated almost all the way up the bay, a distance of 48 miles. What was carved out was deep sheltered fjords which has become the highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage & allows large cruise ships to give it’s passengers a spectacular view of the landscape. Due to the day being so crisp & clear we were able to sit on our balcony & absorb as much as possible.DSC_3196_7_8_fused

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DSC_2994_tonemappedAn adventure boat preparing their guests to kayak for a more intimate view of their surroundings….I was a bit envious of that one.

DSC_2931_tonemappedFinally we approached the end of the bay & for an hour the captain slowly rotated the ship so everyone could take in Margerie Glacier from the comfort of their own balcony.DSC_2842_tonemapped

Margerie Glacier is categorized as a tidewater glacier, one of eleven remaining in the park, with eight in the bay and three on the Pacific Ocean coastal area of the park. A tidewater glacier is one whose terminus encounters seawater at least at high tide, if not at all tide levels. Margerie Glacier and six other glaciers have termini that are fully submerged at all tide levels. It  has a total height of 350 feet of which 250 feet rises above the water level and 100 feet  is beneath the water surface. Like many glaciers it contains moraines which appear as dark areas composed of dirt, stones and larger rocks mixed in with the ice and transported downstream to eventually be ejected from the glacier’s terminus. The glacial ice appears blue as a result of the absorption of red, orange, yellow and green wavelengths of light and, consequently, pools of meltwater on top of the glacier will appear bright blue. It is also one of the most active glaciers for ice calving.  As a glacier calves it makes sounds similar to gunshots from the cracking of the ice and the release of trapped air, then a roaring boom as the ice tumbles down into the sea. The locals refer to this as “white thunder”.DSC_2858

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DSC_2873_tonemappedOne of the lenses for my Nikon is a 150-600mm which is quite heavy to handhold & obtain clear focused images but mounted on a tripod it was ideal for capturing a burst of large sections of ice breaking away from the glacier & splashing into the sea.DSC_3011Resting on the ground was one very large blue ice cube.

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DSC_3165_tonemappedLeaving the bay was a great time for Nikki to enjoy an ice cream cone while I just wanted to kick back & appreciate all that we just had witnessed.

 

Our next & last stop before heading back to Vancouver…..Ketchikan & Misty Fjords National Monument.

 

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Our Alaskan cruise-Skagway

DSC_2587_tonemappedSkagway is a small Alaskan town but is a very popular destination for the cruise ship industry as more than 400 dock there yearly. It’s also home to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The railroad was completed in 1900 during the Klondike gold rush days & was the primary means of reaching the goldfields. It climbs 20 miles up 3,000′ of elevation & offers some spectacular views while riding in old vintage rail cars. In between the cars were the platforms that you see in the old western movies & that’s where I perched for the entire trip. It got a bit chilly but it was worth it to capture the scenery as the train slowly made the climb to the top & then back down.

DSC_2599It was a short walk to hop on as the train was parked right outside our balcony.DSC_2250_tonemapped

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DSC_2393_tonemappedAs we approached this old wooden trestle bridge I was a little nervous that we were going over it until I realized it has been abandoned & is now in disrepair.DSC_2418_tonemappedThe top was blanketed in snow, the skies were bright blue & the cool crisp air was magnificent. DSC_2508_tonemapped

DSC_2513A few other souls ventured out on the platforms to take pictures but most of the time I just had to share the small space with Nick.

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DSC_2608_tonemappedBack on board & still taking in the beautiful landscape.

DSC_2641The excursion up this historic pass was a highlight & would definitely recommend it, especially if photography was a passion.

Next up was a slow cruise into Glacier Bay.

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Our Alaskan cruise-part 1

DSC_1691_tonemappedIt wasn’t my intention to take so long to follow up on this part of our adventure, but between the oppressive heat & the need to get a number of orders crated & shipped, I never got around to posting anything new.DSC_1637_tonemappedAfter a very scenic train ride along the coast from Seattle to Vancouver we boarded the m/s Noordam, of the Holland America line. As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, this was the first time for Nikki, Nick & I to be on a cruise ship & needless to say we were impressed by all the amenities & especially the food. It was like being on a 5 star hotel with a constantly changing view from our balcony. I had booked a couple of nice suites, but at the last minute Nick & Alexis surprised us with an upgrade to the deluxe accommodations (now totally spoiled for any future cruises).DSC_2667_8_9_fused

DSC_2693_4_5_tonemappedBetween the 2 suites we had 40′ of balcony to enjoy the inner passage from Vancouver all the way to Alaska so relaxing on deck was quite enjoyable as the sun arose at 5 AM & didn’t set until 10 PM.DSC_1804_tonemapped

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DSC_1956_tonemappedOur first city of departure was Juneau, Alaska’s capitol & accessible only by boat or seaplane. Of the many excursions that were offered, Nikki & I decided to go whale watching & visit the Mendenhall Glacier while Nick & Alexis were more adventuresome & went sea kayaking.DSC_2076_tonemapped

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DSC_2197_tonemapped                                                                                                                                                                                           Mendenhall with the “blue ice” glaciers are known forDSC_2194_tonemappedMendenhall Glacier falls, a 100′ wide rush of water that cascades 300′ from Nugget Creek which in turn is fed by Nugget Glacier. We wanted to make the hike to the foot of the falls but were afraid we wouldn’t get back in time to catch the bus back to our ship.DSC_2204_tonemapped

DSC_2217_tonemappedWas hoping to see some bears but had to settle for a porcupine. At least I could get close without the fear of being mauled.

DSC_2174_tonemappedAlaska has a very large population of eagles, so spotting them was always a treat.DSC_2096_tonemapped

DSC_2219After a little snack of king crab legs it was time to get back on board & set sail for our next port of call…Skagway.

 

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Rialto, Ruby & the Ridge

Ruby beachAfter exploring Lake Crescent on the day we arrived, the next day we made our way over to the beaches & coastline the Olympic Peninsula is known for. There are many of these treasures, but we picked 2 of the most recognized ….Rialto & Ruby Beach. It didn’t hurt that these were also the easiest when it came to traversing our way to them. In my never ending search for anything driftwood related, I’ve been particularly fascinated with the amount & size of the logs & root systems that find their way to the shores of the Northwest coast. DSC_0916DSC_0885_tonemappedThese trees are actually known as drift logs & are found as far as the eye can see & in some places are stacked like cord wood. Western red cedar, Douglas fir & Sitka spruce are the signature trees of this temperate rain forest & these monsters make their to the beach when huge winter storms cause rivers that flow through the forest to flood and trees on the edge can topple in. After a time the bark will rot away, the wood will become smooth & turn to a silver gray patina. The majority of the driftwood was certainly nothing I could use for my furniture but it was definitely a treat for the eyes.DSC_0695_6_7_tonemapped

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DSC_0667_tonemapped                                                                                                                                                             A dining table for 50?

DSC_0992_tonemapped                                                                                                                        Now this one I could use, but Nikki said we couldn’t bring it back.

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DSC_0872_tonemapped                                                                                                                     Apparently logged upstream before the stump made its way to Rialto.

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DSC_1081_2_3_fused                                                                        At the mouth of the river. Must be quite the spectacle when it’s raging & these giants are tumbling down to the beach.

DSC_0938_tonemappedAlso of particular interest were these giant rock formations known as sea stacks. As I came to find out sea stacks are blocks of erosion resistant rock isolated from the land by the sea. They began as part of a headland or sea cliff but relentless pounding by the waves eroded the softer, weaker parts of the rock first, leaving harder, more resistant rock behind. This would also explain the trees that continue to flourish on the larger sea stacks. Obviously, there has been quite a bit of erosion over a long time period as some are hundreds of yards offshore. DSC_0716_7_8_fused

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Reluctantly it was time to leave, but I did have to stop at this roadside display on our way back to the lodge. For a mere $1900 I could have this magnificent root system to display in the yard of my shop.DSC_1106

DSC_1099                                                                                                                                          We almost even share the same first name.

Although we didn’t have time to visit all that Olympic is known for, we did manage to make our way up to Hurricane Ridge (named after the hurricane like winds that occasionally blow through). At the top, most of the trails were closed due to snow which I thought made it more interesting.DSC_1315

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It was now time to catch the ferry back to Seattle at Bainbridge Island but due to the incredibly clear day, Mt Ranier was clearly visible looming over the city.DSC_1358_tonemapped

Next…..catching the train to Vancouver to board the m/s Nordham departing for Alaska.

 

 

 

 

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