Thursday, September 30, 2010

North to Alaska

I'm sure I've said it before, but it bears repeating: other people's vacations are generally on the dull side. If you, Gentle Reader, choose to skip over this post (and the next two, I'm afraid, though I promise not to inflict more than that), I will not think less of you.

For some time now, the Jamesons had a desire to see the Last Frontier (not to be confused with the Final Frontier, you Trekkies). At the same time, we are not adventurous people and we like our creature comforts. This led to an inevitable conclusion: cruise ship. Specifically, the Silversea Silver Shadow, a small vessel that proved to be an advantage in narrow passages.

We started from Vancouver, itself a lovely town (though substantially more congested than on my past visit, some years ago; sadly, far too many residents drive like they do in Washington, D.C., which is to say aggressively), and sailed past Vancouver Island.

After a day at sea, our first port of call was Sitka, a small town whose economy seemed to be equal parts fishing and tourism. The day was overcast, with a drizzle that occasionally turned harder. Though perhaps it was only a reflection of the weather, the town seemed depressed, and at least one carload of teenagers was less than enthusiastic about having tourists arrive: one threw a smoke bomb that landed at my feet. Hey, I'm leaving already!

The key fact about this itinerary was that everywhere one turned one encountered another spectacular view. If one likes mountains, that is, and I like mountains.

The next stop was Skagway, a tourist town that marketed its gold-mining past. We eschewed the train tour in favor of renting a car to drive the Yukon Highway north into British Columbia and then the Yukon.

The drive wound its way past mountains and gorges, with spectacular scenery around nearly every turn - and, usually, nice wide shoulders on which to park and take pictures.

Lunch (a homemade blueberry muffin) was in Carcross, a sleepy little town with a traffic jam as the highway was under repair.

We made it as far as Emerald Lake, which really did look emerald in color, before turning around somewhat short of Whitehorse.

Though the weather was quite mild, we had an occasional reminder that winters were less pleasant:

I mused on that sign for some time, as it provided no guidance regarding what to do should one encounter a snowplow in one's lane, with a mountain on one side, a steep drop on the other, and piles of snow on the shoulders.

No time to find out the definitive answer to that question, as time was running short. I filled up the car at the only gas station in Skagway, at the eye-opening price of $4.01 per gallon. (The price in Juneau, where there was competition, was around $3.35.) It's good to be a monopolist.

Next: adventures in aircraft!


Fogwoman Gray said...

*grinning* I eagerly await the next installment. Welcome to Alaska!
Fogwoman and Vivito

Rhianon Jameson said...

Thank you both! I realize I only saw a tiny sliver of the state, but it was amazing. But you knew that. :)

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

How lovely! My wife has family in Vancouver and one day we hope to do just the journey you undertook :)

Rhianon Jameson said...

If it wasn't clear enough, I heartily recommend it. The cool factor was very high.