Thursday, September 22, 2011

Glacier Bay

Since we would be cruising Glacier Bay on Thursday, we decided to sleep in, so we filled out a menu for breakfast in the room. We scheduled it for 8:45, just before cutoff time of 9:00,  so we could sleep as long as possible.

At 8am, we were all wakened by the voice of an assistant cruise director or someone, coming over the loudspeakers--and one was conveniently just outside our door.  She was pointing out glaciers and sites and educating everyone about what was out there.  With the door closed, we couldn't understand her words, but there was no way we were opening it just to hear.  I'm afraid we were less than grateful, for the first hour or so.

We did turn the TV to the front-of-the-ship channel, so we could see when a glacier was coming up, but we didn't need that.  A glacier was usually preceeded by chunks of ice floating by us.

So we munched our breakfast, taking turns going out on the balcony to take pictures, and coming back in to warm up.

I had my iPhone and my point-and-shoot and would alternate cameras. It was interesting the difference in the color perception between the two.
The bluish tint was the more realistic. I never knew glaciers were blue. I mean, ice cubes are white, right?

Just look at those striations of blue!

Even the color of the water is affected by the runoff from the glaciers.
See the "snow cave" in the center of the picture?

It made me want to explore it!

If you look closely, you can see that same lovely shade of bluish green just to the right of the mountain peak.

That's the same glacier--it flowed down and curved to the sea.

After a couple of hours, we were headed back down the coastline again.

I was trying to figure out what we just  HAD to wash, because we were running out of clothes, and had finally selected about 5-6 items, which would run us about $28.00. Laundry was so expensive on board. After I'd set the bag outside our door, our steward Herbert showed up with a flyer, which was offering a $25.00 flat fee for all you could stuff in the paper laundry bag. Geronimo! More options!

Herbert was a great steward.  Did I mention he does this 10 months of the year?  He's from the Phillipines and only gets to see his wife and little boy for 2 months every year.  When he left for one stint, his little boy was still crawling.  When he got back, the little guy was walking and talking. But the money is good, so he continues. 

One of the other crew members (I don't know what her job was), is saving to open her own motel in an area of her country (again, don't know where) that is a mecca for birdwatchers. I overheard her telling my brother her plans. She said tourists have to jeep in for quite a ways to get to where the best birdwatching is, and she feels if there is a motel closer in, she'd get lots of business.

She and Herbert are so goal-oriented. I have it so easy compared to them.

I spent a couple of hours in the library, because 3 adults in one stateroom can get a bit confining, and everywhere else on the ship was so noisy. In the library, it was quiet and peaceful, with huge picture windows and big soft chairs and sofas. There was a chess game going on in the corner, and lots of kindles to be seen. I was able to log on to the internet for a few minutes to check my email, but spent a lot more time just gazing out at the incredible scenery.

DD and I decided to go down to the Sushi bar for dinner and gorge ourselves, while Jack decided to stay in the room and read or watch TV. He really likes Chinese food, but is not a fan of sushi. I've not had much sushi in my life, and certainly not the really good kind, so I let DD order for us. We had spicy tuna, and some eel, and something called a "caterpillar" roll. I know it had avocado in it, but don't remember what else. It was delicious, though. I discovered I don't like sake, whether warmed or cool, but am totally sold on green tea cake and green tea ice cream. The color was not appetizing at all, but the taste was far better than I expected. I wish I'd thought about taking a picture of it.

After dinner, we went straight back to the stateroom rather than hang out at the piano bar or browse the jewelry sale, because our next stop would be Ketchikan, and excursions would be starting at 6:30 in the morning.  

(Next: Friday = Ketchikan)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Skagway in the Afternoon

After getting Jack settled in the stateroom, I left the ship again and walked the couple of blocks to town--which is about 4 blocks wide and maybe 7 blocks long, but so cute! Bought some gifts for the various kidlets in my life and hunted up the quilt shop. Yep, there is a quilt shop in little Skagway and it's fabulous!  Allyson of Fat Cat Quilts works there, but, as I found out when I visited, only in the wintertime.  In the summer, she's the stationmaster of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway station--which was to be our afternoon excursion. (If you want to see some glorious photos of Alaska, check out her site!)

I succumbed to temptation and bought myself some Northwest and Alaskan-themed fabric:

I loved the fabrics in this kit, but even more, the pattern, so I bought more fabrics to make an additional, different tablerunner. 

AND I bought more animal fabrics to make some quilts for my great-nephews. 

I don't have any particular pattern in mind yet, so I'm sure I'll have to browse their site for more material. Life is hard, isn't it?

This is the snowblower used on the tracks for the narrow gauge railway we would be riding. I understand it is still in use.

There was a wheelchair lift on one of the cars, meaning Jack didn't have to climb steep, scary steps to get onto the train. I was grateful. Watching him maneuver that gives me additional gray hairs.

Once the train got going, several of us got up to get better views from some of the picture windows. My  brother and his wife went outside to the connection between the cars to get photos, but that was just too cold for me.  It was hard to get good pictures, what with the back and forth movement of the train in addition to the forward movement, but some turned out pretty well. 

We were going to be climbing up this mountain range, following an old gold mining trail.

Maybe you can see the thin line where the train was headed:
Looking back over where we came:
Headed up the mountain
Seats lined both sides of the train, but on the right side going up, many times we were inches away from bedrock. I tried to get pictures, but the closeness just made for lots of blurring.

A voice from the speakers overhead pointed out places of interest, explained landmarks, and told once of a bear sighting, but we were so far back in the train, he was gone by the time we reached that point.

As we climbed to the top, amidst the clouds, we saw this old trestle

At the very top is a lake, where the train stopped. The tradition is, on the last tour of the season, brand new guides must jump into this lake, as all the passengers pile out of the train to cheer him or her on. Then the guide must continue the tour back down the mountain. As the last tour of the season is at the end of September, it must be a brutal rite of passage.

As our engines prepared to switch control from front to back, we flipped the seats, now facing them back down the mountain, and all passengers changed sides of the train so that everyone got a change
of view.

Looking back over the town, we could see the clouds had parted and there was sun shining down.

The guide said it had been raining and overcast for several weeks; the last "sun watch" was over 2 weeks ago.

The clouds were piling back in as we reached Skagway. I never did get to meet Allyson.

One last look as we started up the gangplank.

Sleep came easily to all of us that night as we sailed down the coast.

(Next: Glacier Bay)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Skagway, Alaska Part One

Wed. morning brought us to Skagway. Nestled between mountain ranges, I thought it would be warm and protected. Not so!  The valley acts as a wind tunnel, and I immediately regretted not bringing my jacket. I stood behind Jack in the wheelchair at the dock, blocking him from the wind, while we waited for our excursion group to assemble. Suddenly I felt a rain poncho being pulled over my head, and there stood my brother, with another windbreaker/poncho for Jack. It was amazing how much that cut the cold!

Our first activity of the day was a glass-blowing experience. The bus dropped us off at Jewel Gardens and our guide, Nick, took us to the shop, where we donned blue lab coats and goggles, for those who weren't wearing glasses.  We were shown examples of the different patterns we could request: twirl, drapery, "hurricane", and were told to choose either ornament or globe style and up to 3 colors.

Our expert (I've forgotten her name) loaded up a rod with molten glass and dipped it in trays of the colored glass and then inserted it into the furnace, where we were to twirl it around .

If we wanted the drapery or hurricane pattern, we used the "tweezers" to pull and twist the pattern.


Once we had it in a semblance of symmetry, our hostess cupped it in a water-drenched holder and shaped it.

As she did, we were to blow through a mouth piece to "inflate" it, like a balloon.
Then she clamped it to seal it off.

Next, she took another rod of glass and melded it to the top of the sphere to make the loop, if you wanted an ornament.

Once done, you got a quick shot at a "photo op" before the ornaments were placed in a 900-degree oven to slowly cool.  In the morning, they would be removed and packed for shipping to our homes.

Once all 6 of us had had our turns, she made a large bowl, based on the colors all 3 couples chose. Frank started off with orange, the next couple chose white, and I really wanted to go with black (Halloween!), but I hesitated to allow Jack to choose for us. The gal jumped in and said "Cranberry makes a nice combination", so cranberry it was.  We had the option to buy the bowl at a discounted price, but none of us wanted it. Now, if I'd said black.....

The finished product:

After this, we were taken through a gorgeous garden, where glass "flowers" and globes bloomed next to brick paths and nature's pride.  Those bluish purple flowers in the center are glass. (As usual, you can click on the photo to enlarge).

I couldn't believe how many gorgeous flowers and gardens we saw in Alaska.  For a place that didn't get a lot of sun, it was so colorful.

I think these were called "goats beard".

As part of the excursion, we were taken to the tea room and given a "girly" lunch, as my brother put it.  First there was a mushroom and tarragon soup.  I loved it, so Janell gave me hers. Frank pushed his away after a sip.

Then we had a delicious veggie quiche.  Janell gave hers to Jack. Frank ate a bite or so, and pushed his back.

Dessert was a rhubarb something, not a pie, but something soft and luscious. Janell ate hers, but Frank was grumbling about needing a "corn dog on a stick."  The other couple felt the same as he. My brother looked at me and said "I know you weren't raised like this."  "No," I told him.  "I overcame MY upbringing!" lol

The iced tea was made from rosehips. I thought it was wonderful, but Frank was shaking his head. It definitely wasn't Southern iced tea. I mentioned that it would probably be delicious hot, so Nick got me a cup of hot tea, and yes, it was just as wonderful.  Everything we ate was from their own gardens, and I wish we'd had more time to tour them, but we only had a few minutes to go through the shop.  I started to buy a cute glass-blown mushroom to put in my own garden, but then I found this:

 a glass-blown pumpkin!  I had to have it for my growing collection.

After a snafu with the van they sent for us (Jack couldn't get into it), they sent another and took us away. My brother and sister-in-love and the other couple got off in town (I know they were looking for someplace to eat!) but Jack and I were dropped off at the ship. Our next excursion was later in the afternoon, so he decided to rest awhile and I grabbed my jacket, because I wanted to explore this little town.

A week later after we arrived home, our ornaments were delivered.

Jack's ornament:


I can hardly wait for Christmas to display these!

(Next: Afternoon in Skagway)