Equipt's Alaska Solo Trek June/July 2014

cruiseroutfit

Supporting Sponsor: Cruiser Outfitters
Love the shorts Paul!

Opposite ends of the globe but we are both standing in snow wearing shorts :D

Keep up the great reporting.
 

thelal

Observer
Meet up with Paul + Troy off the ferry in Bellingham and had b'fast.
Great info and chat regd trips, equipment and do's/don'ts
Nice rig!
Enjoy the Mariners game in Seattle - guys
Hope the rest of the trip goes well and safe
 

Willman

Supporting Sponsor - Sierra Expeditions
That Heli trip looks like a pretty breath-taking ride! Nicely done! I'm with Kurt....Nice shorts!
 
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Equipt

Supporting Sponsor Presenting Sponsor of Overland
Juneau farewell/welcome

Juneau farewell/welcome
Mile 7000

Sunday July 6th was a sad day. My sweetheart boarded a plane at 6:00am, heading back to Prescott. We said our farewells, and off she went. I am certain she had as good a time as I did. It was great to have her with me on this adventure, if only for a short while. I missed her by 6:10am.

Troy Bignell arrived at 8:00am on July 7th. Seeing that we were boarding a Ferry bound for Bellingham WA in 16 hours, we had a lot to do. First we went to the Mendenhall Visitor's Center for a quick mosey to the falls. He mentioned that he wanted to see the ice caves on the west side, so we prepped our packs and headed down the trail. I had done most of this with Heather already, and it is a fun hike. I was sad that Heather and I had not made it to the ice caves, so I was more than ready to get back out there. Troy and I are of similar stature. Fairly tall and a quick gate to our walk. We made pretty good time and reached the caves in about 2 hours. Oh my. The ice caves were intense. We were told that we shouldn't go too far in, as the ice was unstable. So we only ventured in about 25 feet. Being in the blue is much different than looking at the blue. Much smoother and iridescent. An underground river ragged further down the cave, carrying water down to the lake below. Jagged cuts through the ice let sunlight in. I am glad we made it out there. A memorable experience for us both.

Ice Caves 1.JPGIce Caves 2.JPGIce Caves 3.JPG

We made it back out of the trail and headed into town. Our next goal was to take the aerial tram to the Mt Robert scenic overlook over 1500' up from downtown Juneau. It gives you a very broad view of the Gastineau Channel, with vistas of Douglas Island and you can watch sea planes land in the downtown water way. We took the tram back down to town, and immediately proceeded to the final tour of the day for Alaska Brewing Company. A quick van ride from their gift shop downtown to their brewing facility, and the tour was underway. It was great to hear about the success of the company and the unique challenges they face brewing up here. The samples were very good too. Back to town, and a bite of dinner at The Hangar wharf side. Not a bad day, but not over either. Our ferry was scheduled to load at around midnight, and we needed to get provisions. We made it to the loading area around 9:30pm and it was pouring down. We rolled out the awning on the truck, and immediately became the respite for folks in the gathering vehicles and motorcycles lining up. We met some great people there in the rain. We boarded at just after 1:00am, and immediately went to bed. A good, long day done.

Tram 1.JPGTram 2.JPG
 

Equipt

Supporting Sponsor Presenting Sponsor of Overland
Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska Marine Highway
Mile 7040

It’s time to change the mode of transportation up a little. We boarded The M/V Columbia ferry right around 1:00am Monday night. After close to 4 hours in a rainstorm in the parking lot, climbing into bed in our 2-bunk berth felt great. This is our home for the next three and a half days. The Columbia is the largest ferry in the fleet, some 418’ long. There are several options for accommodation. You can purchase a berth that has several bunk beds and a bathroom, or you can set up your tent on the back deck, or crash on array of plastic deck recliners in the solarium at the top back level of the ship. There are 2 levels of vehicle capacity, able to swallow full semi trucks as well as any size RV out there. Amenities include a snack bar, a real bar, a formal dining room, a theatre, kids room, and several indoor observation decks filled with comfy seats. Quite an impressive operation. The Columbia was built in 1974, which made sense when you viewed the décor in the bar. Visualize early 70’s Las Vegas lounge act. I kept waiting for Sammy, Frank or Deano to pop out for a set.

We woke as the ferry docked in Sitka Tuesday morning. The main town was several miles away from the dock, and we were only there for an hour or so. So we opted to stay on the boat. Vehicles off, vehicles on, and off we went for a day of traveling the inner passage of the Alaska coast. Our next stop is Petersburg at 10:00pm. Some off, some on, and off into the darkness we sped. Next stop is Ketchikan AK Wednesday at 9:30am.

Ferry 1 1.JPGFerry 1 2.JPGFerry 1 3.JPG

It rains a lot in Alaska, if you didn’t know. Today was no exception. Every once in a while there was a patch of blue sky through the clouds. They are what I affectionately call sucker holes. And the views from the decks of our ferry were endless. Rocky coastlines and forest as far as you could see. Islands of trees on both sides of the ship, with an occasional fishing trawler or two. By some stroke of luck the skies parted for our arrival into Ketchikan.

Ferry 2 1.JPGFerry 2 2.JPG

Ketchikan AK

Ketchikan was originally a salmon fishing enclave. Largest on the planet at one time. Then the logging industry boom came and went. Now the biggest industry is tourism. They call it “First City”, as it is the first port the northbound cruise ships come to in their Alaskan itinerary. There is the usual port town gift shop fare, but Ketchikan has done a great job of promoting their frontier history. The wharf side has a historical path around town and there are totem pole gardens at each end of the coastline road. We took advantage of the interpretive trail around the quaint little town. The harbor was beautiful, and Creek Street was pretty cool too. Creek Street runs along the mouth of Ketchikan River, and is the notorious red light district of town, with up to 30 brothels in the town’s heyday. That came to a halt in 1954 when such shenanigans were outlawed. Now it’s filled with small retail shops. Back to the ferry by 5, and off we go again. Our next stop would be Bellingham WA, in 37 hours.

Ketchikan 1.JPGKetchikan 2.JPGKetchikan 3.JPG

The skies stayed clear throughout the evening, and left us with a magnificent sunset. Not a bad way to end the day.

Sunset 1.JPGSunset 2.JPG

The skies stayed clear all of Thursday and through the night. We arrived on schedule in Bellingham at 8:00am. Back on "Lower 48" soil. The ferry ride was a great adventure on it's own. A beautiful way to see the coast. That boat ride had been on the bucket list for over 30 years, and it was worth it.
 

SSF556

SE Expedition Society
I had no idea that ferry ride was so expensive....I wanted to do that but may reconsider.

Great story and pics...
 

Dan Grec

Expedition Leader
I had no idea that ferry ride was so expensive....I wanted to do that but may reconsider.
It's way cheaper in the off season, which, from memory is something like ~September to ~May.
Also, when you compare it to the cost of the gas you'll burn making that drive, it's actually not horrible.

-Dan
 
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