Friday, October 3, 2008

...and then there was Alaska

Well, here I am in the bright, shiny, new world of blogging. I suppose in a way this is like a personal diary...for all the world to see. I don't really know why anyone else would care to read the random ramblings of a quirky southern girl but if perchance you would...welcome aboard.

When I woke up this morning, it was the first time I've slept through the night in two weeks. Why you ask? I don't know, but I think it might have something to do with my most recent trip to Alaska. Something about that place just sticks with me...and the fact that this was a monumentally epic trip makes returning to the ordinary part of my extraordinary life much, much harder.

This was my second trip to that great land this year...the first being this July and also an adventure of magnificently epic proportions. The interior did not disappoint...but that's a blog for another day.

Most recently however, was simply for grins and shenanigans with my best friend in the southeast of AK. When we get a hankerin' for some good ol' fashioned glacial kayaking, cold water snorkeling, crab boat riding, eagle watching fun, we vacate the standard issue surroundings, pack the thermal shirts and the formal gowns and head out west to hop aboard the Celebrity Mercury. This was our sophomore season on the Mercury and just as the first trip two years ago, nothing but good times were had. We made new friends and saw old ones...who regardless of the thousands of passengers that passed through the gangways...remembered us as if we'd never left. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we flirted, we danced the night away. We adored the crew, especially our fabulous waiters Dragan and Serdar, they returned the favor. I won (for a night) $7000 worth of diamonds to drape around my neck. We dared to plunge our bodies into the glacial waters of the Hubbard for the polar bear challenge. We did ever so much more than could be listed in one little blog...and this is just on the ship.

Now, let me regress juuuuust a little. We decided to spend a little time in Seattle before we bolted for our departure in Vancouver. It was the best of was the...well, not the worst of times, but surely strange. Our first night in town, things didn't go exactly as planned and Jenny and I ended up walking the entire length of the city, finding ourselves at the Space Needle around 2 in the morning. We fearfully appreciated the random cat calls and whistles from various cars and narrowly avoided an SUV of what I'm assuming were nefarious scoundrels, who took it upon themselves to be our personal taxi thanks. Sketchy areas of Seattle at night...not the safest venture, but least it's a story. After bumming around for a bit and finding no suitable fun we bussed back to our hotel...but not before being treated to the delightful sight of a drunken man peeing in the alley. Oh Seattle! The next day however, was much, much better.

Through what I would describe as, ridiculous circumstances, I've been fortunate enough to come to know a few of the fisherman from "Deadliest Catch;" even more fortunate to have done some graphic design work for a couple of the boats. Well, Jenny, myself, and a couple of other friends headed down to the Pacific fisherman's terminal to see the ones I knew and meet the ones I didn't. Since they only had about a week before they left out for Dutch it was very nice of them to take the time. Hellos, hugs, and how are ya's were all exchanged. We toured around the Wizard (again for me), I hit my head hard enough to make me curse. Jenny "charted the crab"; and we all wondered and marveled at Arket's multi colored shoes. Lunch took place at The Matador where many photos and videos were taken...then we all dispersed to our random destinations. Jenny, myself, and our friends poked along in Pike Place Market and downtown Ballard, seeing all the things and doing all the things you do at Pike Place Market and downtown Ballard. Good times. Later that night, it was out with a couple of the Wizard guys, a friend of theirs and friend of ours for good conversation at some local watering hole. The next morning was off to Vancouver so I end this little regression and rejoin your Alaskan adventure, already in progress.

Now, let's talk about port. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka. Now as far as the towns themselves, yeah, we browsed around a bit, shopped a little, did the tourist thing, but only the bare bones minimum...time fillers really. You see, the best part about Alaska is Alaska, so take advantage. In Ketchikan, we decided to take the Aleutian Ballad crab boat tour...after watching the guys on TV for so long and getting to know a few of them, we wanted to in some very, very small way experience what they do day in and day out. We were met by Capt. David at the dock and made our way down to the boat where we jogged out a few miles into the misty waters surrounding Ketchikan. There we watched as crewmen Kiwi and Terry brought in pots of crab, adorably dorky Ratfish, angry octopi, and eagles lured with fish. We handled the catch, feeling the sharp spines of the crab and slimy bodies of the fish. We interviewed the crew, I threw the hook and Jenny brought it in...we ran all around the boat, goofed off in the wheelhouse...and possibly made some interesting new business contacts. After our crabbing adventure, it was off to Orca Corn, a small establishment slightly off the main drag that makes the best caramel popcorn I've ever had.

Juneau, the state capital! Yes, I did see Sarah Palin's house...well, the Governor's, I could not see Russia from there. Jenny and I decided the order of the day should be some sweet, sweet kayaking so off we went! We hit Douglas, Alaska and the lake. Once we suited up in our raingear, we were, by we were off, I mean the current in the lake was very strong and steering the kayak was ridiculous for the first part of our journey. Once we got it under control, it became awesome. We were literally only feet away from eagles and harbor seals. Right across from us was Mendenhall astounding site. The cloud cover was heavy but not so heavy that it obscured the view. Overall, it was an amazing day on the water and we didn't even tump the boat! After that we invested a little time with Dragan and some other folks from the crew of our ship at the Viking Bar downtown. Juneau, it's a fun town, especially with the right activities and people.

Sitka. I loved Sitka. I don't know if it was the island aspect or the adventure, but I loved the place. I visited the surf shop, picked up a nice Euphoria shirt ("Euphoria-the first stage of hypothermia") and wondered around taking in some of the Russian atmosphere. When you think of Alaska, you naturally think of snorkeling right? Well, Jenny and I did. We did what is known as a "dry suit snorkel" in which, put on what has to be the most flattering outfit every to grace the human frame. It consists of a fleece onsie over your street clothes, and a waterproof insulated suit with enough bagginess to allow for movement...Stacy and Clinton would be so proud. Granted, if you want to survive your swim, you suck it up, suck it in, and put it on. The snorkeling was awesome. It was a classically gray Alaskan day with a slight wind, you could feel the chill in the water through the suit, but not badly. Once you dip your face below the surface, an entirely new world emerges filled with starfish the size of dinner plates, hermit crabs, kelp forests, nudibranches, abalone, and fish zipping here and there. I was surprised at the heft of the sunflower sea star but also at it's vibrant blues and pinks...who knew what lurked down there! (No salmon sharks or whales today though!)

Our last port of call left my beautiful Alaska behind and dropped us into Victoria B.C...Canada, eh! Victoria was GORGEOUS! The flowers and gardens everywhere were stunning. Now, Jenny and I made a great friend on the cruise named Emilie a Victoria local, and we just walked around town taking pictures and being again...ridiculous. We watched the Snowbirds, I'm not talking about a group of active senior citizens. The Snowbirds are Canada's answer to the USA's Blue Angels, and they were awesome with their aerial stunts. Also, as it turns out, after the failure of the Empire, Darth Vader has taken up fiddling on the main drag of downtown Victoria...who knew?

All in all, the trip was awesome and it left us with memories that we'll always cherish. Sad thing is, this is just the...if you'll pardon the phrase, the tip of the iceberg. We saw things few people will ever see, we did things few people will ever do and we let ourselves enjoy this grand old world that God gave so graciously gave us...who could ask for more than that?

1 comment:

carrie. said...

Yay! for awesome vacation stories! :)
It seriously sounds like you had the best time ever.