My friend Patty Morrison and I visited Alaska on a sea and land tour June 12 – 24, 2012. This trip preceded web site www.arnoldheller.org and any travel writing interest. The forgotten pictures were recently found and organized into a highly recommended tour using Holland-America.
We flew into Seattle and spent the night there. The next day we took a bus trip to Vancouver to board our big luxurious boat. We settled in to our palacial ship as it headed up the spectacular Inland Passage.
A highlight for me was when our ship sailed into Prince William Sound to observe the Tracy Arm Glacier.
I could hear as well see the Tracy Arm Glacier melting and flowing down into the sound.
Two magical moments for me were sitting in a hot tub at noon watching the mountains on both sides of the Inland Passage while drinking a perfect Bloody Mary, and later that night, eating a gourmet dinner while staring at bobbing icebergs through a huge picture window in the hull.
Our Passage cruise itinerary included two stops, Juneau, Alaska’s tiny capitol, and Skagway, where the land tour portion begins.
We walked Juneau, an attractive little city, in an hour. The small government district is located on four adjacent corners. We explored every shop of interest during this time too.
Juneau can only be accessed by air or sea.
With three hours to kill, we headed for the historic Red Dog Saloon where Ferlin Husky was singing. A fellow tourist asked Ferlin why a big country star like him was playing the Red Dog.
Ferlin answered without blinking. “When your last record sells forty-one copies, you play the Red Dog Saloon.” He blinked and continued singing.
A foody thing to do in Juneau is head down to the waterfront and find a seafood joint that deep fries Dungeness crab. Although partial to steaming them, fried crab is tasty and viewing the pretty bay while tearing crabs apart is pleasurable.
Patty at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau.
Skagway is a nice little town with a large mountain visibly lording over it. The best tee shirt that we saw in a Skagway shop had Texas is Cute printed on it.
We had the same exploration and tee shirt experience in Skagway. After covering the town in forty-five minutes, we and the rest of the cruise ship patronized the wonderful old Red Onion Saloon which at 11 AM that day might have been the biggest pouring bar in the world.
Tourists start the land tour in Skagway by taking a fantastic train trip over a rugged mountain range to reach the wild Yukon. From there, visitors are transported by bus to Whitehorse to spend a day and night.
Patty and I in Skagway. Note the mountain behind us.
Patty is pictured holding the tail of a big fish statue. The Alaskan economy is mainly based on fishing, tourism, and petroleum.
The railroad to the Yukon is an adorable old-style train that barrels through wilderness areas that furnish mind-blowing views of wide rivers, blue mountain lakes, and big animals – mountain goats, Dahl sheep, elk, moose, and others.
I recommend hanging out on the platforms between the cars for the best views which I promise, weather permitting, are memorable. The weather in June is often pleasant too.
The train, after entering the Yukon Territory, is met by a bus that brings tourists the rest of the way in to Whitehorse, a well-developed territorial center full of mining companies and surprisingly good restaurants. You can get even get good pizza there.
Emerald Lake was one of our favorite places in the Yukon. Minerals leaching into the lake create the unique color.
We also enjoyed a visit to a sled dog breeding kennel and watched a team of dogs being trained. The top dog’s cry asserting himself as sled-pack leader can curdle the blood
We toured Kluane National Park (below) in the Yukon located near the Alaskan border and spent the night at the Beaver Creek Lodge.
Due to many large potholes, the bus can only proceed at about forty to fifty miles an hour on the gravel Al-Can Highway. In Spring the swelling permafrost throws off pavement like sheets of paper.
The tour took a group picture upon reaching the Alaska state line. Patty and I are center- right in the middle row.
We headed to Fairbanks, population 95,000, where we first visited the famous Santa Claus Store in Christmas-themed North Pole, a tiny suburb. If you like Christmas, you are going to love this place.