I suspect this summer will go down in Idaho and Montana history as "A Wild Fire Summer"
The Rockies Mountains have virtually gone up in smoke. The firefighters, men and women alike, along with the college students and National Guard, have spent the most exhausting hours possible, as they fought to contain Idaho and Montana fires that have necessitated federal aid. The military were flown into areas such as this to assist those already exhausted trying to contain the fires..
Near our home in Jerome there was a particularly fierce fire that swept across a pasture and inside of 10 minutes killed 60 head of cattle. The wild life in the forests have been downed and we wonder how those who have survived will feed this winter. Even those of us living in the valleys have been tormented by grass fires destroying field, homes and cattle. Our lungs have been laboring as we tried to exist in the smoky haze. Those of us who already had allergy problems had to resort to more medications and in my case staying in the house where the air could be cleansed with air cleansers. Thank the Lord for this type of equipment. ...even so, the paper has been full of those who just could not cope.
Finally the moisture, both rain and snow came to the rescue, and the college students who had deferred going back to school to fight fire could return to school. The fifth of September found us all breathing better and the media was announcing that the moisture was putting much of the fire to rest. We were able to leave Idaho and begin our trip to Alaska. I had thought over and over that we would have to cancel. ...however, as we winged toward Anchorage we were aware rain and cold weather was predicted. The salvation from Wild Fires in Idaho, came out of the north and we were flying into it on our way to Alaska.
The many books I have read about Alaska have given me a smattering of knowledge about Alaska. Here is a site that introduces Alaska through the eyes of Jack London's and other Authors.
Alaska ...one has to experience Alaska to appreciate the majesty of it, even in the Fall like weather. We have returned home after having a most marvelous visit to that State. What can one say after having stood in awesome places?
As the song writer put into prose,
"Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
consider all the worlds thy hands have made ,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
thy power through out the universe displayed,
when through the woods .and forest glades I wonder,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,
then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,
how great thou art, how great thou art,
then sings my soul my savior God to thee,
how great though art. HOW GREAT THOUGH ART.
Our plane, the Alaskan Seabird Flight, took off from Seattle and I realized I was actually going on this trip. As the miles rolled by, we were able to see very little of the scene below. The misty clouds and near storm conditions made the ride a little bumpy. Finally a small portion of the inside channel, we were following north on, peeked through at us, appearing from the mist below and then a large space of sky appeared just in time for us to view our first glacier. A mighty cascade of frozen ice appearing like a beautiful aqua marine waterfall, flowing from a mountain top. It was as though a sparkling jewel had been suspended in time, Vivid aqua blue in appearance the scene unfolded to our awestricken eyes, then once again the view was enveloped in the mists . How tantalizing it was , giving us a preview of things to come.
We went first to anchorage where our Princess Tours Coach collected us, only to deliver us to the beautiful Captain Cook Hotel. We were very comfortably ensconced into a lovely room. As we wandered out on the town that evening we were impressed with the beauty of the city. We ate in a restaurant depicting a yesteryear in the Yukon and the halibut fresh from the icy bay, was delicious. We were in time to see the beautiful teams of Clydesdale Horses from the US, parading through town that evening.
The next morning, 7 Sept. we were gathered up once again as we began our tour on way to the Kanai Peninsula. We went first to an Alaskan Native Heritage Center being newly constructed.. This was a 26 acre site giving us a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the traditional ways of the five Alaskan Native Cultures. It was still early in the morning and the center was just waking up. We walked around a small lake where we saw their traditional types of houses, and were invited into a tunnel like doorway, by a tour guide of the particular tribe depicted. Usually the house was about 1/2 under ground and one had to enter through this small tunnel like door. Customarily they used native Cedar trees hack and hewn into shape using their tools made from bone. The canoes and other boats were constructed from cedar logs and animal skins. We took pictures at a gate fashioned from two Whale Bone Ribs. These towered about 20 feet over head as we stood in the middle.
We then gathered in a conference room and listened to an elderly Eskimo Lady (86ish) reminisce about her yesteryears and explain the tools and culture of her people. She was the last member of her tribe to survive. She had great ancestral pictures of family in tribal regalia and many ancestral memorabilia on display. Sadly the lineage was not written and she was endeavoring to leave their family history from memory.
Next we were off into Anchorage, where we saw Sea Planes and the largest Sea Plane Base in Alaska (probably the US) situated at Lake Hood. The native people have quite a system worked out to have a place to harbor their plane. Space around the lake is critical and they can only lease space for two years at a time. Each family enrolls each member of the family on a waiting list, for a successive two years lease. That way they don't have to forfeit their spot. We did the get acquainted with Anchorage tour as we saw the beautiful town from our tour guides descriptive dialog. The earth quake of 1964 was referred to time and time again as we viewed the areas that it had devastated. We found they were still using the destruction it caused to point places of interest associated with the damaged areas. We remembered it well, ...since Jim had been sent to California from Seattle to help with the damage clean up down there. I particularly remembered it because he did not make it home for Ann's birth in Seattle.
We then continued by our coach to the beautiful Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge traveling along Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm, then through the Chugach National Forest . The driver did a running dialog and told stories. Every time we stopped he came down the isle and counted noses. He told us he had at one time did a visual count from up front and then he missed one person.
"I felt pretty confident counting from up here" he said. "However we got on the way one time and a passenger raised a hand and told me there might be a passenger missing. Sure enough the person who had been sitting near her was not in the seat." I ask "...can anyone identify who the person is who is missing," No one could, so we faced a real problem. Finally a man stood up and confessed it was his wife. "I just figured she could catch the next coach" he said with a red face. "Sure enough we got on the radio and found she was on the coach behind us."
Along the way we were treated to a visit with the Orca Whales as they rolled, dove and other wise frisked around in the lake we drove along. The driver said it was curious that they were out there as they usually were not seen there. The majesty of the Kenai Mountains held our attention as we traveled the 100 miles. The lodge was a Princess Tours property and so all activities were presented by the Tour. We soon realized that the food at every stop would be beyond comparison. Here are some of the salmon recipes we were served. We were presented with a film to watch, the first evening, introducing us to Alaska. The weather had plummeted to 21 degrees the night before our arrival and so we became concerned about our next days activities.
Terry and I had been looking forward to the float trip on a rubber raft. down river from the Lodge. Now we decided to see if we could transfer to a new tour on their agenda, exploring the Kenai Lake instead, by motor boat. It was iffy whether we would be able to rearrange our activity on that short of notice. We finally were able to transfer and breathed a sigh of relief since the morning was cold and raining. The Rain did clear away however and since it was a new inclosed cabin cruiser we were comfortable as we spent several hours communicating with mother nature on the Kenai Lake and observing the Kenai Mountains from the water.
We forfeited our Alaskan Gourmet Snack , promised on the float trip, when we transferred, but were able to see Eagles and Dall Sheep but missed seeing the Salmon, the occasional bear, and moose that make their habitat there. The boat ride was quite rough as the lake became choppy. Terry, who must be careful of her chronically bad neck really suffered after the ride and so had to lie down and rest when we returned .
(I have to confess that I was taking pictures with my digital camera and every once in a while stopped to delete the bad pictures. I was so pleased with my beautiful pictures. Later on in the trip I some way inadvertently damaged the 35 meg disk and can't open it at this point. So I am sending you to Alaska via links to the internet ...so enjoy. We couldn't find a place to buy another disc until we reached Juneau, so I made do with my 8 meg of internal memory)
Mean while Jim and T-Jay had made arrangements to go on an all day fishing trip for salmon. They were out fitted for fishing and ventured off looking forward to a smoked salmon lunch and fishing to their heart's content. The season for pink salmon was just getting to it's end. After they spawn, these magnificent fish then die, since they can't survive in fresh water. Every cast caught a pink salmon and so they caught more than enough. However they caught and released because of the quality of the fish. T-Jay caught a very large King Salmon but he broke the line and it got away. A lady fishing next to him then got her line caught on T-Jay's trailing leader still attached to the salmon. She was able to pull the salmon in and the trophy for the day went to her. Shortly after that T-Jay caught another Silver and was able to land that one. Jim hooked a King salmon but was unable to land it. They had a great day!
The evening was spent exploring on the self-guided nature trail down by the beautiful river and then we viewed an Alaska Nature Video.
The next morning 9 Sept, we were on our way to Seward where we boarded the Princess ship for lunch. Terry was ready to lie down again and so T-Jay, Jim and I were off to see a Sea World exhibit. We took pictures and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon exploring. One little bird called a "Puffin", was the star of the show and did a whirling dervish dance for us. I took three spectacular pictures. Alas they too are on the 32 meg digital memory disk that mal functioned about half way through the trip.
I was able to go out and walk as I was wearing my magnetic insoles and a magnetic patch on my knee. I still can't believe I was able to walk well enough through out the trip to enjoy all but extended walks as long as I walked slowly and was careful not to twist my knee. I was sure glad they provided shuttle service at each town so you could catch a ride when and where you needed it.
Sep 10: College Fjord - Cruising only
Ironically the shipped passed by the College Fjord in the early morning hours and so I have no special memories of that site. We spent the day on the Princess as we cruised the inside channel. A particularly gloomy day dampened us, but not our spirits. The tour offered such a variety of shows, videos, presentations by Michael a young man who had braved 2 years of the wilderness and presented his slide shows with narrative that reminded us of what a close encounter with Jack London, must have been like.
Another speaker, the first woman to win the Alaskan dog sled marathon, came on board and presented a lecture and slide show.
Sep 11 Glacier Bay - Cruising only
I particularly fell in love with the John Hopkins Glacier as our boat snuggled close into the icy front . I took multiple pictures knowing I would have to edit much of it our of my digital camera. Little did I know that the whole 126 I took up to this point would in inadvertently be lost as the 32 meg memory disk mal-functioned. You can see similar pictures of much of what I lost by going to the URL above.
Sep 12: Skagway
The trip on the Whitepass railroad was spectacular. Here again I took photos that are among the lost photos. Please click on the URL to see similar sites. We road in comfort along the opposite side of the canyon from the Yukon Highway. The sheer drop offs as we peered out our windows even made Jim, my construction seasoned husband nervous. The type of rock the rail road was built on is called "Slip Rock", and for a purpose. The moisture makes it's way between the cracks and crevices and then when it freezes, causes the rock to crack away and slip down the slops.
When we returned to Skagway we decided to visit a small museum before going to the ship. They presented a spectacular video with narrative that was made from actual gold rush photos. The White Pass was the undoing of many of the men who so T after Gold. They were required to have a ton of food and equipment before they could go on into the interior. We have all seen the long black line of men and animals toiling over the snow covered pass, in what appears to be an unbroken chain. They were required to make up to 40 trips with the back breaking packs to qualify to go on. A portion of the pass is called "Dead Horse" pass also. There were so many horses killed from overworking them that the trail was literally lined with dead horses. The Gold Rush began in 1896 and by the year 1900 they had built the railroad we were riding on.
When we returned to the Princess, we went to see a magician perform in the late afternoon. His name was Jean BOUCHER (pronounced Boo-shay). He was from Quebec. Since we know some of the Boucher colonials went to Canada during the Revolutionary War, I made it a point to introduce myself. We exchanged Webpage addresses and I came away hoping we could contact some of his family up there. I could see where English speaking clerks in the colonial days of America could try to spell Boo-shay and come up with the transmuted name Basha for the Boucher family.
Sep 13: Juneau
We were able to find a new 32 meg memory disk for my camera while in Juneau and so I was able to take pictures again.
Sep 14: Ketchican