Tag - Alaska

Ketchikan Totem Pole Carving – An Alaskan Cruise Delight!

Ketchikan Totem Pole Carving

Ketchikan Totem Pole Carving

When our cruise ship stopped over in Ketchikan, Alaska, I wandered up Creek Street, getting the feel of the place. Then I took a city bus out to the Potlatch Totem Park, which a friend had recommended – he had told me there was a great area where carvers worked on native totem poles. As I walked through the park, with massive totem poles all around, I could hear the sound of hammering – slow and steady. Inside a carving shed a woman was bent over a log stretched out horizontally, chipping away with a hammer and a large metal chisel with a wooden handle. I caught the wonderful scent of fresh cut cedar when I walked in the door. I was lucky – there was no one else around.

The woman noticed me, and nodded a hello as I walked over to where she was working. “Hello there,” she said, “my name is Brita.”

“I hope I’m not intruding, but I’m fascinated by totem poles”, I replied.  Looking at the large pole laid out, I was first astonished by the size. “I thought I understood the size of them, but they are much bigger than I realized. This is huge.”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes, this one is in the early stages. It’s about 34 feet tall.”

“Do you mind if I watch you work for a bit?”

“Not at all,” she replied. “It’s nice to have someone interested. The tourists mostly walk up to a totem and take a picture, then go back to the ships. And the young people aren’t as interested any more. We’re losing some of the craftsmanship.” She said it with a wistful smile.

“So how does the process work?” She told me that it began with selecting the proper log to form the mast of the
totem. This pole was part of an old growth cedar forest, and when it blew down in a big storm, the forest service told her about it and helped her get it to Potlatch. She was just beginning the forming process. I noticed what looked like thousands of small chipped places along the log, and she told me they were all handmade etchings. They were part of forming the whole object by hand, and the marks were similar to a sculpture – chipping away everything that wasn’t the figures on the pole. The chisel – she called it an adze – had a wooden handle attached to a small metal blade, which she tapped at with the hammer to cut away the excess wood. I watched in amazement as she cut deftly and surely. This was a wonderful part of my Alaska tour.

“So how do you know what to cut? Do you have a map that you lay out of what the final pole will be?”

She smiled, “Yes, I put together a template in my mind, and then work from that. I can move so quickly at this stage because I have a long way to go to before I taper down to the figures that will be the essence of the totem.”

“I’ve heard that Native American totem poles are a religious object to the local tribes.”

“That’s one of the common misconceptions,” she laughed, never stopping her chipping process. She said the missionaries thought totem poles were religious objects, and sacrilegious to them, and for a number of years had their converts burn their totems. But they were never about religion – locals thought of them more as billboards. They told a story – they depicted a record of history, and were a way to honor the heritage of the people. They were carved by a tribe – Tlingit, Haida – and the symbols were those of the clan who built the pole. At the high levels was typically an eagle or raven, and the human figure at the top was a watchman – to look out for danger to the village.

When I asked how much longer it would be until she finished this totem, she said it would likely be a number of months before they could have the ceremony to raise this pole. I wanted to ask about the ceremony, but looked at my watch, and realized I had been talking with her for much longer than I thought. I shook hands with Brita, thanked her profusely for the wonderful depth perception on totem poles, and went to catch the bus back to the cruise ship. I knew I will come back – I was really enjoying my Alaskan cruise, and wanted to spend more time learning about the totem poles Ketchikan, Alaska had in such abundance.

Margaret (Maggie) Weiss is a high energy, adventure seeking, travel-holic.  She has traveled the globe looking for her next great expedition.  She’s also a mom of 3 beautiful girls and wife.  She loves to write about her favorite places to stay and visit with her family and her most recent Alaskan cruise.  Follow her on twitter @missmaggieweiss

Alaska Blog XXIV- In Denali Park

Denali sled dogs

Denali sled dogs

June 9 to 11

That first day we hiked a trail rated “moderately difficult” to the dog sled kennels. It was uphill and then it was downhill. “Difficult” was the operative word, not “moderate.”

The park maintains three dog teams to keep trails open in winter. In summer they train the young dogs and puppies and give demonstrations every day to visitors. We had a great time looking at the dogs.

On Sunday, June 10, we took the bus to Eielson. You can’t drive in the park. You can hike and bike and camp, but you can’t drive. To see the park, you take the bus. (Well, there is a lottery and a few winners get to drive in the park.) Our bus was an eight-hour round trip, 66 miles. The ticket cost $37 and it was worth it.

The drivers are terrific. Ours paused, said, “Take a look,” and a full-grown grey wolf walked slowly across the road, right in front of us. I was about 6 rows back and I saw him clearly. The drivers have hand signals to alert each other to bears, lynx, caribou, moose, so they can pull over and help the visitors see. The only bear we saw was miles away, in the riverbed. With binoculars you could see him hunting salmon, whirling back, running forward. You could tell how fast he was.

We saw moose and caribou and some passengers saw a lynx. I saw his tail. The caribou were standing in water. I had had no idea how huge their antlers are. At one of the rest stops moose racks were laid out and a couple of men were taking photos holding them above their heads. I couldn’t lift one up that high.

But the park management is the most astonishing. There is such attention to building rest stops that don’t do damage, providing education for all ages at all levels of interest, creating hiking and camping and sightseeing experiences for all visitors.

For example, the visitor center at Eielson is built into the tundra with a tundra mat roof. It uses photo-voltaic panels and a battery bank, solar hot-water heating and a small hydroelectric system in a nearby stream. And the center has a small art gallery.

At the main visitors’ center there is a great book store and at the science center we saw a good film about finding dinosaur remains and gaining better understanding about climate change.

Alaska Blog XXIII-Tangle Lakes and Mining

    AK state bird Ptarmagin

AK state bird Ptarmagin

June 9

As we drove along Denali Highway from Paxson where we camped, we crossed the Tangle Lakes Archaeological district. Artifacts from pit-houses to hand-fashioned stone tools date back 10,000 years. Athapaskan caribou hunters used trails that gold miners used a hundred years ago and hikers use today.

Pure Nickel Inc has laid mining claims across federal and state lands in the Tangle Lakes region. A campaign is underway to create a state wildlife refuge to protect the Tangle Lakes watershed from mining. The map and basic case for protection can be found at savetanglelakes.org.

Generally, Alaska regulates large mining enterprises well. One big problem is the thousands of small claims that may be mineral exploration or may be tax-free vacation homes.

But the Tangle Lakes campaign seeks to preserve land just north of the Denali Highway for wildlife and for human enjoyment.

Questions- Alaska Blog -X

Summer in AK, Cr-kuriositas.com

Summer in AK, Cr-kuriositas.com

Hi, David. Our excitement is building for our adventure with you – I can sense it in all our emails to each other. Below are questions from the group – some questions are more substantial than others. But you can see that we have entered the serious planning phase! We look forward to your answers to help us with our final planning. And I know I can speak for everyone in saying we are fortunate you are willing to be our fearless leader! XO – Julie

P.S. We are not sure how you are going to fit the port-a-potty on the raft, but we are confident you have that figured out. I’ve given up on the generator for my blow dryer.

Hi Julie,

Thanks for sending the questions. h4


1. On the food list there are Xs next to all the items. Does that mean we will have all those items (e.g., snack items including pistachios, GORP, etc.) or should we buy extra snacks – like nuts, dried fruit, etc.?

The Xs indeed mean we will have those items. Based on my experience with this company, I don’t think you will need extra snacks.

2. Can we bring some things like hard cheese to supplement the food?

Yes, but I wouldn’t get too much. The caloric intake in our menu is substantial. Nevertheless, we can always take what we don’t eat home.

3. If we decide we want to bring extra things, should we wait to buy those in Haines/Chitna or get them in Bellingham?

Wait to purchase those extra items in Haines or Hines Junction.

4. We will want beer and wine. Should be wait to buy those in Haine/Chitna or get them in Bellingham?

Lets purchase alcohol in Haines. Its a little more upscale than what awaits us down the road.

5. I think we will bring a cooler on the ferry (per your earlier suggestion). Will we want to get a good cooler that can go on the raft too or a cooler we will leave behind?

Get something inexpensive that meets your needs on the ferry. I will have coolers for the raft–although room is limited. We can make the final cooler decision at our campsite in Chitna the evening before we launch.


1. Is the place we are staying in Cordova called the “Orca Adventure Lodge?”

Yes. they are also picking us up at Flag Point.

2. If so, it looks like there are rooms for 2 and also suites for 3-4 persons. Do you want any help figuring out these accommodations?

I took the liberty of booking two rooms with triple occupancy each ($70). We can change those reservations anytime.  I might sleep in my tent–don’t be alarmed, I like it there and everyone knows me.


1. Day packs for hiking are on the list. Can you describe what the day pack should look like? How substantial does it need to be? Will we use the pack for items we need with us on the raft (like water bottles, glasses, camera) or will we need something else for on the raft in addition to a day pack?

A book bag or something similar will be just fine. I’m not sure what the hiking will be like, although I will do some research. I expect it to be brushy along the river and more open higher up along the river valley. There are interesting historical artifacts for us to hunt for, since the rail line for the Kennecott Copper Mine followed the CR. The state considered a trail over the old rail bed but the bridges necessary over the CR tributaries makes that unlikely.

Anything that cannot get wet will need to be put away. Water bottles should all be out and handy. Small cameras should be in plastic bags (one gal zip locks) and in your pocket. We can access anything during breaks, and if we need to while we’re afloat–although you can imagine it will take some effort to dig out gear while we are underway. I’ll bring a roll of trash compactor bags (the most durable) to line the inside of day packs. Rafting is a little like nesting–you find your spot and situate your day pack and water bottle near by.

We want to avoid lose clutter in the raft because it will likely get wet or blown over board when the wind comes up (every day at about noon).

Roberta has a specific question: “My backpack is my camera bag so I plan to use a fanny pack for hiking food. Also, since I want my camera at hand I have a dry bag just for it. Will my plans work? Roberta”

Great plan, Roberta. Your camera gear will be dry and all together. Your fanny pack will work fine for hiking. If anyone else is bringing an expensive camera or a camera with assorted lenses you should buy a suitable dry bag for that gear. The trash compactor bag liner idea will work fine, but if your camera is expensive, then it makes sense to compliment it with a suitable dry bag.

2. How big are the dry bags? What will we need to put in them (e.g., will we put our sleeping bags and pads in the dry bags in addition to our clothes and personal gear)?

The dry bags need to be big enough for everything that is not in your day pack or in a communal trash compactor bag (TCBs). We will line them with TCBs just to be sure everything stays dry. Yes, pads will go in our dry bags, but maybe not chairs.

I have not yet found the dry bags, but my plan is still to supply them. I thought I would arrange the dry bags to be sure we all have the right product. I know dry bags are available either through the school, as a rental, or something I can borrow from friends. I’ll send everyone a product description so that if you wish to purchase one you know what to shop for. But because they are so specific to rafting, and frankly, so important, I plan to provide

3. You indicated it would be a good idea to have chairs. Do we need to supply those, and if so, what kind? I am thinking of the padded cloth chairs Tom, Will and I used with you on our Alaska trip. These are chairs that sit on the ground with a strap that connects the seat and back – no metal parts. Is the type you have in mind?

Yes, you need to supply them. Chairs without large metal frames that sit on the ground are what we are looking for. Chairs are important for beach life, but if you can sit in the yoga position with your back straight and unsupported, you probably don’t need one. We will spend a lot of time on the beach, hanging around the kitchen stove, reading, snoozing, playing bridge, drinking hot drinks. Chairs are nice.

4. Iodine for purifying water is on the list for us to get. Do you have a recommendation about what specifically or should we just go with what REI recommends.?And how much? I (JM) am happy to get it when I know what and the quantity. h4>

We will use iodine because its simple and fast. You don’t have to treat your water if you are careful about where you fill your water bottle. But the problem is that birds as well as lots of other critters carry giardia and cryptosporidia. The symptoms don’t develop for a few weeks, but when they do they can be uncomfortable–although these diseases are completely treatable with Flagil. I will bring a filter in case any one objects to iodine, but filtering is slow and far from being a sure thing. Silt will quickly clog the filter and I never feel really secure when I’m filtering water.

5. On this list are mug, bowl, and spoon. Is it intended that we each bring our own for sanitary reasons or could I (JM) bring these for everyone since I have enough?

I said bring your own because these days everyone seems to have their favorite travel mug. JM could certainly bring bowls for everyone is she wants. A mug with a top is nice for camping for all the same reasons it is for

6. Will we have a pretty good sense of what the weather will be for the week when we put in on the raft or will it be unpredictable? (I -JM- ask this for planning purposes. If the weather looks warm I will pack an extra pair of underwear or two no matter what David says!)

We might have a weather forecast, but essentially it will be difficult to predict. My concern is that each of you is warm enough to hang out when it gets windy or if it gets rainy. There is a point where we bail for our tents and sleeping bags, but being cold on a daily basis is no fun. Remember, you can bring that extra piece of clothing to Chitna and we can send it back to Anchorage if we decide you don’t need it.


1. Do you want us to send money now? Should we each just be prepared for the expenses he’s described for the trip & bring our cash & credit cards to deal with it along the way?

I haven’t really paid for anything yet. The car is
on my CC, so is the Orca Inn, and the food will be too, but nothing has been charged yet. I think it can all wait until everyone arrives.


1. Will we have time to read on the rafting portion of the trip? (We are trying to figure out how many books to bring…)

Yes, you will do a lot of reading on this trip, including while on the raft, hanging around camp, and in your  tents as well.

I’m excited. A little nervous about the ice on the river, although I expect it to breakup before our trip.

More later,


Looking at the Map VI

Alaska,Cr- Mary Ann

Alaska,Cr- Mary Ann

I had already bought my tickets before I looked at the Google map of Alaska.

First, I followed the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Bellingham, WA, to Haines, AK. It is a four day trip, and I slowly followed the coastline up to Haines.

Then I looked at Anchorage. My brother Dave is driving from Anchorage to meet us in Haines. It is 800 miles! I tried to find the road and track his path. Couldn’t figure it out.

Next I found the Copper River, the border of a huge national forest, the Wrangell-St. Ellas Preserve and Wilderness, flowing into the Gulf of Alaska. But its path is difficult to follow too, around mountains and under snow.

Now, from Haines it would be a day and a half drive to Chitna where we would put into the Copper River. Chitna isn’t even listed in the AAA guide book, nor can I find the road we will drive on. But there it is on the Google map, clearly marked next to the river, how far into the interior I cannot exactly tell.

I can follow the Copper River on the AAA road map but not on Google. There are multiple streams, mountains, lots of snow. I can find Cordova, where we will spend the night at a motel and then catch the ferry to Whittier, sort of a back door to Anchorage, an hour’s bus ride away.

I’m fine at navigating road maps, but the Google map of Alaska overwhelms me. I am astonished every time I look at it that we will travel through this land and over these waters. It demands contemplation.

The outline of the trip to Alaska- V

Alaska, Cr-lerablog.org

Alaska, Cr-lerablog.org

Here is my brother Dave’s outline of the Copper River trip. He sent it to us the day after we bought our ferry tickets. Just to remind you, the group joining Dave include his two sisters, Julie and Mary Ann, and our three friends, Peggy, Roberta and Paulette.

Day 1-4: AK Marine Highway Ferry from Bellingham to Haines.

Day 4-5: David meets group with vehicle and we drive to Chitna (two days, one night. Camp somewhere along the way).

Day 5-6:  Camp in Chitna at the put in. Sort food and gear. I’m imagining gourmet dinners, with beer and wine, lawn chairs, and lots of laughter.

  • We will need a second vehicle (my truck) with two drivers to  meet us in Chitna with the raft and other gear, camp with us that night, and drive both the van and truck back to Anchorage.

Day 6-12:  Float the Copper River from Chitna to Miles Lake near Cordova (million dollar bridge).  Big party on the beach that night.

Day 13: Early morning, a local driver picks us up and transports us and all our gear—rafts, coolers, oars, everything—to the ferry terminal at Cordova where we schlep it all on board that afternoon and arrive at my place in Anchorage that evening. (Cordova is not on the road system, although there are some roads in the area).

Day 14: Using my place as a base, explore Anchorage and South Central Alaska as individuals wish to.

Note: We could shorten this by about two days if we want to. But I recommend we have at least one layover day on the River. There is interesting hiking and exploring nearby. Or if the weather is bad, we might hang out for a day or two.

Expenses will include:

1.       Travel to Bellingham WA

2.       Ferry passage to Haines

3.       Rental van from Anchorage to Haines to Chitna. ($1500 est.)

4.       Two drivers to get vehicles back to Anchorage. ($500 est.)

5.       Group food for about ten days. ($1000 est.)

6.        Ferry passage from Cordova to Anchorage ($150 est.)

7.       Discretionary spending in Anchorage and beyond.

Group Size: We can get eight people in an 18’ raft, six in a 16 ‘
raft. Six is better.

Food: I’ll do the food in Anchorage before I meet you, including meals from Haines to Chitna. At some point I will need everyone’s dietary preferences.

Personal Equipment: I’ll send out an equipment list, but the big items will be rain wear (jacket and pants), rubber boots, and sleeping bag.

Group Equipment: Tents, tarps, dry bags, and kitchen—I’ll take care of it. Should be able to get it from the University.

One word of caution: It could rain for the entire Copper R trip. We will be prepared for that with tons of good food, kitchen tarps to eat it under, tents to sleep in, and rubber dry bags to stow our gear, but each of us needs to be able to get from the beach to their tent site, erect their tent, get inside and out of their wet gear and into their dry sleeping bag. Everyone has to be able to do that. Whoever is still standing can serve hot drinks to the rest of us.

Risk management: We will have a sat phone, but there is no midpoint on the copper where we could get off early. We can get an evacuation anywhere along the river if we need one, but that’s an expensive option. We can use our sat phone to coordinate our logistics, announce a change of plans,  assure loved ones, phone in an evacuation, but the pickup is at Miles Lake…with nothing that between it and Chitna.

This is only the first installment. I’ll confirm the costs and logistics, send out an equipment list, and answer questions as they come up. As we get closer to departure anyone is welcome to call me with questions.

Next blog: looking at the map

Forming a Group- Alaska Blog II

Alaska, Cr-Origonsunshine

Alaska, Cr-Origonsunshine

It is difficult to pull a group together to take a walk. I was looking for a group to take the Alaska ferry to Haines, AK, drive a day and a half to the Copper River, and spend a week in a raft, possibly in driving rain. At least ten women friends told me repeatedly how much they wanted to go to Alaska with me. About seven years ago I pulled down all the Alaska ferry times, told everyone reservations opened January 1, and waited for a response. Nobody answered.

This time we had a plan and some time perimeters. My brother David would not be available until June 1. My sister, if she chose to come, had to be back at work on June 18. The only Alaska Marine Highway Ferry running between Bellingham, WA and Haines, AK that would work for Dave and Julie will depart Bellingham on Friday, June 1, at 6 PM.

Roberta, my housemate, was in. Paulette, an old friend and psychologist who lives in New York, was in. Two friends who live in San Francisco were in briefly until the dates firmed up. Then they were out. Same with a Los Angeles teacher, a sister-in-law, a co-worker. So we were three for sure.

My sister Julie wasn’t sure. Her husband was traveling to Spain. Maybe she would go with him. But she doesn’t like mixing business and vacation. He didn’t want to go to Alaska with us. She didn’t know. And her friend, Peggy, her walking partner, wanted to go, but not if Julie didn’t go.

I told Julie she had until January 1 to decide, when the ferry started taking reservations. Then in mid-December I got an urgent call from Paulette – reservations were open. The inside cabins for four were already all booked.

The ferry is not small. It holds 600 passengers plus cars, bikes, boats. You have to buy a ticket but you don’t have to book a cabin. Some passengers set up tents on the deck. The top deck solarium has chaise lounges and you can watch the sky until you fall asleep. At least this is what I have been told. I’ll know more in early June.

But I figured that women of a certain age would appreciate bunks and our own bathroom for three days. We could get a three-bunk cabin, or for about another $150, we could get an outside cabin with four bunks plus a sitting room. So one of us could sleep on the floor. After all, we will be traveling with sleeping bags and pads. Or we could sleep on deck chairs in the solarium. But we would have reserved space, windows, and a bathroom.

I sent urgent messages to Julie and Peggy and got a call back the next day: they were in! I booked passage. I needed everyone’s passport numbers, dates of birth, middle names, street addresses. I put it on my credit card and emailed our itinerary number. The trip is on.

Things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks- Ak, cr-cameronharter.com

Fairbanks- Alaska, Credit-cameronharter.com

Fairbanks, Alaska is a great place to go for a fall vacation.  Fairbanks is a great place to tour on your own if you wish.  You can pick up brochures for walking or driving tours at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center.  Be sure and do this because the brochures are really helpful.

The walking tour is 1 hour long and will take on a historical tour of downtown Fairbanks.  You will visit the sites of Captain Barnett’s landing, the First Avenue bath house, and the “Row” which is where the prostitution houses were located.

Fairbanks, Alaska is considered the friendliest town in North America by many people.  It does not matter what time of the year you go to Fairbanks you will have a great vacation.  Before the Alaska Highway was contracted Fairbanks was a mining town.  An Italian immigrant named Felix Pedro is said to be the first person to discover gold here in 1902.

Fairbanks has an economy based on oil, gas, gold mining, coal mining, military and tourism.  It is the gateway to Alaska’s interior and the Arctic.

Fairbanks has many things to do.  You can visit the Chena Lake Recreation Area.  The Chena Lake Recreation Area is made up of over 2,100 acres.  The most popular place in the park is Chena Lake.  There is a 259 acre barrow pit whose bays, peninsulas and islands give it a natural appearance.  Chena Lake Recreation Area has much to offer visitors.

Another great thing to do in Fairbanks is to visit the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.  There are over 70 early American cars on display.  There are horseless carriages from the 1800’s.  There are 1930’s classic cars.  You will also see steam automobiles and electric carriages.  There are many other types of cars on display.

Another thing you can do is go see the Riverboat Discovery.  The Riverboat Discovery is the only stern-wheeler in Alaska.  The Discovery III takes people on a half day cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers.  The tours are run everyday.  The Discovery III will take you down the Chena River.  You will see old homesteads along the river bank.  There are also many modern homes.  On your return trip you will visit the Old Chena Indian Village.  This trip is one you will not forget for along time.

Another thing to do is visit the Wedgwood Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are 1 ½ miles of walking trails.  They will take you through a forest area.  It will take you around Wander Lake.  The trails are wheelchair and stroller accessible.  There are places to rest along the trails.  You will see over 100 species of birds, 15 mammals, 3 kinds of fish and many different kinds of plants.

There are so many things to do in Fairbanks any time of the year.  You will love your fall vacation in Fairbanks.

Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska



Alaska was first settled by the Russians.  In 1867 the Russians sold Russian America to the United States.  In 1913 construction was started on the Alaska Railroad.  Ship Creek Landing in Anchorage was the railroads headquarters.  Anchorage is also a very popular cruise ship port of call.

One of the must things to do in Anchorage in the fall is to visit the Alaska Zoo.  The zoo is open year around.  The zoo has over 100 animals on exhibit.  There are polar bears, brown bears, black bears, tigers, moose, wolves, snow leopards, lynx and caribou on exhibit to name a few.  There are also ravens, eagles, hawks and owls.  Tit is located on a 20 acre park.

Another thing to do is visit the Anchorage Museum.  It is considered one of the most popular attractions in Alaska.  The museum has 600 Alaska Native artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institute.  There is a planetarium and an Alaska Native contemporary art gallery.

Going to Potter March is a great thing to do if you like bird and wildlife watching.  From April to October you will see Canadian geese, pintails, canvasback ducks, red necked phalaropes, horned and red necked grebes and northern harriers.  You can see gulls, Arctic terns, shorebirds and trumpeter swans from May to August.  You will also see moose and muskrats.

From the bridge on Rabbit Creek you can see Chinook, Coho and humpback salmon.  Potter March is one of the best places to watch wildlife in Anchorage.

Another great thing for you to do is visit Far North Bicentennial Park.  You will find great adventure here.  There are no marked hiking trails but you can explore the park on foot.  It will be a fabulous experience.

Another thing to do is visit The Alaska Native Heritage Center.  You will learn about Alaska’s 11 major culture groups.  There are story telling, Native song and dance and artist demonstrations.  The Alaska Native Heritage Center is located on 26 acres.  There are 6 authentic native dwellings to explore.  The tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center lasts 2 to 4 hours.

Another thing to do in Anchorage is visit the Sourdough Mining Company Restaurant.  It is a replica of an old mill house.  This is a great place to eat.  They serve Alaska Seafood, Barbecued favorites, salads and sandwiches.  You can enjoy an after dinner drink at the Creek side saloon.

After dinner you can go to the Tent City Theater.  You will watch the adventures of Dusty Sourdough.  Song and story telling will take you back to the gold rush days.  You will enjoy it.

Climbing Mount Roberts, Alaska

climbing Mt Roberts, cr-tripadvisor

climbing Mt Roberts, cr-tripadvisor

Most Accessible Coastal Mountain to Juneau

The trail starts just above the northeast edge of town within walking distance from downtown and the harbor and rises steeply through forests and tree line to 3,819 feet. The four and a half mile trail to Mount Robert’s summit begins just above the Russian Orthodox Church on 6th Street in a dense forest. The hiker could easily walk to the trail head from his hotel or ship within minutes. The starting point of the Mount Roberts Trail is perhaps 100 feet above sea level where there is a register for hikers to sign. The best times to climb Mount Roberts are late April through late October (the driest month). There are no man-made hazards on this four and a half mile trail, but be aware that sudden heavy rain storms can develop quite quickly over Juneau during the climbing season and having rain gear is a necessity. The worst times to climb this coastal mountain would be from early November through late April, the snowy season. Once the hiker is under way, she will enter a very dense sitka spruce forest.

Be Aware of Stinging Devil’s Club

Once in the dense forests, the hiker should not touch devil’s club plants that may line the early part of the trail. They have big broad leaves that are lined with pointy spines which can easily enter deep into the skin. There are no other hazardous plants. In addition to sitka spruce, there are hemlocks, yellow cedars and alder trees. The undergrowth of this forest consists of, as mentioned, devil’s club, ferns, mosses, and early in the summer clusters of blue lupine and red Indian paintbrush.

The Trail Rises Steeply with Many Switchbacks with Views of Juneau Harbor

Within a half mile or so from the trail head, the hiker will suddenly gain elevation on a very steep trail having many switchbacks. This hard work will continue for a mile and a half until sights of Juneau Harbor begin to come into view. Here the hiker should take a well-deserved rest with the knowledge that he is just about half way up. As the hiker continues for the next mile through aisles of sitka spruce, she should stop from time to time to appreciate the music of Swainson’s thrushes that echoes through the valleys below. The trail steadily rises around overlooks that are spectacular.

Waterfalls Tumble Down the Flanks of Mount Juneau

The hiker is treated to many northerly views of Mount Juneau across the valley with tumbling waterfalls whose splashing can be heard for miles. Late morning mist usually spins down the flanks of all the coastal mountains like webs from some giant white spider. The trail steadily gains elevation until the dense forests thin out and become dwarfed. Tree line in coastal Alaska is only 1,500 to 1,700 feet unlike Colorado where it is at 11,500 feet. The landscapes of the lower coastal mountains are somewhat reminiscent of Ireland.

Willow Ptarmigans Dwell in Tree Line Areas

As the hiker works his way over a sometimes muddy trail through dense scrubby alder, he may be surprised by the sudden appearance of a willowptarmigan hen who clucks and flutters and pretends to have a broken wing in order to guide the human intruder away from her chicks. These clumpy alders are a perfect nesting ground for this species of bird. The trail continues to rise through and above tree line into bright green summer tundra.

Views of Higher Peaks That Conceal the Vast Juneau Icefields

The trail winds its way up over the snow-laced tundra affording the hiker (if it is not raining and misty) tremendous views of the higher coastal peaks that harbor the vast Juneau Icefields. It is from these icefields that many local glaciers flow down to sea level like the Mendenhall and Taku glaciers of the Juneau area. Up here the hiker should pause to look far below at Juneau Harbor and Admiralty Island. If it is early to mid-summer, the Smith’s Longspur’s notes will echo from knoll to knoll (a high note followed by a low). Be sure to look at the ground level to enjoy the beauties of delicate alpine flowers.

The 3,819 foot Summit of Mount Roberts Gives a Commanding View

Once on top after a long four and a half mile climb, the hiker can relax to enjoy a view, even a misty view, of fifty miles of the Alaskan Panhandle coast. The hike takes up to a full day with a vertical gain of over 3,700 feet. Bring sufficient water as there are no water sources on this trail (except for eating snow) nor are there any restrooms (except at the tramway station where the climber can take a ride back down if he wants to). You can download a trail map from the USGS web page, Juneau B-2 SE Quad.

Sailing South from Juneau- Alaska

Sailing from Juneau, Cr-juneauempire.com

Sailing from Juneau, Credit-juneauempire.com

Enjoying Juneau Harbor’s blinking lights, I ambled down to the dock where my fishing boat cruise woukl begin the next morning to Sum Dum Bay and Tracy Arm and tried to imagine what landscapes I would see. In preparation for my trip I had read two companion volumes, John Muir’s Travels in Alaska (1916) and Samuel H. Young’s Alaska Days with John Muir (1915). The Tlingit and Tsimshian Indians in those days (1880’s) were in the process of learning English and a new religion from Protestant missionaries like Samuel Hall Young whom John Muir had befriended. Muir explains in his book that he wanted to hire several Indian guides (in whose stories and conversations he delighted) to go into the back country where he could explore glaciers. The Tlingits suggested the names of a few and Sitka Charley who would be the best for that purpose because he “hi yu kumtux wawa Boston–knew well how to speak English.”

Dawn came bright and clear up in the panhandle of Alaska. About twelve of us boarded the “Riviera” skippered by a young man called Rusty from Cape Cod; we soon left the harbor behind us. Sitka-studded Admiralty Island looked like a Rockwell Kent etching with snow-capped peaks flanked by feathery clouds of silver. On the mainland side we could make out Taku Inlet but not the receded Taku Glacier. On another day I would take a seaplane over the immense Juneau Icefields and the crinkly surface of Taku Glacier to land on a marshy inlet and tramp the lush forests for several hours. On that flight I would catch a glimpse of what most of North America looked like at the height of the Wisconsin Ice Age.

As our craft plied through waters beyond Taku Inlet, we passed numerous crab boats hauling in their catch with big nets. Within an hour we entered Sum Dum Bay as Muir had donewell over a hundred years earlier. We gazed at the “hanging” Sum Dum Glacier in cloudy mountains south of Tracy Arm fiord. Quickly granite walls engulfed us rising straight up to glaring snowfields. Stream of water hurled through space down to the green waters of the fiord. Bright blue icebergs drifted past as we closed in on a tell-tale cliff carved and scratched by myriads of slow-moving glaciers of yore. Following Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lead, Muir called these scratches “glacial hierogylphics” because they surely furnished as much geologic information as the Egyptian Rosetta Stone furnished linguistic knowledge.

Approaching South Sawyer Glacier, we amused ourselves watching jet-black seals sunbathing on bright blue icebergs, blue being the only color refracted out of their dense masses. Our ship came to within a hundred yards of the glacier looking like an arched blue planet all its own. A sudden thunderous boom startled us as a huge chunk of ice broke off the edge of the glacier and splashed down into a narrow bay. The Tlingit words Sum Dum are apt. The berg makes the sound SUM, and the echoing cliffs DUM! Aquamarine and copper-colored chunks of ice bobbed all around the glistening new berg. Here we could easily envision future yosemites. Samuel Hall Young writes in Alaska Days with John Muir, “Glaciers were Muir’s special pets, his intimate companions, with whom he held sweet communion. Their voices were plain language to his ears, their work, as God’s landscape gardeners, of the wisest and best that Nature could offer.”

We sailed silently through a fiord as mesmerizing as the floating swan’s down of the Nishkiya ceremony that a tribal elder spread into the air to open a dance ceremony the evening before. In the silence I imagined an Indian’s voice singing from the top of some immense summit. By now we had become accustomed to a world of dark blue ice, hieroglyphic cliffs, and rivers falling out of the sky. But we were in store for something more. Just off Admiralty Island a humpback whale rose out of the water to flap his tail fin so forcefully it sounded like a cannonade. His gigantic body rose and splashed several times before disappearing southward. Too quickly Juneau Harbor, dominated by Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, came into view.

Planning an Alaskan Cruise

Alaskan cruise cr-fodors.com

Alaskan cruise cr-fodors.com

A cruise trip to Alaska can be an exciting adventure. A little planning ahead can save money and ensure a great trip. Big cruise ships are like little cities with dining, swimming, gyms, snack bars and entertainment. Here is some information about the different types of cruises offered to Alaska and their prices and accommodations.

Choosing a Cruise Itinerary

There are two basic routes for an Alaskan cruise, the round trip from Vancouver to Seattle or the north or southbound route between Vancouver or Seattle to Seward or Whittier, Alaska. Most big ships visit the popular ports of Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. Cruise ship routes vary slightly and may visit different destinations so if there is some place in particular of interest the traveler wants to see, such as the island of Sitka,they should make sure it is included in the ports of call.

Selecting a Cruise Ship and Cabin

There are three types of cruises offered: Contemporary, Premium and Luxury. The cruise ship companies offer something for everyone. Carnival provides entertainment and activities for children. Norwegian is known for their budget prices. Cabin costs within the cruise ship also vary. Most cabins have private baths and twin beds. If most of the time will be spent sightseeing, it is wise to go economy by choosing one of the cheaper cabins on the interior of the ship. For the traveler who intends to spend time in the cabin, one with window instead of a porthole, extra space and a balcony might be worth the extra money.

Cost of an Alaskan Cruise

The cost of a cruise varies depending on how long the trip will be and what kind of accommodations are booked. Cruises can range anywhere from seven to seventeen days or longer. Air fare or the cost of driving to the embankment point of the cruise must be considered. Port entry fees are also the responsibility of the traveler. One important point to remember is the cost of the cruise doesn’t cover everything. The base price usually covers only the cabin and food served in the dining room. Anything extra will either be charged the ship’s customer tab or will have to be paid for out of pocket. With extra expenses considered, most vacationers will find that the actual cost of a cruise vacation will be at least a few hundred dollars more than the basic price.

Once on the cruise, day excursions are extra. Usually the ship offers shore activities that can be signed up for such as city tours and tours of attractions such as wildlife or glacier-viewing excursions. The price of these vary from 35 dollars for a city tour to 200 dollars or more for glacier viewing or wildlife tours. The ship-sponsored tours may be a little more expensive, but they can also be the safer choice as the ship will wait if one of their sponsored tours becomes delayed.

Extra Expenses
  • port fees
    • shore excursions
    • on-board purchases
      such as pop and ice cream
    • off-board food and purchases
    • tips
Popular Cruise Ship Lines to Alaska


    • Carnival
  • Norwegian


    • Celebrity
  • Holland America
  • Princess


    • Crystal
  • Silverseas

It pays to do a lot of looking around and comparing prices before booking a cruise. Prices vary greatly. Sometimes local groups such as church groups have better values than travel agents. Not sure what to take along? See this article for packing suggestions: