11 July 2010

a little bit of catching up

The last real update we gave you was from Watson Lake, YT, so I'm going to attempt to fill in the blanks between then and now.

Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, YT.

More Sign Post Forest.

We made it to Skagway, AK pretty easily, taking in the scenery all along the Alaska Highway. I want to pause here for a moment and talk about plants. All through British Columbia and Yukon Territory we saw some of the most beautiful plants and trees. Shaggy White Spruce is most common along this route, but there are more than a few Birch trees as well. The sheer size of these trees took me completely by surprise. In some of the older parts of the forests, there were trees that easily reached 60-100ft into the air. It was sad to see large areas in between these ancient giants that were just starting to grow back after being clearcut for lumber. There were fields upon fields of plants with yellow blooms. We also saw a plant that showed off its purple blooms and wild roses. The roses were very tight bushes with far more thorns than what we are used to in commercial plants. The blooms were smaller and had fewer petals than any other rose I have ever seen, but the scent would make any flower shop variety envious. So strong was the odor that even just having rubbed one of the petals between my fingers caused my hand to smell sweet and rosy for the next few hours.

Pretty purple flowers.

Wild roses (we think).

White Spruce trees.

Pine cones.

Pretty much all of the Alaska Highway looks like this.

Or this.

We had planned plenty of time in our schedule, just in case we had any issue at US Customs, but there was no trouble at all and we were waved through in a matter of a few minutes once our passport cards were swiped into the computer.

Welcome to the U.S.A.

Porter's passport (info blurred for security).

Welcome to Alaska.

Port of entry.

Next stop was Skagway, AK. We arrived in Skagway on the evening of July 4th. It's a cute little town with its downtown built in the 1800s and wooden sidewalks. All of the townsfolk were gathered for a rubber ducky race at the river, so the narrow streets were very quiet and we were able to get a rare peek at the town without the bustle of cruise ship tourists. There are several restaurants and bars and five or six inns, but we couldn't believe how many diamond stores there were! Both sides of the main street (Broadway) were lined with jewelry store after jewelry store advertising diamonds and "Northern Lights" pendants. For dinner, we stopped at the Bonanza Bar & Grill, where we had elk burgers. I was later told that the elk used at the restaurants is not local, but farmed.

Elk burgers.

The next morning we packed up our car and headed to the ferry. Once we checked in, we had plenty of time to go back into town and scratch up some breakfast. To our dismay, two huge cruise ships had disembarked for the day and the streets were filled with every sort of tacky tourist, each clad in his or her own sweatshirt, jacket, or hat embroidered with ALASKA in large letters. Cars couldn't drive the streets for all the people with no regard for traffic laws. Sidewalks were overflowed with people stopped in crowds in front of stores and restaurants. Any stragglers from the groups seemed to be wandering with no apparent direction or purpose. There were three open-top carriages drawn by ponies in front of the Bonanza Bar & Grill that morning, their drivers taking advantage of the tourists. We ate breakfast at The Sweet Shop across the street and watched those poor ponies get poked and prodded, pet and photographed for over an hour before we left and headed back to the ferry.

The cruise ships.

Seren being cute while waiting for the ferry.

More cuteness.

Our ferry rolling in (small in comparison to those cruise ships!).

Our ferry, M/V Columbia, docked in Skagway, AK.

Seren said the ferry had a "big gray hat."

Once we were finally on the ferry, a calm came over us that we hadn't felt in quite some time: we were almost there. Seren and Porter slept most of the ride away. It was a big boat and there was little motion, but what motion there was in combination with the soft rumble of the engines lulled them right to sleep. I'll let Stephen post more about the ferry itself on his next post, as I'm sure he'll be able to give far better descriptions than I would on that subject. We had a 4-berth cabin that was simple, but didn't leave us wanting for anything. The views were spectacular and there was plenty of food and sights inside the boat if water and mountains aren't your thing.


At 8:30am, July 6th, we docked outside of Sitka and drove into town. We spent about an hour and a half just driving around and looking at our new home. We'll have to tell you all about Sitka, but I think I'll save that for another post. :)


  1. http://www.moviesonline.ca/lister/videos/thumbs/1_simpsons-alaska.jpg

    Pretty spot on

  2. nice. i keep forgetting you really haven't spent much time in places with trees. it's fun hearing your impression of them. the flowers that you think are roses look like what i've always called perfume berries. they are in the rose family, as are rose hips and raspberries, but they are not, strictly speaking, what you would have for a rosebush. you'll find that most of the wild roses have far more prickers than cultivated roses. if you put this guy up against a wild raspberry cane, or wild blackberries or some such thing you would find they are remarkably similar and thorny as hell. glad that the trip ended smoothly and y'all are settling nicely. looking forward to a chitchat.

  3. the sitka spruce. a sturdy thing of beauty. both masts on SummerWind were of sitka spruce. for which i was very grateful on a number of occasions. i must say i like them better in their natural habitat ...

    what a wonderful adventure you are on. and thanks for sharing it with us.