2012 ALASKA INSIDE PASSAGE
"THE RAINY ULTIMATE MIS-ADVENTURE"

InnerSeas Discoveries


Picking up from where the Road Scholar "Fairbanks-Seward" trip finished, my staying in Alaska for almost back-to-back tours means staying 7 days which saves air-travel cost and hassles. It's expensive, but worth it and future plans don't have much time in either city. All kayaking, fishing and swimming activities, included or optional, are NOT listed below. It's been 4 years since I've done an Inside Passage cruise.

Day 16, Tuesday, Aug 28 Anchorage - Juneau

A light breakfast is included before I have to head to the airport on the hotel's complimentary shuttle at 10:15 to catch the connecting flight to Juneau. It's after noon, so there is no big rush. I may or may not get a snack lunch at the airport. With a lot of rain forecast in Juneau, that might be a good idea rather than walk a few blocks to McBarfBurger in rain after I get to Juneau. That turns out to have been a very lucky choice. (B)

Alaska Air AS 64Anchorage - Juneau12:40P - 2:08P1:28

Fly to Juneau (in rain), walk through rain from the plane (another "combi") to the terminal, and transfer to the hotel (more medium heavy rain) for four nights. I even got a harbor-view room on the penthouse floor. I would have had to take one extra night anyway if I were arriving just for the cruise because of a late (northbound) air arrival and early departure of the ship. I switched from the Baranof to the Goldbelt so there would be no transfer problems on Saturday for the cruise. They have a complimentary airport transfer. Again luck; when I called for the pickup, the shuttle was already on the way for some other guests so I had only a very short wait. The rest of the day is "free" in Juneau - to stay inside and not to go out in the cold, windy rain. It's raining and there are 7 (seven) large cruise ships in port but sometimes the fog in the harbor is so thick that the ships can't be seen. The tourist area is probably packed like sardines unless the ship passengers stayed onboard due to the rain. I'll definitely stay inside. McBarf Burger (oops, they closed 2 years ago - substitute Subway) and street vendors will be supplying most of my meals. The restaurant in the hotel is a Chinese one. At least they do have wireless internet access. Hotel: Goldbelt Hotel, 4 nights (no meals included) (B in Anchorage)

Day 17, Wednesday, Aug 29 Juneau - Free Day
Today is a free day in Juneau for exploring - if the weather is decent - and after a very cloudy start, it turns very nice. There are lots of options available if only I can find the information about them since Innerseas doesn't have a "hospitality desk". I'm going to delay the Mount Roberts Tram excursion until tomorrow when the weather forecast is better. Today I'll just check out some of the "made in Hong-Kong" tourist traps. If all this stuff is "native made" then it's made by natives running mass-production machines.

Day 18, Thursday, Aug 30 Juneau - Mt Roberts Tramway
This is a free day in Juneau for more exploring and doing laundry. InnerSeas is too cheap to have a hospitality desk for those of us arriving early to pick and choose nice excursions - it's only open on departure day. Today, depending on the weather, I'll take the Mount Roberts Tramway ($29 - up from $20 the last time I was here in 2008). It turns out to be a very nice day!!!

Mount Roberts Tramway - See it all, do it all, above it all. Soar to new heights in scenic adventure aboard the Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau's top attraction, and experience the best Alaska has to offer. ($29 - up from $20 the last time I was here in 2008)

" Breathtaking views of harbor, sea and mountains
" Timberline Bar & Grill with Alaskan beers and seafood
" Crab Feed (mid-June to late August)
" Native and historical art and artist demonstrations
" 120-seat, state-of-the-art Chilkat Theater with free short film
" Bear viewing platforms
" Juneau Raptor Center Bald Eagle Display
" Wildlife and alpine flowers
" Nature Center
" Raven Eagle Gifts, Gallery & Souvenirs

Spectacular Views: Ride an enclosed tramway gondola from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the 1,800-foot level of Mount Roberts for one of the most expansive views in Southeast Alaska: Chilkat Mountains to the north, Gastineau Channel to the south, west to Douglas Island, and east into Silver Bow Basin, where gold was discovered in 1880.

Mountaintop Fun: At the upper Mount Roberts Tramway terminal, the beautiful Mountain House (Shaa Hít) recreation and cultural complex sits amid towering Sitka spruce and the grasses and wildflowers of the sub-alpine. The Mountain House includes the Timberline Bar & Grill (with seasonal outside dining) the Chilkat Theater, Raven Eagle Gifts, and access to a Nature Center, Juneau Raptor Center Bald Eagle Display and Mount Roberts Trail System.

History, Art and Culture: Visitors can learn about Tlingit culture through the award-winning film Seeing Daylight, shown in HD Blu-Ray every half hour. In addition, Native and historical artwork is displayed indoors and outdoors throughout the complex, and Native artists present frequent live demonstrations with beads, wood, fossilized ivory, silver, garments or dolls and share their cultural stories.

Day 19, Friday, Aug 31 Juneau - very boring day
It's another free (wasted since I've already checked all the souvenir shops) day for exploring (and wash out a couple of shirts) and my last day of internet access other than early tomorrow morning. Also rain is forecast to begin tomorrow afternoon or evening and continue through Thursday at least.

Part 2: INSIDE PASSAGE "ULTIMATE MIS-ADVENTURE"

INNERSEAS DISCOVERY

Day 20/1, Saturday, Sept 1 Juneau - Embark
Weather forecast for today: much rain! The forecast is 70% today, and 90% this afternoon and tonight, and more rain Sunday and Monday and probably on through Thursday anyway. Since I'm already in Juneau at the Goldbelt, there's no problem about being at the right place for embarkation. I have some more free time before boarding the ship. Switching to the Goldbelt where the cruise company hospitality "suite" is located simplifies the day.

Big OOPS - while out for breakfast this morning, three of us got "run down" by a couple of overage juvenile delinquents running around a corner and on down the street. Two of us went down, and now my back (old injury, 1980s) and right leg (getting old) are both hurting due to the twisting fall. This will definitely knock me out of any hikes for at least a couple of days and maybe longer. Also RAIN is forecast (60% or higher) for the next couple of days, and a probability of rain for at least the next week. This, on top of getting knocked down this morning, doesn't sound good for any hikes. And the rain could spoil any skiff rides, and even sightseeing. Grumble, Grumble, Growl and Gritch.

We have to have luggage in the InnerSeas hospitality suite no later than 1 PM. Yes, they finally have one which opens at 9AM. They will let us know then when we will be hereded across the street to the ship. Before that, at 4PM, we meet with a Tlingit native interpreter for a welcome presentation featuring an overview of family and clan structure, and traditional and modern life in Southeast Alaska. Later, at 4:45, we are welcomed aboard the "Wilderness Adventurer." I'm in #202 (on the lowest deck, of course; see end of notes for the deck plan).

At a cruise briefing, the Captain tells us "if you brought an Itinerary along, throw it out; it's almost all changed." After meeting our crew and getting acquainted, we set sail into the Endicott Arm (it was to have been Chuck River Wildefrness) and which wasn't scheduled until almost the end of the cruise. The food tonight turns out to be very good and the crew are great. As we go down the channel we have a brief view of some sea lions but it's late and the weather is bad so no pix.

After that it's time to incarcerate myself into my mis-represented Cell-Block for what I quickly came to think of as only the first of 14 miserable nights. That bunk is probably the worst I've ever had on a small-boat cruise. Awful: major trough down the middle and the foot of the bunk is higher than the heat. Thanks to Shannon, that wasn't quite true - it was just that that one horrible night. The ultra-cramped "facilities" were still very miserable however and nothing could be done about that. Grumble, Growl, and Gritch, Gritch, Gritch.

Day 21/2, Sunday, Sept 2 Endicott Arm / Ford's Terror / Dawes Glacier
After that first awful night, my back is REALLY hurting. I'm NOT optimistic about activities for the rest of the trip.

Explore the narrow passage of Ford's Terror and admire the magnificent domes, hanging valleys, and pristine wilderness that surround it. Snow covered mountains, glowing blues, and the white thunder of calving ice take our breath away at the face of Dawes Glacier. As we glide through Endicott Arm by skiff (which I have to skip and just stay onboard), we find a few seals taking respite on the glaciers smaller "bergy bits." We see other wildlife on the skiff excursion. After lunch we have mandatory instructional sessions on kayaking, paddle-boarding, and hiking. After the orientation a few people go kayaking (in the rain) on North Dawes Inlet.

Included: Dawes Glacier Skiff Excursion (1) Take a skiff ride through the smaller waters where we see black bears, harbot seals, harbor porpoises, birds and other wildlife. We try to get as close to Dawes Glacier as is safe. It is a very cold, wet, windy ride.

Day 22/3, Monday, Sept 3 Windham Bay / Frederick Sound
Yesterday some of the crew put pieces of plywood under the mattress on my bed which cut down on the sag / trough. It helped and my back is still quite sore but some improvement; at least it's not worse. Many, many thanks to Shannon. Now I won't have to give up and try to escape the trip when we get to Wrangell.

The day starts off with a heavy, low fog and some light rain. Our morning stop is in Windham Bay - not part of the original schedule but a very nice area. There are a couple of hikes available as well as water activities. Later, after lunch, move into Frederick Sound-summer feeding ground for the Northern Hemisphere's largest concentration of humpback whales. Keep watch for humpbacks, orca (no luck), and Stellar sea lions.

Once we get out into Frederick Sound, we are into much more exposed territory and waves and wind gets much more pronounced. We do see whales but the waves make it hard to actually see them clearly, particularly since we never get all that close. Further, it's now definitely cold and windy out plus rain. Between the weather (gray and rainy), the rough seas, and spray from the waves, getting pictures is virtually impossible. It's disappointing but I have good whale pictures from earlier trips.

Included: Windham Bay Beach Hike (2) Hike for about 2 hours along the beach at low tide to see what we can find. Since it's low tide, the hiking will be over rough, muddy terrain and some fairly large rocks.

Included: Riverview Ridge Trail and Fish Ladder Hike (3-4) Hike along bear trails, sometimes having to cut our way (machetes) for about 1 ˝ miles over very uneven surfaces, downed trees, etc. to see a fish ladder which allows the Salmon an easier access back to their spawning ground. This is NOT a hike for the novice.

Included: Whale Watching (1) Little else compares to the wonder of whales in their natural habitat. In the summer months, Frederick Sound offers ample opportunities.

Day 23/4, Tuesday, Sept 4 Thomas Bay / Cascade Creek / Baird Glacier
(NEW) That long-term weather forecast is proving to be accurate. It's yet another cold, rainy, gloomy day, and my back still has me "grounded." Depressing!! In the morning, take a challenging hike across mud flats and then through lush forest on one of the scenic Cascade Creek trails, Learn the origin of its "Devil's Country" nickname during a reading from "The Strangest Story Ever Told," about the area's mythical shape-shifting creatures called Kushtaka. In the afternoon when the weather clears just a bit, in an area known for glaciers and rich in gold and quartz, climb the Baird Glacier to stand atop the mile-wide glacier. All the hikes are potentially very challenging because of the terrain.

Included: Patterson River (1-2) Take a fairly long but not too difficult hike to the glacially-fed and rarely visited Patterson Lake. Lots of mud flats hiking is involved which can, for some people, turn this into a more difficult hike.

Included: Cascade Creek Trail Hike (4) The first stretch of the hike is relatively easy and provides a great view into the forest ecosystem. For more a rigorous adventure, the trail winds its way through a spruce and hemlock forest to a waterfall and then a challenging hike alongside Cascade Creek towards Falls Lake, about 3 miles from the trailhead.

Included: Baird Glacier Trail Hike (1-2) Navigate 1.5 miles of the Baird Glacier Trail's varied terrain, lots of mud flats, including sandy conditions, mud, stream crossings and uneven bowling ball-sized boulders, and be rewarded atop the mile wide Baird Glacier. See variety of birds along the way. This 5-6 hour hike is a crew favorite.

Day 24/5, Wednesday, Sept 5 Wrangell Narrows / Wrangell
We pass by Petersburg about 6 - 6:30AM, and I wish we were (also) going there. I had really wanted to get some pictures but this morning we have the heaviest fog yet - all the way down to water level - and can't see more than about 15' from the boat. Occasionally the dim shape of a shore-side house well southwest of town can be seen, but no details. The only thing to be seen is an occasional buoy / channel marker, some with a seal or sea lion lying on it. So it is yet more disappointment!

By about 7, we start cruising through the winding Wrangell Narrows with its abundance (??? - very few are seen due to fog) of bright (???? - not in this fog!) red and green navigation lights guiding us along "Christmas Tree Lane. Actually only a few can be seen dimly in the fog. It does clear up somewhat later but too late for pictures. Just before lunch we arrive in Wrangell. Home to native culture, wildlife, and wonder-Wrangell is one of the oldest towns in Alaska and the only one ever governed by four nations. Brush up on our Tlingit culture at Chief Shakes Tribal House for native storytelling. View recently carved totem poles at Kiksetti Totem Park. One of the school students were out selling garnets and I did manage to get some of them. I took a walk (about 3 hours) around town with a long visit to the museum, and some general sightseeing. The Chief Shakes Island is not accessible due to street work and is closed anyway due to renovation and repairs.

Much Gritching! The one optional excursion I wanted to take is NOT OFFERED! It, along with the visit to Klawock in a few days are the two main reasons I came along on this cruise.

Included: Petroglyph Beach (1) No one, neither Native people nor archaeologists, know for sure who carved the petroglyphs or why. Carbon-14 dating is ineffective. Take a 30-minute hike to the beach where ancient Native petroglyphs were found. The ones there now for rubbings are copies so the originals aren't damaged. The excursion includes materials to make rubbings using ferns on large sheets of paper.

Included: Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House (1) NOT OFFERED - CLOSED FOR RENOVATION AND REPAIRS! Indulge in the peaceful setting of Chief Shakes Island, the site of Chief Shakes Tribal House, a replica of the original Shakes Tribal House exemplifying the impressive architecture of a house of the high caste of Tlingit natives. Don't miss the intricately carved totems.

Optional: Stikine River Boat Tour (2) $235 Experience Southeast Alaska's backcountry as we jet along the Stikine River. Keep an eye on the shores for moose, bear and other animals, minimum 6. This will give me a chance to see part of the Stikine River that I "passed on" while on the Petersburg trip. This is the only optional excursion that I plan to take but it's NOT OFFEFRED!! MAJOR GROWLS!!!

LeConte Bay A visit here was supposed to be included but has been totally deleted. Since I was here last year, it's no big loss. Last year there was quite a large amount of ice and it was difficult to get near the glacier so maybe it's the same this year and so this excursion was deleted / replaced.

Day 25/6, Thursday, Sept 6 Traitor's Cove
This stop wasn't in the online documentation, the pre-trip documentation, or what was handed out when we boarded. The Captain is really "winging it" and making late afternoon decisions as to what we will do the next day. Probably the only certainties from here on are Misty Fjords tomorrow; Ketchikan on Saturday, Klawock on Monday, and back to Juneau next Saturday. It's beautiful weather today - best of the trip so far. Traitor's Cove is very pretty but "just another cove." The drawing point is the probability of seeing bears here for the salmon.

Just after 11PM tonight, there is a call on the PA system - "northern lights." Many of us go up on deck to see. Its not what we usually picture; instead its just a glow over the top of some hills which brightens slowly but never puts on any real show.

Included: Beach & Meadow Walk (1) Another beach walk as we had earlier. Hike along the beach at low tide to see what we can find. Since it's low tide, there should be a lot of inter-tidal life to be seen, but again the hiking will be over rough muddy terrain.

Included: Traitor's Cove Skiff Tours (1) Take a "comfortable" skiff ride around the cove with a good chance of seeing wildlife. There reportedly lots of bears in the area.

Included: Margaret Creek and Fish Ladder (2) This is a medium difficulty walk through some heavy vegetation and irregular terrain for about 2+ miles to another fish ladder to again see the salmon spawning. There is a fairly high chance of encountering bears along the way so we are cautioned to keep in a continuous line - no breaks, to keep moving, and to make a fair amount of noise as we walk. Traitor's Cove is very pretty but "just another cove." The drawing point is the probability of seeing bears here for the salmon.

Klawock We find out today that we will probably skip Klawock and make our village stop at Petersburg instead. I have mixed feelings: 1) Klawock would have been a totally new place to visit, or b) Hooray, back to Petersburg. I can't really decide. The reasons for the change: Klawock activities are "winding down" for the season, and also the weather that far west - almost out on the ocean side of the islands - would probably be "not good." In fact, 12-15' waves are reported. It does however mean that I'm "batting" 0 for 2 seeing/doing my two primary objectives of the cruise: Stikine River Jet Boat, and Klawock - neither of which I've seen or done before.

Also for weather and sea conditions, Baranof Island and Port Walter stops are also deleted and replaced with some alternative experiendes.

Day 26/7, Friday, Sept 7 Misty Fjords
(NEW) It's another beautiful day. Wildlife abounds in the surrounding Tongass National Forest-humpback whales, orca, porpoise, seals, sea lions, brown and black bears, mink, marten, eagles, and otters. Affectionately called "The Yosemite of the North", Misty Fjords National Monument represents nearly every ecosystem found in Southeast Alaska. Glacial valleys filled with sea water and steep, sometimes sheer, walls are a haven for ducks, brown and black bear, mountain goats, and other wildlife. Glide through Walker Cove by skiff soaking in the splendor of this largely forgotten corner of the world. Since the emphasis on this cruise is the hikes or kayaking, we don't actually go that far into Misty Fjords - just to one or two scenic locations for a while. Back on board join the Captain for a farewell dinner for those leaving the cruise after the first week. The rest of us get to attend also. We'll get our own Farewell Dinner next Friday.

We had another "northern lights" call late tonight - about the same as last night.

Included: Walker Cove Skiff Tours (1) Don't miss a thing from the warm safety of a skiff excursion through Walker Cove. A remote and wild country, the Misty Fjords National Monument preserves nearly 2.2 million acres that represent nearly every ecosystem found in Southeast Alaska.

7 of us cattle will be trapped on board the barge for the return trip to Juneau. The other 52 manage to escape, but we pick up a full replacement.

Day 27/8, Saturday, Sept 8 Ketchikan
Alaska's southern-most city and "salmon capital of the world" claims fame to having the world's largest collection of standing totem poles. We get kicked off the boat by 8:30 and spend the day in town. We are given a voucher for "lunch on us" at the Cape Fox. There is plenty of time to explore the notorious Creek Street, once a red-light district, as well as all the other tourist traps selling junk to the tourists. They don't give us information on any optional excursions and leave it to us to decide if/what we want to do. We have to be back at the Cape Fox Lodge (up on the bluff) by 3:45 for an Alaska presentation. The Lodge has a funicular down to town to save climbing a steep hill, but it's broken. A complimentary laundry service is provided today. We sail at 5:30 PM. Later watch for eagles as we cruise through the Tongass Narrows out of Ketchikan.

After dinner and through much of the night we have our first experience with noticeable pitch and roll of the boat. To me at least, it's not bad. In fact I enjoyed it, but for several people, the "seasickness pills" were recommended.

WEEK ONE HIGHLIGHTS:
a) Wrangell
b) Dawes Glacier
c) Misty Fjords

Day 28/9, Sunday, Sept 9 Chatham Strait / Dry Pass / El Capitan
(NEW) The rolling and pitching continues all night and seems to be the worst (rolling) just before and during the start of breakfast making for some "interesting dancing." We have had light rain all through the night and it continues through the day alternating between showers and bright, clear sunshine. The weather seems to change back and forth every few minutes. After breakfast we (again) have a mandatory instructional sessions on kayaking, paddle-boarding, and hiking.

We start through El Capitan Passage surrounded by breathtaking Tongass National Forest-the largest national forest in the US. We pass through Chatham Strait and then through the very narrow and beautifully scenic wooded Dry Pass. There we can take a "wild" Alaska hike winding through high forest on an old logging trail. On the hike, one minute you need full rain-gear; the next you need your sun glasses. Another option is a trek to El Capitan Cave, where 400,000-year-old bones have been found.

Included: Logging Trail Hike (2) Breathe in the fresh Alaskan air as we make our way up an old logging road through the Tongass Forest on the northern side of the entrance to Devilfish Bay. In addition to breathtaking vistas of "wild" Alaska, we often see eagles and Sitka blacktail deer along the way.

Included: El Capitan Skiff Tours & Cave Adventure (2) Choose from four departure times throughout the day to explore the largest known cave in North America: El Capitan Cave. Here, the discovery of ice-age bear, seal, fox, and caribou bones dating as far back as 400,000 years ago contradict the common belief that glaciers and sea ice once buried the area.

Day 29/10, Monday, Sept 10 Petersburg
The visit to Petersburg is a replacement for the originally scheduled stop in Klawock which we couldn't do because of very high waves in that exposed part of the islands.

The island village of Petersburg is one of Alaska's leading fishing communities, and has long been inhabited by fishermen and their families, from the early settlements of native peoples to the Norwegians, who settled the town and founded a cannery, which is still active today. Walk the docks, venture into the life of a fisherman and life in Alaska. During the nice afternoon walk, I was able to send a message to Mel Stockton (2011 Petersburg Road Scholar trip).

It is nice to get back here to my favorite town in Alaska, and to have the chance to see "old friends" once again.

Included Petersburg Dock Walk (1) Meander (in the rain, of course) the boardwalks and back streets of this picturesque fishing village with a guide who has the inside perspective. Explore along Hammer Slough, then through Sing Lee Alley to the busy harbor area. Tour the docks for an up-close look and explanation of working fishing vessels. Chance encounters with friendly fishermen working on the docks make every trip unique and rewarding. Finally, walk down Main Street, finishing at the Harbormaster's office.

Included Petersburg Trail Walk (2) Also known as the "Hungry Point Trail" walk. Muskeg, mountain views, possible deer. Exit onto Sandy Point Road at Hungry Point, then wander back to town along Nordic Drive with stops going down to the beach at low tide. There's lots to see there.

Included Petersburg Mountian Walk (4-5) This is the most strenuous walk offered. It's about 6 hours (included lunch) from 9AM - 2:30PM. There is lots of steep climbs; climbing over rocks, over and under trees, etc. until we reach the top of the mountain just outside of Petersburg. However the scenery is great and there is a good chance of seeing wildlife. Although a bear may be seen, it's not likely on this walk.

Day 30/11, Tuesday, Sept 11 Bay of Pillars
This is another of those "unscheduled" stops so we don't have any real information about where we are stopping. It is again to make up for the fact that we "can't" do the western exposure ones such as the Baranof Islands. We've headed back west, around one of the larger islands, to the Bay of Pillars. It's more exposed than other locations, but just a bit choppy this morning. The weather is the usual - overcast, mixed fog and light drizzle. Snorkeling was originally scheduled for today for those interested, but cancelled due to the tides.

Included Skiff Tour (1) We take a nice (bouncy, rainy, foggy) ride around Kuiu Island looking for any wildlife, land, air or sea, and other nice scenery. See several different kinds of birds, what seemed like over 100 Sea Otters, and a black bear that came down to the shore and put on a show for us.

Included Kuiu Island Beach and Meadow walk: (2-3) Another of the basic beach walks with low tides adding an area of extra interest.

Included Kutlaku Pond Walk: (3-4) This is another more strenuous walk through the forst, around a pond, to see a beaver dam and any other wildlife around.

Overnight: Some differences tonight: 1) They actually turned on the heat in the cell blocks; I almost had to open the window to cool off (almost!). For the 4th time that I'm aware of, we seen (or been passed by) one of the large floating disneylands off in the distance. 3) As we exited the Bay of Pillars and get further out to go to our next stop, we came back into Chatham Strait and thus had our second night of pitch and roll; sometimes quite active. Of course it's also raining fairly heavily. 4) We have to "scratch" tomorrow's scheduled Port Houghton stop due to all the bad and windy weather. Instead it's (for 7 of us) a repeat into Windham Bay.

Day 31/12, Wednesday, Sept 12 Windham Bay
(REPEAT) The weather forecast isn't new: it's "not so great!" We're back here (a repeat for 7 of us but new to all the others) due to bad weather in Port Houghton. I'll probably stay on board since I've been here before.

Included Skiff Tour (1) We take a nice (bouncy, rainy, foggy) ride around the baylooking for any wildlife, land, air or sea, and other nice scenery. See several different kinds of birds, ottors, maybe a bear or two. We see a moose and lots of birds, but it's to gray and dismal for pictures. It does clear nicely later, but then it's too late.

Included: Windham Bay Beach Hike (2) Hike for about 2 hours along the beach at low tide to see what we can find. Since it's low tide, the hiking will be over rough, muddy terrain and some fairly large rocks.

Included: Riverview Ridge Trail and Fish Ladder Hike (3-4) Hike along bear trails, sometimes having to cut our way (machetes) for about 1 ˝ miles over very uneven surfaces, downed trees, etc. to see a fish ladder which allows the Salmon an easier access back to their spawning ground. This is NOT a hike for the novice.

Sometimes during the day the fog was so thick that we could barely see the shore from where we were anchored. That and the light rain just about ruined the day for seeing much, and also for pictures. Then later we had just gotten underway for leaving when we passed a small island with several sea lions hauled out on the beach. A few minutes later, dinner was very delayed when we can across a pod of orcas and followed them for about 45 minutes. When it got too dark to see much, we headed on down south.

Day 32/13, Thursday, Sept 13 Port Houghton / Frederick Sound / Roller Coaster Ride
We wake up this morning is what the crew claims is Port Houghton. The weather guess-perts missed yet again on the weather guesscast: we have fairly heavy rain this morning and about half of those signed up for the excursions cancelled out. Considering the weather, we could actually be almost anywhere and not know it.

About noon we have the #3 highlight of the day (the others come later):.the galley crew has managed to prepare an extra nice lunch. Considering what comes later, a few of the passengers may regret having eaten so much. For the last several days, I've been eating only one (large) meal per day. Considering conditions later, since I don' t get seasick, After lunch we head out into Frederick Sound again. The weather and waves are such that the earlier rough visit looks like a calm day. The waves are about twice as high as estimated when we do get out into the Sound, so again conditions for seeing whales are NOT good. In fact, I rate it as less than 1 in 100. And the chance of getting even a fuzzy, out-of-focus picture of something is noticeably less than negligible. I don't even try for anything. I just retreat to my cell-block and take the afternoon extreme roller-coaster ride in less miserable surroundings. Fortunately, I don't seem to get seasick.

This afternoon, the weather is so bad - windy, rain, and cold - that the #2 highlight of the day is that they turn on the heat for a (short) while in the cell-blocks for only the second time in the cruise. The weather and waves continue to get worse and worse so the Captain finally acknowledges total defeat and we run for cover into what we hope will be calmer waters. Dinner (minus dessert which was mostly on the galley floor) is of course delayed over an hour due to the very rough seas causing many problems in the galley. We first head towards Port Houghton looking for shelter but end up just wandering around looking hopelessly for shelter before getting into Holkam Bay which is the entrance to Endicott and Tracy Arm, and listen unsuccessfully for the song of the whales. The weather is too bad to hear anything but rain and waves breaking against the side of the boat. So what is the #1 highlight - we survived the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better since today was a total loss.

Included Skiff Tour: (1) Take a nice (bouncy, rainy, foggy) ride around the bay looking for any wildlife, land, air or sea. Unsuccessful, of course.

Included : Port Houghton River Trail Hike Hike: (3) Wilderness trails through the gloomy forest.

Included Whale Watching: (1) We (don't) have another chance to see whales..

Day 33/14, Friday, Sept 14 Tracy Arm / Sawyer Glacier
The weather is slightly better when we get up this morning: heavy overcast, gloomy and of course, more rain, but we are in much calmer waters. Then we head into Tracy Arm, where sheer granite cliffs meet the sky overcast and verdant forests greet the eye in gloomy vistas. Many experienced travelers regard Tracy Arm as the most beautiful place in all of Alaska (but not in this weather). Next it's on to see the Sawyer Glacier (we get within about 200 yards or so). No major 'calving' until just as we turn away and start back. We see some wildlife - and more seals. The rest of the day is spent just cruising Tracy arm. With the weather we're having, there's no real chance for any decent pictures. Later on join the Captain for our farewell (poorwell?) dinner and another slide show from the trip as we start on the way back to Juneau - in the rain..

Included: Sawyer Glacier Skiff Excursion (1) Take a skiff ride through the ice clogged waters where we get as close to Sawyer Glacier as is safe. It is a very cold, wet, windy ride.

HIGHLIGHTS OF WEEK TWO:
a) back to Petersburg even it's a brief visit
b) Orcas
c) arrival back in Juneau

RAIN: This has really messed up the week and virtually ruined the trip. Starting Monday afternoon in Petersburg, we have had virtually continuous rain varying from light to heavy and with winds to match. Also it has been much colder than expected.

Day 34/15, Saturday, Sept 15 Juneau - disembark - start home
Based on watching the barge arrive two weeks ago, we should arrive about 7AM. Then enjoy a Bon Voyage breakfast before getting kicked off the ship. Transfer first to the hospitality suite in the hotel, then at 11:30 transfer on to the Juneau airport for a long trip home. This has a no-rush afternoon departure but Continental/United deleted the originally scheduled Seattle-Houston flight with a nice layover time, so now I'm stuck with the usual long layover in Seattle: 6+ hours! As for the first flight, we are told not to book one before 11:30 so the 1:25 time should be fine. I'll just have to settle for that 6 ˝ hour layover (oops, make that 7 ˝ hours) which is mostly during the "daytime" when places are open to eat.

Alaska Air AK 76Juneau - Seattle1:50 P - 4:55 P2:057:35

Day 35, Sunday, Sept 16 Home, finally
The United flight is with an Economy Plus seat - which doesn't recline. We are an hour late getting off - it seems that the pilots needed their "beauty sleep."

United UA 1160Seattle - Houston12:30A - 6:18A3:4813:28

Rain was forecast for my arrival in Houston, but it hadn't gotten here yet. Instead we flew through a fairly rough front/storm line about the Austin area. Home at 8:10 AM finally!!! I'm TIRED! The only Alaska trip still on my "maybe" list of is a repeat of the Cosmos Alaska & Yukon coach trip from 2007. I have no interest in going to Anchorage or Juneau except as the terminus of some tour.

ALASKA TRIPS
2001 - May 18 - June 1 - Cruise West
2003 - July 4 - July 15 - Cruise West
2006 - July 22 - Aug 8 - Cruise West
2007 - May 30 - June 11 - Cosmos
2008 - May 10 - May 21 - Cruise West
2011 - May 26 - June 7 - Road Scholar
2012 - Aug 13 - Sep 16 - Road Scholar & InnerSeas

2015 - planned for July-August - Cosmos


Selected pictures
Click to enlarge



Wilderness Adventurer




Web propaganda: The ships of InnerSea Discoveries are capable of cruising through nature's most dramatic hideaways. The shallow draft and hull design allow access to Southeast Alaska's wildlife - rich shores and glacially-fed inlets and serve as launching pads for our excursions. Inside spaces offer contemporary colors that complement the wilderness outside and both the public and private spaces are loaded with special amenities (??).

This ship is about the size of Cruise West's old, small, "Spirit of Glacier Bay" that I sailed on during my first trip to Alaska (Prince William Sound). Cabins look nicely furnished, but are missing a few things-such as a desk/work area and have a minuscule toilet area. They are quite cramped and the beds are awful. My cabin is #202 in the "Navigator" class.

Passengers: 60; Crew: 20; Length: 156'; Cruising: 10 knots.


HOTELS

Day 16-19 JuneauGoldbelt (4 extra nights)
Day 20-33 onboard "Wilderness Adventurer"
Day 34travellingSeattle
Day 35Homejust about 8AM if I'm lucky


AIR - for the entire 35 day trip

Delta DL 5772Houston - Minneapolis10:45 A - 1:15 P2:304:30
Delta DL 2175Minneapolis - Fairbanks5:45 P - 8:30 P5:4512:45
Alaska Air AS 51 Fairbanks - Barrow 6:00 P - 7:15 P 1:15
Alaska Air AS 52Barrow - Fairbanks 8:20P - 9:45P 1:25
Kantishna Air Taxi Denali - Kantishna4:55 - 5:300:35
Alaska Air AS 64Anchorage - Juneau12:45 P - 2:25 P1:40
Alaska Air AS 76Juneau - Seattle1:50 P - 4:55 P2:057:35
United UA 1160Seattle - Houston12:30A - 6:18A3:4813:28

SHIP COMPARISON
ShipVoyagePassengersPax DecksLengthCrewSpeed
Aegean Odyssey2011 Black Sea
2013 SE Asia
2013 Greek Islands
2013 Grand Mediterranean
378
7
461'18018k
Zuiderdam2012 Caribbean
1916
9
936'81720k
River Queen2012 Rhine & Moselle
132
4
361'??
Wilderness Adventurer2012 Inside Passage
60
3
156'2010k
AMACerto2012 Blue Danube
156
4
443'4914k
Voyager2012-3 Caribbean Gems
550
7
500'21520k
American Queen2013 Mississippi River
436
6
418'16012k