We awoke to the sound of a marmot under our mini-van shelter atop Hatcher Pass. It was my last weekend in Alaska, and S wanted to take me outside the Anchorage bowl--where I've been living the past month. We ate breakfast as we gazed upon the snow-capped mountains in the distance, then grabbed our packs and climbed up to the ridgeline, stopping to appreciate the fine view of Mount Denali--the highest peak in North America.
I hosted S as a couchsurfer in my temporary "apartment" in Anchorage, but we initially met in an online form; we were both searching for a travel companion to split the cost on a ship from Anchorage, AK to Vancouver, BC.
3 months ago, S left her office job in Zürich, flew to Vancouver, and bought a mini-van named Bourbon. Living in Bourbon, she drove through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and west into Alaska. I hosted her a few times when she passed south through Anchorage down to Homer, then again West to Valdez. Our last weekend in Alaska, we took one last trip outside Anchorage before she sold Bourbon
After climbing down from the ridgeline above Hatcher's Pass, we drove through the valley down a long gravel road to the Reed Lakes trailhead. 4 miles and much climbing later, we arrived at the most pristine, glacier-fed lake I've ever seen. A local told us it's the best lake in Alaska, and that the glacier that fed this lake (just over the ridgleine) was called "bomber glacier", as a crashlanded (world war 2?) bomber plane could be found atop the glacier. If we had more time, gear, and food, it would make a glorious multi-day weekend hike to Bomber Glacier--perhaps for my next visit to Alaska.
The next day we packed our bags, and I exchanged my apartment's keys for my security deposit. Bourbon took us to our bus, and S sold him for $300.
Our bus took us down the scenic Seward Highway to Seward, where we boarded our boat.
My bicycle (and later my bear spray) was briefly confiscated upon entry, but the next morning it was returned to me. Yes, Holland America permits bicycles to be stored in your cabin--even if it takes a 12 hours for them to recognize this.
massive sheets of ice--maybe 20 meters high--cracked & broke from the glaicer's face and fell into the bay.
By our second day on the week-long voyage from Anchorage to Vancouver, we arrived in Glacier Bay National Park. Only accessible by boat & plane, we passed several glaciers, including the Margerie. This 34 km long glacier had a 76-meter-high face sticking into the bay. The captain slowly spun the boat a few times by the face, and we watched & listened to the calving in awe as massive sheets of ice--maybe 20 meters high--cracked & broke from the glaicer's face and fell into the bay.
I saw many bald eagles soaring between the tree-tops; fortunately, I did not encounter any bears.
The next day we arrived in Haines, a small Alaskan town of ~2,000 people. Our >1,000-person boat flooded the streets with old aristocrats hungry to buy silly souvenirs, and I quickly evaded the crowd, biking 12 miles up to Chilkoot Lake. When I made it to the river below the lake, I began to see huge piles of fresh bear scat. I unholstered my bear spray, and proceeded with caution. I saw many bald eagles soaring between the tree-tops; fortunately, I did not encounter any bears.
I biked back to town, around to the Battery Point, locked my bike at the trailhead, and hiked up Mt Riley. The forest was amazingly peaceful. I didn't encounter anyone on my trek, and the wild blueberrys were so bountiful! When I came down the mountain, I met S for a tasty Port at the local Haines Brewery, and we re-boarded our boat.
The next day we awoke in the port of Juneau alongside 2 massive cruise ships. I quickly took off along Egan Drive towards the Tongass National Forest--the largest temperate rainforst in the world. After biking the 12 miles (and a brief lecture from JPD that bicycles are, in fact, prohibited from riding in the wonderfully paved, wide shoulder of Egan Drive) I arrived to meet S overlooking the Mendenhall Galcier and Nugget Falls. We hiked up East Glacier trail to what was probably a glorious scenic view 8 years ago; today you can barely see the receded glacier from the trail's peak. When I arrived back in Juneau, my crank fell off, and I realized the necessary bolt was missing. Moreover, during the ship's morning drills, one of the lifeboats's cranes was malfunctioning. The captain announced that, before we could leave port, the lifeboat needed to be left behind. They flew in a crew, tugged-in a nearly-full barge-with-crane, and--after significant delay--lifeboat 13 was on the barge, and we were at sea.
Today we arrive late to Ketchikan, which apparently doesn't have a bicycle shop on the entire, mostly-forested island. Tomorrow we ride through the inside passage, which I'm told is full of wildlife. We've already seen Orca, Humpbacks, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Gulls, and Goats on the journey, but haven't yet seen a whale breech. Hopefully we will tomorrow!
The morning following our day through the inside passage, we arrive in Vancouver. Hopefully I'll find a well-stocked bicycle shop within a km from the port. Pushing a fully-loaded bicycle through an unknown city is much less exciting than cycling.