It was going to be my parent’s 30th anniversary gift to themselves, but for some reason, they didn’t want to leave me behind. So there I was . . . almost the only person under 50 on a cruise ship of 800 crew and 1100 passengers. There were a shocking number of wheelchairs and walkers in the narrow hallways. Purell machines could be found on every corner, with smiling, white-gloved stewards offering to squirt a dollop into your outstretched hands. I was wondering what I was doing there.
At 4:00 p.m. we set sail from the port of Seattle, Washington on a partly sunny, cool, and breezy afternoon. We even saw a double rainbow from our cabin window (at least we had a window). Unfortunately, my mother deemed it necessary for all of us to don the anti-seasickness wristbands and drop a tab of Bonine. This pretty much wiped me out for the next 24 hours.
My parents kept trying to coax me out of bed to go check the teen hangouts on the top deck, but seeing as there were no other teens and I was exhausted, I wouldn’t budge. It was looking like a bust of a trip for me . . . until we took our first excursion into Juneau.
From the quirky tour guide who seemed barely old enough to drive the bus, to the delicious salmon bake that followed the tour of Mendenhall glacier, I finally felt alive and happy to be on the trip. Some of the stories the guide told us were hilarious, like the “Big Mac Medivac” that had 1,000 Big Macs and fries air-lifted from the only McDonald’s in Juneau to Skagway to the north, over the impassable mountains, where there were no fast food restaurants.
He also told us an ancient native tale of the creation of mosquitos (which happen to be unbelievably huge and aggressive the farther north you get). It’s too involved to share here, but maybe you can Google it sometime.
The next day were were supposed to land at Sitka, the center of 18th-century Russian culture in Alaska, but a huge storm blew in with hurricane-force winds. Our captain wisely chose to stay in the inland passage were the waters remained calm. However we did have to cross an opening in the protected mountains and we experienced a very bumpy night. I was a bit green in the morning, but survived it without have to lose my dinner.
The next morning was an early excursion into Ketchikan, a much smaller town than Juneau, with a similar downtown tourist-trap feel. However, once we boarded our bus, we headed to a real live salmon hatchery and raptor rescue center run by a local native tribe. At the center there was also a cultural history museum with authentic totems rescued from the forests after they had fallen and were beginning to decay. The totems are like native history books. They can tell you about a person, a place, or an event. After that we went by bus again to the Totem Bight State Forest where re-creations of historical totems could be seen with all their colors intact. There was also a replica of an actual lodge house which we toured. There were totems being carved on site out of single large cedar trees with the same types of hand tools used for hundreds of years.
The last tour took us to another country . . . Canada. All I have to say is this: Public Option Rules. In the end the trip was unforgettable.
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