Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vacation in Pictures -- Day Ketchikan

Our second full day at sea, we set our alarm for 5:30 am so we could get up and watch the cruise ship pull into the port at Ketchikan. It’s bizarre, to go to bed at midnight when it’s still light outside, sleep in a pitch-black room (thank you the inventor of dark-lining hotel curtains) and then wake up just a few hours later, when it’s already light outside again.

According to Princess, we would arrive in Ketchikan at 6:30am so I thought getting up an hour early would give us a great view as we pulled into port. But obviously what it meant was that we would be docked and ready for people to get off the ship by 6:30, because by our 5:30 wake up, the ship was already pulled almost all the way into the harbor. So much for my great view, but it was still exciting to be arriving at our very first port.

Blaine and I got dressed, then went downstairs to have breakfast (again) in one of the dining rooms, (again) because we are lazy and like for people to wait on us. Then, we got off the ship with Keith and Renee and walked around the town, window-shopping and sight-seeing while we waited for time for our first excursion.

Ketchikan is definitely a tourist-y little town, with almost every storefront selling souvenirs, jackets, jewelry, sight-seeing tours, etc. Picture it just like some of those little Mexican markets, only without the straw sombreros and island hair braiding. Flannel --- lots more flannel. But we loved it.

Despite Keith’s concerns, this was pretty much as close as we got to a bear the entire trip. He has a serious paranoia about bears. Although he assured us that it was NOT in fact paranoia, but a healthy fear and respect for wild, insane, savage animals who would just as soon rip your face off as look at you, with their fangs and claws and rabid attacking frenzies, and who see you as nothing more than an appetizer (or in the case of some of us chubby people, perhaps a whole meal) ……. a healthy fear, he explained, born from growing up in a state where they actually still have wild bears, and the occasional wild bear attack. We just rolled our eyes and stroked our little polar bear friend here some more.

After buying the requisite t-shirts and flecks of gold in a bottle, it was time for our excursion -- flightseeing over the Misty Fjords. Holy cow, doesn't it sound exciting??? In fact, I’m excited again just remembering it!

We were met at the cruise ship dock by a representative of Island Wings, the company with whom we flew. They drove us to their dock, about ten minutes away, where we waited for the floatplane to return from the tour before ours. Our pilot, Michelle, was amazing …. And quite simply, we had the time of our lives. (Or at least *I* did, maybe I shouldn't speak for everyone else. But I definitely did.)

First, Michelle had us get in and made sure we were comfortable and everyone could see. The floatplane is equipped with some kind of communication radio-thingy (I’m sure there’s a technical term, but I have no idea what it is) so we could all hear her, and talk to one another on the flight:

“No, I’m not a pilot. Not do I play one on TV. In fact, Dear God, please don’t let the pilot have a heart attack because I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what to do!!!”

This was the first time Blaine or I either one had ridden in a float plane. It was such a weird sensation, to know you were floating on the ocean, and then to see the water going past as she gathered speed, then to lift into the air so very gently. Leaving, we got a great view of the cruise ships in the harbor:

We could hear Michelle communicating with the tower (I guess? *somebody* was talking to her, I don’t know) and in between, she had beautiful classical music on. She said the weather was idyll --- slightly overcast, which meant the warm air was lower so we would have less turbulence …. Again, with the scientific weather talky-talky, I have no idea …. All I know is it was amazing!

As she flew us around the Misty Fjords, she had an vast knowledge of the scenery, landmarks, history, animal life, plant life, etc, which she shared with us as we flew. She encouraged our questions and was quick to point out sights of interest below us. We saw seals, mountain goats, bald eagles …. Quick, two bears!!

What, you don’t see them? You don’t see those two little specks, which are basically bear BUTTS, since we scared them by flying overhead and they were turning tail and running for the woods. Here, take a closer look, I'll help you by circling them:

And once again, I laughed inwardly at Keith for being scared of something so very, very far away.

The views of the glaciers and fjords were amazing … something I’ll never forget:

But the highlight of the flight was when we made a smooth, pristine landing on the ocean .. which totally looked like a lake, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually the ocean. We got to get out of the plane and walk around, exploring for twenty minutes or so. It might have been the most beautiful place on earth:

And we enjoyed posing for pictures in front of our cool ride:

The setting was simply heavenly and I could have stayed all day. We spotted another bald eagle, and a seal as well. This might very well have been the most peaceful twenty minutes of the entire cruise, as far as I’m concerned.

We loaded back up in the plane, and she flew us straight back to the harbor … a feat I found amazing because from the sky, it all looked exactly the same to me. I couldn’t tell one glacier or fjord or mountain or waterfall or stand of trees apart, and I have no doubt I would still be flying in circles, trying to get my bearings. And yes, before anyone asks, this was basically the exact same flight that the people were killed on a few weeks later .. taking pretty much the exact same tour, just with a different company. My condolences to their families, and the family of the pilot. But I can tell you that I would go again in a heartbeat, it was so beautiful.

After we returned to the ship, we *just* made it to the dining room in time for lunch (whew! Heaven forbid we miss a meal!) then went back to our cabin to sit on the balcony and watch as we pulled out of Ketchikan. It was a fabulous day, weather wise, and I just sat on the balcony for a while, enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous view.

Dinner that night was in the Pacific Moon Dining Room; it was Italian, which was good, but probably not my favorite. We hung out for a while drinking wine in the Wheelhouse Bar after dinner (might as well chase good calories with bad!) then headed to bed … another big day at another port tomorrow!


Cate said...


Thought about you today when I stopped at a Sonic near Macon for a drink complete with rabbit pellet ice. No small feat when you consider I live in Oregon.

Renee' said...

Ketchican, float plane, fabulous company, no bears.... just a perfect day.

Natalie said...

Oh man, I'm with Keith on the bears. They freak me out. Just found out there are mountain lions in these here parts, too, but people told me "not to worry because they're well fed with all the deer and elk around." Um, yeah, I'm still worrying.

Anonymous said...

Your picture of you and Blaine with the bear brought back some fond memories of our day in Ketchikan. Infact, I have picture of myself with that same bear.
Glad that you had such a terrific vacation!

Liz from Maryland

scanmom said...

Kristie, the pictures you took are good enough to be in a book, they are amazing.

leeanne said...

Simply spectacular! My hubby wants to take an Alaskan cruise in the worst way and I've never been too hip on the idea....well not until I saw your pictures!! I am changing my mind!

Mrs. Who said...

Thanks so much for sharing your trip to Alaska with us. I am enjoying it so much because we were there last year. I had not heard about the crash of the float plane, although I did worry about that when we took our tour of the glacier in a float plane. But you just can't spend your life worrying that something terrible might happen. You just have to cross your fingers and enjoy every minute, don't you?

Mrs. Who said...

Oh - I forgot something else!! When we went on one of our excursions, they gave us "bear whistles". We were supposed to blow them if we saw a bear. It was supposed to alert everyone and, possibly scare the bear away as well. I think if I actually saw a bear, I wouldn't have enough spit to whistle. He would gobble me up, whistle and all.

Anonymous said...

I've never enjoyed someone's vacation pictures as much as I have yours. It must be the great story telling that goes along with the beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Lisa C. in CT

Anonymous said...

Did I just read that you AND Blaine got on the SAME floatplane? No way!! How long did he have to spend talking you in to that one? Just kidding. I know you don't like to fly on the same plane as him so as not to go down together leaving your kids parentless. Glad you made it back okay. All kidding aside I didn't hear about the families that did go down on the floatplane. I, too am sorry for the families that lost their lives a few weeks ago.
Wendy in Winder, Georgia

Melissa, CA said...

Agreed with Wendy. Nothing about your praying that both you & Blaine get off the plane in one piece, nothing about leaving your mother to care for your 3 beautiful children, nothing about you two plummeting to your...anyways, I can't believe it! Must be the Alaska atmosphere & the serenity of a vacation to forget about your fears of you two flying together! I'm amazed because I'm okay with the commercial flights, but little itty bitty planes like that scare the crap out of me! So glad you guys had a wonderful time ~ you both deserve it!