Travel Website Logo
Travel Journal
Dan Walker’s Travel Website
Travel Photos

Travel Journal

Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Thursday, July 23, 2009 08:44:19

Rolls Alaska to Argentina & back: 2 - Victoria to Haines, Alaska


* *Thursday, July 16, 2009

*Miles for the day - 87 (140 km)*

*Mile to date: 87 (140 km)*

After a morning of sorting and packing, we returned Marilynn's rent-a-car and boarded the Sidney to Anacortes Ferry for the three-hour crossing - our favourite way to enter the US. Immigration and customs have no long lines and staff couldn't be more pleasant and helpful. There is a duty free on the ferry with good prices on liquor, perfume, etc. On arrival, we drove an hour to Fairhaven, an old town area of Bellingham, Washington, where we had a pub dinner and spent the night.

Friday, July 17, 2009

After some morning shopping we headed for the Alaska Marine Highway terminal to check in. Loading was unbelievably slow and disorganized, taking almost four hours in blazing hot sun. It was not a pleasant wait, but the ship finally got under way 45 minutes late. We were assigned a well laid out cabin with bathroom, large shower and single bed sized bunks where we tied into our duty free purchases before trying out the ship's bar and then the restaurant.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The ferry is the "Columbia", 418 ft (127 m) long with two car decks and three passenger decks. It has over 400 passengers this trip, out of a capacity of 625. Many pitched tents on the stern portion of two decks. Near the upper tent area is a large area open to the stern but enclosed on three sides and roofed, where air mattresses are used by those with sleeping bags but no tent. It is a cold place at night!

The restaurant on the stern of the top deck has windows on three sides providing a spectacular view. The food and service were good, and tipping prohibited. A snack bar provided basic fare and there is a large bar area. The car deck was off limits, except for 15-minute intervals three times a day when crew would supervise passengers who needed to care for their animals or collect items they had left in their vehicles. Time on board ship is Alaska time, one hour earlier.

By noon the sky had clouded over, it turned cold and rain poured down - we were very glad not to be camped on the open deck!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska at 7:30 this morning, a three-hour stop. Marilynn & I went to the booking office to upgrade our accommodation on the three night ferry trip from Juneau to Whittier, but were informed than no cabins on that ferry have en suite toilets. As neither of us was keen on dressing for a hike to the public lavatory in the middle of the night, we decided to cancel that section of the trip. I was restless anyhow - enforced idleness seemed a good idea when working long hours in Costa Rica, but it wore thin quickly.

We hired a taxi driven by a Haida Indian woman for a tour of Ketchikan. There were three huge cruise ships in port, but most places she took us were not on their itinerary so weren't crowded. We visited a well done reproduction native Indian village, an area with lots of Bald Eagles and the old city, where for 50 years Creek Street was the home of some 30 brothels. We thought an hour would do, but she barely got the tour into 1 hour 45 minutes even with fast driving. The weather was apparently as good as it gets - no rain, but low overcast cloud.

In the afternoon there were shorter calls at Wrangell and Petersburg, with several hours sailing between each.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We arrived at Juneau at 5:30 AM. After getting a refund for the Juneau to Whittier ferry, and purchasing tickets for the Juneau to Haynes ferry we drove into the city, 9 miles from the ferry terminal. It was too early to check in, but we had a superb breakfast at the Sandpiper Café beside the Driftwood Hotel where we had a reservation.

While at the dock looking for whale watching tours I noticed the car was low on water, and was leaving a trail of gas. I got a recommendation for a mechanic, but when he showed up for work he refused to even look at the car. Another repair shop was recommended, where I was informed they didn't do emergency work and needed bookings two days in advance. The owner, who refused to even glance at the car, said he might do me a huge favour by looking at the car sometime late in the day, but we could not wait either in his shop or in the car. We were pretty amazed - we have never run into such rude, unhelpful people anywhere in our travels. It was not what we expected to find in Alaska!

I phoned Graham Prior, who reconditioned the engine, and he said it sounded like a stuck valve, so he directed me where to tap in the carburetor area, and the gas problem stopped. I also took his suggestion to put some leak stopper in the radiator and tighten the hoses, so we were soon underway and delighted to not have to rely on the "generosity" of local mechanics.

This last repair shop was on the road to the Mendenhall Glacier, so we drove there. It is across a small lake full of icebergs from the viewing area, so we got some good photos of this distinctively blue mass of ice. On the way back to the city we stopped at a small river teeming with spawning salmon where many bald eagles were catching fish, then did a quick drive through the city, which was congested with passengers from five cruise ships, before driving down the coast to find another salmon spawning river with accompanying eagles.

In the afternoon we went whale watching in a 6 passenger boat. We arrived at an area that looked like a field of geysers spouting - there were dozens of humpbacks. The whales were divided into three pods of about 6 whales each, all visible from our boat. They were doing what the guide called "bubble netting". One whale would swim around a school of herring or other small fish blowing bubbles, driving them together. The rest of the pod then rushed upwards from the depths in a tight group with their mouths open, busting through the surface together. We watched this spectacular behaviour over and over again.

Back in town we had a drink at the famous Red Dog Saloon, then a fantastic feed of Alaska King Crab, cooked to perfection and accompanied by a cold bottle of wine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

*Miles for the day - 140 (225 km)*

*Mile to date: 227 (365 km)*

This morning we took a coastal drive north from Juneau on the only road, which ends 40 miles from the city - there is no road access to the capital city of Alaska. We saw some marmots & eagles, but there were no salmon in the silt filled glacial rivers. In the afternoon the ferry left over an hour late for the 4 ½ hour trip to Haines. We met another couple in the bar, and ended up well lubricated after partying for the duration of the trip. We spent the night in Haines.