Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Alaska Gulf: Chenega Bay to Yakutat All Mountains and Glaciers


The sky is full of sunshine as we awake, and we are surrounded by snowy
mountains, gleaming in the sunshine. It is unspeakably beautiful. We eat our breakfast cereal and head outside, after listening to the complaints of a group of Texans at the next table.

“It’s like a bunch of hobos!” one man says of the aft viewing room, “I’ve never seen anything like it! They have their big rucksacks and sleeping bags and pillows all over the place!” The sign says you can only sleep from 8 at night to 8 in the morning, but they are still sleeping.”

Well, or still trying to sleep. Many of these people are living on a shoestring, and the ferry is the only way they can get to the doctor, or get their children to school, or get to their next job. They are frugal, bringing on their own food, trying to keep their kids dressed and entertained. The Alaska Maritime Highway has compassion on these travelers, provides a solarium area where campers can set up tents, rent sizable lockers. There are other areas, the aft lounges, where campers without tents can sleep, and this is where the Kodiak football team and cross country teams hung out. There is a children’s play area where families sleep right under the “no camping” signs, and the ferry personnel look the other way. It’s an Alaskan thing. It makes me proud to be born Alaskan. People take care of one another, and cut each other some slack.

Honestly, people, you are on the wrong ship! This is the Alaska Marine Highway, not the Diamond Princess!

We are drawn to the decks, compelled by the gorgeous scenery. Each snow covered mountain has its own beauty. We meet a Canadian couple; she has to excuse herself when the topic turns to food – she is seasick. A Kansan with whom we have a long conversation is also suffering a little from seasickness, and AdventureMan shares a Dramamine tablet with him.


We have already made our reservations for the great Celebration in Juneau next year. It’s the reason we made the trip this year. As we started talking about the Celebration, which is only held every other year, we had so many ideas we knew we needed to take a reconnaissance trip so we would know how easy – or hard – travel is, and have a better idea what we want to see and do. This ferry trip has been a great introduction, and we have questioned many many Alaskans and travelers as to what they have seen and enjoyed.

Some things we know we don’t want to do. We don’t want to be on buses, going through Denali, following one bear. We don’t want to be on a cruise ship. We don’t want to travel in a group. I kind of think that RV rental might be a good way to go, but the truth is, I prefer sleeping in a bed, and I don’t like cooking in camping situations. As I see it – and I’ve done a lot of camping – camping is hard work. It’s all the things you have to do at home – shop for food, prepare food, cook food, and clean up – done under the most primitive conditions. I think we will look for an auto rental and good lodges and restaurants along our route, whatever that route is, after the Celebration in Juneau.

What is the Celebration? The Celebration is sponsored by Sealaska, and brings together all the tribes and clans of Alaskan native inhabitants to share knowledge. They wear their ceremonial clan robes and have a parade down the Main Street of Juneau. They gather to do the dances, transmitting their legends and language to their children. They share craftsmanship; the baskets, the robe making, wood carving, totems. If it is anything like the desert festivals we attended in Tunisia, it is also a time when the young men and women of different – but related – tribes can eye one another with marriage in mind, good for getting some healthy variation in the gene pool. I can hardly wait to see this.

I had planned to call the car rental again as soon as I hit Chenega Bay or Yakutat, so we will have a rental car when we hit Juneau again, but . . . I can only laugh now at my presumption . . . there is no service at either. My phone does not work. It is frustrating.

When I pack for trips, the worst of my obsessive-compulsiveness kicks in. I make lists, and check them – more than once. I order the right maps, and go over them. I check and double check reservations.

This trip, assuming I could just call and use my Google Maps and GoogleEarth, I didn’t worry. Information, in this wonderful day of technology, is literally at my fingertips. This has been a great lesson in just how dependent we all are on technology, and how devastating it is to learn that it cannot always be relied upon.

Dolphins frolic, so many and so hard to photograph as they move so quickly!


When I saw this, I thought at first it was part of the tsunami trash drifted over from Japan, and then I saw it was a flat barge loaded with containers. So loaded with containers, you can hardly see the barge:


A brief shift in the weather:



We are out on the deck most of the day, just watching this grandeur pass by, huge mountains, gigantic glaciers, parading past, one after another:



Someone said this is Mount Saint Elias, but I don’t think it is. None the less, it was a very high mountain, higher than anything near. This is the very tip. I spent hours trying to find a time when the whole mountain would come into view . . .


This is about the best I could get, the most of the mountain exposed:


This is what I was dealing with for hours as we passed – it truly is a huge mountain, but weather shifted often, and it was shrouded in these thin grey bands of clouds:


We passed several glacier fields, and I think this one was the Behring:

We are nearing Yakutat, the sun is setting:


In Yakutat I have just enough coverage to make a car reservation before we hit the sack.


September 12, 2013 - Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , ,


  1. Nature’s beauty at its magnificent best…Enjoyed reading your post and the photographs are amazing as well.

    Comment by Pankaj Jyoti Barua | September 12, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you, Pankaj 🙂

      Comment by intlxpatr | September 12, 2013 | Reply

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