Musing on food and cooking ...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to Alaska, Part 4 ....

Ah, Juneau. That's where we headed after Sitka. And it was the port at which we would spend the longest on shore. so, we kept ourselves rather busy. Well, I did. I am not certain about Mom. I think she probably spent a lot of time waiting for me to get back from my galivanting....

According to the Pitter Patter, which we awaited breathlessly each evening around 10, Juneau's primary reason for being in the white man's world was the presence of large amounts of silly gold. Really, I have never much understood the attraction. It's soft and heavy and fairly useless on a day to day basis. Nevertheless, it drives people mad.

Anyway, we were up bright and early, hoping to avoid the mad rush of bling crazy shoppers about to flood the shops nearest to our dock. And we succeeded. First we went to this place called Caribou Crossing, which is sort of an Alaskan artists' cooperative, where I ordered a fabulous mythological painting by a local artist. Then we got the ever-present t-shirts and picked up some bottled water. Than we took the tram up Mt. Roberts. 1800 feet almost straight up. Totally cool! In the fog... very spooky.

At the top, at a Tlingit-run visitor center, we watched a movie about the history of the local tribes and their interactions with the Russians and the Americans. Then we visited the gift shop and heard our loud friend Lorraine, she of the booming voice. We then escaped outside into the rainforest, where we freaked out about how high we were and commented on the extreme amount of moisture and moss/lichen hanging everywhere and then I went hiking further up the mountain.

I did about 2.5 miles up into Mt. Roberts, into bear country, although all the animals were wisely in the warm, dry dens, and I saw no bears, no squirrels even. I was scolded by a hoary marmot, which is like a giant praire dog with a pissy attitude. I did see some beautiful views, even if it did rain every damn time I got out my camera and I returned to the visitor center completely drenched. Mom and I ate lunch there and I had an excellent Dungeness crab with some sort of interest butter/bear fat mixture for seasoning.

We then made our way down the mountainside via tram to head off for our next major adventure - a trip to a salmon hatchery, then a visit to Mendenhall Glacier, and finally a salmon bake.

The hatchery was interesting... it had a fish ladder and we learned about the types of salmon, but how long can you stand around watching fish flop around in a breeding frenzy and then croak? About 30 minutes. Then we headed off to the glacier, where again, we had hoped to see a bear but didn't.

I don't know why we were so frantic to see a bear. Wisconsin has tons of bears. I have even been bear hunting. Maybe we thought that Alaskan bears would be somewhat special. Huge giant bears!

Anyway, no bears, but we did see our first wild mammal - a sassy red squirrel in the parking lot.

The glacier and its lake more than made up for the lack of large, fanged and potentially woman-eating bears. With a huge waterfall and completely cold waters (I know. I went wading in it to pick up a rock), we were fascinated and took tons of pictures. Then - of course - it started to pour again and we all got herded onto the boss to head off to the salmon bake.

Now, I am not a huge fan of salmon under any circumstances. Honestly, I would have sooner eaten the squirrel from the parking lot - as small a mouthful as he would have been. But when in Alaska, do as the Alaskans do, so I eat salmon. Well, I tried to. We got off the bus to be greeted by the foul stench of rotting salmon from the nearby stream and a man-made duck pond that obviously had not been cleaned for years. And the food was, well, let's just say that - yet again - it was aimed at people who were going to be gulping and shoveling rather than savoring and enjoying. That being said, they had good cornbread. And I don't even like cornbread. Once we were done eating, I went hiking again up the stream where all the salmon were dying and saw the waterfall they just couldn't get up... beautiful but deadly!

Our driver on the way back to the ship was a local Tlingit who was funnier than anyone who currently has a network show. Truly, he was in the wrong line of work!

That night, we basically dried off and got warm. Man, we were so tired of the rain! Luckily, the rain broke when we hit Glacier Bay National Park the next day.

Glacier Bay is basically a boat tour you take of a bay field with tons of glaciers. You don't get off. You just look and go oh! ah! look at that! At the main glacier, we did some recording with the video camera. The first time a chunk of iceberg "calved" off, we were like someone just fired a cannon! It was that loud. Again, we saw now wildlife except birds although we think we saw an orca fin. Somebody claimed to have seen a bear on the shoreline but they must have Superman eyes. We couldn't see anything even with the binocs! Anyway, the bay was beautiful and a sight everyone should see, because who know how long the glaciers have until they melt entirely. Tomorrow, Ketchikan!

1 comment:

jenn said...

the photos of the mountains look awesome! i'd love to hike those. i really need to get working on my hiking endurance though. chris and i are real tired from our jaunt today at the 3 spots on zhongshan mountain. partially due to pushing and shoving through pushing and shoving chinese.

heh. i posted some photos on flickr.