Friday, July 11, 2014

First Port - Skagway

Tuesday morning began in a rather alarming way.  Literally!  About 4:00 in the morning, we were jolted awake by an announcement over the ship-wide intercom ordering all crew and staff to their emergency stations.  Ron jumped out of bed and looked outside to discover that the boat was at a standstill in the middle of the sea and decided he'd better get dressed.  I didn't rush to get out of bed, but I have to admit that I was mulling over in my head what my very warmest clothes would be and how to get into them quickly.  Over the next hour or so, the Captain gave updates to the situation and it was eventually resolved.  (It seems there had been a fire in the engine room on one of the generators and it shut down some of the elevators).

Naturally, people were talking about it throughout the day, but otherwise, we were fine.  Our first port of the cruise was Skagway, AK and after having breakfast, we disembarked for the day.  At the port, it is tradition that each ship paint a boulder with its insignia and date for its maiden voyage to the port.
It was cold and rainy all day while we were in Skagway, but the town itself was kind of charming.

Skagway is considered the starting point for the Klondike Gold Rush and is the home of the White Pass Railway.
We had time to walk around town a bit and to do a little souvenir shopping before meeting up with our excursion group.
We took this picture just for Dan:
 And I fell in love with lilacs!!

We boarded a high-speed ferry, the Fairweather Express, and headed to Haines.  (we passed our ship on the way out of the Fjord and I took a picture so that you could see approximately where our room was.)
Once we arrived the historic Ft. Seward, in Haines, we rode a bus out to the Bald Eagle Preserve, located on the Chilkat River.
This area is also where the TV "reality series" about gold mining is filmed.

We donned boots
and life jackets
and listened to our safety briefing before getting in the rafts.
The rain had subsided in Haines, thankfully, but we were left with low-hanging clouds and cold temperatures.  Since I couldn't wear a glove on my left hand, I sure was thankful for the crocheted cover Nancy had made for my cast.
This rafting trip was a bit more bumpy than our last, but Andrew did all the work, so we were free to sit back and watch for eagles---and hang on.
And it wasn't long before we began spotting them.
It seemed that they were intent upon watching us as well.
As we floated past eagles, our guides tried their best to turn the rafts so that everyone could get a good view.  We were the lead raft, so we often spotted the birds first.
The magpies were also flying around, a brilliant blue color that I couldn't capture on film.
We passed the village of Klukwan, an ancient Tlingit settlement that is still a vital presence in the area.  Haines was originally settled by this native Alaskan tribe and they continue to practice their ancient customs, hoping to preserve their culture.  They are situated right on the shore of the river in the most prime salmon catching area in the world.
This is their long house, with Arctic Terns soaring over the river.
There were a couple more eagles before we ended our raft trip.  Can you find the one in the first picture?
We had a wonderful picnic waiting for us at the end of the trip.
This was another wonderful excursion, peaceful and beautiful and filled with Alaskan culture and wildlife.

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