We are in Alaska! But it took some doing to get here. Let's go back a week and follow our travels through Canada and then along the Alaskan Marine Highway (the ferry boat system).
We had posted our last entry from Jasper, but had not the chance to comment on the passenger train that had just arrived when we drove down the main street of this charming small community. There were 30+ streamlined passenger cars with hundreds of passengers disembarking at the station. The train had come from Vancouver and had taken over 18 hours through the rolling countryside and up into the Rocky Mountains. What a wonderful, traditional way to travel!
After a night in the Whistlers campground near Jasper, we headed out early, planning to eat breakfast along the way. We found a picturesque rest area with a glowing early morning sun that illuminated a stand of birches with Mt. Robson in the background. Tom played Ansel Adams and made an image of these trees from the top of the RV. After breakfast, it was a long 230 mile drive through sparsely populated countryside to our next destination, Prince George, BC where we stayed at the Blue Spruce RV Park.
As we headed up the Yellowhead Highway toward Prince Rupert (our jumping-off point for the ferry to Alaska), we checked out several potential camping areas along the way, but kept going as they seemed unappealing. We were especially disappointed with the 'Ksan Historical Village (on a "First Nations" reservation) that just did not seem really open for business this early in the season.
So, we pushed on toward Terrace (which was only 90 miles from Prince Rupert) and found a relaxing, peaceful, secluded, and forested camp at Lakelse Lake Provincial Park where we stayed two nights. Tom made many images of the foliage and trees in this lush Pacific Northwest rainforest. It was great to relax after all the driving and just enjoy nature.
We have often lost track of time on this odyssey/adventure. But it was Sunday, May 28 of Memorial Day Weekend and we were due in Prince Rupert on the West Coast. We had come over 4,000 miles, had few mishaps (a dragged sewer hose was the worst) and now were able to see the Pacific Ocean. The ferry required us to rise at 5AM for a 9AM departure on Monday morning. The trip from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan was a five and a half hour journey through calm waters. Tom worked on his photographs and Anne knitted Tim's new sweater. It is so neat to see this creation take shape and think how cute it will look on Tim.
We stocked up on groceries at the Alaska & Proud (A&P) store just a short hop from the ferry dock. We tried to get a new sewer hose at WalMart, but this one had a very poor RV section. Drove up the North Tongass Road to check out the campsites and settled on Settlers Cove. Our site was nestled in the grove of a rainforest with beach access to the ocean a few hundred yards down a gentle slope.
Just around 8PM a person knocked at our door and we invited her in. Kathy had seen our kayaks and was just bubbling over about the kayaking she had done that day. Her encouragement was just the right thing to push us over and the next day we brought them down for the first time on the trip. It was raining gently as we launched from a sandy beach. But it was not quiet. A local school was having its end of year picnic on that beach and over 200 kids, parents, small siblings and teachers were running around. We were declared to be the "show and tell" for the day as we paddled out into ocean.
The sea was flat and there was no wind as we headed out. There were islands and we even saw a couple of seals. As we headed back on this 3-mile journey, we hugged the shore and explored the tide pools from the water side. There in the crevices were purple star fish as well as other marine creatures.
The school picnic wound down around 1PM and we carried the kayaks up the slope to camp. Quiet (except for the sounds of birds) fell on us. We took a long relaxing nap as the rain fell. We and one other group of fishermen were the only campers in this area.
The next morning we rose and after breakfast, we loaded the kayaks back on the RV in the rain that had been steady all night. After all, Ketchikan is one of the wettest part of the world with over 165 inches in a year. It was living up to its reputation. The temperatures were in the high 50's, so it was not unpleasant for hearty upstate New Yorkers with warm mukluks and good raingear.
We headed out back down the North Tongass Road to the city of Ketchikan where Tom tracked down a source for the broken sewer hose. In the center of the town, Madison Hardware had a good supply and he assembled it right in their parking lot to be sure he had all the parts. We were back in business!
We drove down the South Tongass Road to its end. The roads in the Southeast part (Panhandle) of Alaska do not connect to the next city because all the cities are on islands. That's the reason for the ferry system - the ferry boats connect each of the cities. The roads go to nowhere beyond the bounds of the islands.
After we walked around the main part of the town visiting quilt shops and knitting emporiums near the cruise ship docks (there are over 10,000 passengers daily), we got tired and went back to the RV to chill out and relax. We looked up and there were two people taking pictures of our van and acting rather excited. Now, we have been the object of curiosity in many places along the way, but this was over the top. The man came to the back door and Tom greeted him. Well, such a small world. Linda and Chuck were from upstate NY and owned a Chinook! We had a wonderful time talking and trading stories. They were on one of the cruise ships, traveling with Linda's brother and his wife. As we spoke, the sun broke out in an uncharacteristic way and the temperatures warmed to mid 60's.
We had dinner at the Bar Harbor, a local restaurant in town where we had a fresh- caught dinner of white King Salmon and local Snapper (which was not like the red snapper back in the lower 48). Delicious! We drove back up the North Tongass Road to the Clover Pass RV park where we were able to do the laundry and get the best showers we have had on the trip. In the surrounding trees, we sighted lots of eagles perching and swooping. This bird that is rarely sighted in the East is "just another bird" out here.