Sunday, June 21, 2015

North to Alaska

"Riding the White Pass and Yukon Railway"

"Morning at Mendenhall Glacier"
Misty Fjord from the Float Plane
"Sailing Queen Charlotte Straits, BC"
This is a big year for travel. As the years pass, I am determined to get out and see the world while I can. This trip was a largely unplanned cruise to Alaska. After getting back from the Panama Canal in March, we had an offer from Celebrity that was really reasonable. Alaska was on our bucket list for next year, so we moved up the timetable. This was a repositioning cruise so we started in San Francisco and returned from Vancouver, BC. Our neighbor dropped us at the train station and we took Caltrain to San Francisco and a taxi to the pier. So nice not to have to fly to the start.

I wasn't in the mood to paint until about 3 days before the end of the cruise. I was sitting on my balcony on a warm day as we sailed through the Inside Passage surrounded by islands and the mainland of British Columbia. I grabbed my little travel kit and captured the scene. I did the remainder of the paintings from photos I had taken along the way over the next two days.

Bob hasn't met a railroad he did not want to ride, so we took two train trips. The first out of Skagway is documented here. I highly recommend this ride that lasts several hours and takes you up a high pass and into BC from Alaska. You can appreciate that gold is quite an allure when you see what they endured on foot to get to it. I captured a moment when I could see the front part of the train from our car. We also could see huge trestles suspended hundreds of feet above the valley floor that we would be crossing, but I didn't paint that scene. In spite of my fear of heights, I was not at all bothered by the ride. We also got to see a large bear right by the tracks, a rare sighting we were told.

From Juneau, it is very easy and reasonable to make the 45 minute ride to Mendenhall Glacier National Park. So we went off of the local shuttle bus service and enjoyed a beautiful morning at the Center using our National Parks Senior Pass to get in free. The scene I painted was the first I captured from the parking lot. The glacier is rapidly receding. In fact, we practically had California weather all during our trip, much warmer than average. I learned that Juneau, though it is the capitol of Alaska, is not connected by roads to its constituents because it is on an island. The locals have a saying, "You arrive in Juneau by boat, plane, or birth canal."

In Ketchikan, we treated ourselves to a boat ride deep into Misty Fjords and the weather was indeed misty that day, perfect for our morning ride. We saw many bald eagles, porpoises, and star fish, as our naturalist gave us background on the area. Many people live on islands without bridge connections to the mainland. The public schools teach the children survival skills. Before leaving grade school, the children are dropped off in twos for their test. They have to live off the land without any supplies for three days. This is a far cry from our very protective approach to raising mainland children. Deep in the fjords, we tied up to a floating dock and our float planes arrived to wisk us back to Ketchikan. I just loved the ride, the views, and the excitement of a small plane.

I am glad I got in the mood to paint. Travel sketches always help me recall the moment.

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