I've always heard people use the words “wilderness” and “Alaska” in the same sentence. It didn't mean a lot to me until recently when my wife Carla and I cruised the Inside Passage of Alaska. The state is huge, but it still takes a good seven days (round trip) to cruise up and back on the western coast. We stopped at Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Each town offers its own taste of culture and atmosphere. Before we set foot on the beautiful ship called the “Westerdam” we spent two days in Vancouver, Canada. The best advice anyone gave me was: “Spend some time in Vancouver.” It truly was a fun and interesting city to visit. What I noticed immediately were the numerous water fountains and flowers. It was 70 degrees, slight breeze, no humidity. That was a reminder as to why this area is so bountiful with beautiful flowers. The money exchange was great at $1 Canadian to 70 cents U.S., it didn't get dark until 10:30pm. This is too good to be true! If you go there, I recommend the Beuchart Gardens in Victoria, IMAX theatre, Grandville Island, Stanley Park, Gastown district, etc… Be prepared to ride on a sea-plane or a ferry at some point during your travels.

After all this Canadian splendor we did finally get aboard the cruise ship and spend a week cruising the Alaskan coast. The three towns in Alaska I mentioned earlier were fun ports-o-call. Juneau is the capitol of Alaska but isn't very big. No roads lead into or out of this little town. You arrive by boat or plane to see its splendor. They seem to have a lot of wood-carvings and natural art all around. We chose to take a sea-plane to a wilderness lodge on this stop. We flew over large ice glaciers and when we arrived at the “Taku” lodge, they grilled us a salmon dinner over an alder wood fire. While eating our homemade cookies, a bear came out of the woods and went straight for the leftover ashes from the grill pit. The guide said the bears know that the salmon juices drip over into the pit, so when the coast is clear from humans they dig in.

Next stop was Glacier Bay, where you don't get off the ship. You actually cruise for most of a day around ice glaciers that are always teaming with wildlife and crashing down into the sea. When they break off, it sounds like thunder overhead. Have your camera out and loaded with a lot of film.

The next town was Skagway… we decided to take a train ride into the mountains where the Gold Rush of 1898 took place. It had awesome scenery and tall bridges the train went over. A lot of sad stories came out of all the foolishness men went through to find their fortune in gold. We also had a boat ride planned at “Haines” to see an eagle preserve. It got cancelled but, we got a free salmon dinner, a bus tour of the town. and we saw several eagles anyway!

The last town we stopped at was Ketchikan… Carla and I split up here. I went on a fishing trip, because this is the “Salmon Capitol of the World!” Carla opted for a sea-plane and boat ride to see the Misty Fjords. It's an area with a lot of natural beauty and wildlife. We were both pleased with the adventures of the day. I had the salmon I caught vacuum-packed for shipment back to Tennessee, and Carla saw a dead whale. What a contrast in stories to compare.

As you might guess, there were a lot of “cool” things I couldn't possibly put in this little update. We took eleven rolls of film, bought a few gifts, ate a lot of food, enjoyed the entertainment and whale watching from the cruise ship. Yes we saw both “Killer” and “Humpback” whales. I recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see life at a slower pace than some of the cities we live in. As my wife pointed out while on our travels to the north… “Folks here probably have low blood pressure!”

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