Our Alaska Adventure Begins

Trip Start May 09, 2009
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Trip End May 27, 2010


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Where I stayed
MV Matanuska

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our Southeast Alaska adventure started Saturday afternoon 8/1 when we boarded the MV Matanuska at Prince Rupert.  Jim had worked out the itinerary based on complicated on-line ferry schedules. Although you can stay on certain ferries the whole trip, we would not have had time to explore the ports.  So, our itinerary involved four ferries and overnight stays in Wrangell, Haines and Juneau. 

The itinerary hit a snag at the very beginning when we learned that the ferry would be leaving Prince Rupert eight hours later, due to mechanical difficulties that delayed the ship.  Originally, we were going to leave in the morning and arrive at Wrangell AK late in the evening where we were getting off and spending the night in a B&B ,so we could explore Wrangell the next day. 
Fortunately, we were able to contact the B&B owner to cancel (thank you Rooney’s Roost for not charging us!).  Also, fortunately, we were able to reserve a cabin on the ferry for that first night.  Although there is the option of sleeping in recliner chairs or in sleeping bags in the solarium, we planned to have a cabin whenever our schedule called for being on the ferry overnight.  The cabins are small and have twin-size bunk beds only, but they are private and have their own bathroom with shower.  Having some personal space becomes important when you are on a ship with hundreds of other travelers.

On that first ferry, we met a couple from Australia, Glynnis and Patrick, who were on a six-week vacation that would take them from Canada to Alaska to Ireland (where Patrick is from) and then home to Melbourne with a stop in Singapore.  They are quite well-travelled and over dinner and drinks we enjoyed hearing about their adventures overseas.  We caught up with them again on another ferry later in our journey. 

For most of our ferry trips, we had perfect weather, which we found out was extremely lucky since the Southeast AK area gets a lot of rain.  With the great weather, came great viewing from the ferry.  I had my first whale (humpback) sighting on our journey to Wrangell.  Many more whale sightings were to come, but the first time is the most exciting. 

At Wrangell, we left the MV Matanuska at 6:15 AM.  We had hoped there would be lockers at the ferry terminal but no such luck.  We walked with our bags (a large duffel, two backpacks and a collapsible cooler) into the downtown area.  We found a café open for breakfast and then walked to a nearby hotel which let us stow our bags in their lobby (their storage area was full).  With a lot of trust (and some misgivings) we left our luggage, but took our valuables in one of the backpacks and headed off to see some of Wrangell.

Our first stop was Petroglyph Beach.  Ancient petroglyphs were carved thousands of years ago on rocks along one area of the beach.  Jim and I headed off in opposite directions to find the petroglyphs.  I got muddy in what ended up being the wrong direction while Jim discovered where most of them were.  After joining him, we found about a dozen petroglyphs, although there are supposed to be over 40 in the area.  After a German tour group descended, we left to head back to town.

We discovered that the Visitor Center and half of downtown Wrangell were closed since it was Sunday.  When we checked on our luggage at the hotel, we noticed an ad for bike rentals.  Fortunately, the owner of the bike shop was home (his shop was attached to his house) and we rented a tandem bike for the rest of the day.  With advice from the bike shop owner, we rode to a local totem park and to Chief Shakes Longhouse (a tribal house which is now a museum), then followed a bike path along the harbor and to the trailhead for Rainbow Falls.  We hiked the trail partway but there were over 500 steep stairs and our bodies rebelled.  With the drought conditions that the area was having, we rationalized that the falls wouldn’t be very impressive.  We rode the bike trail along the shore again, stopping at a new marina to look at boats (as former boat owners we still lust after them!).

We turned the bike back in and headed for the ferry dock, where we boarded the MV Columbia for our journey to our next stop, Haines. 
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