Friday, June 28, 2013

Alaska Trip 2013

It was with much anticipation as I pulled out of my driveway for the 1150 mile drive to Prince Rupert in Canada to catch a 6 hour ferry ride to Ketchikan. Fuck yeah! I have a new app called Panoroma 360 or something like that- and whenever we get a new photo app we abuse it. So here's a few shots in 360 of my journey so far!

The first day I drove 737 miles to central British Columbia to a town called Prince George. This took 13 and a half hours behind the wheel. Your mind starts to wander. Years ago during my Gypsy like 20s, motivated by Kerouac and the fear of my bored youth I had driven this route perhaps 10 times back and forth during my seasonal Alaska years. Each time wondering what adventure would lie behind every hill and curve along the highway. My experience this time was similar except for the wondering part. This time, half way through the drive I thought to myself "I'm old" and looked at the clock.

This first day of driving saw me travel through some diverse landscapes. Sometimes when I think of Canada I only think of ocean, mountains, trees and snow. During the first day of my journey I saw a large agricultural valley, deep green woods, as I traveled up and east I passed through dry pine forests and even further up the Frasier River valley I was surrounded by scrub sage and high desert much like Eastern Oregon. I eventually passed through that into some territory that reminded my of the Yukon and upper Alaska- birch and short evergreens. You could tell it gets cold! This first exciting 360 panorama is my sleeping quarters that first night of the trip- the Walmart parking lot in Prince George in the back of my car. I awoke before all my RV neighbors because I wanted to reach Prince Rupert, the most northwestern BC town, with time to explore a bit before catching the 4am ferry. This day's drive was a bit shorter- around 10 and a half hours. I zoomed out of Prince George and headed northwest.

Excitement on this day's drive was seeing a black bear run into the bushes along the highway, seeing about 30 moose crossing signs without actually seeing any moose, waiting for an hour or so for some highway repair followed by traveling a dusty dry gravel road for 30 minutes, traveling the Yellowhead Highway which is stunning in its beauty- massive granite mountains and waterfalls that seem 1000 feet tall, looking at the clock and saying "I'm old," and finally pulling into Prince Rupert around 4:30. On this day I also picked up two treats at the gas station I used to love on my travels through Canada- dill pickle chips and a Coffee Crisp candy bar! The dill pickle chips still hold up- a little salty and you only need a few but they taste great. I guess my taste buds have changed because the Coffee Crisp was just too damn sweet.

I followed my directions and found the Pioneer Inn hostel and booked a bed in the 'men's dormitory.' Luckily no other men were staying in that room so I had it to myself. There are two things about hostels I'm always surprised and disappointed in: they are way too expensive and no one parties. My bed in the dorm was $40. If you were two people traveling it would be cheaper to stay at a crappy hotel and have a private bathroom. The other disappointment is the lack of socailness. I have this idea that hostels will be these place where people are gathered and sharing a beer while passing the guitar. Raconteurs abound delighting us with tales of global travel, love affairs and mountain conquests. Instead they always feel like a library and if someone is in the main room it feels like I'm intruding on their space. I felt this way at the hostels in Europe too. I looked at the clock and thought "I'm old." I was excited about this hostel though for another reason- traveling in the footsteps of the great Dennis Dwyer. In his book Alone in the Passage he describes coming to this hostel.

Prince Rupert is a cute ocean town that reminds me very much of Port Angeles, Washington. An old mill town that has seen some changes and maybe some better days. There is a small tourist section on the water where I got the worst IPA of my life- it would have been ok if I wasn't expecting an IPA so I wonder if she had the kegs switched. I texted a friend of mine from Alaska to ask if he was coming up for the 4th of July this year. Although he was not we did have an amusing interaction about Canadian beer. I expressed my feeling by taking a picture of the tap tower of crappy beers and sending him this photo:
He responded and told me I should go to the strip club in Prince Rupert- the owner has a pet monkey! I responded by editing the picture I had sent him:
and here's a picture of the water front in Price Rupert: I walked around Prince Rupert for a bit, looked at the clock and said "I'm old," and then headed back to the hostel. Around the next corner and over the hill? Probably another pharmacy or stationary store. Once back at the hostel I tried not to get in anyone's personal space as I made my way to my dorm room. The one guy's personal space using the tv. I was in bed at 8:30 in anticipation of my 4 am ferry. I was asleep by 10 after reading some Dwyer and then was awoken at midnight by a text from the friendly neighbor at work. I couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and headed to the ferry terminal. Even arriving at 1 AM I was the last car in line. Who are these people? I sat in my car for three hours, sharing some stories with some RVers, and once I pulled into the boat I went upstairs and found a quiet place to lay down for a couple hours of snoozing. I knew I would be overwhelmed with excitement about arriving in Ketchikan so I tried to catch some shut eye. I awoke to mind numbing sunshine and a celebrity aboard the ferry! In this picture you can see Deer Mountain off in the distance in the middle left side with a cloud just above it. I'm going to climb that bad boy! On the other side of the mountain is Ketchikan.

As I moved up to the observation lounge to await the southern most houses of the borough who did I spot but perhaps Ketchikan's most well known celebrity- artist and musician Ray Troll! Of course, Max and Laura are friends with Ray, and although I had been introduced to him a couple times it was years before so I didn't want to bug him. I couldn't imagine the life of a celebrity but it's the price you pay for fame and fortune. Once, in Astoria while his band was playing I saw several fisherman approach him for autographs. He graciously signed some t-shirts and cds. How exhausting! I broke out the old iPhone and covertly took his photo. I then fired up a couple of apps to enhance the photo humorously to send to Max in Ketchikan. Here's the enhanced photo:
I received no response. Later that day though while at Joel's parents house Wayne, Joel's dad Wayne came up and said "I heard you saw Ray Fucking Troll on the ferry." The entire room busted up in laughter! Laura then proceeded to text Ray himself the picture with the words "one of our wedding guests spotted a famous artist on the ferry." He responded "You know it!"

And finally it's time for me to leave the room we rented and head out to Ward Lake for a run. Before I do that please enjoy this final photo of me writing this blog!

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