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ALASKA ADVENTURE

by Dan Kenneth Phillips - E-mail

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August 24, 2001- Vancouver (Friday)

       We leave Nashville, Tennessee, shortly after 6 a.m. and arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia, shortly after lunch. It has been several years since I have been here. I taught in Vancouver several years ago and did all of the touristy type things then. Vancouver is a beautiful city with an international flare to it.
        A bus meets us at the airport and carries us to the Royal Carribean Rhapsody of the Seas, our home for the next seven nights.We depart from Vancouver at 5:15 p.m., watch the passing of the Lion's Head Bridge, then go to our cabin, number4321. Our luggage has arrived and we empty our suitcases and arrange our room before our first dinner.

August 25 (Saturday)

       Tough Day!! Seasick!!! Seasick!!! Seasick!!! Rain. Rain. Rain!! Felt terrible!! Worthless. Felt like doing nothing but laying in bed.
        Read TV channel related to the boat and the conditions of the sea.

    Interesting Notes:

       The captain is Rolv Chr. Olaussen. He was born and raised in the small coastal village by the name of Lervik in the Oslo fjord, Norway. At 17 he entered the Royal Norwegian Navy and served in all Deck Officer positions worldwide on a wide variety of ships, from small cargo vessels to supertankers, until 1980 when he joined the cruise industry.
       Olaussen is personable, has a distinctive Norwegian accent, and adds an exciting spirit to this adventure. But his words are not comfortable today. He talked on the intercom to encourge us about the weather. He talked of the rain and the rough seas and gave us the weather forecast for Sunday. His conclusion was, 'Tomorrow is not very promising either!' Bummer!

                August 26 - Ketchekan, Alaska (  Sunday )

Ketchekan     In Ketchekan it is pouring rain. Normally there are only 40 sunny days a year here. I sat foot in Ketchekan at 7:58 am Alaskan time. It was the 49th state I have been in. The only state I lack is North Dakota.
          "Rain is eternal in Ketchekan," say the natives. Ketchekan was larger than I expected, mainly because I got lost leaving the boat and traveled the wrong direction away from the tourist center of town. I started out lost with a confusing map. I soon passed a local showbar and Personally Yours, a place selling fine linguerie and fuzzy shoes.
        "What would I look like in those?" asked Janet my dear wife. "You would be a furry-footed person," I say.

Dolly's House

       Dollys HouseWe were soon back on tourist side of town heading for
Creek Side and Dolly's House. Creek Side was a small series of tourist shops sitting by a fast flowing stream. Dolly's was a small greenish house honoring the women of the night of a long gone generation.
        Some of the signs on the doors of Dollys were interesting:

         "If you can't find your husband he's in here," said the small sign by the door.

       "I Can make a lot more money from the intentions of men than I ever could waiting on tables." (Dolly)

        Another small sign noted, "Dolly's House is closed to allow the girls to attend the policeman's ball at Beaumont Hall."

          Other interesting signs I noted in town included: Burger Queen (closed), Thai Tailoring, and the Artic Bar (home of the bears). The Masonic Lodge had a large building across from the dock with appropriate signage. Another interesting commerative sign of comraderie was 'Improved Order of Red Men--Thlinket Tribe No.4.'

Daily News       At Jr's Grocery I bought a copy of the Ketchikan Daily News and studied some of the headlines. The headline is "Fishing Disaster Declared." Western Alaska's commercial fishing industry, hobbled by chronically poor runs and anemic prices, was declared an economic disaster Friday by Governor Tony Knowles. Then another headlines indicates that a dispute threatens the local shipyard. Sounds like a bad time for the fishing industry.

         Juneau is 324 nautical miles away. The captain wants to go 22-24 miles per hour. We had planned on going to a worship service then dinner. Seas still rough. Skip both. Go to bed and try to sleep in a rocking boat. Captain advisory: "Those sensitive to the sea should take a couple of pills and be merry." Ugh! To contradict the movements of the sea, I hold on tightly to my bed and dream I am swimming to China.

Juneau - August 27 (Monday)

        I awake at 5:43 am, shower, head for the outside deck. It is 54 deqrees and raining hard. The rain has continued ever since we have been here. After an outside wind check, I head to the 9th floor for coffee. It has been a long time without food. About twelve people gather for the coffee ritual. I bypass the slim rolls, hurriedly head for deck 4 for a window seat by the sea. I have the boat to myself. No one else is to be seen.
        I am reading Monastic Wisdom by Hugn Fleiss. Looking at the passing shoreline, a heavy sense of peace overcomes me. A small village is nearby. The ocean is peaceful. Clouds linger above the horizon.
        An elderly oriental gentleman from San Fransisco passes by and glances out the window. We pass a few moments in animated conversation. . He has traveled all over the world. 'Thats pretty incredible for a farm boy," he says. "I've been lucky."
       "In the end we are judged by who we have become, rather than what we have accomplished," says the author of essential monastic wisdom.

Glacier Luxury Bus    When we get on shore we measure the cost of shore excursion. Most are cheaper when bought from local entrepaneurs. We settle on the Glacier Express, a well abused elderly blue schoolbusowned locally. The $10 cost of the trip included a 15 minute tour of the downtown area and a view of the Mendenhall Glacier.. Not bad!. The driver was excellent. An Indian who had grown up locally and knew everything about the area.

       Historically speaking, forty percent of people in Juneau work for the government since it is the capital. The local fear is that the capital will be moved to Anchorage. If this happens it will kill Juneau.

Mendenhall GlacierReddog Saloon     E-mail

       The tour guide suggested that the finest hamburger is town was at the Cookhouse, a restaurant next door to the Red Dog Saloon. We followed his advice ands indulged! On the menu it said, "The Cookhouse, home of Alaska's largest hamburger." In smaller letters on the menu it said, "a place where the food is good or the cook is dead." The hamburger lived up to its reputation. The two of us only succeeded in finishing 3/4ths of it.

       To complete our day of touring we walked guickly in and out of the Red Dog then hiked to the Russian Orthodox Church, where we listened to Father Thomas give his infamous tourist speech, then we hobbled back to the ship worn out from the days adventures.. The sun even came out briefly on the way back to the ship. The first time we had seen the sun on our trip.

  Dan and Janet Phillips     Back on the boat we ate and went to the theatre to see the movie The Mexican, a rather poor excuse for a movie.(Not a bad picture of Dan and Janet, right? Our 34th anniversary celebrated on the Rhapsody of the Seas).

Skagway - August 28 (Tuesday)

Graffiti on Wall     One of the big things in Skagway is the boat graffiti. It all started decades ago when it was a rare thing for a boat to enter the harbor. This resulted in each boat making its mark on the walls of rocks beside the sea.
        The story goes that if the people on the ship really liked the captain they painted a sign "high up on the wall." That was really important in 1900. Unfortunately, now so many boats come into the harbor that the wall is becoming, shall we say, crowded.
        In writing of Skagway, Alexander Macdonald, a worldly Englishman who passed through Skagway in the fall of 1897, said,

"I have stumbled upon a few tough corners of the globe during my wanderings beyond the outposts of civilization, but I think the most outrageously lawless quarter I ever struck was Skagway .......It seemed as if the scum of the earth had hastened here to fleece and rob, or.....to murder ......There was no law whatsoever, might was right, the dead shot only was immune to danger."

Anne McPherson great tourguide      We gather on the bus for the Yukon Territory Adventure. The Yukon is one Canadian Province we have not been to. This is an opportunity to add another notch to our Canadian Belt so to speak.
        Anne Mcpherson is our bus driver and tour guide is 23 years old and a recent college graduate who majored in art.
       ''That's why I am driving a bus," she said humorously. An excellent historian and story teller, she told of coming to Alaska to search for a man since more single men are in Alaska. What she found was the 'odds are good, but the good are odd.'
       Anne was the best tour guide I have ever had anywhere. She was humourous ("This is your lucky day, I just passed my bus exam), a hysterical historian, and brilliant in her descriptions. Princess Tours should pay her twice what they do now!!!
        The road from Skagway to Lake Bennett (Carcross) was filled with goldrush stories. "The horses died like mosquitoes....and rotted in heaps," said Jack London. 'They died like rocks, were poisoned at the summit, and starved at the lakes.'
        We could see the cliffs they fell from while carrying to heavy a load. It was called the Dead Horse Trail. In Carcross, Yukon Territory, we ate bar-b-que at Frontierland and took a quick tour of the small zoo, high- lighted by a live lynx, goat, roosters, and ponies. We learned an important thing while there: "More duct tape is sold in the Yukon territory than anywhere else in the world," said Anne.

More duct tape is sold in the Yukon territory than anywhere else in the world.

Watson's General StoreEmerald bay   
       In Carcross we ate the "best ice cream in the world" at Watson's General Store. Carcross was a starting point for many boats during the Gold Rush. Carcross is also the home of Murray Lundberg, editor of ExploreNorth website. His Carcross webcam is available 24 hours a day for those who don't want to miss the excitement of the 420 inhabitants of Carcross.

August 29 -Sitka (Wednesday)

       Another very rough night. Captain comes on intercom at 12:45 am to assure us everything is ok. I sit at the table next to Captain at breakfast. "Is this normal weather," I ask?
       "Its the first time this summer we have had a problem," he says. "A large front is covering the area causing the difficulty," he continues.

Sitka City   Many of the passenger took the tour to see the Whales. We wanted to see the whales too but had been so seasick during the night that we didn't feel we could reasonable expect to be ok on the boat going to see the whales. Instead we settled for seeing two eagles and salmon jumping in a stream.
        We take a local $10 tour of Sitka. It was famous because it was once owned by the Russians. It was the place where Seward signed the treaty to buy Alaska from the Russians for the United States. A park above the city pinpoints the spot and shares the history of the moment.
        During the ceremony it is said that the Russian flag was lowered, stuck on the flagpole, and an American soldier had to climb up and rip it down. After the hand over to the Americans, Sitka began to deteriorate, particularly after all administration for the territory was moved to Juneau.Everywhere we turned in Sitka, we were reminded of the Russian past, from the Russian Cathedral, to the trinkets found in souvenir shops.
       The highlights of Sitka included a visit to the Ben Franklin dime store (I use to go to them as a kid fifty years ago) and time spent at the Juneau Alaskan computer center where for $ 5.25 for one half hour I checked my e-mail and sent my only e-mails to friends statewise.
      
August 30 - Hubbard Glacier (Thursday )

    Hubbard Glacier
         Peaceful and calm night at sea. I am so glad. Jumped up at 7 am to see Hubbard Glacier. I was afraid I would miss. I could have waited a while longer.
         We came as close as 1/3 mile from the glacier. It took nearly 3 hours to see it all. It was named after Bernard Hubbard, a Jesuit priest in the early 20th century, one of the most distinguished, renowned, and fascinating figures in the history of Santa Clara University. A Jesuit priest and professor, Hubbard was a man whose vocation included faith and science, exploration and study; and his contributions benefited students, colleagues, national leaders, circumpolar peoples, and the Society of Jesus. "Half the year he was the highest paid lecturer in the world, the other half a wanderer among treacherous craters and glaciers.His annual Alaskan expeditions featured scientific observations, thrills and adventure, wonder, and liturgies."
         He is best known for documenting the land and native peoples of Alaska from 1927 through 1962 and bringing Alaska to the forefront of America's attention. The Smithsonian Institution continues to preserves Hubbard's 200,000 feet of raw film footage, 50 film shorts, and feature films. Hubbard also wrote three books about his adventures.
        The weather was clear and the sun came out for a few minutes, a rareity say others who have been here previously. This was really a stimulating event. Ice floes were beside the ship, the temperature dropping to around 30 degrees, and my hat tightly tied to my head to keep it from flying across the sea and drowning. A beautiful experience.

     References (links)related to Father Hubbard:
     Pictures and story of Hubbard
     Celebrating the legacy of Bernard Hubbard


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Seward to Anchorage - August 31 - (Friday)

Rhapsody of the Seas      It was difficult getting up before 5 a.m. We had most things packed and went for a quick breakfast before departing the Rhapsody of the Seas at 6 a.m. The picture of the ship in the darkness was beautiful. (See right)
         We had an unexpected treat at 6 am. Rather than riding the bus to Anchorage, we rode the Alaskan Railroad train from Seward to Anchorage, atrip of 114 miles.
        We went through Moose Pass, saw Trail Glacier, Bartlett Glacier, and Spencer Glacier, and saw many places devasted by the 1964 earthquake.
        The trainride was the highlight of the trip for me, especially since my Dad and Grandfather both worked for railroads all of their lives. I even celebrated on the train by buying a cup of coffee from the vendor traveling through the train, something I was never able to do as a kid because I didn't have the money available to do so.

Cook Inlet     The scenery was spectacular. The Cook Inlet in particular had some of the most beautiful sites I have seen anywhere.

We went through Moose Pass, saw Trail Glacier, Bartlett Glacier, and Spencer Glacier, and saw many places devasted by the 1964 earthquake.

 

 

    In Anchorage we had to wait for our bags and get things lined up so that they were on the right airlines. Anchorage reminded me more of Houston, Texas, than an Alaskan town. It was similar with non-descrip places like Burger King, McDonalds, and Taco Bells everywhere.
       The highlight of Anchorage was eating at the Glacier Brewhouse, 737 West 5th Avenue. I ate the best bar-b-que ribs I have ever eaten in my life there. And, on the circular coffee cup holder, were these words of wisdom:

"What do you do to become enlightened ? What are the signs you are succeeding ? How does your life change as higher levels of enlightenment are achieved? As you ponder these and other questions , we suggest beer."

Cook Inlet Bookstore     Besides walking over the city, riding the tour bus and hearing that there are 2,700 live moose roaming around in the Anchorage city limits, I went to the Cook Inlet Book Company. It was an excellent store. "A terrific place," says Jon Krakauer.
       After a week floating around half of the world in boats and planes and trains, I found the perfect book. Jerry Smiths' "HAARP The Ultimate Conspiracy" summed up everything. A description of the endless strange antennas placed in Alaska to conspire against the weather worldwide and snoop on persons around the world with dangerous intent to destroy the United States. Certainly nothing could be further from the truth, right?? (August 31, 2001)

ON ENDING THE STORY

       Yes, things have changed in our world since my Alaskan Cruise, but it was a wonderful time. A ship traveling the seas is a beautiful scene. A train climbing a mountain sees things never seen before. And a glacier, named after a priest, is the ultimate liturgy.

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 Dan Kenneth Phillips

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