August 30, 2004 GMT
(20) Up Close and Personal With Mt. McKinley

Saturday August 28 2004

I go to Talkeetna Air Taxi early when they open to find out if flights are going to Mt.McKinley.
There is low lying cloud cover, one of the pilots takes a test flight to check and we can hear him report back to the radio in the office that once you are up and through the low lying clouds the weather is clear and Mt. McKinley is beautiful.

I do not have a flight booked but the woman says there is one open seat on the first flightseeing tour.
I don't think about it too long as the weather could change quickly.
Within 30 minutes, the pilot, 5 others and myself are off the runway and on our way towards Mt. McKinley in a Canadian made De Havilland Beaver.
I am lucky as I have the very back seat to myself, I can slide from side to side to get all the photos I want.
The flight was 1 1/2 hours with a 1/2 hour landing on a glacier, it was awesome and the highlight of my Alaskan trip so far.
I snapped many photos, we flew close to and through mountains, the glaciers were awesome to look at and to land on one was the icing on the cake.
There was fresh snow and it was so quiet, beautiful and peaceful up there, truely amazing!
I would love to do that again.
Once back the first thing I do is take my digital camera card and get the photos burned to cd-rom disk, as it was almost full.

I will drive tomorrow, rain or shine!

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Posted by Jeff Nicholls at 05:51 AM GMT | Comments (0)
August 31, 2004 GMT
(21) From Motor Highway to the Marine Highway

Monday August 30 2004

Up early to pack and leave for Haines, Alaska where I plan to catch the ferry through the Inside Passage.

We had frost last night, David showed me his water had a layer of ice on top.
I guess it is time to move south!

We drive along the Alaskan Hwy #2, through the Yukon it is Hwy #1 then changes to Hwy #3 after Haines Junction, through BC for a short distance and finally back into Alaska, it is called the Haines Road #3.

The scenery along this road is spectacular, especially Kluane National Park, home to Mt. Logan, tallest mountain in Canada.
Unfortunately you can not see Mt. Logan from the road but some of the snow capped mtns. and peaks were massive in size to drive by.

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Once in awhile i get a little worried watching David's trailer swaying back and forth as he motors along. I think to myself about the weight of the trailer on those small wheels, one wrong move or a puncture and...I don't want to think about that.

We arrive in Haines, Alaska.

Another cool little deep water port town.
This is home to the world's largest congregation of Bald Eagles.
There are also many Grizzly (Brown) Bears that feed in the rivers on salmon.

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David will continue to the campground and I to the ferry terminal.

I buy a ticket for myself and motorcycle on tonights ferry that leaves at 11:50 pm
I choose to not get off at any port town through the Inside Passage and will arrive in Bellingham, Washington on friday morning 7am, 3 1/2 days later.

The ferry makes stops in Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell and Ketchikan, Alaska.
From here it weaves its way through narrows, islands, between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, then into Bellingham, Washington.

I buy my ticket and drive back into Haines to do stock up on some groceries.
I will take most of my food with me, the food on ferries is usually way overpriced for me.
I get in the line and wait a few hours for the ferry to arrive from Skagway, where it originates from.

I meet and talk to Mike, a man from Seattle on an Austrian made KTM motorcycle.

These motorcycles are made for adventure travel, on and off the road.

This is the type of motorcycle I would like to have one day to really explore places off the beaten track, to be able to get out and see the real good bits that most people are not able to access.

I also meet Lex, a man from Florida who tells me that not so far down the road he and others watched 2 grizzly mothers and their cubs, it was in a public place.
I wished that I had arrived a day earlier as I would have loved to see that.

We board the ferry, tie down the motorcycles, then I drag my gear up to the top deck and the stern of the boat.

This is called the solarium, part is open but most is covered in with heaters overhead at night time.

There are about 10 tents pitch at the rear and the rest of the 50-60 people have there patch staked out on their cot/lounge chair/bed for the duration of the voyage.

It is a cool set up, I like that we are on top, out in the open but have a roof over our heads...and with heat!

I decide to use just my sleeping bag and a louge chair and leave my tent packed away under the chair.

I am excited as I have heard so much about this ferry ride through the Inside Passage.
Now if we get good weather it will be a bonus as this part of Alaska gets quite a bit of rain.
This is home for the next 3 1/2 days, sometimes it is nice to take a break from the motorcycle and watch the world go (float) by.

Posted by Jeff Nicholls at 08:26 PM GMT | Comments (0)
September 01, 2004 GMT
(22) The Inside Passage

Tuesday August 31 2004

The first night on the ferry went well.
I met and talked with a lot of other travellers on the solarium deck.
We exchange travel stories and make conversation.

There was a brief stop in Juneau early in the morning. It was quite early, I think most of the passengers (myself included) slept through that stop, after a brief stop we continue southwards.

The weather is just brilliant, sunny skies, warm temperatures and the views from the ferry are absolutely amazing.
The snow peaked mts. in the distance, the colour of the sea & sky, the sunsets, it all has to be seen with the naked eye to be appreciated.

I take many photos, keep a constant vigil with the binoculars to spot wildlife on the shores, in the sky and on the water.

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The next port of call is Sitka, Alaska.
Sitka has a lot of history, the Tlingit Inians were the first inhabitants.
Next were the Russians in 1799 and then the Russians sold Alaska to the US for $7.2 million with the transfer ceremony in Sitka, October 18 1867.

It was a beautiful seaside town, there is much to see and it has a nice harbour. After a few good hours taking in the local sites we board again and continue southwards.

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The ferry had a park ranger on board to give regular talks and presentations on a variety of topics from marine life, history and information about the Inside Passage.
It was all done very well.
There were also many films playing on many interesting topics about the area and the whole marine ecology.
Top marks to them.

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Some of the marine life I saw were Humpback Whales, Killer (Orcas) Whales, different kinds of Dolphins & Porpoises, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Seals, Salmon, Bald Eagles and Waterfowl/Seabirds.

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I was sitting in my chair reading when they announced that a pod of Killers Whales were off the port side.
The whole solarium people more or less ran, cameras & binoculars flying to the port side.
I watched the pod(maybe 4 or 5) through my binoculars up ahead and when they reached us at the back, they went under, not to appear until out of camera range.
I guess they were playing a cruel joke on us wanting good Orca photos.
I continued watching them long after they passed with my binoculars. Behind the ferry was a big yacht following, suddenly this one Orca just breached quite close to and in front of this yacht.
I wondered if that guy was ready with his camera at that moment.

The next town that we stopped long enough to visit was Ketchikan.

It is famous for its Alaskan Native Culture, great salmon fishing and for more Totem Poles than anywhere else in the world.

It was a nice enough town but it was overrun with thousands of tourists on those 3 or 4 giant cruiseliners docked adjacent to the downtown wharfs.
It reminded me of the day I was in Skagway, Alaska, same thing.
I guess they have to put ashore sometimes.

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This whole trip south was very, very awesome.
The weather cooperated everday to give us unseasonably warm, sunny, dry weather... what a bonus!

The beauty along the way was unbelievable!

I had a really good time onboard this ferry and I met a lot of very nice people too.
It was a little expensive for my tastes, but I thought how many chances will I get to see the Inside Passage...hopefully again sometime!

I am so glad that I decided to go on this ferry through The Inside Passage, it was a trip I will never forget.

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Posted by Jeff Nicholls at 12:07 AM GMT | Comments (0)
September 04, 2004 GMT
(23) Bellingham, Washington

Friday September 03 2004

We arrive at our destination and the ferry docks.

Some of us travellers have become friends, we take some photos of each other and exchange email addresses, phone numbers etc.

We say goodbye, get into our different vehicles or on our motorcycles and continue our journeys.

It is always the same when I travel, I've always been very lucky to meet up with really good people.
Sometimes we are going in the same direction or to the same destinations.
You become travelling companions and freinds.
Sometimes you keep contact, maybe once in awhile, maybe just to send a postcard, maybe never again.
I have to say that I have been very blessed to meet good friends that have for me became lifelong friends.

You go to these beautiful countries, lands, places to see and experience the beauty,
explore and experience, but it is always the people there that makes it that much more special and puts a smile on your face when you think back of a funny story or warm moment.
I have had many funny and warm memories.

Now I will visit with friends in Bellingham that I met 15 years ago in New Zealand.
The last time I was in Bellingham, Washington was 7 years ago, they had 2 dogs.
This time I visit they still have 2 dogs, plus 3 lovely little girls.
I look forward to meet and get to know these 3 new additions.

Posted by Jeff Nicholls at 12:51 AM GMT | Comments (0)
September 26, 2004 GMT
(24) The Wind Says Drive East

Monday September 04 2004

My time here on the west coast has been amazing and eye opening.
I have been welcomed into my friends family as one of their own and will never forget or know how to repay them for their warmth and hospitality, they really are like family to me, always have been.

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Was a joy to get to know these 3 little girls, never a dull moment and always something to laugh, cry, explain, read, play & talk about with these young girls, they are amazingly sharp and intelligent, it is scary!

We went sailing, driving motorcycles, visiting, bowling (Marc's favourite sport) eating out and enjoying each others company.

While here my friend Marc introduces me to MacIntosh computers, he has been recommending Mac to me for years.
It didn't take so much pushing for me to see that Macs are far superior in most areas over PC's and Windows.
I am now the proud owner of a Mac Powerbook G4 laptop computer and have enjoyed getting to know and learn this Mac very much...Oh! and I just had to buy a 40 GB Ipod musicplayer too, I need those 10,000 songs on my fingertips when I am riding.

...and it comes with sadness to say goodbye to my friends here, it is a very nice to have the feeling of a home away from home. I look forward to seeing them all again and hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Thank you Marc, Ana & family

Posted by Jeff Nicholls at 09:05 PM GMT | Comments (0)

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