Thursday, August 13, 2009

Misty Fjords:

Today, we docked at Ketchikan in Southeastern Alaska, another very rainy place. Here they measure rainfall in feet, not inches--13.5 feet per year plus 6-8 feet of snow. But the sun was shining today and we headed out right after the ship docked at 10 this morning. Our destination was Misty Fjords, a national park that is part of the Tongas Forest, a massive wilderness area.

We cruised the fjord in a boat deep into the heart of the these wild lands. Towering conifers and steep mountains rim these glacier-made waters so the scenery was once again spectacular. These lands are what Alaska is all about: 85% wilderness with only 15% actually populated. This is the reverse of the lower 48 states. All of the towns we have seen have to be reached by boat or plane. There are no roads to Skagway, Juneau (the Capitol of Alaska) or Ketchikan. The towns are small and except for a base of hardy souls, they pretty much close up during the winter. Those who live here year round often get their power from generators. No power lines mar the surrounding wilderness and roads cannot be put in across ice fields or through the rugged terrain.

Man has left his mark though: The otter and beaver were decimated in the 1850's to make hats such as Abraham Lincoln wore. Forests were logged out, salmon fisheries nearly depleted and so on. Only after the wilderness was declared permanent and set aside for preservation did the rape of the land halt. You can still see the scars here and there, but for the most past, when you enter someplace like the fjord, you are seeing this magnificent land as nature has carved it. The effect is stunning and makes you realize the insignificance of humans before the grandeur of God's creation.

Float planes are the only signs of civilization and they are coming and going. Not just carrying tourists but bringing in supplies, medicines, and even picking up pregnant women and taking them to town at least two weeks before their due date so that they can bear their children in a hospital.

The guides on our excursions have all been marvelous. And it's easy to see how much they love Alaska and want to preserve what's here. We have heard native Alaskan speakers several times and today, we ventured very close to petroglyphs left by pre-contact natives from ?. The boat went right up to the sheer face of the cliff so we could see the bear paw print petroglyphs.

We have not seen bears though we've been in prime habitat for them. The reason for this is the good weather. Bears forage in rainy cold weather but when the sun comes out they seek the shade and snooze all day. So our good weather has probably prevented us from seeing any.

Tomorrow is a day at sea and the following morning we dock in Vancouver, Canada. Then back to Seattle for a day before we fly out Sunday--me home to Maui and Kay to Toledo.

What a wonderful time we've had here in the north! The word Alaska comes from the native word "Alyeska" (at least that's what it sounds like). It means "The Great Land."

That's certainly what Alaska is...

Texas could fit inside it three times plus.

We are just so thrilled and humbly grateful to have had this chance to see some of it.

Will post photos as soon as I can. Much love to all of you reading this.

Wish you were here...

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