Saturday, June 29, 2013

AK to CA Trip: The Ferry Adventure

Haines, AK to Bellingham, WA...nearly 1000 miles over 3.5 days

The only other time that we have traveled on the Alaska Marine Highway System was between Homer and Kodiak, so we were really looking forward to seeing Southeast Alaska while not having to do any driving.  We were also happy to be avoiding Canada as much as possible.  I just checked my credit card statement from the one gas stop we had in Haines Junction, and it was almost $100 for about 12 gallons of gas!

We boarded the ferry Monday evening and left after midnight. The ship pulled into Juneau around 5am, and our very good friends (the same friends who we visited for Thanksgiving) delivered breakfast to us.  It was so great to see them, and we love having friends all over thanks to the Coast Guard.

Leaving Auke Bay (Juneau)
After about 4 hours sleep, we all took a nice afternoon nap in our stateroom before the ship pulled into Sitka.  We had nearly three hours to explore, but the town is not near the ferry terminal (this seems to be the theme of AK ferry port calls).  So instead, we got the dog out of the car- where he has to remain the entire time the ship is underway- and headed to the Starrigavan trail system right up the road and went for a hike.  The forest was beautiful, and the trail was very well maintained.

On the above section of boardwalk, the surrounding terrain was very muddy.  We had our bear spray and kept up our noise level, but we were still a bit uneasy after seeing this.

 Back on the ship, we settled in for the night.  The next stop was Petersburg, but it was at 3:30 am.  Knowing that the kids would still be getting up before 7, no matter how tired they seemed, the adults decided that we'll just see Petersburg the next time around.  In the morning, it was back down to the car deck for the pup when we pulled into Wrangell.

Dining among the vehicles...the ferry was not full at this point, but it was by the end of the journey!

Not the best pic, but it was beautiful.  I used my iPhone camera quite a bit.  Oops

Later that afternoon, we pulled into our last port, Ketchikan.  I don't know what I was expecting, but what I saw wasn't it!  Ketchikan is the definition of "bustling."  The float planes buzz overhead and land right in the channel with the ships, and the jets land on an airport on an island in the middle, reachable only by ferry.  There was more traffic than I've seen in any other small Alaskan town.

From the ferry deck

 We had plenty of time, but with only a city bus to rely on us to get to downtown and back before the ship sailed again, we opted to visit the grocery store for snacks and reading material (we majorly misjudged how much downtime we would have on the ferry, especially with the US Forest Service rangers no longer onboard due to sequestration and budget cuts).  We also spent time at the restaurant in the Best Western across the street from the ferry terminal before settling back in for the longest leg of the journey.

From Ketchikan to Bellingham, it's a 36-hour ride.  We passed the time with movies for the kids, books for the adults, and watching out the windows and playing Bananagrams for everyone.  Most of the ride was smooth sailing, except for a few open-water crossings with the waves at our beam.  I even had to leave the warm confines of our room for a bit of fresh air when crossing the Dixon Entrance.  But I found an awesome view.

On our last evening, we entered a narrow channel called Ripple Point.  The fog and stillness gave a very eerie feeling.  It was amazing that large ships pass through here regularly.  In fact, two huge cruise ships were leading the way.

Although we enjoyed our adventure at sea, we were very excited to hear the purser announce, "30 minutes to Bellingham" this morning.  Little Man even declared, "Yes.  Get me off of this ship."  Scenery isn't very exciting when you're 5.  And eating microwavable meals to avoid the expense of the ferry dining room gets old after 3 days.  On to the final leg of the adventure!

1 comment:

Warren Andrews said...

Spending time with family and friends are really awesome and enjoyable.These trips are so much fun with unforgettable memories.

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