Studio Musings

Friday, May 27, 2011

Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan

Disney Wonder docked in Skagway
Wow, time has flown since we got back! It's now been a little over two weeks, but I've promised this post to several people, so here it is.

Last September we barely saw Skagway, as we'd booked an all-day excursion. This time we had no plans except to explore the town.  At first glance, it looks like a movie set for an old western. Turns out many of those buildings are original to the gold  rush era, even if they have played musical chairs with their locations.

Ugly sketch/cool stamp!
In Seattle's Pioneer Square we have a National Park museum for the Klondike Gold Rush as many of the miners sailed north from Seattle.  They sailed to Skagway, then set out on foot (later rail) over the White Pass.  So of course I had to visit the Rangers' Station and get a stamp for my sketchbook.  It was almost strange to realize I was actually there, and to try to imagine the town as it might have been.

Heritage Museum in Skagway
Beyond the National Park exhibits, there's an interesting museum filled with both historical displays and contemporary works by residents and locals (less than 1000 people call Skagway home year round). At the museum we picked up a great walking tour map. The map also detailed several local hikes.

Kirmse's Curios
As we were the first cruise ship of the year, and the only one in port, the seasonal shops like Diamond International were still frantically setting up. Luckily, that didn't matter to us. The local shops were ready and waiting, and far more interesting in my opinion. I especially enjoyed Kirmse's (no website unfortunately), an fen craft/art gallery featuring works of Skagway and Alaskan artisans.  I mainly drooled over their jewelry and woven baskets, then spent time speaking with one of their sales associates who was finishing what I think is best termed an apprenticeship in carving fossilized ivory.  Definitely worth a visit!

There's gold dust in that there pan! 

Up next, Juneau was our only port where we'd pre-planned our shore excursion. Joe really wanted to go gold panning, following his grandfather's (and father's) examples. I thought I'd tag along and take pictures. I had a blast!  Our prospector guide picked us up at the cruise dock then gave us a short but fun tour of Juneau as we headed out of town towards Gold Creek.

The day was warm (for Alaska in early May), the scenery beautiful, and their's something rather heady about seeing gold flakes at the bottom of your pan.  After showing us the basics, our guide passed out pre-filled pans.   And sure enough we found gold - in the form of tiny flakes. But even better, he'd brought a shovel so we could scoop dirt from the creek bank itself and keep going. My first solo attempt was a bust, but three bright gold flakes winked at me from the bottom of my next pan. Woo hoo!

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau
And since that finished up mid day, I was able to catch one of the shuttle buses out to the Mendenhall glacier as well.

Having now visited Alaska in both shoulder seasons, I have to say that I think I prefer September. May is fairly early spring, so far north, so wherever I saw deciduous forests they were still quite bare and brown. In September, those same forest blazed gold with fall color. Also, the salmon are running in September, so ther's more wildlife - seals and bears, feasting on the salmon. But as Joe pointed out,  Creek Street (Ketchikan) does smell better in 'May without the dead carcasses os spawned salmon.

View of Ketchikan from the top deck
Our shortest stop was Ketchikan, which is also my personal favorite. I love the look of the town, climbing the steep hillsides rimming its narrow waterfront.

'Our' team at the Lumberjack Show
Last minute we booked tickets for the lumberjack show, which was a hoot. They divided the audience into two teams to root for 'their' lumberjacks. While I vantage say it's out 'thing', we enjoyed the show.  My favorite part was the log rolling. Turns out they host a school for local youth to learn the sport of log rolling, and before the official competition they had two of their students - both looked like they were in their early teens - to compete. And best yet, ours was a lumberjill. And she won!

Treetop Adventure walk at Capilano
On our return to Vancouver, we took a taxi to the trains station and stuffed our bags in one of the rental lockers there.  Then I headed off via sky train (Joe wasn't feeling great so he stayed behind) to explore the city. Ended up taking the free shuttle out to the suspension bridge at Capilano. Definitely worth a visit. The park is beautiful, and the suspension bridge was much longer and higher than expected. Walking across was like being aboard a ship in high seas, except it rolled with your movements instead of you trying to roll with its.
Cedar tree
And last, here are a couple more of my quick sketches from Capilano. Even when they don't turn out well - like the suspension bridge sketch, the sketching and notes help remind me how I felt when I was there, even more so than the pictures. At Capilano, it was windy, sprinkling and just cold enough that I couldn't sketch for long. And everything was so, so green!

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