(Dick Jordan spent two weeks traveling throughout Southeast Alaska in June of 2008. Here’s an edited excerpt from the blog he wrote during the trip; look for more installments in the near future.)
(Sunday, June 15 – Sitka to Juneau). The sun came out for a bit as we spent our final few hours in Sitka on Sunday morning. Bob, who along with his wife, Barb, hosted us in their rental apartment, kindly drove us the 8 miles or so from the airport on Japonski Island (where we dropped off The Malibu) to Sitka’s ferry terminal The Fairweather (a catamaran ferry built in 2004) arrived on time at 12:30 from its down-bound trip from Juneau, unloaded cars (it holds up to 36) and passengers, and took aboard people and vehicles headed for Juneau. One hour later, the captain had the lines cast off and we were underway.
Skies remained gray for most of the four and a half hour sail, but the sun came out now and again and the rain held off. We saw a couple of whales (my wife saw the flukes of one, but I only saw the other whale’s waterspout) and a quick flash of a porpoise as we traveled through the narrow confines of Peril Strait.
Around three o’clock or so we made a wide swing to port, passed a green buoy with sea lions napping on it, and were in Chatham Strait, the main north-south passage between Baranof Island to the west and Admiralty Island to the east. Communities along this part of the Inside Passage are few and far between. We left Angoon to starboard, and an hour or so later passed Tenakee Inlet, and then overtook the ferry Le Conte out of Tenakee bound for Juneau with a stop at Hoonah along the way.
In the narrowest part of the passage between Baranof Island and Chichagof Island, we had been moving as “slow” as 16 knots, but once we headed north up Chatham Strait the captain put the “pedal to the metal” and we were cruising at nearly 38 knots, leaving a broad,but smooth gray wake behind us. When Icy Strait came up on our port beam we got a glimpse, past a set of small islands called The Sisters and a peninsula that appeared to hide Gustavus (the next stop on our trip after Juneau) from sight, of the white shining peaks off in the distance near Glacier Bay.
The ferry gave us a smooth and swift ride to Juneau, arriving right on time at 6:00 pm. By sheer coincidence, the brother of the Tlingit wood carver who works at the Sitka National Historical Park picked us up in his cab and drove us to the airport where we got into our rented Toyota Camry for the short ride to our inn. Getting into the inn proved to be the day’s adventure. No one was manning the desk and it took sometime for us to figure out that we had to go the Best Western motel down the pike to check in.
After tossing our bags into the room and quickly changing togs, we drove down the scenic valley (reminiscent of the places were visited in Austria and Switzerland) between the airport and “downtown” Juneau (pop. 30,000) to dine on Asian-Fusion halibut at “Zen“, a delightful and quiet little eatery in one of the local hotels. By the time we finished eating, all of the cruise ships docked in Juneau had gotten up steam, slowly backed away from the docks, and made their way south and off to yet another Alaskan port. As they sailed away into the misty evening and we took the “nickel driving tour” of the town, a little rain began to fall and Juneau rolled up its sidewalks for the night.