Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alaska: Part 5 (which is really Portland)



Mon,7/14

On the flight down from Juneau I read a review in The Atlantic of a book called, "Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film". This was either the best of worst possible thing to read on the way to a city that seems to revel in whimsy. Needless to say this book was also featured at a major Portland bookstore so the hipsters who rode there on their single gear "fixie" bikes could revel in irony as they browsed the books and twirled their whimsical 19th century mustaches. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Portlanders - they are more laid back in their quirkiness than New York hipsters, though in addition to fixie bikes I did see more 35mm film cameras than I had seen in years - carried slung over the shoulder to leave the hands free for iPhone use.

Whether the hipster designation (condemnation?) is valid or not, other Portland stereotypes certainly ring true. For one thing, Portland people sure take their environmental concerns to heart. I awoke on my first morning and looked out the window to see a truck from a "sustainable Mexican food" caterer drive by. Sustainable in what way? Are the tortillas made from recycled cardboard? Do they have a scheme to capture any methane produced during digestion and use it to generate electricity? I noticed that the ice cream place we stopped in one day used metal tasting spoons - no disposable pink plastic a la Baskin Robins. The Indian restaurant we ate at (more on that later) dispensed water from a metal container with a "lifewithoutplastic.com" logo. Oh, so green. I'm glad (and a little surprised) I didn't have to hand-crank the elevator in our hotel - not that that would have made it much slower.

Anyway, we had left Alaska with a boat load, so to speak, of dirty laundry so we started a load of laundry (the hotel had coin-operated machines) then went and partook of the gratis Embassy Suites breakfast  which was served in one giant mutha' of a breakfast room. V was feeling tired (I think she was starting to get sick at this point) so she took an after-breakfast nap while I finished up the laundry and relaxed. By mid-day V was feeling better so we irresponsibly burned some fossil fuel and drove over to the west side of town where we went to the Portland International Test Rose Garden. The garden was huge and gorgeous, particularly on what was a beautiful bright sunny day. We also visited the nearby Japanese garden, which was serene and quietly pretty. It was there that we ran into a guy taking pictures of his stuffed platypus, Ducky. Apparently he blogs about his travels and Ducky always figures into things. What was most remarkable about the whole affair was that we have exactly the same stuffed platypus (ours is named Giuseppe). The other notable thing about the whole affair is that the guy, who naturally was in town for a conference on renewable energy, was a rather serious sour-puss of a fellow - not the kind of guy you'd expect to be out on the town snapping photos of his stuffed platypus visiting Portland landmarks. While we were at the park I also made sure to find a geocache so I could add Oregon to my list of states.
Me at the Rose Garden
A rose at the Rose Garden
V at the Rose Garden
 On the drive back from the park we started feeling pretty hungry and so stopped at a pizza place (Hot Lips Pizza). We began to notice that Portland has a lot of pizza places. And micro-breweries. And coffee bars. Considering that pizza and coffee are among my favorite food items, and beer is pretty high on my list too, I was really starting to like this town. All the city needs to add to meet my full spectrum of food needs is a breakfast cerealitarium - though I wouldn't be surprised if there already was one. From there we went to the famous, enormous and wonderful Powell's Book Store, where we passed quite a bit of time browsing. When we met back up we realized that neither of us had much more than scratched the surface of the place and so we decided that if we had time we'd come back again during our visit.

Our hotel was right near Chinatown, and so for dinner we walked over to a restaurant called Good Taste. I think I've already mentioned that Portland has a large homeless population. Well, Chinatown and its environs are dense with homeless, at least in part because the city has set up designated homeless safe sleeping areas (complete with Porta-potties and security) in that neighborhood.

The food at Good Taste was OK, though nothing to rave about (note to self: next time eat at "Great Taste" instead), and when we got back to the hotel I had something of a stomach ache so we just settled into the hotel for the evening.


Tues, 7/15

By Tuesday morning I was feeling better and I was antsy over not having "really" exercised for almost two weeks. Yes, I had been hiking and kayaking almost daily and had rowed once, but I felt I had been a little short on real cardio. On Monday I had scoped out the hotel's fitness room and had noticed a sign there describing a nice outdoor running loop along the Willamette River. Despite the fact that I didn't have any running gear I decided to go out and try it. I put on a pair of shorts and my light hiking shoes, the only sneakers I had with me, and headed out for a run.

Early morning in Portland - on my walk down to the river I spotted a young couple sleeping in the back of a Nissan Sentra. They had folded the rear seat down and were effectively sleeping in the trunk with their heads sticking out into the back seat area. I also thought I'd swing by a spot where I suspected there was a geocache, but there were too many homeless people sleeping there for me to look around for it.

I ran on the promenade alongside the west side of the Willamette River, up and over Steel Bridge with its metallic smell of train tracks, down the east bank, back over Hawthorne bridge, and back to start. Between the shoes and the fact that I hadn't run in a while I was moving slowly and so I was surprised at how quickly I finished the 3.5 mile loop - until I realized I had crossed back a bridge too soon and so had only run 2.5 miles. The run once again made me appreciate the Potomac. The promenades along the Willamette are nice enough, but the riverfront is fairly industrial and ugly.

V near Pioneer Courthouse Square
When I got back we ate breakfast and headed out to Pioneer Courthouse Square, a sort of central hub of the city. There we strolled around, browsed in some shops including a pretty awesome crafts shop, watched a band, and visited the visitors center. We went across to check out the stores in the Pioneer Square mall, but it turned out to be a lot like the Tysons Galleria - too many high end luxury retailers. We checked out a few shops and moved on. I also went into the downtown Target to try and get a prescription refilled - to no avail.

Another thing Portland is known for is food trucks. In fact, there are areas where there are big clusters of all kinds of food trucks. Since we hadn't eaten lunch we decided to visit the biggest of these, which features food trucks all the way around a whole block, and then some. The trucks don't have to leave at the end of every day - they are parked on what is essentially a block-sized parking lot and at night they lock up but stay put. After inspecting the whole block (Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, BBQ, Thai, Middle Eastern, ...) we settled on something we'd never eaten before and split an order of Georgian mushroom dumplings, which turned out to be a delicious choice. The dumplings came with instructions from the vendor on how to eat them: hold them pinched side down and eat from the top so that the juice doesn't spill out. We repaired to an adjacent park and followed the instructions.

Portland Food Trucks
We then strolled back up through the Pearl District, which I would describe as Portland's quirky, artsy neighborhood except every neighborhood in Portland seems to strive to fit that description. We browsed in vintage clothing stores where I discovered that the polyester togs I wore to my bar mitzvah are worth a pretty penny (or bitcoin) to hipsters. V went to a yarn shop, etc., etc., Eventually we wound up back at Powell's books for our second round of book shopping (we didn't really buy anything on either trip since books are heavy to carry home).

For dinner we went to the widely hailed Bollywood Theater Indian restaurant in the Alberta Arts District. First of all, I should know by now that "Arts District" is a euphemism for "gentrifying area". Think of Williamsburg (or maybe now Bed-Stuy) in Brooklyn, or Del Rey in Alexandria, VA. The place was in a hipster enclave of a transitional neighborhood, next door to a similarly hipster ice cream shop with flavors like goat cheese habanero. The line for the restaurant was out the door, but it's an order at the counter sort of place so it moved reasonably quickly.

Bollywood Theater
I'm torn about Bollywood Theater.  I liked the food, which was indeed different stuff than your average Indian restaurant. Papri Chaat, something I had had only once before when my Indian neighbors served it at a party. Wraps. Samosas. Fried curried okra. V was not as thrilled with it, but thought it was OK. I had no problem with the hipsterish crowd (young daddies with their long hair in top-knot buns, there with their babies in Snuglis). It's just that, well, I read in an interview that founder Troy MacClarty wanted to recreate the Indian food he experienced as a student in Berkeley (the menu fudges it a little bit and says he wanted to recreate the food he experienced on his first visit to India - though in the article he says that he had the restaurant idea first and only then decided to visit India). I guess I'm just used to Indian restaurants being run by Indian people, not people who discovered Indian takeout when they were in college. But what the heck - the best bagels in Arlington are baked by Egyptians, and there's a chain of Italian restaurants in Virginia run by a Lebanese family, so why shouldn't a Southern California dude earn a living making papri chaat?

Weds, 7/16

I think one of the reasons V didn't like Bollywood Theater is that she was really starting to get sick. By Wednesday morning she was sick as a dog. I did what I could to help her out, then when she headed back to sleep I decided to occupied myself by going off kayaking. I had spotted a kayak rental place among all the tourist info - only 15 minutes away on a section of the Willamette River just outside the urban area, a nice, residential area of Portland. Well, actually, the shop is not quite on the river, which is interesting. The shop is on a main avenue, and then there's a park between that street and the river. So, when you rent a kayak there they give you a set of wheels and you walk the kayak down the street for a block, then down a side street, into the park, and through the park's parking lot to the boat ramp - about a quarter mile in all. I felt a little strange doing this but I didn't get any looks - I realized after a bit that there must be a steady flow of people out strolling with kayaks and paddle boards and so the locals must be used to it. The outfitter rented excellent boats at low prices. They rented me a composite Nigel Foster Legend for $15/hr. Key Bridge Boathouse charges the same amount, but for the money you get a crappy plastic rec boat. Interestingly, they provided the boat, paddle and PFD but no skirt, no pump, and no paddle float. These west coasters are far more lax on safety gear than we are in DC.

Walking a Kayak Down the Street
I paddled downriver a bit and looked at some permanent houseboats (small houses built on floating platforms). Then I paddled back upriver towards the city. I spotted an eagle sitting on a branch just above the river. I tried to get a picture of it but for some reason my camera wasn't focusing right so I unclipped it from my PFD (can you guess why I'm mentioning this detail?) to play with it. I couldn't get it to work right so I just jammed it back into the PFD pocket, forgetting to re-clip it (have you figured it out yet?). When I was paddling past the marina adjacent to the boat ramp - yes, the last 100 yards of my last outing on the last day of my trip - I pulled the camera out again to get a picture of a cool-looking sailboat and blip! It slipped from my hands and into the river. Gone in an instant. Fortunately this was my little point-and-shoot and pretty much all of the meaningful pictures I took on the trip were on my other camera, which was safely back in the hotel room. The only ones I regret losing are some of me in a kayak in front of the Mendenhall glacier.

I paddled back to the boat launch and found myself taking the whole thing pretty calmly. Strangely, I wasn't beating myself up as I ordinarily would do. Still, it must have been subconsciously affecting me because I was acting uncharacteristically spaced out. Returned the kayak and left, forgetting to take my car keys. Went back for my car keys and left, forgetting to take my water bottle. Retrieved my water bottle and left, and only later realized I had left a banana in the day hatch of the boat. I hope they noticed it before too long.

By the time I got back, about 2 PM, V was feeling a little better and we went to a restaurant called Mothers for lunch. The place had a Portland interpretation of Jewish deli food, and it helped V to have some comfort food - chicken soup. For my part I had a salmon sandwich which was actually better than anything I had gotten in Alaska. A truly superb piece of salmon. After lunch V crawled back into bed and I went for a walk. I again tried unsuccessfully to get my prescription filled at Target (they hadn't gotten the expect shipment of inventory). I tried on Stetsons at a Western store. And I finally got coffee at Portland's famous Stumptown roasters. A truly delicious, winey latte that made me realize anew that Starbucks is the McDonalds of coffee bars. I poked my head into Voodoo donuts, another Portland landmark, but I'm not really a big donut fan so I settled for the experience and left without a donut. One of their outlets is near our hotel and we had marveled at the lines out the door in the evenings, much as we shake our heads over the mob at the DC cupcake place in Georgetown.

Coffee from Stumptown
I think I have mentioned that Portland prides itself on being quirky. Our hotel had a list of Portland's offbeat museums, which include a vacuum cleaner museum and a bathtub art museum. I was delighted to discover that included on this list for some reason was a perfectly normal (at least from my perspective) museum, the Lincoln Street Canoe and Kayak Museum. Yes, there's some guy in Portland who builds meticulous recreations and replicas of traditional kayaks based on drawings and actual artifacts collected by early western explorers. His name is Harvey Golden ... wait a minute ... Harvey Golden? I know him! We met at the Delmarva Qajaq Festival in 2004 and I know that he's very active in QajaqUSA (for readers who aren't aware of this, the folks into traditional Inuit kayaking often use the "Q" spelling).

With V still snoozing I hopped into the car and drove back into East Portland to Harvey's Museum. It turns out he's built so many boats that he's run out of room to store them in his house, so this being Portland he bought a storefront up the block from where he lives and opened it as a kayak museum. He's got several dozen of his creations, plus smaller models and related artifacts, on display. He even had a self-guided tour - little booklets with descriptions of the various items. I think that for most people a visit to the kayak museum would be good for about 10 minutes, but I was there for close to an hour and had a blast! It's largely a one man operation and so Harvey was there working on his next book (Kayaks of Alaska) and minding the store. He and I chatted for quite a while and of course dropped some mutual names - kayaking is a small world. While I was there V called me - back among the living yet again - so I bid farewell to Harvey and hustled back to the hotel. V and I grabbed a quick dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant then we packed and Thursday it was off to home.

Lincoln Street Kayak Museum
Teddy picked us up at the airport and when we got home we found he had straightened the house and had even made our bed (which we had left unmade). A good kid with a good surprise for us to end a good trip.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Alaska: Part 4

A few more things:

Being a navigation dork I had brought along printouts of some appropriate pages from the NOAA booklet charts. Here's my daily markup of our location:


Here's the initial planned track from the day 1 briefing (we deviated somewhat from this, but it's generally correct):

And here we are, happy:


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alaska: Part 3



Thurs, 7/10: Red Bluffs

Happy Ted's Birthday! Today is Ted's 21st birthday. We had the serendipitous event of briefly having cell phone service as we passed near the town of Cake and so we texted Ted to say Happy Birthday. He responded with a picture of a bottle of tequila which he said was his first legal liquor purchase. Then David sent us a Snapchat of the two of them doing shots in our kitchen. And then the cell phone service dropped off, leaving to our imagination any further details the mayhem going on back at home.

The cell phone thing is kind of funny. I haven't bothered to even carry my phone around, since I don't use it much for non-connected apps such as reading or even music. I guess other people had theirs with them because all of a sudden you'd see a group of people assume the heads-down, phone-out position we've all gotten so used to at home. Whenever I'd see the telltale posture I'd get the urge to dash to my cabin to see if I, too, could go online and see what today's Groupon is. I usually resisted.

Seeing a Bear at a Distance
This morning was a time of rest and relaxation. We were cruising Frederick Sound rather than "doing operations" (the crew's very military-sounding term for the cycle of outdoor activities which would go on when we were anchored) and so there was no morning activity to hop onto. With nothing to rush and get ready for I took advantage of the time and went to the 6:30 AM yoga class. It was a misty morning and we were on the move so the day's yoga vista was a succession of misty peaks and bright sunlight diffused through the fog. Then it was down to the lounge for coffee and the early riser breakfast. I went up to the top deck and where I bumped into Dave (Claudia's husband). We chatted for a bit, believe it or not about oncology research and grants management software systems, as he is the head of a veterinary medicine research foundation. Dave was topside to join Megan and Mark in working out. I looked over at the two guides and was momentarily transfixed with jealousy as I watched Megan braid Mark's long, lush hair into a ponytail. When they started their workout I snapped out of it and headed my bald self to the bridge (guests are welcome to visit the bridge). There are displays on board showing our position on the chart and I had noticed that we had been meandering since the previous evening, so I immediately went to the charts and started asking about what we were doing, pointing out where we had been at 11 PM last night based on seeing a particular lighthouse, and where we are now. Perhaps I established a bit of cred on the bridge from being knowledgeable about the chart and our track. I got into a conversation with the captain about navigation systems, and I told him my history of designing maritime navigation systems. He mentioned having had to have learned several antiquated systems, LORAN and Omega, to pass a navigation officer exam. He's a young guy. When I was working in that business those were still current systems, though admittedly no longer state of the art.

I read down in the lounge for a bit, then it was time for brunch. Since we were cruising the morning's meal was a big buffet brunch. I toddled out of the dining room pretty full straight to my Thai massage with Nikki, a sunny young woman who is also the morning yoga instructor. It was a pretty interesting experience. Imagine someone is playing with Barbies, putting them into stretchy yoga positions. Now imagine you are the Barbie. Very different than a regular massage. I left feeling good and relaxed.

V and Karen
In the afternoon we pulled into Red Bluffs, a fjord with another big waterfall (maybe 500 feet?) and views of some big mountains. I had originally signed up to do open stand-up paddleboard (SUP), but the area was so beautiful that decided that I wanted the ability to explore more of it beyond the on-a-short-leash open SUP area. Another thing about this location is that the ship was surrounded by tremendous lion's mane jellyfish and I didn't really relish doing SUP in water that was both cold and full of jellies. So I switched to guided kayaking. I paired up with a woman named Els, a technical theater professor from the west coast. V paired up with a woman she had kayaked with the previous day, another Australian (and another nurse) named Karen. Karen was traveling with Jeff and Linda, a doctor and nurse respectively. V and Karen had hit it off as a paddling pair the previous day and we wound up eating a number of meals with the three of them. The group also included Guy and his son Dante. We had sat with them at one of the first meals but hadn't really done much with them since then. Once again, Megan was our guide. This was a group with a wide range of skills. Guy and Dante had never kayaked before but were gung-ho and both clearly pretty active. V & Karen weren't fast kayakers. They turned back shortly into the trip and joined the open kayaking around the ship instead. It turned out Els is a former high school rower and she turned out to be a good paddling partner and so she and I kept winding up way in front of the other boats. In terms of wildlife viewing V & Karen got the better show. We saw some eagles back in the fjord but nothing else, while they got an up close visit from a seal and also saw a big collection of starfish. On the other hand, paddling back into the fjord past yet another raging waterfall was pretty spectacular in its own right. I also had the audacity to give Megan a few pointers on her kayaking. She's clearly a very fit woman who could probably beat the pants off me and just about any sport (unfortunately having her beat the pants off of me was not offered as an activity) but was paddling with her arms, not taking advantage of her core strength.


As Els and I returned to the ship we noticed a large number of people lining the rails around the stern. Spectators for the Polar Plunge! We landed our kayak and as I was coming up the ladder to the 200 deck Amy grabbed me and said, "you've got to get your camera! Valerie's going to jump!" Fortunately I had my camera with me and so I grabbed it, squeezed into a spot by the rail still in full kayaking gear and watched as groups of people jumped off the kayak launch platform into the cold, jellyfish infested waters. Valerie was indeed among them; she took the plunge and came out sputtering but triumphant!! For the rest of the cruise people were coming up to me and commenting on it - I don't think they had her pegged as someone who would do such a thing.
My Wife is a Crazy Person
 After a dinner of flounder we went to Jackie's lecture on salmon. Did you know that Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon are two very different animals, that Pacific salmon go to the ocean and return once in their lives but Atlantic salmon make the trip multiple times?

Fri, 7/11: Glacier Bay (Bartlett Cove and Johns Hopkins Glacier)

It's never clear what the ship does overnight while we sleep. Sometimes we drop anchor and sometimes we cruise through the night. All I know is that every morning I open our cabin door to find us somewhere breathtakingly pretty. This morning we started the day cruising into the entrance to Glacier Bay, making a stop at the park lodge at Bartlett Cove. This was our one docking point in the whole trip. We all went down the gangway (no shuttles in the small boats required) for a short shore break and some shore-based activities. I opted for the "fast hike", which turned out to be about an hour and a half in terrain that look similar to the Cascade Falls trail, but without the elevation change - a reasonably flat, if drizzly, outing. We also had a chance to briefly visit the lodge and to get a look at the whale skeleton displayed outside. One of the adventure guides on our ship had been part of the team that had worked to restore and mount the skeleton, so it was interesting to hear her description of the restoration process (lots of West Marine epoxy!) and then see the finished product. Boy, whales are big!! Unfortunately with the foggy, drizzly weather we didn't get any big views.
Sea Otters
At 11:30 it was back onto the boat. Our main reason for stopping at Bartlett Cove was to pick up an NPS park ranger. Glacier Bay is a protected area and so the ranger's job was both to provide interpretation of the sights for us and part to preserve the environment by making sure the boat followed the park rules. Ranger Nicole was very enthusiastic about the park, if a little conflicted about the Park Service. At lunch she gave us a quick and very enthusiastic overview of the park and its wildlife, working herself up almost to tears in her description of the park's majesty. Over the course of the day she continued this level of enthusiasm, pointing out a lot more things and telling us a little about the pleasures of her solitary life in Glacier Bay (going shopping in the "big city" of Gustavus - population 400 - is a big deal). As I write this at 10:30 at night Ranger Nicole is still working the lounge, describing what we're seeing as we sail back out through the ice field back towards the entrance of the bay. On the other hand, one on one she will grumble a bit. Apparently she works two half-year positions, summer in Alaska and winter in the Everglades, and so is considered a part-time employee, ineligible for benefits, even though she works year-round for the Park Service. She'll also tell you that the Park Service uniform hasn't exactly kept pace with developments in modern fabrics: wool pants and decidedly under-performing rain wear. She also told us that it was a pleasure to come aboard a small ship that could actually dock at Bartlett Cover. For the large cruise ships she actually goes out to the ship on a small boat and then has to climb a rope ladder up the side of the ship to the deck. Having boarded a large ship this way myself (back in my days of developing navigation systems) I can see why, as Nicole told us, a question about willingness to do so is part of the interview process for her position.

Ranger Nicole Introduces us to Glacier Bay
Another cool thing I did today was to work with guide-dude Ken to identify one of the whales we had seen. Each humpback's tail is unique in its shape and pattern of white spots. Ken had on his computer an index of humpback whales with pictures of the tails of each. I had transferred a couple of my clear photos to my iPad and we put the two side by side to make comparisons. We're pretty sure that one we say was Sorex, which had first been spotted and catalogued in the same area of Frederick sound back in 1995.

We paused as we passed South Marble Island, which was chock-a-block with life. Stellar sea lions, sea otters and birds including murres, guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins, cormorants. Did I mention the puffins? Puffins! Ranger Nicole referred to murres as the "penguin of the north" since they are have black and white coloration and similar swimming deep diving habits, but to my thinking it's the puffins. Further up, at Gloomy Knob, we saw a mother and baby mountain goat on the side of the mountain.


A Puffin in Flight

As we motored further up the bay into Johns Hopkins Cove we encountered more and more ice, calved off the glacier. This was the first time this season that the ship was going up this far since the area had been closed off until July for seal pupping season. The seals come up here to haul out and have their babies on the ice, protected by the shallow water and noise from predators. Our destination was the Johns Hopkins Glacier, which is one of the few glaciers moving forward at a healthy pace: 12 feet per year. Most of the other glaciers are receding. The easy conclusion to come to is that this is the result of man-made global warming, but in fact glacial advance and retreat seem to be governed by complex processes. All of Glacier Bay was very recently covered by a glacier. Not thousands or millions of years ago, but just two hundred years ago the glacier rapidly jumped forward over just a few decades, scattering the local natives, poking out all the way to the ocean, Just as quickly it receded, leaving behind the bay and surrounding terrain in its wake.

Johns Hopkins Glacier
The glacier itself was spectacular. This my fourth glacier: Mendenhall, Dawes, and then Lamplugh on the way up Glacier Bay, but this one was in my opinion the most spectacular. It was so large with such a beautiful blue color, plus the ice and seals around the bay in front of it. We were only permitted to stay up close to the glacier for a fairly short time. I kept saying that I had seen it and was going to go back into the lounge for a warm drink but I simply could not tear myself away from the view for as long as we were there. Really wonderful.

Since it hadn't been an active day I went up to the top deck in the late afternoon and made use of the ship's rowing machine. It really felt like I was accomplishing something, watching the scenery glide by as I rowed the boat :)

Rowing the Safari Endeavour

Sat, 7/12: Glacier Bat (Beartrack Cove)

We awoke to another day of "Alaska liquid sunshine" - in other words, foggy and rainy. Alas, any hopes of big Glacier Bay vistas were dashed, but it is still a beautiful place - at least what we can see of it.

Bushwhack Scenery
In the morning I signed up to go on another bushwhack hike. A lot of people dropped out because of the weather and so it wound up being just four of us plus Tess, who was once again our guide (there were about half a dozen guides on board but I somehow always wound up being in groups led by either Tess or Megan). The other three guest on the hike were folks I hadn't spent much time with: there was a group on board of people associated in one way or another with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the "Sheddheads" (my term) socialized primarily within their group. They certainly were troopers about tromping around in the rain. The terrain for this hike was different than in our previous hikes. Because this area is more recently reclaimed from glacial coverage it is not as heavily forested. After being shuttled to shore we hiked up the beach over large fields of mussel shells, and then through a meadow - the first meadow I'd seen on my hikes - before finally reaching woods. The woods themselves were pretty much pure spruce with little understory and so provided easier tread. Unlike our previous bushwhack we weren't crashing through bushes or dodging rocks. There were also very well defined game trails to follow. Since I didn't have to watch my feet I got to look around a lot more, which is nice. We saw lots of signs of bear and moose, but alas not the animals themselves. In fact, we think we saw bear scat and scratched off bark on the way out that hadn't been there on the way in - very fresh bear signs! We made a few loops in and out of the forest. The first game trail led us right back to the beach where we had landed. Our second loop led us a little further in, but again we emerged at the beach. Finally, we hiked along the beach a ways. Rather than dive back in for another exploration we wound up calling for pickup a little sooner than originally planned. While we waited for the launch to arrive we sat on the beach and Tess told us a Tlingit folk story with an earnestness that only a young white girl from the suburbs who is totally Into native culture could manage. OK, perhaps I'm being hard on her - as I've written previously I found her to be a very nice person, knowledgeable about the area, and an excellent excursion guide. While by this point I had already heard much of what she had to say about the local flora, it was on this trip that she had us try nibbling on spruce tips, which provided a refreshing piney flavor.

As always, one doesn't miss a meal on Safari Endeavor and so we were back on the boat for lunch, after which it was time to head back out for afternoon activities. Well, at least it was for the few of us stalwarts who were determined to get one last activity in. Most people had the sense to come in out of the rain and just relax, nap, and get a head start on packing. The afternoon "long kayak" group dwindled down to just Ann the nurse practitioner from Chicago and me, escorted by Jackie and her husband Brent. Ann is another person we had hung out quite bit with. She was traveling by herself; her husband had given her the trip as a present but this type of trip was apparently not his cup of tea. Now, Jackie and Brent are adventurous people but it was clear that they aren't expert kayakers (nor are they spring chickens) and I went out knowing in the back of my mind that if we got into trouble (which fortunately we didn't) I was going to have to be the rescue grownup. We kayaked for about 2 hrs in the pouring rain. Again, while we followed the shoreline we didn't see bears, though we did see a harlequin duck (Jackie got excited and pulled out her camera to photograph it), a sea otter, plus a seal that followed us for a while.

Someone Else's Photo of Paddling Near the Ship
Since Jackie was really leaving it to Ann and me in terms of what we wanted to do I didn't feel compelled to go slowly and let her be in front. Particularly towards the end I cranked it up a little bit and Ann and I (in a double) got back quite a bit ahead of Jackie and Brent. The following day Brent asked me how I moved so fast without seeming to work very hard so I had another opportunity to give a stroke improvement lecture.

Dinner on our last night was the "Captain's Dinner", with a choice of filet mignon or scallops. I had my one meat meal of the week, which turned out to be a good choice - the filet mignon was really good. After dinner we were treated to a slide show compiled from picture the guides had taken over the course of the week, then it was off to our cabins to pack.
Fun at the Final Night's Dinner

Sun, 7/13: Return to Juneau

Juneau was on the horizon as I left our cabin for breakfast. After being out in the wilderness for a week the city, which had seemed a remote frontier outpost a week earlier, struck me as being very large, urban and over- developed. Perhaps Ranger Nicole has a point about the joys of spending your life away from development.

We ate breakfast and said our goodbyes to the crew, and to the passengers I've mentioned above as well as other people we had gotten to know including Russ and Tina, who live on a large spread down in Florida, and Jim and Cindy from the Finger Lakes.
 
Juneau Airport, Ursine Pal
The rest of the day was spent in transit. Wait in the hotel lounge. Transit to the airport. Fly to Seattle. Rent a car, drive to Portland - a surprisingly un-scenic drive, save for a brief glimpse of Mt. Rainier. Stopped for dinner at a local burger joint somewhere in southern Washington state - very good, fresh burgers. We cruised past seemingly endless freight trains making their way towards Oregon. We couldn't imagine what could be in all those tank cars, though after a few days in Portland I suspect that it might have been tattoo ink.
The Multnomah Hotel, Portland, OR
 
After three hours of driving we arrived at our hotel in downtown Portland. After a week in our tiny and spare cabin and in the confined spaces aboard ship, we were quite taken with the elegance and roominess of the place. It's a grand 1912 building originally known as the Multnomah Hotel, now operated as an Embassy Suites. Elvis and Charles Lindbergh were among its many famous past guests, as was Thomas E. Dewey of "Dewey Beats Truman" fame (as well as the namesake of the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway in New York). On to a different sort of adventure ... 

Note that another guest's account of the trip can be found here. It is very nicely written but rather long, so I'll quote the best part here: Day 5 ... "I was a bit intimidated to paddle with Jesse, who is a really skillful kayaker, but I was counting on my years of rowing crew to hold me in good stead." 
I will post a link to pictures once I put them online.