Ketchikan to Juneau: a cruise

Five years ago my family got together to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in San Miguel de Allende.  For 55 we met this year in Ketchikan for a cruise to Juneau.  We spent a week on a 100-person ship, well-stocked with toys for outdoor activities.  We went sea kayaking most days, and there were also options for forest walks, shore walks, zodiac tours, and stand up paddle boarding.  I went to yoga every morning, and some of us even went snorkeling one day — in Alaska, yes!

20170102_230714A_snap by bryandkeith on flickr

Our ship doesn't look so small from a kayak by bryandkeith on flickr

20180805_132710A by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180806_142342 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180808_154054 by bryandkeith on flickr

It was wonderful that we could all kayak together, from age 8 to 79:

20180805_121941A by bryandkeith on flickr

20170101_010419A by bryandkeith on flickr

20170101_000139A by bryandkeith on flickr

20180806_095831A by bryandkeith on flickr

A tandem’s always a good way to test a relationship:

20180805_122717A by bryandkeith on flickr

The cruise was nature-based, and our guides were knowledgeable.  Almost all land around us for the week is in the Tongass National Forest, sometimes with additional protection like Misty Fjords National Monument (where Kevin’s on the paddle board in the photo above) and sometimes even Wilderness — Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness comes to mind.  From the guides we learned that 95% of the Tongass, the US’ largest National Forest, has been logged.  That’s why the trees are so small, even though it rains here all the time.  At one point the average tree diameter in this forest was 12 feet.  Now a large tree has a diameter of about two feet.

IMG_20180806_152317 by bryandkeith on flickr

We learned about dwarf mistletoe, an infection that the trees fight by growing around it.  Well, this growth gets so intense that the tree actually explodes spreading the dwarf mistletoe around to nearby trees.  That’s the dwarf mistletoe’s propagation strategy.  Here’s what the crazy tree growth looks like:

This strange growth is the tree's reaction to drawf mistletoe.  The growth will continue so quickly that it will actually cause the tree to explode sending drawf mistletoe in every direction.  That's how drawf mistletoe propagates. by bryandkeith on flickr

and here’s what they call a nursery log:

IMG_20180808_155010 by bryandkeith on flickr

It looks like there’s a whole forest growing out of that one downed log.  I thought the mushrooms were pretty cool.

IMG_20180806_141638 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180806_141626 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180806_141720 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180806_141309 by bryandkeith on flickr

At times we were in areas where brown bear and black bear habitat overlap so we had a chance to run across both species.  One day we found bear tracks, bear scat, and a half-eaten fish that hadn’t been there when we had walked by the same area 20 minutes earlier.

IMG_20180808_144631 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180808_145134 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180808_145035 by bryandkeith on flickr

Bears were around, but we never spotted one.  Where do we find these elusive creatures?  We did see whales, seals, sea lions, eagles, deer, and salmon.  One thing that the guides kept emphasizing was how important salmon are for the health of the forest.  They bring nutrients from the sea back into the forest, and these nutrients are spread around the forest by bears and birds and other animals.  I found this significance a little hard to believe, but Ferda and I heard the exact same thing from our guides at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary a couple weeks later (spoiler: that’s the place to find the bears).

It was pretty exciting to see the whales’ tails before they dove back down again for more feeding, but perhaps my favorite animals were the jellyfish.  These are lion’s mane jellyfish:

20170101_105415A by bryandkeith on flickr

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One day we found so many moon jellyfish that when you looked in the water all you could see was white.

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For the snorkeling I’ll just say it was cold, and the visibility was poor.  Most people were not as cold as I was, and everyone (my Dad, me, and about eight others) was glad they did it.  This is perhaps the most interesting photo I managed to get:

20170101_004552A by bryandkeith on flickr

Of course you can’t go on a cruise without a little cruising:

IMG_20180807_172509 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180809_182230 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180805_161840 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180810_102052 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180810_120951 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180810_094617 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180810_095636_706 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20180806_182630 by bryandkeith on flickr

It was a fantastic week, packed full of activities, amazing food, and wonderful people.  Wow, thank you.

20180806_091941A by bryandkeith on flickr

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1 Response to Ketchikan to Juneau: a cruise

  1. margi murray says:

    what a time you all had. i’m so glad to read about the adventures and discoveries. thank you!
    margi

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