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Alaska Ferry Trip
Old 05-30-2008, 09:12 AM   #1
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Alaska Ferry Trip

I just returned from an 18 day vacation in Southeast Alaska. I have been to Ketchikan
a few times before, but wanted to see more, so I decided to use the Alaska Marine
Highway ferry system. On one of my previous Ketchikan trips I had taken the 37 hour
ferry ride from Bellingham to Ketchikan and found it very relaxing. I made all my
ferry and motel reservations in advance. The Lonely Planet guide was very useful.

After flying to Ketchikan, I immediately hopped on the ferry for a 24 hour ride to Sitka.
The ferry terminal is 7m outside of town, so I took the local bus to downtown. Sitka is
a beautiful little town (pop 8000). I rented a bike and rode on most of the available
paved roads, took a local 2 hour bus tour, and visited the raptor center. It rained most
of the time (as expected). 2 days later I bussed back to the ferry terminal and took the
5 hour ferry ride to Juneau.

The Juneau ferry terminal is 15 miles from town with no bus service, but I stayed in
a motel which ran a shuttle, so no problems. I stayed 3 days in Juneau, much of it
almost immobilized in my bed with back spasms from an old imjury which comes
back a few times a year. Juneau (pop 31000) was very scenic, but when I tried to
get some excursions I found there were no cruise ships docked, meaning no excursions
were available. I was a couple weeks too early in the year. I also could not rent a bike
sine the only place in town that rented (my motel) had not pulled them up for the year
yet. It rained constantly (as expected). Overall, Juneau was kind of a bust. I should
have researched the cruise schedule first. I finally shuttled back to the ferry terminal
for the 5 hour ferry to Haines.

The weather cleared on the ride up. I arrived at the terminal 4 miles from town and
found the shuttle company was out of business, but an employee just going off shift
offered me a lift - surprising, since I am a very large, rough-looking guy. Haines (pop
2000) was my favorite town on this trip. Very non-touristy. I rented a bike and rode
around both days I was here. I stopped at a gold course just north of town and hit a
bucket of balls. When I ask where I could lock the bike they just laughed and said to
just lay it against the wall. I decided to walk the 4m back to the ferry. A lady offered
my a lift on my way, but it was such a nice day I declined and kept walking. People in
Alaska are very friendly and helpful, even to non-social people like me. I boarded the
ferry for the 1 hour ride to Skagway.

In Skagway (pop 800) the ferry terminal is right downtown for a change. Downtown
is very toursity, but is nice once you get even 1 block away. The weather stayed
uncharacteristically clear.
There are several very scenic trails with trailheads a few blocks of town, so I did some
hiking and relaxing. I tried to take the White Pass excursion, but realized it went into
Canada, and I needed my passport (which was safely back in CA). I got a shock
when I walked back to the ferry terminal and there was no ferry there. Schedules had
been changed so it could cover a more heavily travlled route which had mechanical
trouble. I walked over to the airport for a very scenic 20 minute flight to Juneau to catch
up with it. At the Juneau airport I asked a guy for directions - he gave me a lift to the
ferry terminal 5 miles away. I boarded the ferry for the 20 hour ride back to Ketchikan.

The weather continued to be great. I was in Ketchikan 4 days, 3 of them camping on
my friends remote property. Hiking, bug bites, cooking over a fire (and on the small
cabin's stove), reading, relaxing. On the last night we boated back into Ketchikan where
I stayed at a B&B - low morning tides meant we could only leave the property in the
afternoon or very early morning and I had a noon-ish flight.

Overall, a very relaxing trip - my first long 'vacation' since retiring almost 2 years ago.
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Old 05-30-2008, 01:29 PM   #2
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Nice trip - congratulations.
Are you planning to do more of these style trips while traveling by air?
If so, you might consider a folding bike.
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Old 05-30-2008, 02:17 PM   #3
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Sounds like a great time. I'm jealous!

Quote:
I tried to take the White Pass excursion, but realized it went into
Canada, and I needed my passport (which was safely back in CA).
When I took the WPRR last July there was no passport required. In fact, I never saw a Canadian. For the short time that you are in Canada (enough for the train to get going back down the mountain) and the fact that you are not allowed to get off the train, I can not believe that the passport would have been such a big deal.

Quote:
Haines (pop
2000) was my favorite town on this trip.
That was my experience also.
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:58 PM   #4
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Just FYI, here's a whale watching tour out of Juneau. Goes May thru Sept
Whale Watching Tours - Juneau, Alaska
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Old 05-30-2008, 11:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor View Post
Nice trip - congratulations.
Are you planning to do more of these style trips while traveling by air?
If so, you might consider a folding bike.
Yes, I am starting to consider a folding bike. My main concern is finding a sturdy
one (I am a big guy). The ones I saw a few years ago (I forget the brand) felt very
wobbly in my hands.
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Old 06-13-2008, 11:23 AM   #6
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Thanks for the report!

Which trails did you hike in Skagway? I am headed to AK mid-July for a cruise and camping trip, and the ship stops there. We were planning to hike there after a road trip out to Emerald Lake.

Thanks,
Karen
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Old 06-13-2008, 02:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaudrey View Post
Thanks for the report!

Which trails did you hike in Skagway? I am headed to AK mid-July for a cruise and camping trip, and the ship stops there. We were planning to hike there after a road trip out to Emerald Lake.

Thanks,
Karen
I hiked Upper and Lower Dewey Lake. They were well maintained and impossible to get lost on.
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