North To Alaska: Remants and Remembrances

An Alaskan Cruise is something you will remember for a lifetime.  Unfortunately, the human mind is not perfect and memories fade over time.  The park rangers who provide commentary during a tour of Glacier Bay use the term remnants to describe the glaciers that have melted to the point they no longer reach the water.

Remnants can be used for memories as well.  As the frozen rivers fade away from the water, memories tend to fade away over time.  At some point the experiences of even a trip like an  Alaskan Cruise will be little more than remnants in the back of the mind.  Most people use little remembrances to help cling to those memories for as long as possible.  Pictures, souvenirs and journals are some of the ways we hope to hold on to memories.

I hope what I have written over the last few weeks will help me remember what my wife and I experienced on our cruise.  I hope it gave those who read it a little enjoyment and a chuckle or two. But!  It is time to move on.  I will close out this little saga with the following little remnants and remembrances from this trip.

I am certain you are familiar with the “it’s a small world” phenomenon.  Well, we had a little dose of it’s a small world before we even booked the cruise.  As I am wont1 to do, I emailed and posted an inquiry to my friends, acquaintances and others asking if any had sailed to Alaska.  I was interested in their feedback. Immediately, I received a totally unexpected reply.  I was asked, “Are you going to stop in Skagway?  Do you know Ray Leggett is the Chief of Police there?”

I had not seen or heard of Ray in at lest ten years, probably fifteen.  I certainly did not know he had moved to Alaska and was now the Chief of Police in Skagway.  Talk about a small world.  Ray does not know, but the cruise I booked was picked partially because it stayed most of the day in Skagway.  I had to find out how a Texas cop ended up as chief of police in Skagway, Alaska.

Chief of Police Ray Leggett is one of those folks who always seems to be looking at things in a positive way.  I do not think I have ever seen him when he was not looking for the good in a particular situation.  He is still the same today, and it was great to visit with him.

Candy had been a little apprehensive about being stuck with two old cops telling war stories. However, she enjoyed the visit as much, maybe more, as I did.  Especially since Ray reminded her of a son-in-law.  Instead of being bored while Ray and I reminisced, she was smitten by him.

It would have been hard to be bored around Ray, even if you did not know him.  He has a good time and expects those around him to have one was well.  He took the time to show us a good deal of the countryside that was not on the regular excursion list.  He was hoping to find a bear for us to see up close, but even the chief of police cannot order a bear to show up at a certain place and time.  He can, as he laughingly recounted, make certain a bear does not take up residence to close to the chief’s house.

The story was funny.  Still, I did feel a little sorry for the bear.  Rubber bullets waking a bear from a sound slumber at 4:00 in the morning might make an amusing video, but it probably ruined the bear’s day.

Ray could not find a bear for us.  He did get us up close to some young eagles sunning themselves and treated us to some beautiful scenery.  He also told us several great stories about how he landed his job, and how eye-opening it was to find out it is impossible to drive to the capital city of Alaska, or in his case drive out of it.  Ray has a new appreciation for water travel and float planes.

Skagway is also the home of the White Pass & Yukon Rail Road.  I will not take the time go into detail about the railroad.  You can read about it by clicking above.  What I will share with you is the experience.  You could also check out my tripadvisor® post for my first impressions of the excursion.

The White Pass ride lasted a little more than three hours and was for the most part a wonder and a delight.  Of course, your first few minutes leaving Skagway will make you wonder about the scenery to come.  One of the first sights you will see is the summer help housing area.  It is a gorgeous little area of blue plastic tarp tents, litter and rusting recreational vehicles.  I kept expecting to see the hobo from The Polar Express warming his hands over a campfire.  Luckily within a few minutes it was out of sight and out of mind.

The trip up to the pass keeps you hopping.  Magnificent views abound, from the closeup look at lichen-covered rocks within arms reach on one side of the train to the dizzying look down a cliff face on the other.  From some points it is possible to see the harbor from the train, which brings a lot of things into the proper perspective.  Gigantic cruise ships look like toy boats and the rushing river you crossed earlier looks like a silver thread reaching out to the water.

The water falls, cliffs, train trestles, historic markers and snow-covered peaks are as much as anyone could ask of a scenic train ride. However, I was lucky enough to spy something different, the man in the mountain, at least that is what I call it.

Halfway through our ascent to White Pass, I noticed him.  On the opposite side of the canyon was the shadow of a man.  Keep in mind the other side of the canyon was more than a mile away, meaning the shadow had to be huge, and it was.  Of course, it was not really a man’s shadow, but it certainly looked like one, as you can see in the photo to the right.

There were other memorable portions of our trip.  However, every story has to come to an end, and I am going to end this little saga here.  The stops in Ketchikan, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia were interesting, but not out of the ordinary. Ketchikan is a quaint, touristy little village, and Victoria is a beautiful little city that makes a killing off of the cruise ships forced to stop there to comply with a really weird maritime law called the Jones Act.

All in all, we had a great time on the cruise.  It is one that we will remember for a long time, and that we highly recommend.

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1. It’s not a typo, look it up.

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