My blog made its debut a year ago today. Born as a final project for a course on blogging at OCAD. To celebrate, I briefly looked over the 287 posts I made over my first year and chose my favourites. My average rate of posting per week was just over 5 posts. Over the first few months of the year, I had aspirations to post as much as I ran and joined the WordPress postaday club. However my commitment to organize the People4Kids fundraising gala last May 3rd took priority and my rate of posting dwindled.
Hours after finishing the CIM - Feeling good!
Since the blogging course I’ve taken digital photography, InDesign and Adobe Illustrator courses and that too has consumed much time. So I’ve reset my sights on posting 2-four times a week. So here are my favourites, in no particular order.
The weather in Haines, back in early June was superb and we were told, unusually summery. First order of the day was a run, and a destination run at that. I’m not the only one in my family to fall in love with Haines as my Whitehorse brother, an architect, recently bought a property in Haines. Thus sight number one, was his lot.
Final leg up the hill, breakfast just around the corner
His lot is on the edge of this town, in the uppermost reaches so it was quite a climb to get there and a bit too steep on the downhill to really enjoy an easy stride. But, man oh man, what a view! Then, down to the water and a run over to the Mountain Cafe, THE place for coffee in Haines. This combo healthy food store and cafe sits at the conjunction of the major roads into the town. Having verified the location of where we would breakfast, I was eager to get on with the eating and shortened my run a bit.
I do cut myself a bit of slack while on vacation particularly since my husband has had to cut back his running as my primary goal is to spend time with HIM. I’ve also cut back on travel shopping as well, for the very same reason.
Mountain Cafe, Breakfast Burritos
The Mountain Cafe met expectations with very good breakfast burritos and local hustle and bustle. Then we walked to Fort Seward, so named for William H. Seward who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. The fort was decommissioned in 1947 and is now privately owned. The original buildings now a combination of private residences, B&B’s, eateries galleries and studios.
Carrying on the Tinglit cultural traditions
Tinglit artist's supply room
Notable was the Alaskan Indian Arts centre with a gallery and studio where we were able to informally tour the studio where totem poles are made. To order a totem pole CLICK HERE It was hard not to compare the quality and pricing of the work found here to the offerings of the ultra-commercialized Juneau. Any cruise ship passenger happening upon this place would feel that they had connected to the “real” Alaska.
In the afternoon we went on a three-hour guided hike. This was quite expensive but hikers are cautioned to travel in groups to minimize the risk of a bear attack. I’ve heard various numbers cited for safety from parties of three to ten. With eight in our group, including two guides, one armed with bear spray in a holster I felt safe. Being of small stature, I’ve often thought it would be useful to have a very tall, hiking hat in the shape of some sort of menacing creature.
One of our guides, Lindy was a musician and naturalist. She and her husband lived for years in a Yurt, the portable, wood-framed and felt-covered dwelling of nomadic Mongolians. Funnily enough her band played in Ottawa last year, for the Canada Day celebrations. Lindy was able to tell when a bear had scratched its back on a tree, or whether a moose had gone by, by virtue of a few hairs left on bark or a bush. Thankfully, she was also able to tell us that the very loud and scary sound we heard was not a mountain lion or a bear but the sound of humpbacks in the water nearby.
If it had been the two of us, in fear (or at least my fear) we could have set personal best times running back to the trail head. Thanks to our guides we now cherish the memory of those otherworldly, sonorous and eerily musical sounds. Sadly, we were not able to see the humpbacks through the thick forest cover but we came upon another group who were starry-eyed having seen the humpbacks play in a cove further on. Excitedly we trekked on, hoping the whales would linger so we could enjoy the same.
Humpback whales hang out here
The word pristine was invented to describe places such as the destination cove and all those beautiful, mostly unnamed places in the north. Wow! The humpbacks were gone however and that was a bit disappointing. Somewhere along the trail the topic of beer came up and this thread was eagerly pursued by our other guide. He promised to take us to theHaines Brewing Company located in the state fairground, formerly the set of the movie White Fang. Happily, time allowed and sampled some Spruce Tip Ale while I enjoyed a freshly brewed and delicious root beer.
Happiness is a bottle of spruce tip beer
From there we returned to the Fireweed Restaurant for dinner where we were greeted like regulars. I wondered if this was because our two night in a row appearance set us apart from the majority of middle-aged folk who travel Alaska via cruise ship. One of the couples on our hike were from California and they were amazed to discover that it was possible to travel down the Lynn Canal by state ferry.
The next day was our travel day to Whitehorse. Sure wish we had more time on our hands but I know we will be back.
This little town on the Lynn Canal, a fjord in Alaska, is bypassed by cruise ships, save for one day a week, Wednesday, when a single ship docks.
I was introduced to Haines by virtue of taking part in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay which starts in Haines Junction, Yukon and ends in Haines, Alaska for a total of 148.1 miles. I did a 20 mile leg with very modest elevation changes. Whilst others had their work cut out for them, biking past the treeline as the temperature dropped accordingly. The race ends in the Fort Seward compound, which affords a stunning view of mountain and sea. That weekend the town was bursting at the seams with people and energy as the combination of the adrenalin high and the perfect weather in this northern haven was euphoric. As a finale a fish fry in conjunction with the awards ceremony was held in the Fort Seward square.
View from Captain's Choice Patio, just steps from our room
My visit this year was my sixth to Alaska and my fourth to Haines but the very first visit with my husband. Returning to Haines with him, was the most anticipated moment of our trip. The ferry ride there was idyllic as described in a previous post, Where a Whale Was.
One of my must-do-one-day items (I’m not fond of the expression “bucket list”) is to visit Haines in November to witness the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world. My last visit was in September and bald eagles could be spotted in threes and fours, regularly. We saw one bald eagle in Juneau but I was a bit disappointed not to have seen more. Shortly after we got off the ferry and while waiting for our motel shuttle-car a bald eagle obliged my eagle-seeking-eyes and landed on atop the highest point on the ferry.
Fettucine with smoked salmon, fuel for the morning run
I was very keen to revisit a restaurant, the name of which I was uncertain but guessed to be Fireweed Restaurant. There I had enjoyed the most delicious plate of pasta with pesto sauce in a most laid-back setting with a gorgeous view. As we chatted with our driver from the Captain’s Choice Motel my description of a restaurant called Fireweed seemed to match reality and we were driven straight there.
Does it get any better than dinner at the Fireweed?
How to describe the feeling I had in entering the Fireweed Restaurant. There seemed to be a pause in the action as we entered, a quick glance to see what category of northern species we were; cruise people, who missed their boat, locals, adventurous youth, or rambunctious Whitehorse youngsters? I’m guessing that we were sized up as Canadians from Whitehorse. But, it was a curious rather than an intrusive pause and I imagined that there was a mutual meeting of hearts and minds in recognition that here we all are in this most cozy of restaurants, in a tiny northern paradise with a world class view. None of us wishing to be elsewhere.
Over the course of our our eleven day holiday I missed three days of running. The most common reason for a missed run over the past few years is early morning travel. I am a morning runner and find it very difficult to do a run once the days activities are set in motion.
We traveled to Portland, Oregon, Juneau, Haines and Skagway in Alaska, then Whitehorse, followed by a half day visit to Vancouver.
Missed Day #1 – We had to leave our home at 6 a.m. to catch our flight to Portland. Missed Day #2 In Haines, Alaska, we left our motel at 5:30 a.m. to catch a fast-ferry to Skagway. Missed Day #3 A 6:00 a.m. departure from our lodgings in Whitehorse to catch our Vancouver flight.
Blue Heron, Juneau
I’ve described our run in Portland and here are photos from the run that followed in Juneau. Spotted on the run were these four blue heron, the only heron seen on this trip. On my last trip to Juneau, I was staying at a lodge quite a way out of the city and I saw a bald eagle and twice, a pod of orcas. No such luck this time.
Those sightings took place in early spring, when bears were not as active and probably hibernating, or so I told myself. I would not have ventured out on the roads in that quieter area of Juneau otherwise.
This Juneau run was 2.5 miles through the main street of town, through a souvenir store and along the waterfront. I ran through a gauntlet of large ravens which would definitely scare off anyone with ornithophobia.
Ravens to the right, ravens to the left.
A Waterfront Stretch in Juneau
This first morning in Juneau was much enjoyed as our late evening arrival in Juneau introduced us to the rough edges of the city that appear once the cruise ships depart. There is urban sprawl in Juneau and the downtown has suffered in that it caters almost exclusively to tourists in the day and seems a bit like a deserted and rundown, Disneyland set in the later evening. In the early morning, locals heading off to work abound and chit chat in the local coffee shop was congenial and lively.
I was motivated to do a short run in anticipation of brunch at my brother’s favourite Juneau breakfast place, The Sandpiper.
My breakfast of corn beef hash and poached eggs was tasty although was quite far off the scrumptious version dished out by Kenny and Zuke’s in Portland which at $11.45 was $2.50 cheaper than the Sandpiper’s version. Alaska can be fairly pricey. Portland’s version of corn beef hash is to Alaska’s, as king crab is to non-king-crab. Read the review, “Can the Jewish Deli be Reformed?” from the NY Times.
Portlandia Corned Beef Hash $11.45
Corn beef hash, Alaskan style $13.95
Scrumptious and leisurely breakfasts are one of the best parts of vacationing. On our last day in Portland I ordered corn beef hash and cheese blintzes. Yes, I confess that with minimal worries about weight gain, I am a bit of a piglet. Although, I’m still tending towards the broken-scale theory as I can’t figure out how I gained five pounds on our fairly active vacation.
We’ve been without the internet for nearly two days so it is getting ever more difficult to keep up the blogging with our whirlwind tour of five cities/towns. The 4 1/2 hour ferry trip from Juneau to Haines, Alaska took place on a perfect day which allowed us to stay up top on the lounge deck the whole way. We were treated to partial body and tail sightings of a humpback whale, with photo evidence of it’s water spout.
Look for the water spout in the centre of this photo.
Cruising down the Lynn Canal is one of my absolute favourite activities. We’ll be back.