Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Alaska- Part 3

Life in the little city of Princess Ruby was busy and indulgent. Our cabins were on the 5th deck which was second from the bottom.  A perfect place, we decided, as our floor housed a dining room, an international cafe which was open 24 hrs., and the plaza at the bottom of the marble, grand staircase.  Entertainers performed in the plaza.  We were particularly fond of Gravity, a man and woman couple, who did amazing things with their body strength.  Mr. G could hang horizontally with one hand holding onto a vertical pole and do a handstand with one hand on the top on the pole. They used their bodies like pipe cleaners twisting together or flexing side by side.

At sea, the first day, we explored our surroundings.  Another perk to our location was being within two easy stair climbs to the 7th deck which was open for walking around the ship out-of-doors. We took advantage of the walks to talk together, watch the sea and coastal views, and fulfill Libby's Fitbit requirement steps.  Besides good food every night, there were shows to see and group games to try. The buffet on the 11th deck became our breakfast spot.  What a spread to start the day!

It was exciting to wake up Monday morning and see Ketchikan, our first stop, out of our cabin window.
It was a gray day,  60ish degrees, and we had time to explore the town and then take in a Lumberjack show we had signed up for.  Without boarding a bus, we missed the downtown area, but walking took us by the tourist shops and then to a city park and the totem pole museum.

The Lumberjack show was entertaining with men competing to saw logs, climb poles and balance on logs in the water. The day on the town ended when we had to be back on board at 5:30pm.

Knowing the ship was entering a narrow passageway early the next morning with promise of seeing a glacier, our ship city of 4,000 residents was awake at 5:30 am with coffee cups and cameras in hand. It truly was an awesome site.  Rugged mountains towered on either side of the water as we pointed to the icy, blue glacier ahead.  Our large vessel couldn't travel too close, but here are some of the views we were able to capture.

This was the coldest temperature we encountered, but still high 40s.  The ship turned around and sailed on to Juneau where we docked at 7 am.  The air was warmer, but rain greeted us as we descended from the ship. On tap for this day was a visit to a dog sled camp and an afternoon viewing of another glacier with a salmon bake following.

In spite of the rain, we gained fascinating knowledge about dog sleds, the dogs who pull them and the Iditorad race.  Our guide had raced 3 times with his best placing at 50th out of close to 90 mushers.  The dogs are trained to be athletes and thus, have sleek bodies that don't look like the stereotypical Husky. Each dog has booties for each foot when racing.  This keeps ice from packing between their toes and protects them on the rough trail.  Each driver carefully calculates his times of rest and how fast he can go given the weather conditions and stamina of the dogs. Supplies for himself and the dogs are sent ahead to villages along the trail. Success depends largely on the trust relationship between the musher and his dogs.  Although, dog teams start the race with an average of 16 dogs, not all will endure the 1,000 mile trip.

After grueling James with questions we went out to the acre of field where maybe a hundred dogs, each with their own house were howling to be harnessed for action.  James hooked his team to a cart and the dogs pulled us for a short ride.  Before we left the camp we got to hold puppies who would be groomed for future dog teams.

Later that evening the ship hosted Libby Riddles,
the first woman to win the Iditorad in 1985.
How fascinating to here her story, and
how harrowing her 18 day trip! 

We somehow missed the glacier excursion that afternoon, but got in on the salmon bake.  Yum! Fresh grilled salmon and a nice buffet to compliment the fish.  The meal took place in a camp setting with picnic tables under awnings and little heaters attached to the poles holding up the awnings.  The warmth felt nice.  After the meal we walked to a waterfall.

The following day would be Wednesday and a stop in Skagway.  I was feeling nervous that evening and didn't sleep very well, as anxious thoughts about our next planned excursion troubled me.  With dread, I heard the early morning sounds of the ship being tethered to the Skagway dock.  Would I live to see another pleasant evening on the Ruby?  

more to come...

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