We were both so tired, Dallas and I didn’t talk to anyone on the ferry. I was hoping to check out Haines, since the ferry was stopping there for two hours and Christy had told us it was a nice town, but when the ferry docked, I read a road sign pointing 4 miles to Haines. With nothing of interest within walking distance during our short layover, I went back to sleep on the bench next to Dallas. Neither of us were fully awake to appreciate the grandeur view for more than a few minutes before drifting off again, and I didn’t fully wake up until we were a few minutes from landing in Skagway, our destination for the summer.
Dustin and Scott greeted us when we stepped off the boat, and 4 other new guides who had been on the same ferry joined us a few minutes later. We all managed to load our bags into the Sockeye Cycle Van, and Dustin drove our belongings to the house while Scott led the rest of us by foot. It was only a few blocks to the shop, and walking felt good after lounging around on the ferry for 7 hours (three of the other guides had boarded the ferry in Bellingham, and had been on board for 4 days).
Although it was clear and sunny that day, the announcement of an avalanche having recently blocked the white passage to the Yukon (pretty much the only way out of Skagway by land) reminded us that it was still very much winter in Alaska. Scott, the shop manager who had previously been a mechanic for a tour company in Italy, provided us with numerous and entertaining stories. He had arrived three weeks earlier and told us about his first day and days leading up to now, when it seemed he was finally able to talk to some other people who were seeing Skagway for the first time. I think we all shared his wonder in what we’ve gotten ourselves into here.
The owner of the company, Thom, greeted us when we arrived at our new summer home, the two stories above the Sockeye Cycle bike shop. Then he hurried off to drive to Whitehorse, the nearest city, to buy supplies for the house and our welcome barbecue. Because of the avalanche, he had to take an alternate route to Whitehorse, and it was uncertain if he would even make it back the next day for the barbecue.
Dallas and I will be sharing this space for the next four months with 10 other guides.
After an unexpected stop in Ketchikan to exchange a few passengers, our flight landed in Juneau about thirty minutes late on Saturday night. Couchsurfers Christy and Jason had offered to host us at their home on Douglas Island, and they picked us up at the airport in an old Subaru Outback (perfect for the conditions, which were wet and slushy at the time).
We awoke on Sunday morning to snow, and an excellent view of mountains, which were surprisingly close and large, but invisible to us during the drive from the airport the previous night. Christy and Jason offered us a variety of options for activities for our day in Juneau, and we settled on going to check out an ice cave at the Mendenhall Glacier. Having both worked on the trails in Denali, our hosts were excellent guides for the hike up to and around the glacier. At some point, while scrambling up a rock wall, I had wished that I bought my med-evac insurance already. Fortunately, nobody fell into the glacier or off any cliffs. Also fortunate was the fact that we had stopped somewhere to buy waterproof rain boots on the way to the trail.
The ice cave was cool (literally), but too dark inside to get any beautiful photos like the ones we had seen online before heading out there. We rested and snacked for a moment at the mouth of the cave (which is actually created by a stream that flows from the mountain into the glacier), and hiked back the long way along the shore of the fjord. The next morning, Christy and Jason drove us to the dock, where we boarded the Columbia, an enormous ferry that would take us to Haines and Skagway.
Having rushed to the ferry without having time to eat, we went straight to the snack bar on the upper level of Columbia, which didn’t have many appealing options for breakfast. Twelve dollars got us some barely edible broccoli salad, an egg salad sandwich and a waxy apple turnover. No sooner had we finished our food when the captain made an announcement that there was an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet in the dining room. Oh well.
The view on the ferry was amazing for the duration of the trip, and I had aspirations of whale watching and bear-spotting from the deck – but Dallas and I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time to appreciate it.