Alaskan Sojourn - The Inside Passage

Trip Start Sep 2002
Trip End Sep 2002

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Thursday, September 1, 2005

There is something romantic about going to Alaska, and it has nothing to do with a cruise (which I did not take anyway). Be it gold and riches in the past, or the grandeur and power of nature and wildlife today, the lure of the Final Frontier remains as latent as its promise of adventure. So with a huge sense of anticipation, my trusty backpack, and aargh, a bulky sleeping bag, I set off for Seattle, the start of my 'last grand adventure' following on the footsteps of the colourful Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 ...

Oh, it was so good to be in Seattle again. Miraculously, the sun was out.
Golden rays in abundance, quite unlike the grey drizzly city I remembered;
I could actually see the mountains as we touched down (so they really do exist!)
The déjà vu feeling was especially strong when I trudged with my heavy load from
the bus drop-off to the HI-Seattle hostel, my first hostel eons ago it seemed.

This was my supply stop. Seattle had flourished precisely because of its strategic
location, not only as a transport hub but as a centre for outfitting prospectors during the gold rushes. As I was to learn on the hilarious, and highly recommended, Underground Tour at Pioneer Square, Seattle was a buzzing ground for entrepreneurship, not to mention scams a-plenty, to help "equip" the hapless miners heading for Alaska and Yukon as well as "relieve" the successful ones who actually made it back with gold. The same zealous spirit was applied to the way the city developed, which (would you believe it?) was
all due to a sewage problem!

The Pike Place Fish Market was as entertaining as ever. Coincidentally, I was to
attend a course back home one month later, conducted by the owners of the joint. They had gone from being fishmongers (albeit 'world famous' ones) to credible management gurus with a bona fide video hit on 'Fish Philosophy'. Yes, the 'Seattle Spirit' coined
by the Underground Tour is well and alive!

There is no direct overland route to my destination - Southeast Alaska, also known
as the Panhandle - which stretches 500 miles from north of Canada's Prince Rupert to the Gulf of Alaska. It's either the sea or by air. So the cash registers go a-ringing for the popular cruises that ply the waterway, dubbed the Inside Passage, for the very brief tourist season, effectively from June to August each year. The brochures promise dramatic fjords, cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, calving glaciers, lush forest valleys, pristine islands, scenic villages, not to mention "guaranteed" humpback whales,
orcas, seals, bald eagles, salmons, bears, etc.

However, as I couldn't fit myself into any of the categories of "The Newly-Wed",
"The Nearly Dead", or "The Overfed", I opted for the public ferry transport, called the Alaska Marine Highway...

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