Sunday, July 29, 2007

Alaska Pictures

So you'd like more Alaska pictures? Your wish is my command. It's taking me a little while to go through the pictures, deleting the really bad pics, the five versions of the same shot, etc. so the pictures will appear over time. I've posted the first evening and day (our flight into Alaska and our first day in Ketchikan) on our Shutterfly site. This is the site where you can go if you want to see every. single. picture. from my camera. Every. single. picture. I won't feel sad if you don't look at all of them. And I haven't even posted anything since March (except the Alaska stuff).

Here's what the pictures will illustrate:

We flew from Denver to Seattle, then Seattle to Ketchikan. When our first leg was delayed a half an hour, our Alaska Airlines ticketing agent said "That's on time for Alaska!" However, the delay made our connection very close and this was the last flight of the night to Ketchikan. Luckily, they held the other flight for us and several other passengers, so it was fine. Because of how we got the tickets (Dad's travel magic), Peter was in first class both legs, and we were able to bump me up for the second leg. Because of the delay, I hadn't eaten in a very long time, making me NOT SO HAPPY. When Peter told me that he got a salad and pizza on the Denver-Seattle leg, I almost lost it. For real, the money we spent on upgrading me to first class, where I also got a salad and pizza, was WELL worth it.

The views from Seattle to Ketchikan were breathtaking. I truly have never had a more picturesque flight.

Ketchikan was fun. We had a non-rainy day our first day and didn't know how good we had it. We walked around town, saw a seal in the creek right next to our room and saw lots of totems, bald eagles, fish and tourists. We had three days there, so on our first day, we just kind of got the feel of the place.

OK, now go look at the pictures!

A sneak preview (bald eagle snatching up fish leftovers in the harbor):

Friday, July 27, 2007

I can't wait for Carrie's wedding pics (slash wedding)

barrel of rings
Originally uploaded by tomKphoto.
This was taken by her photographer and posted on Flickr. He's one of my contacts and when I saw this in his photostream, I thought, "man I wish I could have him shoot something of mine!" Well, since we are done and married (and very happy with our pics, though they were probably somewhat different than what Tom might have done), that's not really an option. But luckily my second thought was... "Oh wait! He's going to be *Carrie's* wedding photographer!" I actually suggested him to her from seeing his awesome pics on Flickr, and as luck would have it, the stars aligned for them! So now I not only get to meet this wedding photographer I so admire, but also to see him in action and also see the results later! *Sigh* I'm excited :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yummy, yummy, yummy I got food in my tummy

I'm very excited. We just signed up for this service called Door to Door Organics. Basically, you sign up and get fresh organic (and often local) produce delivered to your door every week or every other week. I had looked into CSAs, where you buy a share or a local organic farm and then get a share of the produce, but we were going to be gone so much that it wouldn't have made financial sense. Luckily, with this service, it's similar, but more flexible (you can cancel whenever, put vacation holds on, etc.). I really want to eat more fruits and veggies, since our diet can be very heavy on the starches, and I figure having a whole box of good things for you to eat show up at the door every other week will force us to do that. Eat organic!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Living a James Bond Movie

As promised, a blog about Whittier, Alaska. Motto: "Unique, even in Alaska!" And that's saying a lot.

The Lonely Planet book promised us that no matter where we went in the world, we'd never find another place like Whittier. I thought, yeah right. But now I'm a believer.

Whittier was built by the military in WWII as an alternate ice-free port to Seward, which was the northernmost at the time and not as defensible as the military would like. So they carved out a spot in between these huge mountains where it was cloudy most of the time so the place couldn't be spotted. PS Did you know that the Japanese actually occupied several of the Aleutian Islands during WWII and that there were huge battles there? Yeah, me neither. So this base was not some silly military paranoia.

Anyway, the flat area was practically nil, plus it was freezing-ass cold in the winter (duh) so the military built one huge building with everything in it: barracks, hospital, even a shooting gallery. For a while, it was the biggest building in Alaska. Eventually, they built another huge building as housing for spouses and families. The military peaced out in the late '60s, I think, which left the town in its current state. And what is that you ask?

Let's take a little tour of Whittier as it is now. To get to the town from the ferry building, you follow this pleasant sign:
Ah! A pedestrian tunnel! How thoughtful! How very urbane and sophisticated!

And then you enter the tunnel:

The camera makes the light seem much warmer and friendlier than it actually was. It was a cold gray tube that was impossible to see the end of, as it had a turn at the end, and that made me feel more claustrophobic and trapped than much else I've done. The first time in, it felt endless and maze-like, exactly like we were Cold War spies or refugees. But at last, the tunnel did end and we emerged into the sunlight (AKA not raining. Not raining= a beautiful day in much of Alaska).

Remember the first building the government built? So now it's abandoned and as creepy looking as you can imagine. There are stalactites on the calcium leached out of the concrete hanging visible through the empty windows and the concrete has molded and mildewed until it has turned some interesting shades. Why not get rid of this eyesore? Well, for one thing it's full of asbestos and for another, the guy who owns it lives in Anchorage and basically doesn't give a shit. So this hunk of poisonous concrete just sits there, visible from anywhere in town, and serves no purpose, except maybe as an excellent place for the poor children of Whittier to get some truly life-threatening thrills at midnight.

Because really, who wouldn't want to just hop on into a building like this:

Let's continue on our tour.

Now that the big building is out of commission, everyone lives in the OTHER building the government built, called Begich Towers. Yes, pretty much everyone in town (all 88) lives in the 14 story high rise. Oh, a high rise? Sounds very urbane and sophisticated! Well, remember that this was built by the military. In the 1960s. The outside doesn't look bad at all (lots of windows, you can see it in the background of the tunnel sign picture), but the hallways inside are exactly like living in a dorm built in the 1960s (which Peter and I did for two years each. We know.).
This could be home! On the first floor is a post office (with a very friendly post mistress), city offices, a laundry, a church. a general store, a clothing store and probably several other things. And the hallway looks exactly like this. Only the doors lead to stores and offices, not apartments. Odd, but handy for the 251 inches of snow they get, on average.

OK, all of this is slightly odd, probably quite unique, but not enough to qualify as a James Bond town. No, for that we need to head back toward the giant abandoned building. Imagine you are walking along a street (in the middle, actually; it's not that busy), with warehouse-y buildings on either side, when all of a sudden, you see this:

Men in head to toe white plastic suits, with only a hole for their face. They look a little like giant oompa-loompas (but not orange). Nuclear testing facility for an evil laser? Or fish packing plant? You decide. Ultimately, the henchmen sealed the deal for Whittier. Oh, and plus the only way to get in or out of Whittier (aside from the ferry or stowing away on a boat) is through this hole in a giant mountain:

It's only as big as a train will fit through, though they've now opened it up to car traffic. It was the longest tunnel in America until the Big Dig (finally) finished, but it still gets to be the longest highway-rail tunnel (cuz who's the competition?). When we were on the ferry, one of the guys was under the impression that since it was a "shared" tunnel, the cars drove alongside the train. Ha! Nope, cars get to wait 20 minutes or more for the train to go through one way, then for traffic to come through the other way, and THEN you can go through your way (does it look big enough to fit two lanes? Hells no.). When we were first walking toward it (our best hike began right next to the tunnel) I totally thought this was the little hut where you had to pay your toll or whatever. Check out this picture from Wikipedia and tell me it does not look like a toll hut:

Yeah, but no. That IS the tunnel. It was very exciting to go through on the train. Very dark. We talked to a guy about his new iPhone the whole time. Astonishingly, it didn't work in the tunnel under the mountain. Truly astonishingly, it DID work in Whittier. But poor Alaskans can't get iPhones because AT&T doesn't have a network up there, just partner carriers. They get mad if you use the partners every single day of the year and cancel your contract. So no iPhones for poor Alaskans, and they already suffer so much.

OK, I've blabbered on for WAY too long (kudos if you are still with us!), but I have to say they very best thing about Whittier is its stunning scenery. The hike from the tunnel led us to our own personal overlook of Portage Glacier, there were more waterfalls than I could count (literally), and the mountains rose out of the water in such a stunning way. Here is the view of Whittier from the top of our hike:

Whittier, Alaska

Thanks for reading!

Yay for honeymoons! And glaciers!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


We got in to Denver at about 8 this morning after a restful red-eye (ha!). My body is so whacked out it doesn't know what to do. We slept for a few ours when we got home, ate whatever we could scrounge, did some unpacking, then I went back to sleep for another hour and a half. By 8:30 PM when we got home from Costco to restock the basics, I was so hungry I seriously was not able to function. A quick dinner and I'm ready for bed again. Peter went out to hang up some laundry and said "It's dark!" Weird. Darkness. Plus, um, have you noticed it's freaking hot? and humid? And supposedly it was cooler today. Woah.

In good news, we managed to get all the fish in our freezer:

We only had to take out almost all our veggies, nuts and fruit, but who needs those things when you have fish? Isn't protein all a human needs?

Oh wait, you want to hear more about Alaska? Who gives a flying crap about our freezer, you say? Fair enough. Since I'm tired and have a bowl of half-frozen strawberries to finish, I'll just give you a little update on how our trip ended.

We weren't sure what we were going to do with our last day in Anchorage; it was a much bigger city than anything we had seen before, but we were still trying to find things that interested us (we weren't feeling the museum vibe). We happened to see something about the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in the newspaper that morning (thanks Hilton!), but there wasn't much info about the when, where, etc. I guess they just figured you'd know all that if you were a local. So after some investigation, we found the spot and headed over (but not before stopping at the coolest bookstore after Powell's in Portland, Title Wave Books).

The newspaper had mentioned the crazy events in the Eskimo Indian Olympics, things that had to be seen to be believed. Read this for descriptions of the games. And if you want, go to YouTube and type in "World Eskimo Indian Olympics" or "WEIO" for some video (not too much there and none of it mine... yet).

The best part (for me) was the processional with all the different dance group from all over the state, with a few from Arizona and New Mexico thrown in for some variety. The songs, the drums, the traditional dress and the dancing were so incredible they brought tears to my eyes. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the processional. The lighting and the distance weren't great for my camera, so most of the pictures are mostly for memories, not so much to showcase the incredible beauty and diversity. Peter was taking video as well, so hopefully I can get that imported and digested somewhat soon.

Southeastern group:

My favorite picture of them all. Isn't she amazing?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Big Fish

Big Fish
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.
Peter's fish he caught yesterday. The big (55 lb) king salmon and the giant halibut on the end are his. He also caught about half of the other fish, but the limit is two a person, so those went home with the other guys. Anybody hungry? We'll be having a fish fry when we get home for sure!

PS I'll try to get Peter to blog his fish story later for you all!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Big Mountains

Big Mountains
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.
From our second Whittier hike.

Another Alaska Post

While I still have free internet access, I thought I'd write a little bit more about our trip so far.

Quick notes:

Dall's porpoises are my favorite. Incredible fun and fast.

Our three hikes (one in Ketchikan, two in Whittier) have been my favorite parts overall. The scenery is incredible, the nature beautiful and it's so nice to get away from the touristy things in every town. And the best part? It's free! Lots of great pics from these hikes I'll have to post later.

Whittier is the weirdest town I've ever been to. You totally feel like you are in a cold war James Bond movie, with all the suspicion and bizarreness but none of the action or Bond girls. I will definitely have to tell you all more about this later (complete with illustrations).

We have met some really cool people doing incredible things. Aside from the nature, the people we have met have been the coolest, most unexpected part of this trip. We have exchanged a lot of email addresses.

If you are planning a trip on the cheap to Alaska, it may not be totally secure, but if you are willing to take a little risk, let yourself leave some options up in the air. For example, we took the train out of Whittier for probably more than $100 for the both of us, but we could have gotten a ride for free (or gas) with some of the new friends we met on the ferry. If that hadn't worked out, we could have always gotten a train ticket at the station (PS it was a white tent. A tent. Was the train station). In the end, it worked out well for us because we got to spend the day in Whittier when everyone else got the hell out of there. We had some nice hikes and got to play spies for a little while.

The Inside Passage looks just like the more rugged parts of the Oregon and Washington coasts. I kept having to remind myself I was in Alaska there. I felt like we were really in Alaska once we got past that area.

Seriously, how long does it take to stop feeling like you are on the boat? I almost fell over standing on one leg trying to dry myself off after my shower. No good.

See you all later! Leave me some comments to I can feel happy when I get internet again!

Yay for honeymoons! And glaciers!

The end point of a lovely hike we took today in the bizarre town of Whittier. Remind me to blog about this later when I have more time.


Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.
Dall's porpoises from the side of our ship. They were playing in the wake of the boat and chasing us alongside the ship. They were rather small and incredibly fun and cute. I think Peter got some good video of them. Funny thing was, even though we sat out for hours looking for sea life, this was totally by accident (we came out to look at the huge mountains) and by far the best encounter.

PS Dall also got to name Dall's Sheep, which are equally adorable. How did he corner the market on cute Alaskan animals?

M/V Kennicott

M/V Kennicott
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.

Alaskan Rainbow

Alaskan Rainbow
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.

Our Brave, Peaceful Ship

Our Brave, Peaceful Ship
Originally uploaded by shanbrite2.

Where time has no meaning

So much to say! So much has been done, seen and felt since I last had access to a computer (God bless Homewood Suites and free internet). Aside from the constant feeling of rocking earned by three nights on a ferry boat, I'm experiencing another new feeling. Time has no meaning in Alaska, at least in the summer, and especially on a ferry boat. The sun doesn't set, it doesn't rise, the days are perpetually cloudy and there are no appointments to make. Even eating becomes a matter for when the stomach declares it to be an issue, not when you "ought" to eat. I learned this the hard way when I started getting grumpy and hungry without understanding why until I looked at the clock and realized it had been many hours since I last ate.

Sleeping can follow this path too. We were scheduled to come into Prince William Sound, a lovely area by all accounts, very early in the morning so instead of going to bed early, I took a nap when nothing much was happening, woke up when Peter came in with reports of tons of porpoises (which were mostly gone by the time I got out, sadly) and a lifting of the clouds so that that mountains could be seen. So we stayed up until midnight, watching the sun set ever so slowly over the Gulf of Alaska, then woke up five hours later to see the incredible mountains and glaciers of Prince William Sound (no orcas though).

Even now, as I type, I am refreshed from a nap that I took after a shower in our lovely hotel room, awake at 11:30 PM so that I can use the busy business center for this little update. With any luck, I should also have some pictures to post as well.

I'm afraid my sleeping schedule will be even more off this far north, as the sky apparently is only dark for about an hour, but unlike on the ship, there is much to do here and certain times where things happen. May you all sleep well tonight!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wetly Blogging in AK

I'm at a cafe in Ketchikan, we're about to go down to the ferry station for our ferry trip north and it's been mizzling for two days (thanks goodness for Jane Austen! I didn't know exactly what it meant when I read it in Emma the other night until I woke up and realized it was truly mizzling outside. A heavy mist, not quite a drizzle.). One of the huge cruise ships is parked outside the window in the harbor. Today is a three-ship day, and the town is swarming with cruisers. We went on a lovely hike yesterday in the mizzle through misty old-growth forests up most of a mountain (the top was allegedly still ice, a rumor born out by the young local boys we passed coming up with skis and snowboards strapped to their packs).

This evening, we'll head north on the ferry for two and a half days, when we'll arrive near Anchorage. Maybe they'll be an internet cafe there as well where I can burn a little time and money. For the time being, here are a few images from the harbor where Peter went fishing and I took photos of old boats:

And because I can't figure out how to rotate photos in Blogger: (tilt your head, it'll be lovely)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Getting Ready

We are leaving for Alaska for our long-delayed honeymoon this week, and there is still so much to do! Finish up stuff for work, pack, finish shopping for those little things that will make ALL the difference (bug dope, Dramamine). I can't believe the time is here already!

A little thing happened that made me happy yesterday. We used to have this wonderful little Nikon Coolpix digital camera that saw us through our entire USA trip and took some very nice pictures. About a year ago, it started EATING batteries (a-literally. Monsche. Monsche.) and after some investigation, we realized the little latch on the battery compartment was broken. It didn't look super fixable, plus by that time digicams were way way better and much cheaper, so we just got a new camera. Fast forward to yesterday... randomly Googled "Nikon Coolpix 3100 broken latch," and after reading one depressing forum discussion ("Nothing to be done! All is lost! Save yourself!"), found one that had the perfect, most ingenious solution. A paperclip. Using a simple small powertool (which Peter thankfully had), a paperclip (or a small bit of wire in our case) and some epoxy, we made our own latch, thankyouverymuch, one that looks a heckuva lot sturdier than the original plastic. So now we have a second camera, one which we probably won't use often, but will be perfect for when Peter's out on the ocean catching 100 pound halibut and needs to document the experience while I'm on shore happily taking pictures of flowers and the town. Yay!