Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for January, 2011

Juneau, Alaska Adventures

What a beautiful sight as the cruise ship pulls into dock!  Juneau, Alaska sets at the foot of Mt. Juneau, which is about 3,500 feet high making for a beautiful backdrop for the city. This capital city is the only US capital that has international borders, as it edges up to the Canadian province of British Columbia.

In 1880, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris searched for gold with the help of Indian guides.  They found nuggets as “large as beans” and from their discovery came three of the largest gold mines in the world.  By the end of WWII, more than $150 milllion in gold had been mined.  Eventually the mines closed, but the town named for Joe Juneau in time became the capital of Alaska.

Breathtakingly beautiful glaciers are one of the big attractions as the ship docks early in the morning.  As soon as we have a quick breakfast, it is off to a bus which takes us to the TEMSCO Helicopter site.  First, we have to get weighed as the helicopter must be balanced for safe flight.  Then everyone is issued ice boots with cleats on the bottom for our walk on the glacier.

Ready to lift off and see some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.  The helicopter flies low over the glacier and we get some awesome views.  We get an eagle’s eye view of ice spires, deep blue crevasses and meltwater pools.  This is just fantastic!

After about 15 minutes,  the helicopter lowers itself onto the ice and we are told to step out of the helicopter onto the Mendenhall Glacier. What a thrill to actually be setting foot on a real glacier.  Explicit instructions are given  to stay away from the crevices and to not venture far from the aircraft.  The pilot keeps a close eye on everyone.

Went perhaps a little far myself as just couldn’t resist looking down in one of those crevices.  The pilot shouted,” Get back from the edge.  If you fell in you would never be heard from again.  That goes down for thousands of feet.”  So did quickly move away from the deep, deep crevice and continued walking on the ice. One thing for sure, you never want to walk backwards on a glacier.   This walk on the glacier was perhaps the highlight of my Alaskan vacation.  Just to know you were on a massive, moving block of ice, that was created long before our existence, was a thrilling  experience.

Back in town  experienced a nice walking tour of parts of the city after an overall bus tour. The Alaska State House was built in 1931, originally called the Federal and Territorial Building.  When Alaska became a state in 1959, this then became the capitol building. The bronze bear in front of the capitol seems to be the perfect statue for this setting.

Along the way, stops are made at the World Famous Red Dog Saloon, the hangout of the goldminers.  Took time for a great hamburger and had to have some peanuts, as part of the ambience of the place is the fact that the floor is covered with peanut shells.

Wherever you have a saloon, you usually find a church in the area also.  Nearby is the beautiful St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, the oldest church in Alaska.  Since my family grew up in the Orthodox tradition, took time to light some candles in their memory.  The dome of this church is covered with gold leaves, a reminder of the gold rush years.

What a fun day in Juneau.  This town could have a repeat trip sometime in the future as there are many interesting places time did not permit visiting.  The air is filled with a light mist but that doesn’t dampen the spirits of visitor to this exciting city.


Alaska’s First City – Ketchikan

When traveling up the Inside Passage to Alaska, Ketchikan is the first major port that travelers visit. Ketchikan is located on a small island and was originally an Indian fishing camp. This is a popular destination due to its superb fishing, native culture, and outdoor heritage.

First we head for an excursion of salmon fishing.  Here we fish on the beautiful scenic waterway, catch the plentiful salmon, then head to shore where they have it prepared to be packaged to take back home.  Of course, there is also a campfire on shore waiting with delicious, fresh salmon cooked to perfection.  The only thing that could make this better would be the appearance of a bear hungry for a meal.  Everyone wants to see a bear while they are in Alaska, but not at close range.

Next we are fascinated to see the world’s oldest collection of totem poles at Totem Bight State Park, a former Indian campsite.  Each totem is carved to tell the family story. Often they have a fish being held to ensure that the family will have a good food supply.  The top of the totem frequently has an eagle or thunderbird to watch over the home and protect it from harm. There are carvers at work so you can see how totems are made and perhaps want to purchase one to have shipped back to your home.

The Tlingt Indian Clan House was an interesting meeting place for the Indian tribe. Now traditional Native dances are performed inside the clan house at designated times.   It has been kept in good repair and at the front has a Living Door, said to bring good luck to all who pass through it.  Had to have a picture taken going through the door.

At one end of town is Creek Street,the goldminers’ Red Light District.  Here you can tour a brothel or just walk the criss cross streets along the water’s edge.  It is intriguing to imagine the goldminers in the early 1900s coming back from the mountains and spending their evenings along these same streets you are walking.  Many of the buildings are original but perhaps slightly refurbished.

Living here would not be for the frail of body and spirit as there are steep steps everywhere leading up the mountainside to homes and businesses.  It is a beautiful town where kayaks and sea planes are the best way to travel.  No roads lead out of Ketchican!

Lonesome Town Near Mexican Border

Just by accident, travelers might find the little town of Hachita, New Mexico.  As you travel through the Southern part of the state, Hachita is a small town not far from the Mexican border and located in the Little Hatchet Mountains.

This is one of the few towns I have visited where all of the streets are still unpaved. During my first visit to Hachita, the town consisted of a bar, store, and post office along with about a hundred people in residence. The post office is located in the center of town and you can see the dirt road to its front door step, but the American flag is always flying. Another interesting event in years past was the Chicken Roping.  This town was filled with cowboys and Cattle Roping was a year long event there.  One year, the owner of the local bar thought that chicken roping would be an added attraction.  This was a real event and was depicted on the side of the bar by a traveling artist.

This was once a mining area so at one time was a booming and prosperous community. But that was Old Hachita, which is located down the road just a couple of miles and set back off today’s main road.  You have to have a local guide that knows the area to lead you to the remains of the Old Hachita town.

The local guide also took us back in the desert region very close to the Mexican border. We actually had a picnic of ham sandwiches and potato salad with refreshing cold drinks under a giant sycamore tree located near a rare spring.

As we headed back towards Hachita, we came across a sign posted by the Border Patrol which said: Attention!  You are in danger of dying if you do not summon help.This was one of those unusual signs that you come across off the beaten path.

Even attended a town meeting while visiting in the area.  They were discussing their new grant for water for the small town.  Currently, there is an old water tower but water is not really safe to drink.  The new project will have a safe water supply and a better water volume available.  After the meeting, nearly everyone in the town brought a covered dish and had delicious food as well as friendly town talk.

Border patrol frequent the town driving through both day and night as well as covering the surrounding area.  Most of the locals don’t even lock their doors at night as they feel well protected.  This is the place to really get away from it all.

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