The following is the journal and related notes and
observations of :
Jack L. McSherry, III on his great Alaska, Yukon and Arctic Circle Expedition, of June 1-16, 2001. The Journey was in
the company of long time friend Brian L. Miller, and was known as "Stampede 2001".
We called ourselves "Yukon Jack" and "Sudsey Miller".
After about eighteen months of waiting, researching and planning
the story begins.
THE INSIDE PASSAGE:
June 1, 2001
3:00 am. (edt) Left home (Conestoga, PA.) with Brian Miller. In Brian's car. On the trip down I95 a truck tire blew, and a big section of tread went flying and almost hit us.
4:45 am. Arrived Baltimore-Washington Airport.
6:45 am. Left BWI. On Northwest Air Flight 486, flying at 23,000ft.
7:55 am. Arrived Detroit Michigan.
9:30 am. Left Detroit on Northwest Airlines Flight
281. Flying at
2:15 pm. (edt) Now 11:15 am (pdt) (local time adjustment) Arrived Seattle Washington.
1:00 pm. Left Seattle Washington on two engine prop driven aircraft.
2:00 pm. Arrived Bellingham, Washington. Took a taxi to the Ferry Port.
4:00 pm. Boarded Ferry "Malaspina" to travel North to Alaska through the Inside Passage. Clocks set back one hour to to Alaska Time 3:00 pm.
We are assigned to cabin #143. It is an 8x10 ft. room with a bunk-bed, closet, sink, toilet and shower. This left room for my standing spot, and Brian had his.
The ship was 480 ft long and had about 300 passengers aboard.
We were hungry, so we went to the cafeteria. We thought it was closed because we had not yet reset our watches, as the place closed at 4:00. We were wrong. When we realized that it was still open, and that it was really 3:00 Alaska time, it closed. So, we had a long and hungry wait until 6:00 when it reopened.
7:30 pm. The temperature is 60 F., Coudy, and some rain.
8:25 pm. Sunset
9:00 pm. Lights out as we are very tired.
June 2, 2001
5:45 am. Brian and I got up.
6:45 The temperature is 45 F. and some light rain has started.
9:00 am. We saw Orca whales SW. of our heading. We were able to see the dorsal fins break the surface then slide under water.
9:15 am. In the forward observation lounge the Forest Service Ranger had a short program about marine mammals. Since we hoped to see whales, we thought this would be interesting.
10:30 am. Rain ends.
10:45 am. We entered Queen Charlotte Sound. This area is open to the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, we hit rough water. Brian and I both took Dramamine tablets an hour before, to prevent sea sickness.
11:10 am. Passed Cape Caution. temp. 62 F. sunny.
4:00 pm. Passed Bella Bella. Temp. 58 F. light rain.
4:30 pm. Forest service presented a program on Alaskan bears, and bear danger. He told us that the Alaskan brown Bear was the same as a Grizzly Bear. These, he said, would not attack a man unless startled. He said to make noise and wear bear bells in the woods. He suggested that if you encounter a brown bear, you should react in the tradition of the natives of Alaska. The ranger told us to hold our hands in the air, to make us look larger. Then say "hello, brother bear. We did not mean to disturb you. We are humans too. We shall leave your land. Please do not hurt us" If they attack we were told to play dead and the bear would leave. Well we hope so?!
However, if the attack was by a black bear, which is very uncommon, try to play dead. But, in most cases the bear would see you as food, if he attacked. So, if he doesn't go. Fight back, and make noise.
5:05 pm. Crossed into Milbank Sound. Again a rough water as we are are exposed to the Pacific Ocean. However, it took a very short time to cross.
7:30 pm. Passed Klemtu fishing village.
7:45 pm. Temperature 45 F. partly cloudy.
9:15 Passed through Princess Royal Channel. The most narrow section of the voyage. Temp. 45 F. cloudy. Current position estimated 53degrees - 10min North.
10:30 pm. We went to bed, Lights out.
June 3, 2001
5:15 am. Brian got up.
5:30 am. Jack got up.
We went up on deck to watch for whales, as the ship went through Dixon Entrance. We did not see any; although this was suppose to be a good sighting area. Temp 45 F.
Arrived in Alaskan waters!
6:45 am. Brian went in for a shower, and I went in search of coffee.
7:15 am. Breakfast.
8:30 am. Arrived dock of ketchikan Alaska.
9:00 am. We went on shore to look around. The ferry dock is about 1.5 mile from the business district. So we walked into town to call Bonnie to let her know we were OK. We also took a little time to pass through a shop or two. Brian bought his now famous, and expensive, leather bush pilot's hat. I found a nice little pair of compact binoculars, for whale watching.
10:50 am. Arrived back on the ship. temp 63 F. cloudy
11:45 am. The ship left Ketchikan Alaska.
2:00 pm. The Forest Service presented a program on Glaciers, formations and locations. He also talked about the glacial shaping of the mountains. To see mountains formed by glaciers look for valleys in the shape of a U with a shelf on either end. Also horn type peaks are formed by glaciers.
3:00 pm. temp 65 F.
4:00 pm. We saw a Dall's porpoise from the deck of the ship. Temp 55 F. cloudy.
4:55 pm. We were able to see a Humpback whale about
one mile west of the ship. Brian saw the blow first and showed me. We saw
a total of four blows, each time seeing the back of the whale. Then the
whale dove. Brian was able to see the tail as it went down.
5:45 pm. Arrived at Wrangell Island. We got off the ship and bought some garnets from some children at the dock. The story is that when the owner of the garnet mine died, he willed the mine to the children of Wrangell Island. So the children dig them out of the rock and take them to the ferry dock to sell to tourists. Their parents are not allowed to dig or sell garnets.
6:30 pm. The ship left Wrangell Island.
8:30 pm. The ship entered Wrangell Narrows. We stayed on deck in hopes of seeing bears or other wildlife on shore. But, we didn't see anything. Temp 50 F.
9:40 pm. Arrived Petersburg Alaska.
10:00 pm. The sun is going down. It is almost dark now.
10:30 Lights out,We went to sleep back in our
June 4, 2001
6:30 am. Arrived Juneau Alaska. Temp 52 F.
7:30 am. We have just arrived back from a walk about 1 1/2 miles south of the ferry dock toward down town Juneau. This area is very rural. The only way to get to Juneau is by ship or plane. The roads extend about 20 miles above and below the town.
While walking we saw 4 bald eagles, very close. Two of them had a nest on the edge of a small cliff along side of the road, about twenty feet up.
9:45 am. The ship left Juneau. Temp. 55 F. cloudy.
We could see Mendenhall Glacier. The ice had many large cracks visible. Also, the color of the ice went from white to robin's egg blue. The glacier seemed to fill the entire valley that it was in.
10:30 am. We saw what we believe was an Orca whale. The dorsal fin was visible, but we didn't get a real good look.
11:00 am. Temperature dropped to 48 F. We are in a narrow pass with high snow covered mountains.
12:00 noon Temp 55 F. The passage is wider now. Still many snow covered mountains. The snow line is getting much lower on the mountains and closer to the water.
We just noticed that most of the "crazy " people left the ship in Ketchikan and Juneau. Most of the tent city on the upper deck is gone.
The crazy people consist of a few old hippies, a few young want-to-be hippies, a few out of work Alaska experts and some less then sober Indians. There really wasn't that many crazies, they were just spread out.
The crazy people:
The "expert in all things"
The "almost a dinosaur" guy
The "girl that talks to herself"
The "want-to-be-hippy girl"
The "plant a tree or die guy"
The "less then sober" Indians
Brian though he might stand a chance with the want-to-be hippy girls if he told them that he once hugged a tree and that he voted for Ralph Nader. Brian"s line: "I hugged a tree, so will you hug me"?
With little success, he decided to look for, and marry a native girl.
12:30 pm. We sighted a humpback whale about 1/2 mile south east of the ships heading. We sighted blows, hump and tail. Brian was very good at spotting the blows from whales, before anyone else would see them.
We also sighted several glaciers in the surrounding mountains.
1:30 pm. We saw several whales at a great distance. Brian also saw a sea-lion swimming next to the ship eating a fish.
2:15 pm. Arrived at the dock of Haines Alaska. Temp
59 F., sunny.
Estimated location 59 degrees 15 minutes north.
4:30 Arrived Skagway, Alaska. temp. 65 F. There were two cruise ships in port.
Skagway also spelled Skaguay is an Indian word meaning "where the wind never blows". Some say it means where the wind never blows and nobody would want to live". The original pronunciation was "skag wah". Later with the English language influence, it became known as Skagway.
We put on our packs and walked from the ferry dock to the Golden North Hotel. We checked in and took our things up the stairs to the second floor, to room number 8. The hotel was a gold rush period hotel with a very Victorian look. There were two old iron frame beds in the room. The bathroom had a giant claw foot bath tub.
Once settled we went into town and looked in a few of the shops. Most of them close around 5:00. here and there a few were open until 7:00. We had dinner at the Bonanza Bar and grill. Here I told Brian about Shakespeare's, Henry V, Saint Crispin's day speech.
As things closed, only three saloons remained open. We went to the Red Onion Saloon. This was named after a famous saloon that once stood in Canyon City. Brian had three double bach beers. After the first two, and a little dizzy, he decided to stop. I had regular beer and voted not to have another. The bartender insisted that he had a vote and we should have another. Brian then changed his vote and had his third beer. The bartender then told Brian that his beer was double strength, being at 7%.
Then Brian began singing "Piano Man" and other songs loudly. He also asked the bartender to turn up the music. I had a great laugh. Thinking things could not get worse, there was a girl sitting at the bar with two guys. She was dressed slightly in the "punk" style. The subject of Brian finding an Alaskan wife came up again. He then, refering to the girl at the bar, made loud bride of Frankenstein comments followed by raising both hands to his ears and making a loud aaaah, aaah noise. I half expected a fight. but during some more singing, she and her friends left.
Brian checked with the bartender to see if he had any
more good music. When Brian could find none behind the bar, we left.
12:00 midnight. Skagway became dark. temp. 58 F.
June 5, 2001 Brian's birthday!
7:00 am. We got up.
8:30 am. We went to Sweet Tooth's" for breakfast. This
is a small restaurant in a false front building. While we were eating,
I gave Brian his gift. An 1898-s silver dollar.
10:00 to 11:00 am. We did our laundry at a laundry/gas station in Skagway.
11:15 We did some shopping in down town Skagway. Temp. 58 F. cloudy.
3:00 pm. We climbed up the mountain at Skagway to Icy Lake. This appears to be the source of water for the town and is a man-made lake, with a dam. We had a map of the trails in the area but it did not seem to be correct. We were trying to get to an overlook. But ended up at Icy Lake. This may have been good since we were told there was a Brown Bear that liked to sit on the overlook. The entire trip was about 2 miles.
5:00 pm (about) We walked out to the old cemetery. To see "Soapy" Smiths grave. This was located just beyond the end of town and the rail yard. This was about a 3 mile round trip.
7:00 pm. Brian and I ate dinner at the "northern Lights". This was the first time we could find "Alaskan" Food. I had salmon and Brian had Alaskan king crab legs. Temp. 61 F. rainy
8:30 pm. Arrived back at the Golden North Hotel.
There were two packages waiting back at the hotel for us. One was for Brian's birthday. It was cookies from Pat and family. The second package, for me, was a bottle of Jagermeister. Also from Pat and family.
9:00 pm. We packed up our extra things and the gifts that we bought for people, to mail back before we go out on the trail.
10:00 pm. We decided to go to sleep to get rest for tomorrow, which is day 1 on the Chilkoot trail. It is still light outside. Brian must wear his, hotel provided, eye mask to block out the light so he can sleep.
Notes and observations:
A few notes about Indians: In the lower 48 states most Indians call themselves Indians. Or, they would like to be called by their tribal name as "that is there nation of origin". The term "native American" is another white man's name for the Indian. They say that it comes from the largest tribe, the "Want-to-be Tribe" of white Indians.
In Alaska the Indians often called by the terms Indian or Eskimo. Outsiders are unsure which term to use for which tribal nation. Most Alaskan and Canadian tribal people prefer the term "native" or "natives".
The natives appear different from the Indians of the lower 48 states. Their skin tends to be lighter and features are much more Asian.
The tribes of Natives that we believe we encountered
1. Tlingit (pronounced klinget) - Ketchekan, Alaska.
2. Chilkat - Skagway Alaska.
3. Inuit - Yukon.