Day 5: Wilderness…ish

July 23, 2011

I just picked up the bedside clock in an effort to face the overwhelming backlighting away from me. I somehow hit a combination of buttons that reset it to midnight…

Fortunately, we don’t need to be at our special character breakfast until 8am tomorrow morning, so we should be okay.

After writing last night, I sat out on the balcony for over an hour, just watching the mountains and ocean glide by. It was amazingly relaxing and I was looking forward to having more rocks and trees around me today, in Juneau. But first, we had to get off the boat.

We have given up on eating at the big buffet near the top and on from the pool-side offerings. For some reason, the free-for-all, cafeteria style buffet appeals to the masses. There are always one or two other facilities open for breakfast and lunch. Seated, calmer and less buffet like. But at least the food in the crazy buffet generally has some very good options. In a facility where the dining can be phenomenal, the pool side burgers, pizza, chicken strips and fries are bizarrely awful. Even the kids’ menu in the main dining is a bit sketchy: starchy, bland and processed. We’ve asked the Magpie to order some of the bigger kid options and, today, she shared my lunch dish.

But I digress. Sufficed to say, we’ve figured out how to eat well and within the physical bounds of our stomachs.

This morning, I started off upstairs on the treadmill with a view of Juneau out the window. Fifty minutes later, I discovered the fitness centre showers. Having returned to the safety of our room to shower in days past, I stayed upstairs today and it was incredibly worth it: the fitness centre showers are amazing compared to our lowly stateroom. If that is representative of gyms in general (and I’m doubtful…), I would be willing to hang out on treadmills more…

But, no time for that. After breakfast, we loaded up our bags and cameras and made our way off the boat, stopping by for a photo-op with Donald Duck on the way. We had selected a tram ride up Mt. Roberts as our excursion for the day – we deemed it along the same lines as the Grouse Mountain tram and park area – for the walk and non-shopping component.

We got to the top of the tram and visited with the injured bald eagle who was representing the raptor centre before taking a wander up the trails that led further up Mt. Roberts. The girls climbed a few trees and wandered the paths for a bit until they became tired: that didn’t take long. It certainly didn’t take long enough for me, when there were trail markers telling me there were so many lookouts and viewings just around the corners. So, with blessings, I forged ahead while the remainder of my group wandered the lower trails back to the gift shop and restaurant. I returned the water bottle to SigOther, lest the Magpie got thirsty.

I walked up past several lookouts and a sign that warned me not to go further unless I have good shoes (check), water (um…) and was prepared to stay the night (my boat was leaving in 6 hours…so, no). There was even a line of stones in the trail that mocked my crossing of the invisible barrier to my certain embarrassment when I was the lone hiker to delay an entire cruise ship with my folly of getting lost in the wide open fields above the treeline.

Though I saw no large, carnivorous, rugged Alaskan mammals (two-legged or four), there were plenty of skittish songbirds, butterflies, blue-bottle flies and mosquitoes to keep me company. There were several other tourists venturing beyond the lower trails and locals as well, the latter of which made me more interested in continuing the hike. I mean, if the locals enjoyed the walk up, then surely it was worthy.

The trail kept going. I stopped when I reached my first patch of snow. I would have loved to continue but not without having communication with the remaining party below first. And lunch. Which I did not pack. But my sanity had been restored. Even this small piece of sanitized wilderness was enough to take the edge off. Too many people and too much boat had begun to get to me. A few rocks under my feet and greenery around me has made all the difference today. But I had to leave it before the family – and the boat – left me.

no one would hike up with me, so I had to take my own damn photo

On my return, I found SigOther and the Magpie in the gift shop, just getting ready to consider their next move (find me or leave me). We wandered around a few more minutes to pick up our token Alaskan wares and headed back to the ship for a late lunch. No one was up for wandering the streets looking at more jewellery shops.

Though, based on the view from the boat and the view from Mt. Roberts, Juneau is a gorgeous town. Time and travel permitting, I would love to be able to visit the town and area itself – without the cruise, without the kitsch, without the rush. It felt like Yellowknife and looks like British Columbia.

The afternoon passed: from the top deck, we watched a hang glider soar above Mt. Roberts while we played cards. The girls and dads went swimming while the moms took in some of the northern sun that has yet to grace Vancouver this summer. We went back in with a little time to spare before readying ourselves for pirate night. With makeup, head scarves, feather swords and tattoos in place, we managed to eat proportionate meals and get out of dinner with our guts intact. The Magpie wanted to go for pirate stories at the kids’ club and we said goodnight to our friends before heading our separate ways.

Watching whales splash and dive in front our cabin’s veranda as the light faded on the snow-capped mountains ended the evening before we brought the Magpie back to bed.

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