An Alaskan Adventure

An Alaskan Adventure

BY TAMMY SEREBRIN

 

When Mary Anne Saag’s mother-in-law and father-in-law of Northbrook, Illinois, celebrate special occasions, they celebrate in style by gathering their children and grandchildren and taking them on a trip. This past August, for their 55th anniversary, the senior Saags took their family on a seven day Alaskan cruise. Among them were Mary Anne of Haines City, three of her four children and nine other family members. This was Mary Anne’s second time in Alaska and somewhat of a bittersweet trip for her. The first time she traveled there was with her husband in 2007, the year before he passed away at the age of 40 from cancer.

Mary Anne remarked “the difference between traveling to Alaska in June, when we went in 2007, and August is amazing. It was quite cold in June and in August it was so much warmer; it was like seeing a completely different place.”

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The group of 15 (ages 12 to 82) met in Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle, Mary Anne met up with an elementary school classmate whom she hadn’t seen since high school who now lives in Seattle. They toured downtown’s Pike Street MarketPlace with its big fish market and beautiful flowers. Then, after taking a shuttle to the ship’s terminal (Norwegian Cruise Lines), the group of 15 left on their voyage.

They spent all day Sunday at sea, arriving at Ketchikan, Alaska (the salmon capital of the world), on Monday morning. Grey and overcast when they arrived; by late morning, it was sunny and bright. They enjoyed a duck tour (a bus that drives on land and into water) while touring the tiny fishing community that is the oldest city in Alaska.

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On Tuesday, Juneau proved to be a lot of fun with a visit to Mendenhall Glacier National Park. Mary Anne remarked, “I could see, with global warming, how much the glacier has shrunk since I last saw it in 2007.” The glacier is in Tongass National Forest where “the salmon were spawning and literally standing up in the water.” There was a bear spotted where the stream went into the water. “Everyone went running to see it; by the time I got there, all I saw was bear poop and decapitated salmon.”

Tuesday was spent on the ship when the captain took it into the Inside Passage. They traveled on to the Tracy Arm Fjord, an inlet going in and out to Sawyer Glacier. “We were about five car lengths away from the glacier and the ship did a complete 360 so everyone on board could see it. It was a lot of fun seeing seals playing – rolling off and trying to get back on.”

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Next stop was Skagway, famous for gold mining. They took the White Pass Railway – the oldest railroad in that area which originally took all the gold rush people up the mountain to look for gold.

“I took the best, most amazing pictures of the entire trip in Skagway from the train platform. You would not think it is Alaska. There is a lot of rock that had been completely under a glacier. There are trees that are hundreds of years old but are still little from being under the glacier. I am going to use photos I took to teach my landscape art classes foreground and background. We saw other smaller glaciers that look like snow drifts, but as you get closer, you can see the bluish tint and that it is a big chunk of ice.”

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Another experience in Skagway was “what my kids really wanted to do… a sled dog excursion at the summer training camp for a group of Iditarod dogs (professional sled dogs) that are number three in the world for Iditarod racing. A bus goes half way up the mountain and a four-wheel drive vehicle took them up to the top. Because there is no snow in the summer, sixteen dogs pulled six passengers on an aluminum sled with wheels. “We were told not to talk to the dogs until after the run because they had been waiting all day to run and they were hyper. Once we were done, they told us about each dog and we could pet and talk to them. The mountain the camp is on is where Jack London wrote ‘The Call of the Wild’.”

Leaving Skagway, the ship was at sea for a day, arriving in Victoria British Columbia where they spent some time. The next morning, they arrived back in Seattle where the 15 said their goodbyes and left for their various homes in Chicago, Omaha, Birmingham, Boulder, Louisville and Haines City.

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