Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Rainy Day in Haines

With no excursions in the morning or fears about a stopped-up toilet, I slept until after 7 am (over 8 hours).  Dad, however, had a morning excursion on a bus where he would drive through a bald eagle preserve.  After a quick breakfast, I made sure he had his passport, umbrella, and coat, and then I walked him to his bus on shore.

While the forecast was for “a chance of rain,” in reality that chance was 100%.  The weather today varied from light drizzle, to light rain, to heavy rain.  For most of the day, the town of Haines was surrounded by clouds and mist.  After I saw dad safely off, I headed into town to find the free wifi.  The Rusty Compass Café on Main St. had sort of free wifi (you needed to buy $5 of food or drink).  I was hoping for a café au lait, but their espresso machine was in for repairs and they couldn’t steam milk.  They could, however, mix hot milk with coffee and that was good enough for me.  To bring it up to $5, I bought a blueberry scone, but this turned out to be hard as a rock.  The guy who served the people after me suggested having it heated in the microwave, but my server didn’t bother.

It turns out that the population of Haines nearly doubles every Wednesday when the cruise ships dock.  At that point, the streets fill up and the cafes are full of people looking for wifi.  Unfortunately, the town has only one cell tower, which means we’re all fighting over the same bandwidth.  The result was that while I could check email relatively quickly, if I wanted to post photos (and I had a lot of photos to post for the last three days), then I had to wait my turn.  What that meant was that for about two minutes out of every fifteen, I had a clear signal and could upload a batch of photos.  Then I had to wait another fifteen minutes while it tried to find a signal.

After an hour I had enough and decided to try to the public library.  Unfortunately, the situation there was even worse, even though I didn’t think that was possible.  Eventually, after two hours of frustration, I caught up and headed back to the ship for lunch.  I went back to the Lido Buffet and the design your own pasta sauce.  This time I decided to customize the Bolognese, but when the chef asked if I wanted the marinara, I said “no, the Bolognese,” he replied “the marinara?”  Again I said, “no, the Bolognese.”  I had to repeat later too.  Apparently, he didn’t want people having the Bolognese.

I went back to the room to read before my excursion and the toilet jammed again.  Before I could go to the Front Office dad came back, so I warned him not to use it.  Thankfully, they had it fixed in less than a half an hour.  I asked dad about his excursion.  “I saw trees,” he said.

“Did you see eagles?”
“I saw trees.”
“Did anyone else see eagles?”

My afternoon excursion was called “Glacier Point Wilderness Safari.”  It left at 3:15 and was over five hours, which was a little worrying since the ship was going to leave port at 8:30, but we were assured we would be back in time.  There were 24 of us in a small, little enclosed boat that skipped over the waves for about 30 minutes as we sailed to the next fjord where we beached on the sand.  There we had a turkey sandwich and then transferred to a school bus for a short ride to a staging area.

Because it was raining (between light and heavy), we changed into the water proof clothing.  We each got olive-green waterproof overalls, an olive-green waterproof jacket, and heavy black rubber galoshes that came up to below the knee.  The hood of the jacket obscured my vision, but then I put my cap on and the brim kept it out of my eyes.  To complete the outfit, we all put on reddish orange life vests and then started our short walk through the dark, dank woods (it’s a temperate rain forest). 

If you were wondering why we needed life preservers for a woodland hike, it became clear when we reached the canoes.  It was particularly important not to fall into the water, since its temperature was one degree above freezing; the river was fed by glacial melt.  After five minutes in the water, hypothermia would set in. 

We had oars in each canoe, and we did paddle for a bit, but once we were deep water, our guide turned on the four horsepower on board engine.  The closer we approached the Davidson Glacier, the colder the air became.  There was a strong, cold wind coming off the glacier, so I wrapped the hood around my head. 

When we reached the shore, we had a “wet landing,” and then began our walk across the glacial moraine to the ice.  The Davidson Glacier has a pronounced blue tint, made more intense by the overcast weather.  The ice isn’t actually blue; it’s so dense that the only light that isn’t absorbed is blue, making it appear that color. If you melt it, though, the water is clear. 

We didn’t see any of the bears or moose or wolves who live in the area, but we did see several small white arctic terns.  These birds have little orange beaks and commute 30,000 miles a year, flying between the Arctic and the Antarctic.  The average tern flies over 600,000 over the course of its life.

They didn’t let us walk up to the main part of the glacier lest it calve on top of us.  We could go up and touch the side of the glacier where it sloped up.  I walked up on top of a little of it.  If you want to know what a glacier feels like, go to your freezer, open up the ice box and put your hand on a piece of ice.  The only difference in the glacier is that it’s a whole wall of it.

The blue color was really intense, and there were small waterfalls erupting out of the ice as well as the main river emerging out from under it.  Even the rocks on which we were walking were likely concealing glacial ice beneath them. There were a few “kettles” or small ponds of melted ice among the gravel.

Eventually we had to return and make our way back to the ship.  Thankfully, we arrived a little before 8 pm.  I went to the cabin and found dad.  He warned me not to use the toilet as it had clogged yet again.  I went up to dinner on the Lido deck and dad joined me.  Afterwards, he went to listen to classical music while I went back to the cabin to pick up my laptop and check to make sure the toilet was fixed (it was).

As I’ve been typing this, the musicians surprised me by playing an excerpt of Ennio Morricone’s (I’m sure I’ve misspelled that name) score from Once Upon a Time in the West, and they were surprised I knew it.  They just wrapped up their set by playing Katchitourian’s (another name I’m sure I’m misspelling) Sabre Dance.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Juneau, where I’m signed up for whale watching.  It’s supposed to be the best place to whale watch in the state.  The forecast?  “Chance of rain.”

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