Alaska – Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were cruising away from Juneau onto their next port of call with a mind full of dancing humpback whales and bald eagles everywhere.

Day 4 (Skagway) – This was the longest day at any port. Took a tour bus into the Yukon which meant going through the Canadian Border Patrol at Fraser, Canada. Now I say Fraser and you think “town” (well, maybe you think Cheers or even his spinoff), but what you should envision is about 3-4 houses, a border patrol building, and the train station where you can ride the train back into Skagway (which is what we did). Apparently you should not run to the bathroom on the bus when you are about to go through the passport check, the Canadians and Americans don’t seem to like this very much (luckily I did not have to experience any issues like that).

But we were warned both coming and going. And here I thought we were all hugs and kisses with our friends to the north.

In the Yukon (this is back in the 19th Century), listen I understand that there was a gold rush and all, but they had to institute a rule (the Canadian government did this) that in order to pass by the border to look for gold you had to have 1 TON of supplies with you ( because people just didn’t realize they had a good chance of just out-and-out dying. You know, no big deal.

I actually have a picture of the full list…


Sorry for the glare at the top.


The train ride back was very cool, but there is only 10 ft of “road” up there, so you really are on the edge of the cliff. Literally. The rail line was finished right after the gold rush was basically over, so it ended up not doing much good. ( We also went to Carcross and Caribou Crossing in Canada which were effectively glorified touristy places, but definitely had that whole “in the middle of nowhere vibe going on. Even got to pet some sled dog puppies which was cool. I thought about the myriad of ways I could possibly stick one of those dogs under my jacket and get him back to the ship. And name him Buck.

Sadly, I did not go through with my plans.

Day 5 (Glacier Bay) – Woke up to a huge sheet of ice. It is amazing how big it is, how far it used to be only 100 years ago (noted from the explorers maps from that time). We hung out for over an hour taking pictures and just experiencing being there.

Gacier Bay

This along with portions of Skagway were what my mind had built up as Alaska, not the rainforests (how naive of me).

The rest of this day was really spent hanging out with my parents. It was effectively an “at sea” day, so you really have make sure to fit in Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Lunch, snack, dinner, and some late night 4th meal. It’s hard work.

Day 6 (Ketchican) – The rain capital of North America or something like that (I thought that’s what I read or heard). The town is right next to the port, and again is somewhat contained by roads that don’t lead to other places. We did a rainforest sanctuary and totem pole excursion, which helped to answer the age-old question:

Does a bear s$#@ in the woods?

The answer is yes, by the way. And they apparently like to do their business on the trail paths as well. You know, just to let you know they were out there (I did not take any pictures of those piles… you can use your imagination).

We didn’t see any of the black bears, but we were told by our tour guide that “they were more curious this year than normal”, which I’m not 100% on, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear those words… ever.

Probably the highlight of this trip was when we got to see a bald eagle as up close as you could ask for (like 2 feet away) because he has an injured wing and is a permanent resident of their sanctuary. He just hung out, very much the superstar, probably thinking about freedom and how he’s so glad that the turkey didn’t get to be our national bird.



Day 7 (Victoria, British Columbia) – Very beautiful. From what the tour guide told us it effectively has a Mediterranean climate. Approximately 10 days of winter a year, but only about 10 days of summer as well. Sadly, we arrived at 6 PM and only had 5+ hours before the boat left, so while we opted for the city tour bus there was only so much time to see what we might have wanted to see (the bus tour is the way to go, but after 6 PM they don’t do the get on/get off aspect they do during the day). There is a castle in the middle of town (like in the middle of the neighborhoods) (

And the history of that castle was crazy in that after it was build the Dad died and the children didn’t want to pay the land taxes on the place, so they tried to sell it, but NO ONE wanted to buy it. So they came up with a scheme where they’d put all the resident’s names in a hat and the winner would “get” the castle. And that person didn’t want it either.

At some point the City of Victoria bought it.

It was cold on the tour bus… might have been the coldest we’d been on the entire trip (temps were high 50s/low 60s for everywhere). By the way, packing for this kind of trip is not the easiest. You need a jacket or two (but not FIVE like my wife), but there were days that a hoodie was all I really needed. However, the reason Victoria was the coldest had less to do with the temperature and more to do with the fact we were on a double-decker bus, on the top-level, and it had rained earlier that day.

My wife opted not to sit in a wet seat and put her coat down. A few minutes into the drive she was freezing, but waited almost 30 minutes to put on the jacket due to not wanting to stand up while we were in motion.

Of all the times not to bring the heavy jacket…


Parliament Building


Day 8 (Seattle) – Back to Seattle, get off the boat, taxi to the airport (since the subway station was a hike from the Port). Got to the airport legitimately 4 1/2 hours early. One of the things we kept reading was if the ship gets in before noon then DO NOT book a ticket home earlier than noon… that’s a kind of stress no one wants or needs in their lives. Of course, being in the airport for that long was a bit longer than I might have wanted, but I’d rather that than end up running through the airport because the ship was delayed by storms or something. Plus, it kind of worked out as our flight ended up being 30 minutes shorter than the estimated arrival time (gotta love those tailwinds).

Home by midnight.

Day 9 (Georgia) – Veg all day. Laundry all day. One thing you realize about packing for this long of a trip, you start to run out of clothes, and then when you get home it takes all day to clean everything. And you’re a little jet lagged. And you realize your dad had it right all those years when he took 2 weeks off for vacation. The first for the actual vacation and the second week to recover from said vacation.

I don’t have that kind of time, so I took one extra day (Monday being Memorial Day and all), and did my best to get into work for a shortened Wednesday to Friday week.

Thus ends our trip. Most of the time on vacation I’m always amazed at how quick the time went, but this trip wasn’t like that. Maybe I managed to stay “in the moment” more than a normal vacation. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense. Regardless, I felt like I experienced it, and it was the exact correct length.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at

Alaska – Part 1

First an one-sentence overview of Alaska:

Good lord that is some amazing country.

Alaska - View from Ship

Between the rainforest (yeah, that’s right, they have a rainforest up there – didn’t know that) and the mountain peaks, and the isolated towns – Skagway’s population goes to about 300 people during the winter months (from around 2500 people during the summer) – to entering Canada and having to produce my passport while on a tour bus (we all did) – to riding a train that at times felt like you were hanging off the edge of the “road”…

My lovely bride presented me this idea of an Alaskan Cruise back at Christmas catching me totally off-guard. We’d been talking about what we could do for my 40th birthday… and well, she made it so we don’t have to worry about a present for my birthday, or her birthday, or our anniversary, or our other anniversary, or Christmas, or next Christmas…

It’s not cheap, but I’d recommend it to anyone who might be on the fence about it.

It’s been just over a month since we went, and I’ve had parts of this post(s) ready pretty much the week we got back, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t short change anything, though that would be impossible on a trip like this. There was so much to see that I felt like I wanted to open my eyes wider in an effort to get as much of the scenery into my brain, my body, my soul.

Day 0 (Saturday) – Seattle – We got into Seattle late on Friday night. Basically got off the plane, and then tried to figure out the best way to get to the hotel. A taxi would have been $50 (to give an idea of distance from airport to downtown Seattle – it was a solid 30+ minutes on their light rail. However, the Light rail (honestly it was basically their subway system) only cost $3 per person, so I felt that was a win right out of the gate.

But there was a catch… the Light Rail station was FOREVER away from our bags. It became this joke as we hauled our luggage out into the parking deck area. Signs telling us that we were on the correct path gave us reassurance that it would only be around the next corner, or possibly the one after that, or finally down this even longer walkway.

Maybe the actual city is even further away, but we just walked the first part?

On Saturday we met up with my parents (who were accompanying us on the journey) and then my former roommate Andy Hickson and his wife Jamie acted as our tour guides the rest of the day (given that they’ve lived in Seattle for the better part of 15 years now… I think that’s right). We did Pike’s Market and watched them throw fish (and almost hit a bystander which would have made for a better story), we went on the Underground tour and learned about the history of the city – apparently Seattle burned to the ground and they decided to raise the city up about 15 feet, so they created a series of of retaining walls and then filled the streets in ( I’m not trying to get into the weeds with it, but it was definitely a clever way to fix their potential flooding problems at the time. And as a guy who designs roads during the day, it scratched that engineer itch.

They even got me to ride the Ferris Wheel (I’m not big on heights).

Leaving Seattle

Day 1 (Sunday) – Got to the ship. For some reason we didn’t leave the port on time… technically they did come over the loud-speaker to say why… but the Captain was the most mono-tone person I’ve ever heard. And the way he talked, well the only way I know how to describe it is that he spoke as if sentences did not have spaces between words. It wasn’t quick talk, but somehow I couldn’t tell where one word began and the next one ended. All I could figure out was they would have to burn a little more fuel (go faster) to ensure we got to Juneau on time come Tuesday).

An aside – I get motion sick, not nausea but bad headaches mostly. So I got the Patch you put behind your ear for this trip even though EVERYONE who had gone on this cruise before that we talked to mentioned how smooth the seas were for them and whatnot. But I also know that it’s better to have it and not need it than…

All I have to say is for Sunday night and almost all day Monday the boat was rocking. Not sure if it was because of that delay in leaving Seattle or if there were bad storms somewhere just over the horizon (and that’s why we delayed in the first place). What I do know is that if I hadn’t had the patch I would have been screwed. As it was there was a couple of times that I had to kind of refocus due to the up and down of the ship. And many times walking had you doing that half-drunk thing of needing to recenter yourself. Otherwise you’d end up like more than one person I saw who used both the right and the left walls to try and steady themselves as they moved down the hallways.

I don’t want to make it seem like we were in 20 ft swales or anything, just that those two days were not “smooth sailing” by any means.

Day 2 (Monday) – At Sea – So it was mostly eating various meals, getting a low-down on where everything was on the ship, going to a show that night, and hitting the casino to play some Blackjack and Poker. Sadly I don’t have any tales of how I paid for the trip or anything. The House took my money and my wife’s money throughout the course of the week.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – Juneau – Found out that the only way into Juneau is by air or by boat due to the fact that there is a huge sheet of ice preventing any rail or roads from reaching the place. Coming from Atlanta where we live on our interstates, that is a weird one to be sure.

We went on a wilderness (there’s that rainforest word again) hike. Then went on a whale-watching boat tour. Saw so many bald eagles. So cool. Saw humpbacks not 25 ft from the boat. And there was that cool moment/thought that both our guide and the Boat Captain had genuine excitement when the humpbacks would pop up. Especially when you consider that they’ve probably seen hundreds if not thousands over the years, but I have some video where the whale comes up and the tour guide’s voice can be heard above most of the other passengers.


Aside – All of our tour guides were from other places and spent the summers up in Alaska doing the tour guide thing or whatever… you know, it never occurred to me that such an option was out there while I was in college (not saying I would have done it, but more that it never passed through my brain). This particular guide basically followed the whales from Hawaii in the winter to Alaska in the summer.

That’s not too bad a life.


There is much, much more, but I’ll save that for next week.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at