Alaska-Part 3

Forgive my indulgence in the trip for one more week. I write these blogs for myself as much as anyone else so as to not forget some of the little things. Memory has a way of distorting or disappearing when we least expect it to.

“Paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” – Jack London

For our purposes, the digital screen is a good enough stand-in for paper in the 21st century.

Anyway, Parts 1 & 2 and now for part 3, also known as the DVD Extra Bits.

Day 0 (Seattle) – My wife is a morning person while I am the exact opposite of her. So she awoke bright and early on our first morning in Seattle and decided to go on a little walk, maybe get to see that quite part of the city when very few people are milling around. Like almost every other morning person I know, she also thought that this would be a good time to get that first cup of coffee out in the city known for that very beverage. So she walked down one street for a couple of blocks… no Starbucks. Turned down another street… no Starbucks. Then another one, with the same amount of luck.

When she later replayed the story for me I could only think that she’d fallen into the Twilight Zone or some weird Bermuda-Seattle Triangle where no coffee can be served lest some horrible fate might befall the city.

“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” – John Muir

sea lions

Day 3 (Juneau) – When we arrived at our first “stop” on the tour boat, we were treated to a baby humpback testing its limits – slapping its tail again and again against the surface of the water. The whole time the mom was close enough if she was needed, but mostly seemed content to let him “do his thing”.

The whales weren’t the only things we saw though. There is a whole sea lion area nearby, and the captain took us out to see those guys. For some reason it never occurred to me why they might have gotten the name sea “lion”. When we approached the little island, it was readily apparent. They growl.

Day All of them (At Sea) – Mostly due to wanting to avoid any craziness with motion sickness, we were in a middle room, no windows, not too much around us, etc. But I think no matter what, there is only so long you can stay in your room when you aren’t asleep, so you have to find your spots on the ship. Those quiet places where you can watch the ocean and land drift by you while you relax a little bit (it is a vacation after all). Courtney ended up discovering the quiet spot at the bow of the ship in the lounge area. Plenty of chairs, plenty of windows, and aside from the dance classes or the later night activities, it mostly stayed silent.

Day 4 (Skagway) – One of the things I mentally tried to think of when we went on this trip was what animals might we encounter. However, the two goats in Canada were not even a blip on my list. As our bus pulled into Caribou Crossing for lunch and to see the sled dogs, I saw that just up on the hill behind the “town” was two white specks. Pulling out my binoculars, I was surprised to see two mountain goats hanging out on the side of the mountain. Quickly snapping a couple of pictures, I pointed them out to Courtney.

Fast forward to an hour or so later as we are leaving the area. I take a second to glance back to see if they’re still up there. Sure enough they are. Not only that, they haven’t moved from their spots.

At all.


Yeah, they were fakes. Not sure why they needed to get my hopes up (not huge hopes, these are goats we’re talking about here), but they definitely “got me”.


Day 4 (Skagway) – I’d say that Skagway had the look of what I thought Alaska was going to be. Much more mountainous, snow caps, rainy and a little cold. We also saw these odd-looking things above the road we were taking. A pole with a bit of red on one end. However, the tour guide was quick to inform us of the true use of such things. You see, in the winter, they still need to have use of the roads. Snow plows have to go out and clear as best they can. But, with all the snow, the road can get a little (a lot) obscured, so in an effort to keep you “on the road” you best stay on the good side of “the red”.

Yes, apparently Alaska has all sorts of way to kill you!


Day 6 (Ketchican) – Quick note. When the tour guide tells you to meet the van at the “Rainfall Gauge”, this is what they mean:




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 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