July 2-4, 2010
Sleeping bags and mats on the Solarium deck was our overnight accomodation for the three nights travelling along the Inside Passage from Bellingham to Juneau. It is not quite the image conjured up by the phrase cruising to Alaska. We were on a passenger/car ferry on what is known as the Alaskan Marine Highway or the Poor Mans Cruise. Brilliant sunny blue skies at the start with sightings of pods of dolphins, porpoises and the odd humpback whale. Our companions on the outdoor sleeping deck were a mixture of people like us; grey-haired midlife couples, a few family groups heading home and young backpackers – young Hammer of 30 years ago. Partway through the second day on the ferry the sunshine gave way to grey skies which soon turned to rain. The green ocean mirrored the steep forested slopes we were passing, with thousands of small islands throughout. The Canadian lighthouses with their white building and bright red roofs were the only contrast in the uniform greeness. They looked like such a lonely outpost in what could be a harsh landscape. On the way into the ferries first stop in Katchikan – sky was an inky grey colour which matched the colour of the breaching humpback whales we saw on the way into port. Here the only contrast – in colour and size – was the huge cruise ships moored close to town. From here we stopped at Wrangell and Petersburg and then our destination Juneau. The Wrangell Narrows would have to be the most stunning waterway we have been through. With steep mountains so close to the ship you could almost smell the spruce trees.