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Voyages North
Glaciers of Chilkat Inlet. June 24, 2015.
Elsie Hulsizer
06/29/2015, posted at Auke Bay

Photo: Rainbow Glacier and its waterfall.

"Wow! Look at that waterfall below a glacier!" exclaimed Steve as he scanned the mountains above the Chilkat Peninsula with binoculars. A quick look at the chart told us the glacier was the Rainbow Glacier in Chilkat Inlet, one inlet to the west of Chilkoot Inlet, where we were.

We were on our way back to the Lynn Canal and Juneau after visits to Skagway and Haines when we saw the glacier. We hadn't planned on visiting Chilkat Inlet, but the weather was good and the opportunity to see such an amazing glacier even closer was too good to miss. It was only five miles out of our way.

We rounded Seduction Point at the southern end of the Chilkat Peninsula and headed north. To the west, another Glacier, Davidson Glacier, started coming into view. Its most striking feature was a large forested outwash plain at its foot and the steep mountains on either side. On the beach of the outwash plain, several tour boats unloaded passengers onto the beach where they boarded buses for a ride to the glacier.

I looked ahead, searching for the Rainbow Glacier, but saw only more mountains. Where was it?

But as we moved farther north, a valley opened up and Rainbow Glacier appeared. Soon we could see it, hanging above a cliff, as if poised to pour over it. Below the glacier a large waterfall streamed off the glacier onto a rock below.

As we motored back past Davidson Glacier, the tour passengers who had been boarding buses when we went past less than an hour before were loading back onto the tour boats. How could they really experience it, we wondered, in less than an hour, much of it spent on a bus?

Beyond Tradition. Haines. June 24, 2015
Elsie Hulsizer
06/29/2015, posted at Auke Bay

Photo: A strip planked northwest native canoe. The boat builder, Wayne Price, with his hands on the canoe.

We were strolling alongside the parade grounds of Fort Steward, admiring the early 20th century architecture of the old residences when I noticed a red and black dugout canoe on the lawn of one of the old houses. We went over to get a closer look and saw a man on the porch working on a second canoe. I did a double take when I realized the second canoe, although of traditional shape, was not a dugout but strip planked.

I asked if we could come up to see the canoe and he smiled and said certainly.

The canoe seemed to be just asking us to touch it. We ran our hands over the smooth hull. I marveled that I couldn't feel the seams between the planks.

The boat builder was Wayne Price, a Tlingit master carver (Silver Cloud Art Center). He makes canoes for natives to take on group paddles, he told us. "I ask if they want to go out get wet, freeze, and paddle to exhaustion and everyone says, 'YES!'"

Wayne told us that he had carved eight dugouts, including the one on the lawn.

"If you don't improve a traditional art," he told us, "it dies."

I remembered reading that somewhere else but couldn't remember where until Wayne mentioned the current native art show at the Seattle Art Museum. I had seen it and remembered that in addition to the many old and traditional examples of native art, the show had also included newer art based on the traditional but made unique and new by the artists.

Wayne told us that by making the canoe out of strip planks of spruce instead of carving it from a cedar, it was lighter (200 pounds instead of 400) and would be faster. He was taking canoe making to the next level. What struck me is that he was doing so only after immersing himself in the traditional methods by first carving eight canoes in the traditional method.

A Ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. June 23, 2015.
Elsie Hulsizer
06/29/2015, posted at Auke Bay

Photo: A narrow-gauge WP&Y train negotiating a turn on the route to the Yukon

I looked out the train window at the narrow rock-bound trail just below us. I was awed to realize that it still showed the effects of thousands of feet more than 100 years after it had stopped being used.

Photo: The trail of '98

It was our third day in Skagway and we were taking a round-trip train ride from Skagway to Carcross in the Yukon on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. The narrow-gauge railroad, built in only two years over a route many thought would be impossible, had replaced the famed Trail of '98 used by stampeders in the Klondike gold rush of 1898.

The train crested the summit and started running on almost level terrain, leaving behind us the terrifying hairpin turns and a track that clung to a nearly sheer mountainside. Small lakes appeared beside us, sprinkled with rock islands vegetated by scrubby little trees. How could something so desolate be so beautiful?

Photo: The area near White Pass

We rounded a bend to see a quaint red train station by the side of Lake Bennett. The train came to a halt and all passengers got off for lunch. The tour had advertised lunch and I'd imagined that meant the traditional box lunch. But instead, the conductor herded us into the station to a full sit-down meal at long tables. The lunch, beef stew, bread and apple pie, replicated what the original travelers on the WP&Y railroad ate.

Photo: a gold stampeder's boat on the shores of Lake Bennett

From Bennett the train followed the lake to Carcross in the Yukon. We had a half hour to explore the town. We'd been worried that wouldn't be enough but it was almost too much. A church, a general store turned tourist shop, a café, a tourist office and an art gallery were just about everything there was to see.

Wandering into the small one-room museum in the train station, we ran into the conductor. "If you're ready," he said, "we can leave. You're the only return passengers until we get to Bennett and pick up hikers." Everyone else had opted to take a bus back to Skagway.

We returned to our car, the first one after the engine. It was also the oldest car on the train and the only one with a small cupola on top. Steve had eyed the cupola, noting with disappointment the "employees only" sign. So when the conductor asked if there was anything they could do to make us comfortable, he naturally asked if we could ride in the cupola. The conductor hesitated, then said yes. He helped us climb the ladder and pointed out the emergency brake lever, which we were not to touch under any circumstances, then left us to enjoy the view over the engine to the track ahead. Steve was in seventh heaven but I found it difficult to take pictures through the small windows and opted to go back below and ride on the platform between cars. With no other passengers to compete with for the best spots I could change sides with the changing scenery. When other passengers boarded at Bennett and Fraser, they occupied other cars and left us to ourselves.

Photo: Steve in the train cupola

The conductor came back to join me on the platform. "We're totally tied to the cruise ship schedule," he told me. "The round trip will never be a big seller because cruise ship passengers don't have time. But we're trying to build it up as much as we can.

Another advantage to traveling in our own boat and not being tied to a schedule.

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Voyages North on SV Osprey
Who: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windard)
Port: Seattle
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