07 Alaska 2005
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The SSQQ 2005 Alaska Cruise
The Adventure of a Lifetime!
Written by Rick Archer

Saturday, July 16 - Saturday, July 23

We billed the event as our "Adventure of a Lifetime". You know what?  The trip actually lived up to its billing.

For an entire week we explored the mysteries and  phenomenal beauty of Alaska's "Inside Passage" aboard RCCL'S Radiance of the Seas.

We explored the labyrinth of islands and inlets, gazed at the majestic mountains, and learned about the Tlingit Indian culture. We stared in awe at the immensity of  the glaciers, gasped as huge chunks of ice plummeted into the ocean, and shook our heads in wonder at the endless panoramic vistas. 

If I had to make a quibble, the "Abundant Wildlife" obviously decided to take this week off.  Yes, we saw an occasional whale flume, but for the most part the whales stayed underwater. Only two of our group actually saw a bear.  There were eagles seen from afar; big deal. Someone saw a couple goats; incredible. 

I guess most of us were spoiled by Yellowstone Park where the bears practically walk up to your car and ask if you want to take their picture in return for a hotdog.  Not in Alaska. They have so much to eat, why bother making the tourists happy?

Our first stop was Juneau, the State Capital. Some people visited the nearby Mendenhall Glacier by bus while others took a helicopter that actually landed on the glacier. Another fun activity was taking the gondola up to the top of Mount Roberts for a spectacular view of the rainforest as well as the beauty of the water channel below.

Our next stop was Skagway, famous as the starting point for the gold miners seeking their fortunes in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.  Skagway is the home of the marvelous White Pass and Yukon Route train which lugged more than half our group 20 miles to the Canadian Border and back.

Then came the Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America.  At six miles across and ninety miles long extending all the way into Canada, this glacier seemed enormous.  But then to add to our awe, the ship crawled to a stop less half a mile away from the glacier. Now that was quite an experience!

The glacier is so big it is roughly the size of Rhode Island!!  We were treated to an unusually active day of "calving", the term for the intermittent breaking off of massive chunks of ice which then fall into the sea. Until you've seen and heard the thunderous roar of ice sheets crashing into the sea, it is safe to say you've never experienced anything like it.

Our final stop was Ketchikan, the rainiest city in America. Fortunately all we got was a little mist. Here several of us went kayaking, hiking, watched lumberjacks, and a few fortunate people even took a bush plane into a fabulous national park known as the Misty Fjords. The spectacular beauty of this area with its neverending forests, magnificent mountains, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, channels, and eerie misty clouds clearly bespoke the origin of its name.

Our ship known as the Radiance was just as beautiful as advertised. More than half the ship was glass which was a good thing because there was practically always something to look at.  Unlike our Caribbean Cruises where the sea is endless, this ship hugged the Alaskan coast most of the time and provided all the passengers with the awe-inspiring view of vast wilderness.  There were entire days when you would see not one sign of mankind. The coast was primitive and unspoiled just as generations of Indians must have viewed it from their kayaks.  It was absolutely stunning to look at!

Of course Alaska isn't always this wonderful. I imagine the climate is very cruel during the winter months. But for this brief week in July, we saw all kinds of natural beauty that made returning to civilization very very difficult indeed. 

More than once I let my fantasies wonder about a little cabin in Juneau when Marla and I retire... it turns out I wasn't the only one who thought the same thing!  A lot of our friends were idly thinking about just the same thing.  This place is indeed a heaven on earth!

Gary Richardson

Before we get started, it is important that I express my gratitude to Gary Richardson  (pictured at right with his beautiful wife Betty!) 

I will get the glory for the story on Alaska. But as they say in Show Biz, I could not have done it without Gary.

Gary Richardson took practically every picture you will see.  He also collected the pictures other people took, edited them and added them to a commemorative CD he created for the trip.  Gary put in a staggering amount of his own time to take the pictures in the first place and share them with all of us in the CD.

As I wrote the stories, I first collected the pictures that Gary gave me on the CD.  The pictures made the experience return to me in living color and suddenly the story came alive.  Gary deserves a huge amount of credit for the joy he has brought all us. As you gaze in awe at the pictures you soon be seeing, think nice thoughts of Gary. His kindness is immense.

I would like for all of you to do the following:
Thank him personally when you see him at the studio.
Or email Gary to tell him how much you appreciation his enormous contribution.

If you would like a CD Slide Show of the trip, be sure to contact Gary by email or phone (713 461 8660)

And if you are ever in the market to buy a computer, Gary sells the finest computers in the entire world. I should know - I have bought over 20 of them and they ALL work great.    Rick Archer

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