Friday, August 31, 2012: arrived in Seattle safe and sound. The hotel only had a smoking room available. It's amazing how used to a non-smoking environment I've become (thanks Asheville!) that I don't even think to request non-smoking anything when making reservations.
Saturday, September 1, 2012: shuttle to pier, checked-in and went out on deck to enjoy the fresh BBQ cookout and take some photos leaving Seattle. The breathtaking Mt. Rainer made an appearance as you can see here:
Sunday, September 2, 2012: This was a day at sea. Very grateful that I had the anti-seasick patch today. It was a very windy, rainy day which created 6-8' waves. Feeling somewhat medicated, I used this opportunity to rest. I didn't realize how tired I was. The ship's nautical information was broadcast on the in-room TV and I was able to keep up with the weather, location of the ship, and more importantly - how much further to our first port.
Monday, September 3, 2012: The ship arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska to rain and fog. Typical "Alaskan" weather I suspected. I was up in time for the sunrise, only that I couldn't see it.
Ketchikan was the 'Bear Expedition and Rainforest experience." The guide was not keen on me dragging all the camera equipment through the rainforest, but I wasn't leaving my tripod behind. She also didn't appreciate my wanting to photograph every little twig in the forest. In fact, we had a special talk about the importance of me sticking with the group. All it took was me seeing a bear in an open environment to get the message (loud and clear!)
We were on a swinging suspension bridge roughly 20 feet above the very active bears. Here's an area where we viewed and photographed the bears:
Here are a few shots I managed to get even though I was shooting in the rain/fog, was shaking from nerves, and had 10 other people on the swaying bridge with me <insert disclaimer for unclear photographs.> These are my favorites - shot with Nikon D5100 70mm-300mm:
All said and done we saw about 12 bears total (several small cubs, and plenty of adults.) They seemed content to focus on the salmon in the river instead of the group of people above. Have you heard the saying that you don't have to be the fastest runner, you just can't be the slowest to avoid getting eaten by a bear? Well, I was staking out my competition on this excursion for sure!
The next stop was at a 'petting zoo' for lack of a better term. We were introduced to reindeer (a.k.a. miniature caribou.) Even typing the word reindeer feels make-believe. Santa had reindeer in the Christmas books, and we all (or most of us) know about that. So, in reality I guess no one ever clued me in that reindeer are real creatures. I thought *until this trip* that reindeer were made up in the books. Boy was I surprised.
Next was a walk by the salmon hatchery. Did you know that salmon 'born' at the hatchery still swim back upstream to the hatchery to spawn? The workers create a make-shift spawning course for the fish. Once they arrive, the hatchery collects the eggs, and begins the process of raising them until release. The spawning course begins with a drainage pipe from the river (it's the same river that the bears were in.) If the salmon don't land in the pipe they hit the wall and bounce back into the river to try again. Here are two photos: one shows a successful jump, and the second shows a salmon hitting the wall.
This one didn't make it (ouch!):
Headed back toward the ship. Had a few minutes to shop in the little town before departing. Of course I snapped photos as I went along. Creek Street was really pretty, but due to the rain/fog, my photos weren't so impressive.
Saw a seal munching on a salmon near the ship. Life is pretty tretcherous for salmon around here.
Made a few acquaintenances throughout the day. Adjusting well to no internet service. The salad bar on the ship is really yummy. Sometimes the hot food reminds me of hospital food. The ship is clean, and everyone gets hosed with sanitizer before entering the ship and restaurants. They squirt and say, "washy, washy, happy, happy." Passengers laughed, but we were all glad for the germ control. Thanks Norweigen!