Skagway

Skagway

Klondike Routes Map

Klondike Routes Map (public domain photo)

I love the story of Skagway. Please indulge me while I tell it. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon, followed immediately by a second discovery: there was no good way to get there. You could try slogging across the Canadian wilderness from Edmonton; that was the longest and most difficult route, and a lot of people never made it to the end. You could take the expensive but fast and easy way by water up the Yukon River in mid-summer, but it was frozen over the rest of the year.

Most people chose to go over the Coast Mountains in southeast Alaska. Two competing gold rush towns sprang up at the head of Lynn Canal: Dyea and Skagway.

Gold Stampeders Climbing to Chilkoot Pass

Gold Stampeders Climbing to Chilkoot Pass (public domain photo)

From Dyea, you climbed to the Chilkoot Pass via steps carved in the snow. The same route was nearly impassable in the summer. The Northwest Mounted Police very wisely would not allow anyone to pass unless they had a year’s supply of goods–literally a ton of food, clothing, tools, and more–so you had to make this climb 30-40 times, carrying about 50 pounds on your back each time. When you reached the top, you stored your supplies, then sat on your shovel and slid back down.

Those aren’t ants in the photo, they’re people climbing the steps. A few people are sliding down on the right. You can also see some people resting on benches cut out of the snow–ooooh, cold!–to the left of the steps. (Don’t forget you can click these smaller images to see the full size.)

The Skagway Trail

The Skagway Trail

Skagway appeared to offer the easier route, as it had a walking trail over the much lower White Pass. You could use a pack animal to carry your goods. But the trail was narrow, rocky, and dangerous. Imagine walking that skinny little path in the rain and mud. People mostly made it, but thousands of pack animals did not. One particularly treacherous section was nicknamed Dead Horse Gulch.

Skagway and Dyea competed bitterly for the stampeders’ business, practicing sabotage, false advertising, and rumor mongering. Dyea hoped to triumph by building an aerial tramway over Chilkoot Pass, while Skagway began to build a railroad through White Pass and on to Lake Bennett, where you could catch a steamboat to the Yukon. The tramway failed, the railroad succeeded, and Skagway won. The White Pass & Yukon Route railway is now known as the Scenic Railway of the World. I took that shot of the Skagway trail from a WP&YR train. More about that in my next post.

Topographic Map

Topographic Map

Skagway today is experiencing another kind of gold rush as its deep water port is a popular cruise ship stop. Many of the historic buildings in Skagway are part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. There’s a delightful museum with only two rooms. Most of the floor in one room is taken up by a pile of the goods required by the Canadian authorities. In the other room is a topographical map of the route over the mountains from Skagway and Dyea. Do click the image on the left to see it in more detail.

Skagway Museum

Skagway Museum

Arctic Brotherhood Hall

Arctic Brotherhood Hall Covered in Driftwood and Other Flotsam

Graveyard from the Gold Rush Era

Graveyard from the Gold Rush Era

Golden North Hotel

The Golden North Hotel 13 Years Ago

Notice the prominent outerwear shop in the header photo? Most of the stores have been taken over by the same merchants as in the other Alaskan towns we visited. I wasn’t too disappointed in that, it was easy to get past them, but I was disturbed that they have taken over the ground floor of the beautiful Golden North Hotel, where Mr K and I stayed many years ago. The gold covered dome of the Golden North Hotel has also become quite shabby. You can see how patchy it looks in the middle ground of the header photo. The main entrance now features a totem pole and–this startled me–a very southwestern-looking cigar store Indian.

Mr K and the Cigar Store Indian

Mr K and the Cigar Store Indian -- Which is Which?

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Juneau

Juneau

Juneau Houses

Juneau Houses

We arrived in Juneau in the afternoon after spending the  morning in the Tracy Arm Fjord. I’ve been to Juneau several times because my daughter used to live there and my two older grandchildren were born there. But I’d never noticed all the colorful houses lining the lower hills before. Perhaps now I was seeing it with a photographer’s eye, or perhaps the new perspective from the deck of a ship made a difference.

You know I love color. I turned this shot of the colorful houses into one of my simplified and saturated artworks. It’s now one of my favorites.

I’m sorry to say that the Juneau waterfront around the cruise ship piers, like every Alaskan town we visited, has been taken over by diamond, gem, gold, and jewelry stores, with a smattering of made-in-china souvenirs and warm, dry outerwear that say Alaska on them. I began thinking of these areas as the Tijuanas of the North.

We didn’t do a lot in Juneau. I wanted to find an Internet cafe so I could do some work without paying through the nose on the ship, so we set out on foot and wheelchair. Juneau is very hilly, and it was hard for us to get past the tourist area on the main level street. Many of the shops were inaccessible because of one or two steps up into the building. We did pass by the very famous Red Dog Saloon, which was packed with tourists and seemed to be going strong.

We stopped in a perfume shop that featured a delightful house perfume called Alaskan Mist, made from local wildflowers. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t buy any, not only for myself but also for my perfume loving friends. I have to apologize particularly to my niece who has an outstanding perfume blog. I know she would love to review this unique perfume. Well, here’s another reason to take this cruise again.

After many blocks, we finally got past the tourist stuff and stumbled onto an Internet cafe. Well, not a cafe but an old fashioned saloon full of very friendly local residents. If you buy a drink at the Triangle Club, you can use their WiFi for an hour. I don’t drink, so I opted for a Virgin Mary, then settled down to catch up with email, twitter, facebook, and skype, and to upload pictures and text for my post on Seattle. Mr. K. waited patiently … well, almost.

Mt. Roberts Tramway

Mt. Roberts Tramway

Then we headed back to the docks to take a ride on the tram up to Mt. Roberts. Unfortunately, we misinterpreted the price and thought it was more than we wanted to pay. So we skipped it and went back to the ship for a lovely dinner. If you visit Juneau, remember that one tram ticket is good all day. You don’t have to buy a return ticket.

All was not lost. We have enjoyed the tram a few times in years past. Below is an shot of Juneau and a couple of cruise ships taken from the tram in 1997.

Juneau from the Tram

Juneau from the Tram

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Tracy Arm Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord

Tracy Arm from the Veranda

Tracy Arm from the Veranda

When I awoke Monday morning, we were already gliding through Tracy Arm Fjord on our way to South Sawyer glacier. What magnificent scenery! I went up to the tenth deck, grabbed a cup of tea, and sat out on the veranda to watch this very special world world glide by. The morning chill was still in the air, and the crew provided lap robes and hot chocolate for those who wanted it.

Remember you can click the small photos to see the full size versions.

Rugged Hills in Tracy Arm

Rugged Hills in Tracy Arm

Waterfall in Tracy Arm

Waterfall in Tracy Arm

South Sawyer Glacier

South Sawyer Glacier

Hunger set in as we neared the glacier, so I went back to our stateroom to drag Mr. K out of bed and up to the buffet for breakfast. Ha ha ha ha ha! Lesson learned: Never wake a bear sleeping in his den or a grouchy husband at 7:30 am to admire the scenery, even if breakfast is involved.

But we did make it back to the veranda in time to see the glacier. It’s hard to capture a photo of the glacier that shows its immense size. I think it tends to look about five or ten feet tall in most pictures. So I was very happy a National Geographic vessel was doing something nearby–probably filming. Maybe they were taking pictures of us while we were taking pictures of them!

National Geographic at the Glacier

National Geographic at the Glacier

South Sawyer Glacier Thirteen Years Ago

South Sawyer Glacier Thirteen Years Ago

Mr. K. and I visited Tracy Arm and the glacier 13 years ago, in September of 1997. The glacier has noticeably shrunk since then. I’m including an old photo for comparison. Compare it to the picture above captioned “South Sawyer Glacier.” They were shot from different distances and angles, but you can see how much wider the glacier was then.

Another big change I noticed. Back then, the icebergs that calved off the glacier were covered with hundreds of harbor seals. On this trip, there were none. I wonder why.

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Ketchikan Totem Poles

Chief Kyan Totem

Chief Kyan Totem

Ketchikan features the world’s largest collection of totem poles. They’re all over the town, in public places as well as people’s front yards. We saw only a small number of them on our mobility scooter tour. A good reason to go back to Ketchikan–I’d love to see a lot more!

I’m trying something different in this post. I’m breaking the post into several pages, with just a few larger pictures per page, rather than a page full of thumbnails. Let me know if you like this format better. You can still click the pictures here to see the full size versions.

So this page is about the …

Chief Kyan Totem Pole

Chief George Kyan (1857-1955) was the Tlingit chief who sold 160 acres on Ketchikan Creek in 1885 to a man named Mike Martin to found the fishing camp that became the town of Ketchikan.

This pole is a replica of the original pole, which was erected by Kyan in the 1880s. The current pole, dating to 1993, was carved by Tlingit master carver Israel Shotridge, who carved most of the poles you’ll see here.

Chief Kyan's Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

The pole has three figures. At the top is a crane, representing Kyan’s wife. In the middle is a thunderbird, his wife’s clan. At the bottom is Kyan’s family crest, the brown bear. (I love his paws!) I got shots of the thunderbird and bear, but sadly my shot of the crane didn’t come out.

Legend says touching the pole will bring you fortune. Our guide didn’t tell us that, so we didn’t touch the pole. Next time!

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Ketchikan Totem Poles, Page 2

Chief Johnson Pole

Chief Johnson Totem

Chief Johnson Totem

Chief George Johnson, also known as Skookum Johnson, was the leader of the Tsimshians who moved his people from Canada to the Ketchikan area in 1887. He erected the original pole in 1901. It was known the Kadjuk Pole because it represented the heritage of the Kadjuk House of the Raven clan. The kadjuk is the mythological bird represented at the top of the pole.

This pole really stands out around downtown Ketchikan because of more than 30 feet of empty space under the kadjuk. (You might say it stands out like a sore thumb.) The picture to the left might not be completely accurate because I pieced it together from two separate shots. I suspect the pole isn’t long enough and the kadjuk is too big in relationship to the bottom of the pole, but hopefully it’s good enough to give you an idea of the nature of this totem.

So why the empty space? According to the sign next to the pole, the undecorated space is symbolic of  “the lofty habitat and high regard in which the crest is held.” I think the carver might also have been trying to depict the bird in flight, unlike the perched birds we saw on other poles. That’s a totally uneducated guess on my part, but when you stand below and look up at him, you can almost feel this bird soaring overhead.

Kadjuk

Kadjuk

The bottom part of the pole depicts the legend of the fog woman, starting with the twin birds Gitsanuk and Gitsaqeq, who brought fire to the people. Below them is Raven. Then comes Raven’s wife, Fog Woman, holding two salmon because she gave these fish to the people. Raven mistreated her, and in revenge she caused the fish to swim out to sea. But in consideration of others, she caused them to return once a year to spawn.

This pole is another replica carved by Israel Shotridge in 1993.

Click here for a longer article about Chief Johnson and his totem pole.

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Ketchikan Totem Poles, Page 3

Totem Heritage Center

Weathered Totem Poles

Weathered Totem Poles

Now we move indoors to the Totem Heritage Center, which preserves endangered poles, mostly from abandoned sites. Half a dozen rescued totems greet you as you enter the door. The picture on the left shows two of them. Below is a bear figure on the top of one of the totems.

Bear Figure

Bear Figure

Tlingit Mask

Tlingit Mask

The museum also preserves and promotes other native crafts. To the right is one of the fantastic Tlingit masks in the museum’s collection. Below is an artwork depicting the story of how Raven stole the sun and hung it in the sky, giving light to the world.

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Raven Stealing the Sun

Raven Stealing the Sun

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Ketchikan Totem Poles, Page 4

Some Other Totem Poles

Totem Heritage Museum Pole

Totem Heritage Museum Pold

I didn’t have enough information about these poles to give them their own pages. The one on the left stands outside the Totem Heritage Center. The two figures at the top are wearing sashes from the ANS (Alaska Native Sisterhood) and ANB (Alaska Native Brotherhood). The woman might represent Elizabeth Peratrovich, an honored civil rights leader of the mid-20th century. I remember our tour guide describing a speech she gave in 1945 that inspired passage of Alaska’s first anti-discrimination act.

That’s clearly the Alaskan state flag at the bottom and a big fish, possibly a whale, in the middle. Other than that, I know nothing. I posted a question to the Totem Heritage Center on Facebook, but no answer so far.

Private Totem

Private Totem

We also saw a number of private totems sitting in people’s yards, in front of stores, and so on.  Our tour guide told us that the homeowner paid upwards of $30,000 for the one on the left. Totems are very difficult to read unless the creator explains them to you, so she had no idea what the figures are. But she did say that the trio of figures at the top are not uncommon and have special meaning.

Unfinished Totem

Unfinished Totem

She also told us that the homeowner to the right carves his own. There were a couple totems in his yard. This one is a work in progress and will probably be painted some day soon.

We saw only a small number of the totem poles in Ketchikan. We didn’t get to Saxman Village or Totem Bight, both with a large number of poles. So we’ll have to go back, right?

Ever since Ketchikan, I’ve been thinking about what my totem pole would be like. Perhaps a bald eagle on top, because I’m an American, a lion underneath because I’m a Leo, next a comedy mask, a writing tablet, and a camera to represent my primary occupations, and at the bottom a German shepherd, a Saint Bernard, an English bulldog, and a Russian wolfhound to represent my four ancestries. Probably too many figures, but I like the idea of the four dogs facing east, west, north, and south.

What would your totem pole be like?

Update

The Totem Heritage Center answered my query. Here’s what they say about the totem that stands outside the center:

The male and female figures represent the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively. Both of these organizations were instrumental in developing support among the Native community to plan the retrieval of the poles at the center from the nearby abandoned SE Native villages. The eagle below the man and woman represents the federal government and Smithsonian Institution’s contributions to the Center. Below the eagle the salmon represents the City of Ketchikan, which provided the site and operation of the Center as part of the City’s Museum Department. The two Alaska flags represent the Alaska State Museum, which conceived and managed the totem retrieval project – the State currently holds the recovered pole in trust for the descendants of the original village inhabitants. The three human figures at the base of the pole represent the students and instructors in three principal areas of study in the Native Arts Study Program: carving, ceremonial regalia, and weaving.

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Ketchikan

Panorama - Ketchikan Dockside

Don’t forget you can click any thumbnail to see the full size shot. Do click the above panorama of the dockside, it looks great full size!

Thundering Wings Sculpture

Thundering Wings Sculpture

Ketchikan–the Tlingit name means “thundering wings of an eagle.” Or possibly “the river belonging to Kitschk.”  People seem to favor the first interpretation, and the native sculpture near the docks depicts the “thundering wings” name.

It’s the first Alaskan city as you head north to Alaska, so all the Inside Passage cruises stop there first. When several cruise ships are in town, the tourists outnumber the 7000+ residents. Two ships were in port the day we visited, ours (the Celebrity Infinity) and the Radiance of the Seas, so it was pretty full of tourists.

Ketchikan Shops

Ketchikan Shops

The dock area presents a pretty solid front of tourist shopping–diamonds, gold jewelry, gemstones, Alaskan souvenirs made in China, and so on. Ketchikan is in a temperate rain forest, part of the Tongass National Forest, with more than 160 inches of rain a year.  Sure enough, it was chilly and drizzly the day we were there. Several stores along the waterfront had racks of sweatshirts and warm jackets out on the sidewalk, all bearing the word “Alaska.” Smart owners! They sold like hotcakes–I’ll bet they do most days. Mr. K and I bought our share. I also bought a pair of polar bear socks because my toes were cold.

But we quickly got away from the waterfront and into the real town. We joined a tour conducted by a local resident via mobility scooters. What a delightful way to tour! Mr. K and I agree it was the best city we visited.

Creek Street Bordellos

Creek Street Bordellos

Creek Street

Creek Street (shot through a wet lens)

Our first stop was Creek Street, the one-time red-light district, jutting out over Ketchikan Creek. Later in the tour, we visited “Married Man’s Trail,” the path from the residential district through the woods to the Creek Street bordellos. Our tour guide said that married men would walk the trail in their bare feet so their muddy shoes wouldn’t give them away. (Remember that 160+ inches of rain.) For an extra charge, the prostitutes lent them towels to clean their feet before putting their shoes back on.

Stairs

Stairs

The Long Climb Home

The Long Climb Home

As you can see in the Creek Street photos, Ketchikan is very hilly. I was fascinated by the stairs everywhere. How would you like to make this climb home?

Ketchikan is famous for totem poles and salmon. We saw lots of both. The creek below Creek Street was teeming with salmon trying to swim upstream to spawn. We watched them jumping out of the water and slamming back in. Our guide explained that they were intentionally beating themselves up to loosen the roe. Further up the creek, along the Married Man’s Trail, we saw them trying to jump the falls time and time again. A lot of them make it eventually because when we reached their spawning grounds further up the creek, thousands of salmon were digging trenches, laying their eggs, then dying along the edges of the creek. Their decaying bodies supply nutrients to the babies until they’re ready to make their way to the sea.

Where are the photos of all this salmon activity, you  ask? I shot hundreds but got nothing. Because of the rain and darkness, I had to use slow shutter speeds, resulting in nothing but blurred motion. We were at the spawning grounds when I finally remembered that my new little camera (the Canon Powershot S90 IS) can capture video. So here’s my one and only, mostly out of focus capture:

ZD YouTube FLV Player

As for totem poles, that’s the subject of my next post.

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Seattle

Seattle

Reminder: Click thumbnails to see the full size pics!

I seem to be seeing Seattle in bits and pieces over the years as I pass through on my way someplace else. This time was no exception. Mr. K. and I decided to give ourselves plenty of leeway to get to the cruise ship on time by taking the train to Seattle a day early. We would have dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, something I’ve never done before. I anticipated some great shots from the Space Needle of Seattle under a full moon. Well … sigh … you know what they say about the “best laid plans.”

The Obligatory Shot of the Space Needle

The Obligatory Shot of the Space Needle

First we had to find our hotel! I was so concerned that I would forget my passport and our cruise boarding documents … I checked a dozen times before I left the house and several times more on the train. But I totally forgot to bring our Seattle hotel reservation information. All I could remember was Great Western. Thank goodness Google is a bit more intelligent than I am, as it gently asked if I wanted Best Western instead. Yes, thank you. There turned out to be three Best Westerns in Seattle. I picked the one that sounded right. We loaded wheelchair, four suitcases, and camera bag into the cab … husband grumbling once again about my “overdoing the packing” … headed for the hotel, unpacked everything from the cab, and toted it all into the hotel lobby. Wrong Best Western. (Asia Marina, does this sound familiar? Is there something about Seattle?) A very nice clerk called around and found the right Best Western and called us another taxi. He was gracious enough to act like he did this every day. Again we piled bag and baggage into the cab, went to the right hotel, got it all into the lobby, and finally to our room. First leg of the trip complete. Now for dinner.

The Space Needle Shot through the Monorail Roof

The Space Needle Shot through the Monorail Roof (just to be a touch different)

But I had also neglected to make a dinner reservation at the Space Needle. The first opening they had was at 9:30. OK, that should be great for night shots with full moon, but we hadn’t eaten anything since train sandwiches at noon. So we decided on a light supper at 5:00 pm to tide us over. Fortunately, the hotel had a restaurant. I didn’t expect much, I mean … Best Western? But I had an excellent bowl of French onion soup, and Mr. K enjoyed a Caesar salad.

That’s when I made another mistake. I have been seasick before and never want to experience it again. So I had decided that I would use Dramamine until I found out how rough our cruise on the Inside Passage would be. Since everyone says to start your seasick remedy before you sail, I took my first Dramamine with that light supper. Two hours later, I was sound asleep. I had a great night’s sleep but totally missed dinner and night photography at the Space Needle.

Our hotel was about two blocks from the Space Needle, and I still wanted to see it, so we strolled and rolled over there in the morning. But we never made it to the Space Needle because we encountered some of Seattle’s fantastic architecture right across the street: the Sci Fi museum and Experience Music Project. I fell in love with all the shapes and colors of the buildings and simply couldn’t take enough pictures.

Seattle Reflections

Seattle Reflections (in the shiny wall of the Experience Music Project)

The gas leak at the hotel might have added to my sleepiness. The smell hit you when you entered the lobby, and we could also smell it in the elevators and hallways. Not in our room, thank goodness. The desk clerk assured us they were working on it. We saw the gas company inspectors working around the hotel when we went to the restaurant. The waitress assured us that the leak was at a building down the street and the scent was simply blowing into the hotel. When we got back to our room, a note under our door said that the hotel had been thoroughly inspected and no leak found. But the next morning, there were more inspectors checking things out. They hadn’t solved the problem by the time we checked out. I found myself wondering at what point they decide that something is wrong and evacuate the building.

Experience Music Project

Entrance to the Experience Music Project

More of the Sci Fi Museum and Experience Music Project

More of the Sci Fi Museum and Experience Music Project

And then, oh joy, a monorail went right through the building! So we hopped on the monorail for a short round trip, and I caught a whole bunch of shots. The monorail is nicely set up for wheelchairs with a little ramp the attendant puts down so you can wheel safely over the platform gap. At the end of the first leg, everyone else got off, and I could capture a shot of the empty train. (I really don’t like to capture recognizable shots of people without their permission; you never know who might object to being photographed and, much worse, published.) I turned that shot into one of my hyper simplifed and saturated artworks. You can see it here.

Inside the Monorail

Inside the Monorail

Monorail Curving into the Sci Fie Museum

Monorail Curving into the Sci Fi Museum

I also caught this totally weird shot of the monorail curving back into the Sci Fi Museum on the return trip. I know it’s busy to the point of confusing, but I just love it! (I think the people are small enough not to be recognizable.)

Blue Carousel Horse

Blue Carousel Horse

After Mr. K went off to find a soda, the amusement park next to the Space Needle beckoned to me with bright lights, music, and colorful carousel horses. Sadly, the bored teenage boy running the ride knew nothing about the history of the carousel. His shrug said he couldn’t care less. A summer job about to come to a close, I would guess.

And that ended our adventure in Seattle’s City Center. It was time to hop in one more taxi and head to Dock #66.

More to come!

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Powwow at Standing Rock Reservation

Headdress

Headdress

We went last spring to a powwow at Fort Yates in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, a Lakota and Dakota Sioux reservation. The festivities featured dancing, drumming, and chanting contests. It took place in the high school gym, and it was loud … too  loud for me, so I stayed out in the halls and concentrated on photographing the regalia of the people passing by.

I tried not to capture any faces, as that’s considered rude unless you ask for permission. Most people were happily chatting in groups, and I was shy to interrupt them. So what you’ll find here are closeups on bits of regalia. I published one image and a story here, but I want to share some more photos with you.

NOTE
I used thumbnails to shorten download time.  Click any thumbnail to see the full size.

Coyote Kid

Coyote Kid

Toddler in Black Hat

Toddler in Black Hat

There were some toddlers all dressed up their regalia. I don’t know if they danced or not, but they sure were cute.

Jingles in Motion

Jingles in Motion

Jingles on a Green Dress

Jingles on a Green Dress

Closeup on Jingles

Closeup of Jingles made from McPherson Snuff Lids

Jingle dancers wear hundreds of jingles on their regalia. The jingles are homemade from lids of snuff tins. They have a light clear sound, much like the classic Christmas jingle bells. I’m sorry these are blurry … the jingles are in constant motion.

But most of all, there were lots of colorful regalia made with beads, ribbons, and fabrics of all kinds.

Beaded Rose

Beaded Rose

Polar Bear Design

Polar Bear Design

Beads and Ribbons

Beads and Ribbons

Green Beaded Boots

Green Beaded Boots

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