One of the selling points of our 7-Day cruise was the trip we were to make into Tracy Arm Fjord on the third day before we sailed into Juneau in the afternoon. The reality of cruising in Southeastern Alaska, however, is that nature will not always cooperate. So it was that the morning we were to sail into Tracy Arm, there was too much ice. Fortunately, there was a backup plan: Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier.
Endicott Arm is different from Tracy Arm in that it is not as narrow as Tracy Arm, but at its end you find the incredible tidewater glacier, Dawes Glacier. As an added bonus, Endicott was deserted when we were there apart from all of the harbor seals hanging out on pieces of ice.
Beginning at 5:00 am the morning we went into the fjord, our cruise ship’s naturalist gave a talk over the ship’s loudspeakers, describing what we were seeing, and quoting from travelers who had explored this area. This region is in the heart of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness – it’s named after a naval crew member who, in 1889, rowed a dinghy into the narrow entrance of the fjord and became stuck in the currents for six hours. For both dinghies and cruise ships, this area can be unforgiving.
To say that this fjord and this glacier were incredible is a profound understatement. Have you ever seen mountains that are shiny from glacial polishing? Because I have – I’ve seen miles of them in Endicott Arm. Have you seen the perfect, wide blue of a glacier, and heard the cracks as it calves? I have. And it was magnificent. Photos don’t do it justice.
We spent about an hour standing on the railing of the deck, waiting as our captain did doughnuts so that the entire ship could have a good look. Then, we moved inside to the pool deck, where we sat bundled up next to the floor-to-ceiling windows taking everything in.
We saw many beautiful things on this trip, but the morning we saw Dawes Glacier is one that sticks out particularly in my mind. What a tremendous celebration of nature and its unforgiving beauty.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the musical Wicked. You probably even know that it’s based on a book by Gregory Maguire. What you may not know is that he has written a number of books based on fairytales, among them, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.
We have all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty … and what curses accompanied Cinderella’s looks?
Set against the backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris’s path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household — and the treacherous truth of her former life.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister gets four out of five stars.
We pulled into our first stop in Ketchikan, Alaska around 5:00 in the morning with a series of stuttering halts. The ocean floor in these areas is notoriously uneven and treacherous – the ship’s Captain was actually replaced by a pilot from Ketchikan who knows how to navigate the waters, as is typical for every cruise ship coming into port here. But my, the misty mountains surrounding the hillside town of Ketchikan were beautiful.
Let’s backpedal a bit today, to my 2016 Reading Challenge. The category: A book you should have read in school. The book: Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Have you read this one? Many people have. Nonetheless, a refresh:
In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined.” (Via Goodreads)
I’m giving The Joy Luck Club four out of five stars.