Wow, it’s only been a bit over a week since we started on our journey north from Vancouver Island but I feel like we’ve been travelling for just about forever…
Following our Inside Passage ferry trip, we’ve now been in the Yukon / Alaska for six days and have seen stunning scenery, majestic mountain ranges and gorgeous autumn colours, driven hundreds of kilometres, managed to get the van disgustingly dusty and now completely covered in mud, and have gone from foggy and sub-zero temperatures to brilliant clear skies, sunshine and 18 degrees, back again to fog, rain and chill, and then this morning ice and snow. The Arctic wind is howling around us…
All that’s missing now is the sighting of the abundant wildlife that Canada promises… Ok, we have seen just about a thousand squirrels, and they’re pretty cute as they speed-gobble their nuts down, but the bears, wolves, moose and caribou that roam the Canadian wilderness have pretty much left us alone so far. But we still have another three weeks so here’s hoping for those elusive bears and company…
Here’s a quick update on the second part of our Inside Passage trip…
Prince Rupert | Day 9 (29 Aug)
Because of not quite matching up ferry schedules, we spent a day (two nights) in Prince Rupert where we got off our BC Ferry before sailing further along the Inside Passage.
Since, in my opinion, Prince Rupert is the “Drizzle Capital of the World”, we spent our one day visiting the fairly interesting Museum of Northern BC (where I learnt a thing or two about Canada’s First Nations), and then wandered around the pretty-ish waterfront called Cow Bay with fire hydrants, bike racks, railings, flower pots, etc. all painted in cow patterns.
Prince Rupert also offers lots of authentic First Nations totem poles and murals. It’s not a tourist town by any stretch of the imagination and the major cruise ships don’t pull in here, which is probably why I liked it so much.
We didn’t end up driving along the Skeena River as I had potentially planned since the fog was so low that there really wasn’t much point.
The only real Prince Rupert disappointment were the famed Butze Rapids. There was a big sign for wolf and bear activity at the start of the trail but no such luck. 😉 In fact, it turned out to be exercise central with local joggers and runners galore. The rapids were non-existent as far as we could tell so the whole walk was a bit pointless until I decided that it was good exercise in any case. That said, the carpark for the trail provided us with some free overnight camping (and we weren’t the only ones… 🙂 ).
Inside Passage Part 2 | Day 10-12 (30 Aug – 1 Sep)
The next morning, we boarded the Alaska ferry (after some confusion regarding where exactly to go through border control at the ferry terminal) to sail from Prince Rupert to Haines, Alaska via the Alaska Marine Highway. It’s a bit strange to go through US Customs while you’re still in Canada but shortly after leaving Prince Rupert, the ferry enters US waters and your next port of call is actually in Alaska.
Unlike the BC Ferries, the Alaska Maritime Ferry System seems to be a bit low on money and our ship for the next two days was rather on the spartan side and incredibly noisy! Our cabin rattled and shook if the engines were going – great for sleeping! The bar and gift shop were both closed, not that I was interested in either, but other people seemed disappointed that there was no bar.
The voyage from Prince Rupert to Haines took almost two days with several stops along the way. At some ports you get the chance to get off the ship and wander around town for a bit, depending on how long the ferry stops. We had a few hours in Ketchikan so wandered around until it got too dark to see anything.
In Petersburg, we only had about 30 min so we dashed off for a brisk 15 min walk to one of the marinas and views of the glaciers around Petersburg.
As we reached Juneau, Alaska’s capital (which you can only reach by sea or air! How crazy is that?!), we got to enjoy the most glorious sunset. Juneau seemed to be in a perfect spot, situated in a stunning inlet and set against a backdrop of glaciers.
Although the husband spent the best part of two days on deck scanning for wildlife, we didn’t see a whole lot – a few whales spouting water, I saw a couple of whale fin flaps, a sea lion or two and a bunch of seals toppled on top of each other on buoys.
After Juneau, the next stop was Haines (Alaska) at 4 am on Thursday morning so rather bleary-eyed we drove off the ferry to the next rest stop, popped the roof of our van and went to sleep for another few hours only to wake up to one of the most stunning sights.
And thus began the Yukon (and tiny bit of Alaska) part of our trip…
PS: I love that everything (EVERYTHING!) is bilingual in Canada, my French is improving rapidly! 😉 (Seriously, I love revising some of my French here, even if it’s just via road signs and chocolate wrappers…)