Arrived in this gateway city at about 7am this morning. We entered Alaska both literally and figuratively: the middle of the night saw cold rain and snow with a driving wind descend upon the M/V Malaspina. I awoke around 3:30am to the boat rocking way more than it had on the trip to that point, and the visible outline of snow flakes on my tent. I clambered outside, fearful that somehow the rain fly had blown off while I slept. But my fears were unfounded: the fly was fine and still well-secured, though the wind-driven wet snow was piling up on the wall of the tent facing the starboard side. I brushed off the fly (a pointless exercise, really, but I’d ventured outside and felt like I should do SOMETHING) and crawled back to sleep.
Three hours later, the announcement that we were pulling into Ketchikan roused me out of bed once and for all. A skiff of wet snow covered the decks of the Malaspina, making walking treacherous. And now, as I sit in a coffee shop across from the ferry terminal, the rain-and-snow mix that dumped about six to eight inches of snow on the streets of Ketchikan has given way to thinning clouds and patches of blue sky. The forecast (for here and farther north) is for clearing skies but windy conditions. We have a seven-hour layover (five more to go) here in Ketchikan before we head to Wrangell and Petersburg; we’ll arrive in Juneau tomorrow morning after 8am and, after a three-hour layover, it’s another four hours or so to Haines and the end of my ferry ride.
My tent is visible on the bridge deck, a small yellow dome at the foot of the boat’s light mast and just aft of the solarium.
WHOA! An avalanche of wet snow just slid off the roof of the restaurant here, shaking the building with a loud “BOOM!” as it landed.
Anyway…the tent is visible, as was the Alaska Airlines flight that just landed at the airport across Tongass Narrows from town. The forested hills of Gravina Island rise beyond and everything is covered with a fresh coat of white. Ferry passengers with dogs are throwing tennis balls for their recently liberated canines in the snow-filled parking lot. Snow plows scrape past the window, not really doing much as they’ve already cleared the two lanes of roadway, but the shin-high mound of dirty slush atop what would be the yellow line in the middle of the street remains untouched.
It really has made for a complete transition: from sunny, warm early spring days in the Pacific Northwest to the very-much-still-winter time that is February in Alaska. And there’s quite a ways north still to go.