Saturday, June 28, 2014

In which I go to a Solstice party, get up close to a glacier, and generally feel incredibly happy :)

Catchin' y'all up again!

Last week Tess and I had the day off together, plus her friend Liz, who works on one of the Holland America ships, was in town. We were feeling pretty lazy, but stopped at the Alaska Mountain Guides to see if they had any open slots on a zipline trip. They did not end up having extra spots, but we had a nice time sitting in the cool sunshine, picking up some snacks and the grocery store, and watching The Nanny Diaries on my bed. It was also fun to get to know Liz a little bit! Not only are my friends here cool, but they have cool friends!

On the 21st, Tess and I headed out after our evening show to the Skagway Solstice party. Meridith had the day off and had already been there for a couple hours. Tons of townies turned out. Every time I start to think I know everyone in Skagway, I stumble across another couple hundred people I've never seen! It's neat. The sky stayed very light very late – and it never really gets dark in the summer. The sun goes down for a couple hours, but the sky remains quite twilight-y. Anyway, we hung around for a couple hours, chatting, getting our faces doodled on with an electric blue face paint pen, and listening to the awesome family rock band that our friend and coworker Zach plays guitar in. Zach recently graduated from the Skagway School and is headed down to Oregon in the fall, but meanwhile we had the pleasure of hearing him knock “Johnny B. Goode” out of the park!

Several days ago, I felt a little irritable and melancholy after an evening show (for one thing, here is a slightly petulant piece of advice from me to you: If you're going to see a show in which you expect to hear live ragtime piano, maybe it would be polite to refrain from sitting down and playing extremely skilled solo jazz and ragtime at the piano in the lobby for an hour before the show), so instead of going inside I went to the playground right by my apartment and swung on the swings, which was lovely. Afterward, I was lying on the ground under the swings, contemplating existence, and two guys who looked to be about my age walked up and sat on the swings. It turned out that they're from California, which is always totally exciting to me. Their names are Connor and Alvin; they go to the US Maritime Academy in the Bay Area, are majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and are doing an extremely-poorly-stipended 60-day internship on the Alaska State Ferry. They're in Skagway for an hour a week! It was really great to meet people who weren't living in Skagway, and nice to have spent some time outside.

And now I'm up to yesterday, which was amazing! Steph and I had the day off together, and we called up Alaska Excursions early and got on a 10:30 am Glacier Point tour. Meridith had done the tour twice already – once alone and once with her friend Kate, who is in town visiting this week – and was awed and moved by the experience. And no wonder!

First, Steph and I met up with Wyatt, the guide for the first and last parts of our tour, on the Railroad Dock. Wyatt and his girlfriend Hannah already knew Tess from Blues Night at the Gold Rush Brewery, so now Wyatt has met all of us Days of '98 girls. He's from California – as I mentioned, I have a nose for Californians! (Actually, side note – when we're gambling with the guests before the evening shows, we like to diversify the blackjack or dice with trivia questions. Mostly we ask Alaska-related questions, but I also like to ask them to guess where I'm from. I've asked this question probably 15 times at this point, and except for two heavily-Canadian crowds this week, someone has gotten the answer correct every single time. I don't know what it is, but somehow the California is written all over me! In fact, random people on the street come up and tell me I look like a Californian sometimes. It's weird but cool.)

Anyway, once the big group from the Disney ship showed up, we loaded onto a boat, which we rode 30 miles down to the Davidson Glacier. 

It was the first beautiful, warm day in over a month. The views were incredible (duh)...

...and we saw a couple of bald eagles...

...and a couple of humpback whales!

We also got to know Anna and Megan, who work for the horseback tour arm of Alaska Excursions and were taking the tour on their day off, like us. Megan is a professional photographer, besides working with horses.

Once the boat landed...

...we filed off, grabbed a sandwich and some snacks for lunch, and loaded onto a bus, which took us to a trailhead. We donned rubber boots and life vests, and were led on a short hike by our awesome middle-of-the-tour guide Jake. The guides who do the part of the tours that actually take us hiking and up to the glacier live at Glacier Point full time over the summer. Our lovely part-time castmate Renee did that for three summers and says it was the most amazing thing she's ever done.

After our hike, we filed into canoes and rowed up to the glacier. (Seriously, you do so many different things on this tour!) Getting as close to the glacier as possible involved some trekking over mud and through swirling glacier runoff, which was pretty exciting. 

The silt looks like molten silver.

A few weeks ago when Meridith first went, they could go right up to the glacier and walk on it, but at this point in the summer there is too much water in the way. Still, we got pretty close, and we even got to eat some glacier ice! It was pure and cold and delicious.

This picture makes me hurt.
There is something incredible about seeing a glacier,
and I have not been able to put it in words yet.
It is completely different from
anything else
I have ever seen or done.

We stayed out there for about half an hour, then walked/canoed/hiked/boated back to Skagway. On the return boat ride, we saw a hundreds of sea lions sunning themselves on a big rock and playing in the water. This is a different species of sea lion than the ones you see in San Francisco. 

We also saw a bunch more whales, bringing our incredibly unusual and lucky whale total to eight! Wyatt said the only thing that would have made it better was an orca sighting, but that only happens 3-5 times a summer.

Once we landed, Steph, Megan, Anna, and I got fish and chips for dinner at the Fish Co., which had been recommended since arrival but which none of us had tried. It definitely lived up to its reputation, and sitting outside in the sun eating fish and chips was a perfect cap to a perfect day.

Not that it was actually the cap to the day, since after that we met up with the rest of the Days of '98 gang at the Eagles Club, where the Jons were buying everyone drinks. We had a good time there, returned to the house to shower and change, and went out for a couple more drinks at the Station and Bonanza. It was great getting to hang out with Meridith's friend Kate a little more, and some of our other Skagway friends.

Today I had to work, but I had the morning off, and since it was the first 80-degree day we've ever had here, I spent a solid four hours of the day sitting in the sun, reading and chatting with locals and listening to the local radio broadcasting its pledge drive right outside next to me. I couldn't be happier :)

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