Alaska 

Days 7 - August 17, 2009

Miles Traveled: Who knows, it was too rainy to mess with the GPS

Notable Stops: Got off the ferry in Juneau

Daily High:

Daily Low:

Current Temperature as of 8:10 pm: 55 degrees

Notable weather: Windy and rainy in the wee morning hours, constant rain which was moderate at best to pouring at worst during all the daylight hours

 

Sleeping Hours

 

Shortly after midnight I was awoken by the mesh pocket above me in the tent hitting me in the head. Ordinarily this would not have been a big deal but it had Matt’s flashlight and Leathermen in it so the pocket was heavy.

 

While being pounded in the forehead, I realized the wind picked up and was blowing the tent back and forth. The frame of the tent was flexing so much that the mesh pocket that is normally two or more feet above my head was being dropped onto my forehead. The tent, which is ordinarily a nice dome shape, was being blown into various shapes ranging from a C shape to flat. The rain fly looked like it was going to be blown away and I began to think the tent might actually blow away. At this point I was very glad I did not let Matt set the tent up right next to the railing at the very edge of the boat.

 

When raindrops began falling on my face every so often I decided to put the rain cover over my camera bag and lap top. After doing that I sank back into my sleeping bag. When I stretched out to relax for sleep I realized the bottom of my bag was soaking wet. It had been against the bottom of the tent by the door. Matt inspected the zipper and told me that my bag was wet because the zipper had not been closed all the way. I knew this could not be the case because I was the last one in the tent and I did zip the zipper all the way. Given the amount of flexing and blowing to and fro the tent was doing I think the zipper actually managed to work itself open. 

 

I felt the side of the tent down along the ground where my tripod was resting. It too was wet. Waterproof tents tend to start leaking when things lean against them. Wet sleeping bags tend to leach water up them causing miserable sleep. Given these facts I stuffed my cloths and knitting in my backpack. I then stuffed Matt’s jacket and boots and everything else I could find that should not get wet into the dry sack. I grabbed my camera bag and laptop and headed for a booth in the lower observation lounge.

 

Before making my way to the observation lounge I inspected the rain fly to make sure it was secured to the tent and it was.

 

At this point I could not sleep so I pulled out my laptop and continued working on scrapbook pages for the trip. My camera lens has a few specks on it and I can’t seem to find them to clean them off. As a result, many of my pictures have spots that must be removed in Photoshop.

 

As I was removing spots from photos a very drunk guy stopped by to see what I was doing. He was so impressed with my Photoshop speed and skill that he said, “Wow…man…you are like a computer genius.”

 

I told him, “I am pretty darn good if I may say so myself but part of your awe might be due to your intoxication.” He continued to stand there watching me work and asking questions, which I was happy to answer.

 

After a while, a ferry security guard making his rounds approached the drunken guy to escort him back to his room. The drunken guy did not want to cooperate with the security guard. He just wanted to ask me questions about my photos. I told him, “If you cooperate with the security guard and he lets you stay I’ll continue to answer your questions.” With that the drunken guy cooperated with the security guard. The drunken guy was escorted…I don’t know where by out of the lounge.

 

Tent Pitching Recommendations

 

My recommendation to anyone pitching a tent on a ferry is to pitch it under an overhang on the ferry and as close to the building part of the boat as possible. That way the wind will not effect it as badly as it effected ours and the overhang of the boat will keep water off your tent so you don’t have to see how long and under what circumstances your waterproof tent starts leaking.

 

Did Matt blow overboard with the tent?

 

I finally did fall asleep and not but half-hour later the Purser called out over the intercom that we were preparing to dock in Juneau. I got up off the bench of the booth I was sleeping in and went out to the fantail to wake Matt.

 

To my surprise, Matt was not out there and neither was the tent. For a fleeting moment I thought maybe the tent blew overboard. The realistic part of me quickly jumped in and assured me that did not happen. However, I was curious where Matt was. I looked in the lower observation lounge and did not find him. I looked at the tops of all the stairways leading down to the car deck and did not find him. Finally, I went to the Purser’s desk and found Matt with the soaking wet tent all rolled up in its bag, our wet sleeping bags, my wet foam mattress insert, the wet bed rolls (good thing they are covered in vinyl) and the dry bag with everything else in it.

 

It turns out Matt went to sleep for a while after I left the tent. He reported the wind was calm for a while then it blew so hard he thought the tent would blow away. Then it was calm again and the cycle repeated. At about 2am Matt became very worried the tent was going to blow away. So, he quickly grabbed everything and packed up the tent for fear if he turned his back on it the tent would be lost to the sea.

 

De-Boarding the Ferry

 

At about 5am the Purser announced over the loud speaker that the Ferry was docked and the car deck was open. Matt and I hurried down to our rig, tossed our things in the Teardrop, suited up in our rain pants and jackets without our ski jackets underneath, put on our helmets and sat waiting for the ok to leave the ferry.

 

Morning in Juneau

 

Once off the ferry in Juneau we had two things of immediate concern: 1) drying all our wet stuff and 2) checking into our campground. The Purser told Matt where we could find a Laundromat on the way to our campground. However, at 5:30 am in Juneau not much is open and the Laundromat was no exception. I suggested to Matt that we head to the campground. As an added bonus, I was pretty sure the campground had washers and dryers.

 

Finding the Campground

 

Before getting off the ferry Matt and I looked at the map the Purser gave us and figured we could get to our campground using that map. Driving up the road with the rain pelting our helmets and rain suits, we drove though one of many puddles, this one a little deeper than the others. The rooster tail of water from the tires shot up off the road and forced its way up the bottom of my rain suit jacket. Suddenly my underclothes were very wet. Moving around in my bucket seat just made more water run down my cloths and made more wet patches.

 

Note for next outing in the rain: Wear a bungee cord just above the bottom of the jacket and below my hips to keep water from shooting up off the road and into my jacket.

 

After driving many miles, crossing a creek that flooded the road, driving past a lake with brilliant blue glaciers floating in it then arriving at a parking lot at the end of the road Matt and I were both certain we were not on the right road to the campground.

 

We parked in the parking lot; pulled out the map I downloaded off the campground web site and re-evaluated our course of travel. Certain we knew how to get to the campground this time we turned around.

 

Crossing the creek that flooded the road Matt reports the water was about a foot deep. I was too cold and wet to pay attention to the depth of the water. However, while making this crossing one of the sparkplugs got wet and we began running on three cylinders. As this was happening the car began sputtering in the middle of the stream that ran over the road. For a moment I wondered if the car would make it or if we would sit there as the glacier water rushed under us. The trusty T chugged us to a more dry section of road and after several moments began running on all four again. (Praise the hearty T and knock on wood for singing that praise.)

 

At this point the entire car was beyond soaked and Matt told me the brake lining we have on the car now, does not work when it is soaked. Good thing Henry Ford didn’t believe the T needed outside brakes and therefore equipped the T’s with an internal brake in the transmission.

 

At the Campground

 

We arrived at Spruce Meadows RV Park (our campground) in one piece but cold and wet. Upon seeing us arrive the owner greeted us in the office and decided to move us to campsite number one next to the office and showers (because it has a canopy). We were able to park the car and trailer underneath. Since the tongue platform cannot be on the trailer until after we arrive in Whittier all the things that would be on the tongue were in the sleeping compartment of the Teardrop. So, we were more than grateful for the dry place under the canopy to rearrange the Teardrop for sleeping.

 

We were also able to wash and dry all our things in the campground washers and dryers. While waiting for the washer and dryer I was even able to upload the trip journals from previous days and some of the Ryan Ramble 2009 web pages.

 

Touring Juneau in the Rain

 

Our cloths and bedding were now clean, dry and organized in the Teardrop. So, Matt and I put on our helmets and rain suits again (this time with our ski jackets on underneath for added warmth) and headed for town.

 

Of course the rain continued to pelt us the entire 16-mile drive into downtown Juneau. I was sure my pants under the rain pants were wet but I could not figure out how that was possible. Once at lunch in Juneau I realized the rubber in the crotch of my rain pants separated from the seam and the water from my seat in the car was indeed making my pants wet.

 

I’m confused about the appearance of this tear. My rain pants worked like a dream from Mt. Vernon, Washington until we boarded the ferry in Bellingham. Then they sat untouched in the back of the Teardrop while we were on the ferry to Juneau. Yet somehow during that time this tear materialized. I will just have to fix the tear with duct tape before we take off tomorrow.

 

Once in downtown Juneau we went to Diamonds International to get the Juneau charm. When we pulled up in the parking lot at the side of the store we stripped some of our layers (helmets, head socks, gloves). One of the Diamonds International employees was having a smoke brake and asked me, as Matt was hanging our gloves on the rode between the radiator and cowl of the car under the hood, “Does he need an extra trash bag?” I explained Matt was trying to warm the gloves and begin the drying process because they are soaking wet. The guy thought that was clever.

 

We ate lunch downtown at a restaurant alongside the water. The food was excellent. After wandering downtown a bit and taking some pictures we returned to our car to find it swarmed with tourists from the three cruise ships that were in port.

 

Mendenhall Glacier

 

The drive from downtown to Mendenhall Glacier took us past a Fred Myers where we stopped to shop. I wanted to find some yarn because I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out just before my pink shrug is finished. Matt wanted enormous rubber gloves like the ones a person would wear if cleaning up nuclear waste. I also wanted to get a couple cans of food to contribute to the canned food drive here at the campground. I hopped to find seam-waterproofing tape as well. All we found were the cans of food and Scotch tape I remembered we needed.

 

Matt adjusted the internal brake on the car to compensate for our lack of outside brakes. Then we were really off to see the glacier.

 

Once at the glacier we realized we were on the other side of the glacier when we saw those floating icebergs after crossing the flooded road.

 

The rain and clouds made it very hard to see the glacier and very hard to get decent pictures. To add insult to injury, the battery in Matt’s camera died as I expected it would and when I put the charged battery in the camera, the camera ate the battery like candy. When I put each of the AA batteries I had in my coat pocket in the camera, the camera ate them like candy too. There we were, unable to take a decent picture of the two of us in front of the glacier we could hardly and unable to get enough juice to the camera to even take a crummy picture. A nice guy who’d been asking us about the Speedster took our picture with his camera and said he would e-mail it to us.

 

Where was my camera? I didn’t want to get it wet and I didn’t spend the money to buy a dry bag for it. Instead I spent money to buy a dry bag for Matt’s camera. My camera may have a dry bag or at least a rain cover before the end of the trip.

 

After arriving at the visitor’s center and watching the movie on the glacier I was able to power up the camera long enough to get a few pictures of the glacier, waterfall to its side, the icebergs and Matt and I.

 

When we returned to the parking lot to leave there was a group of people surrounding the car eager to get our permission to take pictures of it (that never happens in California) and ask us questions about it. One Forest Ranger heard from someone else at the glacier about our adventure and was now standing next to the car to ask us questions too. I must say that all this attention is quite cool.

 

Random Thoughts About Juneau

 

Driving along the “highway” from the ferry terminal to try to find our campground, I was struck with how much the drive looks and feels like driving the Oregon coast (glaciers and icebergs excepted of course).

 

The roads leading in and out of this town only lead to immediate surrounding areas and the town is shut off from the rest of the state and world by road yet it still has a highway. I can’t figure that out.

 

A Dry End to a Wet Day

 

Now that we are dry and ready for bed I’m warming my feet with the Toastie Toes John and Leta gave me as part of my graduation present. They are very effective. I am glad I have them.

 

Although the day sounds like it was the pits it was not a bad day. We still have much to be thankful for. We are healthy. We have this great trailer to keep us dry. The RV park lady put us under this canopy. The car ran well and got us from place to place. Bears have not eaten our food of ravaged our rig. We are having the adventure we set out to have.

 

Rig Under Canopy at Spruce Meadows RV Park in Juneau Speedster in Downtown Juneau
Jess Making Friends with Another Bear Matt Getting Jealous of all the Friendliness 
The cruise ships docked downtown look like high-rise buildings. Jess and Matt - Finally we eked out enough juice to get a picture of us at Mendenhall Glacier. 
Mendenhall Glacier in the background with icebergs floating in Mendenhall Lake.  Icebergs Floating in Mendenhall Lake
Mendenhall Glacier in the background with icebergs floating in Mendenhall Lake.  Icebergs Floating in Mendenhall Lake
Waterfall to the Side of Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier in the background with icebergs floating in Mendenhall Lake. 
Alaska 2009

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