Our next port of call was Icy Strait Point, near the village of Hoonah, Alaska. This was a really secluded island, accessible only by boat, ferry, or small plane. No roads in or out. They had a tiny medical clinic in the town, but it could only treat minor injuries. If you were pregnant, you had to take the ferry to Juneau two weeks before your due date and stay there in the hospital until time. Apparently, everybody knew everybody and everybody kind of married everybody. Our guide had 38 cousins...on one side. She had been called to jury duty 5 times this year already, but #1. they were all minor offenses (like "borrowing" someone's skiff) and #2. she was related to either the judge, another jury member, the defendant, or the plaintiff. I like small towns, but that's a little too small for me.
It was a really beautiful location. So quiet. And cold. We tendered off the dock because it was literally...a dock. But, it was a naturally deep harbor, so perfect for a smaller cruise ship.
This is Icy Strait Point. The red building is the old salmon cannery. Inside was a very realistic canning replica depicting what used to go on inside the cannery. I mean...fish guts everywhere.
The Point has what is claimed to be the world's longest zipline. I read that and thought, "Sure okay. 'World's Best Coffee,' huh?" No. Really. It was the CRAZIEST thing I've ever seen. You could hear people screaming as they came down it. I really wish we would have done it now. You sit in a chair instead of wearing a harness, so I totally could have done it. Go Google it. It was quite long. And high.
A totem pole.
In the morning, David and I went on a bear watching excursion. Bear sightings were not guaranteed, but there was a 50/50 chance we'd see some brown bears. We ended up not seeing a single one on the actual excursion, but as we were getting back on the bus to take us back to town, we saw one right off the road in the woods. I was surprised by how big he was. Couldn't get a picture in time. But the part of the island they took us to was stunning. I would totally build a cabin RIGHT here...if there was a Target and Publix and pizza place nearby.
The guide was telling us that the National Something of Somebodies comes here to test the air for pollutants. It's one of the most purest locations of atmosphere in North America. They compare the air here to other areas in America to see how they match up. She said tourists always complain about being so sleepy while visiting because the air is so clean and you get so much pure oxygen. I felt fine, but yeah, it did smell nice.
The guy on the boardwalk was a Park Ranger. He had a rifle with him loaded with bear rounds. We were told that if we did see a bear, to huddle together in a group and just be quiet and still. If we saw a momma bear with cubs, to huddle together in a group, be quiet, and slowly back away because one of us would probably die. The brown bear population was like 1 for every 4 humans on the island and I'm thinking, "Why is there even a bear-watching excursion if there has to be one guy in front and one guy in back with guns?" said the girl who booked the bear-watching excursion. To date, there have been no incidents on these tours...so they say........
Well, we did see this bear.
On the way, we stopped and watched some stellar sea lions. They were making all kinds of racket.
One decided to come check us out.
The captain spotted a whale waaaaaay far away and we chased him down. Humpback whales come up to Alaska in the summer to feed. They've been in Hawaii all winter courting and mating and having babies and not eating, so they're pretty hungry. They have better things to do than prance around for tourists. They gotta eat. We were a little disappointed, I gotta admit. And this is gonna sound SO travel-snotty. Foodies crack me up and this is the traveler equivalent of a foodie, so I'm cracking myself up by saying it. Like, this is going to be the most annoying statement and I realize that. When we went to Hawaii a few years ago, humpback whales were EVERYWHERE. I mean, you could walk back to the mainland on their backs. And they weren't just coming up here and there. They were breaching left and right. Babies imitating their mothers and jumping up like little miniatures. It was like a show at Sea World. And when I came with my family to Alaska when I was 15, I thought I remembered the whales being more active. So, that kind of spoiled us. And I'm that obnoxious tourist that's pouty about the whales just spouting a little water here and there. So, we were a tad disappointed at first on this whale-watching trip. And he was so far away and it was freezing outside, so I was moody about that anyway.
BUT BUT BUT, I totally ate my words, and on the way back (we weren't the only grumbly ones) to the ship, the captain spots a whole pod and stays an extra 30 minutes. The captain of the cruise ship wasn't too happy, because they were waiting on us, but whatever, we saw some awesome whale happenings. They counted about 8 and they came right up to the ship. It ended up being a great excursion.
Yes, there are a lot of tail shots. Otherwise, it's just back shots like the one above. It's rare for them to breach in Alaska. Speaking of tail...
So, on the boat, there was a guy up on the observation deck with us who kept saying, "Come on, whale! Give us some tail! Show us some tail! Aw, man, look at that tail! Woo hooooo...I got some tail!! (with his camera)" And we were all looking at him like, "Dude...do you hear yourself?" So, the rest of the trip, David and I kept asking each other, "Did you get you some tail?" I mean, I'm as excited about whale tail as the next person, but you gotta say it right.