I am taking a much needed leave without pay for the month of August, as a break before the academic year begins again on September 19th. That means I don’t have to work and I don’t get paid, for those of you not familiar with LWOP. Throughout the month of July, I taught a summer screen-printing class which afforded me the opportunity to not have to work this month AND pay for an Alaskan Adventure, my boldest solo road trip yet. Although it’s not a road trip.
It’s a boat and bike trip.
I am taking the amazing Alaskan Marine Highway System through the Inside Passage of South East Alaska, also known as the Alaskan Ferry System. This is definitely NOT a cruise. I depart from Bellingham, Washington on August 19th and return on September 2nd. During this two week adventure, I will be spending over 150 hours on a boat and stopping at five ports of call, including Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Haines and Sitka.
The voyage from Bellingham to Ketchikan will take approximately 38 hours, traveling along the scenic coast of British Columbia. I will be spending all day in Ketchikan, reboarding at 1:45 AM for Juneau, another 35 hours by boat. In Juneau, I’ll stay in at the Juneau International Youth Hostel and then take an excursion to Tracy-Arm Fords Terror Wilderness area by boat with an adventure outfitting company, a six hour tour. Supposedly, Tracy-Arm rivals Glacier Bay National Park in beauty. There is no recognized trail system in Tracy-Arm: it is only accessible by boat. I depart Juneau late at night and arrive in Skagway after a mere 8 hour ferry connection. I’m staying at the Skagway Hostel for a night and then I’m off in a dash to Haines, where I’m staying at a cute B&B. Haines was recommended by a friend as a fairly arty town. The Bald Eagle Preserve is also nearby. From Haines it’s back to Juneau for a night and then I depart for Sitka, where I will be staying at the Sitka Youth Hostel for two days. Sitka to Bellingham is a tiresome 63 hour voyage back through the same passages which I previously passed at the beginning of the trip. However, I made sure to schedule the trip so that I am traveling areas in daylight I had previously passed through in the dark.
And where does one sleep while spending all this time on the ferry? Well, you could get a cabin on deck… and double the price of your ferry ride. Or you can pitch a tent on the deck, which is exactly what I plan on doing. Everyone seems to have a strategy for getting the best spot on deck. I’ll be happy wherever I have to duct tape my tent stakes to the ground.
I still have to buy some gear, like thermals, dry bags and a better head lamp. I bought a pair of waterproof Ortlieb panniers I have yet to fit to my bike, but these should be able to hold all my necessities for two weeks, including food. My back bike rack will carry the tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat, secured with a cargo net. I’m also pack a couple extra bike tubes, a multi tool and of course a tire pump. Really, the longest distance outside of city biking I’ll have to figure out is getting from the Juneau ferry dock to the city, a 14 mile journey. I’ve been told that just about every city has some sort of temporary public storage system, whether they’re located at the local firehouse or city hall. I won’t have to worry about having my bike nipped if I don’t want to worry about traveling with it all day. A true bike tour this is not– just a hell of a lot cheaper and more practical than bringing a car to these mostly walkable towns.
Oh, what adventure awaits!