Alaska Cruise Log Day 3: Juneau

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Juneau Alaska as viewed from the upper tram terminus in the evening sun.

ISO date 2015-08-03. I awoke to my first terrestrial travel timezone change on the open water. We gained an hour. It was ~5:45 Alaska Time, or more reliably for today, 05:45 -0800. I put on just enough casual clothes to go outside, and brought my book to read.

Everyone else was sleeping, and I was hungry, again. After photographing another sunrise at sea, I picked up some breakfast to go from Horizon Court and walked up to deck 17 to enjoy the outside air & view. My mom showed up and wanted to check out the deck 19 walking track. Having found the stairs to it yesterday, I took us up and we fastwalked a few laps, taking more photos.

It was colder than expected, but a quick room roundtrip and a layer fixed that. Got my dad while I was at it and rejoined my mom outside on the sun deck railing just in time for the ship’s naturalist to announce over the speakers: there she blows!

The Super Pod

We started seeing the humpback whales two at a time, one water spout, then another, sometimes a tail flip, then another. Between the pairs, sometimes a whale cruising on its own. Rather than take photographs, I looked through binoculars for the best views I could get. Besides, my parents were taking plenty of photos and videos on their iPhone 6s.

There were so many whales, they just kept coming, or rather we just kept passing them by. They seemed happy enough, arching their backs above the surface, and flipping their tails up too.

Two of them came quite close to the ship. As they passed by us on the port side, they leapt from the water and breached with big crashing splashes! Amazing, I’d never seen whales breach like that in person before.

Finally the ship’s naturalist exclaimed that we’d seen somewhere between 50-60 whales, a super pod of whales, larger than he’d ever seen before.

Entering Juneau

No yoga class today; instead I joined my mom in the hardwood floor area of the gym and we did a bunch of stretches. I completed a simple floor stretch yoga routine from memory. Afterwards I took photos of the weird day spa marketing materials I had noticed the day before, then went to second breakfast with everyone else.

Back in our rooms we watched our approach to Juneau from the balconies. Fascinating scenery in the nearby mountains, more and more signs of human habitation as the passage narrowed. We kept watching as the ship turned to approach the piers and docked.

Knowing it would be a little while before we could disembark, I showered, changed, and packed my backpack for a full day of all possible Juneau adventures. Totally overpacked.

We gathered in the hall outside our rooms and descended together to the disembarkation deck. Rather than wait twice as long for taxis, we walked 15 minutes into town and quickly came upon the Heritage Coffee Roasting Company.

Securing our first local coffee of the trip, my younger sister and I said bye to everyone else who decided to take a taxi to a salmon hatchery. Sis and I just wanted to explore downtown, plus she wanted to meet up with a local friend of hers.

A Sea Plane and A Social Break

I took advantage of our few minutes at the cafe to get on their wifi (captive portal password: coffee), post a couple of photos, and receive a few text messages.

We walked back down to the docks to look for the meeting point my sister’s Juneau friend suggested. They’d last seen each other a decade ago in New York City, both having left years ago after tiring of its dehumanizing grime & grind.

While waiting we watched sea planes land in the harbor. One in particular came towards us so I captured a clip for a friend — a sea plane propels itself forward on the water, turns to approach its docking slot, and gets help from humans on adjacent piers who rotate it around and back it into place — like something you might see in a Richard Scary book.

My sister’s friend showed up. I saw her before my sister did, before she saw my sister. When they did, their faces lit up, their voices exclaimed joy in harmony.

On her recommendation, we went to a nearby taqueria for halibut tacos which were quite tasty. They even had Cholula. My sister and her friend caught up as if not a moment of 10 years had passed. I was happy to be a silent third wheel sitting in the sun, without any expectation of interaction, a social break without solitude.

More iOS App Deletions

Two things have dominated the use of my mobile device for the entire cruise: taking notes and taking photos (or short videos).

Filming the sea plane docking filled up my iPod and it refused to do many things (obviously take photos or video) until I had cleared out some space. At least it helpfully directed me to “Usage” preferences which quickly revealed the most bloated apps.

The biggest culprits? iOS8 “default” apps.

I’d previously deleted a dozen iOS native apps after being annoyed by their update noise. This was much worse: loss of primary device functionality. So I deleted the most bloated apps that Apple installed with the iOS8 upgrade that I never asked for nor needed nor used:

… and got back 1.1GB from dumping just those four! Two of which should have simply been well designed indiewebapps instead of “native” apps.

Minutes to Mountain Hiking

My sister’s friend led us uphill out of downtown, into rows of residences, which disappeared after a few blocks. Suddenly (while I was distracted deleting apps) we were hiking up Mt. Juneau, dense woods on either side, cut only by the road and rushing river below.

The air was as clean and crisp as any I’d ever breathed. Summer hikes in Yosemite came to mind. We crossed a bridge over the river and found a spot where it slowed to a crawl over polished stones and walked over to splash our faces.

Spotting a few flat & thin rocks, I piled them into a stack ten high, topped with a chunk of bright white quartz. We stood for moments in silence just breathing and listening.

The hike back down went by much more quickly, as it always does. We stopped by the state capitol where I took the opportunity to use the facilities.

Posts & Messages; A Tram, A Hike, and A View

Without a specific plan, we wandered around more of downtown, browsed a local used bookstore, and stopped for another round of coffees.

I posted day 1’s log, a brief note, and sent replies to a few text messages. Receiving them, a day or two old already, it was nice taking the time to absorb, reflect, as you might with letters received, even if short, and short in reply.

We continued our wanderings, a gift shop, a juice bar, and finally walked back towards the ship, considering a meal or a tram ride & hike. We found the rest of the family who had just returned from said tram.

Restaurant wait times having swollen with cruise tourists, we decided an appetizing hike was in order. We took the tram a ways up Mt. Roberts, bringing along my sister’s friend as our guide. We hiked from the tram terminus Mt. Roberts Nature Center uphill past the edge of the map they’d posted to an incredible view of the bay below, lit by a slowly setting sun. Now we were hungry.

After scampering down the hill, we had to wait just 10 minutes in line for the tram ride back to the shore. Restaurant wait times unchanged, I used their wifi for one last grid sync and confirmed that a professional recommendation I'd sent had been received.

With our ship scheduled to leave port soon, we said our goodbyes to my sister’s friend, thanked her for guiding us on such an active day, and reboarded as the sun sank toward the mountains opposite the bay. Every sunset at sea has been different, and I have yet to tire of them and the landscape’s orange glow.

Dinners, Finishing TRON, A Speechless Nephew, and Unexpected Memories

I returned to my quarters to drop off my overpacked backpack. At ~30-40 pounds extra, I figured hiking swiftly at altitude and keeping up with my sister and the local served as good trail strength training. And made a mental note to pack one tenth as much next time we went ashore.

Now starving, my sister and I went to our usual, the Horizon Court buffet, where my other sister and brother-in-law had saved us a table. I devoured a couple of rounds of Alaskan halibut in a Thai coconut sauce, buttered peas, mashed potatoes, mixed greens salad with shredded carots, beets, blue cheese dressing, and a bowl of corn & potato chowder.

My sister and I returned to our rooms to rest our legs for a bit. My roommate (nephew1) was getting ready for bed so I took the the opportunity to read a bit more MATM. He asked if we could watch the rest of TRON, and with only 27 minutes remaining I set it up.

I kept reading with TRON in the background, occasionally underlining or making notes in the margins. Nephew1 asked me why I was writing in the book, I said because I’m taking notes. He asked if it was my book, I said yes, it was given to me by the author because I’m in it.

He looked incredulous. I had just reached the chapter on the 2010 Federated Social Web Summit, paused the movie, and flipped the book around with my finger on the paragraph where the author had mentioned me, and explained microformats as building blocks for a social web. For a moment nephew1 was speechless and looked like he thought that was even cooler than the movie he was watching. Then he turned his gaze back to TRON.

We finished the movie, and I said goodnight to him as I turned out the lights and ventured out. My day adventures sister also happened to exit her room. She was in search of hot water for tea, I was hungry again. We parted ways at the pizza bar, I got my slice of cheese, found a deck chair under the night sky, and started writing up day 2.

I started fading just after midnight, and only then found out that the “The Age of Adaline” was the movie playing in the background (on a large digital display above the pool) while I wrote. Its frequent shots of San Francisco kept drawing my attention. A brief glimpse of The Conservatory of Flowers from JFK drive brought back a flood of fond memories of running through Golden Gate Park.

The movie finished, I called it a night, and went to bed while the memories lingered.

Continued: Alaska Cruise Log Day 4: Skagway