Ports of Call

Ports of Call on our Alaska Itinerary

If Vancouver is the first port of call, then we have 4 additional stops on our journey to the Big Land. There’s Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Anchorage. Three other locations of interest, although not ports, were Glacier Bay, Prince Williams Sound and College Fjord.

Port of Call, Ketchikan

It was raining in Ketchikan as we embarked on our shore excursion to Saxman Native Village. Here we witnessed a Native  American Ceremonial Dance and watched experienced totem pole builders carve their next creation. We learned that being on the bottom of the totem pole is not necessarily a bad thing! It’s the most honored position. We spotted out first bald eagle too.

 

 

 

Then there was Juneau

Juneau is the capital of Alaska but conducting business can be a challenge. There are no roads. Juneau can only be accessed by boat or plane! I have fond memories of Juneau. Although it was cold and still raining off and on, we did get a glimpse of blue sky. We took a very chilly boat ride looking for whales but the Stellar Sea Lions were the stars of the day. We saw a lot more Bald Eagles too!

While in Juneau we also hiked up to Mendenhall Glacier. It was an easy walk and the the glacier is beautiful. It’s well worth the hike.

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Gateway to the Yukon! Our excursion in Skagway was the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Seated in vintage train cars we followed in the steps of the Klondike Gold Miners. We were allowed to stand on the platforms between cars so we could look down into deep mountain gullies as we crossed trestle bridges and clung to the side of mountains. It was still raining and cold and it got colder the higher the train climbed.

At the end of the line a bus was waiting to take us across the Canadian border in the Yukon territory.

One More Waterfall

Lower Falls Yellowstone River

I’ve got one more Waterfall on my list of stops for this day.  Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River is known as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I need to warn you, I didn’t fall in or get chased down to the bottom by a bear , or go over them in a barrel. I’ve noticed that I get far more “likes” when something scary happens to me. Unfortunately this will be disappointing for my thrill seeking readers. Its just an absolutely beautiful waterfall.

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Norris to Canyon Junction

I’m saving Norris Basin for my next Yellowstone trip so as my friends in the white Navigator turned left I continued on toward Canyon Village. There were a few more critter jams. The bison were taking their time crossing the road. At one critter jam the wait was over 20 minutes. I couldn’t see what was going on but once we started moving it was apparent. It was a huge herd of bison.  At Canyon Junction I made a right and soon spotted the parking area for the Lower Falls. A boardwalk leads out to a platform known as Lookout Point.

Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River

Red Rock Point

I really need to get over my back injury because on my next trip the trail to Red Rock Point is on my bucket list. The trail is only about a mile round trip but it’s steep! And I mean very steep! The bottom of this trail is consider the best place to experience the Lower falls and to get the best photos. Sadly,  I definitely wasn’t up to that hike this trip.

Red Rock Point

Inspiration Point and The Upper Falls

Another reason to return is that I didn’t see the upper falls at all. The road to Inspiration Point was closed and I wasn’t even aware that there was a side road called North Rim Drive. From what I’ve heard since my trip this allows for close views of the upper falls. Lower falls is the more spectacular if you base this assumption on size alone.  The Upper falls drops 109 ft. Pretty impressive by eastern standards but Lower falls drops 308 ft! Yes, I definitely want to explore this area more next trip.

Lower falls throws up spray

Midway Geyser Basin

Crossing the Firehole RiverThe Moonscape that is Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin is my next stop on the lower loop road. You can see the stream rising in huge clouds as you approach. There’s a large parking area and even now, in the off season, it’s pretty full. Its hard to imagine what it would be like at the height of the tourist season. A solid wooden bridge crosses the Firehole River. Steaming, boiling water flows down the bank into the river.run off into Firehole river

Huge billowing clouds of steam blow across the bridge and walkways.

 

Excelsior Geyser Crater

Boardwalk zigs and zagsExcelsior GeyserExcelsior Geyser Crater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boardwalk crosses the Firehole River before zig-zaging first to the right then back to the left always climbing upward. The first hot spring we pass is the Excelsior Geyser Crater. Its the water from this crater that is flowing into the Firehole River. Dumping 4000-4500 gallons of boiling water per minute into the river its not surprising that there are always clouds of steam. Excelsior Geyser used to erupt in a powerful plume from 100-300 ft high but after some particularity powerful eruptions it subsided to the simmering hot spring that it is today. Scientists speculate that those powerful eruptions damaged the internal plumbing ending the  more spectacular thermal displays.

 

Grand Prismatic Spring SignGrand Prismatic Spring

Bacterial matt at Grand prismatic

Orange algae and bacteria float on the Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. The vivid colors in the spring are the result of microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich water.

 

The mats produce colors ranging from green to red. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat. The deep blue color of the water in the center of the pool results from the intrinsic blue color of the water. The effect is strongest in the center of the spring, because of its sterility and depth. Usually the photos you see in magazines are taken from above.

From the boadwalk

The View From Above

Fairy Falls

Unattributed photo from the internet.

Most photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring are taken looking down. Many are aerial views taken from airplanes or maybe a helicopter. There is also a trail that leads from the Grand Prismatic Spring to Fairy Falls. Along the way there are 2 other geysers and a lookout above the hot spring. The trail is only .5 miles but it climbs 105 ft. I’ve added this hike to my bucket list. For now it was time to leave the clouds and steam of Midway behind and turn for home. 

Aerial view Grand Prismatic Spring

Unattributed photo from the internet. I wish I could have taken this one.

 

 

And Now The End is Near- Bash Bish Falls

And so the Hike begins

I started down the well groomed trail. I was looking forward to the falls. Bash Bish Brook was running pretty fast along side the trail.  Its a pretty walk but it wasn’t long before I realized that my definition of flat and the rest of the world seemed to be quite different. There was a subtle but definite incline. It didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. The farther I went the more the trail climbed.

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At the beginning

At first the brook was quite close to the trail. I could imagine setting up the tripod in the middle of the brook and taking pictures from that angle. A few time I ventured off the trail to explore the edge of the brook. At one point I found a swam of yellow and black butterflies. They looked like tiger swallow tails but I couldn’t see and “tails” on any of them.

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Onward and upward

The longer I trudged along the deeper the gorge got and soon I was looking through tree branches to see the brook. At one point I heard voices and laughing. Some folks more agile and fit than I had managed to get down the steep slope and were swimming in the stream. Early on there were benches where you could stop to rest but as the trail took a steeper climb the benches gave way to natural boulders. Its only 3/4 mile but it felt much longer. I was working up a sweat in spite of the breeze off the brook and shade of the forest. On my next break I doused myself liberally with bug spray. No mosquitoes but lots of little black flies and stinging horse flies.

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The Mass-NY State Line

Finally I saw the State line marker. I was told once I passed that I would almost be there. That was the boost I needed. Apparently others felt the same way because as I stood there several other groups  came by and all stopped to take selfies with the sign. Its a mile marker of sorts.

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Sure enough, It wasn’t much further when I saw the trail widen out. A picnic table was positioned off to one side. Then I saw a couple of young women run out of another trail. It was the 1/4 mile long trail from the Massachusetts parking lot. They told me they were very concerned about the return hike.

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Bash Bish Falls.

In the same wide open area there was an observation platform. You got a good look at the falls there. But there was still one more place to check out.

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The Bottom of the Falls

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A series of stone steps led down to the base of the falls. Families were sitting on the rocks, some having a picnic lunch, others taking photos with their cell phone. After a bit of hesitation I made my way down the uneven stairs. I wish I’d had more time to enjoy the falls but too soon it was time to start working my way back. The biggest obstacle was the long stone staircase. But slow and steady finally got me back on top.

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It was just about 2 pm by the time I got back to the parking lot. I needed to get going if I was going to have a chance to visit my mom, the main purpose of this trip!

The Destination isn’t Bad Either-Bash Bish Falls

The Destination isn’t bad either.

After  I left the one lane road behind it wasn’t too far before I reached my destination. I pulled into the parking area at the trail head for Bash Bish Falls and immediately noticed two different trails. One said scenic views, the other Bash Bish Falls. There were quite a few cars. It was obvious this was a popular place.

Oh to be 20 years younger

My first order of business was to check out the scenic area but two steps into the woods and I faced a huge rock. As I contemplated my next move two young ladies came up behind me. The hesitated for about 2 seconds and then as nimbly as a gazelle they were up and over the top. Ouch. That made me feel really old but it was apparent that I was not going to be able to follow them.

Next Stop the Trail Head

That decision made for me, I headed to the sign marked trail head. This time I was faced with a short flight of rustic stairs or walking down a slope next to the stairs. I chose the slope, sort of a poor man’s handicap ramp. I’d just gotten back on the trail when I met a couple huffing and puffing back up. They warned me to be very careful because parts of the trail were not in good shape, muddy and slippery. Plus it was steep and rocky. They didn’t make it all the way down. The gentleman told me this was steep but only 1/4 of a mile. If I wanted a flat trail I should drive down the road a little to the next parking area. That trail is 3/4 mile, a bit longer but  its flat.

Leaving Massachusetts

I chose to take the longer route. Flat was far preferable to huffing and puffing and climbing to get back. Going down might be ok but the return trip was bound to do me in. It wasn’t long until I passed a state line marker. I’d left Massachusetts and entered New York.

The New York Trail Head

Just past the state line marker was the New York Trail Head. They even had an overflow parking lot here, another sign of its popularity. Time to load up my backpack with water, snacks and bug spray. My camera around my neck and trekking pole in my hand I started toward the “Flat” trail where I got my first glimpse of Bash Bish Brook. It was just 12 noon.