2001-09-01 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Chatting With Chapey by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

This summer seemed an ideal time to broaden our horizons. We took a trip to the beautiful state of Alaska. We set sail on the Holland America Line—the Ryandam. There truly aren’t enough superlatives to describe the wonders of this state.

I would like to begin by thanking Anne Ahern for her expert travel advice. Anne loves to ravel. She told us to get the outside stateroom with a veranda. We appreciated Anne’s advice and we followed it. This added tremendously to the enjoyment of our trip. Each day we took time out to sit on the veranda and enjoy the magnificent sites. Thanks to Anne for sharing her keen insights with us. We took her sage advice and profited from it.

Weather wise we were very fortunate. The sun was out everyday to greet us. We went swimming on the boat every afternoon. The glass ceiling above the pool was retractable. Each day it was open and sun came pouring in as we enjoyed the warm weather. During the day the temperatures were in the 70’s.

With the expert help of Dorothy Dunne of Golden Girl Pageant Tours, we were looking at the last frontier – the state of Alaska. Dorothy has a flare for class and elegance so we knew that with her expertise she would help us to plan the perfect vacation.

Our ship, the Ryandam, stopped at several ports including Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Valdez. Each city has a specialty which makes it unique.

Ketchikan is known as the salmon capital of the world because of the overwhelming number of salmon that return to Ketchikan each summer. As soon as Alaska was purchased from the Russians in 1867, the U.S. fishing industry began to realize the opportunity for profits and eventually they established a base in Ketchikan. In addition to salmon, Ketchikan is noted for having the largest number of totem poles in the world. At the Totem Heritage and Cultural Center we viewed the largest collection of unaltered totem poles in Alaska.

Juneau is the capital of Alaska. Alaska is the only state in the United States which has a capital that is not accessible by land. One of the landmarks is the Red Dog Saloon. It is complete with swinging doors and sawdust on the floor in order to recreate the atmosphere of the town as it existed during the gold rush days. When we were there, the local Juneau newspaper had a beautiful picture of a large brown bear who had visited the Red Dog Saloon with a sandwich in his mouth. The picture was precious and appeared in all the local papers.

Our next stop was Sitka that is located on the outer coast of the Inside Passage. Would you believe that Sitka gets an average rainfall of 95 inches a year! We were fortunate enough to arrive on a beautiful sunny day. They claim that Sitka is the only town where a baseball or softball game has never been called because of rain. As the guide told us, if the children’s ball games were called off because of rain they would never get to play. However, the guide did brag that Sitka gets very little snowfall. Sitka has a decidedly Russian flare. This is because the Russian-American Company had its headquarters in Sitka and had one of the most profitable fur trading operations in the world.

Our last stop was Valdez that is well known for two reasons: The Exxon oil spill and the pipeline. It is a commercial center which is very busy and very interesting. Valdez is thriving community that looks back to its gold rush history and toward the future.

There are many more aspects of the trip that I will share with you next week.

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