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I typically plan trips a few months in advance, but the recent trip to Alaska was more like a ten-month process. It was a short cruise and never having done one before, I had no idea there was so much paperwork. I get it, but it was a far cry from usual vacations where you book air and hotel on your own and that’s it. 

It was a National Geographic tour of 6 days leaving from Juneau and it was my first trip to that state. My surprise was that Juneau was a small and hilly city, so from my hotel I could see the giant cruise ships looming in the harbor. A few blocks up the hill and there was the State Capitol and my friend Ruth and I took an informative hour-long tour. 

Late in the afternoon, we were shuttled to the boat, met the other guests and crew and settled in with the boat cruising south. The next day, we boarded Zodiaks (Jacques Cousteau’s favorite sea transport) and observed an iceberg calving in the rain. Subsequent days featured a hike in the temperate rainforest (yes, it really rains a lot), a shore trip to Wrangell where we had a Tlingit welcome ceremony and got to view petroglyphs on the beach.

Next was a Zodiak excursion into the misty fjords with—you guessed it—more rain but spectacular waterfalls coursing down the rock formations. The last day of the trip took us into Ketchikan and a visit to a park where totem poles are made with many on display. Our guide told us that where human figures were represented with red nose and cheeks it meant that there was some factor of shame associated. So, the totem of Seward, the Secretary of State who negotiated the sale of Alaska from Russia, expressed the locals’ displeasure that they had provided many potlatches (feasts) when he visited and he never reciprocated. Great trip and I even got some writing done—longhand since I didn’t have internet. That’s a totally different thought process.

A replica of a petroglyph that is down at the
beach being eroded by waves and time. 

Totem of William Seward, negotiator

of Alaska purchase, recipient of many
honors but shamed for lack of reciprocity.

Raven clan totem.
As a recovering anthropologist, it was a treat to visit 
Saxman Totem Park in Ketchikan, our last stop. 


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Andrea Ibanez Kress ()


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