I’m almost caught up on this year’s monthly retrospects! Which is actually a miracle because I’ve been almost non-stop on the move since May! Although this blog’s front page is starting to look like my personal diary with all these roundups and very few actual posts in between. Eek!
June 2017 began my 4th summer Alaska season working as a seasonal youth staff on cruise ships. And my 5th summer spent in Alaska, in a row! I joined 2 different ships this month, hiked some epic (and intense) trails, and indulged in more coffee than I’d like to admit. Read on if you care at all about backtracking to June with me! I promise I’m nearly back to posting in “real-time”!
I did a crap-ton of solo hiking this month. But I have never been more proud of myself to have conquered the Upper Dewey Lake trail. This hike in Skagway, Alaska is the most strenuous climb I’ve ever done. I actually did it a few years ago as well, but with a couple coworkers. It’s 6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 3,100 feet. It took about 5 hours — the first 3 were all practically 90-degree uphill switchbacks (or so it felt). Halfway through, I was stopping to catch my breath about every 10 minutes. And once I got to the top, expecting to see the turquoise blue lake and hot pink fireweed flowers, it was mostly covered in snow and ice still! HA! My luck. And I had to dance like crazy with the kids onboard the ship that night for our disco too.
Though I had aches for the next few days and could barely use stairs. And though I lost one of my toenails from this hike a few weeks later. I pushed my body to continue and to make it to the top. It’s hard to convince yourself to keep going when you’re alone and in your own head. So it was so empowering and rewarding to reach the top of this trail by myself! And plus, I met a few inspiring hikers along the way!
Before joining my second ship, I was put up in a hotel in Vancouver. One of my previous ship roommates and friend met me at my hotel to catch up with me over dinner. She brought me a sweet card with the most thoughtful gift inside. A Canadian Parks Pass! I had once mentioned wanting to travel Canada’s national parks for its 150th, and also knowing that I’m dating a park ranger, she decided to gift me with a pass! She’s the coolest!
Doing one way Alaskan cruises from Vancouver usually means an overnight in Whittier, outside of Anchorage. We dock around midnight and we don’t sail away until around 8pm the next day. So you KNOW the entire cruise crew leaves the ship and goes out to the one and only bar at night! The first night there, my roommate and I went to this bar, filled with drunk fishermen and quirky locals. We played table shuffleboard and danced and had strange interactions with everyone around us. Such a unique mix of people here! Two fishermen we had met invited us to their boat to see what an authentic Alaskan fishing boat was like. Don’t worry guys — I was with my roomie, sober, and these guys were good people. We hung out on their boat in the harbor from 2am to 6am, sharing stories of life at sea. We got a tour of the fish they recently caught, and how their cooking and toilet systems worked onboard. It was all actually super interesting!
So on my schedule one week was “Help with Puppies.” A sled dog musher brings his future Iditarod racing puppies onboard in Skagway, and does a presentation. The passengers all then get to have a photo taken with one of the puppies. My job was crowd control and I could not have been more happy! I can’t believe I was getting paid for an hour to play with puppies! At one point, the musher asked me “Hey Joy, do you mind taking the napping puppy and staying with it in the corner? Just tell everyone it’s taking a break and not to pet it.” I was like “Uhhhh so basically you’re asking me to snuggle your puppy and tell everyone to go away? I think we have a deal!”
At the beginning of the month, I was super stressed. I hadn’t gotten my cruise contract paperwork when I was supposed to, and I was supposed to be leaving in a couple days! By the time it actually came and I got my flight details, I realized that I actually had to leave for San Francisco THAT NIGHT instead of the next day! It meant I only had about 4 hours to pack everything, feed my snakes, buy a bus ticket, and get everything squared away! Also, I slept in the airport (well…”slept”. Who actually sleeps properly there?!) and be up for a 6am flight. Not ideal.
While on my second ship of the month, the entire Entertainment Department was told that we’d have to be split into groups and do a 2 week “team building” training. We would have to complete 3 separate challenges and present them each at the end of the period. We had a meeting about this and NOBODY was happy. It meant adding additional work to our already busy schedules, and obviously for no extra pay. Being a seasonal staff, I work on the ships but also have jobs back home that I do online. So my breaks aren’t usually breaks because I’m answering to another boss and clients. The point of this “training” was to get us all interacting with each other more and to learn each others names, as well as more about each others jobs.
By the end of it, though the presentations were hilarious and very creative, none of us really felt like we knew anything more about each others jobs. And we still didn’t really know names either. It didn’t help that our 3 challenges had NOTHING to do with finding these things out. I personally think it would have been better to have job shadowed each other for a day or something. My thoughts and opinions here are entirely my own though and not that of the companies. Just have to throw that in there. However, it was pretty fun to see everyone’s challenge ideas come to life!
One of my favorite coffee shops is in Juneau. Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. is admittedly one of my biggest reasons for requesting contracts to Alaska (actually ALL the food here is why I ask to come back). My go-to is a Macadamia Nut Latte. I also tried a Gingerbread Latte which was pretty good too.
If you like sweets, Skagway’s Sugar Mama’s bakery is the place to be. Most known for their red velvet homemade cupcakes, they bake a ton of other flavors and items too! The red velvets are usually sold out pretty quickly, but I managed to snag one, along with a seasonal rhubarb flavor. Softest, most moist cupcakes I’ve ever tried.
You can’t go to Ketchikan without a stop at Burger Queen. LOVED by locals and cruise crew alike, this greasy burger and milkshake joint is the bomb. I got my usual Huckleberry shake and Lahina burger. Waited all year for this.
On my first ship of the month, the Ruby Princess, I arrived to find out that I was sharing an OFFICER’S CABIN with PORTHOLE WINDOWS! You don’t know the struggle as a cruise crew. You typically have to turn your TV on just to find out the weather, or go out on the open deck to plan what you’ll wear that day. This time, I could just stare out our windows in my pajamas! And watch the glaciers and sunsets from my bed! It’s all about the little things onboard.
Best Wildlife Shot
A huge incentive of Alaskan cruises is the opportunity to view both the glaciers and the wildlife. While slowly sailing toward a tidewater glacier, I spotted a few harbor seals and sea otters hanging out on the iceburgs floating around us! I REALLY wish I had an awesome telephoto lens to better photograph them with!
Most Popular Instagram Shot
My likes on this photo completely exceeded all other posts this month, by about double! Which made me so stoked because I feel it perfectly captured the feeling of overcoming this insane solo hike! I was so out of breath for the first 3 hours that my throat actually hurt the next day. And I already mentioned the loss of my poor little toenail because of this trail. But it didn’t matter. I had done it.
Featured Travel & Outdoor Product
A lot of people ask me how I get photos of myself while traveling or hiking alone. Meet my trusty friend, the MeFOTO Backpacker Tripod. It only weighs 2.6 lbs and can fold down to just 12.2 inches! Also, it can hold small point and shoots, professional DSLR’s, AND smartphones! I used this tripod on almost all of my hikes, because it’s just so lightweight and easily packable! Pick your favorite color and get one here!
I was still on the Star Princess for the entire month of July, going roundtrip from Vancouver to Whittier. I’m also celebrating my 6 year anniversary with my boyfriend next month, although it’ll be long distance. My sister’s birthday is coming up too, as well as Canada Day and July 4th celebrations! It’s practically one big non-stop party!
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