Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Matt dropped me off at the Skagway ferry terminal Friday evening in the rain. I had to call him back because my water bottle had escaped into his truck. When I finally had all my belongings and my boarding pass, I got on the ferry and quickly found the solarium, a covered, heated area on the top deck of the ferry where the young, or at least the restless, camp out. The solarium has windowed walls on three sides and is open to the rear. It is water-tight, for the most part and their are lots of chairs and reclining deck chairs to sleep on. I set up a place right under a heat lamp. From Skagway to Juneau there were only 5 of us in the solarium. One person had set up a tent on the deck in the open and it was getting pummeled with rain and wind. There were a lot of folks that got on in Skagway and Haines that were ferrying to Juneau to fly the rest of the way home. I explored the ferry and took in the views. However, I had boarded the ferry in the dark and their wasn't much of a view to be had, plus it was raining hard. I cozied up in my sleeping bag fairly early.

The ferry docked in Haines at 9pm Monday night and left around 11 pm. We reached Juneau at 3 am and left at around 5 am Tuesday morning. I wasn't really too awake but the next morning, there were a lot more people and tents on the upper deck. I wandered the ferry, drank a lot of tea, walked laps, looked at the scenery, read and chatted with fellow passengers. By the time we reached Sitka at around 2:30 pm, I had met several interesting people. Ferry passengers who were interested in going to Sitka could pay 10 bucks for a round trip shuttle bus. So most of us did and were given a fairly good bang for our buck; 24 miles and a lively driver who filled us in on all the local gossip and history. My friend Chris and I found a run down bar with black and white photos of boats on the wall and hung out there for an hour before we had to shuttle back to the ferry.
The ferry ride to and from Sitka was really pretty. The channel was fairly narrow. As you can see on the map, the ferry must go three hours out of its way to get to Sitka so we spent most of Tuesday just getting to Sitka and back to the main route. I hung out at the bar that evening with William and Jen, the bar tenders and a couple who had worked as fishing guides in Cooper Landing. William had the latest Journey video so we watched that for a good while. Sunday morning was beautiful and I spent most of the day wandering about the ferry. By evening, I had met a good contingent of folks on the ferry and we were all in the same boat, literally. We had just finished up a season of summer work and were headed to the next thing; gypsies and wanderers all, we came together easily and freely and opened ourselves more truly and genuinely and for those remaining hours on the ferry, we were the best of friends. About 10 of us ran wild on the ferry, playing music and singing, dancing and laughing, flying kites and playing hackey sack. We were all near each other in the solarium and shared our food and spirits. We were all traveling alone, we had all just said good bye and were turning our heads to the new horizon and wanted one last way to commemorate our summers, one last epic hurrah before moving on. Transitions are subtly taxing. Saying goodbye is never easy, nor is saying hello. But the emotions are masked by the elation and excitement of leaving; leaving behind the stuff you didn't like and leaving for something new while everyone else continues with the old. The excitement of having had a great time and knowing that you made it that way.
The ferry made stops in Wrangall and Petersburg during the night. I did get up and make a call to Sarah at Petersburg because she spent her own epic summer working at a cannery there. We arrived in Ketchikan Wednesday afternoon and were able to get off the ferry and explore town. My posse and I headed for the nearest bar because at this time of the year, after the last cruise ship has left port, nothing else is open. I felt a little stir crazy and so left my pals at the bar to walk furiously around the town and stretch my legs. The company on the ferry was sure great but the lack of space to move around was a little difficult to deal with. Back on the ferry and moving, the wind picked up and the waves swelled. We were going through open sea and we walked around the outside of the ferry and tried to fly in the wind at the prow. Someone flew a rainbow colored kite and it flashed festively in the setting sun. That evening I danced my heart out.
After leaving Ketchikan, we made no stops until Bellingham;36 hours straight. I had made a sign that said I needed a ride from Bellingham to Missoula that I wore around. A logger from Florence offered me a ride. As the ferry approached Bellingham Friday morning we were scattered...packing up, trying to close up business, say goodbye, organize rides. And as quickly and as easily as it had started, so it ended. We all went our separate directions. Harvey the innovator and thinker...on to a new documentary. Mark and his Port Townsend and then what? Chris to Utah to do some ski patrol and Kimberly to Arizona to woo m ore men and just be awesome. Darren, Mary, Bear and the to do their thing and then there is the banjo player who taught me Wagon Wheel on both the banjo and guitar. I hope he realizes what a gift he has given me. I hope all of my ferry folk realize how wonderful it was to not be alone, how wonderful it was to sing and dance and chat and how wonderful it was to be with a gypsy band once again!

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