Tag Archives: glaciers

The White North, Great and Less Great

So, I am taking my summer vacation in the Great White North.  It’s been a real peaks and hollows experience so far!  The first half of the trip was in Alaska, which was fantastic.  I think last Thursday had to be one of the top five best days of my entire life: I went dog sledding on Punch Bowl Glacier.  What a stunning experience, and what a perfect day for it too: clear weather for the scenic helicopter ride up and doggie drive.  Actually, let me go ahead and attach a public link to my facebook photo album chronicling the experience, because I think prose will come up short–pictures are needed.

Then when I got back down from the glacier, the husband & I went on a hike into the rain forest on a trail right behind the Alyeska Hotel grounds, a trail that goes to freaking Narnia.  Unbelievable.  So gorgeous, and there was a hand tram over the rapids that you could use to pull yourself across.  You can look down at the swirling waters below right through the grid floor of that swaying little death bucket.  It will make you shit yourself, and it is awesome.

And then…  Then there was the cruise ship that we were supposed to take from Anchorage to Vancouver, which was pure unremitting hell.  First of all, it turns out I am extravagantly seasick.  I had to get a shot in the ass my first night there, and had to stay on heavy medications that put me in this scary twilight place in order not to puke myself dead.  When we finally docked in Juneau on the third day, we simply had to get off.  Oh my God, I could have made out with the ground pope-style.  Anyway, I got a note from the nice onboard Romanian doctor whose name was–I am not making this up–Vasilica Andreescu.  (I have two main characters in my current book named Vasilii and Andrei so it was a little spooky.)  This note should, hopefully, help me get a partial refund from the travel insurance.  I hope, otherwise this cruise will turn out to be one of my costlier mistakes!  Anyway, we took a plane down and are now in Vancouver. I have yet to experience the city but I am pretty sure I will always, always love it for not being a fucking cruise ship.

The whole cruise universe, even besides the seasickness, is definitely not for me.  There were political undertones there that sent every Liberal White Guilt gland in my entire body into overdrive.  All the people staffing the ship were from developing nations, and so floridly solicitous that it made me feel sorry for them.  It made me suspect they had been to some kind of terrifying Customer Satisfaction Re-Education Camp.  I wanted to ask them, “if you do not please us, do they beat you?  It’s okay, you can answer, I won’t tell them.”  They made me want to write an HG Wells-type dystopia set on a cruise ship, where the crew are entirely subjugated by the fat, blank-faced passengers, but whenever one of the passengers becomes ill or weak, the crew eat him–or better yet, serve him as the chef’s special to the other passengers.  Think about it: the confinement, the forced cheeriness, the strict hierarchy; it’s like a massive floating allegory.  What a perfect setting for spine-tingling creepiness.

The awesome dog sledding experience, on the other hand, might prompt me to produce some Jack London-type stuff.  If I somehow merge the two genres, Call of the Wild & Cruise Ship Dystopia, then I could give birth to a terrifying hybrid.  But no.  I will not taint the wonderfulness of the Great White North with the grubby queasy Royal Caribbean microcosm.

One thing that was worth it about my miserable time on the ship was seeing Hubbard Glacier.  It was so gorgeous, and so many layered shades of blue–I’m so glad I got to see that before all the ice up there melts, courtesy of us humans.  The ship pulls right up to it and lets the horn rip a few times, which, if you’re lucky, causes some pretty spectacular calvings,  It certainly did this time; a section of ice that must have been the size of a ten-story building detached and collapsed so beautifully it took my breath away.  Actually, it kind of looked like what desire feels like: the softening from growing heat, hairline cracks snaking their way through an entire structure just waiting to give, waiting for the right stimulus–something as slight as the vibration from a sound wave–to yield.