Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Remember that trip I took to Alaska? Because I barely do.

In May I took a trip with my parents to Alaska, making grand promises as I left to write about our adventures as soon as I got home. June came and went with my Alaska blogging output totaling exactly one post (two if you count the rant about my miserable trip home, thanks to United Airlines). July and August found me immersed in book editing, wedding officiating, and pseudo-parenting. You know, your standard summertime activities.

Late September landed me and my friend Philippa in Los Angeles to try to learn a thing or two about podcasting, and then suddenly November was upon us. Since National Blog Posting Month always makes me desperate for content, now seems like the perfect time to recap the trip, based on my notes and increasingly sketchy recollection.

My parents and I spent the first day of our trip in Anchorage, getting acclimated.  The next morning, the three of us boarded a bus bound for Kenai Fjords National Park to check out whales, glaciers, and other natural wonders. I’m not necessarily tour bus people; however, I understand that my parents, now in their early seventies, spent years schlepping me and my siblings around and are happy to let someone else do the driving. But I don’t think any of us expected our driver for hire to come right out of Mom and Dad’s demographic. This lent direct, if unwelcome, proof that drivers, as they age, really do gravitate towards vehicles that combine maximum size with minimum visibility.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Seward safe and sound three hours later and prepared to board a medium-sized boat captained by the spitting image of John Candy. I half-expected him to say, “Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.”

As it turns out, we did not see any moose. But we did lay our eyes on plenty of sea otter, thanks to John Candy’s expert guidance. He also taught us to watch for the little geysers of water –“blows”–that signal the presence of a whale. As we made our way to a glacier we spotted a few blows off in the distance but no whales. We forgot about the whales once we got close enough to the glacier to see and hear it drop huge chunks of ice into the water in a process known as “calving.” I could have listened to that all day. But we had to turn back. We were escorted in grand style by a school of Dall’s porpoises-– a species found only in the North Pacific–zipping in and out of the water alongside our boat until our pace bored them. Then we passed a rock where a large group of harbor seals and sea lions lazed in the sun like surf bums.

We’d seen some amazing sights, but still no whales up close, and we were almost back at the port. My parents and I were resigning ourselves to a twinge of disappointment when the captain cut off the engine. He spoke in a low urgent voice and told us to hurry to the port side. There, three orca whales were surfacing at regular intervals, the water around them tinged with red. Orca whales are notorious loners and can be difficult to spot, except when they feel the need to show off after an exceptional kill. I couldn’t help but wonder whether one of those sea lions we saw had chosen a very bad time to take a dip.

We reflected on what a fun, exhilarating and exciting day we’d had as we boarded the bus, not realizing that more excitement was ahead. Our bus driver had picked up a trainee who, by the sounds of things, was both dyslexic and visually impaired. We tried not to be concerned when we heard him say, “Your right hand. Your other right hand. Nope, still not the right right hand,” and the trainee respond with, “I can’t see what you’re talking about.”

I closed my eyes, leaned my head back on the seat, and tried to picture a less traumatic scene, like those feasting Orcas.

This glacier is actively calving, or as actively as glaciers do anything.

This glacier is actively calving (as actively as glaciers do anything, that is).