After we got off the buses in Skagway, we all split up and headed towards our hotels to check back in and take showers.
We were staying in the same hotel we had been at before the hike, and all our extra gear had been stored in the lobby. It took us a few minutes to get checked back in and get all our bags back to our rooms, but we were all desperate for showers so it didn’t take as long as you might think.
Then we all met up to get dinner. It felt strange to be walking around on pavement, without a pack on my back.
Sitting down to beer and steak, however, felt just right.
A couple people flew out that night, but most people were flying out the next morning. I was the only one who was taking the ferry back to Juneau, but I was looking forward to some alone time.
I’m a pretty solitary person, and it’s hard for me to be around people 24/7. For days on end. I love my family, but I was ready for some me time.
However, the next morning fog rolled in to Skagway and flights were delayed. Then something happened in Juneau, and the small planes that flew between the two locations were not being allowed to fly in.
As the day went on, everyone who had planned to fly out watched their ability to make their connections in Juneau dwindle and then disappear. The airlines were unable to tell them when flights would resume, and suddenly the ferry become the only viable way out.
This is how we ended up with most of our group on the ferry. And it was a nice trip—we talked, we ate more food that was not freeze dried or trail mix, and we eventually got to Juneau. Only to be told there was a bear in the parking lot, although I suspect the ferry people were lying like everyone else on the trip, because we never saw a bear.
Nor did we see a taxi.
There were a good thirty or forty people waiting for taxis and calling every taxi company in Juneau. Both of them. I kid. I think there were three. Hotel shuttles started showing up, but it was well over an hour before the first taxi arrived. Apparently, a few planes had landed at the same time—and apparently the cabbies preferred fares from the airport to fares from the ferry.
I thought at this point that I would be able to split off and have a little alone time, because my plan all along had been to spend the night at the airport before catching my plane the next morning. Mostly because it was free, and at the end of my month-long vacation, free sounded good to me. I was sure everyone else would get a hotel.
But in the end they decided to sleep at the airport as well.
By this point, they were teasing me mightily about how I was never going to be rid of them. I ended up spending most of the night awake and reading—the only chance I really had to decompress. I was exhausted the next morning, but it didn’t matter. My flight was one of the first out, and my connection in Seattle was short. I was home half a day later and being roundly scolded by my cats.
My entire trip had lasted a month, and geographically stretched from Fort Bragg in California to Lake Bennett in Canada. I’d camped and hiked; I gone on a road trip, taken buses, taken trains, and taken boats. I’d slashed several items off my bucket list. I’d taken on the Chilkoot Trail—perhaps a little unwisely, and certainly not as prepared as I ought to have been for it. But I had made it, and I had seen what I could do when it came down to it.
I had also learned why trips like this are called “once in a lifetime”—you’d have to be a little insane to do them twice.
So the next trip won’t be quite so extreme. I want to hike Hadrian’s Wall, in England. It will be a longer trip—70+ miles—but there are pubs all along the way. In fact, I don’t even have to camp it; I can stay in B&Bs the entire way and let someone port my baggage for me. The idea of short, pleasant hikes through England with a day pack on my back and a hot meal and good British cider at the end is certainly appealing.
But that’s a couple years down the road. For now, I’m just enjoying being home. With hot showers.
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