Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


Off to Alaska: The Alaska Ferry Day 2

Ah, onward to the good stuff!

Lets start off by saying the quality of sleep I got that first night (as well as most people in tents) was the pits. I don’t know what it is about night-time on ships but the wind just pounded us. I probably woke up every 20 minutes fearful that my tent was going to blow away with me in it. Thankfully it didn’t, no ones did. The gorilla tape really did do a good job, thank goodness!

Alaska FerryThe Gorilla Tape did it’s job!

Now, I have to admit, when I got up Saturday morning, I wasn’t to optimistic that we would see anything that day since we were socked in an endless expanse of dense fog.

Seriously the fog was so thick at points that the captain was blowing the ships horn every 1-2 minutes (or at least it felt like it).

Alaska FerryThe weather got foggier as the morning went on.

Alaska FerryThe weather looked awful, but at least it wasn’t raining.

Since there was nothing to see I journeyed down to the forward viewing lounge, which is filled with seats similar to airplane style or what you would find on a typical ferry, found a good seat next a window (even thought I couldn’t see anything) and watched a movie on my laptop to pass the time.

About an hour later we had left the shelter of Vancouver Island and officially entered Queen Charlotte Sound. Because we were now in what was considered “open waters” the ship quickly began to rock and while I don’t normally get seasick I was feeling it so I decided to try and take a nap instead to ward off the nausea.

Alaska FerryThere was a digital map by the purser’s desk letting us know where we were at all times.

I woke up two hours later to hot sunshine hitting my tent. Sometime during my nap we had blasted through the fog layer and the weather had turned beautiful.

Not long later we were further rewarded with our first whale sighting of the trip. While they were a decent way from the ship I was able to capture some of the humpback whales acrobatics with my telephoto lens. As the day went on we spotted more and more whales, more often than not it was just the spray as they surfaced along with a little hump as they dove back down again, but a few times the whale would wave at us with its great tail.

Alaska FerryThis whale gave us a great show, jumping and playing around in the water.

Alaska FerryOther whales’ would only give us a brief glimpse.

Later on in the afternoon the captain came over the loud speakers to announce they had spotted a pod of Orcas. You’d never seen so many people jump up and head to the rails of a ship so quickly. The orcas however proved to be a little ship shy and we didn’t see them come up again until we were well past them unfortunately.

The real star of the day however was just the landscape. Oh it was so pretty. Endless fjords, islands and steep mountains diving into the deep ocean waters. Everytime I had to leave the deck to do something like eat or use the restroom I got really anxious, fearing I would miss something cool.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska FerryEvery now and again you’d catch a waterfall flowing into the ocean water.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

We really did luck out immensely with the sun. A lot of voyages get stuck in rain the entire time, and while later on we got our fair share the day was spent cruising BC’s inside passage was so beautiful.

Stay Tuned for Day 3…


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Off to Alaska: Alaska Ferry Day 1


I’m writing this blog as I sit on the back deck of the MV Columbia, the largest in the Alaska Ferry Systems fleet, enjoying the scenery of the inside passage as it rolls by (although you will probably be reading this several days after the fact since there is no wifi on the ship). I must say God surely had a special plan when he created this piece of coastline because it is beyond beautiful.

I’m still in awe that I’m even sitting here to begin with. Although I dreamed of taking the Alaska Ferry one day, I thought that day would most likely be several years down the road. However because my parents weren’t to keen on the idea of me driving all the way from Seattle to Soldotna on my own they graciously offered to help cover the costs beyond my budget (because taking the ferry isn’t cheap) simply for their piece of mind.

Alaska Ferry- The milepost 40 years apartMy dad found an old copy of The Milepost that he had.  I thought it was interesting that they were exactly 40 years apart, and look at that price difference!

The ferry officially departed Bellingham at 6pm last night but they requested that all passengers be at the terminal by 3, so my plan was to leave my house by 11:30 am, 12 at the latest. That plan failed miserably. After last-minute items thrown in the car, pictures and tearful goodbyes I think I finally pulled out of my driveway just after 12:30. Even though I had beaten “rush hour,” traffic was essentially awful the entire way. My plans to stop for lunch had to be thrown to the wayside which allowed me to pull into the parking lot at the terminal at exactly 3:05. I thought maybe I would have a chance to walk up to Fairhaven to grab a quick bite but the guy who handed me my ticket let me know I needed to get my car in line ASAP, so I did.

Considering my car was the last in line I thought I’d get out and snap a quick picture of the ship. I was gone from my car for maybe 3 minutes and as soon as I sat down a man came up and told me he was going to let me go ahead and go next (as in skip the dozen+ cars in front of me) because “that is one of the benefits of having a small car.” My first thought was that my car isn’t that small but I wasn’t going to argue and drove past all the waiting cars with a big smile on my face.

Alaska FerryBack view of the MV Columbia.  This is all I could get before rushing back to my car and getting on.

What happened next was awesome and terrifying. I rode in an elevator in my car y’all. It was the weirdest feeling. Very unnatural.

The ferrys’main car deck is on the bottom deck of the vessel however they do have a smaller car deck on the second floor and the only way in or out is by elevator. Weird.

Alaska FerryThe car in front of me going up!

When I finally got my car parked I quickly pulled my bag out of the car and rushed to the top deck to find a place to put my tent. From research I knew that the Columbia has two decks where you can place your tent, deck 6 or deck 8. The deck 6 area was already pretty full by the time I boarded so I headed up to the eighth and there was plenty of space. And you know what? Even though I’m sure it’s a bit windier than the other deck, I feel like there is a greater sense of community between everyone up here on 8.  I like it.

I made friends quickly. People helped me set up my tent, I helped others set up theres and everyone became very fond of my roll of Gorilla Tape in order to attach their tents to the deck since there’s no way to stake it down.

Alaska FerryTent City set up and ready to go on the top deck of the Columbia.  The solarium is directly to the right.

Alaska FerryThe sign says it all.  To bad.

Alaska FerryMy “cabin” aboard the Columbia.

After everything was set up we all had time to kill before departure and started to get to know our neighbors.  I think the favorite question between passengers was “so where are you getting off?”

I was surprised, there are a lot of people on the ferry just for the ride, taking it up to Skagway then back to Bellingham.  Sounds like an adventure.

Alaska FerryLooking Back at Bellingham.

Alaska FerryThe Bellingham “cruise” terminal.

At exactly 6 we began to pull out of Bellingham. It was a bit bittersweet knowing it was going to be my last look at Washington until at least December but the air of excitement on the ship was contagious. Everyone anticipated the adventures to come and as we sailed past the San Juan Islands everyone knew the best views were still ahead.

Alaska FerryThe weather for our departure was perfect.  Here’s one of the viewing decks on the 7th deck of the ship.

Alaska FerryI’d say you can’t beat waking up to a view like this.

Alaska FerryI thought splurging on some fish and chips for dinner would be completely appropriate. 

Alaska FerryNext Stop, Ketchikan!

Stay tuned for day 2….