Subject: Alaska Dispatch #1 - from Seattle
Greetings, all -

I'm sending this first dispatch much later than I intended, but what can you do. As most of you already know, I've embarked on a trip with my sister-in-law, Laura Morefield, to hike the Chilkoot trail in Alaska. The trip's been great so far ...

On June 30th I flew from Washington DC to Los Angeles; spent a few days with Dan and Laura (Dan is Ken's brother) relaxing and also preparing for the trip - a prep hike, purchasing gear, etc. Our plan is to drive from Los Angeles (Santa Clarita, actually, for those of you who know where that is) to Prince Rupert, BC where we'll board the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. The ferry will take us to Skagway, AK. From there we'll hike the Chilkoot for 5 days, then head back home via ferry and then the car. I fly back to Virginia on July 27th.

Our sojourn began on Monday, July 5th. We had an uneventful drive up I-5 to Red Bluff, CA, situated on the Sacramento River at the furthest point navigable by paddle steamboat or barge. We stayed at a lovely B&B, The Jeter Victorian Inn. Our hostess, Mary, greeted us with, "Welcome to the heat!" She wasn't kidding; it was 103 degrees. She spoiled us wonderfully, though, including fresh-baked apricot pie that evening. The fruit was from her own tree.

After a pleasant early morning walk along the Sacramento River and a fabulous breakfast at the inn, we set out for another long day of driving. Nicer scenery than the previous day, though, as we headed through the Cascades and into Oregon. Tuesday's final destination was Castle Rock, WA, a couple hours south of Seattle. We stayed at the Blue Heron Inn, a lovely place where every room has a view of Mt. St. Helen's. If the weather cooperates, that is, which it didn't for us. :(

This morning we had another pleasant morning hike at the nearby Seaquest State Park. The trails were lovely, but poorly marked, and at one point we feared we'd be wandering around in there until lunch time. Fortunately we made it back out after a 3 mile jaunt and enjoyed another fantastic breakfast. In contrast to Red Bluff, it is pleasantly cool in Washington. After breakfast we drove the short two hours up to Seattle, checked into the Bacon Mansion B&B, and have been wandering around Seattle this afternoon. My first visit, and I'm enjoying it very much. First we went to the Pike's Place Market, and now I write to you from the striking new Seattle Public Library. We have reservations for seafood tonight. Yum.

So far the trip has gone very smoothly. The only small glitch was that I left my walking shoes and a few other items at Dan and Laura's, but Dan graciously FedEx'd them here to Seattle. The weather's been great. Most everyone who learns of our hiking plans questions us about bears. It's getting rather amusing. One exception was our host at the Blue Heron, John. He actually lived in Alaska for many years, so we were encouraged that he didn't feel the need to join the chorus of, "What about bears?"

Hope you are all well and Laura and I appreciate your prayers and good thoughts.

More soon ... Cindy