Thursday, July 28, 2022

Utah's Tuacahn: Spectacular performing arts space in natural setting

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers marvel at the spectacular view from Utah's Tuacahn.




and courtesy Tuacahn Center for the Arts 

 "Mary Poppins" sets take a whimsical look at London.
This is one of several lovely designs. Also included are a park,
bank, children's bedroom and other places in the story. 

WE HAD no idea such a wondrous place existed in the remote canyonland near St. George, Utah. It's called Tuacahn.

Everyone has heard of Zion National Park, and most veteran road-trippers have visited St. George. But we were new to a marvelous discovery during this year's auto journey from San Diego to our place in rural Montana. 

Some say the name "Tuacahn" comes from a Mayan word meaning "Canyon of the Gods." It couldn't be more fitting. For located in the mouth of the Padre Canyon, adjacent to Snow Canyon State Park, in Ivins, Utah, it's a sight to behold.

Keller and Cookie
at intermission.
An artful display of photos from the current season
gives the full house options for future tickets.

TUACAHN IS part nature preserve, part performing arts center, and total magic. Several visionary people were instrumental in its founding, including  Utah playwright Douglas C. Stewart  and philanthropist Hyrum W. Smith. They and others planned the creation of a setting to showcase a play about the founding of the southern part of their state. 
Hyrum Smith, Tuacahn philanthropist, had a 
vision to merge nature with performing arts.

THE PARTNERS' VISION was to create a space the people of Utah could enjoy. The venue would showcase nature's beauty with the added  enticement of first-rate performance.
The patrons' love of nature and theater combine artfully in Tuacahn where we recently saw a delightful production of "Mary Poppins." It was Broadway quality -- from technical wizardry which floated Mary across the sky, to beautifully designed sets and costumes, spirited choreography and top talent including a well tuned orchestra.
THE PLACE was christened in 1995 when Tuacahn's debut performance. "Utah!" danced its way across the red rocks and into the hearts of the people.
Amphitheatre seats are comfortable and seating
is designed so there are no obstructed views.

But after four years telling the story of the area's ancient inhabitants and pioneer settlers, Tuacahn's board of directors shifted the strategy to a repertory season of popular shows.
The successful result is a showcase of several productions in a setting which itself is a natural amphitheater. 
WRITERS HAVE compared the evolution of this natural wonder to the physical building of Tuacahn Center for the Arts. Centuries of pounding heat and relentless desert rains created the canyon land. Wrote one reviewer, "Just as the land has been shaped, the center was molded by winds of change and the power of dreams."
In the play's final scene, Mary Poppins takes
to the sky, her mission accomplished (far right.)

Donors can remember
friends or family in
tasteful stones by
the lyrical waters.

In foreground: Neil Starkenberg as Bert, Gail Bennett
as Mary Poppins, sing "A Spoonful of Sugar." 
Real estate baron and state senator Orval Hafen was a major player, too.  The original owner of Padre Canyon enthusiastically endorsed the concept. Adding his own doseof drive and ambition was entrepreneur, arts promoter and producer  Doug Stewart who helped propel the mission. 
It was a daunting dream that many thought impossible, but with this quartet of creative force it blossomed into a flourishing orchestra of reality. 
Sold out shows, happy families, first-rate talents tell the tale of Tuacahn and confirm that an inspired vision can come true with the right combination of imaginative people, drive and money. Artistic director Scott S. Anderson carries on the mission of creative performance art against a naturally theatrical backdrop.
The season is in repertory with "Mary Poppins," "Wonderland," and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" playing into late October. "The Buddy Holly Story" runs in the mix until Aug. 13. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" promises family enjoyment Nov. 25-Dec. 22.  Tuacahn's venues include the 2,000-seat amphitheatre and a 328-seat indoor theater where the holiday show is staged, a black box theater, dance studio, costume and scene shops and the campus of Tuacahn High School for the Arts. The venue also  produces a spring and fall concert series, and Christmas in the Canyon featuring a live-action recreation of the nativity called the "Festival of Lights" with spectacular holiday lights and decorations.
ACTOR GAIL Bennett and other Actors Equity performers have garnered national attention, as has the venue itself.  Bennett won awards for her leading roles in "My Fair Lady," "Kiss Me Kate," "The Sound of Music" and many productions on Broadway, at Hollywood Bowl and in other major venues.
You may think you've gone down the rabbit hole as you explore this gorgeous venue -- truly a "wonderland" of its own.

More info or tickets:; box office 800 746-9882; 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins, Utah 84738

Christene "Cookie" Meyers rests and savors
during a visit to "Immersive Van Gogh."
: Van Gogh Immersion.Another artfully done surprise presents itself on our road trip. The artfully done installation, "Immersive Van Gogh," is attracting viewers across the nation in several cities.  We check out the original exhibit in Las Vegas. It's a wondrous merging of technology, storytelling, animation and many of Vincent's paintings. We found it    captivating and will share in our next feature. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, family, nature and more.;

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Whale of a time awaits in remote, breezy, gorgeous waters of Juneau


Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers aboard a Juneau Tours and Whale Watch vessel.
The well run company is family owned and prides itself in personalized service -- and whale viewing!

Juneau's harbor has a pastoral feel, almost painting-like.
The surrounding forest and scenery are spectacular.


Yes, it's in the distance, but it's a definite
whale sighting.  The boat will pull slowly closer.

SOME OF the best whale watching in the world happens off the North American continent in the chilly, lively waters of Juneau, Alaska. 
Alaska's capital city is thriving again and the whale business is back.  After a couple rough financial years -- without the usual tourism that feeds the year's economy during three busy summer months -- tours are booking and folks are cruising again. 
The scenery around Juneau is vast and varied.
A bird's eye view aboard Radiance of the Seas.

The best whale tour we've found in several trips is with Juneau Tours and Whale Watch. 
Veteran photographer Bruce
Keller is a regular on Alaska's
waters. This time he chose
Royal Caribbean's newly
renovated Radiance of the Seas. 

We sailed into the pretty port aboard  Royal Caribbean's graceful  Radiance of the Seas,  recently refurbished to the tune of multi-millions, and by far the spiffiest ship in the harbor. We like Royal for its well designed Alaska itinerary, which hits the high spots with ample port time: Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau and the Inside Passage for a spectacular day of viewing.  
Juneau Tours works with Royal Caribbean, which courts family-owned and operated businesses such as Juneau Tours. The
The boat is roomy, the windows large and perfect
for viewing.  Passengers may also go on deck.

 business was started  nearly two decades ago by an ambitious couple from Hawaii. Many of its employees have been with the company for years and everyone is pleasant and knowledgeable -- from the bus driver who greets you and gives commentary from the ship to the pier, to the deck hands and naturalist guides. 
We've met the same entertaining guides a couple years apart -- enthusiastic fellows who know and love the water and wildlife in it. We enjoyed their lively commentary as they pointed out dozens of beautiful, high-flying bald eagles and playful dolphins skipping along the boat. 
Plan to spend some time driving to the harbor because Juneau is a big place. Because of its vastness, it takes a while to get around. But you're guaranteed two-plus hours of on-the-water whale watching for humpbacks and orcas, sea lions, dolphins, bald eagles, and other wildlife.
We met several of the stars of Auke Bay, feasting in their summer feeding grounds –  whales Sacha, Flame and several others.  Our guides recognized  the whales because of the markings on their flukes -- each one unique to the individual whale.
The company's naturalist guides offer engaging
commentary and fascinating whale facts. 
WE WERE thrilled to see whales breaching. Scientists suspect humpback whales breach and slap their fins and flukes as a way of communicating. Our guides explained that the slapping sounds also send messages to other whales. 
The company's comfy, customized boats offer panoramic views for optimal whale watching even if you don't want to venture out on deck.  
BECAUSE YOU are so near one of the world's most famous glaciers, you have an opportunity to stop at  Mendenhall Glacier. The tour is arranged with  
Mendenhall Glacier is a wondrous sight. Even
with global warming, it is still miles long. 

several buses back to your ship or town center, allowing for as little or as much time one wants for glacier viewing.
If you haven't seen been face to face with Mendenhall Glacier, it's an easy add-on to the whale watch trip. The glacier is a a 1,500 square mile remnant of the last ice age, cradled high in the mountains and an extra hour's journey but well worth it. “Amazing!” We heard that over-worked adjective many times as we hiked with new friends to Nugget Falls, with its bird's eye views of the glacier.
Alaska has more bald eagles
than any other state in the
union -- up to 25,000. This
one performed for our boat.
A nicely designed visitor's center gives an overview of glaciers and this close-by one in particular. Mendenhall is perhaps the most accessible glaciers in North America, just 12 miles from downtown Juneau and a few minutes from the airport. It's large -- like everything in Juneau -- a half-mile wide, with ice as deep as 1,800 feet. And it's 13.6 miles long.
WE'RE PROUD to recommend Juneau Tours and Whale Watch, which has made a name for itself in southeast Alaska and around the globe. The hands-on approach and joy in their work is obvious, making the outfit a pleasure to travel with, share and enjoy.
And consider cruising -- the only way you'll see four distinct parts of this huge 49th state in a week's time.; 1 844-494-2537.; reservations 866 562-7625

Tuacahn Center for the Arts is a magical place
with a range of theater productions in a
state-of-the-art amphitheater in Padre Canyon.

UP NEXT: Utah's Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, is a delightful discovery. We'd never been to this marvelous treasure of a performing arts center near St. George, Utah. So this year was our time for a visit. We were doing stories and taking photos near Zion National Park when we overheard fellow tourists talking about Tuacahn.  We went on line and found a gem of a theater set in a beautiful canyon near Ivins, in the mouth of Padre Canyon. A first-rate docket of Broadway shows is on tap, and there are activities year-round at this magical place.


Thursday, July 14, 2022

Cruise up for a wild scenic ride on White Horse, Yukon Pass rail trip

We've taken this spectacular rail journey several times -- late summer, fall and recently, when snow can
still be seen, with wildflowers. White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad from Skagway is a stunning trip. We recommend booking passage on Norwegian Cruise Line's Bliss for the key Alaska stops.  



SKAGWAY IS known perhaps best for its rugged rail ride deep into Yukon territory. We've found the best way to ease into this spectacular beauty is from an equally spectacular ship, and Norwegian Cruise Line's Bliss is a favorite. It offers pampering preparation for a traverse of dangerous mountain passes, with lively commentary on the daring souls who explored the region in search of adventure and riches. 

All aboard, as the train pulls into the Skagway station
for a trip into Alaska's wilderness -- still chilly in summer.
IT'S DIFFICULT to imagine our forefathers blasting a train track through the granite rock of Alaska's spectacular White Pass in the winter freeze of minus 60 degrees.
All heads are turned toward spectacular scenery.
 But they did!
We followed in their footsteps -- the easy way -- on a recent cruise to Alaska with a stop in Skagway.
Our gear included binoculars, protein bars, bottled water and  winter coats.  We weren't carrying the pick-axes and dynamite our ancestors needed, and we rode no hungry horses.
Instead, we viewed Skagway from our Bliss balcony while slipping on winter coats. We were glad for them -- as we left our cozy stateroom to answer the "all aboard" call and ride the spectacular iron rail.
SKAGWAY IS on Alaska's panhandle, a compact city in the state's southeast, along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It's home to early gold-rush-era buildings, carefully preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. There's the Red Onion Saloon, established in 1898 as a bordello for lonely miners and today a popular downtown saloon. This colorful and lively place houses a museum that preserves the seamy history of the town.
So have a wee nip there, then head for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, which accommodates thousands of Skagway cruise visitors each year.  It combines scenery with history in comfy cars driven by vintage locomotives and provides an entertaining morning or afternoon to give you a great overview of the city's past and important place in Alaska's development. 
NCL's Bliss stops in stunning Skagway, after
visiting Ketchikan and Juneau. The ship's unique
rounded floor to ceiling windows in comfy
 lounges offer spectacular views of Glacier Bay. 

Picturesque Skagway is home to sled dogs and mushers,
beer makers, glass blowers, fishermen and wood carvers.

IF YOU HAVE not been to Skagway, you'll want to make this stop, even if for only a day on a cruise. We've visited a half-dozen times, and recommend NCL's sleek and inviting Bliss which makes all the important Alaska stops, departing from Seattle. Once in Skagway, traverse the steep Chilkoot trail to see sweeping mountain views as you climb from ship to train toward Canada.

THERE'S PLENTY  to do in Skagway if you're here for several days: dog sledding, gold rush history and an interesting main street with restored buildings. We left our "Blissful" comforts and Skagway behind, to climb past gorgeous falls, gulches, canyons and riverbeds white with winter's snow, heading to White Pass Summit's international boundary between U.S. and Canada.

As spring comes, the mountains green up and on the curves,
passengers can view the impressive length of the train.

A lively commentary describes the building of this legendary railroad and the brave men who cut grade on Tunnel Mountain and other foreboding hills to accommodate determined, even frenzied gold miners.
THE HISTORY dates to 1896 when George Carmack and two Indian companions, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie, found a few golden flakes in Bonanza Creek in the Klondike.  Although their discovery barely filled the spent cartridge of a Winchester rifle, it triggered a stampede for riches.  The Klondike gold Rush was on.

A detail of the massive snow plow
used by the train in winter.
Our knowledgeable guide didn't 
sugarcoat this colorful episode in history.  It had its tragic side. More than 30 men were killed during the building of 110 miles of track and many horses and pack animals plunged to their deaths or starved in the bitter cold and treacherous pathway.
NOT ALL miners thought to bring proper horse feed or treat their faithful pack animals with care. Some of the work took place in dead of winter when heavy snows blocked the 16-degree turns and temperatures plunged to minus 60 degrees.
WE ENJOYED the cars' names -- they're all christened after lakes and rivers in Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia.  Most are at least 40 years old.  Lake Tutshi, vintage 1893, which starred in the 1935 movie, "Diamond Jim Brady," or Lake Lebarge, which carried Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the same trek we took -- back in 1959. The oldest car is Lake Emerald, built in 1883 and still traveling the line.

Snow melt provides gushing streams; the train tour offers
stunning views of the gullies and ravines on the route.
 Along the route, there's plenty of history -- of the vigorous miners who dared the dangers of the pass in search of their fortune and other enterprising souls whose luck was not with them. Various shady characters tried to cash in on the miners, including George Brackett, a one-time construction engineer who built a 12- mile toll road up White Pass canyon. This worked for a brief time, until angry miners tossed the toll gates down a ravine making his road  a failure. But clever Brackett made out well, eventually, when White Pass and Yukon Railroad Company organized and paid him $110,000 for the a right-of-way.
Safely back from a thrilling
rail ride, "Keller and Cookie"
head back to NCL's Bliss.

On our return back towards Skagway with its quaint pastel buildings, we took a last look at the Sawtooth Mountains and admired the bright colored flora: golden arnica, pink fireweed, purple monkshood, scarlet columbine, lavender geranium, white yarrow and the deep red berries of the mountain ash. Soon, NCL's Bliss welcomed us home.

For more information or to book an NCL, 866.234.7350.
To book the rail excursion: 1 800 343-7373;


All eyes are on the horizon as an orca pod is spotted.
UP NEXT: Juneau is the place to be if you're looking for superb marine-life viewing. There's much more to Alaska's capital city than Sarah Palin. We take readers on a wild and chilly  whale and dolphin watching tour. It's good fun and a serious boat ride deep into the Gastineau Channel and Alaskan panhandle.  The air is crisp, the sun shines bright and the whale-watching boats are back in business  with Juneau Tours and Whale Watch. You're in for an exciting whale watching tour, one of the best we've experienced in looking for whales on several continents. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly!



Thursday, July 7, 2022

Ketchikan catch-up: eagles, waterfalls and a smuggling bordello


Ketchikan's Creek Street is as bustling now, differently than in the 1930s when booze and brothels
were the order of the day.  Now, it's tourism, and the street is lined with shops, galleries and cafes.


 Totem poles in Ketchikan tell sacred stories.


YOU MAY think you know Ketchikan, if you've been in and out on a cruise ship to take a half-day tour.

But you haven't really seen this lovely "first" Alaskan town unless you've toured it with a jovial transplanted Scotsman named Cruin MacGriogair.

Since it was our fifth visit, we were looking for something new and found this charming tour guide, woodcarver, philosopher on line.

This stunning scenery is what attracted Cruin
and enticed him from his native Scotland.

He met us dressed  in a traditional kilt -- he's a big guy, so it's a big kilt -- and began a lively tour of this 1880s village turned bustling tourist spot.

Bruce Keller and Cruin
MacGriogair talk history.

The town gets its "first" moniker because it is set at the southernmost entrance to Alaska's famed Inside Passage -- network of waterways that snake through some of the world's most stunning wilderness. It's the "first" town most tourists see on their trek into our 49th state. 
SO WHY DID did MacGriogair trade pastoral Edinburgh, Scotland, for the rugged beauty of Ketchikan?  "Why? Just look at this," he says, sweeping his hand affectionately across the horizon. "Beauty everywhere." On that note, we set off for Cruin's take on the town's most famous Creek Street. He pointed out a sign for "Married Man's Trail," where men could sneak along a woodsy trail to reach the brothels on Creek Street below undetected.

Cruin displayed his custom made tools, with
which he carves and creates one-of-a-kind art.

Brothels were big business with 30 operating between 1903 and the 1953 closure of the infamous red light district. Its most famous madam, Dolly, operated until then and is vividly remembered in Dolly's House and Museum, complete with red satin curtains, appropriate for a red light district.
CRUIN TOLD TALES of a hidden trap door through which booze boxes were smuggled into boats on the river below, and through which partiers could escape during raids.
Because a "Cruin tour" is custom designed, this amiable guide will
stop for whatever piques your fancy. Here, he pulled over so we could
photograph this beautiful bald eagle on a drive outside town.

We drove both ends of the town and beyond, traveling the Tongass Highway-- to the controversial new cruise ship dock (large ships pay less here, docking a few kilometers from the city) to the other end of town with beautiful trees and abundant bird life. He stopped so we could photograph a bald eagle and answered questions about berry bushes and trees, showing knowledge and enthusiasm for his chosen home.
THE PLACE has a wild feel, with both fishing and timber still a large part of the economy. Tourism, of course, is the third side of Ketchikan's economic triangle. Cruin's delightful tour is custom designed. The visitor tells him what he wants to see. We said "take us off the beaten track," and he did, with history, art, dining and shopping tips.
Christene "Cookie" Meyers and
Bruce Keller at a "Cruin stop."
Our ship was among three that recent day, when the town's 6,000 people are visited by thousands of tourists departing ships to spend their day seeing the sights and shopping.
NEARLY ALL come away with a package of salmon, since Ketchikan is the world's salmon capital. At the salmon industry's peak in the 1930s, there were 13 canneries exporting  tens of thousands of pounds of salmon.
WHAT GIVES the town its name? Ketchikan comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin, which likely means  "the river belonging to Kitschk." We learned of other possible meanings, including my favorite: "Thundering Wings of an Eagle." Cruin also emphasized that native peoples inhabited the area for centuries before its 1886 settlement, which explains the town's fascination with Native American artifacts and totem poles, both on display throughout town. 
A skilled carver himself, Cruin makes his own tools, so he knows the painstaking way in which totems are created.  He also shared insight into the word "totem.”  It's a reference to a guardian, ancestral being, or a supernatural spirit, and  can also symbolize significant events. The Tlingit call the totem pole "kooteeyaa,” meaning "people of the other side.” 
THE TOWN'S colorful and continually changing totem poles tell the history of its people through these eye-catching, wooden sculptures. We'd seen Totem Bright State Historical Park with its extensive totem collection so we asked Cruin to show us his town's unique poles instead. With his wife Elizabeth, of native descent, he's studied many Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian totem poles.  Some are under restoration, others recently preserved, a few need work and the town plans to see that done, Cruin said. 
Crazy Wolf Studio offers unique masks, authentic glass and
carved wooden art and a fine selection of tasteful souvenirs.


WE'D EARLIER toured nearby Misty Fiords National Monument, a glacier-carved wilderness with snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It's fun to see once but you'll  find a more vivid insider's tour through Cruin's own stories and close-up bird, forest and nature stops.

A beautiful sculptural bear commands center
stage at Ketchikan's Tongass Historical Museum
WE RECOMMEND a stop at Totem Heritage Center,  a downtown museum that houses precious 19th-century totem poles collected and preserved with permission from the Alaska Native elders, and Saxman Totem Park, home to 25 totems -- well done, authentic replicas of original poles found left in abandoned villages as Native Alaskans moved into more populated cities.
And do ask Cruin to take you to his favorite gallery, Crazy Wolf Studio, where native American artist Ken Decker's exquisite work is on view. It's a museum quality collection of masks, beadwork, glass and carvings, plus for the budget minded, beautiful native inspired notecards, vivid prints and elegant dream catchers. 


A conductor brings the train in aboard the White Pass
and Yukon Route Railroad, with spectacular scenery.

We're north -- in Alaska, with highlights of several days spent there recently. Next up, we ride the chilly rails into Yukon territory aboard one of the world's most exciting trains.   Then we're whale watching in Juneau, for humpbacks, orcas and a bevy of dolphins.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at nature, adventure, travel, family and the arts.

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy New York Fourth of July, memorial, and a salute to global spirit


One World Trade Center is a remarkable homage to those whose lives
were lost in the "9/11" terrorist attacks. A museum and a beautiful
reflecting pool with victims' names honor their memory.



Our Fourth of July last year included a trip to New York
and a bus tour of the city, something we've done before
but always enjoy for a new take. Fun to do on July Fourth

AS WE gather to feast, enjoy fireworks and treasure family and friends, we pay tribute to the international spirit of New York City, which played a key role in the settlement of the United States. And we salute the city's ability to heal.

This bustling berg traces its origins to a trading post founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island by Dutch colonists in 1624. They named their settlement New Amsterdam in 1626, long before the Founding Fathers came along.  New Amsterdam was chartered as a city in 1653.

VIEWING FIREWORKS over the Statue of Liberty is an uplifting way to affirm all that's good about America.  We've welcome immigrants since our beginnings, and our countrymen celebrate the diversity that makes the USA so appealing.  Our own circle includes friends from all over the world who share our fondness for American enterprise, 
The melting pot of New York City is evident
and full of  energy near Times Square.

humor, spirit of adventure, generosity and good will.
From 1776 to today, the holiday is celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities and reunions, rodeos, fireworks, parades and concerts.
But between family gatherings and barbecues, let's ponder what really makes America -- and New York -- great -- politics aside, please.

One World Trade Center stands
where the Twin Towers were.
WHAT TO ME best describes our country is a double-card strong suit that trumps all others: our resilience and compassion.
We've got spirit in spades, and we are proud of our ability to leaven even the murkiest challenges with humor. We are known worldwide for our capacity to recover from difficulties, for our toughness and resolve. And we're known for our kindness.  In dozens of visits to New York, I've always been graciously accommodated when I ask help with directions. I've even had New Yorkers guide me to the museum, the restaurant, the park. "Here, I'm going that way, I'll take you there." That's New York, and one of the reasons I love it.
New York welcomes visitors from all over the
world, as this Indian woman illustrates. Here she
poses as her husband did earlier, in Midtown.
 resilience as "the spring back into shape; elasticity."
No where is that more evident than in the reimagined One World Trade Center.  People from all over the world come to meditate, to ponder, to appreciate the way in which New Yorkers rebounded from tragedy and created a beautiful space from death and destruction.

A guide there told me that she's seen not only relatives of 9/11 victims, but veterans of war, people recovering from health issues and car accidents, parents struggling for peace after losing a child to gun violence.

Patrick Harry Cosgriffe fishing the Stillwater
River in early spring, happy in his Montana home.

THIS FOURTH of July is also the weekend our family is celebrating our brother's life.  Patrick Harry Cosgriffe accomplished a great deal in his too brief life.  Although he never particularly liked school, he graduated from college with honors. He did this while raising a handicapped child with his devoted partner after the birth mother abrogated responsibility. He was a gifted artist and fisherman, beloved brother, uncle, cousin, friend.

So next time I visit Ground Zero and the beautiful 9/11 memorial, I'll say a prayer for Patrick, as many visitors do, remembering their departed loved ones at a scene of calm and reflection.

AS OUR CLAN says good-bye to Patrick, I think of the thousands of lives altered by the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and in the fields of Pennsylvania, where a heroic group of passengers brought down a third suicide plane 
headed for the White House.
A visit to New York has always been healing for me, with my life long love of theater. So I'll again give my regards to Broadway, honor a city with a rich history, and remember my hero Patrick and his huge heart.

Totems in Skagway, Alaska, tell stories, often about mythical creatures
and sometimes featuring the crow, known for his quick thinking
and his ability to trick. This one is a favorite of our able guide, Cruin.

UP NEXT: While Montana is recovering from record flood damage and families are celebrating summer, we find tranquil climes as we sail up the beautiful coast of California, past Oregon and Washington, to cruise Alaska's rich waters. We'll share this unique state's wonders in a three-part series. First, we take you to Ketchikan, where totem poles are revered and continually being restored, displayed and created. Our guide is a transplanted Scotsman with tales to tell. Then Skagway with its splendid rail trip to the Yukon, for stunning scenery and breathtaking views of the wilderness. Finally, we're on the whale trail in Juneau. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, nature, family and travel: