Alaska: The Final Frontier!
Alaska was green, chilly at times, and overall amazing! As you can imagine, there was no shortage of smoked salmon.
We flew into Anchorage, Alaska, drove by charter to Whittier, Alaska, and sailed south along the coastline stopping in Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and finally disembarking in Vancouver, Canada.
When we arrived in Skagway, we were greeted with chilly temperatures and rain-- a nice break from the hot Texas weather. Our first stop was a train ride on The White Pass up the mountainside; the railroad was built in the early 1900's for the Klondike Gold Rush. The views (like all of them) where breath-taking and like nothing we’ve seen before. After site seeing for a couple of hours, we ate the most AMAZING smoked salmon at the Historic Skagway Inn. When it was first built in 1897, it was operated as a brothel, family residence and then a boarding house before finally becoming what it is now. Each room has been dressed with antiques and named after ladies that worked there in the late 1800's. After lunch we learned how they panned for gold during the gold rush. We each received a metal pan with gravel and instructions on how to use water to remove all but the gold. It was a neat experience but let's just say I'm glad I don't have to pan for gold for a living.
Juneau was slightly overcast and is home to the oh-so majestic bald eagles. Lucky for us, our bus tour guide said that this would be the perfect weather for whale watching. After a short commute to the boat dock we began our adventure to find the whales.
Roughly 10 minutes into the trip, the tour guide grumbled that he would give us a full refund in the case we didn't find a whale. As if that was the magic phrase, a large whale decided to breach completely out of the water! It was amazing to see in person but, of course, NO ONE was camera ready. Our tour guide said that breaching only happens once or twice a week in Alaska and it is typically a male showing off for a female. Now everyone eyes are glued to the water waiting for the next whale sighting, cameras ready to go.
To spot a whale, you look for the whale to surface and clear their lungs, causing a cloud of white mist shooting in the air. They will do this several times before they dive back down to feed. When they dive down you will see their fluke (tale) come out of the water and disappear for an average 5-10 minutes. Hump Back Whales spend their summers feeding in Alaska and in the winter they migrate to Hawaii to birth their young.
On our way back to the dock we where able to see several stellar sea lions perched on a large buoy in the water. They are much bigger than I originally thought and I am glad we didn't get too close. They looked like a rambunctious bunch! After we left, our stomachs reminded rumbled all the way to a privately owned, all you can eat salmon bake restaurant. What better way to celebrate being in Alaska than to eat as much delicious smoked salmon as we could? The honey-based sauce they slathered on made it all-the-more delectable....
Back to the pictures:
Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in the US receiving more than 16-20ft of rain per year! Because of this, they only get around 40 days of solid sunshine per year. As chance would have it, we were lucky enough to visit the city on a beautiful, warm, sunny day (just the way we Texans like it).
Our first stop in Ketchikan was the Lumber Jack Show (yes as in buff men wearing red plaid shirts). Because of the massive trees in Alaska, their is a great logging industry that creates a lot of jobs and men travel from all over to work and compete there. During the show, they demonstrated different ways to cut down the trees, climb the trees, and even some axe throwing-- all as a friendly competition between two teams. Unfortunately, we don't have any photos from the show but it was a fun experience to watch the talented men show off their impressive skills!
After the show we stopped at the Fish House for lunch. They had the BEST fish ‘n chips I have ever had with cole slaw that I could appreciate even though I'm not a huge fan. Once we finished eating, we strolled through the city back to the boat and watched the waters flow in and out, riddled with jellyfish of all kinds.
Our final experience in Ketchikan was seawater kayaking in the bay. I'm pretty sure my arms are still sore from battling the enormous fishing boat wakes! Luckily, our kayaks could fit two people and Brandon was right behind me, steering us to safety. I would choose no one else to share these experiences.
Glacial trips in Alaska
These Glaciers are big. By big, I mean GINORMOUS! The Hubbard glacier is the biggest hanging glacier in the area at some 600 feet tall, 7 miles wide, and a whopping 76 miles long!
Aside from the facts (and cute little seals and sea otters), there is not much to say so much as to observe. I hope you can glean from these pictures even a small amount of the majesty that was these natural wonders.
Hands down, we would do this trip again. Over and over! The Crown Princess was seamless and treated us well, as did Alaska. Brandon is itching to go back just to hike in the wilderness for a few weeks. While that sounds fun and all, I will only join him if he runs off the big old bears!