Saturday, July 13, 2013

Off to Alaska

Linda and I took a trip to Alaska. We flew into Anchorage on the 29th of June and stayed overnight. We then boarded a tour bus and headed for Seward. Along the way, we stopped at a wildlife preserve, a bay where there are generally whales (none that day), and saw some beautiful country.  Alaska is BIG!!!

This is the grizzly bear at the preserve.

Then we arrived at Seward and boarded the M.S. Zandaam from Holland America and headed out on a seven day cruise.

This is on the sports deck where we intended to take a jog each morning and work off some of the food we would be eating. Unfortunately, it only got out of the 50s one day so we spent the time running on treadmills in the fitness center instead!!!

We spent the first day out at sea travelling down the coast of Alaska.

 Here we are on the front of the ship in front of our cabin.  We had a beautiful view out the front and since the sun is up most of the day and night right now, we could see out any time!

The next day we sailed into Glacier Bay National Park. Some Park Rangers and a Tlinget native Alaskan boarded the ship and spent the day with us telling us of the different things we were seeing and giving us some history of the land.

 It was amazing to see these huge glaciers that stretched on for miles. They were a beautiful blue and we watched big chuncks of them fall into the water. It was amazing.

This glacier actually had a cave at the bottom where the ice has caved in internally. The Rangers said it would be very unwise to go into that cave.

We then headed for Haines Alaska. It was a wonderful little Alaskan town and we spent the day walking around visiting with the locals. We spent about 45 minutes with a local carver that was carving a huge totem. He explained a lot about them and showed us how them made them.

We hiked down to the harbor. You can see our ship in the background over Linda's shoulder.

It was really a fun and relaxing day.

Haines is also the site of old Fort Seward that closed in the late 40s. You can see the old buildings from the fort in the middle right of the picture.

We then sailed through the night to Juneau Alaska. It is the capitol of Alaska and is only accessible by airplane, boat, or (as our guide said) by being born there. We took a hike through the forests where glaciers had been just 60 years ago. They explained how the forest can rejuvenate in just 25 years after the glacier has been through.

We were able to hike through, and see these various stages of growth.

 We hiked up to Mendenhall Lake where we could look accross the lake and see the Mendenhall Glacier.  I think they told us the glacier is 21 miles long and is still moving at a rate of 7 inches per year. There was a huge waterfall feeding the lake from another glacier up over the mountain. You can see the waterfall above and then on the right. What you can't see are the people standing at the bottom of the waterfall. They look like ants from where we were at.

It was a beautiful lake and glacier. As we continued our hike, we came to a large stream where the salmon were on there way to their spawning grounds. We could see the huge salmon in the stream. It was really fun.

We then boarded a bus and went down to the docks and got on this little boat.  There were 20 of us including the captain and the guide. This boat was designed by their company specifically for whale watching and that was what we were going to do.

We first came upon these Orca (Killer) whales. There was a family of three swimming along jumping out of the water. Out boat had three 250 hp engines on the back so we were able to stay up with them even though they were swimming along at about 30 miles per hour.

We then turned and went over to another location and found a pod of about 15 humpback whales that were bubble net fishing. That is where they all get in a circle (head to tail) and start swimming around a school or herring (obviously below the surface in the water). They then start blowing bubbles out their spouts and the bubble all around  the fish scare them into the middle. The whales then swim up through the middle and swallow the fish as the all surface together. The seagulls above swoop down and catch the leftovers for their dinner!  We watched them do this about 10 times. They each need about a ton and a half of food each day so they spend a lot of their time fishing like this. It was amazing.

After our tour, we took a cable tram 1800 feet up the mountainside. and looked down over the bay. Our ship is the one on the right.

We did some hiking back into the mountains and saw some more of the beauty of Alaska.

We had another great day and headed back to the ship to re-energize (that means eat) and get ready for another day.

The next day we headed to Ketchikan where we saw the sun for the first time in five days!  We went out and participated in an amazing crab fest. We had all you could eat Dungeness Crab and they were fantastic. We ate until we were stuffed. I could only eat two of them. Their legs were 10-12 inches long and they were fresh caught and tasted sweet.

 After eating we boarded this float plane for a trip. They might should have thought this through and taken us on the plane first before we gained all the weight eating!!!

 I flew in the co-pilot seat and Linda was right behind me along with the other four passengers.

We flew over some wilderness country, large waterfalls, and back around the mountains to the airport near our ship (the one on the left).

Here we are landing. A friend we met on the ship took this picture and matched it up to our tail number so we could have it.

We then hiked up to a totem park and down the side of the mountain on this path.

 We ended up by this stream that the salmon were swimming up to lay their eggs.

Looking overhead, you could see the bald eagles flying around.

And there were beautiful flowers in bloom.

We left beautiful Ketchikan to spend the next day sailing to Vancouver.

 That night we walked out on the deck to watch this beautiful sunset. It was amazing.

Now it wouldn't be a cruise without some towel animals in our cabins...

We also had to win some prizes.  Linda won a drawing for a Spa treatment on our first day. We walked past the jewelry store one evening and they said they were having a drawing for some free jewelry so we stayed for the drawing and I was one of the four names drawn out. I got a watch, wallet, and pen set.

 They also asked us to participate in the jewelry fashion show. All I had to do was wear a $2500 watch and a ring that matched the jewelry Linda was wearing and escort the most beautiful woman on earth among the passengers attending so they could see them. After they gave us all some free jewelry for participating. They were going to give me another watch and Linda a bracelet from a set she had been looking at but when I explained I already won a watch, we convinced them to give Linda the entire set, necklace, earrings, and bracelet.

We also got to enjoy some wonderful entertainment on the ship. They had a violinist that would play in an area of the ship each evening with his piano player and they were wonderful. We listened to them each day.

All in all, we had a wonderful vacation but I was very happy to get back to the warmth of Hawaii!!!