Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vacation in Alaska

The family, my wife, daughter, aunt and I boarded the Golden Princess on July 31, 2011 bound for the great state of Alaska.  Our trip would be for 7 days, and visit the ports of Juneu, Skagway, Ketchikan and a swing though Glacier Bay State Park before stopping in Victoria the night before our return.

We had made this trip 2 years prior with the rest of the family, and now it was time to take Auntie along.

We left Seattle at 5:00 PM and started cruising up the west coast.  As it was sunny, we took advantage of the big screen and nearest bar and started the trip off right!

There is a bar right behind the photographer, and the big screen showed new movies, concerts etc. all through the day. What a cool way to take in a flick!

On the trip up, our first day was at sea, so we tooled around the boat, ate to our hearts content, relaxed on deck, and kept on watch for local wildlife....but it wasn't until we hit the inside passage that we began to see whales....

We saw Humpback whales for about 3 hours, most were way out from the boat, this one spouted within 50 yards....yep, this big ol' planet, and we are just along for the ride....

In Skagway we had a little over 10 hours in port, and decided to splurge on two excursions.  First we took the White Pass Rail trip, up to the Canadian border along the route used by gold miners in the 1800's.

We were sitting in an original rail car, that had been updated, but was still hardwood floors, tiny little seats, so I stood on the back deck shooting photos like a madman.

The 2nd excursion of the day was to visit a dog sled summer camp.  This was really cool, we learned a bunch about the history of sled dogs, the dogs they use today, and got to hold the puppies!  People live out in the bush, and during the winter, dog sleds were the only form of transportation they had, until snowmobiles came along.  Some still use dogs, but the Iditarod was run in the 70's to hold on to this way of life.  Today, competitive mushers, keep 50 or more dogs, and use these summer camps as a way to keep them in shape, and teach non-mushers (that'd be me) about the dogs.

Notice these aren't traditional Huskies...we learned that the first Iditarod was run in 29 days.  This past year was won in 9 days.  The Husky isn't a strong runner over the long haul, so they have cross bred Greyhounds, Salukis, and Labradors with the Husky to keep the dense winter coat of the Husky, the endurance of the Lab, and the speed of the Greyhounds/Salukis. These dogs, will grow their coat when winter rolls around, and just love to run.  They towed us around a 1 1/2 mill course on sleds with wheels, it was a rush!

But let's be honest...where are the puppies?
For some reason this pup thought my beard was a treat

Now he's munching my hand.

My daughter, something makes me think she likes this tour.

The next day was cruising through Glacier Bay Park...we saw Glaciers, more whales, and Calves...well glaciers calving really.  This was the highlight of the day.  We were at Marjorie Glacier, this glacier is still moving at a rate of 7' per day, it is 30 stories high, and over a mile wide.  We were 500 yards away, and when chunks of ice the size of an apartment building are breaking loose...well, it was like standing at the door of creation, and realizing you forgot a change of undies...It was loud, surreal, exhilarating, and beyond awesome.  Unfortunately I can't show the step by step photos I took, but this is one shot out of that series:
While this was a smaller calving, about the size of a bus, larger ones the size of an apartment building fell apart, into the ocean to become icebergs.  Simply awe inspiring.

This was a trip well worth the time and money.  We were gone for a week, fed extremely well.  Saw stage shows, magic shows, comedians, and movies.  We saw Glaciers, whales, gardens, city's built on stilts over the water and Eagles.  We went white water rafting, took a rail trip, and rode on a sled pulled by dogs.  Can't wait to cruise again.

But upon our return, I found the vegetable garden had exploded.  That's the next blog...though.

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