Sunday, September 5, 2010

North to Alaska

This post is about the Alaska Cruise we just returned from

Tom took us to the airport at 5:00 Saturday morning August 28, 2010. Brett had just called the night before and checked in so we would know that he had travelled safely back to Provo. Your mother would have never left town not knowing. We boarded an Alaska Airlines to Seattle, Washington and there had an hour layover before boarding a flight to Anchorage. When there we found our tour bus provided by Princess cruises and it took us to Whittier, Alaska. This was our starting point and where we boarded the Cruise ship. We drove through a 2 1/2 mile long one lane tunnel to get there. Whittier was a 2nd World War naval base and was completely cut off from roads until they decided to cut through the mountain so they could access it by train. Just a couple of years ago it was decided to widen it enough for cars and buses. Beautiful little seaport village. We set sail shortly after arriving for Skagway, Alaska. Mom and I were pretty tired following a day of flying and busing to do much more than put stuff away and get something to eat and then walk around the ship a bit to get our bearings. The ship is 15 stories and 2.8 laps is one mile around the outside. We know because of the posted signs and we did many laps around this boat so we could partake of the wonderful food. The buffet was open 24 hours a day and each night we ate at the Bardeaux Room. It was on our floor and we selected open dining which means that we would go and each night we would sit with 6 new people we had never met instead of fixed meaning the same people every meal. We met some of the most wonderful people during the week. In fact a few gave us their names, emails and phone numbers the last couple of days and even offered us lodging if we ever got to their neck of the woods. One couple from Western Pennsylvania, not much older than us, both retired school teachers. He still owns a Christmas tree farm and we hit it off quickly. Another couple from Providence, Rhode Island. She is a nurse and he is a Corrections officer. They have eight children, 4 adopted from the same mother. We really enjoyed our visits with them also. Another couple was one we sat with at the Crooners lounge most evenings listening to a entertainer named Roger Carr. This man could play any song by heart and would take requests each evening. he also did a "name that tune" contest each evening. This lady and her husband were very good at remembering artists and composers and broadway hits. When they had trouble there were a few I was able to help with but not many. (and i thought i was good). We went there so your mother could get her virgin pina colada.
The down time on the ship was as much fun as the land tours. We saw movies (Letters to Juliet, Iron Man 2, Date night, Stupid movie) and karaoke, we learned to ball room dance (2 separate classes) We saw some very good productions put on by the young singers and dancers on board the ship. These kids were amazing as they had to learn three completely different shows to perform during the week. We saw a ventriloquist and a comedian (your mother hated this guy) other than that we ate and walked when we wanted. We saw two whales right alongside the ship while walking one morning, we saw a school of Dolphins jumping alongside the ship one afternoon. Most of the time we were within sight of land which made your mother happy. We had our picture taken just about every day for something or another but they all made mom look (her words) hair looks terrible, my crazy eye, my fat arms, etc. So we only ended up with one shot (I will include it later)
I would love to show some of our wonderful shots of Anchorage, Alaska and Glacier Bay and a few other Glaciers we passed and took pictures of but your mother is her daddy's girl and she somehow deleted the first two days of the trip, so I will start with our land tour from Skagway up into the Yukon Territory which took us through British Columbia, Canada to a place called Caribou Crossing. All of these places were involved with the gold rush of the 1890's.

This was the only picture we have now of a Glacier and this one is high in the mountains instead of right next to the ship in a bay full of ice. Those earlier glaciers were a beautiful blue color and when a piece would break away it would be preceded by a sound like a gun going off, the bigger the piece breaking off the louder the sound. Then it would fall and create a big wave across the bay. pretty impressive. We only saw a couple of smaller ones break loose.

This was our bus ride up to Caribou Crossing. Our driver was a 24 year old girl that has been doing this for 3 years. She works eight months in the states for Holland America and then comes to Alaska and drives for Princess. The picture is of a suspension bridge that floats on the upward side because it is built over an intersecting large earthquake fault-line. Only one vehicle at a time can go over.
This picture is of about a million "Inukshuk's" early explorers would do the same as present day scouts. They would mark their directions for followers by using rocks. The longest rock would show the direction. People have made tons of them over the years. it was an impressive sight.
This is the train we took back to the ship at Skagway. The thing worth mentioning is that the wheelbase is 16 inches narrower than a standard train. There were many tight turns where we were looking straight down hunderds of feet which means we were like halfway into space. Breathtaking for sure.
At the top of the ride the bus driver took us to this beautiful lake "Emerald Lake". It looked like something you would see in the Caribbean someplace. The run-off from glaciers is so pure that every lake that is fed by a glacier is the most beautiful blue and a rain fed lake is just like stuff we see on Cedar Mountain. The thing that really impressed me about this area was the way the mountains were so sheer. They just went up right now for thousands of feet. There were two lakes we passed that were in excess of thirty miles long and over 600 feet deep for that very reason.
This is a picture of what is called the "Tormented Forrest". The weight of the Glacier for hundreds of years created miles and miles of rock where there was no dirt and only silt from the glaciers. Over the years the trees would grow but with only 4 to 8 inches of root length the trees are only about 4 to 6 feet tall and sparse. This place was one of the coolest places for me. As we rode past it in the train there was small bodies of water everywhere but no run off and one little lake would be 20 feet higher than another one right below it and they would be completely separate. I loved this area.

One of these pictures was taken from the bus going away from Skagway and the other from the train returning. They show a glimpse of the port and our cruise ship in the distance. I thought it was worth taking.
I included this shot because there were many waterfalls similar to this one. They are fed directly from a Glacier and I want to say that they drop something like 3500 feet over a few miles to a river that we follow most of the way up to Caribou Crossing.
The following day we docked at Juneau, Alaska. We took a tour called Town, Tram and Trek which took us around the village of Juneau and across the harbor to an island called Douglas Island where I took a picture of the ship and sent it to you guys with my phone
This is like the picture I sent each of you.
The cool thing about Juneau is that it is only accessible by boat or plane even though it is the Capitol of Alaska. it is completely surrounded by glacier. it has the governors mansion and is a very beautiful place but is kind of an island. The clouds were in most of the day we were there but when we got to the top of the tram they lifted and I was able to get a few pictures of the bay and the ship.
I thought it was cool that the clouds lifted enough to get a good picture. The tram went up 1500 feet and took fifteen minutes one way.
This is a picture of us as we prepared to go hiking on Mount Robert's. The hike was around two miles through a rain forest and up above tree level. The foliage was thick and very green even when we were up above the trees. The hike seemed short and we weren't going very fast but because of the altitude it was enough.
I included this picture because this plant is called a diamond flower. The reason is because when it get any moisture it saves the water in the center and it looks like a diamond. Every stem had a flower just like this and they were all over the place.
Our final stop in Alaska was at a port called Ketchikan. Your mom really liked this one because it was a little bigger village and she got some shopping done. it rained the whole day and we were out in it almost all day but it was not a cold rain at all just a wet one. noamsan? I found my next harley as we were going to buy me a tee shirt. Mom told me if i can sell the one I have I can fly up and buy this one and ride it home alone. Sorry, no picture.
This is us in town shopping. We walked past a couple eating some shrimp and they offered us some and it was so good we went right over and bought our own. I have to say that never in my life have I seen so many jewelry shops in my life. In every town we were in they were everywhere.

These pictures are of our 11 mile bike ride in the rain. Sounds bad but I think it was one of my highlights of the trip. Some information about this is that the locals were excited about the rain because they told us they had not gotten any rain for the month of July and really needed it. The girl that was our guide was twenty four and just as cute as can be. She does this ride and some rain forest hikes each day for the summer. She and your mother hit it off right away and they rode together most of the day. imagine how much information she must have given mom without even knowing it. Ha Ha,
I had to include this picture because it was so interesting. The highway we rode on went right out of the city and all the time we were on it an occasional car or truck would pass us so I thought it must go to the next town or something, well all of the sudden it just ended, from two lanes with a double yellow line to a dirt parking lot. So we laid our bikes down and went for a hike into the most beautiful rain forest with it raining cats and dogs.
This is mom and I standing somewhere in the rain forest. I tried to include a short video of one of the streams we crossed but blogger wouldn't download it. While we were in ketchikan the King Salmon were running from the ocean up the fresh water rivers and streams however because of the rain and also the fact that there is very little top soil on these mountains, the water just runs right off and into these streams and while we were out the three small streams we crossed were in flood and about three times their original size. it was kind of scary. We watched a few fish trying to make a run but the current was so strong that they were just washed back down stream. Ana our guide took us to a small beach to show us what one looked like in that area, it was small and very secluded. She said that there are few of them with any kind of sand, mostly just rocks. As you can see by the pictures, I was in a pair of denims and got very soaked, even my shoes were full of water. I took a long shower back at the ship to dry off and warm up.
Our last stop was Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. What a beautiful City. The home of the 2010 winter Olympics' and these people are very proud of that fact.

We took a bus tour of the city which dropped us at the airport at the end. One of the places we enjoyed the most was a park named Lord Stanley park. It is huge and there are bicycle trails all over it to ride. Mom and I talked about returning soon and riding around it. Most of the pictures we took were at that location.
from there we went to the airport and worked our way through customs boarded our plane, which was the first time in over twenty five years I have flown on a prop plane. it was a puddle jumper that took us to Portland, Oregon where we had a short layover before our last leg home to Las Vegas. We love Portland so that was no problem, it is an airport we are familiar with.
It was hard to leave the ship and feel that the cruise was over. Like the entertainment director on the ship said the last day. What were we going to do when we got home and dropped something say in the shower. For a whole week everything we messed up was cleaned up when we got back to our room or at dinner. One of the waiters that we got to know pretty well at dinner got after your mom one evening for tasting one of my appetizers. he told her that was not allowed, she should just order her own, so from that point on if she had something I thought looked good, I ordered one for myself and they would bring it out to me. A couple of times we ordered a main course meal for myself and then another one to share with mom because they looked so good. And believe me they were good. The cabins with the window view were smaller than the inside without views. I would imagine it is because they want to get more money for them so they make more of them. One of the entertainers made the joke that everyone should take two bars of soap into the shower because if we dropped the soap while showering and were to try to bend over to pick it up we would probably end up flushing the toilet and turning off the lights at the same time. They were small for a person my size. The good thing is that we spent very little time in our rooms, mostly to clean up and sleep. The bed was good and we slept good the whole cruise. Like i said, there was very little chance of sea sickness because we were never really out in the open sea. I think we both had a wonderful time and the only time we even came close to having a disagreement was when we were learning to ballroom dance. Your mother insisted on leading.
Now you guys tell me, is she the most beautiful woman ever or what. AND she is a saint to put up with me. This was the only picture she would allow me to buy.


Bryce said...

That was fun to read. I am so happy that you guys were able to experience something that was so wonderful. Maybe in like 20 years we can all go together:)

Tom said...

Pretty dang cool. That has got to be heaven on earth with all that beauty up there. Good memories.

Taralee said...

Wow! Sounds awesome. It gave me a little feeling like I was there. Thanks for all the detail dad. I think I must be your daughter or something! :) I loved it! The bike ride sounded awesome! I bet that was so fun for you 2 bikesters.

I totally laughed when you said mom didn't like the pictures because her "arms are fat, freaky eye, messy hair"...

I really like that last picture of you 2. Very cute!

I'm glad you guys had such a good time!!!

Shelise said...

Fun! Yes I just finished reading it. lol. I really like that last picture of you guys. Sounds like a great trip though. That would be fun to take a trip like that to a place that you haven't been before and just have enough time to take it all in.