Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Alaska by land

Alaska, land and sea, are two shiny sides of the same valuable coin. If at all possible, try to fit in both. The thought that someday you can go back and do the other portion is almost as good as saying someday I’ll look younger.

After crossing Prince William Sound our land adventure began at the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Copper River.

Again, we chose Princess because the cruise line has lodges in Alaska so we didn’t have to make separate arrangements. However, a traveler can find other accommodations in the area because of its terrific fishing location at the junction of the Copper and Klutina Rivers.

The lodge is also about four miles from Wrangell-St.Elias National Park’s visitor center.  Good mountain photography views abound, just take the bear warning signs seriously if hiking park or lodge trails.

The view from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitors Center

The view from the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park Visitors Center

While boating the rivers in the area we saw bears and eagles competing for salmon. Our salmon dinner was pretty good though we didn’t fish. We just enjoyed the action and scenery.

Bears, eagles and other birds compete for salmon along the Copper River and its tributaries

Bears, eagles and other birds compete for salmon along the Copper River and its tributaries

Fishing setups are a common sight on the Copper and the Klutina tributary

Fishing setups are a common sight on the Copper and the Klutina tributary

Coming Next: Denali

Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park

Skagway

If you like a sense of turning back to the end of the 19th century and old narrow gauge rails, you’ll like Skagway. More than 20,000 gold prospectors built the town overnight and turned it into a rough and tumble “old-west” in 1898. They were on their way to make their fortunes in the Klondike.

Built practically overnight as the gateway to the Klondike, Skagway is worth a stop for its Old West feel and White Pass train ride

Skagway is worth a stop for its Old West feel and White Pass train ride

When you disembark, walk the shops and take the White Pass & Yukon Route train for terrific scenery (not for people who avoid heights.) This is the place to buy a replica of the famed White Pass Engine if you have a train buff at home.


Glacier Bay National Park

Cruising into Glacier Bay with its nine tidewater glaciers (they empty into the bay) is unforgettable.

Put on the jacket and go on deck. You will see glaciers calving (breaking off of a chunk of ice). Listen for a roar and get the camera ready. Here you will also see icebergs and sea lions. Our ship stayed in the bay all afternoon and moved close in to the glaciers to see deep blue crevices, cracks and caves.

Our ship was able to get up close to some of the glaciers

Our ship was able to get up close to some of the glaciers

The pieces of ice in the water is from this glacier's calving about a minute earlier

The pieces of ice in the water is from this glacier's calving about a minute earlier

More information at Skagway

More information at Glacier Bay National Park

Taking a last look around Glacier Bay before heading to next town

Taking a last look around Glacier Bay before heading to next town

Coming Next: Haines and College Fjord

Juneau, gateway to the glaciers

Imagine a short ride up the street from your state’s capital to dead end at a gigantic, year-round block of ice. As Alaska’s capital, Juneau is worth a visit, but if you have never walked or been bussed on the Columbia Ice Fields in Alberta Canada, then do so on the Juneau Icefield.

Oohs & camera clicks sound passing the Mendenhall and other glaciers on our spectacular cruise

Oohs & camera clicks sound, passing the Mendenhall and other glaciers on our spectacular cruise

You can take a “flightseeing” tour of the Icefield that includes landing on it and a lesson in how to hike the ice and information on what you are seeing. You can also get a close-up look of arguably Juneau’s most familiar name: the Mendenhall Glacier. To do a flightseeing tour arrange ahead of time with TEMSCO, a veteran Alaskan flight company.

We have walked the Columbia Ice Fields so our choice was to see Mendenhall through our ship’s tour but arrange for whale watching on our own.

Because we arrived before the main tourist season we were able to walk up to a hut on the pier and book the next boat out from Orca Enterprises with Capt. Larry. Not only did he know where to go to find pods of whales, he also knew the islands and channels where we could see eagles and other wildlife. Plus, the boat was small so we could get up close and were not part of a large group.

You have to be quick to catch whales surfacing.

You have to be quick to catch whales surfacing.

An eagle watches for other eagles who land on the tiny grop of rocks

An eagle watches for other eagles who land on the tiny group of rocks

Sea lions jostle to be king of the hill

Sea lions jostle to be king of the hill

As beautiful as we heard Alaska was, we still were not prepared for so many awesome sights. And we hadn’t yet seen Glacier Bay National Park

For more info
TravelJuneau
whalewatching
TEMSCO flightseeing

Coming Next: Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska, the Inside Passage, part 1

Starting out 

Flying into Vancouver, B.C. is the perfect opener to an eye-popping scenic adventure. Miles of forests, rivers, straits and mountains surround the city, whetting the appetite for the gorgeous scenery to come.  To stay overnight in Vancouver, we chose a hotel on the water within walking distance of our port. But we arrived early enough to take a scenic bus tour around the city. Floatplanes constantly took off and landed outside our hotel, giving us our first idea of how important small planes are for getting around in BC and Alaska.

As host to the Olympics in early 2010, Vancouver  added several hotels so finding one to meet the budget and travel style is not a problem. 

Vancouver BC

Vancouver’s cruise ship port looks like a distant cousin of the Sydney Opera House

Float Plane Landing Vancouver BC

Floatplanes constantly landed and took off outside our hotel

 

  

 

Vancouver BC

Stanley Park, a good place to spend the day, sticks out into the water like a thumb

Ketchikan 

Jaded travelers may say that Ketchikan, usually the first port of call, is a mere tourist trap. Maybe if a visitor spends the entire time on shore browsing the cute village shops, the person would leave with the impression the town is about shopping.  We did our share of browsing but what we loved in Ketchikan was the Saxman Native Village. The town claims to have the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Many of them can be seen at Saxman, Totem Bight State Park and the Totem Heritage Center.  After sitting and putting away more food that was good for us, we also liked the hike to Saxman, particularly passing trees filled with eagles and houses that had totem poles out front. 

Ketchikan, Alaska

Cute shops attract shoppers in Ketchikan, a fishing village also known for its totem poles

 
 
 
 

Totem poles line the Saxman Native Village entrance

Totem poles line the Saxman Native Village entrance

Saxman should be a Ketchikan destination

Saxman should be a Ketchikan destination

Eagles take over the trees on the way to Saxman

Eagles take over the trees on the way to Saxman

Links For More Info:

Tourism Vancouver
Travel Alaska
Visit Ketchikan
  

Coming Up: Alaska, the Inside Passage, part 2

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