Just a little summary, so I don’t forget what we did, and in case anyone out there is interested in taking a trip to our 49th state.
8.1.09 – Vancouver
I flew to Vancouver to meet Ryan. He had been away from home for 6 weeks. I made it to Chicago on my first flight just fine. But for my connecting flight I had about a 4 hour delay. I boarded a plane, it had problems, they de-boarded us. I boarded a second plane, it also had problems, the de-boarded us. Finally on the third plane, I was on my way. I arrived in Vancouver 4 hours late. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel in Vancouver, which I would highly recommend. It was a great location and a very nice, newly renovated hotel. The breakfast, which was included, was awesome – eggs to order, bacon or sausage, and all the continental breakfast items you could ask for.
8.2.09 – Vancouver
We went to the Vancouver Pride Parade. We went sight seeing around Vancouver and ate at the Keg. This place has such an unfortunate name. I picture it as a place where you drink cheap beer and throw peanuts on the ground. It’s actually a pretty nice steakhouse, which is a chain, and has locations in Canada, and also some in the United States, although I had never heard of it.
8.3.09 – Vancouver
We boarded the Island Princess. This was our first cruise and we didn’t really know what to expect. The room was small, but not as small as I imagined. It was quite comfortable. The bathroom was small, but ok. The shower was really small. You couldn’t even bend over to pick up the shampoo without sticking your head out of the curtain. I hope the fancy rooms come with larger showers. We enjoyed a fruity frozen drink on the deck as the boat pulled away. We even went in the hot tub that night. The weather was nice and warm in Vancouver.
8.4.09 – Fun Day at Sea – We ate and napped and ate some more.
8.5.09 – Ketchikan, AK
First stop was in Ketchikan, AK: population 7,368 (2007) and the 5th most populous city in the state of Alaska. Our shore excursion was Eagle Islands Sea Kayaking in the Tongass National Forest. We saw several bald eagles. The water was crisp and beautiful. Unfortunately our stop was only a half day so we missed getting to see the town at all.
8.6.09 – Juneau, AK
Second stop was in Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, AK: population 30,988 (2008). Interesting fact, you cannot drive into Juneau. You have to get there by boat or air. It was very interesting to walk by the governor’s house. You can literally walk right up to it. There is about 5 feet between the street and the side windows. You can see right inside and it’s located within walking distance of downtown and the port where the cruise ships dock. In Juneau, our excursion was a biking and brewery tour. The van took us from downtown Juneau over to an area near the University of Alaska. We rode about 9 miles and got some great views of Mendenhall Glacier.
8.7.09 – Skagway, AK
Third and final stop was in Skagway, AK. We explored the town and then boarded a bus for a tour that Princess called the Klondike Summit, Suspension Bridge and Salmon Bake. I knew there would be lots and lots of eating on this cruise, so I chose active shore excursions, in hopes of counteracting all of the eating. The Skagway excursion sounded to me like it would be a hiking excursion, hence the word “summit.” But I was wrong, it was a bus trip on the scenic Klondike Highway, a historic passage that was once a trade route for the Tlingit people and a path to riches for gold-hungry stampeders. On the bus, we ascended to the 3,290-foot summit of the White Pass. It was beautiful, and while not very active, we kind of enjoyed a day off. After the summit, we went to a suspension bridge. There were lots of really cool stats like the fact that you drive 800 Mack Trucks over it at once, but none of that kept me from being scared to death while crossing it. Finally, we ended the day in Liarsville, AK at an all you can eat salmon bike. That’s my kind of meal, except that I am not a big fan of salmon. The corn bread was to die for.
8.8.09 – Glacier Bay
Now this day was exactly how I pictured an Alaskan cruise. We spent the entire day sitting on the decks with blankets and hot chocolate oohing and aahing at glaciers of Glacier Bay. It was cold, crisp and wonderful. If you’re taking this trip, I recommend very nice binoculars and warm clothes for this day! We found ourselves a nice seat under the stairs with a nice couple from NJ (?) and listened to the on ship naturalist point out glaciers. Conveniently, we were located just outside of the buffet. After 3 days off of the ship, it was nice to kick back in nature.
8.9.09 – College Fjord
Here’s where the cruise started to get a little long. We weren’t really bored, but at this point I had finished my book and we were ready to get off the boat and do our own thing. Plus, we didn’t arrive at College Fjord until about 5:30pm. We lied around, ate and watched movies all day, which is nice too. College Fjord was absolutely beautiful.
8.10.09 – Whittier, Wassila, Talkeetna, AK
While we were sleeping, the cruise ship docked in Whittier, AK. We got off the ship and picked up our extremely over priced rental car from Avis, the only rental car agency in Whittier. We had to wait almost 30 minutes to leave Whittier. Turns out there is a tunnel out of the town, and it’s only one way (Wikipedia says this tunnel opened to cars in 2000 and at that time, Whittier had 182 residents). Each hour, the tunnel allows traffic to come into Whittier for half an hour and then is open to outbound traffic for half an hour. Turns out the tunnel is actually for a train, so you’re kind of driving on railroad tracks instead of road. And along the way (2.5 miles!) there are about eight “safe houses” to go into in case there is a fire in the tunnel. Or maybe they were bomb shelters during the cold war. Whatever they were, I was kind of freaking out inside that long tunnel and trying not to let Ryan see how nervous I was.
On our way to our final destination for the day, we stopped in Wassila (about 5,500 people), Sarah Palin’s home town. We ate (as Ryan’s dad would call it) ‘where the locals eat’ at Krazy Moose Subs. We were hoping to run into Sarah, but no luck. We even stopped at the visitors’ bureau and museum, but even the people there said they haven’t run into her around time for several years. Oh well.
Finally we ended up at our destination for the next two nights, Talkeetna, AK. Our bed and breakfast was not exactly as cute as I pictured it. The outside was beautiful, but the inside felt like someone’s basement, which I guess it kind of was. Maybe I just felt funny in the space because it was so much larger than our cabin on the Island Princess. I was super excited about this place, because it was a non-hosted B & B, that advertises “a full kitchen stocked with breakfast supplies.” Now, imagine my surprise when I opened the refrigerator to see about 48 eggs, one loaf of bread, individual cream packets, individual butter packets. So, we went to the grocery store and bought a few other things to make breakfast the next day much nicer.
After settling into the “B & B” we explored the yard, and found the bikes. The other reason I loved this place is that it advertised that it has bikes you can use to bike into town. We LOVED this! We biked into the cutest little town we saw in Alaska. We shopped at little shops, we sampled beer at the Denali Brewing Company, browsed the shelves at Tales Told Twice and ate dinner at Twister Creek Restaurant – all locally owned of course! We also rode our bikes down to the banks of the Susitna River.
8.11.09 – Denali State Park and Denali National Park
We got up early and drove through Denali State Park to Denali National Park. On our way we saw a black bear in the road, just hanging out!
It was a few hours drive to Denali, but we had spectacular views of Mount McKinley almost the entire way. It was so beautiful and clear, which we’ve now learned is pretty rare. Once at Denali, you cannot drive your car more than about 13 miles into the park, so we took a bus tour. You can hop on and off the buses at the designated stops, and decide how long you want your tour to be and hike and explore if you want to. After seeing the signs about grizzly bears, and seeing all the hikers with their bear mace, I decided I’d rather stick to the paths. We stayed on the bus to the Eielson Visitors Center, and hiked up a trail there. While on the bus we saw a wolf (one of 75 in 6 million acres), caribou, a grizzly really far away, eagles, mountain goats and more. At the end of the day, we headed back to Talkeetna for our final night there.
8.12.09 – Anchorage
After breakfast in Talkeetna, we went to the home of Randy Cummins, who is a three time participant in the Iditarod. He showed us his dogs (43 of them, although we didn’t see them all) and he took us on a dog sled ride!
After the dog sled ride, we got back on the road to Anchorage. We stayed at the Historic Anchorage Inn, which was very conveniently located. We walked around downtown and even ran into some Husky puppies!
8.13.09 – Back to CT and real life.