Alaska Cruise 2013 -Skagway, Hubbard Glacier & Kenai Fjords

Continuing on our Alaska Cruise, we went to Skagway.  We decided to take the White Pass & Yukon Railway to the top of White Pass. It is a narrow gauge railway that uses only antique railcars.  It’s pretty cool and the scenery is stunning.

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There are 5 flags as you enter Canada that represent Alaska, USA, Canada, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  These are the areas served by the railroad.  There are several interesting sights along the way including the trail of 98, an old cemetery from the gold rush era and a monument to 2 men crushed when a slab of rock fell on them while the railroad was being built.

The railroad was built in only 2 years.  That is an amazing feat when you consider that they had no heavy equipment like we have today.  There were 35,000 people that worked on it.  As for the trail of 98, it was the route that the miners in the Klondike gold rush took to get from Skagway to the Klondike.  It started with a 20 mile hike up very steep country to White Pass and that was just the start.  It was an arduous task to get to the Klondike including having to enter Canada with at least 1 year of supplies and then having a 600 mile trip by boat and land to the Klondike.  The gold must have been a pretty powerful motivator.  There is actually a place called Dead Horse Gulch where many of the pack animals finally just gave up and died.  It was an unbelievably hard trip to the gold fields.

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Our final day at sea we cruised to the Hubbard Glacier.  You really need a panorama picture to do the Hubbard Glacier justice.  The photo above is only one part of the glacier.  It is over 600 feet thick, with 250 out of the water and 350 under water.  Its sheer size can’t really be described, you need to see it to understand how huge it really is.  The iceberg above that has the seagulls on it shows how blue the ice is in parts.  It is really quite beautiful.  It was a pretty big chunk of ice!

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After our arrival in Seward, we spent a day going to Anchorage to get our rental motor home for the rest of our adventure.  When we returned to the Kenai Peninsula, the boys went fishing for Halibut & Salmon and the girls took the Kenai Fjord tour.  On the tour we saw a lot of wildlife including Humpback Whales, sea lions, Puffins, Dall Porpoises and the Bald Eagle and Sea Otter above.  The scenery was pretty spectacular too!  The color of the water on Resurrection Bay is such a pretty blue, it could be in the Caribbean.

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Our time on the Kenai Peninsula was a lot of fun and included a trip to Soldatna and fishing on the Kenai River and a road trip to Homer.  No visit to the Homer Spit is complete without stopping at the Salty Dawg Saloon.  If you make it, check out the gift shop called Salty Girls, out behind the bar.  It has some pretty cute stuff!  Our next stop is Denali National Park.

 

 

Whale Watching along the Inside Passage at Icy Strait, Alaska – the saga of the Whale tail!

On our recent trip to Alaska, we started with a 7 night Alaska cruise on the Celebrity Millinium from Vancouver, BC to Seward, Alaska.  It makes stops at Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Skagway.  The first day is spent cruising up through the inside passage and the last day is spent cruising to the Hubbard Glacier.  The scenery is stunning, literally everywhere.  We saw a couple of whales and Dall Porpoises from the ship while we were cruising.  It was really exciting to just be having a cocktail and look out and see these phenomenal animals out the window!  For this post, I will concentrate on our time in Icy Strait Point and in particular, our whale watching excursion.  The goal is to get pictures of the whale tail as it begins to dive.  Sounds easy right?

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After missing several tail opportunities, I finally got the hang of it.  I won’t show you the misses like 1/2 a tail or just the ripple in the water after the event.  It was a challenge to get the tail with the water cascading off of it just as the whale was starting a deep dive.  I loved it.  In the picture above, not only was the water cascading off, the sunlight reflected on the water and made it a special picture, I think.  This was a great excursion because you are guaranteed to see whales.  I was impressed by how many we actually saw.  The captain was very good at angling the boat so everyone got a chance to see the whales and take pictures.  This was an excursion booked through the cruise line and they can be quite spendy but I think this one was definitely worth it!

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Icy Strait Point is a very interesting destination.  The local native corporation created this place as a cruise ship terminal near Hoonah, Alaska.  They accomplished several things at once by succeeding in getting cruise lines like Celebrity and Royal Caribbean to stop there on their Alaska itineraries.  First they converted an old cannery into a museum and shopping mall for the cruise ship passengers and in the process, created jobs for the tribe members.  It also offered a steady income to the tribe that is renewable and doesn’t harm the land or water like logging or over fishing can.  It is a pristine area that offers great fishing, whale watching, hiking, kayaking and other pursuits while in port.  It also is not nearly as crowded as some of the other cruise ports in Alaska.  We were the only cruise ship there.

One of the things they built that is interesting is a very long zip line from the top of a mountain.  They said it was the longest zip line!  That is another thing available to do here.  You go up to 60 mph!  We watched several people come down and it looked pretty exciting!  I won’t show the photos of people as I did not get their permission but you can see the start through the clouds in the picture below.  It is a LONG way up there!

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Some of the locals gave us a show demonstrating their native dances.  They wore the most beautiful colorful costumes.  It was really cool.  As you come off the ship, you are given a small piece of wood to throw on their woodchip fire.  It is a comraderie and friendship thing and everyone is asked to participate.  During a walk along the water front, I saw the seal in the picture below.  He was just cruising along fishing.Alaska 2013 105Alaska 2013 121

I also took a short hike through the coastal forest, it’s kind of primordial.  You feel like you are a million miles from civilization here.  The coast gets a lot of moisture so there are a lot of mushrooms and moss.  It seems like it must be ancient.  It’s a very peaceful walk.  I can’t say enough about how beautiful Alaska is.   Everywhere you look is something stunning to see.