Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Alaskan Adventure

Note: I took over 600 photos, so it's a bit of a long blog entry, and obviously not all photos made the cut. But regardless please enjoy the Alaska Blog!
Our summer vacation to Alaska was honestly one of the most breathtaking, and relaxing vacations we have ever taken. This was our first cruise, and I think it's safe to say that Christian and I are cruise people. It was tons of fun! There was always something to do on the ship, and if we so chose there was always time to mellow out.

We flew into Seattle, and met up with the boat in the harbor. From the deck we had a clear view of the city center, the public market and fisherman's warf, and of course their two stadiums, home of the Seahawks and Mariners. After spending a day at sea, our first stop was the gateway to Alaska, Ketchikan. Everything was within walking distance from the boat. This town boasts one of the largest collections of totem poles, and believe me they were every where you looked!
Salmon is among one of the wonderful fresh exports of Alaska. Arriving so late in the summer season their urge to spawn had just about warn off, and they're life cycle was almost complete. There were still thousands of salmon pushing their bodies to the limit as they struggled up stream, and I was lucky enough to catch one mid-flight!Christian and I thought it would be fun to catch a lumberjack show while in port. It was really entertaining. Four lumberjacks, one of which was from New Jersey of all places (The big guy in gray) competed against each other in various contests. High energy, loud, and lots of fun.The next port was Alaska's capitol, Juneau. After the boat docked, Christian and I boarded a bus that drove us about twenty minutes away from town to meet up with our activities coordinator for the day. We were going sea kayaking next to the Mendenhall Glacier.
I brought along my tiny point-and-shoot camera for this part just in case we capsized, I didn't want to loose all my photos from the trip, so the quality isn't quite as clear as the other photos. But if you look closely (Click the collage to zoom in) dead center of the trees below is a mature bald eagle watching us from her perch. I think we kayaked at least two miles maybe more and for close to two hours. We saw fish, mature and juvenile bald eagles, and harbor seals, not to mention the glacier. Our host for the afternoon pointed us in the direction of King's Crab Shack for lunch, and were we ever happy that she did! Christian and I feasted on crab bisque, crab cakes, and of course no visit to Alaska would be complete without cracking your way through a giant two foot long King Crab Leg! Soooo yummy!The following day our cruise ship skillfully navigated it's way through the Tracy Arm Fjord. Everyone on the boat woke up especially early to watch enormous mountains cruise by at what seemed to be an unbelievable close distance. Christian and I were on the upper decks by 6:30 in the morning. We both were chilled, but extremely refreshed and awestruck by what we saw.
As the channel seemed to become more and more narrow loose floating "baby" glaciers (About the size of semi-trucks) began to float by us. We sailed past these translucent blue icebergs which were silhouetted against the most dramatic backdrop of waterfall-laced rock walls ascending thousands of feet into the sky. The ship then slowly rounded a corner of mountains and suddenly appearing before us was a glacier which was miles thick. (If you see in the collage below, the boat I took a photo of was actually National Geographic taking their own photos and studying the glacier. Very cool!)
Our last port in Alaska was a tiny town called Skagway. Here's where Christian and I had the most fun. We boarded the White Pass Yukon Railway which took us up the mountainside just to drop us off in an Alaskan rain forest. We met up with our guides, Waldo from Washington and Georgia from Georgia, and went for a five mile hike in the Alaskan wilderness.Here's Waldo. Christian and I thought he was an awesome guide. (Plus he looks like the twin of my best friend's husband... don't you think so Lolo?)There were only seven of us for this excursion, and apparently we were all really good hikers, so Waldo pumped up the pace a bit to insure that we could reach a lookout point a mile further than they normally go. The burning quads were so worth it once we reached the clearing. (Don't forget I was 15 weeks pregnant doing this. I should get a pat on the back, thank you very much. hee hee)After leaving Alaska, the seas were slightly rough. (Honestly, it wasn't that bad. But don't forget this is coming from a woman who just spent four months with morning sickness, so I can handle just about any little motion sickness now. *Wink*) Christian and I enjoyed the soothing sway of the boat as it lulled us to sleep like little babies while we took our naps from the indoor observation deck.
While we didn't see as much wildlife as we had hoped, it was still fun to compare ourselves to the cute, man-made, yet life-size stuffed wildlife statues that were around the towns.
Christian and I did spot a few whales from the cruise ship. Nothing spectacular, like breaching or anything, but we did enjoy a gasp or two as we spotted the spray from the spouts off in the distance. Below is Christian next to an Orca skull.
Yes, you guessed it! That's a whale's vertebra Christian is adjusting. Just imagine how large whales truly are. That's just one bone out a spine that can reach more than 87 feet in length!! Amazing!Our last port was Victoria Island, in Canada. I have actually been here before. My high school band every other year makes a trip up to march in the Victoria Day parade. It was a short stop as we docked just before 7 o'clock in the evening, and left port at midnight, but it was fun to walk around the Canadian streets and listen to all the street performers play and entertain the visiting tourists.
Finally back in Seattle, Christian and I had several hours before we needed to be at the airport for our flight back to the East Coast, so I thought it would be fun to take him to Seattle's public market. I hadn't been there in the years, and there is always something fun to see, smell, and eat.One of the fun features at the public market or the fish mongers. When you order a fish, rather than just walking the fish up to the scale, they throw the fish over the counter to one another and catch it as if it wasn't a cold, slippery fish. That's a talent to put on your resume!And of course, no visit to Seattle would be complete without allowing Christian to try a freshly brewed cup of Joe. He took one sip and instantly said it was one of the best cups of coffee he'd ever had. Me, I thoroughly enjoyed my hot apple cider.A well deserved vacation, that went off without a hitch. One for the record books, and one that I'm sure in the future we will revisit. As for the rest of the population out there that says the every popular line, "I've always wanted to go to Alaska." GO! It's beauty is stunning, the people are friendly, and the food is delish. I give this year's vacation a triple A+!