We got off to a great, sunny start on the Dawn Princess at the terminal in Vancouver, Canada.
|The ship offered unique and dynamic views of the surrounding scenery right from the start - here's some friendly Canadian bridge foot traffic!|
|In Ketchikan, our first port of call, we had a great view of the town from our portable skyscraper/ship. This is the view from deck 7 - deck 15 was even better!|
|Our first adventure ashore (relatively, anyway) was some sea kayaking off Pennock island across the channel from Ketchikan. We saw lots of jellyfish, a couple bald eagles, and lots of absolutely enormous kelp (behind us)- think baseball-size floats instead of grape-size ones like down in LA.|
|It took a while to get used to the idea of so many float planes of all sizes arriving and departing (probably every 10 to 15 minutes or so) down in Southeast Alaska.|
|Our next port, Juneau, featured the Mt. Roberts Tramway, which offered a fun ride, a great view, and some nice hiking at the top. The ruins under the tram are an old gold mine.|
|Our next stop in Juneau was the Mendenhall Glacier, a couple miles north of town. To give you an idea of how large this glacier is, the bright face at the center of the picture at water level is about 100 feet high, and the waterfall at right a couple hundred at least. We were able to see hikers over by the waterfall - through the binoculars they looked like ants.|
|Next up in Juneau was the salmon hatchery. We were lucky to see the salmon running right when we were there. The fish ladder...|
|...and holding pens are just crammed with salmon trying to make their way upstream and spawn. These salmon were released years ago and have returned to their place of origin (the hatchery) to start the cycle over again.|
|It would appear that tourists are not enough to drive away Bear markets even in Juneau's downtown tourist shopping district.|
|We were fortunate to see some good (and extremely long due to the northern latitude) sunsets.|
|Our next stop, Skagway, featured a lot of Alaska gold rush history. The purpose of some of these old buildings has been lost to the snowdrifts of time...|
|On to Glacier Bay National Park!! This is Margerie Glacier, up close and personal. The ship basically just sat here for an hour while folks enjoyed the sight and snapped pictures of big chunks of ice falling into the water every 10 minutes or so. The face of the glacier above the water is approximately 200 feet (this picture is taken from the ship's top deck over 100 feet up.) The cracked and jagged ice with it's deep blue hues is quite beautiful.|
|The following day we visited College Fjord. This fjord is lined with glaciers, most of which are named for colleges. Having just passed Wellesley and Vassar glaciers (out of picture to left) we can still see (from foreground to background) Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Harvard glaciers. We spotted numerous sea otters and their pups about in the water, and one grizzly bear on a mountainside.|
|The day after visiting College Fjord, we disembarked the Dawn Princess in Seward. From their it was a bus journey to the Mt. McKinley lodge. Along the way, we made several stops, including this Iditarod training camp. During the summer months, the dogs are trained using this wheeled vehicle, and tourists can pay for the privilege of riding along (everybody's out to make a buck - though fortunately I didn't see anyone peddling sodas and Idita-Dogs™). Boy, do those dogs love to run!|
|The next day (23July) at the Mt. McKinley lodge, the weather was clear and the mountain "came out", which is a somewhat rare occurrence - rare enough in fact that the lodge has a "Mountain Watch" service you can use which will notify you 24/7 if McKinley becomes visible. Remember, the sun doesn't set until 11:30pm and it rises again at 4:30am, so this could be quite a wakeup call! This picture, of course, doesn't do McKinley justice.|
This panorama shot gives some idea of McKinley's size (peak at 20,320', the highest in North America) relative to the surrounding mountains.
|We departed the Mt. McKinley lodge the following day by train. We traveled from the southeast corner of Denali National Park to the northeast corner (just south of Healey) to the Princess Denali Wilderness Lodge. The train ride was incredibly scenic from our glass domed railcars.|
|Wil took a helicoptor tour of the nearby Yanert glacier. This picture is a tale of two pebbles. The pebble under the helicopter skid is preventing the helicopter from rocking on the uneven glacial surface (amazingly, the pilot did this intentionally). The other "pebble" is the one towering over my head that appeared to be pebble sized - before we landed. This was a most amazing reminder of the glacier's size - it is huge! Getting this close really helped me appreciate how enormous these glaciers are and how they can sculpt the mountains the way they do. Also, it's finally clear how those large boulders got to be randomly strewn about in Yosemite Valley - left by a retreating glacier.|
|This is one of thousands of cracks in the glacier filled with glacial melt water (and probably some rain, too). The water is clear, but the deep blue (very dense) ice gives it an eerie blue tinge. The water is safe to drink, and tastes extremely good - it is very cold as expected though. The brown is glacial silt - granite and other rock ground to a fine powder. Facial, anyone? The ice is SOLID - not like snow, and has a fairly rough texture (at least in this location) due to the many small pebbles (bottom of picture) that have warmed in the sun and melted into the ice, leaving the ice to protrude above the pebbles.|
|Here's a shot of a Grizzly close encounter in Denali. We weren't in any danger as we were in a bus (the only way to travel in Denali - on the only road - besides hiking). Also, this bear was interested in foraging for berries.|
|And (Jen's favorite part), this particular bear had a spring cub with her! Very cute & playful!|
Our online photo journal ends here with our safe return to California. Hopefully, this gives folks some idea of what we saw and what there is to see in Alaska. It's a beautiful and fascinating place!