Sorry it took so long to get this up - its not as detailed as I wanted it to be - so feel free to ask any questions!
July 21..The longest day of my life!! Up at 4 am EST to catch crazy flights from Miami to Dallas, Dallas to Seattle, and Seattle to Juneau. Landed in Juneau and it was the most gorgeous day!! Flying in was sooo beautiful! Great views of the glaciers and ice fields! Took a cab to the Capital Inn. Our cab driver was very friendly and chatty! Although we would have loved to get in bed and crash, we had a snack and hit Juneau with the inn's complimentary passes for the Mt Roberts tram. After spending some time taking in the views we were starving and went to Dinner at Twisted Fish. By the time we finally walked back to the inn and went to bed (it still wasn't dark out) it was 10:30 pm Alaska time!
July 22… after a fun communal breakfast with some neat folks, we planned our day with the super friendly Linda. We decided to make a reservation for the Taku Lodge float plane and Salmon Bake. Linda was able to make reservations for us at a discounted rate and pass the savings to us! Our flight was in the afternoon so we took a taxi to Mendenhall glacier. A jokulhlaup (http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Name-given-to-cause-of-AK-flooding-Jokulhlaups-1547126.php) closed the waterfall hike trail. We explored the boardwalk areas and watched a young black bear fish under boardwalk. He was tagged and oh so cute!! Hubby's camera was low on battery and we headed back to the inn to recharge before hitting the sea plane. The Inn was great for the kids!! They hung out in the main house, playing on the computer, playing with Duffy the little dog, snacking on treats, and looking at books. Our comfortable rooms were below the house, down a flight of stairs, off the garden. We were a little early for our Seaplane flight. We didn’t want to miss it!! We waited patiently for our boarding time. Our plane carried 9 passengers!! <Insert scream here> I was excited and nervous. Take off was a breeze and the day again was soo gorgeous!! Blue crisp clear skies and sun!! Very great flight seeing and loads of fun at the salmon bake with one salmon crazed black bear. He actually stuck his head in the grill to lick up the salmon grease from the soot! The food was great and the lodge was cute. We had a lot of fun! On the way back my 11 year old got to co pilot the plane. He was sooo excited!! We were so full from our salmon but had to get something for dinner so we opted for Ice cream. Yummy!
July 23... Our bags had to be at the Goldbelt hotel by 1 for our cruise and Linda was kind enough to drive us over with our bags after breakfast. Breakfast was a treat! Linda had asked my kids he day before if they wanted pancakes or french toast the following morning. My 11 year old said, well we’re in Alaska and I really want bagels and lox! Our breakfast included fresh bagels from the Silverbow bakery and smoked salmon. Super delicious!! After we dropped our bags, we took the city bus to Hatchery. The bus driver and a few locals were extremely nice in helping us get off at the right place and explaining to us where to get back on. The Hatchery was a 1/2 mile walk or so from there. We got sucked into upgrading to the VIP tour. Don't do it! Not worth the money. Our tour leader wasn't very nice, maybe she was having a bad day. We had fish and chips at The Flight Plan for lunch, fun. We walked around Juneau until it was time to meet at Goldbelt hotel for our InnerSea Discoveries cruise.
Day 1…boards ship, orientation.
Day 2…It wasn’t easy sleeping my first night. I’m not sure it ever really got dark and I woke up at 430 am thinking my watch had stopped.
We spent the morning on a DIB boat ride in Fords Terror. Beautiful waterfalls carved into the sheer granite cliffs and adorable harbor seals popping up for air. Our morning excitement... Our Boat ran out of gas.
After lunch we headed to Dawes Glacier and took the DIBs out again. It was tough moving over the Bergie bits. Ice kept getting stuck in the rutter. We spotted lots more seals, terns, stunning icebergs, and small amounts of calving.
My 11-year-old son has made friends with the folks on the bridge and has been wildlife spotting. During dinner he grabbed us from our table ...he spotted a humpback!!! We took off for the bridge and spent an hour in idle watching this amazingly glorious animals pop in and out of the water. No breeching but lots of fluking!! We leaned that these whales spend their summers in Alaska fattening up and move to Hawaii for the warm winter to give birth, nurse, and mate. A momma whale loses much of her fat while nursing her calf and when she returns to Alaska, food is what's on her mind.
After dinner lecture on Marine Life of Alaska.
Morning hike in Wyndham Bay. Saw lots of bald eagles on the DIB ride to shore. Also saw seals and sea lions and more salmon jumping. On shore we hiked a very muddy bear trail with bear scat, we also saw momma and baby bear tracks in the sand, but no bears. We learned about different plants and trees. The skunk cabbage is the first thing a bear eats out of hibernation, which is a natural laxative. 9-year-old fell in bear poop and slide down a hill of mud. Back on the DIB we briefly saw a humpback.
DH and the kids went paddle boarding off the boat. 9 year old took a swim. He claims a seal knocked him over. He was fine but wet!! DH and the kids all said the little seal was curious and kept popping his head up to check them out!
In the afternoon we headed to Fredrick's Sound to find whales. We were treated to quite an afternoon. Breaching humpbacks galore!! We even saw a mother and calf breaching together. We counted as many as 9 whales in one area. It was almost as if they were performing for us.
Just as everyone sat down to dinner a pod of orcas showed up and hung out with us for a bit. It was a whale of a day!!
Morning Waterfall hike to Cascade Creek complete with moose poop, but no moose.
Family Paddle boarding including me this time. Freezing feet, but sooo much fun!!!
Afternoon Baird Glacier hike...Angry Terns and Boot sucking mud!!
We were warned over and over that the mud at the snout of the glacier was like quick sand and to move fast or risk loosing a boot. I guess the kids were too tempted. My 11 year old somehow lingered too long while passing over an expanse of mud and started to sink. He freaked! DH went in to the rescue and got him out but of course got sucked in himself. Our amazing guide Jayne went in after DH. They were both almost up to their knees. It was quite a site!! 4 or 5 fellow pax started pulling them out. DH managed to stay in his boots but Jayna was not so lucky. A smile never left her face! She was soaked with mud and kept on smiling! Did I mention it was freezing and really wet too?? I cant remember if it ever stopped raining that afternoon. I managed to capture much of this on video, which had everyone on the ship laughing for the rest of the week. The still shots made it into the end of cruise slide show. The rest of the hike was really fun. We did make it up on the glacier. Part of the hike had to conducted on our tushies since it was sooo slippery!
After dinner lecture on the 3 bears of Alaska: black, brown, and polar.
Day 5 – Rainy Wrangell
Today when we woke up we had 3G service since we were docked in Wrangell!! All our voice mails, texts, and emails started downloading on our phones! It was a strange after being out of communication for a while.
In the morning we had 2 Tlingit women (a mother and daughter) came on board to give us a presentation of native culture. We learned about Moiety, which is either eagle or raven. There were samples of regalia, head dresses, blankets, baskets, dried salmon, devils club salve, etc...
The day was pretty rainy – surprise and we were a bit tired! We hung around on the ship and made phones to the grandparents and DH’s office to check in.
The kids were able to do some fishing off the boat and dock. They used lures and salmon as bait. They caught rockfish, sole, flounder, sunfish, and a ginormous sea star. People over 16 need a license to fish in Alaska – but the kids were able to participate license free!
Tommy- a deck hand on the ship was great with the kids and super patient!
After lunch we participated in a walking tour of Wrangell, stopped to see murals, totem poles. The tour ended at Chief Shakes house. http://shakesisland.com/
We were entertained with a Tlingit presentation complete with dancing, singing, and story telling.
After that we headed over the Wrangell Museum http://www.wrangell.com/visitors/attractions/history/museum/
After dinner we had a lecture on Russia and Alaska history.
Day 6 Yes Bay
After breakfast we signed up for a 3-hour guided Kayak tour of Yes Bay. We saw a brown bear, loons, ravens, and seals. We did a brief stopover at Yes Bay Fishing Lodge to check out the premises. We learned it was built as a casino and prostitution house before statehood and then turned into a fishing lodge when the previously mentioned activities were illegal. Kids and hubby played pool while I took a little walk. I was in full Kayak gear – including the skirt and I didn’t feel like peeling it all off – I was quite a sight!
After lunch we took a DIB out in the bay and saw a momma black bear and her adorable cub. The baby was close to the water and was very curious of us. Did I mention how cute he was? Anyway – the momma was out of view and quite annoyed that baby was just watching us. She started yelling at him. And man - that little guy tore off!! I think she grounded him! We also saw kingfishers. My 8-year-old fell asleep sitting up in the rain; I had to wake him to see the bears.
After getting off the DIB we went kayaking on our own. DH and I each took singles and split up for peaceful time on the water. The kids were invited to take out the DIB parent free with one of the expedition leaders – David. They had a blast – he let them take turns “driving.” They also went around and check out all the crab pots that had been put in that morning. They caught tons of very large crabs! They were told since the kids caught them – only the kids could eat them at dinner. My kids don’t eat crabs and I am guessing there were others who didn’t either so after dinner the kids all got to pick a crab and race them on the deck! It was quite hilarious!!
After the races we had a lecture on Oil and fossil fuels.
We woke up and were still in Yes Bay. The captain’s voice actually woke me up announcement, “There’s a bear on the beach,” over the PA. It was 630 am. I threw on a sweatshirt over my pajamas and put on my glasses and headed up to check out the bears in action. Funny- most of the other passengers were out in the cold in their jammies too. We were treated to a black bear momma and her 2 cubs looking for a snack down by the water.
After our little bear show – we left for Misty Fjords.
After arriving in MF we took a guided kayak tour with Will around Walker Cove. There was a brown bear (grizzly) on the shore for hours, we watched him eat sedges from our kayaks. The 8 year old fell asleep again!! He was in the front of the kayak fast asleep – which was great because he was complaining that he wanted to check out the rest of the cove but I wanted to watch the bear. He woke up an hour later... “Where are we?” There are many photos of him sleeping and he still denies it. We also saw seals and eagles.
Later that day the kids took out paddleboards to cruise around the ship.
That night we had the Captains dinner and a fun slide show after dessert!!
Day 8- disembarkation day...
Bags have to be packed and in hall by 630. Early breakfast, Joe williams-Ketchikan mayor and Tlinglit talks about culture. Off ship around 900.
Southeast discovery center
No cruise ships in port so very little open! No charge at discovery center. No charge on tram for cape fox lodge.
Lunch Pirate Fish
Fly to Anchorage. 3 flights! Ketchikan to Sitka to Juneau to Anchorage
Sun July 31-laundry at hotel – Spring Hill Suites
...only 2 washers and 2 dryers...traffic jam!!! Best shower of the trip!!
Drive to Denali, check into McKinley Village
Dinner 229 Park...empty but they were really weird because we didn't have reservations.
Ordered boxed lunches from hotel for morning pick up.
Mon Aug 1-
Picked up boxed lunches, which were ridiculously expensive, 15.95 for a small packaged sandwich, chips, cookie, orange, and a soda.
Took about 10 minutes from lodge to WAC. Stood on line to pick up bus tickets.
7:30 am shuttle bus to Eielson, sat on left side of bus, but I don't think it makes a difference. Wildlife was on both sides. We did sit in the back which was good bc there were some empty seats and when we saw something it was easier to move around.
Bus ride in....
McKinley base and parts of the ridge were visible throughout the day but the peak never came out.
Stop at Eielson visitor center. 12:00 ranger hike.... Alpine Hike. Very windy hike top the top of a ridge with gorgeous views!! Ranger was a fellow Gator! At top of ridge 9 year old was afraid he would blow away, he curled up in a ball and "made like a rock." before hike ranger spoke about BMW ..bear, moose, wolf- the 3 most dangerous animals in the park. If you encounter…. A bear-wave your arms and identify itself as a human, don't run! A moose-run like hell! Wolf- yell at him like a bad dog.
Bus ride out - back at WAC at 7.
Grizzly total of the day...7
Arctic ground squirrel
Dinner Chubby Salmon – in the hotel
Bear Count to date...
Brown 9 ( 2 coastal, 7 Denali)
Black 7 (all coastal)
Tuesday Aug 2-
Skipped breakfast and headed straight to lunch at Prospectors Pizza. We were the first folks to grab a table. It was a round 1130 am. Our waiter was odd. My husband ordered coffee. The waiter brought out coffee. No milk or sugar. When DH asked fir milk or cream the waiter brought the container from the fridge. Weird!! When we asked questions that he didn't know the answers to, he just stood there looking t us. We had to tell him to go ask someone that knew the answer. So needless to say our service was SLOW. We starting asking other servers for things like napkins, refills, etc. We never saw our waiter again. Pizza was very good. We were stuffed when we left.
After lunch we went straight to Denali Visitor Center. We were just in time for a ranger hike. This was a little on the slow side, but my son had fun asking the ranger which berries were edible (the answer was all of them!) and then eating them off the brush- just like a bear.)
After our hike we went to the sled dog presentation near park HQ. This was fun. The dogs are friendly and we enjoyed playing with them. The summer puppies has just been born. They were 6 days old. They were in an enclosed pen in a doghouse with their momma. You could see them nursing and wiggling around -so cute!!
After we decided to drive as far in as we could and see if we could find wildlife on our own.
Perch-bizarre service. Waitress was horrific. Had to send back my sons burger for being to rare and my salad because I ordered salmon and it came with chicken. Someone else came over to take over for the wet noodle personality waitress, he tried, but we were pretty unhappy.
Dessert - since dinner left us feeling blue we went for dessert @a place down the road.
The waitress was very nice and super fast. My oldest son is allergic to nuts so we asked what desserts were nut free. We got a delicious brownie ala mode and dome yummy apple pie ala mode. My son saw some cookies that were for tasting and asked again if the had any nuts. The waitress said no. We all took a bite including my nut allergic son. Immediately we all said this is PEANUT BUTTER!! Thankfully ds is not anaphylactic or we'd be in serious trouble. Waitress said, oh sorry I thought you meant crunchy nuts. Was she for real!! ugh!
Driving back to the hotel we were on the highway and I spotted a moose!!! She was our first for the trip! She was grazing off the side of the road. We watched her for a while from the safety of our rental minivan. At first she didn’t seem to mind the company but then there was a point that I swear she was going to charge us!! I had to make my husband drive away.
Wed Aug 3-
Morning ride into park for last hurrah to spot more wildlife. We couldn’t get enough!
Drive to Talkeetna
Lunch at Wildflower Café
Drive to Girdwood
Check in to Alyeska
Dinner at the hotel
Thursday Aug 4
Breakfast – The Bake Shop - http://www.thebakeshop.com/menu.php
Gold planning at Cow Creek Mine
Dinner -Jack Sprat
Friday Aug 5
Pack up and check out, drive to downtown Anchorage
Lunch- Glacier Brewery
Afternoon -souvenir shopping
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Sorry it took so long to get this up - its not as detailed as I wanted it to be - so feel free to ask any questions!