Monday, August 20, 2012

Back from Alaska!

I rarely write about travels on the blog, but this is mainly because over the past five years I have not travelled much other than the usual trips to relative’s homes in California, Colorado, and Washington, DC (with the occasional visit to London).  Some of this is because of the age and schedules of my children; some is because of the time and financial commitments of the house build.

However, I love to travel, and just returned from the most amazing trip with three generations of my husband’s family – two weeks in Alaska (with a little time in Vancouver, Canada in the beginning).  If this trip is not on your bucket list, put it there – it was simply amazing!  Alaska is often referred to as ‘America’s Last Frontier’, and this is so apt – it is so vast (its land mass is larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined), with so much untouched land that is exactly as it has been for many thousands of years. I saw sights and vistas that I never knew existed, and it was simply a spectacular journey.

Here is a small collection of images that were taken by my husband and my 14 year old daughter.  It was a joy to put this post together to re-live some of the experience. If you have not been to Alaska, I hope that you some day have the opportunity to visit this great state!

We spent the first week of the trip on a cruise, which left from Vancouver. The far ship is the one we went on – the Princess Sapphire. We had a wonderful time, and the kids loved the cruise experience (and all of the kids activities on the boat). The ship stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, and the cruise concluded in Whittier (near Anchorage). This picture shows the ship docked in Skagway.

While in Skagway, we took a trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.

A gorgeous shot my daughter captured at the end of our train ride - taken in Yukon, Canada.

It was incredible to see so many glaciers close up, especially when we were on a seaplane ride over the glaciers surrounding Juneau, and on the boat in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. The blue tone is characteristic of glacial ice.

The close-up pictures of the glaciers look like abstract art.

We were able to get a great view of one of the glaciers calving when we were in Glacier Bay National Park – calving is when ice breaks off to form small icebergs.  The calving is preceded by a large cracking sound – it was fascinating to experience.

A close-up of an interesting glacial formation.

Almost unreal views of the glaciers in College Fjord.

Spectacular scenery in the Prince William Sound area.

The salmon were just starting to come in when we were in Juneau.

The whale watching was a highlight when we were in Juneau.  We were able to see the humpback whales using their bubble net feeding technique, where they create a net of bubbles that surround their prey (in this case, herring).

My daughter took this picture of a humpback whale breaching – my daughter was the only one to actually capture a picture! 

The shapely tail of a humpback whale as it re-enters the water. Each tail is unique, and expert whale watchers can identify specific whales by their tail.

It has been a cool and rainy summer in much of coastal Alaska, which created uniquely beautiful views on the water.  

After the cruise portion of the trip, we spent 5 days on land, venturing hundreds of miles into the interior of Alaska, with Denali National Park as our destination.   Entrée Alaska  planned the land part of our trip, and did an excellent job.

Along the way, we visited Happy Trails Kennels, home to Martin Buser and family and the 100 or so dogs that he trains year round for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.  Martin is a 4 time Iditarod winner (that’s him in the picture), and it was amazing to meet him, hear his story, and see the dogs in their training routine. Martin will be doing the Iditarod race again this year – his 30th Iditarod – and the family legacy continues with his son Rohn who will be in his 3rd Iditarod race.

Next stop was the town of Talkeetna (the main staging area for most climbs of Mount McKinley, and reportedly the town that inspired the show ‘Northern Exposure’).  We hoped for a view of Mt. McKinley itself, but only caught a small glimpse as the cloud cover briefly lifted.  Had the weather been cooperative, the mountain would have been seen from this vantage-point. Still, a gorgeous view of the foothills!

We saw many Bald Eagles on the entire trip, mainly near bodies of water. We never tired of spotting them.

A pair of Bald Eagles; according to our guide, they mate for life.

We arrived at Denali National Park at dinner time, and were greeted with this lovely view from the restaurant at our Lodge.

The trip into Denali National Park was like a safari in many ways; we saw all sorts of wildlife, including this caribou.

A group of White Dall sheep on a ridge. They appear like white dots from a distance.

The tour driver said that Denali National Park is likely one of the most remote places many of us will ever travel.  It is truly one of the most magnificent places I have ever been, for its incredible topography and sheer untouched natural beauty.

View of the Alaska Range. Our tour bus driver said that he had only been able to see Mount McKinley on 5 days of the summer!

Incredible vistas that I will never forget.

Our favorite wildlife sighting at Denali National Park was of this mother bear and her two cubs (only one cub is visible here).  Access to the interior of the park is tightly controlled and by permit only; most see the park on a tour bus. The animals are used to the buses, and since there are not people milling around, the animals are often right by the road.

Here is the other cub, who had raced ahead of his mother, but kept looking back to check on her location.  The guide said that these cubs had been born this spring, and typically spend three summers with their mother.

Have you ever been to Alaska?  This was definitely one of the best trips I have ever taken, and I highly recommend a visit to this incredible state. I must admit, going on this trip has ignited the travel urge in me.  As much as I love cities, I found it wonderful to enjoy such unspoiled natural beauty, and would love to visit some of the less traveled areas of Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand at some point in my life.  Do you have a destination you recommend for my travel bucket list?

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QD collage
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  1. Thank you for sharing pictures of your trip, it is one of the very first trips I would like to take after I finish college... these images are surreal!

  2. Wow! I keep hearing friends talk about how amazing Alaska is. These photos really make me want to go! Your trip sounds amazing. A cool and rainy Alaskan summer sounds so awesome compared to the blistering hot dry one that we've just had.


  3. What an amazing trip! It looks like you had lots of great activities. Have always wanted to see the glaciers in Alaska, and my husband always talks about salmon fishing. Always enjoy hearing about interesting trips. The flower picture your daughter took is amazing! Thanks for sharing your trip.

  4. Last September our entire family set out on one of these beautiful cruise ships from Seattle to do the Alaska cruise vacation. Once is not enough is all I can say. The scenery is beyond spectacular and we came to respect America so much more for having this beautiful land in our country. In Texas, our home, we don't have anything like this, of course. We were able to cruise up one of the fjords because the weather in the northern Pacific was threatening, the most wondrous place I've ever seen. Yes, it's worth every cent, and each of us feel we would go back again. Lovely post showing it like it really is. xx's Marsha

  5. oh my goodness, your pictures are spectacular! DH and I left out of Seattle in late June and went on a 7 day trip with the same itinerary as yours except we wound up back in Seattle. We loved it so much we have the same trip you went on (but spending just 3 days in Denali) planned for summer of 2014. Next summer we already have booked the wine cruise (repositioning cruise) out of Vancouver that ends in L.A. We love to cruise and hope to take one a year since we are so close to retirement and want to enjoy some fun now all the kiddos have flown the nest. I'd love to hear any tips you have about your inland portion of the trip.

  6. What stunning photos and tour! Thank you! Everyone I have ever talked to who has taken an Alaska cruise has loved it. Glad you got to spend some time in Canada - Vancouver and the Yukon - too.

    xo Terri

  7. Thank you, Holly, for sharing these gorgeous pictures and stories.
    I have always wanted to go to Alaska. My daughter was able to go, and I look forward to a trip at some pint.
    Happy Sunday.

  8. The pictures are gorgeous - just breath taking. What a wonderful trip to take with your family and especially exciting for your daughter capturing the only picture of the hump back whale. The great thing about a cruise like this is that it allows you to visit several ports and experience the beauty of the glaciers along the way.

  9. Your husband and daughter clearly share your eye for beauty and have a great command of nature photography. I enjoyed this post very much, and someday hope to travel to Alaska. Thank you for the inspiration, as always.

  10. Amazing Holly! Looks like a truly memorable trip and the scenery is breathtaking!

  11. What an incredible trip...those pictures look like they were from National Geographic! I am in awe of the beauty that you saw.....hopefully someday I can take a trip like that.....

  12. I crossed one of my bucket list trips off this summer when I went salmon fishing on Northern Quebec. Your pictures remind me of one of my other trips - Alaska!!! Spectacular!


    PS: Your daughter has a good eye with the camera!

  13. I've always been a city traveler but these images may have changed my mind. Stunning!

  14. That was so wonderful thanks for sharing !

  15. What an amazing trip. My aunt and uncle lived in Alaska for 10 years when I was a child. I haven't been, but it is on my list.

    I would also suggest Asia, especially Vietnam, if you have not been. In my former life, I spent a great deal of time in China, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Vietnam. It was a life changing experience and has helped shape my view of the world. We are already planning the trip with our girls when they are a bit older. It is truly a life altering experience to see how different and yet the same their lives are from ours.

  16. Your post was like being on the trip with you! Your photos really captured the beauty of Alaska.

  17. Spectacular! Two of my nephews fly seaplane tours in Alaska...wonder if you had one of them?? I'm NOT a fan of cold...but from a cruise ship...oh, yeah. franki

  18. Welcome back, Holly. Beautiful trip! You were fortunate to see so much wildlife. I have always wanted to see and experience Alaska. Reminds me a bit of northern Sweden. Thanks for sharing.

  19. We took this same exact trip three years ago. Magnificent. I am going to look at my pictures now! We missed the train ride in Skagway because Hubby wasn't feeling well. The only thing missing in your pictures that we had were huge icebergs! Glad you enjoyed the trip. We also drove from Southern Louisiana to Seattle and then on to Vancouver to board the ship and then drove back.

  20. Holly incredible images and what an adventure. The glacial formations are works of art!

    Art by Karena
    2012 Artists Series Featuring Harrison Howard

  21. Holly,
    What a beautiful excursion and I know memories were made that you'll have for a lifetime. It truly is an amazing land. If you superimpose a map of Alaska including the Aleutian Chain over a map of the continental US, it stretches from California to the Carolinas. Amazing. Aren't those glaciers spectacular? So glad you all had a wonderful trip.

  22. Thanks for sharing such beautiful photos...your daughter is quite talented! Her photos have only renewed my life long desire to get to Alaska and I hope that happens in the next year. Our country really is beautiful and full of inspiration of many types.

  23. What an exquisite trip.
    We are experiencing what your life was like a couple of years ago!
    We were supposed to travel to France this Summer, but we quickly realized that we couldn't leave during such an important construction period.
    We can't do everything!

    I am thrilled that you are blogging again. I've enjoyed every post, although my hectic life hasn't allotted me much time for comments!


  24. Beautiful, beautiful photos! Your daughter captured some wonderful shots! Wow, this really makes me want to visit Alaska. Love how up close you were able to get to the wildlife. And to see so many eagles...amazing! What a wonderful experience you'll remember always.

  25. What an amazing trip. Your photos are awesome. Thank you for sharing. I have now added Alaska to my bucket list! You should definitely come down under... You'd love it down here!! Jx

  26. Definitely on my bucket list and the images are gorgeous!! So glad it was a wonderful trip ~

  27. spectacular photos! some of those glacier shots would be really pretty framed.

  28. I lived in Alaska for a few years as a child and it is a magical place. One of the most beautiful places on earth with a feeling that can't be expressed through words or photographs. I always urge people to visit Alaska, but so few do and I suppose that leaves it a little less spoiled for the rest of us.

  29. How I spent my summer vacation.

  30. I am late for my train! I was riveted to my screen looking at your stunning photos of Alaska. Alaska is definitely on my list, both for skiing (best powder) and to visit the parks. I enjoy hiking on glaciers which I first experienced in Iceland and these pictures are just amazing. Thank you for such a beautiful post...now back to reality, get dressed, hop on the train to new York, a busy working day ahead.

  31. Hi - your pictures of Alaska are so goregous...and that rainbow - priceless. It always happens that when you live nearby a place, you don't go see it. I used to live in Washington State - and I could have easily travelled to Alaska from there - but no. Now I live in New York and this trip would take me so much longer.

    But - wow, your images make me want to book a flight. How lovely. Lucky you. You could probably sell some of those pictures, they are so gorgeous!


    PS - I will subscribe to your blog. Hopefully you will visit mine and subscribe as well. Thanks for everything


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