Alaska,  Travel & Places,  Uncategorized

Grand Alaska Adventure: A Short Wrap-Up

I didn’t mean to leave everyone hanging after the last post but honestly, it was going to be too hard to try to write every day and get a post up here every few days. I don’t know how hikers or other travelers do it on a daily basis, trying to compress everything they are doing into the day and writing it up, editing photos, and getting it out into the world. I suppose if you consider it like an ‘office hours’ type situation, but this was vacation and that wasn’t happening.

(On a more annoying note, I updated my WordPress platform and I am hating the post editor now. Such a small writing block and if anyone wants to gripe with me, please do! I may see if I can revert back to an older version.)

So, where did we go? Well, the grand adventure started in Seattle because of poor planning on our part and then onward to Vancouver where we spent one night instead of two nights. Our original plan was to head up to Squamish to hike and sightsee instead of staying in Vancouver proper, but the lack of time forced us to eat the cost of one night at the hotel and then cancel the following night and find a different hotel out near the Vancouver airport.

Vancouver was our jumping off spot for an Alaskan cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. Aside from a honeymoon Caribbean Cruise and then a summer school at sea program on a converted naval ship (two completely different experiences if you can’t tell) the summer between high school and college, we’ve not really been ‘cruise people’. Ideally I would loved to have sat on a Caribbean island beach for a week or two but Chris needs more activity than that and I wasn’t sure how much enjoying we’d do with Forest at this age. We initially checked out a southern Caribbean cruise but some of the countries/islands we were visiting I wasn’t sure would be kid friendly enough for us and we started eyeing Alaskan cruises.

Chris’ dad and step-mom are seasoned cruise veterans and have taken at least one cruise if not more a year the last 10-15 years, though they are slowing down on that front now, so they had some input as to what ships would be more kid friendly than others.

From Vancouver we sailed the Inside Passage to our first port of Ketchikan. We didn’t have any tours scheduled for this town so we did our own thing, first taking a taxi straight to Carlanna Lake a few miles up to do some early morning hiking. It was a great way to start our trip in Alaska! A taxi back into town let us walk around town to see the salmon migrating back upstream to spawn and die, and do some sightseeing in this small coastal town.

Further up the IP, we stopped at Juneau for whale watching and a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier. Next was our final port of Skagway, where we had a long day in that town with a trip on the White Pass Railroad, which meant dipping quickly back into Canada, a lot of strolling around this even tinier town, and a hike along some trails on a point on the outskirts of town.

The following two days were spent traveling to see glaciers, first into Glacier Bay National Park, where park service employees boarded the ship and gave the ship a tour and presentation via the ship’s intercom system. The following day we had a few hours at the Hubbard Glacier, which I think is actually in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Overall the entire cruise had nearly perfect weather, sunny and mild, except the last day which turned cloudy and a bit rougher on the seas on our way to Seward.

From Seward we took the scenic Alaska Railroad to Anchorage, a five hour journey that paralleled the road for a short bit before detouring into a scenic roadless area for a good while. We had plans to stay in Anchorage just for one night. Coincidentally our friend Eliana was in Alaska as well. She and her husband Marc had been working on and off all summer in Alaska and Marc was working in the remote island in NW Alaska and she happened to be doing some work in Eagle River just north of Anchorage. We met up for dinner on Monday evening and Eliana mentioned that her field work to Izembek NWR was delayed until the weekend and she thought she could tag along on our journey north to Denali National Park.

So, for the next few days we added a member to our party! On the 3rd, Forest’s birthday, we drove a few hours north to Denali National Park where we had a small cabin for two nights outside the park. We did a few small things in the park on the 3rd, hiking the Savage River, looking for wildlife from the road, and on the 4th we took the transit bus out to the Eielson Visitor Center. There was no view from Denali that day—our clear weather days were not around any longer, and well, when dealing with a 20,000′ tall mountain you never know what weather you will get! The park was gorgeous, though!

Our last day in the Denali area we drove down the gravel Denali Highway so Chris could fish in some of the streams that crossed it and the rest of us did some poking around in the woods to take photographs. We dropped Eliana back off that evening and we drove down to the Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage to stay at a cozy motel there for our final night in Alaska.

We tried to pack what we could into our day on Friday, hiking, looking for beluga whales, one last hurrah at an ice cream store in Anchorage, and then boarded our overnight flight for Houston via Atlanta. Yesterday we were completely zombies around here and Forest was probably one of the worst he’s been tantrum related, in maybe ever, due to the poor sleep and his decision not to take a nap because he was so high on all of the new toys for his birthday that were awaiting him when we returned home.

We’re waking up late this morning and will slowly unpack, clean up, and give some watering attention to the yard—I don’t think it rained while we were gone and some of our trees looked rather stressed. A hummingbird just swooped by the salvia so migration season is in full swing. It will take several more days to adjust to being home again and transition back into work and school. Another day in Alaska would have been nice but I’m glad we had this extra time to adjust before moving back into ‘real life’.

Here are some photos from my phone—some of you have already seen them—and as I process the ones from my camera (I think there’s going to be around 2500) I’ll start the process of sharing more detailed posts.







This is a mola mola, aka: ocean sunfish! It was a complete and total surprise for us to see and we were so ecstatic! We ended up seeing about 4 during that first full day at sea in the Inside Passage!


Carlanna Lake



Totems at the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

A further away viewpoint of the Mendenhall Glacier

The glacier via our whale tour boat

At the Mendenhall Glacier

Forest and I saw a mink at this location–missed getting it in a photo–and a little further downstream where Chris was at he also saw one!

White Pass Railroad


Park playing in Skagway



Glacier Bay NP




Heading for the Hubbard Glacier


Hubbard Glacier

Alaska Railroad between Seward and Anchorage

Eklutna Lake, Chugach State Park, Anchorage

Meeting Eliana for dinner.

Forest turning 5 at home—we were 3 hours behind in Anchorage. We sang an impromptu Happy Birthday to him in the car!

New Spidey kicks for his birthday


Fire devastation on our way to Denali. Fire crews were still working in the area.




What Forest chose for his birthday treat after dinner that night!



Our cabin at The Perch near Denali. I highly recommend! The stream runs loud and sounds like it is pouring rain–it is so soothing!


Picking blueberries on the Denali Highway



McHugh Creek, Chugach State Park




Denali via air!




More soon!


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