Newbie Kayakers at Spencer Glacier

After a wonderful experience seeing Columbia Glacier in Valdez, we were back in Anchorage. The official Alaskan holiday was over, but we spent a few more days there to relax and enjoy Alaska just a little bit more.

On July 11, my parents took a scenic train ride and my husband and I took a train from Anchorage to Spencer Glacier. We set out at 6:30am and were treated to a very different view of Seward Highway. We were quite fortunate that day also. It was cool, but that was okay. The best thing was that it didn’t rain and the water was nice and calm.

Once we arrived to Spencer Whistle, we had a kayaking adventure with Chugach Adventures. We had met our guide, Corey, on the train and were ready to go. Corey was a big help and seemingly made it easy for us to get through the experience. This was our first kayaking experience, and I hope it won’t be the last especially since it was by all accounts a success story. Hey, we didn’t tip ourselves over, so that is most definitely a win.

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Being new to kayaking, we were in a tandem kayak. And it was definitely the best thing for us. Also, since I was in the front when we canoed in Canada, it was only fair that my husband be in front this time which he enjoyed. We got somewhat close to a fairly sizeable iceberg and all I could think about was just how big it really was. A lot of people may not know that the ice we see above water is only 10-15% of the ice. The majority is under water. We were able to move across the lake and even had a chance to walk on the glacier. It wasn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. But, I also never imagined myself in a kayak.

Once we got back across, we had lunch and then a scenic train ride before heading back to Anchorage by motorcoach.

Lessons learned from this trip? Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid of a little adventure. And if you live in North America, even if you don’t, Alaska is worth every penny and the time and energy spent to get there.

Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez

On July 9, we set out on our last trip/activity for our Alaskan tour. And it was the third and final cruise. The night before it rained non stop. It was real nippy out, and I really didn’t know whether anyone would want to go on the cruise. I told them all that they could stay in the hotel if they didn’t want to take this last cruise. I was afraid they were sick of cruises, long cruises. I have to say, we saved the best for last. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all three and they were all special in their own ways. But this was really different.

First of all, this cruise was operated by Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises. All crew members were actually living in Alaska unlike the other cruises we had been on. The boat wasn’t full so we had a more intimate experience as the captain, Alan, invited passengers to come talk to him and ask questions or just to get a better view.

Second, we didn’t see as much wildlife as the first cruise. We did see the ever-elusive porpoises, stellar sea lions, birds and seals. I guess we DID see a lot.

One of the most amazing things about this cruise was watching how the scenery changed from, “I can’t believe this is Alaska” to “Oh, I’m really in Alaska.”

I can’t believe this is Alaska.

 

Now THIS is Alaska!

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On this cruise, we got to see more ice. Sure we had seen glaciers and seemingly small icebergs, but this time we got to see much more floating ice. Larger icebergs and the ever impressive Columbia Glacier. Once we got closer to the face of the glacier, I felt like that was the Alaska I had been dreaming about. We were freezing and it was spectacular. I stayed outside a lot because I just couldn’t resist the scenery around me. Seeing that towering mountain of glorious ice was an experience I won’t soon forget.

And now more of Columbia Glacier…

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Bye bye, Denali

When we got back from our Denali adventure, we were finished. And by finished, I mean we were completely out of energy. We were hungry and tired. It was 8:30pm and all we wanted to do was eat and sleep. We ate, but when we wanted to sleep, my husband asked about the activity for the next day. I was sure it was a free day to drive back to Anchorage at our own pace. So, I decided to check the itinerary and lo and behold, we did have a scheduled activity for the next day. What?! That’s all I could say. What was worse was that it was an early morning activity which might have been interesting had we not been so tired. We all agreed that we simply wouldn’t go. It was paid for, but we were willing to take a little hit to get some rest. And so we did. And then the next morning we got a call from the front desk reminding us that we had a trip. My husband calmly said, “We canceled it. We all canceled.” We were a party of four and not a single one of us could be bothered. We decided to sleep and then get ready to head back to Anchorage.

Even though we didn’t go on our scheduled river float down the Kantishna River, we most definitely enjoyed the views on our way back to Anchorage.

We saw a moose along the roadside as my dad zipped by. There was no way to stop. But, it wasn’t a problem because I did get shots of one in Denali NP. So, by this point just seeing one was enough.

After 4 hours, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and made our way to the hotel which was the same hotel we stayed in when we first arrived to Anchorage. Funny thing was that my husband and my parents didn’t seem to get that fact. My parents both said, “I’m sorry but I liked the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived.” And it took everyone a minute to realize that it was in fact the same hotel. From that moment forward I had to start watching what everyone was drinking :).

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Denali: I don’t mean the car

After a trip to Bar Harbor, Me a couple years ago, I’ve become a fan of national parks. And if you’re in the states, it would definitely be worth it to visit one if you can.

This summer we had the chance to visit Denali National Park on the Denali Kantishna Wilderness Tour with my parents. It was a long day, but a great experience. We saw a couple grizzlies, one quite a distance away and the other quite close.

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When we saw this one in the picture, everyone was excited. Too excited in fact. We were reminded often to keep it at a whisper, but we are human. Each time this sleeping bear moved, the “ooohhs and aaahhs” would start. But can you blame anyone? It’s not everyday we get to see a grizzly bear up close.

We also saw caribou, moose, ptarmigans, ground squirrels, pika, and some humans. I didn’t take pictures of the humans because I see humans all the time ;).

We were also lucky enough to get some wonderful views of Denali. I still want to call it Mt. McKinley, but I am working on it.

Even without Denali as a backdrop, the other mountains were a sight to see as well.

All in all it was a great day though it was quite long. If I had the chance to visit again, I’d probably opt for a different trip. Thirteen hours? Easy it was not. And of course that time can be longer when you stop for wildlife which of course we did. We left at something like 6:30am and got back around 8:30pm. All we could think about was rest. The next day we were supposed to take a river float trip. It was not to be. But I’d be happy to share what we did instead.

Kenai Fjords: Part 2

As we headed back, I was definitely satisfied with the trip and the time seemingly flew by. We had a nice meal on board and met interesting people. I was asked several times to take pictures of people and their families. You see, I’m really good at “looking” like a photographer, lol. And each time I was approached someone said, “You have a nice camera and look like you know what you’re doing.” Isn’t that great? I look like I know what I’m doing. One man asked me about my website that does not exist. And it’s a good thing or else he would have discovered that I am not a professional ;).

Apparently we had a really good trip because we saw plenty on the return trip as well.

We saw several whales. Have I mentioned that I love whales? I love seeing them. We saw one that was super close to a fishing boat. I could only imagine what it must have been like as a whale swam around them. They were mere feet away from that whale.

 

Afterwards we saw another pair of whales that seemingly waved in the water at times. Unfortunately due to my over excitement, the shots I got quite simply aren’t fit for this post 😜.

 

I’m sure that everyone that was on that boat was more than satisfied. We sat down after some time and I watched my dad in his Cincinnati Reds hat check the photos he got.

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The Kenai Fjords cruise is an absolute must for anyone visiting this part of Alaska. Ah, one trip down, more to go!

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