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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

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.

IMG_0480.jpg

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.

Bright and early on June 29th we left Lake Louise for Johnston Canyon. We wanted to beat the crowds, and we did 😉. When we got there there was only one other car there. And it was c-h-i-l-l-y. I had on several layers to prepare for the cool, brisk air. And then we were off. As I mentioned before, we were there early. And my husband actually found it slightly creepy. I don’t know what he would have thought of my non-hike in Thailand then. That was actually beyond creepy, especially since I’m a chicken and there were monkeys swinging everywhere. But, back to Johnston Canyon.

I had big plans for us when we started. I wanted to make it to the upper falls since I’d read that the extra trek would be worth it. Well, I guess I have to take everyone’s word for it because we did not make it. Perhaps you may have read about us being out of shape and know the deal. We just didn’t have it in us to continue though I wished it had been otherwise.

If anyone is in Banff, I highly recommend a hike through Johnston Canyon. It is an amazing place to see. But I must say, you do need to be in shape. We were tired before we even made it to the lower falls which was only a half-mile hike. That said, a lot is also uphill. Fortunately, there are points to stop and rest as well as take in all that the creator has created.

Look at what you see before even reaching the lower falls.

​​​​


Honestly, I would have been happy to stop at that point. Listening to the water rushing through the canyon was relaxing. The palette of pale blues and white dancing around each and every crevass and embracing the rocks is something we should all be so lucky to experience. And when I see the never ending beauty in Banff and other parts of Canada, I often wish Canada was home for me.

And finally we reached the upper falls. ​​


​​As you can tell from the clip, we soon headed back. We tried, with zero success, to continue on but another mile just wasn’t happening.

I am glad that I got to see at least some of Johnston Canyon. And who knows, maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to visit again.

Puffins!!!

Once we got off the speedboat at Puffin Island, my mother rode up the little hill with our hostess while my dad, husband and I walked. Puffins were flying around and I could barely contain myself. We were there because of my obsession with puffins, so I couldn’t wait to get inside and settled a little bit so that I could go out and attempt to take pictures. Once we got inside with all our things, we were more formally introduced to our hostess Louise. She had a lovely accent and very friendly demeanor. She explained the ins and outs of how things would work. First, we were asked to remain on the paths so as to not disturb or possibly harm the puffins’ nesting areas. Also, she would be staying in the house with us. We’d all be sharing a bathroom. Not something I’m too fond of, but it was necessary and I figured I could deal with it for a couple days to see puffins. 😀 The toilet was a composting toilet which I was admittedly afraid of. I have my standards! But again, I was willing to deal with it because I knew I’d be rewarded with the opportunity to observe puffins in real life. And it turns out it wasn’t as scary as expected. Our bedrooms were upstairs, steep stairs. So, we all decided that we didn’t need to take our bags up. We simply took what we needed as we needed.

Since we were basically settled in, I wasted no time and I went out. The weather was perfect. I heard that it had been miserable the day before. So we lucked out. I was shutter happy. “Shutter happy” is an adjective used to describe an individual who, when in the midst of a photo opportunity, can’t control the urge to push the shutter release button. I was like a kid in the toy store, grabbing every chance I could to snap. And, it probably comes as no surprise, but I was not always so successful. My heart raced from the excitement. Who gets that excited about such things? Well, I guess I do. They are magnificent little creatures, and I enjoyed seeing them more than they enjoyed seeing me.

I also got a few pictures of guillemots that were also hanging out on the cliffs with the puffins. But let’s face it, they weren’t my real interest though I appreciated the added bonus.

Later my husband came looking for me. As if I could go anywhere. We were on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the water. And, I had no intentions of swimming for it. He walked with me as I continued to chase puffins with my camera, and then it started raining. We stayed out as long as we could without melting and then went inside. Louise was preparing dinner, so we all sat at the table looking out the window. Even in the rain, it was a beautiful scene. The rain didn’t last long, so I went out again.

Because we were caught up in the scenery, the weather, and the birds, we opted to wait a little while for dinner. The sun was setting and it was absolutely breathtaking. It’s not that I’ve never seen a sunset, but this was one I was able to truly revel in. There were no loud noises, except the sounds of the water and seabirds. There were no street lights. No cars going by. Nothing getting in the way of the view.

IMG_0358

Eventually, we would have to go inside. And soon we were surrounded by darkness. Dinner was ready, and we sat down to a lovely table setting. We started with fish soup. Yuck! I am not a fish person. When Louise wasn’t looking, I swapped my husband’s empty bowl with mine. She saw me. Oops! We were then served grilled chicken bruschetta and vegetables which included broccoli, my favorite. 🙂 For dessert, we had strawberry mousse and there was something else chocolate, but I didn’t eat it.

Puffin Island really agreed with me so far!

 

Off to a Puffin Getaway

The speedboat arrived, and all we could think about was the headache we would have moving our bags across some sand to get to the floating boat ramp. Fortunately, we got some help from the company. I looked at the boat and then my mom. Once again, I suspected she might be cursing me, disowning me. This wasn’t like the large boat we were on for our whale watching trip. And then, she had the option to be inside away from the elements. It would be cold on the water, and my mom is always cold.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The ride was supposed to be 10 minutes. But who’s counting when you have views like this? We watched as the place we left got smaller and smaller.

It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. In a way we were. My first thought was that it would be nice to get away from it all. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. A time to get back to nature.

Along the way, the only sounds we heard were from the boat’s motor, splashing water, and the various songs of seabirds, seals. We saw seals, and we also saw puffins flying by. Puffins! What’s not to love about puffins? I couldn’t wait to land on the island that I convinced my parents and husband to go to. I couldn’t wait to get a closer look at these birds that I came to love in the past couple of years. It would be my second chance to see them with the first time being in England. But when I was there it was the end of their nesting season. This time we would be right in the middle of it.

Up next, puffins!

Whale watching in Tadoussac 

If you’ve never been whale watching, I strongly recommend it.

Our scheduled trip was for July 10. The weather forecast was, well, wet. That it would rain wasn’t the issue. As I said in a previous post, the threat of rain or less than ideal weather conditions no longer fazes me or my husband. Even my mother wouldn’t be concerned as she knew she could stay dry and warm. Truthfully speaking, I hoped that it wouldn’t rain, though. It was already cool out, and it would be even cooler out on the open water. And, I wasn’t prepared for wet weather. A piece of advice for going whale watching, dress warm and take a raincoat just in case.

We took the shuttle to the pier where we would leave. It was dark, dreary even. It was raining. Not heavy rain, but still raining. We got on the boat and stayed on the lower level.

As we waited for the boat to leave the port, we saw 4 kayakers. All I could think of when I saw them was, “Are they nuts?” But they didn’t seem to mind, so why should I? And hey, their presence in the water made for a great photo opp. I wish I knew them so I could share the photo with them.

IMG_9981b

Our guide, a biologist began talking so we knew we were about to move. Yay! This was the first part of our excursion. My husband and I and also my dad decided to go out. We didn’t let the cool wind deter us.


Even under the dark skies, the water was calm, serene. I thought it was wonderful. The guide started talking, in both English and French. But I’ll admit that I was still lost a lot of the time. I’m not proud of that, but oh well. I do recall her telling us about the area and the sea life we would possibly see. We passed an old lighthouse out in the middle of the water, and I wondered how anyone could live there. Wouldn’t it be scary to live in this? And wouldn’t it be tiring having to climb to get to your living quarters? Well, I guess that’s why I never became a sailor or anything like that.

IMG_9996

The biologist told us more about the lighthouse, but I don’t remember a thing. I was simply listening for the word “whale(s)” in her speech. I wanted to see, and that’s it. We saw gray seals and some birds. It was great to see them frolicking in the water. Free. I have to say that our first whale watching trip last year pushed me to decide on never visiting a zoo again. That and a safari in Sri Lanka a few years ago. I don’t believe that animals belong in captivity. It’s just not natural.

We moved along in the water with rain coming down from above. We saw other whale watchers. Two zodiacs were in the area.

IMG_0006

Can you imagine that I considered going on one of these rather than the full sized boat? I considered it because I knew it would mean getting closer to the whales. But, I also knew that my mom would have never agreed to that. And after seeing them, in the conditions we were in, I’m so glad I didn’t book a trip on a zodiac. Surely this story would have to be written by someone else because of the heart attack I would have had. Bravery has never been my strong point when it comes to these things.

We slowed down as did the two zodiacs in the area. I knew this meant that there must be some whale activity. The biologist explained how we could tell by noting the choppy water in the area. It meant that there was food to eat and that the whales were feeding. The excitement in her voice when she spotted a whale caused everyone to get excited I’m sure. What did we see? Minke whales. There was more than one, but I managed to get a picture of one.

IMG_0029

My husband and my dad were both out witnessing this magnificent creature just being. Living its life out in the open waters. Seeing whales or other animals like this way makes for a surreal experience. It was such a treat. I had worried that we wouldn’t see any whales because of the weather. But as the guide said, they don’t care about rain. They are home.

After we left the area, we headed back in the direction of the hotel through the Saguenay Fjord in search of belugas. My dream was to see one in real life. I had only ever seen them on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. But this area is pretty much home to belugas. I am happy to report that I did indeed see belugas. Score! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a picture because I was worried about trying to take my long lens out again while it was raining. And I knew that if I went back inside, I’d miss the chance to see them since they weren’t likely to stop and pose for me.

All in all, it was a great trip and I’d like to thank AML Cruises for an unforgettable experience.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑