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 :).

IMG_0562.jpg

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 TourΒ 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.

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.

IMG_0190

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

Kenai Fjords: Part 1

Sea life, glaciers, waterfalls, mountains and more! Where to begin? I guess at the beginning. First of all, I have to say that this was one of the best cruises of this type I’ve ever been on. It was 6 hours and I had my concerns. Would I get bored, cold? Would my mom complain that it was too long or too cold? By the time we got started, I didn’t care. But please don’t tell my mom that.

We took the MMT Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. Even before we boarded, I was happy. It was cloudy and it looked like there was a 100% chance for rain. There was no need to worry which I knew from a previous experience in Malaysia. It was sprinkling. It was super cloudy. There was fog. It was everything that had the makings of a potentially miserable trip. But with an enclosed area, we knew we’d at least be warm and dry.

 

Sitting on the boat waiting to get moving, I snapped pictures of boats. What a shock! But as we sat there waiting, we also saw sea otters. I think they were sea otters. Or maybe there was one sea otter and one seal. Honestly, they confuse me at times. Not to worry, there would be plenty of wildlife I did actually recognize. For example, bald eagles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of a pair of bald eagles because there were just too many people to compete with. I do believe my dad got one, but he did not share it with me.

As we moved through the water, we alerted to any wildlife that was spotted. And one of the first we saw was the puffin. I managed to get a few shots of them, but I am much too embarrassed to post those here because the pictures suck :). But we also saw steller sea lions, porpoises, and whales. And it was magnificent. The porpoises were much too quick for me to catch though I may have a picture of some water they splashed in. But the whales, oh the whales! We went on two different whale watching trips in the past couple of years and managed to see one whale on each trip. We saw at least seven humpback whales on this one. I was so excited. Though I enjoyed our previous whale watching experiences, this was definitely on a whole other level. Most of the whales we saw were in pairs as seen below.

IMG_9915

We also got to see glaciers and one in particular which often calves. The blue hues in the glacier were brilliant. I didn’t know that “ice” could be so mesmerizing. As we moved closer to the glacier, glacial ice seemingly hopped on deck. People were grabbing ice, taking pictures. We could hear the ice moving which was surreal. Looking at it, you’d never imagine that the ice is actually moving. And it calved! Twice! And all I managed to see was the movement in the water because as my dad said, “By the time you hear it, it’s already in the water. I present to you “Holgate Glacier“.

 

 

You know what? I was really liking this Alaska trip at this point. And this was only the first part of the cruise. It doesn’t include the trip back to Seward.

Heading to the land of the midnight sun

We left Banff for Anchorage on June 30. It was bitter sweet as I really wanted to stay. But it was time for part 2 of our vacation.

We arrived to Anchorage around 11:30 at night. I really liked the airport. I liked that there was a simple way to call hotels for shuttles. There was a digital board with names of hotels and a two digit number you could call to reach the hotel. This was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen in an airport. It saved me the headache of having to make an international call while roaming from my cell phone. It’s a convenience that should be found in all airports.

The photo was taken around 12:30am. Though it’s something I’ve always known about, experiencing it in real life is something different. 

The days and nights caused us lots of confusion. We live in Saudi Arabia and Alaska is 11 hours behind. It meant that we’d have some difficulty adjusting which I will mention in another post.

It was great to be in Alaska and our first stop was in Seward. 

Before traveling, I had read so much about the Icefields Parkway. I got advice and remember being told, “It can take the whole day.” My husband wasn’t feeling well, so it didn’t take that time. But I could definitely see spending an entire day on this magnificent drive. I had also seen many lists of places of interest along the way, so I was prepared with that. And yet, I didn’t think I would be interested in making all of those stops. I was wrong!

So, as soon as we got started, we were stopping. The interesting thing is that this lake wasn’t on all the lists I had seen though I do believe I had heard of it before.

Herbert Lake


Yeah. No words are necessary. I was driving and simply said, “Oh my God!” And of course we stopped. The lake was so still, so serene. So unbelievably beautiful. I remember asking my husband, “Why didn’t anyone mention this?” As if he had the answer. It is simply stunning, and I’d love to see it again.

Bow Lake

​

​

At first I thought we’d skip Bow Lake. Obviously, that was simply not possible. How could I pass it up? It only required us to stop. There was no hiking involved. It took no effort at all other than walking down to get closer to the water. The funny thing was that my husband wanted to stay in the car initially. I took too long I guess and soon he was right there with me though we were kind of on opposite sides of a rock in the water. When I was happy with the shots I got, we plotted the climb back up. He said, “Give me your hand.” But I knew I couldn’t make that little jump without falling, probably flat on my face into the water. And finally he said, “Just step in it. Aren’t your boots waterproof?” He was right, 😜, but I had forgotten about that fact. And then we were off until…

Peyto Lake

​

​
​​

​Peyto Lake was more of a challenge for us. I had seen pictures and read that it was a short hike. My first thoughts were, “Please define ‘short’.” Well, it would have been short had we been in better shape. I’m not proud of that, but hey, it is what it is. As we climbed, and I do mean climbed, I wondered if we should bother. It was pretty much all uphill and I was tired. So, we asked a couple ladies how close we were and were told 5-10 minutes. That could have easily meant 15-20 for us, but we pushed on as everyone said it would be worth it. And as you saw above, it was so worth it. And what was even better, the Β walk back to the car would be downhill. Woohoo!

As mentioned, my husband wasn’t feeling well, so we decided to head back to Lake Louise after stopping briefly at Saskatchewan River Crossing. Also, our bank cards weren’t working when we stopped at the gas station nearby.

We didn’t even scratch the surface with that short drive, but it was still worth it. Driving through the mountains with out of this world scenery was enough to say it was a great drive. I feel blessed that I was able to experience it.

Bright and early on June 29th we left Lake Louise for Johnston Canyon. We wanted to beat the crowds, and we did πŸ˜‰. 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.

Moraine Lake, Banff: Just wow!


It just gets better and better in Banff NP. It was great that we were right next to Lake Louise because it made it easy to go see Moraine Lake. The only disappointment was that we didn’t get a chance to go again before we left.

In any case, we took the advice of others I got on TripAdvisor which was to get Moraine Lake out of the way early. So, we did. On June 27, we went early to avoid larger crowds and also to find a place to park. The road there is a beauty in of itself, but really all I could say was, “Wow!” 

As beautiful as Lake Louise was, I have to say that Moraine is even more beautiful. So much so, I told my husband that if we are fortunate enough to visit Banff again, I’d like to stay there rather than in Lake Louise.

So, let me say a little about the drive there. It’s very close to the Fairmont. Before we got to the turn for Moraine, we saw a moose. Yay! I had been hoping to see a moose since last year when we were in Quebec. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture because there was no safe place to stop. I simply hoped that we’d see another one later on. We didn’t, but I got over it.

The view on the road to Moraine.


If you’re like me, what’s more beautiful than snowcapped mountains? And of course, this shot my husband got doesn’t do it justice.

And the real gem of course is Moraine. As lazy and out of shape as we are, we decided to climb the rock pile to get a better view of the lake. When I say out of shape, I’m not joking. And being able to make it up to the top for the view we got has motivated me to get back into shape.

Is there anything comparable to this?


I think not. The contrasts of the deep  aqua colored water, the green trees, the beige/tan colored rocks and snow on the peaks were out of this world. And again, a photo is nothing next to the real thing. And it was this view that made me hope and pray that this wouldn’t be our last trip to the area.

And yet, there are so many more awe inspiring places to see in Banff NP.

Lake Louise, Banff

So let me be honest. I went to Banff for two things, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. And if I had only seen those two, I would have been satisfied. Mostly 😜

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to stay at the Fairmont Chateau. Our room had a view of the lake which made sitting in the room when we were tired so much more pleasant.


Though the water was not yet at its bluest, it was perfect. I’ve read that by the end of July it will be a deeper blue. But for me, it looked like a tropical drink. It looked deliciously unreal. 

​​The first couple of days, it was windy and chilly. Well at least by our standards it was. And I worried about what it would be like on our last morning. Our plan was to go for a sunrise canoe. Coming from extremely hot weather I simply wasn’t sure if I’d be warm enough. I also worried that we wouldn’t be able to move very far in the canoe since I hadn’t been in one since the 5th grade. Fortunately, it was actually warmer on that day, even at 5:30am. And it turned out that I can in fact move more than two feet in a canoe.

So what was it like?


I truly believe the photo says it all. While so many are looking for the perfect selfie, I wonder if they truly take a moment to simply take it all in. The above photo was taken by my husband without my knowledge.

And what was it like maneuvering our way through the water?

​​
Perhaps it could have been included in a movie like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Unreal!

And as beautiful as it was, there is so much more.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑