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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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

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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, ๐Ÿ˜œ, but I had forgotten about that fact. And then we were off until…

Peyto Lake

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โ€‹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 ย 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.

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.

The Road to Ile aux Perroquets

The way to Ile aux Perroquets (Puffin Island) was about 7 hours from Tadoussac, give or take. The route didn’t disappoint. Seriously, if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was 7 hours, it would have been wonderful.

We traveled along QC 138, the whale route. It truly deserves the name because there’s a good chance you will see whales as you travel along the coast. On more than one occasion we spotted whales on the ride. And multiple times, I wished my dad would stop. Obviously, he didn’t. I’d ask, “Can we stop here?” But it seemed he didn’t hear me. He SEEMED to not hear me. I have my doubts, though, lol. I guess I shouldn’t be upset that he didn’t stop because we had some time to go, and he probably just wanted to get there. He was the one driving. The rest of us were just riding.

Anyway, I can still honestly say that we saw whales while in a moving car. Whales. Plural. Not just one. We also saw lots of beauty in general which is an understatement when trying to describe the scenery in Quebec. There were many photo-worthy views, but I’ll have to settle for the images I saved in my mind. My dad didn’t stop, remember?

He didn’t stop for photos, but we did stop in Sept Iles (Seven Islands) to make a phone call. We had to call the office for the place we were going to get directions to Longue-Pointe-de-Mignan which is where we’d park the car. And then we would be taking a speedboat to the island.

We reached the office and tried to speak to the young lady who had given us directions. She apologized for not speaking English well to which I responded, “Your English is better than my French.” That made her laugh. It was about 2pm at the time. She told us where we could park the car and also informed us that the boat would be there around 3pm.

And so we waited. It felt like we were waiting at the edge of the earth with only the site of stunning blue waters and skies staring back at you, calling you.

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Adventure awaits!

 

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.

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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!

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