Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alaska Vacation Recap

Jay and I are finally home and settled in from our 10-day (turned 11 thanks to issues with our flights) Alaskan adventure. We had a wonderful time sightseeing all across Alaska and and a bit of Canada.

We started the trip with one night in Anchorage, but the vacation really got started the next day when we hopped on a bus and headed south to Seward.

The drive to Seward was one of the most scenic I've ever taken, and it was even better when the bus driver stopped to let us look around a wildlife refuge for a while on the way. I got up close and personal with moose, bison, and elk, and we even caught a glimpse of a black bear. The scenery at the refuge was so beautiful, and it was a major highlight of the trip for me.
Seward was my favorite city out of all the the ones we visited. It was so quaint with super-friendly people and the most spectacular views. Our first afternoon, Jay and I went for a hike that turned into a much longer expedition than we anticipated. The views kept getting more and more amazing, so we just kept climbing up the steep trail of Mount Marathon. We ended up covering close to seven miles, and, although I was so exhausted I could barely even walk by the time we got down, it was well worth the effort.
The next day, we strapped our hiking boots back on and met up with some professional guides to go ice-climbing on Exit Glacier. After a beautiful 2.5 mile hike up the mountain to the glacier, we changed into special ice boots with crampons (spiky metal points that strap onto the the bottom of the boots).
We spent some time clomping around the huge glacier, and then took turns climbing up steep walls and down into deep crevices in the ice. It was a little scary but so, so cool. The guides did a great job of coaching us and keeping us safe, and I cannot say enough good things about the whole experience.

From Seward, we boarded a Royal Caribbean cruise to start heading down the coast of Alaska. I had never been on a cruise before and wasn't really sure what to expect, but, for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.
Our fellow passengers were friendly, the room was small but really nice and comfortable, the staff was amazing, and the food was top-notch.

We did feel a bit limited by the breakfast selections, but the lunches and dinners were always of the highest quality with lots of variety and healthy options. Our waiter at dinner quickly caught on to the fact that we weren't big meat eaters, and he informed us that there was a rotating vegetarian Indian curry dish every night that was not listed on the menu. We ordered the secret Indian food on numerous occasions, as well as plenty of other delicious dishes.
While there was tons to do on the boat, Jay and I both agreed that we were glad we only spent two whole days cruising out of our seven. We might have gone a little stir-crazy if we were stuck on the boat for multiple days at a time.

While on the boat, the scenery helped keep us entertained, especially on the first day when we got up close to the spectacular Hubbard Glacier.
We filled the rest of our boat time relaxing on the deck, going to the gym, participating in numerous trivia games (we always came SO CLOSE but never won), playing mini-golf, rock-climbing, and swimming.
The cruise stopped in four different cities before ending in Vancouver.

One of my favorite stops! We took a shuttle to the Mendenhall glacier, and, even though it was our third glacier, we were still amazed at how cool it was. We hiked right up close to it and then continued hiking on a nearby mountain. The forest was one of the lushest and greenest I have ever seen.
We also did some shopping around town and hit up a couple of famous local saloons for a drink. It was the prefect combination of physical activity and relaxation.

We started our morning in the old mining town of Skagway with a trip on the famous White Pass scenic railway, which goes straight up into the mountains to an elevation of 2,865 feet. The views were amazing!
We spent the rest of the day exploring the town, visiting an old gold-rush cemetery, and hiking.

Icy Straight Point
We didn't think Icy Straight Point would be too exciting, since there isn't much to do in the town unless you pre-booked an excursion (which we hadn't done). We walked around the little touristy area for a bit and then got on a shuttle to a nearby fishing village. As we were making our way up the coast, the driver stopped to let the passengers snap a picture of a bald eagle that was perched close to the road. While everyone was photographing the eagle, I noticed a ring of bubbles forming in the water just a few feet away. All of a sudden, a huge humpback whale jumped up through the bubbles with his mouth wide open to catch the fish. I think the whole bus was in shock!
The whale ended up hanging around the area most of the day, and Jay and I spent our time running up and down the shore trying to get good looks at it. We were so glad that we hadn't spent hundred of dollars on a whale-watching tour, since we got the best views right from the land!

Unfortunately we arrived a little too early in the year to see the salmon spawning in Ketchikan, but we did manage to find a good hiking trail and do some shopping while we were here. There were a few neat things to see, but overall it was not one of our favorite cities.

We ended our trip with two days in Vancouver, Canada. After all of the small towns, it was a nice change to be in a big, bustling city. Our favorite part was renting bicycles and riding around Stanley Park, one of Vancouver's most scenic areas.
This vacation was one of my favorites, but, after a rough 24 hours of traveling, it is so good to be back home with the pups!

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