ALASKA WITH FAMILY
For my sister-in-laws retirement celebration she chose for her brothers, sister, and spouses to travel with her and her husband to Alaska. What a great choice that was!
We all ended up asking friends to go and ended up with 18 people traveling north to Alaska. The trip started in Lexington, KY where we flew to Chicago and onto Vancouver, Canada. At Vancouver we boarded the Star Princess ship for a 7 day cruise. After the cruise was over we rode a train to the interior of Alaska where we stayed for 3 nights. We finished the awesome vacation with a flight back home from Fairbanks to Lexington. Following are more details of our travels.
The city of glass is a beautiful city where we spent 2 nights. Here we saw totem poles, the gas steam clock, and Canada Place. A bad thing that happened here was that one of our members was pick pocketed of $800 while on the subway. So my suggestion is to always put billfolds in cargo pants where you can button or snap the pocket. Also don’t keep all of your money in one place.
We boarded the Princess Cruise Line ship in Vancouver. The Star Princess is a beautiful ship with great food. We especially enjoyed the mounds of bacon for breakfast each morning. Lobster tail, salmon, and steaks were served in our scheduled evening meals. Yes, we indulged.
Great musical performances were seen in the Princess Theatre, and we didn’t miss a one. The comedy shows were hilarious. We played several games in the Vista Lounge on our days at sea. You just have to act like a kid, relax, and enjoy yourself.
Our cruise travel agent is Ruth Terrill with Ayoya agency. We always book with her because she always finds us the lowest deals. If you use her, tell her Mrs. B sent you.
Our trip started in late July and our first port stop was the small town of Ketchikan where modest two story houses are built on steep hillsides.
The temperature was 56 degrees. Since we knew it rained 80% of the time we all brought along lightweight rain jackets. We took in a lumberjack show which was entertaining. Afterwards some of us enjoyed a short walk across a bridge to Creek Street where we saw pink salmon in the running stream. Quaint shops awaited the many tourist along this picturesque walk. Several of our group bought inexpensive jackets at one of the gift shops near port. Of course, all of the stops had lots of gift shops so plan on buying some souvenirs.
The next stop on our cruise was Juneau, the capitol of Alaska. Getting to this town is difficult if you are traveling by car since you can only reach it by ship, boat, or plane. While here we took a bus tour that took us around the city. We drove by the entrance to Sara Palin’s home and saw the governor’s mansion which was being renovated. The bus took us to the Steep Creek Salmon Viewing Trail, too. Last the bus dropped us off at the Red Dog Saloon. This is an interesting bar/restaurant to listen to music and get drinks or refreshments. It also has Alaskan décor and signs. While in Juneau one can ride a tram to the top of the mountain for an awesome view of the harbor with its many fishing boats and several cruise ships.
While in Juneau part of us took a boat ride to view whales, sea lions, and glaciers. The trip was dampened some by rain, but we still got to see some whale coming up and getting air. Sorry to say I didn’t get a good picture of them, but I did get some good ones of the many sea lions. There were thousands on some islands. On this excursion we also saw the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier was massive and pretty, but not as awesome as the ones we saw later on the cruise.
Some of our group took a four wheeling excursion which included a ride in a catamaran
Skagway was our next stop. Here some of our bunch took a train ride on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad while 2 of us chose to take a van tour. Our van tour only cost $47.50 which was about 3 times cheaper than the train. I felt this was the best excursion of the entire cruise.
On this tour we saw the Gold Rush Cemetery, Reid Falls, the famous Alaska sign,
and even got to see part of Canada’s tundra. We followed the route of the train and could watch it go by as we traveled.
Our first stop was the Gold Rush Cemetery where the interesting thing was the fences that surrounded each grave. A short hike up the hill and we got to see the beautiful Reid Falls up close. We got back on the bus and road up the mountainous road where we saw rugged terrain, more waterfalls, beautiful turquoise pools of water, and crossed the Moore Creek Bridge. This bridge was the only type of its kind in North America because it was built new several fault lines and had to be able to withstand the earthquakes in the area.
Our ship cruised to Glacier Bay. What a gorgeous place! We saw huge white, gray, and bluish glaciers. Only once did we see and hear one calve(break away).The sound was loud and it echoed for miles. We saw whales swimming fairly close to our ship and some saw bears in the distant shores. If you want to see clearer pictures click on them.
Tour of the Interior of Alaska
Denali National Forest and Preserve
When we left the Princess Lodge we rode bus to Mt. McKinley Lodge. The first night there we kept searching the horizon and comparing the maps that were on the deck to the skyline. We thought we could see part of Denali (meaning the Great One) which is the largest mountain in North America and the coldest in the world outside of Antarctica. This mountain used to be called Mt. McKinley.
The lodge provides a service where they will call you if the mountain comes into view in the night. Of course, I signed up for this service. About 6 a.m. the phone rang and the person on the other end said, “The mountain is out.” I jumped out of bed , quickly put some clothes on and rushed outside as I thought we may not be able to see it but just for a few minutes. When I got outside where I could see the mountain I had an adrenaline rush. I couldn’t believe how magnificent the sight of it was. Denali which was about 40 miles away dwarfed the mountains we had seen the night before and we had thought they were big. We were in the 10% who actually see Denali at its clearest. 30% of the visitors barely see it, and 70% only see clouds hiding the snow capped mountain. This was the highlight of my trip.
While at the Wilderness Lodge we took a bus tour to the Denali Forest. We saw how the land changed from lots of vegetation to the scarce vegetation of the tundra. We saw fishermen in meandering streams, moose, antelope and dall sheep. Some of us even picked wild blueberries. We were so lucky that we even got to see the backside of Denali since the sky was so clear.
The informative tour guide was a Kentucky native so that made the tour even more special.
Our last visit was to Fairbanks where it was a record high of 89 degrees. Here a riverboat ride was the highlight. While on this tour we saw a dog sled team, sea planes, beautiful houses and picturesque views. We got off the boat at a replica native Alaskan village where natives demonstrated trapping, sledding, and donned tribal outfits.
The next day we hired a van driver to take us to North Pole, AK which isn’t the geographical North Pole. There we saw caribou(reindeer), Santa’s sled, and a huge gift shop. Later he dropped us off at Pioneer Park which to our delight was free. This is a neat replica frontier town of Alaska. Here there is a train station, church, school, ice cream shop, etc. where you can get the feel of what life was like during the gold rush.
Our next stop was a section of the Alaskan pipeline.
On our last day of our 14 day vacation we flew home from Fairbanks. We flew to Minneapolis to Atlanta and on to Lexington, KY. What a wonderful trip this was! The cruise line was terrific and the lodges were located in beautiful settings. We saw magnificent scenery and learned a lot about the gold rush and life in our last frontier. I hope you learned something and enjoyed reading about our Alaska visit. My wish for you is that someday you can make this trip North to Alaska. Until next time. See ya. Mrs. B.
I worked hard trying to get this blogpost published. Please leave me a comment and let me know if you like it. Mrs. B