Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ALASKA-America's last frontier

What can we say about Alaska? It is majestic, beautiful, nature at its finest. Mountains, fjords, waterfalls, glaciers, minor earthquakes everyday, and wildlife. We had a 15 day cruise and land tour, took over 350 photos, and made lots of friends and memories. We paled around with Jennie & Richard from Singapore, Janet & John from London, and several others. Once on the land tour there were 30 of us from all around the world.
I want to make this statement to everyone who vacations outside the U.S.A. What the heck are you doing? The greatest adventures and place to see are right here. As me meet people from around the world, they all say the same thing, "You Americans are so lucky, we have nothing like this in our country." Think about people from Europe, Latin America, or the Far East. They have no Yellowstone, Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Glaciers, Giant Redwoods, Mt. Rushmore, etc. They say "You Americans are the luckiest people because of the natural wonders you have." 
Their famous places to visits are all man made. We are very lucky that our forefathers have protected our lands and set up National Parks, National Monuments, and lands in the U.S.  So, below are just a small portion of what we saw and did in Alaska. We hope that all of you get a chance to go there some day.  We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Liarsville, Talkeetna, Anchorage, Kenai, Whittier, Wassila, Nenanna, and Fairbanks.

We started our adventure in Vancouver, British Columbia
Our ship was the "Love Boat", the Crown Princess
The Crown Princess docked at our first stop, Ketchikan, Alaska
Native dancers performing at the Saxman Village
Debbie in the rain, next to a totem pole
The Three Bears totem pole
Main Street Ketchikan, Alaska-Salmon Capital of the World
Debra is ready to row out to Mendenhall Glacier
Our canoe, 12 rowers, 1 guide, 5 miles round-trip
At our rest stop after visiting the glacier
Our guide, Mike, originally from Vermont
One of many icebergs we had to avoid
Our view from The Hanger at the Wharf Restaurant in Juneau
We took the tram up to the top of Roberts Mountain
The ship from atop the mountain
Juneau from above
Looking up river from atop the tram ride
The White River & Yukon RR into Canada, on to Liarsville, & back to Juneau

Beautiful views, streams and waterfalls in the mountains
Going over a 1908 bridge & into a tunnel we go!
Debbie and our host at Liarsville
Debbie is ready for the Salmon Bake
Our entertainers where all from Florida (Terry on the left went to UCF)
Our host for the tour of the Red Onion brothel
Heading to the glaciers in Glacier Bay and College Fjord 
One of the many glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park
Blue Ice walls, hundreds of feet high
A cold Debbie out looking at glaciers
Blue Ice
A stream flows fast, out from under a glacier
Majestic Landscapes
The tale of a whale
Huge glaciers coming together at College Fjord
A Massive Glacier
Our waiter POM from Thailand and assistant IRENA from the Ukraine
A women walking her pet reindeer (Caribou)  in Whittier
Off the ship & on the land tour-1st stop Kenai
Now we have nice weather for lunch on the deck

Debbie enjoys a hot tub soak
Debbie & new friend Janet from London, get ready for a rafting adventure
Floating down the Chena River
A mature Bald Eagle sits atop a tree, ready to eat some salmon
Young Eagles eat salmon.  It takes 3 years to get brown feathers & the white crown
A Bald Eagle in the trees
Merganser Duck Mom with week old chicks
The end of our 3 hour rafting journey
At the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla-the race is 1000 miles
A typical dog sled
The dogs a bred to run and they love it
The Iditarod Trophy
You must keep all food (for man or dog) where bears can't reach it.
Next stop, The McKinley Princess Lodge
On a morning walk in little Talkeetna, food, tourist stuff and not much more
Debbie says "Buy & ride a Polaris"
"Hello" from Talkeetna
Debbie says, :"It's too cloudy to see Mt. McKinley 70% of the time."
Finally we can see Mt. McKinley, 20,320 feet high, America's tallest mountain
Time to board the train to Denali National Park
"All Aboard"
It's cozy inside the glass domed rail car
It's time for lunch
Fast flowing rivers from the snow melt
Debbie spotted a beaver dam, just behind that tree
It is all so beautiful
Snow capped mountains, billions of  green trees
Next stop, Denali Princess Lodge
Dinner Theatre (food & fun in Denali)
Our waiter and performer is Walter
We start an 8 hour Tundra Tour by bus inside Denali National Park
Tall mountains
Rivers that constantly change channels
Many different colors of rock
Caribou are wild.  Reindeer are Caribou that have been domesticated.
This big guy is starting to molt.
A female Moose on the run
A ground squirrel poses for a photo
1 1/2 miles across the mountain, a bear sleeps( I zoomed in as best I could)
Debbie struggles with one moose horn
We are at the Alaska Pipeline, another American achievement
This section floats above the permafrost, some is underground
Our train to Gold Dredge # 8
We're in Alaska on an 80 degree day
Gold Dredge # 8 churns up dirt, looking for gold
A conveyor used to dump dirt
Large buckets pull up the dirt and gold
Debbie panned enough gold to make a nice necklace
This nugget is worth $75,000 (we didn't fine this)
Time to ride a riverboat
This pilot took off and landed so that we could see how short a takeoff is.
Tekla Butcher
Tekla's mother was the famous Susan Butcher.  Men said that no woman could win the 1000 mile Iditarod.  Susan came to Alaska, trained her own dogs a won the Iditarod 4 times, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990.  Susan passed away at age 54 in 2006. Tekla has taken over the business and raises dogs for the big race. We got to see the dogs in their environment and saw them do a mile or so practice run.

They train by pulling a motor-less quad
After a run, the dogs cool off in the river

We learned the proper way to filet a salmon
We learned about Indian culture and their beautiful clothes
The menu for our Farewell dinner
Our last dessert, Banana's Foster
Our tour guide, Terry Ready of Aiken, S.C.

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