Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

Our trip is winding down as we head home tomorrow night.  It'll be an overnight flight from Fairbanks to Minneapolis to Toronto.  Our last day was spent driving from Denali to Fairbanks.  We spent the afternoon on a sternwheeler boat taking a leisurely trip down the river and visiting a replica of an old cabin and learning a lot of Athabaskan history.




Ron was pretty happy as we passed the home of Dave Monson whose wife, Susan Butcher, was a four-time winner of the Iditarod.  Sadly Susan passed away a few years ago but their daughters are now mushing.  As we passed their home along the river, we stopped to watch the dogs give a display of mushing.  They are just crazy to pull.  At the village further down the river, we had the opportunity to meet half a dozen of the dogs.  So guess where we spent all our time!

I'll be seeing you soon.  Until then...

Monday, July 25, 2011

DENALI WILDERNESS PARK

We disembarked in Whittier on Saturday and travelled by coach to Anchorage.  I'll have to check but I'm sure this is one of the larger (if not the largest) city in Alaska.  Although we did not see too much of the city, we weren't altogether impressed with it.  I did not take one single photo while there.

This photo taken at the Denali Wilderness Lodge.

 On Sunday, we "rode the rails" by taking an eight hour ride into the interior of Alaska.  The next three photos below were taken from the train.  One of the small towns we passed along the way had an interesting story attached to it.  The first TV in town was to be found in the local bar.  As the people crowded in one Saturday night to watch America's Most Wanted, lo and behold, they recognized one of the featured criminals.  It was their very own mayor.  Several people called in to identify this guy trying to make sure they were first in order to receive the reward.  When the FBI arrived a day or so later to arrest the criminal, the gentleman who had first called was front and centre to collect the money.  Unfortunately for him, the FBI recognized him as someone on their Most Wanted list as well.  So the FBI were able to arrest two guys on their list and still kept their money!

The elk are being looked after just now at a conservation centre where abandoned or injured animals are cared for.  The centre is very rustic and most of the animals can't even be seen by us because the centre realy keeps the setting natural for them.  There are no buildings or feeding areas that we see.  There's just a fence to keep us away from them.

Taken at conservation centre.










Taken from train.





A visit to the Denali Wilderness Park reminds us to be respectful of Mother Nature.  This is the largest U.S. protected park of its kind.  There is very little human intervention in the park.  Vehicles are only allowed so far into the park.  Then there is a section where park sanctioned buses may continue.  The animals have become used to the buses.  But humans are not allowed off the bus and we were instructed to remain quiet.  The human voice would be frightening to animals.  Most of the park is not accessible to anyone.  The park rangers do not interfere with nature.  They don't rescue animals, they don't feed them.  They simply allow nature to take its course.  
 
Until next time... 


Thursday, July 21, 2011

THURSDAY, JULY 21

 Today we are cruising through Glacier Bay.  The scenery is so breathtaking it's difficult to choose which photos to post.  And I'm not even a very good photographer!


 Kalvin actually took a video of this for me with sound effects of the ice breaking away.  I'll have to share that with you in another format.
We had a couple of these guys come to visit us today.  I guess they were hitching a ride while we were crusing. 

Until next time...

SKAGWAY

Welcome to Skagway.  We visited here yesterday.  As it was quite late when we returned to the ship I didn't get a chance to post.  We have been so fortunate weather-wise.  The sun was shining pretty much all day yesterday and it was quite warm.  Apparently the further north we travel, the less the precipitation is. 

The sidewalks are all wooden as are most of the buildings in the downtown area.  The "ladies" at the bordello were hanging out the windows soliciting business as in days of old.  Others were in period costume as well.

At least the shops of the local artisans outnumbered the jewelry stores here!

We're on a catamaran on our way to Haines, a town of about 800.  Remember the cost of milk in Juneau?  Well, here it is $12 a gallon!  The population of all of these cities and towns we're visiting drops dramatically once the cruise ships stop coming in.  The last ship to dock this year will be on September 24.  Then only the locals, which are primarily Indians, remain.

 In Haines we went river rafting on the Chilkat River through a bald eagle reserve.  There were four guides and since one of them was named Sunny, we had to make sure we got on his raft.  Good thing, we picked the best guide as far as keeping the raft going.  The water is so shallow in areas that we sometimes have to "bounce" to get the raft moving along.  But Sunny did a great job navigating.

 One of many bald eagles that we met along the way.  I think his name was Henry.

They look so serious, don't they!


Until next time...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

JUNEAU, ALASKA

 We were out whale watching today.  Although the humpback whale is generaly a solitary creature, they do sometimes gather together for a feeding frenzy called bubble-netting.  Today there were about 10 of them pulling together for this feeding.  They're filling up now for their migration to Hawaii for the winter and mating season.  They won't eat for quite a while after this.  We witnessed several of the bubble-net incidents which apparently is very unusual to see even once. 

My photos weren't that great.  So I purchased a book that has been put together by some locals.  All the pictures have been taken in the area.  It was just phenomenal to see these whales jumping out of the water.  They were having a "whale" of a time!

 Juneau is the capital of Alaska.  Similar to Ketchikan, it rains approximately 230 days a year.  Everything is very lush and green.  Winters are fairly moderate.  Again, as they are landlocked everything has to be barged in.  A gallon of milk runs $5.50.

Their federal building has been included on the list of ugly U.S. capital state buildings four times!  A local artist was commissioned to create something for the front of the building.  Florida apparently commissioned the same artist at the same time.  Well, you can guess, the artist mixed up the shipment and each state received the other's work.  Florida liked the piece intended for Alaska so much that they ended up keeping it.  So the Florida state capital has a wonderful statue of a couple of eagles.  Alaska, on the other hand, has a pelican!  Guess what?  There are no pelicans native to Alaska except this one.

These two photos were taken at Mendenhall Glacier.  I'm sure these photos don't really do justice.  However, the pictures in our minds will have to do.

Again, we were fortunate as the rain held off pretty much until almost the end of our adventure today.

Until next time...

Monday, July 18, 2011

KETCHIKAN, ALASKA

 So much trivia picked up today.  I've got to get some of it written down here before I forget it!

This is one of many totem poles that we were introduced to today.  Apparently this guy honours the story that the Indians told their children about thunder and lightning and where they come from.

Ketchikan is the 4th largest city in Alaska - 57 miles of paved roads, 4 street lights in the city.  Absolutely everything is barged in as this is one of 1800 islands.  Fresh produce is extremely expensive and very difficult for the locals to obtain.


 These photos are taken at Totem Bight Park.  It rains here in Ketchikan 270 days a year.  They get in excess of 13 feet of rain.  We lucked in as it didn't start to rain until after we had returned to the ship.










 The scenery is breathtaking.  It's very mountainous.  So different from looking at concrete everywhere. 
I see the temperature in Toronto today hit 32C.  Here it was about 62F.
Many houses are built on sheer rock on the side of the hills.  Wooden steps lead up to all the homes.  Imagine having a new stove delivered or even just bringing a baby stroller up and down these stairs.  You're talking easily 50+ stairs up to these homes.

There's a Wal-Mart in town (of course) which is the third smallest of the chain.  Our guide indicated that although there are mixed feelings about Wal-Mart in the continental U.S., here the locals love it.  When it opened back in 2000, people came from miles and miles.  Children took the day off school to come to see Wal-Mart.  The shelves were totally emptied in the grand opening and it took two weeks for Wal-Mart to restock.

We're cruising now, heading off to Juneau.  Until next time...

Friday, July 15, 2011

VANCOUVER ACQUARIUM

 We were off to the acquarium today and met this little fella along with some other birds of prey.

The two otter appear to be holding "paws" and were just floating all around the tank, doing the backswim. 

They have a great 4D film experience here as long as you don't mind getting a little wet.

Although rain was predicted, as we all know, any of us could be weather people.  Haven't seen any yet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

THE TRIP THAT WASN'T

For those of you who do not know, Ron's brother passed away and we have returned home to Canada.  We were in Sydney for just over 24 hours.  I'm sure I'll be talking to you all soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

1/3 OF THE WAY THERE!

Well, it's been just another fun-filled day for the Dolsons, ha!  Arrived at airport this a.m. and one can certainly understand why they want you there three hours ahead of time.  With three different lineups to get through, we had about five minutes before the plane started boarding.  Line up to check in (this is with your boarding pass already run off at home), line up to go through Customs and line up again for the security check.  Of course, Ron set the alarm off as he always does.  Watched two movies onboard so those five hours went relatively quickly.

Now going through security at LAX, that's a whole different story.  Not friendly!!!  I made the mistake of leaving my Netbook in my bag (no problem with that in T.O.) and security didn't like that.  The inspector asked if she could disconnect my cords (the mouse and other wire).  Sure, no problem.  But as I reached for the cords myself to remove them, she's barking at me "don't touch."  Yikes, I got told off twice.  And of course Ron sets off the alarms again.  But here they're a little more serious about it.  Full body frisking is in order. 

So here we sit now killing time before the flight out of here to Sydney in about another 2-1/2 hours.  Til next time...