Showing posts from July, 2019

Friday, July 26th-Glaciers!

Caleb had to work so Sara, Claire, and Ryan flew to Anchorage to spend a week seeing part of Alaska with us. Today we saw glaciers! We went on a glacier cruise from Whittier. It’s over on Prince William sound through that weird one lane train-truck-car tunnel.  Anyway, the boat is a high speed catamaran that covered 140 miles in 5 hours. You go up these inlets called the College and Harriman Fjords. We saw orcas, sea lions, one bald eagle, a large nest of sea otters and a LOT of glaciers. Claire and Ryan were appointed Junior Rangers by the Park Service Ranger who is on board to narrate the trip. Diana, Sara, and I had Glacier Ice Margaritas so a good time was had by all. Here are a few pics for you to kinda get the idea:

Of all the glaciers we saw, the star of the show was the Surprise Glacier up the Harriman Fjord. We’d seen videos of glaciers calving but to see it in person is an outta the world experience. I was surprised to hear a shotgun-like blast when the chunk of ice broke aw…

Thursday, July 25th-Sara, Claire, and Ryan!

The last three days have been full of museums and preparation for Sara and the kids getting here. We’re very excited about seeing them! Their plane lands at 6:35 PM today and it has taken us two days to fully prepare.

Before the preparation, there were two museums we hadn’t visited. There are two museums devoted to the native cultures. One costs $21.50 per person and the other one is free. It doesn’t take a genius to figger out which one we visited! The second museum that day was the Anchorage Museum. It also contained a lot of information about the “First People” of Alaska, as they are called, but also went a lot deeper into all things Alaskan.

The museum has a special display on the “Franklin Expedition” and it was very interesting. It seems that two British Navy ships left London in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. It seems that they almost completely disappeared from the face of the earth in spite of numerous attempts to locate the ships. It wasn’t until 20…

Monday, July 22nd-Forgetful!

Today we did some repair work on the camper (remember the blowout in MT on the way up here?). We spent an evening with our German neighbors in the campground, and realized I’d forgotten to write about two things. First, last week we spent 3-4 hours at the Anchorage Botanical Gardens and were blown away by all the beautiful plants! Here are a couple of pics:

What’s really amazing about these beautiful flowers is that they either grew all this beauty since the snow melted in May or they were transplanted from a greenhouse to the gardens and have grown this big and beautiful outdoors since May. The Gardens also has a 1.7 mile hiking trail that we enjoyed.

The other thing I forgot to write about was almost a disaster of monumental proportions: I almost ran out of Diet Snapple! We looked at grocery stores, Walmarts, and anywhere for powder packets of DS through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. None! We got so desperate, I started making my own with packets of Crystal Lig…

Saturday, July 20th-Sled Dogs and a Glacier

weve taken it easy for the past couple of days to rest up and do some grocery shopping. Today, though, we got back into the “See Alaska” mode! Before I write about today, I have to comment on the food choices offered by Costco here in Anchorage. We walked over there last night to eat the famous $1.50 hot dog and saw this for sale in the frozen food section:

We’re Costco people deep inside so we’ve seen many Costco frozen food departments. But we’ve never seen a “Fire Pit Pig For Roasting.” Enlarge the pic some and get a close look at your dinner! The only times we’ve ever seen this were at a luau in Hawaii and when Katniss Everdeen shot the apple out of ones mouth in The Hunger Games.

Anyway, the two places we went today were the headquarters of the Iditarod Race and the Matanuska Glacier. If you don’t know much about the Iditarod, it’s a sled dog race of about 1,000 miles. Yes, you read that right, 1,000 MILES! There is a museum, the requisite souvenir shopping experience (aka Junque…

Friday, July 19th-Yesterday. . . .

We went back to Kinkaid Park, not specifically to see more moose, but to enjoy the 1mile hike through the park to a viewing point of Cook Inlet. Well, we’re strolling along and we see a large bull moose standing by the side of the trail chowing down on Willow leaves. What’s really funny about this is that Diana sent this pic to our daughter Sara, our granddaughter Claire, and our grandson Ryan and she got this reply from 12 year-old Claire:
“Aww look at her she is adorable oh wow I just saw that monster in the back umm is that even safe” We laughed until we hurt! Anyway, here’s the pic: (Claire was referring to Soo Young being cute when she then noticed the moose in the background!)

Wednesday, July 17th-Portage and Whittier, AK

Yesterday we took off looking at Alaska and just rested. Isn’t that what retirement is about? Anyway we made up for it today with almost 16 and almost 18,000 steps. Here is a pic of where we stopped and ate a picnic lunch on the way to Portage:

We were driving along the Portage Glacier Highway and saw a sign that said Moose Flats Day Use Area. We glanced at each other and said “Why not?” It’s just a little turnout along the highway but isn’t it beautiful? Then we went to Portage Lake and talked with a Chugach National Forest Ranger about hikes in the area. She steered us to a .9 mile trail called the Byron Glacier Trail. Here’s a pic I took looking up at the glacier:

If you enlarge the pic some, you can see the glaciers up in the mountains valleys above Diana’s head. When I look at this pic, the only thing I can see is my beautiful Bride!

We went to Whittier in Prince William Sound next and THAT was an experience! There is only one road going to Whittier and it goes through a tunnel. …

Monday, July 15th-Whatsa Bore Tide?

No, this is not a tide named after me (!) but it very well could be! Actually, we drove out the Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway. We drove out there to see the Bore Tide (hang on a minute!) but found two other interesting things to see. First, though, the Bore Tide:

I’ve heard of the extremely low and high tides in the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Eastern Provinces of Canada but . . . . I’d never thought of such dramatic tidal changes in Alaska. First, a Bore Tide is when the incoming tide forms a raised front-thus the name bore (not me!). It looks like a wave rolling from the wider part of an inlet toward the narrow part. In other words, the water is flowing backward toward its source. The tides in Cook Inlet routinely reach 30-34 FEET so a lot of water is going backward from its normal direction. Depending on the conditions, the bore tides can be from 6 inches to 6 feet high. There was a strong Easterly wind today so the bore we saw was only about a f…

Sunday, Jul 14th-Alaskans Like to Poke Fun at Texas!

Today we went to the Anchorage Market and Festival in downtown. We saw more of those T-shirts that make fun of the size of Texas. If you can’t quite make out what written on ‘em in the following pic, the one on the left is Alaska talking about Texas with a meme of that famous line from the movie Scarface “Say hello to my little friend!” The one on the right suggests that Alaska be cut in half to make TX the third largest state. As someone who was born in TX, raised in TX, and lived most of my adult life in TX, they are still pretty darn funny!
If you’re interested in unique foods, try halibut, reindeer, and salmon tacos and burritos! The sign on the right is suggesting salmon burgers and quesadillas! Somehow we couldn’t force ourselves!
If you still can’t resist, try reindeer sausage and wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Dogs! We love hot dogs as much as the next person, but Salmon Hot Dogs? NOPE!

We went in yet another Junque Joint and I saw these two wild animals together! (But I’m kinda p…

Saturday, July 13th-Where DO You Park Your Seaplane?

Well, if you live in Anchorage, you fly into Lake Hood Seaplane Base. I’ve seen seaplanes land and take off in Seattle and Vancouver, BC but I’d never before seen where they live! We were looking for something unique to see and/or do when we left Earthquake Park (more on this sad event later) and we saw the seaplane airport just North of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Here’s a screenshot of the place from Google Maps:
You may hafta enlarge the map screenshot to get a good view of it. Apparently there were two small lakes near the big airport and the city needed a place for seaplanes to safely land and take off. So the city of Anchorage dredged the land between the lakes and made a water runway. THEN they dredged the Five Fingers Flat Plane Parking area that you see above on the map. Here’s a pic of one of the planes in its parking spot:
We parked in the lot of the Alaska Aviation Museum and watched the goings on. We saw one flightseeing plane take off and 4-5 land on the…

Friday, July 12th-Three Moose?

Today was an interesting day. We started off making a reservation for an excursion when Sara, Claire, and Ryan are here. It’s a surprise for them so I’ll fill you in on the details in about two weeks. While we were downtown, we visited the Visitor Information Center pictures below:

Before you ask, yes, there is dirt on the roof with plants growing on the roof. The natives here tell us that type of roofing is the best insulation against the brutal winter weather here. I was looking at a picture of this building made in 2012 and the lady who worked there told me there was 132 inches of snow in downtown Anchorage that year. I’m not a mathematician but I believe that’s 11 feet of snow! Anyway, a local resident snowshoed there and took the following pic. It’s not very clear because it’s a pic of a pic but you can still see two moose standing outside the building smack in the middle of downtown Anchorage!

Speaking of moose, we looked up and found the most likely places to see moose in the c…

Thursday, July 11th-Salmon Fishing?

I do not fish because I don’t have the patience necessary to sit or stand for hours on end waiting for one fish to bite! We were downtown today looking at Ulu Knives being made and sold and we wandered behind the Zulu Factory and we saw a buncha people gathered around a creek. We HAD to check that out and saw the most extraordinary thing! There were 20-25 people fishing for Salmon! Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage has a King Salmon run from mid-May to July. We were on a pedestrian bridge and we could see schools of Salmon swimming through the clear water. We didn’t see anyone catch a Salmon but we saw one brought to the top of the water and then get off the hook. We could see 20-25 people fishing but this pic only shows a handful of people fishing. Downtown Anchorage!

So we leave downtown and head South on the Seward Highway to see a chocolate waterfall! WHAT? Well, here’s the pic to prove it! If you enlarge the pic, you can read that the waterfall is made of 3,400 pounds of real choc…

Wednesday, July 10th-A Family Portrait

We were wandering through downtown Anchorage today and a professional photographer offered us a no-charge family portrait if we would pose like two bears. So I’m thinkin’ “What’s the catch?” She assured me there was no catch so I went along. Whaddya think? (By the way, Diana is the one in the front!)

And to think you were buyin’ all that horse hockey I was throwin’ down!

Tuesday, July 9th-HOT in Anchorage?

Well, Diana has been after me for months to bring jeans, boots, and “layers” for when we get to Alaska. I’m tellin’ ya it ain’t happened! We’ve been in Anchorage and the highs have been in the mid to upper 80’s! That’s not as hot and miserable as Planet Houston but it’s still too hot for hikin’! So we’ve stayed in since we got here to give me time to finish the grading and get the grades in for the two online courses I have this Summer. So 2-3 days of gradin’, nappin’, and takin’ life easy! The weather finally got back to Alaska normal with a high of 62 today. Niiiiiice!

Today we were out on the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm and we saw a dumpster that was just too good to pass up! Just who is going to “occupy” a dumpster?

Saturday, July 6th-Costco?

Today we loaded up in Denali and drove to Anchorage. Along the 237 miles, we had a few more good looks at the mountain. Diana took the first of these pics about 30 miles South of the park entrance. The second pic was taken at a highway turnout about 15-20 miles from the mountain:

Okay, what about Costco? Well, you have to think of the characteristics of a perfect campground-Here are the details about our home for the next three weeks: Shady site? Yes Large site? On the smallish side Friendly neighbors? Yes, so far Clean bathrooms? Yes Affordable laundry? Yes Proximity to Costco? YES! RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET! 
So we head over to Costco for a Fine Dining Experience-Whazzat? Hot dogs with sauerkraut and a Diet Pepsi! THAT’S a FDE! Anyway, we’re walking through Costco looking for the food court and look at these three products for sale!

Now, I challenge anyone reading this (All 5 of you!) to find a Costco in the Lower 48 that sells 1) frozen fish boxes, 2) bear spray, and 3) 5 foot diamet…

Friday, July 5th-GREAT News!

Yesterday we did a short hike inside the park but not any monumental ones. We parked near the Park Headquarters and saw this:

When we were in Fairbanks a couple of weeks ago, I posted a pic of electric plugs in the Wally World parking lot. This pic shows another near the park HQ. maybe half of the cars and trucks we see have electric plugs sticking out of the grill. My guess is that people who have to park their vehicles outside in the winter plug an engine heater in to electricity so the vehicle will start when it’s 30-40 below zero!

The great news is that Sara, Claire, and Ryan are coming to Alaska to spend a week with us. They are coming to Anchorage in about 2.5 weeks. We will pick them up at the Anchorage airport, show them around Anchorage for a few days and then come back to Denali for a few days. We may be bumpin’ into each other in the camper with five of us but we’ve done it before with six. Caleb can’t make this trip because of work but we appreciate him using so many miles…

Wednesday, July 3rd-A Take It Easy Day

Today we mainly recovered from eight hours of jarring bus rides and 1,100 elevation change hikes. I got some school work done by spending 2.5-3 hours in the Black Bear Coffee Shop-with their free wi-fi! I was starting to get some stares from the employees before finishing.

One thing we did today was use our porta-potty to empty part of our gray tank. This campground only has a few sites with full hook ups. The site we have has electric and water but no sewer connections. There comes a time when those tanks get full and then what do you do? Well, we take our  porta-potty out of the front basement, empty 20-25 gallons of gray water in it, hook it to the back of the truck, drive slowly to the dump station, and empty the gray water. The gray water comes from the sinks and shower while the black water (that we DIDN’T empty!) wasn’t nearly full yet. We can wait to empty it when we leave Denali on Saturday. So we’re back to Navy showers!

If I haven’t explained Navy showers yet, they are whe…

Tuesday, July 2nd-Denali NP Up Close and Personal

First, I’m no expert on Denali NP but we learned a lot more about the park today. Let me explain that today was our first day to go deep into the park. You havta get how Denali works to understand it. First, there is ONE road that goes into the park. That one road goes 92 miles into the park. Private vehicles are only allowed to drive 15 miles in the park. The only way to see other parts of the park is on buses. You pick which places in the park you want to visit and then you ride the bus there? No, it’s not at all that simple!

Okay, you pick where you want to go and ride the bus there. The big difference is that the buses are driving on gravel roads past the 15 mile mark. 40-50 passenger buses driving on mainly one-lane gravel roads through very wild country is extremely slow. Let me give you an example-We left the Eielson Visitor Center (which is at Mile 66!) at 5:00 PM and reached the Bus Depot around 8:30 PM. Chris Martin, you could help me with the Math here but we went 66 miles …