Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Denali Bus Trip

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Got on the bus at 2:00 pm for our eight hour bus trip exploring Denali National Park. We were able to get a glimpse of Denali. It was faint but you could see the entire mountain. That is a pretty rare treat. We had hoped that we could get a better picture from Eielson Visitor Center, but the clouds had moved in by then and blocked the view. We did manage to see some caribou within the first hour of the trip. This one is still shedding his long winter hair. The hair comes in quite handy in the spring and early summer as it protects them from those pesky mosquitoes!
 Here's Greg at the Toklat River stop. He wasn't sure if anyone on the bus had a sense of humor or if they had never watched The Andy Griffith Show because no one commented on his shirt!
Upon leaving Toklat, we soon managed to see a grizzly bear and a caribou in close proximity to each other. Although grizzlies are incredibly fast, it would have been unlikely that he could have chased down this healthy caribou. The bear seemed content to dig for grubs and roots.
 We journeyed on toward Eielson Visitor Center. Here Mom and I enjoyed the beautiful landscape. Pictures do not do this place justice. It is awe inspiring just to stand and soak up your surroundings.
 Soon after Eielson, we happened upon another grizzly. This one was feasting on a dead caribou in the river! In the nearly 20 times we have visited the park, we had never seen a bear on its kill before. Although we are not sure if the bear killed this caribou or just happened upon a recently deceased caribou, he took advantage of the time to eat some meat.
 We thought this plaque matched our sentiments. You gotta keep exploring!
This picture seemed to capture the beauty and reality of Denali National Park. You have the tremendous beauty and vastness of the park as well as the struggle the animals endure just to live here.
 
 Near the end of the bus ride back, we managed to see a cow moose with her two calves right on the edge of the road. Our wildlife count for the day: three grizzly bears, several caribou, a golden eagle, a short eared owl, loads of snowshoe hares, three Dall sheep dancing on the mountain, and three moose. It was a nearly perfect day!
Got up the next morning and headed home to Anchorage. We made a quick stop to show Mom the old Igloo gas station near Cantwell. I bet this was really something to see when it was still open and operating.

As it turns out, Mom wouldn't have had to go up to Denali to see a bear. We had a black bear right in our front yard Saturday afternoon! It looked around and then took off up the road. He was too quick for a photo. 
Mom and I leave Tuesday morning for her return trip to Tennessee. Greg and I both have enjoyed having her stay with us and explore this great state. The time has flown by! She had a great time and thinks everyone should see the state. Maybe we can talk her into staying the entire summer next year!



Friday, July 21, 2017

Mom's Trip to Denali

I'm sure Mom's new friends will miss her while we are gone on a trip! However, you can't come all the way to Alaska without going to see Denali. So we got up Sunday and headed north to Denali. 

After a pleasant drive on this overcast day, we arrived at our destination in the late afternoon. We dropped off our luggage at our hotel room and took a drive on the park road. We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center and got our bus tickets for the next day's ride into the park.
Didn't see any wildlife on this run, except for snowshoe hares, so we decided to drive to Healy and fill up the car with gas. We also took a drive down Stampede Road. Snowshoe hares seemed to be all over the place here also! After eating way too much at the Salmon Bake, we drove back into the park around 10 pm. This time we managed to see a cow moose with twins!
 They were just munching away on vegetation close to  the edge of the roadside.
We drove as far as Savage River and didn't see any other large wildlife.
A beautiful rainbow bid us good night as we were leaving the park. We took that as a good sign and made our way back to room to rest and get ready for the bus adventure.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Homer and Seward

What a view we had from our room in Homer! It was so relaxing to sit on the balcony and watch the ships go out on their fishing trips.
Mom and I decided to get out and do some sightseeing around the city. We took a trip up to Skyline Drive and looked out across the spit. The Homer Spit is about 4.5 miles long. It is a really narrow strip of land, really mostly sand and gravel. Our hotel is at the very end of it, hence the name Lands' End. 

You can also see several of the glaciers that are found in the mountain ranges that surround Kachemak Bay. 
 Up the highway a bit more, we turned and traveled down some really curvy roads to the village of Nikolaevsk. The community is inhabited by Russian Old Believers. This is their Russian Orthodox church. 


 The next morning, we headed out for a trip to Seward. Our first stop was in the Kenai Fjords National Park. Here is Mom reading about the beautiful surrounding forests and glaciers.
 Exit Glacier is peeking into the valley from the Harding Icefield. This Icefield has approximately 40 glaciers extending out from it.
 Luckily, you can see this glorious glacier from the road. Some of its magnificent blue ice was visible even on this overcast day. We did bit of shopping in Seward, stopping for candy and quilt fabric before heading home. Tomorrow morning we will leave for our adventure in Denali National Park!


Friday, July 14, 2017

Homer

Mom and I took off for a trip down to Homer and Seward. We stopped along the way to eat lunch near Kenai Lake. The water is so wonderfully blue here! Several people were out in rafts and kayaks enjoying the water.
 Farther down the highway, we stopped at the Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church near Ninilchik.
There were some awesome views of the beach and the distant volcano from the bluff of the church
property.


 We also pulled over to take a look at the three volcanoes you can see from the highway. This is Mount Redoubt. Its last known eruption was in 2009. We didn't see any smoke coming from the top, so we felt safe enough to continue on down the road!
 We rolled into our home for the next few nights at Land's End Resort on the end of the Homer Spit.

Well, this was not exactly a comforting sight to see upon getting into our room! I did read it in case the sirens went off. 

 Mom went out onto the balcony to enjoy the gorgeous views. We both fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Strange things of summer

I took this picture right before retiring for the night at Sheep Mountain Lodge. You can just make out the moon rising above the mountains. 
After a restful night, we awoke to this interesting cloud just hovering above the road in front of the lodge. We got a bite to eat and then began our journey home. This proved to be great timing on our part. A huge mudslide happened right beside the lodge a few hours later. Luckily, no one was injured but it did cause quite a bit of damage. It was a pretty large and powerful mudslide, sweeping several cars along with the mud and debris.
 While you can also see the  Tazlina Glacier in this area, there really isn't a good place to stop and get a photo. The Matanuska Glacier, however, is quite visible from the roadway with several good spots to stop and take a pic.

 There is even a school located right off the highway named Glacier View School. It is easy to see how it got its name when you look right behind the playground. You most definitely can view the glacier from this school!
As the road meandered beside the Matanuska River, we happened to see a most disturbing sight in the water. A house was floating in the swift current of the river!
The river has been threatening several homes here near Sutton. Thankfully, the family that owns the home had already moved out. The water finally eroded enough of the ground under the house to cause it to slip into the roaring water.
 We arrived home, safe and sound. Greg went out later that night to enjoy some time in his hammock. He came back in quickly and told me there was a strange fat bird in the backyard.
 It had the most unusual colors on its feathers.
It is a pigeon, but we had never seen one with such different colors.
 Mom and I head out again tomorrow for a trip to Seward and Homer. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Matanuska Glacier

Mom and I took off for an overnight road trip up the Glenn Highway.  
 We stopped along the way for some pics of the rivers flowing near the highway.
 This lake is so beautiful with the mountains on all sides.
 Mom was intrigued by the mountains here.
 Some of the mountains are green with trees and vegetation to nearly the top. Other mountains right next to them are covered in snow.
 You can see the Matanuska Glacier in the distance behind Mom in this photo.
 This is a gorgeous drive along this valley.
 The glacier began to get closer as we traveled north.
This glacier is massive. It's hard to capture it in the pictures. Just for reference, look at the spruce trees in the foreground of this picture. Now look at the spruce trees near the front of the glacier. It makes them look tiny!
It was a really nice drive but we were ready to stop for the night.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Eklutna Lake and Historical Village

 Greg got to work from home today so Mom and I got out and took a short trip up the highway. Our first stop was a visit to Eklutna Lake in the beautiful Chugach State Park.
Many trails traverse the area around this lake.

There were several people getting ready to kayak here. Hope they don't take a dip because the water in the lake comes from nearby Eklutna Glacier. Might be a bit cold.
 We journeyed on to Eklutna Historical Village nearby.
 The village has both Russian Orthodox and Native Alaska influences. The Athabascan people have lived in this area for centuries.
 This is the inside of the white church located in the village.
 Our guide gave us a quite informative tour of the two churches located here. Only the white church is still used for services. We were then allowed to go on a self-guided walk around the cemetery.  
 The grounds are filled with spirit houses which are quite beautiful. The colors are significant to certain families from the area. Many spirit houses are quite elaborate and detailed.
 I had always wondered about the onion tops found on many Russian Orthodox churches. The priest explained the shape was modeled after a candle's flame pointing toward heaven.
A few miles up the road we saw several people out fishing in a local river. The parking lot had several cars in it and most everyone was catching quite a few fish. We rode on home making it there just in time for dinner.