Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30th

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Friday night we met our friends, the Scarbroughs, at the airport. We hadn't seen them since last Christmas and we are really glad they decided to come see Alaska and visit us. The whole group- George, Jane, George III, Elle, and her friend Aubrey were tired and hungry. It is a long and exhausting trip from Tennessee! We stopped for a bite to eat and then made our way downtown. They got settled into their hotel and then we all walked around for a bit to check out some of the downtown scenery. They were all amazed that it was still light at 11 o'clock at night. Saturday morning we got up and headed toward Portage Valley. We drove through the longest combined vehicle/railroad tunnel in North America to the quaint city of Whittier. After a delightful lunch at Varly's Swiftwater Seafood Cafe, we noticed our friends, Mindy and Paul, pulling their boat out of the water after a successful 3 day fishing/shrimping trip. They were super nice to give us 2 packs of freshly caught salmon! It was right out of the water- can't get any fresher than that! We headed over to the visitor's center for Portage Valley. Then we traveled a bit up the road and began our hike to Byron Glacier. So much melting had occurred that it didn't even look like the same place we visited 2 weeks ago. Still, it was a beautiful sight. Everyone else scrambled up and climbed over huge boulders and around the talus field, which is broken rock at the base of a high place. I chose to stay down at the base of the snow area- I'm here in this picture seemingly far from everyone. They were much farther away from me than this photo shows. They crossed several streams, peered into ice caves, and finally returned unscathed. Here is Aubrey in an action shot! On the way home from the glacier, we stopped in Girdwood for a short walk on a trail near the Alyeska Hotel. It was nice stroll right through the middle of the forest. By then we were getting tired and decided to make our way home. I decided to use the fresh salmon that Mindy had given us earlier in the day to cook her famous Salmon Stacks. Thanks again Mindy! After eating, we all visited for awhile before calling it a night.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, 2011

Joni, Taylor, Kate, and I went to Crow Creek Mine to try our hands at gold panning. This mine began operation in 1897. It is located in a beautiful valley and still has some of the original buildings located on the property. We walked down the meandering trail to the roaring creek. We spent several hours digging soil, sifting, and panning for gold. Unfortunately, our efforts only produced a few flakes of gold. Still, it was good fun.
Thursday we decided to go to Denali. As we drove toward the park, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the great mountain. The clouds cleared for just a few seconds and it appeared in all its glory. We got to the park in time for our 8 hour bus trip. There was quite a lot of wildlife to see on this trip. 6 bears, 3 wolves, 1 fox, a huge herd of caribou, snowshoe hare, and a moose were some of the animals we were able to view. Denali had once again disappeared behind a cloud cover. The scenery is always spectacular, even though it sprinkled rain and got foggy on us for a few minutes. We had a great time and really enjoyed the trip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12, 2011

We picked up my sister, Joni, at the airport late Sunday night. Monday we took in the sights downtown and let Joni enjoy her first reindeer sausage. Today we decided to drive down to Seward. After a lunch of halibut, shrimp, and salmon, we went for a stroll on the beach. We immediately spotted a sea otter floating happily in the water. Taylor was on a mission to see a whale, even doing her whale call, but no whales answered. She was able to catch some seaweed, though. After leaving Seward, we drove out to Exit Glacier. This is the closest I had ever been to this glacier.It was such a lovely blue color. The streams were roaring down the mountainside into the valley below. Taylor and I seem to be walking the trail effortlessly, but it had been a bit of a climb. Totally worth it! Here is a picture of Joni and the girls on a park bench with the gorgeous mountains in the distance. It is hard to comprehend how vast and immense the landscape and mountains are here. We had a wonderful time just walking and trying to absorb as much of the beautiful views as we could.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Denali Trip, Part 3

The bus ride offers you a unique opportunity to view the wildlife and beautiful scenery. You just have to get over the fact that you are traveling on a road that clings to a mountainside! Yes, the road is quite scary sometimes! At our stop at the Toklat River, Kate checks out a moose's antlers. Just one was so heavy she couldn't lift it! We were able to see one grizzly bear high upon the mountainside. As our bus trekked on to our destination, we enjoyed the beautiful mountains and valleys. At one stop Greg took the opportunity to climb to the top of a trail for a majestic view. The Eielsen Visitor Center is built into the side of a mountainside and just blends into the landscape. When you leave the parking lot, you travel down steps to the entrance and gaze out across a beautiful valley. Unfortunately, the clouds covered almost all of Mt. McKinley. Here is a trail marker that startled Kate! That sign could have been used in this area! There were 3 grizzly bears grazing near the road. They just basically ignored us and kept foraging for food. We could have stayed for hours just watching them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saturday, July 2

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We got on the bus at 2 pm in order to travel through Denali National Park. You are able to drive the first 15 miles into the park in your own vehicle. At that point, you must travel on a park-sponsored bus for the remainder of the road. Our bus wasn't totally full so we were able to spread out and have a seat to ourselves. The first wildlife spotted was a moose high upon a moutainside. A little further up the road, I spotted a trio of caribou grazing much closer to us. These animals travel in one of the longest annual migrations of land mammals. They make their way to their summer feeding areas where they can eat up to 12 pounds of food each day. Both the male and female caribou grow antlers. As the bus stopped so that people could take photos, one of the caribou began to walk toward the bus. It got very close to the bus and then crossed the road right in front of us. What a gorgeous creature! After traveling several more miles, the bus stopped at a scenic overlook of the valley. Even though it was overcast and windy, we all got out and walked around to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Denali trip, Part 1

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Greg got off work early and we loaded up the car and headed for Denali. With only a couple of stops we made it to Healy in about 4 1/2 hours. After unloading our supplies at the hotel, we headed over to Rose's Cafe for dinner. Greg once again challenged and defeated the 1 pound Grizzly burger. His picture should be appearing on the Wall of Fame yet again. After we ate, we drove over to Denali National Park. We saw a moose almost immediately upon entering the park. She was walking along beside the road and grazing as she went. We drove down to Savage River pausing briefly to look for a lynx that a passing bus had spotted. Greg got a few pics of the girls and me as we strolled along the river. One area was closed because birds were nesting on the rocks. Got a photo of a gull with its two new babies under its wings. After returning to the room Greg's old friends, Nathan and Stacie, stopped by for a brief visit. What are the odds that 3 former Tennessee park rangers would meet up in Healy, Alaska? Nathan and Stacie are quite the adventurers and have come up to Alaska to work and play for the summer. Greg was quite delighted to see them and catch up. Hopefully, we will see them again later this summer.