Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer Trip, Skagway Day 2

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We got up and ate a yummy breakfast at the Sweet Tooth Cafe. We walked around and took in a few shops downtown on a beautiful Sunday morning. At about 12:15, we made our way over to the train depot. We had purchased tickets the day before for the scenic White Pass & Yukon Train Route.

We were actually very surprised at the number of people that decided to do the same thing. There were about 14 train cars full of eager passengers. Many had come from the 2 cruise ships docked in the harbor. This steam train takes a forty-mile roundtrip route up to the summit of White Pass.

 Built in 1898, the train climbs up to 2,865 feet in elevation during the trip. It was declared an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1994. This is one of the few narrow gauge railroads still in use today. The ride itself was very beautiful.
  It probably would have been even more spectacular had we not seen so many beautiful vistas in the last few days.

 We seemed to be experiencing sensory overload. However, the views were still awesome and we saw 2 black bears along the journey. A herd of mountain goats was grazing and climbing on the rocky mountainside.

We made our way just barely into British Columbia before turning back on the return trip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Trip, Ferry Ride from Juneau to Skagway

We had to be at the ferry terminal by 5 am! We got the car loaded and found some recliners to relax in for our 4 hour boat ride. Greg and the girls were wandering around outside on the deck while I tried to catch a few more minutes of sleep.

 Taylor really wanted to see some humpback whales. We had seen some during the evening ferry ride but she wanted a good look at some during the daylight. After about an hour into the ride, the captain announced that a large pod of whales had been sighted. There were probably about 7 or 8 in the pod.

Suddenly, they appeared at the surface and a few turned on their sides and you could see their fins.

They were spouting and rolling with the waves.

Greg and girls had a close-up view of the whales as they played.

 Taylor finally got her wish to see a whale's tail as the huge animals dove back down. It was very exciting! We got to Skagway and checked into our hotel.

After a quick lunch, we made a few stops at the stores.


 This statue is in to honor those brave people who traveled the Chilkoot and White Pass Trails in 1897-1898.

 Skagway was known as the "Gateway to the Klondike" as gold seekers followed this route during the gold rush.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Trip, Juneau Day 2

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We walked down to the wharf and ate a delightful lunch of fish and chips on a pier. While we chowed down, we watched about 5 float planes come in to unload and reload with tourists. Then we walked over and took the Mt. Roberts Tram up the mountain. The Tram climbs over 1800 feet to a nature center, gift shops, and restaurant. We decided to hike the rest of the way up the mountain. There are some magnificent views of the Gastineau Channel from this point.

Juneau is the only state capital that you can't drive to, you must come in by boat or plane.
We continued our hike up the mountain, stopping to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
As we climbed higher and higher, we began to run into quite a bit of snow over the trail. The higher we got, the worse it got.
 Finally, we decided to turn back due to treacherous conditions, not wishing to chance taking the quick way down! We made our way back down to the visitors' center area.

 After browsing in the shops for a bit, we then rode the tram back down into the town. We walked around downtown for awhile and enjoyed the sites.

While I browsed in a bookstore, Greg tried to find an appropriate area for Taylor.

We went over to the State Capitol Building and too a self-guided tour.
We quite enjoyed the tour and we thought it was funny that Kate and I washed our hands in the same sink that Sarah Palin may have used!

We couldn't see Russia from here but we did see some beautiful totem poles.
 We drove out to the Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer's to get some gas and groceries for our next big stop, Skagway. Since we had to be at the ferry by 6 am, we called it a night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Trip, Juneau Day 1

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We had Chinese food at the Zen restaurant in our hotel. After lunch we drove out to Mendenhall Glacier. We walked a few short hikes and then made our way out on the Nugget Falls trail to the waterfall and glacier. It rained pretty much the whole walk to the glacier. We took several pictures and enjoyed the views of the gushing falls and beautiful glacier.
There was an enormous amount of water coming down the falls.
In fact, there was a flood warning for parts of the Mendenhall River the next day. Many pieces of ice from the glacier were floating in the lake.
 Taylor managed to grab a sheet of ice from the water. She claimed to be so strong she lifted an iceberg (but I know better!).
The glacier is about 12 miles long.
We took a different trail on the way back only to be stopped by high waters in a creek. Not wanting to get soaking wet, we turned and connected with the main trail and hiked to the Visitors' Center. I was very disappointed after we walked inside. They charge an admission fee to the center! We quickly walked back out the door! We did walk along the boardwalk which followed the creek. There were bear warning signs up and a lot of evidence of recent bear activity, but on this day we had no sightings.
We drove back to the hotel and ate a light dinner. After eating, we walked to the shops downtown and got a few souvenirs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Trip, Haines to Juneau

We checked out of our hotel and headed to the ferry office for tickets for Juneau. After getting tickets, we decided to head for Chilkoot State Park hoping to see some bears.

 Before we even got to the park entrance, we saw 2 grizzlies browsing along the inlet.

We rode into the park and then went back into town for lunch. We walked around downtown Haines for a bit before heading back to the park. This time around, we had 2 grizzlies pop out of the brush right onto the road!

Happy with our continued bear-spotting success, we entered the park. We strolled a bit and then walked on down to the boat dock. We decided to take some pictures by some huge spruce trees.

 About that time, we heard someone yell, "Hey bear!" We originally thought it was a hiker being careful. Then we heard some kayakers yell that there was a bear in the woods. As we were very close, we thought it was time to head back up the hill to the car. The bear suddenly appeared right by the boat dock that we were just on 2 minutes before! The bear became startled and began to run in our direction. As there were many other people standing and taking pictures, with this grizzly bear only feet away, we felt pretty safe. A tour guide blasted an air horn and the bear ran to the water's edge and disappeared into the underbrush. After all the excitement, we drove back toward town and walked along the rocky coastline.

 As we still had over an hour before we needed to be in line for the ferry, our fascination with these bears pulled us back to the park. We topped off a great bear-viewing day with 3 more bear sightings! We finally boarded the ferry and on this very chilly and windy evening about 3 hours into our ride, we did manage to spot a couple of whales in the distance. We sat on the observation deck and watched for more whales while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of this part of the southeast Alaskan coast.

 We eventually arrived in Juneau and made our way downtown to our hotel at about 11:45. A few minutes later, at 12 am, July 4th, we enjoyed an excellent fireworks show in a frenzied, party atmosphere in the state's capital.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Trip, Haines Junction, Canada to Haines, Alaska

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Got up and left our hotel in Haines Junction.
We made a stop by the Kluane National Park Visitors Center. We learned many interesting facts about the park and the local animals. Heather was very entertaining and informative. We hit the road southbound on a rainy and chilly morning.

 We stopped and ate a late breakfast under a shelter in a campground. It was so windy and cold that we all ate standing up. The temperature hovered around 40 degrees but the wind chill dropped it to near freezing!
 We drove a bit further and the snow seemed to make its way further and further down the mountains.
 We found this rest stop and walked around in the snow for a bit.
 Once we entered British Columbia,
 the drive from there to Haines was as beautiful as we had ever seen.

There were huge snow-covered mountains, many lakes, rivers, and creeks to see.
 It was stunning!

We made our way into Haines. We got a room in the Fort Seward historic part of town. This was the last of a series of 11 military barracks built during the Gold Rush era. These large white barracks had impressive views of Lynn Canal. The buildings formed a perimeter around a huge green field . Troops used this area for physical formations, and drills and practices. Now many of the buildings are private homes and a few are hotels. People were using the green field area to fly kites and have picnics. Turns out that we love Haines, but if you are used to chain motels with all the amenities, you won't find it here. We drove down the peninsula to Chilkat State Park looking for bears. We didn't see any out this night.
 We saw several bald eagles and got a few photos. Went back to our hotel, had dinner, and called it a night.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Trip, Tok to Haines Junction, Canada

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We got up to a rainy Sunday morning in Tok.
 After a huge breakfast, we made our way into the Yukon Territory of Canada.

  It was the first time any of us had visited Canada.
 Some sections of the Alaska Highway here were somewhat challenging as the road is on permafrost. There are many heaves, potholes, and bumpy gravel parts of the road. We had to drive slowly but that was okay because we got to enjoy the scenery.
 Our first stop was in the small settlement of Beaver Creek. We got some highway and local information and continued on our way.

 The further along we got, the more beautiful the drive became.

 I spotted a movement near the edge of the road, and a coyote trotted up near the edge of the road. He then turned and made his way into the middle of a meadow. You might be able to see him in this photo.

 As we drove further, a bear crossed the road right in front of us.

He grazed right alongside the roadway and we were able to get some great shots of him. He was only about 15 feet from the car!
About 30 minutes later, Greg spotted a sow and 2 cubs in a meadow.
 Again, they were just feet from us! We stopped and watched them for a bit.

Check out the claws on this little fellow!

 Didn't see anything else for awhile. As we got to the Kluane River and Kluane Lake area, the views were awesome!

We did spot a large cinnamon grizzly near the end of Kluane Lake.
 He was farther from the road and kept his distance. We finally made it to Haines Junction about 8:30 and got a room at the Cozy Corner Motel for the night.