Here we are!

Here we are!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier was very cool to see. The visitor center had lots of interactive exhibits and a video. We took a little hike to the waterfall by the glacier. You can see the glacier on the left and it looks like a river in this picture.

Alaskan Cruise Day 8

Debarkation in Seattle. We woke up and had breakfast and then left the ship. We sent our luggage ahead to the airport since we were spending a few hours in Seattle. Some friends from church drove to Seattle from Fresno, so they gave us a ride to the Seattle Center (Space Needle) from the cruise terminal. We wanted to see the Experience Music Project (which included the Science Fiction Museum also). That was a great place to see. They had a history of the Seattle music scene, a “lab” where you could learn to play different band instruments, and a stunning display of original dresses from The Supremes. They had a feature on Jimi Hendrix and his history and impact on music.

After that, we walked around Seattle Center where they had a food festival with lots of vendors and restaurants. Then we took the monorail downtown and walked to Pike Place Market where Tim got some smoked salmon. After that, we took the light rail train to the airport and came home.

Alaskan Cruise Day 7

At sea until 6:00 p.m. where we docked in Victoria, B.C. We made the walk from the dock into town, which was just over a mile. Tim did some research before we left for some music or entertainment and came up with some options. We decided to try a presentation by “the Other Guys theatre company” at the Royal BC Museum entitled “Good Timber, Songs and Stories of the Western Logger.” We didn’t know what to expect by the title and weren’t really holding out too much hope. This was a fantastic presentation by six people performing different instruments and songs, and even a bit of poetry about the logging industry in B.C. A lot of it was tongue-in-cheek, but the musical performance was just incredible. We were very glad we chose that option. I really wanted to shop at Rogers’ Chocolates, but they were closed when we got there. We walked up Government Street a couple of blocks and then it was time to head back to the ship. We did one more pass up the Lido Buffet before packing up (as if we needed more food).

Alaskan Cruise Day 6

Early morning in Ketchikan, we were there from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We were not there long enough to get to Misty Fjords unfortunately, so we took another tour around town. We ended up on the same van as eight others from our church. And, what a coincidence, out of three cruise ships, the little 2 year old boy from yesterday was on it too, but he was happy since it was early morning. We saw some salmon that were about 15 to 20 pounds and getting ready to run. There were still more eagles and totem poles. Some people were snorkeling in wet suits in the ocean and our driver said that to the killer whales they look the same as seals. We did a quick walk through town and then it was time to leave. Back on the ship, they could not keep up with everyone trying to eat at the buffet. Eventually, we got some lunch and then an afternoon nap. That evening was dinner and a show along with a dessert buffet late at night. How do people eat so much? One of the singers made up a little song: I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, I’m eating my way through the sea, I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, my friends they won’t recognize me.

Alaskan Cruise Day 5

We arrived in Sitka and since the cruise ship could not get close to shore, we got to ride on “tenders” to get to shore. The tenders were the life boats on board and they could hold about 100 people. There were several tenders shuttling back and forth all day. We got on a tour van and saw the fishing docks where all the boats were moored. There was a sea lion that jumped out of the middle of the water with a fish in its mouth. The eagles swooped down to see if they could get anything, but the sea lion went under. That was cool. We saw a private boarding high school that was only for the Tlingits and paid for completely by the government. We drove around by Silver Bay and saw salmon berries, which are like raspberries. The tour guide said we could stop and pick some, which we did. We saw a brown bear habitat with two bears in it. They were rescued as cubs because their momma died. When raw meat was thrown in, the bears would do tricks, like stand on their hind legs with their arms raised or sit on a tree stump. There were lots of eagles to see up close and watch them eat the scraps. We stopped at a totem pole place and a river there held a legend that if you drank from it, you would never leave Sitka and if you did leave you would return. There was a family with a 2 year old on the tour, and why they decided to trap this boy in a van during nap time is beyond me. He was not happy that afternoon. After the tour, we looked around town and stopped for a late lunch. We had some salmon chowder and a burrito. There was “free Sitka internet” curiously enough.

On the ship, we saw quite a few more whales in the ocean. It was formal night again for dinner and at the rate everyone was eating, we should have been wearing bathrobes instead of dresses. The ship was swaying a bit but nothing like the first night. I should have videoed the pool on that first day at sea; the pool was sloshing over each side whenever it would tip that way.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 4

We arrived in Juneau. We got off the ship and purchased some bus tickets to the Mendenhall Glacier. The sky was overcast and it rained all day. Once at the glacier, we went to the visitor center with some great displays of glacier life and history. There was a lake at the bottom of the glacier and a big waterfall on the side. We were able to hike to the waterfall and get a little closer to the glacier, but it was a 3 mile hike around the mountain to get to the actual ice, and we didn’t hike that far.

On the drive back, we saw lots of bald eagles waiting for the salmon run. The eagles were bigger than what I thought and they were so full of thick feathers, it almost looked like fur. They appear next to the inlet about a day or two before the salmon appear, so the locals know that the salmon will arrive shortly when the eagles show up to wait.

We had lunch on the ship and then walked to a local coffee shop, the Silverbow, for a coffee and wifi. Then we went up the Mt. Roberts Tramway, which is a tram that hangs on a cable and seems to go directly up because it is such a steep climb. At the top, there is a visitor and nature center and some trails. We did a hike through the rainforest with lots of lush greenery. There was also a short movie about the Tlingit natives. After riding down the 1,850 feet, we were going to do some shopping, but Tim saw a friend getting on the tram so he quickly ran through the entrance since the tickets were for a day pass. He did another ride up and down while I hit some shops. The goods are all touristy type, so we didn’t find much to buy that we couldn’t get in Fresno.

We hit the high seas again this night, but fortunately it wasn’t as bad. Next stop: Sitka…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 3

Waking up to smooth seas was wonderful. We were cruising through an inlet and it felt like we were stopped. But we were still traveling the same speed as yesterday. The captain said we were running late on our schedule because of the high winds and rough waters. We saw lots of whale tails and blows. We saw lots of small dark dolphins, but I’m not sure if they were actually dolphins or something else.

When we entered Glacier Bay, a boat of park rangers pulled up to our ship and they climbed aboard a small rope ladder. They provided information on the Bay and the glaciers. We were able to walk on the front bow while we were in Glacier Bay (“Jack, I’m flying!”).

I guess I didn’t know what to expect when we got to the glaciers. Maybe I was thinking something more North-Pole-like. They were so incredible. The mountains were about halfway covered with snow, with lots of trees and granite. Right in the middle of all the green, brown, and white would be a huge slide of dirty turquoise blue ice that was thousands of years old. It was really cloudy so we couldn’t see the tops of the glaciers. But we saw a big calving and several smaller ones. All of a sudden you could see a mound of ice start to fall into the ocean and make a big splash. Then you would hear a loud crack and splash.

When the ship turned around, we went back to our room and sat out on the veranda to view the glacier. It was just awe-inspiring. In the midst of the view, we could still hear people moving about on their verandas or going to get more food. I inwardly wished everyone could just be still and quiet and appreciate this natural beauty. I almost could imagine some of them standing before their great Maker, but only worried about food and comfort instead of the beauty of God. When we left the glaciers, sea gulls came right up to our veranda to take bread from our hands. We found out later that we weren’t supposed to feed them. Oh well...

Alaskan Cruise Day 2

We woke up the next day and had to use the hand rails in the shower. We were rocking so hard that just walking down a straight, narrow hallway was difficult. After commenting at breakfast how nice it was that we weren’t seasick, I started feeling woozy. At lunchtime, it wasn’t getting any better and we noticed that there didn’t seem to be many people out and about. They even had a supply of barf bags at the elevators. I sent Tim for some ginger ale and motion sickness meds. He said they were handing it out like candy. Hmm… Finally, at dinnertime I was feeling much better so we ventured out to the “formal night.” We were seated next to our friends and one of their daughters was also very seasick. They went running out of the dining room before the food even came.

Tim was not bothered at all by the motion and, in fact, enjoyed it quite immensely. He went up to the top deck in the front of the ship and had fun listening to music and reading for hours at a time. He asked the crew about the rough seas and they said it was quite bad. It was funny to watch people because everyone would catch their step and lean one way simultaneously. There was not a whole lot to see in the way of scenery since we were at sea all day.

We seemed to stay in our beds, although it felt as if we could roll off at any minute.

Alaskan Cruise Day 1

We flew to Seattle from Fresno at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. We each packed a suitcase and carry-on, and Tim brought his mandolin along. The flights were uneventful and we caught a taxi from the airport to the cruise terminal. Once on the ship, we grabbed some lunch and then went to our stateroom. We got a “veranda” with our room and could sit outside to watch the scenery. On the starboard side we watched all the food and luggage get loaded on the ship with a crane. The first event with “Michael W. Smith and Friends” happened at 4:30 and the ship was just pulling out at that time, so we stayed on our veranda to watch it instead of going to the show.

Dinner was nice with lots to choose from. We have been eating lots of seafood by choice and it has all been delicious. About the time dinner was over, we were hitting the “high seas” and it was rough. Lying in bed, we were rolling up and down and back and forth. The curtain was swaying and the closet doors were banging. I kept waiting for it to get still, but it never did.

Alaska Cruise Pre-trip

Wow, it’s been so busy this summer we’ve hardly had time to prepare mentally for an Alaskan trip. We went from a week of VBS at church to a week of vacation up at Hume. Then we came home and spent time with Tim’s sister and family. Preparing for an Alaskan cruise was hard to find time to do, but we managed to review a few tips about what to pack. Several (unlikely) things were suggested like bug spray, waterproof shoes, and a rain jacket.

We visited REI to get some items and I found some waterproof shoes to try out. After a day, I had bruises on the tops of my feet so I took them back and tried another pair. The next pair made me trip over my toes, so I exchanged them for a different pair. Those still weren’t comfortable, so I finally went to a different store and purchased a pair of trusty Asics and a can of waterproof spray. The shoes are great, but I haven’t yet had a chance to see if the waterproof spray works. A new rain jacket was necessary, too, since my 15 year old one is not rainproof anymore. We found that out when we went to Gilroy Gardens in December and it rained. I also purchased a pair of REI travel pants which are worth their weight in gold because they are so comfortable and functional.

Let’s go to Alaska!