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Alaska

Princess Cruises

June 10 - 28, 2014

 

Our second travel adventure of 2014 took us to our 49th state for

a 7-day bus tour and 7-day cruise ship tour, preceded by

a four-day visit with friends in Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula.

On June 10th, travel plans out of Binghamton

were changed at the last minute by United Airlines.   

We were notified at 5:00am that our first flight was canceled due to

aircraft maintenance requirements. 

After contemplating our options, John called United and got

5:15pm flights to Anchorage arriving at 1:26am.  Calls were 

made to modify our hotel and car rental reservations. 

It was a long and tiring day for the two of us! 

Microtel Hotel in Anchorage.  June 11th, we are off to visit

Maria and Mark Dixson in Soldotna, on  the Kenai Peninsula. 

Mountain Scenery as seen from downtown Anchorage.  Alaska

is a state with fantastic scenery in every direction.

Driving along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.

The tide was coming in slowly on this morning drive.

Our first bald eagle sighting as we traveled along the Arm. 

The eagles wait for fish to swim by in these 'braided' rivers.

Snow covered mountains were to be seen at

every turn in the highway.

More bald eagles waiting for the tide to bring their next meal.

Snow capped mountains in the distance.

A public facility near the road to Hope, Alaska.  These facilities were

conveniently placed along the major highways of Alaska.

Scenery along the Sterling Highway which plays tag with

the Kenai River.  This is one of Alaska's world-class fishing areas.

As we traveled into the town of Sterling, Alaska, we saw our first

Moose with a nursing baby moose on the roadside.  We came upon them so

quickly that we did not get our cameras out for a photo opt! 

Mama and baby bolted into the woods as we approached.

After our several hours long drive to Soldotna we arrived

at the Dixson's home.   It is a home under construction

but very livable and lovely with lots of local wood work inside. 

 It is located off the main highway in a secluded spot. 

On Thursday, June 12th, we attended the Soldotna Rotary meeting with Mark. 

Then Maria and Mark took us on a drive to Homer, Alaska.  

Along the way we stopped at the

Transfiguration of Our Lord Church. 

The church is still active today.

This building was located out behind the church.

A young bald eagle stood by watching for its next meal.

Enough said!

We had a photo stop on the shores of the Cook Inlet of the

Gulf of Alaska with our terrific hosts Maria and Mark Dixson.

Our first stop in Homer was at Bear Creek winery. 

Their wines are organic.  Samplings were in order!

The greeting committee.

As we were driving along to visit the Homer Brewing Company,

we happened upon this float plane being towed along one of

Homer's streets.  We were told that one out of every sixty

persons has a license to fly airplanes in Alaska.

After our brewery visit we drove to the Homer Spit where

fishermen had just docked with their days catch. 

Mountain scenery as seen from the Spit.

Another bald eagle looking for his supper.

Some of the various gift shops located on the Spit.  We had

a delightful seafood dinner at one of the restaurants here.

On Friday morning, Mark took Carol and I on a tour of the Soldotna area. 

He serves as City Manager for the City of Soldotna. 

Earlier in the spring there was a very disastrous forest fire that

covered millions of acres before being brought under control. 

This photo shows the spot where the forest fire started.

This photo shows the effects of the forest fire.

We also visited two local tourist visitation centers. 

The stuffed animals on display were impressive.

We also visited a Russian Orthodox Church in Soldotna.

Carol found another neat gift shop!

On our way back to Anchorage we stopped and

enjoyed lunch at the Summit Inn.

Our tour started on Saturday, June 14th at the Captain Cook Hotel. 

Above is a photo of our tour group boarding a bus

for our week long visit to Alaska.

We left Anchorage and traveled on Glenn Highway. 

Above is a photo of the 18,000 year old Matanuska Glacier. 

Its size made it an awesome sight.

Above photo shows where the glacier originates.

As we rode, we saw Alaska's four major mountain

ranges:  Alaska,  Chugach, Talkeetna and Wrangell.

Another glacier in the distance.

Relaxing at Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. 

Mount Drum of the Wrangell at St. Elias National Park.

On Monday, June 16th we were able to take a day trip to Valdez

on Prince William Sound.  On the way we had a chance to

see the Alyeka Pipeline up close.  An impressive engineering feat.

We stopped at the Worthington Glacier to allow

two of our tour group to hike on the Glacier.

The remnants of a snow avalanche that blocked a

river creating a new lake until spring's

thaw opened up the waterway.

The pipeline terminus on Prince William Sound.  Oil is loaded

here onto tanker ships headed for refineries in the lower 48.

An oil tanker ship loading its cargo of Alaska's

oil for shipment.

Bald eagles ever watchful for their next meal!

An abandoned gold mine along the shore of Prince William Sound.

Channel ice flowing away from a calving glacier.

Columbia Glacier emptying into Prince William Sound.

A view of the route the glacier takes to reach the Sound.

Bridal Veil Falls emptying into the Sound.

Note the snow markers along the road.  They help guide snowplow

drivers when clearing the road of Alaska's heavy snow falls.  

Check out the glacier in the background.

Alaska's non-stop scenery as we drive along

the Richardson Highway to Fairbanks.

Beautiful snow covered Mountains along the highway

More photographic mountains of Alaska.

Our lunch stop was at Rika's Cafe & Pantry.   This restored

Homestead had many out buildings to visit with a

large display of historic furnishings.

The main building at Rika's Homestead.

Carol found a new friend in front of the Fairbanks Princess

Riverside Lodge.  It was a very busy lodge with many Princess tour

groups spending time in Fairbanks.  An interesting sidelight to the

lodges we were staying at was that they only were open from

Mid-May until late September.  Most of the persons working in

Alaska during this time are short term summer employees. 

It was fun finding out where those employees were from. 

June 18th found our tour group boarding the river boat Discovery III. 

The ride on the riverboat included:  a float plane flight demo

by an Alaskan bush pilot, a visit to a sled dog ranch,

and a salmon smoke house demo.  A good lunch was included. 

The River Boat Discovery had one of the largest

gift shops we experienced on our trip. 

During our river sail on the Discovery III, we stopped at Trail Breaker Kennel

for a chat with Dave Monson about his sled dogs and their training. 

Dave Monson was the husband of Susan Butcher who died in 2006 from leukemia.

Susan won the 1,100-mile Iditarod from Anchorage to Nome four times:  1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990!

She also led the only climbing party to the top of Mt. McKinley, 20,320 feet, by dog team.

After  our stop at the sled dog kennel we turned around

and saw caribou. They were shedding their velvet. 

The sail on the Discovery III showed many aspects of

river boating as we sailed along on the Tanana River.

After our sail on the Tanana River, we went to Gold

Dredge 8 for afternoon tour.  Above is a dredge used to

mine gold from the rivers found in Alaska.

We were transported around the Dredge 8 site by a small train. 

It was a welcome aspect of the tour as it was raining.  Note

the wash tub on the post.  It was used to

demonstrate how to pan for gold.

Carol panning for gold.  She struck it rich to the tune of $4.00.

The next stop on our bus tour was at Denali Princess Wilderness

Lodge.  It was a rainy day and we had a Denali Park natural history

tour provided as part of our over night stay at the lodge.  Above is an

original park ranger's cabin. A National Park Ranger interpreter

related to us about the life and times of these important Park Rangers.

The Ranger's dog house for his sled dogs in times gone by.

A national Park Ranger came on our bus to greet us as

we visited Denali National Park.

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Carol with another Moose.

All aboard for a train ride to Talkeetna and then a bus ride

to Mount McKinley State Park.  The train ride

lasted about 4 hours.

Carol with the Train's conductor.

Some of the Alaska Mountain Range.

Mount McKinley as viewed from the bus as we neared the Lodge.

McKinley Princess Lodge.

Mount McKinley in all its splendor!

McKinley changed its appearance as the day wore on. 

Athabascan natives called the mountain Denali, meaning "The High One".

Even the Coke machine got into the Mount McKinley fan club!

The view of Mount McKinley the next day at 8:00am.  We were

very fortunate to have a full day of sun lit McKinley for photo taking. 

Some people were sharing that they had been at McKinley

several times without seeing the whole mountain. 

 

We boarded a bus for Whittier with a stop in Anchorage for lunch. 

We had a brief stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

as we continued on to our boarding point for our ship, the Coral Princess.

The animals were in large penned areas.  They were at the Center

because they had been abandoned or injured.  The Center's

mission is to rehabilitate these animals back into the wild, if possible.

Musk Oxen

The famous Alaskan Black Bear

Elk

The port of Whittier.  We arrived there about 3:00 pm.  It took another

hour to be processed before boarding the Coral Princess.  Whittier is

surrounded by three magnificent Glaciers.  It is also an ice-free year around port.

On June 22nd we spent considerable time viewing

the Hubbard Glacier.

Sailing up Glacier Bay.  National Park Ranger's served

as naturalists during our day long sail.

Snow capped mountains added to the beauty

of our day of sailing in the bay.

Margerie Glacier

Lamplugh Glacier

The Bay's waters were well covered by

channel ice from calving glaciers.

After two days of glacier viewing we sailed into

the port of Skagway.

Our first port stop in Skagway included a chance to attend off ship activities. 

The morning started with a trip to Liarsville. 

We were treated to a stage show and had the chance to explore the

various displays on the grounds of Liarsville.

Part of the Liarsville stage show.

Carol is still trying to strike it rich panning for gold!

Standing in the fog in front of one of the

famous welcome to Alaska signs.

The afternoon activity was to take a train ride on the White

Pass Scenic Railway.  Above is one of the railway's

passenger trains make way back to Skagway.

Beautiful Alaskan Mountains decorated

our journey as we rode along.

Train and mountain while heading back to Skagway.

The railroad's steam locomotive waiting to be fired

up for weekend excursions from Skagway up the White Pass.

Alaskan mountains as we sail to Juneau.

The Coral Princess docked at Juneau.  It is a large ship with a

capacity of 1976 passengers.  Interestingly enough, the ship

in spite of being full, did not seem crowded.

Juneau fish processing factory.  Fresh fish from the sea to

cans in a few hours.  The salmon processed

here is sent all over the world... including our home!

Juneau cable cars.  It was too foggy to ride up

to the fog bound peak.

One more Alaskan Mountain!

Downtown Ketchikan.

The boarding point for this afternoons excursion.

Our afternoon exclusive Flightseeing and an all you can eat Crab

feast was held at George Inlet Lodge outside of Ketchikan.

This afternoon activity started with a short bus ride to

the Lodge where we had the crab feast. 

Was the feast good?  You bet! 

This last plateful of crab shells speaks for itself.

 

John met some new friends after the crab feast.

Our ride back to Ketchikan after the feast.  It was a 20

minute ride with lots of interesting aerial sights to be seen.

After our afternoon eating crab and flying back to town, we

were greeting by this superb sunset.

 The feast capped off a great trip having seen many wonders of Alaska. 

Alaska's scenery is outstanding in every way.   

This once in a life time trip has been checked off the 'bucket list'!

Who knows, we may go back again!