A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4

Wildlife Conservation Center and Whittier

Today brought beautiful sunny skies again. We have been so fortunate with weather. We woke up early and had breakfast at our B and B. The food was great. We loaded the car and drove south on the Seward Highway. We stopped at the Wildlife Conservation Center. This site cares for injured or abandoned animals. Some of the animals are reintroduced into the wild while others will live their lives at the conservation center due to a poor chance of surviving in the wild. We were able to see brown bears, black bears, caribou, muskox, deer, fox, owls, and bison.
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To continue on to Whittier, we went through the railway tunnel built through the mountain. This 2 ½ mile tunnel is the longest in North America. It was originally only for railroads and was built in the 1940s. They opened the tunnel to automobile traffic in 2001. The tunnel runs on the half hour going in and on the hour going out. The small town of Whittier is home to 180 people. It was built as a secret US military base. The water never freezes so it is a great port throughout the year. Since it was originally a military base, there is no public land. The people live in either the old bachelor officers’ quarters or the barracks. We had a quick tour of Whittier put on by the school principal/counselor/high school teacher. This teacher lives in the same building as all of her students. I couldn’t imagine! They receive about 35 feet of snow in the winter. They have a tunnel that runs from the main housing to the school and an indoor playground. It was a very interesting little town. We enjoyed a beautiful sunny day although it rains 90% of days. They said they had 7 days of sunny skies last summer. We don’t think we want to relocate to Whittier.
While we were waiting for our cruise to board, we saw fish being “vacuumed” out of the hull of a ship, sent down a ramp, and dumped into awaiting containers. Once the containers were full of the salmon, ice was shoveled on top. The carts were then loaded on to a truck and taken to the processing center just down the road.

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We boarded the Spirit of Columbia for our 3 night cruise.
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We enjoyed seeing beautiful waterfalls. Our boat has 51 passengers aboard. The ride has been surprisingly calm. We saw many glaciers as we cruised the sound.

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At night (“night” relatively speaking) the sun began to set. It was about 11:30pm when we took this picture. The mountains were turning pink from the setting sun. The water was incredible calm. It was beautiful!

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Posted by zillichs 15:56 Comments (0)

Day 3

Denali sighting and Girdwood

This morning started out cloudy but it cleared up. We were able to see the top of Denali. Only 30% of those that visit Denali see the peak. Alan first sighted the top as we were driving. He was cursing the tall trees that surrounded the highway and blocked our view. He found a clearing, slammed on the brakes, and ran out of the car to get a great view of the tallest mountain in North America.

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View overlooking the mountains...Denali was covered by clouds at this time

For lunch we stopped at the "bus stop". It was an old bus converted into a diner restaurant. We were a little nervous about the quality but the burgers were wonderful. We also talked to the woman working there and learned a little more about life in Alaska.

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After lunch, we drove to Girdwood. The drive was beautiful along the Turnagain Arm (inlet waterway). Here's a view from the road.
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We found our bed and breakfast in Girdwood easily. The house is beautiful. It was just opened in February. It has a very rustic feel while still being very comfortable. The couple that own it are originally from Chicago. http://www.hiddencreekbb.com/inn.html

This afternoon we went up to the top of the moutain in Girdwood. We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather. But, it was strange to be walking in the snow in June. We decided to really enjoy the day and go paragliding. We were each tandemed to an instructor. We ran quickly over the snow until the parachute lifted us up. It was the most beautiful view!

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Colleen getting ready

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Alan getting ready

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Colleen coming down from the sky

For dinner we went to the Double Musky Inn. We had great Alaskan food...salmon and crab legs.

We have been so fortunate to have such amazing weather thus far. Tomorrow we are going to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center which is a protected habitat for injured/abandoned wildlife. We board our cruise to Prince William Sound in the afternoon. We will not have internet access until Monday (hopefully!). Thanks for reading!

Posted by zillichs 00:34 Comments (0)

Day 2

Denali National Park

Today’s adventure included the Denali National Park. The locals call the peak Denali instead of Mt. McKinley. McKinley never went to Alaska and the naming of the mountain after him was a political ploy when he was running for President. We boarded a school bus at 6:15am and headed into the park (these are the only vehicles allowed in the national park). We were hoping to see various animals and the summit of Denali. Unfortunately the clouds blocked our view of Denali, but the wildlife was out! We saw bears (13 to be exact), caribou, moose, dall sheep, a fox, and a wolf. It was very rare to see all of these animals. Once someone saw an animal, they would yell to the bus driver to stop the bus. We’d all lean out the windows to get a glimpse of the wildlife.

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  • Bear sighting

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  • Wolf sighting...there are only 80-100 wolves in all of Denali.

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  • View of what should be Denali from the road

Denali National Park is 6 million acres…about the size of Massachusetts. Even though we did not see the peak of Denali, we had great weather.

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The view from Wonder Lake...It took us 6 hours to get to this final place in the road. The entire trip took 11 hours. It was long but worth it!

For dinner we went to 229 Parks…thanks for the recommendation Marlene and Dick…it was wonderful! We are heading out of Denali to Girdwood tomorrow.

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View from our campground/hotel area. We are staying in a small cabin.

Hopefully we'll have internet access in Girdwood. If not, our next blog will be in a few days because we will not have internet access on Prince William Sound.

Posted by zillichs 22:50 Comments (0)

Day 1

Anchorage to Denali National Park

Our travels began with an hour delay in Indianapolis, a plane full of 12 year old boys, a half hour holding pattern, and running to our connection in Denver. Unfortunately we were unable to visit with Marlene and Dick in Denver. We made our flight and our luggage did too! Our flight from Denver to San Fran was uneventful. We had enough time in San Fran to quickly grab dinner and get on our third flight. On our Anchorage flight, we upgraded to Economy plus. We had great leg room and no one sitting next to us in the row of 3. Colleen made our seats into a bench and slept great. Alan wasn't as fortunate. When we left San Fran, the sun was setting. It got dark as we flew to Alaska and then got lighter. Our view as we flew into Anchorage was beautiful. The skies were clear and we were able to see the mountains and glaciers. It was strange to be flying at "night" and still see everything. It never gets really dark here, just dusk like. The sun sets at 11:30 and rises at 4am. We arrived at 12:15am in Anchorage...4:15 east coast time. This morning we hit the road for Denali National Park. We stopped first at Chugach State Park where we hiked to the Thunderbird Falls. This was an easy 1 mile hike but the mosquitos were already out.

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We headed to Talkeetna next. This one stop sign small town had a lot of little shops. We found a flat bread restaurant with free internet access. The skies are still a little cloudy so we are unable to see Denali. Hopefully the weather will clear.

Now we are heading to our cabin in Denali. Tonight we are going to learn about the Iditarod race and see sled dogs. It should be great. It might make us miss Sunny and Sierra though! Hopefully we will have internet access in Denali to update you on our travels.

We do have internet service at our campground. We are staying in a cabin but I can access the internet in the general store.

We went to Jeff King’s Iditarod presentation tonight. He has won the Iditarod 4 times, most recently in 2006. We loved holding the 8 day old puppies.

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The dogs were very friendly and obviously loved to work.

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Jeff King actually picked us up in our shuttle, so we had some time to ask him some questions (although at first we had no idea who he was!).
It was a great experience. But we now know that Sunny and Sierra would never make the team.

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This picture is the view from the dog kennels. What a view!

Posted by zillichs 14:45 Comments (3)

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