Our trip to Alaska June 2011

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Wednesday-Saturday June 22-25, 2011

Wednesday, Thursday, andFriday June 22-24 2011on board the MS Zuiderdam

Wednesday:

Well, here we sit, with our feet propped up, on the 10th floor of the ship, looking out the window “whale watching.”

This morning I was awakened by Susan at6:30.  Boy, did I want to keep sleeping but, as Susan said, this was an important day and we must not miss any of it.  And, boy, was she right!  We hurried up the elevator and stairs and spent most of the morning and early afternoon on the bow of the ship as we cruisedGlacier Bay.  I got some awesome video of Margerie Glacier “calving” which is when parts of the glacier break and fall into the water.  This glacier is a mile wide though it didn’t look that big from where we were standing.  Later, in the afternoon, while exiting the Bay, we saw some whales and a seal.  The deck was pretty cold so we were bundled up.  The hot chocolate, hot tea, and coffee were flowing.  I will be editing pictures ofGlacier Bayand try to post them tomorrow.

Yesterday, we began the day early as we took the bus/coach to Fraser, got on the narrow gauge railroad and headed to Scagway.  Wow!  That was a cool ride!  Got some great video and pictures.  As soon as I arrived, I couldn’t even check in on the ship as I had my Musher’s Dog Cart experience.  This was truly the best dog adventure yet!  First we got in a van and traveled 35 minutes out in the wilderness, mostly on a dirt road.  Then we got in a vehicle that took us up a mountain 1100 more feet at almost a 30 degree angle.  THAT was worth the experience for sure!  Then, six of us got in a dog cart pulled by 16 sled dogs.  Now these weren’t the type of sled dogs I had been seeing on the trip.  They were smaller and shorter haired dogs.  The musher told us that they were all his dogs and some were bred with Greyhounds and that they were “sprint dogs.”  Well, then the adventure really began.  Now remember that my first experience in a dog cart was fun but not a very long trip.  THIS one was a blast and was several miles long.  One of the reasons it was so fun is the mistakes the dogs made.  Within the first 20 feet, the lead dogs headed into the woods, trying to get back to their water dishes.  I laughed so hard it hurt!  The dogs got tangled up and had to be untangled and led back to the trail.  THEN, while the lead dogs were being untangled, a one year old boy mounted his spayed female partner and was yelled at by the musher.  (this happened on several occasions as the lead dogs were having a problem with their “gees” and “haws” (left and right turns) and the one year old boy decided to amuse himself while the others were getting placed back in their traces.)  Trust me, I got video of the whole thing, including the one year old’s indiscretions.  Way too funny!  Towards the end of the ride, the dogs got into sync and started to run at top speed of about 17 mph.  You could tell they loved what they were doing.  After the ride, we got to meet all 16 dogs.  And, when we got down the mountain, I enjoyed interacting with Homer, the 12 year old retired sled dog who was in seventh heaven when I scratched him under the neck and around the ears.  (and, of course, I was getting my doggie fix) We also got to hold puppies from two litters.  I love holding puppies but don’t miss the raising of them.  One of the guys talked to us about the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest dogsled races.  Several differences in the races are that the Iditarod is 1100 miles with 22 stopping points along the way.  The Yukon Quest is 1000 miles with only 8 stops along the way.  Although it was hectic getting from the train to the excursion bus and I wasn’t able to get on the ship with the others, it was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I went.

When I got back from the excursion, I walked downtown and toured the shops.  Would you believe that Scagway has the only Sarah Palin store in theUSA?  Everything in the store is Sarah Palin stuff.  Her father used to be a teacher in Scagway so she is very well known and loved there.  Naturally, I picked up some great souvenirs.

I finally got on the ship at about 6PM.  Susan hadn’t gotten back from her Eagle Preserve trip so I ate in the buffet on the 9th floor.  Great food, of course.

Susan went to Haines to watch the birdies and took a two hour ride on theChilcotRiver.  She saw eagles, moose, and a couple of bear cubs before they ran off into the brush.  It was a beautiful, relaxing ride.  Truly pristine wilderness.  The ride to and from Haines in the Scagway Fjord took 45 minutes each way on a ferry.  The boat they took out there was a jet boat.  It was a wonderful excursion but she came back pretty tired.

Tonight, we went to a magic show and it was great.  It was a husband and wife team that usually play inLas Vegas.  They will be teaching a magic class on Friday that we plan to attend.  After the show, I played the nickel slot machine in the casino and won $20.

Tomorrow is another jam packed day though I WILL sleep in a bit if possible.  I think I’ll take the computer class on Windows 7 that they are offering.  Most of you all know that I hate Windows 7 so I’m hoping they will make me like it.  We’re also heading intoKetchikanto do some sightseeing and to find the post office where we need to mail another flat rat box of stuff so we both don’t get charged and arm and a leg at the airport.

Friday:

Well, today is the last day on board the ship.  We are touring theInside Passageand not seeing much land.  The waves are rolling and I feel it as I walk around-a little tilt from side to side occasionally.

Last night, some of you might have heard that there was a 7.5 earthquake in theAleutian Islands.  Shortly afterwards, our captain came on the public address system and told us about it and that theUSAwas predicting a Tsunami for this area and had a Tsunami warning for ships in our area.  It was interesting that the Canadian government had no warning in effect.  The captain said that if there was a Tsunami, we would feel it aboutmidnight.  He said that they would be taking all appropriate precautions, including draining the two pools on the ship.  I wasn’t really bothered by it as we were going to be pretty far away from land atmidnightso it shouldn’t be a problem. As I was walking back to our cabin, a group of people fromMaltawere having a rough time with the news and were quite afraid.  I stopped to talk to them about it and, hopefully, helped them understand that because we were far away from land, we shouldn’t have much of a problem.  About an hour later, the captain came back on the PA system and said that the warning had been lifted.  I guess what concerned me the most was that people back home might hear about the earthquake and possible Tsunami and get a little freaked  out.  All in all, it was pretty interesting and, thankfully, uneventful.

Saturday, June 25th, 2011Vancouver,British Columbia airport

Well, I wasn’t able to log on to the computer on the ship though I was charged an arm and a leg for trying.  Oh, well, that’s life.

Today, we docked inVancouverand took a bus tour around town.  Very rainy.  No problems going through customs.  Looking forward to getting home this evening.  It was a fun trip but as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home….”

I plan to work with more of our pictures and put together a slide show and post it on YouTube and/or my Facebook page.  I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Lori and Susan

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Monday June 20th 2011

Monday June 20th 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

This might be the last blog I post until I get home unless it’s easy to buy those 20 minutes of wireless on the ship.  I’ll still keep writing them but will wait until we get home if I don’t get wireless.  As it is, I’ve not been using the cell phone for over a day because we’re inCanadaand that’s been hard as I’ve liked to keep up with my husband and the dogs.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get cell phone service in Scagway tomorrow.  We have a long trip tomorrow.  First, we head to Fraser on the bus/coach and then, from Fraser, we take the narrow gauge railroad to Scagway.  Then, I go to the dog musher’s camp and have another dog cart ride.  Then, we board the ship and it leaves at9PM.  Whew!  It makes me tired just typing it all!

Yesterday afternoon, we had another dog sled adventure at Uncommon Journeys.  I think my next blog is going to deal with the different types of dog training I’ve seen.  This place has all dogs free to walk around until they have visitors.  Then only a few walk around free.  The rest have their long chains attached to their dog houses.  Also, believe it or not, these chains over lap 3 feet so there isn’t any fighting between them.  They said that there is very little fighting as they are all able to interact.  They even have play groups every day!

This company has “journeys” they do for people.  One sounded very interesting.  You go for a week and take “mushing 101” then “mushing 201” and then go on a dog sled trip for several days in -40 degrees!  Here’s their website:

http://www.uncommonyukon.com/index.php

I got to put an over suit on and go into the dog yard and pet the dogs so I wouldn’t get muddy.  The first one I went to was the Alpha girl who was half the size of most of the rest of them.  The majority of the dogs were very friendly.  And, naturally, I was the last one to leave the dog yard.  Again, a super excursion!

OK, last night, after arriving inWhitehorse, we just made it an early night and got to sleep about10PM.  I’ve got to tell you that having 5-6 hours of sleep a night is not fun but I know I’ll be able to sleep late on the ship and probably take naps.  When we get toKetchikan, we’ve got to head to the post office to mail another flat rate box or my luggage will be WAY too heavy!

This morning, bright and early, we set off for our preserve, city tour, and riverboat combo trip.  The preserve was awesome and we got to see musk ox, lynx, white fox, bison, moose, caribou/reindeer, Dall sheep, brown sheep, and mountain goats.  You will notice that some look “scruffy” looking as they are molting.  What fun!  We had not seen any musk ox, lynx, white fox, or mountain goats on our trip so far, so these were a treat.

Then, we did the city tour, going to the fish wheel (where they have a dam and in two weeks, the salmon will start coming there), touring theKlondikepaddle boat from the early 1900’s, and riding around town, seeing all of the sights.

After lunch, we went on a two hour ride in a paddle wheel boat on theYukon River.  The finale was a pontoon plane taking off right next to us!  It also paid that we had booked and paid for our excursions before we left as this boat trip was booked up and none of our tour mates were able to go.

And, last but not least, we took the local trolley to Walmart!  Yup!  I had to get my Walmart “fix” and so we rode there and then walked back to the hotel!

I am attaching some pictures tonight but will be editing and attaching many more in my next blog entry, whether or not it is on the ship or at home.  I just don’t have the energy to do many tonight.  Enjoy!

Lori and Susan

Saturday and Sunday June 18th and 19th 2011

Saturday June 18th 2011 going to Beaver Creek fromFairbanks and Sunday June 19th AM

Dear Friends and Family,

Today is going to be a long day.  We are traveling fromFairbanks,AKtoBeaver CreekCanadawhere we will only spend one night.  For you camera buffs, I have used 16 gig of my 32 gig memory card in my camera so far, lots of videos and pictures.  I copy and paste them on to this computer each day where I edit them and resize them for the blog.  It’s very time consuming but, from the emails I’m getting, it’s worth it because you are enjoying seeing them.  As you know, from last night’s quick blog entry, I finally have the attaching picture thing worked out for the blog which should make the updates faster to get done.  We will be having internet in the “public areas” of our hotels for the next couple of days so I’ll be able to upload these entries and pictures at that time.

Yesterday was jam packed with adventure.  First, we stopped at one of the only places you can actually touch the Alaskan Pipeline.  I was quite surprised with it as I thought it was bigger.  Actually, it’s smaller than the picture shows as there is a lot of insulation around the pipes.  Interestingly enough, our bus driver is aGlendale,AZmath teacher and quite well versed on the pipeline.  They have rubber type expansion parts that help when there is an earthquake.  By the way, did you know thatAlaskahas about 1000 earthquakes a day?  There was a 5.0 the other day inAnchoragebut we didn’t feel it as we were already inDenali.  That is ONE thing I’m not really interested in experiencing.

We then went to the El Dorado Gold Mine and panned for gold.  Believe it or not, the small amount of gold I found was worth $30!  That was fun as I had never panned for gold before.  For those of you who have never panned for gold, it’s not an easy job and is pretty time consuming and takes a special “wrist movement” to get things moving.  I could have had a pendant made with the gold I panned in it but I decided to get a little clear bottle and put water and the gold in it to share with my students.  Ah!  Always the teacher…

Then we went to the historic Gold Dredge number 8 and had a real nice “Miner’s Lunch” of tea, beef stew, and biscuits.  (For those of you who know me REALLY well, you can bet I picked out all of the peas and lima beans which were promptly eaten by Susan.)

After lunch, we road up the river on the Discovery III paddle boat.  I found it interesting that those boats only need about 3 feet of water to run in.  We stopped at a replica of an Athabascan (local Native American) village. There was also a display of some of Susan Butcher’s sled dogs.  She was one of the first women to win the Iditarod.  I know you’re probably thinking I’m bound to get board with all of the sled dog presentations I’ve been seeing but they have so many differences!  Sort of like how we all treat our dogs differently and use different training methods.  All of these “mushers” want to have very socialized dogs and the dogs seem to love people, especially little kids.  It surprises me that they allow the public to just hold and play with their puppies, even the ones who are only days old!  I asked one of the owners if they feared Parvo and other illnesses in the puppies.  She said that although Parvo is around inAlaska, breeders don’t worry about it like they do in the lower 48.  They also don’t have heartworms though they DO have some HUGE mosquitoes.  I can remember joking about the size of the mosquitoes inFloridabut these are much bigger. 

On the way back to the hotel, we were entertained by our bus driver with a moving presentation of the poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service.  My father used to recite that poem to me as a child.  I learned “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

We arrived back at the hotel early enough for me to stand in line to do a couple of loads of laundry.  We figured out that this was the best place to do that on the trip.  It had been such a long time since I had done laundry in a laundromat setting.  It made me realize how lucky I am to have a washer and dryer at home.  Naturally, most of the people waiting were in the same boat so we kept joking back and forth and became very familiar with which washers and dryers worked the best..

This morning, we left early on our 11 hour trip toBeaver CreekCanada.  Our first stop was the North Pole, a fun place to be for kids of all ages.  Unfortunately, Santa doesn’t show up until2PM.  However, you will be interested to note that they have the largest statue in the world of Santa Claus, a whopping 52 feet tall!  And, of course there were more reindeer/caribou.  These were very scruffy looking, seeming to be going through a molting season or something like that as their fur was coming off in tufts.  They didn’t seem to be as nicely taken care of as the rest of the ones we had seen on the trip so far.  As an aside, you might notice that one of the pictures on today’s blog shows caribou/reindeer with antlers of different sizes.  Remember what I wrote in one of my blogs about their antlers falling off one at a time?  That would mean that they would often have antlers of different sizes as they grow.  And, you might see that I’ve named one of the pictures “Ceilidh and Gunny type moose?”  That’s because one of them has his/her head on the other one’s back.

Our second stop of the day was at Rika’s Roadhouse.  This is actually in a state park and has some history behind it.  There were a couple of museum type buildings with some great antiques, dating back to the 1800’s and the homesteading ofAlaska.  Their restaurant and giftshop were pretty fun, especially browsing through some of their Sarah Palin paraphernalia.  Both Susan and I have come to the conclusion that Sarah is not as well liked here in AK as she is elsewhere because she quit her governor job mid stream.

Our last stop, before the border, wasTok,Alaskawhere we stopped for lunch.

As beautiful asAlaskais, it’s not a place I would like to live in.  It is really strange to have it total daylight at11:00 PM, having  20 or so hours of daylight in the summer and only 4 hours of night.  And, I’m sure I would hate 20 hours of night in the winter.

And, the word for the day is, “pot holes!”  Once we crossed the border and passed intoCanada, the roads made a turn for the worse and there are pot holes all over the place.  So, when we hit one, everyone yells, “pot holes!”

Well, we’re pulling into Beaver Creek now so I’ve got to sign off!

Lori and Susan

Ps  Well, it’s Sunday morning and I didn’t get to post to the blog last night because I believed our tour director when he told us that the internet was down.  Not to worry.  I have to go “cold turkey” from the internet occasionally to prove I’m not addicted.  We had a nice “family style” dinner last night complete with bakedAlaskafor dessert.  There was a great musical show after dinner as well.  And, as a tour, we had to come up with our own song about our travels so far and perform it in front of the crowd.  The weather is a bit rainy this morning.  We’re heading to another dog show at Uncommon Journeys.  And, we will be spending two nights inWhitehorse.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do another blog tomorrow night!

Well, I might have the picture thing figured out!

Hi guys!  I’m going to post the original pictures that wouldn’t post before.  Enjoy!  I hope to get a blog entry tomorrow as we had another great day and took lots of pictures but I am tired!

Lori

Wednesday &Thursday June 15th and 16th 2011

Wednesday & Thursday June 15th & 16th 2011 DenaliNational Park

 Dear Friends and Family,

“Stop!” was the word for the day.  And, then you’d say what type of animal you saw and, believe me, we were lucky in our sightings!  We started our Tundra Wilderness bus tour early in the morning.  It rained and snowed during the trip but cleared up in the afternoon.  We were able to see several brown bears, a red fox (I saw it first!), a moose, a couple of caribou, some Dall sheep, and, my favorite viewing, two of the most beautiful wolves I’ve ever seen.  Except for the sheep sighting yesterday, this is the first time I’ve seen these animals in the wild.  I’m hoping to be able to share some photos with the rest of the tour members later.  Some have some super big cameras and have some great pictures of the bears.  Mine are just at a 12 x optical zoom though I DID take one at a 48 x digital zoom so you would see that the spot in the other pictures actually IS a bear.  It’s blurry but obviously a bear.  

The wolves walked right by our bus!  It was amazing!  I got a good picture of the first big grey wolf.  She has a tracking collar on and is the alpha female for the largest pack in the area.  I only got a “butt shot” of the second wolf which is typical of most of my own dog pictures I take.  THAT was so cool and a very unusual sighting.

When we got back, we were able to rest and have dinner and then went to the Husky Homestead Tour.  This was a lot of fun.  We first played with some of their puppies, ranging from a couple of weeks old on up.  That’s the way they socialize their puppies.  The dogs they use inAlaskaare Alaskan Huskies and not Siberian Huskies.  They are basically mutts as they are mixed breeds.  What happened is that when the gold rush started in the 1800’s, miners came up from the “lower 48” (as we are called down there), noticed that the Indians were using dogs and sleds so they went back down and brought up all of the big, furry dogs they could find like Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs.  These were bred with the Indian dogs and the descendants make up what are known as Alaskan Huskies.  I also video taped Jeff King’s presentation.  It was his home and kennel and he has won the Iditarod four times.  We saw some of his training methods, including him using an ATV cart for the dogs to pull during the summer months.  In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), the Iditarod is an 1100 mile dog sled race in March each year.  The dogs LOVE to pull the sled and you can tell by their enthusiasm when he started to strap some of them into their traces.  During the race, the dogs pull the sled for 6 hours at a time, rest 6 hours, then pull again 6 hours.  This continues for the rest of the race.  They wear little booties on their feet to prevent the snow from getting in their pads.  They go through about 1500 of them each race!  They cost a dollar a piece!  Another amazing thing we heard was that each dog eats 10,000 calories a day during the race!  (No, I didn’t make a typo!  That is ten thousand!)  These dogs are only averaging 50 lbs in size.

This morning, we went to the Wilderness Homestead and Dog Cart experience.  THIS was another amazing excursion!  This gentleman has raced in the Iditarod 21 times!  The closest he’s come to winning is third place.  We got to hold his puppies, too.  Their two boy puppies were 10 weeks old and huge!  We also had the pleasure of riding IN a cart that is used to train the dogs during the summer months!  THAT

was a blast!  I video taped that as well.  We got to see some of the pelts and skulls of the animals of the area.  And, a bonus was being able to pet and feed their two pet Caribou aka Reindeer  (they are Reindeer when they are being farmed and Caribou when they are out in the wild)!  They are in the “velvet” phase of their antlers and we were able to feel them.  Since the antlers are part of their bodies and are “living,” they are warm.  They really DO feel like velvet!  These animals shed their antlers every year.  They lose them one at a time so they ten to be lopsided for part of the time when they only have one left.

This afternoon, before boarding the train we are on, bound forFairbanks, we went to theDenalipark ranger dog sled kennel.  Those were more amazing dogs.  They were much bigger dogs and not meant for racing.  They are used by the park service to bring things in and out of the park.  Again, a very informative presentation!

On the train today, we saw a moose swimming in the lake.  That was neat.  Unfortunately, we were two of the 80% of the people who didn’t get to viewMt.McKinleyakaDenali.

We’re almost toFairbankswhere I’ll be able to post this on the blog.  I’m going to try to get some of these pictures edited and hopefully, WordPress will have written me an email, letting me know how to put the pictures on the blog.

Lori and Susan

Tuesday June 14th, 2011 Anchorage to Denali

Tuesday June 14th 2011:

 Dear Friends and Family,

“Moose at9 o’clock!”  I’ll probably be hearing that in my sleep for the next week.  Today, we’re on the McKinley Explorer railroad, traveling fromAnchorageto Denali/Mt. McKinley where we’ll spend the next two nights.  While on the train, if we see any moose or bear, we’re supposed to yell out, “Moose/bear at9 o’clock!”  (we’re sitting on the left side of the train.)  I believe I was the first one to see a moose this morning.  We’re going about 45 mph so I didn’t have a chance to get a picture so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

I’m sorry I haven’t figured out how to attach pictures to this blog yet.  I’m going to write WordPress tonight and see if they will give me instructions.  In the meantime, if you want to see pictures, please write to my email address Lsteadmanaz@cox.net so I’ll have your email to reply to and forward the latest pictures to you.

Yesterday, we had a phenomenal excursion to the Kenai Fjords!  Not only did we have the chance to be driven to Seward in our own “private” van, we saw the most amazing sights!  We saw a group of Orca whales, several Humpback whales, some Dall’s porpoises (they are half the size of our Florida Dolphins and are black and white like the Orcas.  This sort of reminds me of the difference between “real” Dobermans and Miniature Pinchers.)  We also saw some rare Fin whales, some Puffins, some Stellar sea lions, a couple of Bald Eagles, and, on our drive back to Anchorage, we came across a whole group of Dall’s sheep, walking on the side of the cliff!  I found it interesting that both the males and the females have horns!

However, I’ve got to say, that the very best part of yesterday was standing on the 80 ft pontoon boat only ½ mile from the glacier at the Aialik Fjord!  You know, it’s sort of like visiting theGrand Canyon(which we did last Thursday before we left on our Alaskan trip).  Pictures just won’t do it justice!  A lot of the glacier is a beautiful blue-green.  In the silence, sitting just off of the glacier in our boat, you can hear the loud booms and cracks as the glacier shifts and parts of it break off into the water.  You’re surrounded by a sea of ice and it reminded me of the Titanic, only with smaller “iceburgs.”  I got to hold a piece of old glacier ice and a piece of newer glacier ice.  The difference is that the old glacier ice is completely clear and the newer ice is full of air bubbles.  But, you can see the floating ice chunks with the 2/3 of the ice under the water and 1/3 above the water.  That’s why the Titanic had so much damage when they hit the 80 ft. (above water) iceburg.

We also learned a way of remembering the types of salmon inAlaskausing your fingers…your pinkie is for Pink Salmon, your ring finger is for Silver Salmon, your middle finger is for King Salmon, your index finger is for Red Salmon, and your thumb is for Chub Salmon!

Well, we are exhausted and need to get up at5 AMtomorrow!

 Lori and Susan

Well, let’s try again…

Dear friends and family,

For some reason, the pictures didn’t attach to my post so I’ll try again.  I guess that happens when you’re learning…I won’t be writing tomorrow but hope to get in a post when we’re in Denali.

Lori and Susan

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