Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alaska: The Last Frontier

Wow!  What an amazing vacation!  We are so fortunate to be able to travel to such great locations.  Since traveling is our absolute favorite thing the do, having the means to be able to take these trips is such a blessing.  We've kind of embraced this philosophy of one big vacation each year to a new and different destination.  For a few reasons, these trips always end up being right around our wedding anniversary, so it is always a wonderful celebration for us.  For our honeymoon we went on a Mediterranean cruise, last year to celebrate our first anniversary we went to Costa Rica, and this year we chose Alaska!  What a wonderful little gem hidden right here in the US!

We started with a 7 night Royal Caribbean Cruise on the Radiance of the Seas up the Inside Passage and followed that up with 3 nights in the Alaska Interior right outside of Denali National Park.  

I must say we've turned into quite the shutterbugs, especially on our vacations.  Between the two of us we took over 2700 photos!  So I will try to narrate this wonderful vacation by picking out some of my favorites to share with you.  Hope you enjoy!


Our first stop was Ketchikan. The day started out a little drizzly, but we were hopeful that the sun would peek through. Before our kayaking trip, we spent a little time exploring Ketchikan. We walked to Creek Street, and hiked up Married Man's Trail to the Cape Fox Lodge.

Kayaking in Orca's Cove in Ketchikan.  Unfortunately, we didn't see an orcas.

Smoked Salmon Feast after Kayaking

Creek Street in Ketchikan.

Icy Strait Point (as Royal Caribbean calls it), or Hoonah (the actual Alaskan fishing village) wasn't that exciting of a port.  I think it was the place that most people booked whale watching tours, but we decided not to.  And honestly, it ended up being a good decision because we saw whales right off the cruise ship on many occasions. Right off the ship was an old cannery that was restored as a sort of museum, really only for Royal Caribbean.  So we just decided to make the 1-2 mile trek into the fishing village. It was a quaint little town, but not really all that much to see or do. We did later find out that the pub we passed is well known worldwide.  We didn't stop for a drink though.  ;-)

Icy Strait Point (Hoonah, AK)

Totem Pole in Hoonah

Hoonah

Juneau was our 3rd port. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain the whole day.  But we still went on our planned hike to the Mendenhall Glacier.  It was an 8-9 hour hike, probably about 6 miles roundtrip.  We were soaking wet, but the views were absolutely amazing!  Once we reached the glacier, we got to put on crampons and grab our ice axes and hike on the glacier!  What an amazing experience! 

Our first view of the Mendenhall Glacier

Hiking on the Mendenhall Glacier!

After our glacier trek, we had worked up quite the thirst for some locally made Alaskan beer.  So we made our way to the Alaskan Brewing Co for their free tour and samples.

Free Beer at Alaskan Brewing Co!

Our final port on the cruise was Skagway. It's an old gold rush town just below the mountains. Our plan for the day was to take the White Pass and Yukon Railway up into the mountains to enjoy the views and then spend some time around town checking out the historic buildings of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

Arriving in Skagway

Hopping on the train right off the ship.  The White Pass and Yukon Railway.

A blackbear on the hillside.

The front half of our train going over the scary wooden trestle bridge into a tunnel.


After our train ride we braved the crowded streets of Skagway (4 cruise ships in one very small town all at the same time, it was a mob scene!) and headed towards the Skagway Brewing Co.  It was well worth the long, crowded walk.  We both got their beer sampler and fresh salmon sandwiches.  Yum!  After that we just wandered the streets of Skagway as we headed back to the ship.

Beer samplers at the Skagway Brewing Co.

Wild Alaskan Salmon Sandwich

The view down the main street in Skagway

The Mascot Saloon, restored from 1898

White Pass and Yukon Train Depot

After leaving Skagway, the scenery from our balcony was amazing!  We almost didn't want to leave the room for dinner.





Hubbard Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park



Mt. McKinley




Our quaint little cabin

Inside the cabin: a bed, a table, and two chairs. Very homey.


Denali National Park

 Sled dog demonstration



Pit stop on our Denali Safari

Salmon burgers at the Arctic Roadrunner before catching our red eye to Denver



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