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Archive for July, 2014

DENALI NATIONAL PARK July 24

Oatmeal. Oh how I have missed the simple, non gluttonous breakfast. Ah. And the view was lovely, despite the drizzle.

On to the Natural History Tour of Denali and damn it if Mr. & Mrs. Grumpy McGumperson were on the same stupid bus and recognized us. I told Arissa it was her purple coat they clearly recognized. We spent the rest of the day doing our best to avoid them at all costs. ALL COSTS.

Seriously. We were on a bus, driving through freakin’ Denali NP and did we see any critters? NO. The answer to that is NO. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. All the way out to Mile 18 (as far as the buses are allowed to go) and nary a critter sighting. Although we did see some massive road construction.

On the way out to the end of mile 18 we stopped at an old ranger cabin, set up like it would have been back in the early 1900s. There also happened to be a ranger talking about what it was like to live in the park then. The first thing I noticed were the spikes on the shutters – bear spikes. So nothing like having to nail pointy things into your shutters to keep the bears out.

 

Also, I’m still very confused about where Denali the mountain actually is. People keep pointing but damn it all we see are clouds with what I’d call foothills. Where is this giant mountain hiding. I feel stupid asking.

 

Next stop, the dog kennels. So finally animals! Although not quite what we were hoping to see.

We did see some big arse moose tracks nearby the kennel, but no moose. Love the dogs. They were so adorable with long, long legs and I wanted to schnarfle all of them. At once. One giant dog pile. What was freaky was that they were all a crazy variety colors, but were the same breed.

 

The dogs were totally laid back until the Ranger presentation started and as soon as they dogs saw the sled, they started to FREAK OUT. MY TURN! MY TURN! MY TURN! It was hilarious! And man, were they super fast. Even hauling an old school sledge on gravel. Damn. I’d love to see them in the Winter, only I don’t particularly want to be in Alaska in the Winter.

 

Brief Dinner Interlude – Elk Burger & 49th State Brewery beer

I had seen a sign for the 49th State Brewery. Figured it was a restaurant. So Arissa & I did our best to find a way UP to it. Google maps was no help as satellite pics up here were not new at all. Hahaha, it just showed construction. So we wound our way up this silly footpath, only to find out that the place was still under contruction. So back down we went, to a place that was so crazily rickety the floors literally were sloping at odd angles and you really did need to use the handrail to walk up the steps! But oh the food! Yum, yum, yum!

Properly stuffed full of food, we decided that it would be a great idea to walk back to the park entrance so we could take our photos by the sign. It was raining. And the sign was a wee bit further away than we had realized. And by a wee bit I mean maybe a mile and a half. But still we schlepped. And still, no moose sightings.

 

On the way back we grabbed an Earthcache and then a traditional that I thought would be under the bridge. So I led Arissa on a frolicking detour/scramble until I read the cache description and realized it was a terrain 1. Oh, let me show you my fine geocaching skills, I’ve been doing this for 9 years.

Check out the rest of the pictures.

chris on July 24th 2014 in Travel

DENALI (or more appropriately 9 hours of Hell on a train to Denali) July 23

Whittier looks foggy. Dreary and I was not thrilled to be awake at whatever time it was – 5 am maybe? Who knows. We had to be at our appointed gathering spot at 7:20 am to mull around like cattle until our group was called and we were herded off the ship (‘Bye ship!) and onto the glass topped train to Denali National Park. Oh did I mention it was a 9.5 hour train ride? Yeah.

So the good news was that we had plenty of space for the junk we were carrying – the 435 electronics mostly and neck pillow.

The ENORMOUS down side was that we had to share a table with the grumpiest people on the trip. As I said, we’d been up since arse o’clock early and I was in no mood to be trifled with. I looked like I was in no mood to be trifled with, so when the grumpy lady said, after introducing herself to us, “Wake up” to me, I wanted to punch her in the throat. So I pulled my baseball cap down over my eyes, and fell asleep leaving Arissa to the wolves. Sorry, but not really.

Oh my god the ride was terribly long. It was brutal. And while we did learn some things – plus get to eat some reindeer chili – it was pretty much more than I could tolerate. We learned that the sheep horns are really heavy.
Who knew.

I hit the ‘done with this train ride’ at about 7.5 hours, which was unfortunately as the train ride was 9.5 hours long. At one point I said to Arissa, “I want off this train NOW.” She told me no, I was not allowed off the trail because A). It was still moving B). She promised Chad she would deliver me home alive. So she made me go down to the lower car next to us and watch the world go by. At one point we pulled off to the spur so another train could go past. How close were the trains? Oh this close.

All day on that train and did we see any moose which we are told are everywhere in Alaska? No. No we did not. And believe me, that damn train was moving slow enough that there was plenty of opportunity to see a moose. I even fell asleep looking. Stupid moose.

Once at our lodging, we dumped our stuff and headed out for food. It had been a long journey and of course everyone and his/her brother was trying to get food at the same place we were. So we put our names in and headed out to get a cache. Because how else best to burn some time? Duh.

Finally our buzzer buzzed and it was as if we’d won a fabulous prize! I suppose in a way we had, because the waiting line had only gotten longer in our absence! Woohoo for us, we are winners!

After a long darn day on the train. And a delicious beverage or two, we may have tried to get into the wrong hotel room. Maybe.

chris on July 23rd 2014 in Travel

LAST DAY, AT SEA July 22

Minor victory in that I held it together enough to not vomit. The sea was still churning a lot. Basically I felt like I had a hangover, but without any of the merriment leading up to it. I don’t know if this Coke helped, but at least it had my name on it.

 

Trying to shower in the tiny shower while the ship was moving all over the place was quite an experience. Oh my kingdom for solid, non-moving, land beneath my feet! Going out on the balcony and looking at the scenery made me feel better.

 

We spent an awful lot of time trying to reorganize our suitcases since we were doing the land portion of the trip and the handout indicated we wouldn’t have access to our big suitcase. So I was trying to figure out how in the hell I was going to pack 5 days worth of clothes into my hiking backpack, as well as my 357 pieces of electronics. And Ping. After much gnashing of teeth and declaring it to be flat out impossible, we did some digging and found that, much to our relief, we would indeed have access to our big suitcases. Just not for the 9 hours we were on the train. Well who gives a flip about that.

 

Having successfully gotten that mess under control. And then having to unpack because we realized we needed dress shoes for dinner tonight and both of us had packed them up, we decided to grab some lunch and have it on the deck since the sun was out – also I was hoping being outside on deck would maybe reduce my barfiness feeling. As luck would have it, The Lego Movie started playing on the outside screen and I told Arissa that we really, really, really had to sit down and at least watch the beginning. Right. We watched the entire thing, sitting there in the blinding sun with no sunglasses. I had my hoodie pulled over to shade my eyes and she sat there with her hand up so she could see for the entire movie. HAHAHA. We’re idiots.

 

Our string of idiocy continued later on. Arissa had put her two suitcases out to be collected and taken to the train when we made port at some terribly early hour. I was taking my suitcase out to hand it to her only I stepped out of the door because it was heavy. Arissa said, ‘Don’t let the door shut!’ about the time it slammed shut. So yeah. She was barefoot, our porter was nowhere to be found and so I had to march my happy little self down to have a new key made.

 

But most importantly, I SAW AN OTTER!!!! It was being super cute (are they ever not super cute?) and doing adorable little otter things.

chris on July 22nd 2014 in Travel

GLACIER BAY, AT SEA July 21

Ah, day at sea = sleeping in. Hooray for sleep!

Arissa and I took our happy little selves, our 300 cameras, binoculars, and Ping and sat out on our balcony watching the world go by. For a change, Port side was the winner!

We got to see Margerie Glacier first and what a sight! It was so neat to sit there and see pieces of the glacier (glacial calving) break off and fall into the sea. It made a thunderous noise! You’d hear a crack and that would give you enough time to spot the piece that had broken off. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we had a seal providing entertainment!

After the ship turned we hustled up to the top deck to take in Lamplugh Glacier. It came into sight around a place called Jaw Point. It was such an amazing sight. We simply sat and watched.

We were just about ready to head back to our happy little balcony when we ran into the Taste of Alaska food bonanza by the outdoor pool. Too. Much. Salmon. Never thought it could be, but it was. Salmon smoked, pickled, raw, broiled, fried…..I’ll leave it at that.

Finally back on our balcony, our group of balconies played Spot the Wildlife. If someone would see – or think they saw – something they’d shout out what it was and where so everyone else could see it.

The folks above us spotted a brown bear on the beach and then a few seals. I spotted a cinnamon colored big old brown bear on another beach. It was enormous. We had another curious seal swim right in front of us. And then I spotted a mountain goat! Only one, but I was so proud of myself.

Formal night again.

The water had been choppy when we left Glacier Bay and it has not been a happy situation for me. I took Dramamine and wore my sea bands, but I could tell while I was getting dressed that things were not going well. I made it through the main course.

I tried really hard to suck it up and not die. By the time the dessert menu appeared, I was pretty sure I was going to die. I looked at Arissa, said, “I have to go now.” Stood up and wobbled back to the room. Took more Dramamine, cinched my sea bands down extra tight, made a nest and convinced myself to fall asleep because I did not want to have to barf in that tiny little toilet.

chris on July 21st 2014 in Travel