Thursday, July 3, 2008

Alaska: The Last Frontier

We are finally home after to say the very least, an awesome visit, although that word truly doesn't do it enough justice. It was such a fabulous and very much needed escape from the 'real' world for a whole 9 days. I am so excited to share all of our journeys and all the pictures we took along with a few facts that we learned. Brace yourselves and get comfy because this is going to be a LONG blog! :) It may take a few minutes to load all the pictures so please be patient

We left Maryland at 9ish in the morning on the 23rd all packed and ready to drop Austin off at camp and headed down to the airport. Our flight was scheduled to leave for Dallas, Texas around 11:15am and from there we caught a flight to Anchorage. We arrived in Anchorage their time at 7:30pm, our time 11:30 pm, we were exhausted to say the least but felt a little disoriented due to the time and the lack of darkness. Their day length was 19 hours long and so we weren't sure if we should eat or go to bed...We decided to sleep instead of eat because of our exhaustion.

We didn't really get to do as much as we would have liked but we made the most of our time, especially during the week while Uriah was at his conference. Tuesday the 24th was only a half day conference so afterwards we went to the Alaska zoo, where we got a lot of good shots. Here are my favorites:
By the way in case you were wondering...while most of you were in the 95 degree humid weather, we were enjoying 65 and sunny (most of the time) The hottest was about 70. Perfect :)

All of the animals at this zoo are considered unsafe in their natural habitat, either due to being injured, or orphaned, and they now have a strong imprint on humans. The coyote in the pen with the handler was an orphan at 5 weeks found on the side of the road. The zoo took her in and nursed her from a puppy and the funny thing is that she will no longer let anyone inside with her anymore except for the one handler that is pictured. It was so cute to watch the coyotes reaction when she saw the handler coming with food and water. She didn't seem so interested in those things because she knew she was going to receive affection from the handler (the handler is shown brushing her in the picture) It was so funny to see a wild animal react the same exact way one of our dogs would when we return home.

This little squirrel was hanging out by the otter area and jumped right beside me on the fence. I could have reached out and picked him up he was so close, but then he ran on the tree to my right where I got this cute picture.
They had 2 polar bears, a male and a female (not sure which one this one is, but they have been successful in having a baby. One of them came from Austrailia? to keep the other one company.

A Moose!
Musk Ox, they smelled really bad. This one was scratching his nose on his hoof. They collect their hair when they shed to make really warm hats and scarfs. We went to a shop to see how they were made and it was amazing at how light weight they were, but yet supposed to be warmer than wool.
Mr. Porcupine, who was also giving his tush a nice scratch on the rock. He looked like a porcupine that would be on a cartoon or something. He just looked goofy.
This is a grey wolf, that I thought looked like a cousin to Austina. I saw a slight resemblance in the markings, but I think Austin is more dingo. HA :)
The coyote
Uriah's favorite picture that he took. He is very proud of it, and I think he should be! Isn't it beautiful? This was a bald eagle at the zoo. I told him he should submit the picture somewhere to have it published on a website or something. It's fabulous.
And me...

So that concludes the zoo! After the zoo we went to the Anchorage harbor/port that was also behind the Alaska railroad and we saw several trains come in, some carrying passengers, others carrying freight, along with some ships carrying freight.

Here are some pictures:

The view

I love him :)
Our Hotel (the tall one), looking up from the harbor, we stayed at the Anchorage Hilton

I was being goofy.

We saw a fisherman that caught a 35 pound king salmon. He was very proud of it, and I wanted to get a picture of it to show my daddy!
The longest boat ramp i've ever seen!
The other half of the boat ramp

Our fiery red chariot! Chevy Cobalt. Sorry it's sideways.
One of the many pictures I took from the window of the car as we drove by. Ah, so pretty.
Uriah in action at the zoo.

Later that night we decided to go and eat some local seafood. If you don't know already, I am not a huge fan of seafood, but I tried it anyway, and wanted to see if it really was better in Alaska since it was so fresh. I tried the Fish and Chips (I know, way to go to the extreme Lindsay) but I had the Halibut. It was pretty tasty. Uriah had snow crab legs which I did try, and they were just okay. I could sustain myself on them if I had to live on a deserted island. So this was Uriah's first go at cracking crab legs, and he needed a little help. I'd only seen it done on Martha Stewart (haha) so along with my and the waiters help, he got it down pretty good. Here are some pictures that will make you laugh:

Look closely, his claw hand is holding a teeny fork.
The next day we had another leisurely day and had heard that there was a really good hot dog stand outside of our hotel that sold reindeer hot dogs. I don't know what a reindeer is it Caribou? Eh, I dunno, but it sure was delicious. We sat in a little park on the 'strip' and ate it with our chips and hovering seagulls that were eying my bag of chips. I didn't share.

Cowboy Berry:

So after lunch and his conference was over, I reeeeeeeeally wanted to go horseback riding...we found a place that did guided horseback guides in a nearby ski/park area. We were the only other people there, aside from the guide, so it was only a 3 horse ride. That was awesome, because the guide felt alot more comfortable doing alot more fun RUNNING! Poor Uriah i'm sure wasn't as enthused about it as I was, but he hung in there like a champ. Another thing that I was SO EXCITED about was that I got to ride a DRAFT HORSE!!! He was the biggest horse there and I asked about him and what kind he was and apparently alot of people are scared of his size so they don't like to ride him, but knowing me, I wanted to ride him so they let me. I was in heaven. Nothing could have smacked the permanent smile off my face during that whole 2 hour ride. I was riding with the camera and took a few blurry pictures:
Yes, I wore a helmet, though I normally don't, I figured i'm on a strange horse, in Alaska with bears and moose, so who knows what could happen. We both wanted to wear them and get hat hair rather than brain damage should anything happen

Mack was so huge that you couldn't even see Uriah's horse!
See my feet? They actually touched his body...He was so big, that my legs didn't hang BELOW his body like on Tuff. It was a fun experience!
There we go, now you can see Uriah on his horse "Phoenix"
Mack was a 17 hand Percheron gelding. He was also a plow horse so he didn't neck rein which was hard to get used to. I had to 'plow rein' him. He was a good boy though. It was really wierd in a good way to ride such a big horse and feel such a HUGE stride. When he ran it was so smooth like floating on a cloud. I will always remember Mack :) He was such a good boy.

We asked the guide if he ever saw any wildlife in the area and he said that he's seen moose before and some have seen bear but he never has....Later on that week when I got up in the morning, and as always saw the newspaper slid underneath our door I learned from the paper that a girl on a bicycle was attacked by a brown bear 2 days after our ride and was terribly injured but was going to be okay. It was the 2nd bear attack in 3 weeks in that area. The same area we went riding on. Thank goodness nothing happened.

We also played a round of golf in a little 'castle' indoor putt putt thing, it was by far the most ghetto golf course i've ever been on....but we had fun, I almost beat Uriah...the score was 79-82. Just for the record, on a par 3, he took 18 shots...just so you know. :) Here are some pictures we took:

I didn't get any good pictures of Uriah losing during the first half of the game. But tons of pictures of me losing...of course...
On the way out of the game, there was this cute little bunny, having dinner. He didn't seem at all bothered by me, so I got a couple of shots.

Next we went to get some sunglasses as instructed for our 'flightseeing' tour in Talkeetna the next day...Don't worry, I didn't buy these glasses, they were hideous on me and we wanted to get a funny picture. Uriah also bought a pair of glasses. His first pair! He looked so handsome in them :)

Waiting on everyone to board the train for our trainride to 'Talkeetna' a very small and old town North of Anchorage.
Our view of the front of the train in First Class :)
These are some of the beautiful sights we saw on the train ride up... I have SO many that I want to share, but then that would make this blog about 34 pages long. We probably took 1000 pictures...seriously. SO BEAUTIFUL.

As you can see, it was a very dreary wet day, so our airplane tour over the mountains and landing on a glacier was cancelled. We instead went on a jet boat river tour of the Talkneetna river and the Suceenta river. (I know I probably said it wrong and butchered the spelling, but you get the point)

When we got off the train we realized the temperature dropped a good 20 degrees than when we had left (atleast it felt frigid) So frantically I had to run and just buy a sweatshirt ...anything that gave me an extra layer...then we took off for our boat ride.

It was very fun and we made a little stop on the way to learn about some vegetation and the way people lived back in the day, and a few still do. We took some fun pictures of the fur's. We also learned that after the trapper caught his furs and needed to tan the hide, the women back in the day (natives) would have that job, and they would do it with their front teeth, and that is why you see alot of the old women in photos with missing teeth. (per our guide) I thought that was a little funny, but oh so nasty. yuck.

While we were riding along in the boat we were able to see a Bald Eagle in a tree, and later another in the nest with her little Eaglet...sorry if these pictures are out of order.

The first railroad used in the panama canal construction. Photo op while we were waiting on the train to talkeetna.
On the train ride our stewardess told us a few facts about Alaska and the land ...these trees are petrified from the Earthquake Alaska received back in 1964. The earthquake lasted 4 minutes and was the 2nd strongest earthquake ever recorded in the world...a 9.2 on the rictor scale. Although the quake only lasted 4 minutes the land in this area was really soft and so there is alot of glacial silt and sludge and water that made the area 'jellowy' (like my scientific name?) and so it sank and the saltwater flooded the area and the trees sucked up the water in their roots...petrifying them with salt water. They say that they will probably still be around for another century, a rememberance of the earthquake of 1964...These trees are now called "drunken forests" because of the way they lean. Just a little nugget o' knowledge. We also heard 3 other different versions from 3 different people, but the facts only varied slightly, sorry if these are wrong if you are a Alaska Trivia nut :) (but you get the point)

The HUGE town of Talkeetna....(kidding)
Downtown Talkeetna (1 of 2 streets)
Part of downtown Talkeetna, sorry the picture is sideways, I loved the dog sitting out front...appropriately enough, a husky!
Waiting on the train to go back to Anchorage
Back in Anchorage at the train station, this train was used in building the panama canal.

Part of our Jet boat tour was visiting a trappers cabin. You can see the 'cache' they used to store their meat, so they bears wouldn't get it.
Our jet boat, we got the small one because our group was so small.

The eagle in her nest.
Downtown Talkeetna

How the natives lived...the fire was so great. It was FREEEEZING. They lived in these lean-to's notice the top of the roof and the burnt wood...they didn't have tools to cut, so they would burn the wood to weaken it.
After they smoked their fish/meat on the wooden rack they would put it in the pit on top of the sticks so it would stay cooler and cleaner.
We tried on some furs, I am wearing a red fox fur.
And Uriah in a coyote.
The trappers cabin, with a door that opens OUT, so the bear's can't get in. Bears can push well, but can't pull very well, so all the doors are made to open outward.

More train views.
The beginning of our Jet Boat Tour

The first Eagle we saw

< On the way to Whittier for our Glacier Cruise.

This part of the trip is where I feel like I REALLY got to see Alaska the way they talk about it in the movies. It was absolutely breathtaking to say the least, and left me in awe, speechless. This is the only place thousands of miles away that I would move to HANDS DOWN, no questions, I can be packed by midnight.
These were just taking driving along the highway, not even anything special, just along the Seward Highway. Just a little peek at the beauty we were to see the rest of that day.

To get to Whittier, you either had to fly in, take a boat, train, or tunnel. You could drive in, but you had to wait in line to the special times designated for car travel. The tunnel is one way and is shared with the Alaska Railroad. This is the tunnel through the mountain. The weather was perfect before we went in, and when we came out on the other side of the tunnel in Whittier, Alaska, it was raining. Whittier has a temperate rainforest climate, so it is usually raining there.
The line waiting for the tunnel to open. They even had bathrooms in the middle of nowhere while you waited.
And inside the tunnel. There were 8 safehouses along the way I guess in case there was an emergency. The tunnel was 2.6 miles long through the mountain.
Once we arrived in Whittier we got on a Catamaran called the Emerald Sea that would take us on a 5 1/2 hour cruise of Prince William Sound narrated by a Park Ranger with an all you can eat Prime Rib and Salmon buffet. Yum :) Atleast the Prime Rib was, I don't do Salmon. We hadn't even left the dock yet when the ranger announced our first wildlife visitor, Mr. Harbor Seal- who was getting a sun tan, and was even there when we came back almost 6 hours later. What a life.
One of the glaciers we saw along the way.

Here we are at Black Stone Glacier. It was VERY cold.
You can't see very well, but the ice was blue from being so compact and something about blue being bounced back by the glacier and all the other colors were absorbed, so your eyes can only see blue, something along those lines, i can't remember, but anyhow, the glaciers were so awesome to know that they carved out the mountains and were still working on the carving as we were watching...they were so immense! We even got to see some of the glacier fall into the water since it was melting. It sounded like artillery going off, it was very loud.

You can sorta see the blue here. (I am going to be adding videos in Alaska: part 2)
A waterfall of melting icecoming off the side of the glacier.

And here is a kitti-wake rookery. It is a nesting area for these birds that smelled kinda like a chicken-coup. There were SO many of them!! This video does an appropriate job of giving you a sense of what it was like instead of a picture...

The tran station stop at Whittier.

Saw a pretty water fall along the side of the road on the way to Seward one day...another photo op.
A random hike off the highway to check things out...

This concludes part 1, please check back with Part 2 later!!! (Hopefully in the next day or 2) for more pictures and video's.

Thanks for checkin't it out if you made it down this far!