The 2009 Alaska trip

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All images linked to which are not copyrighted by others and were taken by Ralph Ward are © Ralph Ward 2009.

During the last half of June, my mother and I went on a cruise to Alaska.

We sailed from Vancouver, Canada June 15th aboard Princess Cruise Lines Coral Princess.  On June 17th we reached Ketchikan AK.  While at Ketchikan we took the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour  which was wonderful.  We saw them pull up crab pots, long lines for fish, and feed eagles (photos) (they have an arrangement with a Athabascan Indian tribe which owns an island and the surrounding waters.  The tribe is sovereign and sets their own wildlife regulations.)  Our next stop was Juneau on June 18th, where we took the Taku Glacier Flight and Feast excursion.  This was a lot of fun,  we flew in a six passenger single engine Cessna float plane over several glaciers and landed on the Taku river where we docked at a landing by the Taku Glacier Lodge.  The lodge serves a great meal, with all you can eat salmon grilled over an alder wood fire.  The mosquitoes were numerous (as they are in all of non-arctic Alaska), but they provide mosquito repellant which worked fine for me (photos).  At 7 the next morning (June 19th) we were docked in Skagway where we took the White Pass & Yukon Railroad excursion.  The scenery was beautiful, but we got the impression we knew more about the history than the narrators (photos).  We then left for Glacier Bay National Park where we arrived at 530 June 20th.  There were many glaciers but Margaret (I have seen this spelled 3 ways, and I don't know which is right) glacier got a lot of our attention.  It calves frequently and makes lots of banging sounds.  It was fascinating (photos). We left Glacier Bay and set sail for College Fjord where we arrived at 5 pm June 21st.  After cruising College Fjord we sailed for Whittier, where we disembarked on the 22nd of June.  This concluded the cruise portion of our trip.

From Whittier we took a bus to Anchorage.  We made two stops along the way, at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center which was very nice, with lots of animals, and at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which had fascinating displays of artifacts, dance, music, athletics and an informative talk about the native cultures of Alaska.  Upon our arrival in Anchorage, we checked into the Hotel Captain Cook.  After an all too brief overnight stay we flew to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay where we checked into The Arctic Caribou Inn.  Interestingly, our checked baggage was delivered to the inn by front-end loader from the airport. The inn staff were very accommodating, and informed us before we got off the bus from the airport that we shouldn't go out the back door of the inn because bears had been seen there 3 days before.  After we were settled into our room, we attended a presentation about the oil fields, and were checked off on the list of people going on the oil field tour.  We then boarded a bus for the tour.  After going through the check point, we passed through an area with a lot of businesses which do oil field services.  We drove by a number of sites where there were producing wells.  We then reached the Arctic Ocean.  Some people on the tour walked down to it and dipped their feet.  Mom and I elected not to, since the wind was 40 to 50 MPH and the temperature was in the 30's.  On the way back to the inn we saw some caribou (photos).  The next morning, we boarded the bus for the trip down the Dalton Highway.  The highway is mostly dirt, though some portions are paved.  It is well maintained, however.  The north end passes through the tundra of the north slope and is flat.  As you continue south you come to the Brooks Range (Mountain Ranges of Alaska), which is beautiful.  As you descend from the continental divide, trees begin to appear.  We learned they were Black Spruce, White Spruce, Quaking Aspen and White Birch (photos).  We stopped for the night in Coldfoot, which is now primarily a truck stop for the trucks on the Dalton Highway (photos).  After breakfast the next morning,  we boarded the bus and began the journey down the southern end of the highway.  The trees became more numerous, and taller.  We continued downward (photos), until we reached the Elliott highway, and then to Fairbanks, where we took the River Boat excursion the next morning (photos).  Afterwards, we caught the bus to Denali National Park and checked into the Princess Denali Wilderness Lodge.  When we arrived, we took a Covered Wagon Dinner excursion.  In the morning, we took a jet boat trip up the Nenana River, where we met a fur trapper.  The trapper showed us different furs, explained about when to trap them and talked about the economics of the business.  After hot chocolate and fry bread, we learned to pan for gold.  We then took another wild jet boat ride down river.  In the afternoon, we took a bus tour of Denali National Park (all the Denali area photos).  The next day we boarded the Alaska Express Railroad to Anchorage (photos).  In Anchorage we stayed once again in the Hotel Captain Cook,  where we had to explain that we were not Mr. and Mrs. Ward who wanted a king size bed, but Ralph and Fay Ward who wanted separate beds.  At 7 pm the next day, we left for the lower 48 on Northwest Airlines (not recommended).

All in all, a wonderful trip, highly recommended.

 

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