alaska: day 10

Monday, day 10, was really about dogs.  Well, actually only about an hour of it, but they were just so cute and nice and I just loved them and after looking through all my pictures again, I just want to go back.

Anyways, Monday morning we took a bus from the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.  Th weather at McKinley was rainy and chilly, so we were thankful when things cleared up a bit at Denali for us to spend time outside hiking (and with the dogs of course).

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Across the street from the Denali Princess Lodge was just a few eating establishments, but one in particular (the only one we tried, actually) I highly recommend.  We visited it twice in the 24 hours we spent in the area, and their black bean burgers (vegan!!) are excellent.

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Buses were a major theme of our trip, especially the land portion.  From the lodge, we took one into the park in order to do some hiking and see the sled dog demonstration.

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And now…the part we’ve all been waiting for…

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Believe it or not, sled dogs are legitimately a big part of Denali National Park (beyond just bringing in tourists like me).  Primarily, they help rangers get around in the winter when no other form of transportation is feasible.  The dogs did a demonstration, pulling some rangers on a sled around a small practice track, and then we were allowed to pretend like we were doing the same.  Before and after the demonstration, we were able to pet some of the dogs that weren’t sleeping and were feeling friendly!  It was so fun to learn more about these beautiful, hard working dogs and get so up close and personal.

After the demonstration, we decided to hike all the way back to the lodge, rather than taking the bus.  It turned into quite the trek, but it was so very beautiful and peaceful.

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We wrapped up the day with pizza at a restaurant at the lodge and an early bedtime, if I remember correctly, as we had a very early bus tour through Denali coming up the next morning…

Read more about our trip here (day 1 – embarkation), here (day 2 – at sea), here (day 3 – Ketchikan), here (day 4 – Juneau), here (day 5 – Skagway), here (day 6 – at sea), here (day 7 – at sea), here (day 8 – disembarkation and Anchorage), here (day 9 – train ride and Talkeetna).

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alaska: day 9

Early on Sunday morning, the ninth day of our trip to Alaska, we left the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage and took a bus to the train station.  I think it’s fair to say that the train was one of the most anticipated parts of the trip (aside from the whole cruise thing).  We don’t really get to take trains all that often in our daily life (or really ever), so I think the pure novelty of it made it so exciting.

Sidenote: Any fears we might have had about missing Danny (who had left the night before) were put to rest by the addition of the new member of the family, Slushy.

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The train was very nice – the glass top with beautiful views of the scenery around us, the dining room where we ate a delicious breakfast, and the tables in between seats that made it easy to play games and read the newspaper.

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The train stopped in Talkeetna, and most people took a bus to the McKinley Princess Lodge, which was about an hour away.   Based on the rainy weather and limited indoor activities at the lodge, we decided to stay in Talkeetna for the afternoon.  Throughout our trip, we saw a fair amount of Alaskan towns (okay, maybe only like 7 or 8), but none were as cute as Talkeetna!  Nor did they have as many photo ops…

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^^ My mom wearing Mysteridge’s sweatshirt.  Another Talkeetna highlight. ^^

We eventually made our way to the lodge and enjoyed a delicious dinner of pizza (personal pans!) at one of the restaurants on-site before finishing the evening out with some games.

Also, I’m not sure how it happened, but I got my very own room that night.  After struggling to sleep through the night since getting married (6ish months at that point), I was so pumped to have a king size bed all to myself.  I still remember that night fondly ;)

alaska: day 8

Our last morning waking up on the cruise ship…

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…bittersweet to say the least.  Our ship pulled into Whittier late Friday/early Saturday morning.

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We had breakfast with my parents + Mysteridge and said good-bye to our wonderful balcony before disembarking the ship and boarding a bus to Anchorage.

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DSC07408En route to Anchorage, we stopped at an animal preserve.  It was nice, but not awesome.  However, I’m a sucker for low clouds as well as for animals, so I loved it anyways.    

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Unfortunately, Danny didn’t get to join us on the bus (or at the animal preserve).  Since he had to head home that night, he had to take a different bus to Anchorage and wait at a Princess holding area.  We found him upon arriving in Anchorage, and were thankful he got to spend the afternoon and evening with us before his late night flight home.

Next up was one of my mom’s best ideas of the whole trip: biking riding.  Seriously, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  So beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing.  Plus the bike rental (PABLO!) was out of a shipping container across the street from our hotel, so that was super cool.

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^^ For those with keen eyes, you may notice that D is wearing a fanny pack.  Alaska trip staple. ^^

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^^ Just some cabbage and flowers in a city park. ^^

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And then we ran into my aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Look what they spotted!

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And also, look at how close my uncle got!  I tried to get closer, but my dad kept saying things about safety and wild animals and danger.  I don’t know.  Not petting that moose = biggest regret of the trip.

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^^ My dad, Danny, and I are so hardcore that we rode all the way to the airport.  I don’t have great photography skills/we were still kind of faraway, but in this above photo, they’re watching a FedEx plane taxi on the runway before taking off. ^^

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After our afternoon of riding, we gave the bikes back to Pablo and walked to a Chinese restaurant, which was also within walking distance to our hotel.  So thankful we made it in right before they closed, because it was legit (and delicious)!

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We spent the rest of the evening wandering around downtown Anchorage, trying to find the perfect souvenir.  We settled on two pieces of art from a lovely gallery – one with a moose family, and another with a breeching whale.  We haven’t hung them up yet, but that’s partly due to the fact that I broke the glass in our remaining frames, and also because we are moving in six weeks.  Nevertheless, we love them, and think they’re perfect reminders of the best week of our lives (thus far).

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I said good-bye to Danny (sweet man had to go back to work while the rest of us partied on in Alaska for another four days) and enjoyed a restful night on the best rollaway bed ever (thanks, Hotel Captain Cook!).

Next up…the journey continues…this time by train!

See more of our trip here (day 1 – Vancouver + embarkation), here (day 2 – at sea), here (day 3 – Ketchikan), here (day 4 – Juneau), here (day 5 – Skagway), here (day 6 – at sea), and here (day 7 – at sea).

alaska: day 7

Our last day on the ship.  Bittersweet for sure.

We started our day off with a culinary demonstration by the head chef and a tour of the ship’s galley.  This was one of my favorite parts of the whole cruise.  The demo was hilarious, and seeing the galley was very interesting.  Not to mention the crazy facts we learned.  For example, 1,200 pounds of flour is used every day by the ten bakers on board, used for making everything from pizza to croissants.  6,000 pounds of fresh fruit is prepared and eaten every day.  Oh, and to cap it all off, 70,000 dishes and 24,000 glasses are washed everyday by the 57 hardworking individuals in the galley.

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After the galley tour, we went to a presentation on bears by the onboard naturalist.  I remember it being fascinating, however, please do not ask me to difference between black bears and brown bears (and no, it’s not their color).

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^^ Final lunch at the buffet ^^

After lunch, we took ballroom dancing lessons, which went better than the class that followed it: hip hop.  I know.  I am so thankful no one was capturing it on video.  I am still embarrassed.

Afterwards, we attended a presentation called “Handle Bars & Peddles,” which was an opportunity to hear from the Bridge & Engine team about the workings of the bridge and engine room…also known as a really good opportunity for a brief afternoon nap.  Oops.

Danny and I met my mom and grandma for afternoon tea after escaping the navigation presentation.  Last chance for scones and cream…be still oh my heart!

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We had an early dinner which included time with Paul’s cootie catcher and baked Alaska.  Oh, and lots of mussels for the males.

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Since it was our last night all together (Danny had to fly home the next day), we took some group pictures in the atrium…

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Later on, Danny competed in the final round of Princess Popstar.  The competition was intense, and D sang his heart out.  The crowd voted, and Robert pulled out an upset!

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As usual, our balcony was a prime spot for enjoying the beautiful creation we cruised through all day long.  Once again, so thankful for that.

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alaska: day 6

Thursday morning, we woke up in Glacier Bay.

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The clouds, the mist, the ice floating in the water.  It was magical.  Oh, and did I mention how grateful I was that I packed my winter coat?!

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By mid-morning, we approached Margerie Glacier.

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The glacier is a mile wide, and about 250 feet high (above the waterline).  It’s one of Alaska’s most photographed features, and is quite a sight to behold.

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Did you know that 250 years ago, Glacier Bay was all glacier and no bay?  Now much of the bay, carved out by a glacier and filled in with saltwater as the glacier retreated, is over 1,000 feet deep.

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As our side of the ship ‘parked’ in front of the glacier, we crowded onto our balcony, along with everyone else with rooms around us.  Just another one of those moments we were oh so grateful for our balcony.  Or at least I was.  Danny and Mysteridge were swimming and soaking in the hot tub up on the top deck.  I was in my warmest clothes and they were shirtless.  Another thing to add to the list of things I will never understand.

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In the afternoon, we participated in carpet bowling.  Mysteridge, on a team with Lucy (one of the cruise directors), captured the gold!

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^^ Danny has a medal because Lucy gave Mysteridge hers, and Mysteridge in turn gave it to Danny. ^^

We came across clearer weather as we continued sailing in the afternoon and evening.

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Thursday evening brought our final formal night, and a chance to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary (and the reason for our cruise)!

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^^ Notice Lucy’s medal in D’s pocket?  Classy. ^^

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^^ My dad with our two favorite servers.  They are saints for putting up with the 16 of us on four separate occasions. ^^

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^^ All the grandkids celebrating half a century of marriage with a delicious cake, made by my cousin, Michaela, in the ship’s galley ^^

After dinner, we played movie poster trivia (epic fail) and Danny competed in Princess Popstar.  Good news!  He did very well and the audience voted him onto the final level of competition, which took place the next day.  After the competition, this precious old man asked to play his harmonica for the audience…

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^^ Best. Ever. ^^

That about wraps up another stellar day on the Diamond Princess.  Stay tuned for our last day onboard, plus a week of travelling inland!

Read more about our Alaska adventures here (day 1 – arrival and embarkation), here (day 2 – at sea), here (day 3 – Skagway), here (day 4 – Juneau), and here (day 5 – Ketchikan).

P.S. In case you’re wondering, nothing has changed with my computer, except that some kind friends have offered to take a second look at it.  So I’ll keep you posted on that front.  Danny’s computer is up and running after almost a year of no power (crazy what a new battery and power cord will do), so I’m using it, along with the pictures that are still on my camera.  Wahoo!

alaska: day 5

The third port our cruise ship visited was Skagway.  I loved this cute little Alaskan town with its old storefronts and colorful history.  A crazy fact about Skagway: less than a thousand people call it home, yet over a million people visit it each year.  That’s a lot of tourists for a tiny lil’ town!

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We spent a good portion of our time walking to a cemetery and waterfall at the edge of town.  I must confess: I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trek, as many of the waterfalls we hike to in Colorado are less than spectacular, but this one was actually really great and so worth the time it took to get there.

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^^ Reid’s Falls ^^

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^^ The gravesite of Soapy Smith, an infamous character in Skagway’s history ^^

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On our way back, we were exhausted from all of our walking, but even that couldn’t stop Danny and my mom from checking out this box full of free items along the side of the road we came across…

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One thing that we all noticed right away after coming into Skagway was all the graffiti on the rock alongside our dock.  We couldn’t figure out why it was okay to deface the area in such a way, so I did some research once we got home.  Apparently, it is a tradition that dates back to the early 1900’s when railroad employees would recognize locomotive engineers by painting their names on the side of the rocky cliff.  Nowadays, though, the graffiti names and honors the captains of ships that have sailed into Skagway, especially on their maiden voyage to the port.

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And just for perspective, here’s a shot of me in front of (a small portion of) the ship:

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Once back onboard, we went to afternoon tea (offered every afternoon at 3:30pm on Princess ships!) and watched the ship sail out of Skagway.  As you might have guessed, many of the details of how we spent our time have unfortunately faded, especially for those things that we didn’t take pictures of.  However, I can tell you that we spent a lot of time eating, hanging out on our balcony, and participating in activities like trivia and dancing.

Highlights of the day: walking through town to get to the cemetery and waterfall, the rushing waters of Reid’s Falls, wandering through downtown Skagway, and scones with plenty of jam and cream on top at afternoon tea.

Read more about our trip here (day 1), here (day 2), here (day 3), and here (day 4).

alaska: day 4

Our fourth day in Alaska was spent in Juneau, the capital of the state.  Before that, though, I woke up early (as per my usual while on the ship) and had a chance to spend some time on the balcony…

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Breathtaking.

Later on, I watched the ship pull into Juneau as we got ready for a big day ahead of us.

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We (and by ‘we’ I mean my parents) rented a sweet ride for the day so we could cruise around the city at our convenience…

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Just kidding.  This fine vehicle was indeed at the rental car company, though.  A viable option, except rumor has it that someone was living in it.

Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier.  The glacier is pretty big at 12 miles long, a half mile wide, and between 300 and 1,800 feet deep.  It also creates chilly conditions in the surrounding area, since after all, it is a massive hunk of ice, or at least that was my interpretation of it.

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While there, we took a trail through the forest.  I love love loved this hike because of all the greenery and water.  It was so peaceful, as we were some of the only people on the trail, and so different from what we typically see in Colorado.

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We took another trail afterwards to get up close to the waterfall that runs to the right of the glacier.

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Pretty spectacular.

After our trekking, we headed into Juneau to find some lunch and see some sights downtown.  First, we hit up B’s Bakery and Bistro for lunch, and then the Alaska State Capitol, which, in my opinion, was the most bizarre state capitol we’ve ever been to.  I’m used to imposing white buildings, with fancy domes on top, and this one was anything but.  We had to find a sign to make sure we were in the right place for our tour.

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We enjoyed our tour, though, especially the photo of Alaska’s most famous governor hanging in the Hall of Governors.  We walked around a bit more downtown and took a brief look around St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which is the oldest original and continuously used church in Southeast Alaska.

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Once back on board the ship, we took in a presentation by Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod champion.  She told of moving from the lower 48 to Alaska when she was 17, in search of adventure.  Libby ended up falling in love with raising and racing sled dogs, and shared fascinating stories of blizzards and dogs and Alaskan life.  Now she writes books and gives presentations, making money off of her fame (don’t take that to mean that I didn’t enjoy her presentation though, because I did!).  Later in the evening, we enjoyed Hawley Magic, who was recently seen on America’s Got Talent and had some pretty stellar tricks up their sleeve.

Highlights of the day: hiking through the Alaskan rainforest, touring the state capitol, hearing Libby Riddles speak, and Hawley Magic.

Read more about our trip here (day 1), here (day 2), and here (day 3)