Travel logs are always somewhat boring and drawn out so I put lots of pictures. Sorry this took so long to post but the first attempt went into cyberspace.
Day 1: We left home in Hampshire County, WV on Thursday and traveled to Arlington Virginia to stay with Sue’s cousin and husband.
Day 2: Ed drove us to the Dullas International airport at 5:30 am. We boarded our plane before 8:00 am and soon we were in the air on our way for a five-hour flight to Seattle, Washington, arriving at about 10:00 am after traveling through three time zones. I had arranged for a rental car in Seattle so we gathered our luggage and ventured down to the rental area. In Seattle the car rental area is off the airport grounds so we boarded a bus and were shuttled to it. We picked up our little tiny low-cost rental car which we found on HOTWIRE and decided we wanted to see Seattle, so we loaded up the Garmin with some Seattle points of interest and took off. Our first visit was Pikes Place Market, an incredible flea market/farmers market/novelties stores area of town. While drifting around, we found a nice place to eat overlooking the crowds at the market. After eating, we got back in our car and headed in the direction of the Space Needle. Finding a parking place was interesting and then we found out that the elevator ride up the needle was $23/person for a 15 story elevator ride. We decided that was a little expensive for our blood so, we walked around the area which is rich in culture with lots of interesting places to see. Overall it was a great evening. With the sun beginning to settle, we decided we better get to our hotel, the Quality Inn and Suite in Tacoma and get a good nights sleep.
Day 3, 4, 5 & 6: We boarded the airport shuttle and ended up back at the airport to meet our charter bus and begin our journey to Vancouver. After a fun time at the Canadian border (sarcasm) our driver took us to through Vancouver (there is no way around Vancouver) on our way to the boarding dock where we checked in with Holland Tours and boarded our ship, the Zuiderdam.
That evening we explored our boat searching out all the different areas including food areas, entertainment areas and a good place to watch the ocean and hopefully the glaciers and whales. Well, after the first day, the fog and general yucky weather kept us from seeing the glaciers or anything else while on the boat. After two days through some rough water our large boat slowly settled into Juneau, which is the capital of Alaska. We had scheduled a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier along with a whale watching boat trip. The first leg of our trip took us to the foot of the immense glacier, which was amazing, and then headed over to the dock to board our charter boat to go whale watching.
We saw a number of whales but nothing like to ones you see on the nature channel. When we returned from the whale watch, we were dropped off in the middle of town. I think Juneau has more jewelry stores than street corners. Sue and I walked the streets checking out the expensive diamonds and gold and then returned to the ship for a trip to the food bistro. Later that night our boat continued north to Skagway, which can also be spelled Skaguay which I think is an Eskimo word meaning ‘stupid white people..’
Upon arriving in Skagway, we disembarked and found our way to where the White Pass and Yukon Railroad would carry us part way to Whitehorse, Canada. After a two-hour trip through incredibly beautiful mountains we left the train and boarded a Holland Line coach for the remainder of our trip to Whitehorse.
Upon arriving in Whitehorse we settled into the Whitehorse Westmark Hotel and prepared to explore the town. That evening we attended a local production call the FRANTIC FOLLIES which was extremely humorous! Whitehorse is a beautiful town but still a little tarnished by the influx of tourists and the jewelry stores. That’s where we had our first run in with the Alaskan daylight hours. We were walking around and decided to check out a book store. Whoa! How could it be closed? We checked the posted hours and it didn’t close until 9:00. Were we surprised to check the bank clock and find out that it was after 10:00 and still light!!
Day 7: We boarded our coach to begin our 8 hour journey on the Klondike Highway to Dawson City, a major city in the early gold rush. The ride was tolerable with frequent stops and plenty of scenery. Making friends as we go too.
We actually saw a Lynx, which is apparently very rare. Seems they are shy.
That evening we explored the little town of Dawson City with dirt streets, board walks and beautiful river frontage and an authentic river boat. We decided Dawson was our favorite town in Alaska. Due to the early construction and disregard for the permafrost, some of the early buildings were actually sinking into the ground. We would have spent more time in Dawson City if we could have.
Day 8: We took a bus for a short trip to the airport, a gravel runway lined up between two mountains, and boarded a 737 for quick flight to Fairbanks, Alaska. Just to make sure you did not miss that, a 737 jet on a gravel runway in the middle of the mountains! The 737 jet is a craft capable of carrying 120 people but in our case it was only allowed to carry 60 due to the short runway and mountains! As we made our way into the craft, everyone sat on the right side to have a better view of Mt. Denali (or Mt. McKinley). Well, the stewardess decided that this was not a good idea to have everyone on the same side of the plane so some of us were asked to move to the left side to balance the plane during takeoff. I thought this was a great idea! By the way, we are in the 30% of lucky people to see Mt McKinley!
Despite my concerns with the short gravel runway, surrounding mountains and light load, everything went fine. We landed in Fairbanks, settled into our hotel and took off to explore the town. That evening we boarded a coach and traveled for a short time to see the Alaskan pipe line, an old gold dredge and actually pan for gold!
Sue panned out almost $27 in gold and I found a mere $14 worth which fell from my pocket on the bus back to the hotel.
For lunch we visited the nostalgic Soapy Smith’s restaurant for a great lunch. We then journeyed out onto the streets to visit the many gift shops. That evening we boarded a bus and were taken to a salmon bake. This is a local attraction where you pay a price to get in and then eat as much salmon and steak as you can until your stomach says UNCLE! Great time and we met our new friends Gerry and Lynn from Australia who have invited us to come and visit them in Australia! I told Gerry to look for us January of 2016! We email each other and it looks very promising at this point! After the dinner we attended another humorous rendition of times in the gold rush era, very funny and entertaining!
Day 9: We boarded another bus and began the long ride through Denali National Park. During the 8 hour bus ride we saw a grizzly bear, lots of caribou, mountain goats (actually Dall sheep), a couple cow (female) moose and the Alaskan state bird a willow ptarmigan, which I though was sort of dorky looking. We were told it was a successful trip but my butt was aching from sitting so long. That night we settled in early to prepare for our 8 hour scenic train trip to Anchorage AK. Here are some pics of the wild life we saw in the park.
Day 10: We boarded the McKinley Explorer and began our long scenic train ride to Anchorage.
The train is designed for passengers to see the terrain with its big windows and elevated seating areas. On the other hand it is not very fast and barely gets over 30 miles an hour. It has to share the tracks with other trains too. When we arrived in Anchorage, we met up with Sue’s cousin and her husband who lives in Alaska and joined them for a wonderful dinner.
Day 11: We were shuttled to the Anchorage airport and flew back to Seattle, Washington. That evening we boarded the local transit train and returned to Seattle to see some sights. We found a tour of the Underground City which was incredibly funny and educational. Seattle was a very dirty town… After a big fire that destroyed most of the town, they decided to bury the bottom and start again on the second floor of buildings that survived.
After the tour we returned to our hotel and relaxed for the evening.
Day 12: A quick trip to the airport and we were on our way back to the east coast. We were ready to be home. Ed picked us up at the airport and took us to his home where we settled into a comfortable bed and quickly fell asleep.
Day 13: After a relaxing morning we loaded up the Honda and began the last leg of our journey to our home in wild, wonderful West Virginia.
The Canadian Yukon and Alaska are incredibly beautiful areas but Sue and I visited them in the warmth of an almost continual summer sun. I dare say we have not seen its true colors when winter shows its mighty force. The few true Alaskans’ we met were genuine, sincere people who loved the area for its independence and natural grace. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this majestic wonderland of nature, I think we will continue to head south for when it is cold and leave the epic winters to the rugged folks of Alaska.