[ alaskan beamymoon ]
We took a 2 week trip to Alaska this July '09 for our honeymoon. The route took us north on a ship from Vancouver up the inside passage to Ketchican, then on to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Seward. After a week at sea, we disembarked and toured the Kenai Peninsula where we saw nearly every sea critter you can reasonably expect. The weather started out cold and damp but quickly brightened and warmed as we moved up the coast and never quit.
From Seward we took a motor coach to Anchorage. I can't really recommend Anchorage other than to say it's a good jumping off point to visit other, more interesting, parts. And so we did - an 8 hour glass dome train ride to Denali with a tasty lunch on the way. The train is a truly civilized way to travel. So is a ship for that matter. Dining and drinking and watching and chatting. From the train we got our first glimpse of Mt McKinley, the highest peak in North America at just over 20,000 feet. Apparently the weather rarely cooperates. 80 percent of visitors never see it. We ended the day with white water rafting to cool off.
5am and the first group into the park the following morning. Forest fires in the area made for some tough viewing at first. Good for catching critters but bad for catching mountains. As we covered the 120 mile dirt road trip in and out of the park the smoke blew out and we had our second view of the big mountain in addition to caribou, dall sheep, eagles, lynx, hares, foxes, grizzly bears and a lone wolf. My only regret was going to Alaska with a 24-70mm lens. 300mm or more is a minimum upper limit if you ask me. I wish I had asked me before the trip. I've had to crop a lot of the creature photos to make them more visible. The 21 megapixel 5D wins in this category.
We retired for a nap after another long day. The night before our early trip into the park we had been coaxed into drinks at the bar. The neverending light is deceiving and the Alaskan beer is amazing. Midnight creeps up on you. I don't think we ever fully recovered.
Next day we took the remaining train ride to Fairbanks where we panned for gold, took a paddle boat ride, met some champion dog mushers and Eskimos. It was all a bit contrived but enjoyable.
We wrapped up our tour by ourselves at the Museum of the North where we were stranded by our tour company for over an hour until ordering ourselves up a cab after flagging down a passing bicyclist. I will say that the evening light makes the outdoors pleasant even when stranded. Having a friendly couple to share it with was nice too. I'm sure the winters are sufficiently dismal but again good friends come to the rescue. I admit that having the museum nearly to ourselves on our last night made us a little misty. It's kind of like the state itself. Alaska is phenomenal. We also caught our 3rd view of McKinley from the hill, 150 some miles away, and finally a 4th time from the plane the next day. That must be a record.
I really can't say enough about Alaska. It was a dream. We were very fortunate. Thanks to everyone who helped us on our way. We had perfect weather though probably a little out of the ordinary. I think we'd like to go back and see the land in a more personal way some day. Most of what we saw was through a bus window or over a boat railing at some rate of speed. Sadly the photos won't do justice. Who's up for some camping in Denali or paddling the Kenai?
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