Road Trip || Alaska


"I can't believe she is your grandmother."  That is all I heard the entire trip.  She is not your typical 80 year old woman.  I had to keep up with her.  She's feisty, and so when she said she wanted to take a cruise to Alaska I told her I would go with her.  When she finally realized I was serious, we booked it.  

I've never been on a cruise, and that was fastest and easiest way to see Alaska.  If I had to do it over again I wouldn't get on a boat, but I loved sharing this experience with her. 


We flew into Seattle to get on board.  We were lucky enough to have lots of sunshine in Seattle and I was hoping that was a good indication of the days ahead.  Of course they were having record highs, but I loved it. While in port, just beyond the shipping yards, you could see Mt. Rainier in the distance. 

Then we sailed for two days.  I didn't think the boat was ever going to stop rocking.  It didn't make me sick, but it left me feeling out of control of my body.  You know when you've had a few drinks and all of a sudden you can't quite control your dexterity?  It felt like that but without the buzz.  I'd be walking and then all of sudden take a side step when the boat shifted.  


When we finally passed through Canadian waters, our first stop was in Tracy Arm.  This was my first experience with icebergs.  Plenty of Titanic jokes heard under breath, but I did have a slight freak out moment.  They really are larger under the water than they appear on top.  I did not want to put our new life boat skills into practice.

Tracy Arm is a long channel and the Captain navigated this large boat around the icebergs like a ping pong ball and we were successfully able to see the Sawyer glacier.  


As we motored along I started to understand why Alaska has so few inhabitants.  The wilderness is vast and expansive and there seems to be no way to go but up. 


Upon closer inspection of the glacier, the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen was glowing. Glacier blue has a whole new meaning, but no matter how many photos I took, I couldn't seem to get the color to translate.  It looked as if someone dropped a bunch of cotton candy right in between the mountains.  It appeared fluffy and light when in reality it's jagged, and solid.


After leaving Tracy Arm we headed to Juneau, the state capital.  This was my favorite destination, although I didn't know it would become so then.  The Seattle weather was not an indication of our trip.  The two days at sea were spent in heavy fog, but we were lucky it lifted slightly when we drifted into Juneau.     


The city reminds me a lot San Fransisco.  There is only so much space to build here though and so the landscape is tight.  Straight up behind the buildings were wooded mountains beaming towards the sky.  Water falls were gushing down into ravines and clouds lingered low. 

When you got passed the tourist trinket shops, the truly local businesses were charming and friendly.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to explore the streets long because we had a couple of excursions planned.


First stop was river rafting on the Mendenhall.  This lake and river are glacier melt and the temp is around 35 degrees.  We donned our rain gear and life jackets and sat in the front of the boat.


We got up close to an iceberg that drifted off the Mendenhall glacier.  We were able to break off a piece for closer inspection.  It's full of sediments.  I knew it would be, I just like to see science applied to life.


While on the river the clouds came in close and it started to rain, but since we had waterproof gear on it didn't really matter.  We shot the rapids, and since we were sitting in the front of the raft we got hit with all the water.  We stayed dry but we didn't stay warm. 

While out on the river we saw salmon swimming upstream for the spawning process, bald eagles in trees and on the shore.  Even though we were cold, we were able to see a lot of life we wouldn't have seen on the street.  


After we shot the Mendenhall we got on a boat to see a few whales.  It's one of the best times of year for viewing whales in Alaska because they are busy eating in order to get ready to migrate back to Tijuana.
  

We did spot several humpback whales.  They don't always travel in groups, but when they are feeding they will team up to maximize the feeding process.  Plumes of water were everywhere in sight. 


This little guy put on a show for us and breached a few times. 


We were also very lucky to see Orcas.  Even the locals were excited about this.  This is a rare sight around here and I'm happy we got to see three of them together. 


Of course no experience to Alaska can go without a bear sighting.  They are so prevalent.  After leaving Juneau we traveled on to Sitka which is on an island and then to Ketchikan.  While in Sitka I learned that on this very small island there are 1.4 bears per mile.  Your chances of running into one is high.  Since I have a thing with bears it was only natural that I spotted one. 


But alas, it was in captivity and not in the wild.  We viewed a bear sanctuary for orphaned cubs.  This guy is just a baby.  I'm afraid he will be huge when he is an adult and I really wouldn't want to run into him in nature. 


There was so much to see and I'm afraid I'm going to have a plan another trip.  Traveling around the state is tricky though because there are not a lot of roads.  Most travel is done through boats and small planes.

We made one last stop after leaving Alaska and that was to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.  We were having issues with one of our propellers so we arrived in town really late and didn't have time to see much.  We opted for a pedi-cab ride to give us a little history around the city.  It was a beautiful city and I know I'll be spending time there in the future.

Our trip was beautiful and an event I will never forget.  I'm a big advocate of traveling, but I have a new perspective on getting out there and spending time with those you love.  I have the best grandmother, even at 80!

To see more photos from the trip you can jump over to my flickr page.