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Table of Content for ak2019:

More pages: September 2019




2019/09/04 Alaska Day 01: Katmai National Park
π 2019-09-04 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips
As soon as we arrived in Alaska the previous evening, we got some sleep for an early rise to catch a couple of planes to Katmai. Katmai is quite remote, so we just took a Pilatus which gets you to King Salmon airport, the closest airport with a proper runway. You then connect to a seaplane that flies you to Brooks Lodge, where a lucky few can stay for the night, and from where you can walk to some viewing platforms to see the bears.


we took some amazon prime boxes as cargo :)
we took some amazon prime boxes as cargo :)

the pilot was nice enough to let me sit in the copilot seat
the pilot was nice enough to let me sit in the copilot seat

we flew over a glacier on the way
we flew over a glacier on the way

king salmon airport
king salmon airport


A native gave us a quick intro of the land around katmai and the different tribes that live in the area
A native gave us a quick intro of the land around katmai and the different tribes that live in the area

then we transitionned to a seaplane
then we transitionned to a seaplane

our plane was already in the water
our plane was already in the water

got another copilot seat
got another copilot seat

arriving at brooks camp
arriving at brooks camp

We got lucky enough that a bear was on a beach and walked right past the NP sign when we arrived


there were a few other planes
there were a few other planes


we got a briefing from the ranger on how to deal with the bears
we got a briefing from the ranger on how to deal with the bears

the lodge was nice, but we didn't spend any time there, not even lunch
the lodge was nice, but we didn't spend any time there, not even lunch


lots of salmons in the river
lots of salmons in the river


nice license plate
nice license plate


Finally we got to the viewing platform, you wait in line for a spot (only 40 allowed), which thankfully was only a 20mn wait for us. It can be as much as 2-3H for a spot. Thankfully we got there during lower season and it wasn't as bad:

we waited at the lower platform
we waited at the lower platform



they look for fish
they look for fish

Finally we got our turn on the platform, definitely good views:







some bears wait for the fish to jump up, miss, fall back and then they catch them
some bears wait for the fish to jump up, miss, fall back and then they catch them








I took some rapid action shots of mostly one younger bear that was pretty bad at grabbing salmon, it was endearing to watch. It did get one eventually but it took a good half hour. Here are some motion action shots of it:

After 1H, we were invited to leave the platform. We didn't want to waste too much time by going back to the lodge to get our food we were not alloweed to carry (it had to be locked up in a bear proof room), so we sucked it up and didn't eat outside of an emergency granola bar I happened to have in my jacket. We then went to check out Naknek lake, which was nice, but nothing to write home about:


we found evidence of bears being there, but no actual bears:
we found evidence of bears being there, but no actual bears:

more salmons in the lake though
more salmons in the lake though


We then went back to the viewing platform after the line died down and spent a 2nd hour there:







it was the end of that salmon run but from time to time we still saw a few trying to climb
it was the end of that salmon run but from time to time we still saw a few trying to climb

finally the bear was able to nail one
finally the bear was able to nail one




We saw a few other things too:


there were a few weird ducks
there were a few weird ducks


there was an old settlement
there was an old settlement


It was then time to take the planes in reverse and get back to Anchorage after a long day

2019/09/05 Alaska Day 02: Denali Overfly and Glacier Landing from Talkeetna, and Off to Denali NP
π 2019-09-05 01:01 in Ak2019, Flying, Trips

We left Anchorage not too late and headed towards Denali. We stopped at Talkeetna for a super scenic flight around Denali with glacier landing. We were super lucky to be first plane to land on the glacier after 3 weeks where it was not possible. Even the flights that came back before we left that day were not able to land due to too much fog. Our pilot did 4 different landings to "pave" the runway on the snow for a few more planes to land behind us:


this was the same plane than our float plane, but it had skis instead
this was the same plane than our float plane, but it had skis instead

got the copilot seat again
got the copilot seat again

lots of taildraggers
lots of taildraggers






several glaciers
several glaciers

which don't always look good when you zoom
which don't always look good when you zoom






I wouldn't snowboard down this :)
I wouldn't snowboard down this :)

beautiful field
beautiful field






Then, it was time for our glacier landing. This is normally the base that people who climb denali, start from. It's still a 3 week climb:





t is a big plane
t is a big plane




Then it was time to get back in the air:




hard to tell that all that dirt is a glacier, until you see this
hard to tell that all that dirt is a glacier, until you see this


back to Talkeetna
back to Talkeetna

After the flight, we had a quick tour of downtown Talkeetna:





cheap gas
cheap gas

We got back on the road toward denali, and did a stop at a nice viewpoint:




Then back on the road, and got to the visitor center by 17:15 before they closed at 18:00


and after a total of 5.5H most of which Jennifer drove (thanks), we arrived at Denali
and after a total of 5.5H most of which Jennifer drove (thanks), we arrived at Denali








It was then time for dinner, some food grocery shopping for our next day, and some sleep in preparation for a 05:45 wakeup. We got to see a bit of wildlife:



2019/09/06 Alaska Day 03-04: Denali National Park
π 2019-09-06 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips


After arriving to Denali NP the previous late afternoon, we got up early (05:45) to get to the bus depot and take the 06:45 bus (busses are required to get deep inside the park). After a night that was a bit shorter than ideal, we parked our car and got in line for our bus. We lucked out with a great driver that had good narration and stories. He also helped us spot a lot of wildlife:










denali
denali




one of our rest stops
one of our rest stops

perfect fit :)
perfect fit :)

Pika!
Pika!

I told her it was a bad idea :)
I told her it was a bad idea :)




We eventually got to Eielson, the far visitor center where we only had a short stop so as not to miss our bus that was continuing on:





they found dinosaurs
they found dinosaurs

nice view from the visitor center
nice view from the visitor center

ground squirrels are food for many bigger animals
ground squirrels are food for many bigger animals




Jennifer had wanted to go to mirror lake, and we got a partial view of denali in it. We had to be dropped off the side of the road, and walk there. Many things have to align for the picture perfect view, and we only got a partial view:



From there, we figured we'd walk to Wonder Lake, which was a 2.5 mile walk, mostly downhill. It was a pleasant walk but we were rushed for time as we wanted to make the next bus getting out and we made it with just 5mn to spare (the next bus was 1h30 later and it was unclear if it would have space):





some people went to try and pick berries, but they were quite far from the road
some people went to try and pick berries, but they were quite far from the road

We then did the same rest stops in reverse all the way back to the bus depot (around 5H to get back)


We found more wildlife on the way back:








And after 12H in the park, most of them in a bus, it was the end of our long day and time to go back home for dinner and Zzzs

For Day #2, we got a bit more sleep, and went to the Dog and Kenel show. The Alaskan huskies were very eager...








We then went to mile 12 to drop off our car at the end of our planned hike:

the rotor clouds were a clue that wind was hellish
the rotor clouds were a clue that wind was hellish

from the parking lot, we got a ride in the back of an SUV, riding on top of their ATV that was in the back. That was fun and weird :)
from the parking lot, we got a ride in the back of an SUV, riding on top of their ATV that was in the back. That was fun and weird :)

great views :)
great views :)

Jennifer was enjoying her ATV ride
Jennifer was enjoying her ATV ride







the only wildlife we saw, The rest probably hid from the wind
the only wildlife we saw, The rest probably hid from the wind


lunch at the top where it was somewhat sheltered
lunch at the top where it was somewhat sheltered

I enjoyed my huge Alaskan beef jerky
I enjoyed my huge Alaskan beef jerky

nice colors
nice colors

On the way back, we saw a family of moose. The dad was hard to see, but mom and child almost came to the road. Closer than it was arguably safe:




We then went to the visitor center for a couple of hikes:






We then went to beaver lake, and got to see a bunch of beavers in action, that was great:










they were good at diving and swimming under water
they were good at diving and swimming under water

I even found a beaver cutting a tree trunk
I even found a beaver cutting a tree trunk

and this was the dam they made
and this was the dam they made

Two videos of the beavers:

After all this fun, it was time to go home. I had a quick look at the Anchorage-Fairbanks train that happened to stop:




and then we did the 2H drive to fairbanks

2019/09/08 Fairbanks Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
π 2019-09-08 01:01 in Ak2019, Cars
While in Fairbanks, I noticed that they had a car museum, so out of habit, I figured we should go check it out, not expecting much. Well, the joke was on me, it was a fantastic museum with very rare cars, several more than 100 years old, and including many I had never seen before, including one even that had a magnetic transmission and was a hybrid electric, over 100 years ago!

doesn't look like too much from the outside, until you walk in
doesn't look like too much from the outside, until you walk in




The 1917 Owen Magnetic ar was a masterpiece. It used a gasoline engine to make electricity which turned a magnet which in turn created induction power and turned the wheels without needing any direct link or transmission. Genius! There are only 12 left in the world:





And may other cars I hadn't seen yet:








early open wheel racing
early open wheel racing



Are you complaining about your drives to the ski resort:


they got you covered
they got you covered

that's also cute
that's also cute

this beats chains big time :)
this beats chains big time :)

More cars:








this car looks like it was designed to have a mean face, back in 1912
this car looks like it was designed to have a mean face, back in 1912





mirror on top of the spare tire, interesting :)
mirror on top of the spare tire, interesting :)








There are more cars, some still being restored, but hopefully those give you an overview. If you'd like to see them all, see https://photos.app.goo.gl/7Bwc4wrCAJQitJ9W8

2019/09/08 Alaska Day 05-06: Fairbanks
π 2019-09-08 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips
After Denali, we drove to Fairbanks and arrived there just in time for a late dinner in a good and historical restaurant:



The next morning, we got breakfast at our hotel and went to our reindeer tour, which sure was fun:



The story is a family who bought a couple of reindeer for their daughter who really wanted some, and then they ended up with a bunch of them that they keep as pets and now show around to tourists to help pay for their fees:










After the reindeer fun, we went to see Mary Shields next door. She was the first woman to win the 1000+ mile dog sled race in Alaska. She still keeps her sled dogs and tells her stories over milk and cookies to people who come visit her. Our conflicting schedule didn't allow us to spend the full tour time with her, but she nicely gave us a quick tour and showed us her nice dogs:




Mary sadly had to get part of her leg amputated, but that doesn't stop her from getting around
Mary sadly had to get part of her leg amputated, but that doesn't stop her from getting around



We then went to the AK pipeline viewing point, and saw some people training on the street. The pipeline took 8 billing dollars to build and is an impressive achievement:





the pigs are used to clean the pipeline
the pigs are used to clean the pipeline


After the pipeline, we went to the fantastic Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum (on its own page)


We then went to the excellent visitor center, watched a couple of its movies including one on the aurora, and then went through its museum which was well worth an hour:




oil revenue after the pipeline was built was shared with AK residents as a dividend
oil revenue after the pipeline was built was shared with AK residents as a dividend




We then went to see the ice museum, which was a lot of fun (19:00-20:00), and its own aurora show that was right afterwards (20:00 to 21:00):

It wasn't a huge slide, but for an indoor ice slide in the middle of warm weather, it was fun :)


weee
weee

The rest of the scupltures were nice too:



ice bar
ice bar



the owner is an expert ice sculptor and gave us a demo
the owner is an expert ice sculptor and gave us a demo


we then just had enough time for dinner next door
we then just had enough time for dinner next door

The next morning, we started with Museum of the North, which was closed the previous day. It was quite good and worth multiple hours:



we learned about more 'evacuation' camps in AK during WWII
we learned about more 'evacuation' camps in AK during WWII










climbers of denali
climbers of denali

more climbers but they don't all make it up, it's a long trip
more climbers but they don't all make it up, it's a long trip

We learned about the very long road that was built to Canada in record time (10 months):


And earthquakes:


Next, we went to the botanical garden which was in surprisingly good shape despite it being late in the season:





Next, was pioneer park to see the air museum, and it also happened to have an old town for tourists, although it was mostly shut down that late in the season, but we found a couple of other museums:









The air museum was quite small, but worth 30mn or so:





It was then time to get back to the airport to catch our plane to Anchorage:


See more images for Alaska Day 05-06: Fairbanks
2019/09/09 Alaska Day 06: Fairbanks Aurora
π 2019-09-09 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips
While it was early for Aurora Season, we were lucky to have a somewhat faint but visible Aurora on our 2nd night in Fairbanks. We did have to drive away from town lights on a deserted road, and were able to get these shots. These were between 00:30 and 01:30 or so, in a pretty cold night :)










It was difficult to get people in the shots, but with a little luck and HDR, I got those two:



Auroras can get more bright and colorful, but given that our odds of seeing any, were low to start with, we were happy to have seen this, even if it ruined our night somewhat :)

See more images for Alaska Day 06: Fairbanks Aurora
2019/09/10 Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage and Fairbanks Pioneer Air Museum
π 2019-09-10 01:01 in Ak2019, Flying
Anchorage has a very big seaplane base just next to their international airport. It happens to have a nice aviation museum which is worth a good 2H+ if you read up on the history, including how Alaska was partially invaded by the Japanese during WWII:







The museum focuses on Alaska related planes, and they have a good collection thereof:










choose your ski
choose your ski



pilot licenses used to have pictures on them
pilot licenses used to have pictures on them

The day prior, we went to the smaller air museum in Fairbanks. It's much more compact:







cool, the japanese designed float planes that would fit inside a submarine
cool, the japanese designed float planes that would fit inside a submarine





2019/09/10 Alaska Day 07-08: Anchorage
π 2019-09-10 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips
We only really spent 1.2 days in Anchorage. It had a few extra things to see, but they were minor and we got all the highlights in 1.2 days.

We landed the previous evening and had dinner with my friend Marcel Bolzern in a very nice restaurant with view (I'll skip the part where Hertz didn't have any cars for anyone when we arrived, had no Hertz Gold at all, and made everyone wait almost 1h or more for their car. Lesson learned, avoid Hertz at any location that doesn't have gold pickup):




yummy fish
yummy fish

On the first day, we started with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which had very nice presentations and demos on the Alaskan natives:


they gave us a demo of the songs and dances they have
they gave us a demo of the songs and dances they have

They then showed us the games they play, they were quite physical and hard:



After that, we took the tour around the different style houses they had. The young guide was very knowledgeable:






seal gut outfit
seal gut outfit





seal baloon
seal baloon




seal guts is also used as windows
seal guts is also used as windows



Nice placards and artifacts:



sadly the americans also tried to wash out the cultures and languages
sadly the americans also tried to wash out the cultures and languages


Next, we went to the Wells Fargo Museum which had a nice private collection of artifacts:



the canoes are made with skin
the canoes are made with skin




another outfit made with seal stomach
another outfit made with seal stomach

very cool chess set
very cool chess set

The aviation museum followed, it was quite good (on its own page)


And we finished with the Anchorage Museum which we almost finished but not quite in 2H. I had to go back the next day to see a few extra rooms and the special exposition on the Franklin Expedition that was looking for the elusive northwest passage:













price differences between locations
price differences between locations

The franklin expedition was interesting:



they got really close, but got stuck in ice
they got really close, but got stuck in ice

they didn't quite have the satellite pictures we have now
they didn't quite have the satellite pictures we have now

they had to abandon the boat in the ice after a year of the ice not melting, continued on foot and died off eventually
they had to abandon the boat in the ice after a year of the ice not melting, continued on foot and died off eventually

just a few years ago the boat was found under water
just a few years ago the boat was found under water


And after this museum, it was time to drive out to Seward

See more images for Alaska Day 07-08: Anchorage
2019/09/11 Alaska Day 08: Seward Highway, Girdwood, and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
π 2019-09-11 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

Our next destination being Seward, we drove south towards Seward. The highway is very scenic, so we stopped a few times for pictures:







Next, we stopped at Girdwood/Alyeska Ski Resort and took their somewhat overpriced tram up for a view and a short hike (we only stayed 30mn so as to arrive in time at our next destination for animal talks):



had we had more time, we could have hiked up
had we had more time, we could have hiked up

sadly all the ski lifts were closed, the snow was also gone, and I forgot my snowboard. Luck was not on my side :)
sadly all the ski lifts were closed, the snow was also gone, and I forgot my snowboard. Luck was not on my side :)





We then hurried towards the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for their 14:30 fox talk and 2 more talks after that:




Their neighbours were coyotes:



They had some adorable porcupines, including one that was missing a leg:




they taught it to walk up and down its new 3 floor condo despite the missing leg
they taught it to walk up and down its new 3 floor condo despite the missing leg

another one, next door
another one, next door

nie haircut, buddy :)
nie haircut, buddy :)

haha, this one was eager with its food
haha, this one was eager with its food

The Alaskan cat is the lynx:


sadly it didn't come out to see us
sadly it didn't come out to see us

Bears of course (both brown/grizzly and black):







the michoko bird was fighting the bears for their food
the michoko bird was fighting the bears for their food

that's an unbearable paint job :)
that's an unbearable paint job :)


Plenty of other animals:












After that, we continued the drive to Seward:



2019/09/12 Alaska Sealife Center in Seward
π 2019-09-12 01:01 in Ak2019, Aquariums
We used our monsoon day to go visit the sealife center. It was quite decent, and they nicely offered $75 animal interaction options, first feeding puffins, and then feeding and touching giant octopuses. That did add up to over $350 with the two of us and 2 interactions (1H each).











wolf eel, had never seen one of those, they're huge
wolf eel, had never seen one of those, they're huge


After going through the center, it was time for our puffin encounter. We got a briefing on them and their family:










After the puffins, it was time for our even more exciting giant octopus encounters:




that one was small
that one was small

pretty though
pretty though

feeding time
feeding time

it made friends with us, tasting us with its tentacles
it made friends with us, tasting us with its tentacles

here's a claim for you, enjoy :)
here's a claim for you, enjoy :)




That sure was loads of fun:

Great way to spend a most of day, especially a rainy one.

See more images for Alaska Sealife Center in Seward
2019/09/12 Alaska Day 09-10: Seward
π 2019-09-12 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

We arrived at the end of day #8, and given that the next day was forecast to have monsoon weather, we went to Exit Glacier the day before as sunlight was fading. We only had the time to do the short hike to where the glacier used to be in 2010, and sure isn't anymore:

it's visible from the road already
it's visible from the road already

the nature center had already closed for the season
the nature center had already closed for the season

the placards outside were enough
the placards outside were enough


As usual, it's sobering to see how far the glacier has receeded:



note how all the vegetation has grown where the glacier used to be
note how all the vegetation has grown where the glacier used to be

Eventually, we got there:


the glacier looks close, but it was still a 15mn hike away on an unofficial trail
the glacier looks close, but it was still a 15mn hike away on an unofficial trail



After a somewhat tricky hike past the do not cross line, I got to the foot of the glacier:




I got to peek under the glacier in a spot that may not have been super safe, so I didn't stay too long
I got to peek under the glacier in a spot that may not have been super safe, so I didn't stay too long

The next day, due to the pouring rain, we just went to the town's visitor center:


pigeon duck, what kind of forbidden sex was this?
pigeon duck, what kind of forbidden sex was this?



We spent the rest of the very rainy day at the Alaska Sealife Center on its own page:


The next day, the weather had cleared, so we went to the havbour for our cruise:





We had a look at the train that slowly links seward and anchorage:






some fake carriages with businesses
some fake carriages with businesses

We then boarded our boat for our tour:

this was used to load coal on boats
this was used to load coal on boats


After a long boat trip that made a fair amount of people sick, we got to Aialik Glacier:







lots of seals resting on the ice, but sadly a bit out of range of my 20x zoom
lots of seals resting on the ice, but sadly a bit out of range of my 20x zoom


the crew then made us margaritas using the glacier ice
the crew then made us margaritas using the glacier ice

We got lucky to find some orcas on the trip back:




We also found some seals on a closer rock, as well as some far away bald eagles:



sadly, I also needed a bigger zoom
sadly, I also needed a bigger zoom

and a rainbow on the way home for good measure :)
and a rainbow on the way home for good measure :)

Despite the boat sickness, it was a nice boat trip, even if the one from Whittier the next day was going to beat it easily. And that as it for our time in Seward. We missed out on the long hike to the top of exit glacier, but still had a good time there.

See more images for Alaska Day 09-10: Seward
2019/09/14 Alaska Day 11: Whittier and 26 Glacier Cruise
π 2019-09-14 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips
We returned our overpriced rental car in Seward and after our activities there, we took the seward shuttle that took us to Whittier (which really helped out given that we could not return our rental car in Whittier). Once we got to the junction with Anchorage, a 2nd driver picked us up and took us to Whittier through the tunnel. The tunnel is both train + cars in a single track, sometimes the train goes first, sometimes the cars go first. You only have a 10mn window to get through and then you have to wait for the next hour if you miss it:




When we got on the other side of the tunnel, we saw our cruiseship, and checked in our luggage there for the 26 glacier cruise that was starting from the same location:




The 26 glacier cruise was a lot better glacier-wise than the cruise we had taken from seward the previous day, so in hindsight we could have skipped that.






the views did not suck :)
the views did not suck :)








The crew picked up some ice for margaritas:



We got to see even more glaciers on the way out:





lot of seals sleeping on the ice to avoid the orcas
lot of seals sleeping on the ice to avoid the orcas




we then ran into a raft of sea otters
we then ran into a raft of sea otters

so many
so many

And then it was time to get back to Whittier and transfer to our cruise ship:


some passengers also arrived by train
some passengers also arrived by train

2019/09/15 Alaska Day 12-13: Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay NP
π 2019-09-15 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

After arriving on our cruiseship, the next 2 days were cruising around glaciers. The first day, we went to the huge Hubbard Glacier. It's the 2nd biggest glacier in the world, 6.5 miles wide and 76 miles long!



the 3 story boat in front of it gives a sense of scale
the 3 story boat in front of it gives a sense of scale





The 2nd day, we went to Glacier National Park, lots of glaciers that end up in the water. A cruiseship was not the best way to see everything, but convenient enough. SAdly the weather was rainy and foggy that day, so I have few decent pictures:

a few of those were around
a few of those were around

if you had big binoculars, you might see these
if you had big binoculars, you might see these

or those
or those

one of many glaciers
one of many glaciers



I have more pictures, but after a while, all glaciers start to look the same ;)

2019/09/17 Alaska Day 14: Skagway
π 2019-09-17 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

Our first land excursion on the cruiseship was Skagway. There were plenty of things to do there, but sadly I was not able to secure a spot on the earlier tour before it sold out, so we wasted our time getting up early, showing up at the early tour at 07:00, not getting, and then walking in town while everything was still closed and only catching 30mn at the visitor center after it opened at 08:30, running back to the ship for the later 09:15 tour. Cruiseships and excursions suck, but in this case it felt difficult to find a tour that offered all of this, and late in the season when many tours were shut down for the year already:


nice and quiet, everything still closed
nice and quiet, everything still closed

checking the different houses that you are supposed to be able to visit when they are open (which they only were while we were on our tour)
checking the different houses that you are supposed to be able to visit when they are open (which they only were while we were on our tour)

The visitor center eventually opened, so we had a very quick look at their museum before we had to run out (frustrating). It mostly explained how the early prospectors had to go through one of very two difficult routes from Skagway to Whitehorse to get to the gold prospection fields they were trying to reach, and how the canadians required them to have one ton of supplies to last the winter or would not let them in:



the rich people were able to go around via boat only
the rich people were able to go around via boat only


We then started our tour which went by bus to Canada:



Scenery was beautiful:






I climbed up a hill for this winning shot
I climbed up a hill for this winning shot


We eventually got to Chilkoot in Canada for some touristy stuff. Sadly, like everything, it was super rushed;





it sucked for people who had to get there on foot before the train was there
it sucked for people who had to get there on foot before the train was there


They had a really good taxidermy collection:









They also had a small petting farm. Corny but still fun :)



friendly animals :)
friendly animals :)

We did the sled dog tour, which kind of a joke. They dragged an ATV on half power:



but thankfully we got to pet puppies at the end
but thankfully we got to pet puppies at the end



More time in Carcross:











More awesome scenery on the way, yeah for fall colors:







And then it was finally time to take the train back down:










one of the 2 trails up
one of the 2 trails up



is that what 'bridge to nowhere' means?
is that what 'bridge to nowhere' means?





Eventually we got back to town at 17:30 when everything that mattered, was closed:









We then got back to our cruiseship, disappointed that we missed everything in Skagway. We could have used a 2nd day to see what was in town, but the ship doesn't wait.

See more images for Alaska Day 14: Skagway
2019/09/18 Alaska Day 15: Juneau
π 2019-09-18 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

Our next port was Juneau. It wasn't a very long time, the boat was leaving by 16:30, so we had to rush somewhat and skip the glacier, which wasn't a huge deal given that we had seen a bunch by now, and the weather sucked anyway.
We started with a whale watching tour, which was ok, but not great. We saw a few whales and a couple of tails:





Here is a quick video:

Juneau has more bald eagles than residents:



Despite the worsening weather, we took the tram next. The few was so-so, especially since we couldn't see the horizon:




downtown juneau
downtown juneau

They had some nice totems on the nature trail:






Next, was the Alaska State Museum, which deserved a good 2H, more if you have time:




snow goggles
snow goggles







a section on how the japanese invaded part of AK during WWII
a section on how the japanese invaded part of AK during WWII

Also, a section on fossils:







Last, was the Sealaska Heritage Institute, worth 30 to 60mn depending on how much time you have:





Then a few shops and back on the boat before it left without us:



See more images for Alaska Day 15: Juneau
2019/09/19 Alaska Day 16: Ketchikan
π 2019-09-19 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips

For our last land excursion, we stopped at Ketchikan. We arrived in port a bit late, just before 10:00, and darted right for the visitor center to confirm things I had researched and finding a tour that was worth doing, given that my research showed that staying in town would not fill the time.



this is not even a real duck, we didn't do that tour
this is not even a real duck, we didn't do that tour

We started with the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, which had some good displays worth maybe up to 1H and movies if you had time:







Just next door was the lumberjack show, which although completely fixed (as in wrestling fixed), was both fun to watch and a great display of skill:











Here is a 5mn summary of the show: https://youtu.be/KShwsYQ9vpU


Next was our excursion to a rainforest:




lots of leftover dead salmons
lots of leftover dead salmons

salmon ladder
salmon ladder

several seals came up the river to eat the exhausted salmon
several seals came up the river to eat the exhausted salmon


I was lucky to find a black bear
I was lucky to find a black bear


the seagulls were there to eat salmon leftovers
the seagulls were there to eat salmon leftovers

After the rainforest, they had a few extra things to show us, including some totems:








They also had a wounded bald eagle


After our tour, we went to the Tongass Historical Museum, worth 30 to 60mn (albeit not that big):



we went by creek street, where we saw many salmon, some still trying to get up the river, while many had died from exhaustion already:






lots of dead salmons
lots of dead salmons


Obviously there were a few shops too:





We finished with the Totem Heritage Center:




and we made it back to the boat with a whole 2mn to spare, we were the last 2 people to get back on board, yeah us ;)

See more images for Alaska Day 16: Ketchikan
2019/09/20 Alaska Trip Wrapup
π 2019-09-20 00:00 in Ak2019, Trips

This was our first trip in Alaska. September was definitely end of season when things were shutting down, but we got to hit most attracions before they shut down, sometimes by a mere day or two, but in return they were less busy. The cruise we took from Whittier on Sept 14th was the last cruise of the season leaving towards north america
I'll use this page to post some best of pictures that I bought from National Geographics while in Glacier Bay National Park.

While we got 3 days that were clearly impacted by rain, out of 17, it wasn't too bad, and we didn't miss out on any major attractions. This year was the warmest year on record for Alaska. This caused the salmon run to be shifted and allowed us to see some Salmon catching in Katmai



We didn't see bald eagles fishing though:



didn't see wild ones that close either :)
didn't see wild ones that close either :)

or this cutie
or this cutie


In Denali, we got reasonable weather considering. The bus ride all the way deep into the park is questionable time-wise (12H or more), but close to the entrance of the park, we saw some good life. We just wen't equipped for seeing mountain goats super far away:


we didn't get that lucky, but close to it :)
we didn't get that lucky, but close to it :)

this would have been awesome too, but likely pretty rare
this would have been awesome too, but likely pretty rare


we did see a stellar jay
we did see a stellar jay

but none of those pretty harlequin ducks, even if we saw cool ones in denali
but none of those pretty harlequin ducks, even if we saw cool ones in denali

Going through the glaciers was quite nice, we didn't get to go inside, which isn't safe most of the time, or see huge bits of ice calving, but we saw some:





that's farther than we went :)
that's farther than we went :)


On the ice, usually you'd see seals, but apparently bald eagles can be found there too:


we actually saw more seals on the ice than sea lions
we actually saw more seals on the ice than sea lions


rafts of sea otters are so cute :)
rafts of sea otters are so cute :)

In Juneau, the whales have learned to hunt together with bubbles and pushing fish up to the surface. Sadly, we didn't get to see that the day we went:


would have been really cool to see this
would have been really cool to see this


At least for Orcas, we saw them reasonably well on one trip, even if not as well as this:




I'll end with some random nice pictures I found:





All in all, our trip was reasonably successful, and despite how bad it is that weather is getting warmer and is nice longer into september with very little rain compared to what is expected and needed by the echosystems, it worked out for us (we did have several days of rain, though, but thankfully not on the most crutial days).
I'm very glad that we got to see an Aurora so early in the season, even if it was faint, and probably the only thing we missed out on wsa not having high power binoculars and high zoom cameras (mine was only 20X when 100X or more would have been useful on multiple occasions).

See more images for Alaska Trip Wrapup
2019/09/20 Golden Princess Cruise Ship from Anchorage/Whittier to Vancouver
π 2019-09-20 01:01 in Ak2019, Trips



This was our first time on a cruiseship. Given that we like having flexibility in our travels and exploring, cookie cutter tours are already something we avoid, although sometimes they can make sense. I was however not very hopeful about an entire week or more or a cruiseship where most people's goal is not to see as much as possible, but maybe optimize their time on a city at sea that happens to bring them to ports from time to time where they might go look at for a short while before quickly getting back to the sanctity of said ship (or am I being unfair? :) ).
Given my expectations, things were mostly in line with what I was prepared for. While the boat seemed big to us, being our first cruiseship, the boat we were on was actually not that huge by cruiseship standards, but honestly it was big enough for us and getting lost in during the week we were on it :) It had:

  • one big enough concert/showroom on 2 floors with live orchestra and performers
  • a 2nd show/movie room on the other side of the ship
  • very bright and huge outdoors screen for movies under the stars (sadly the sound was often not high enough to properly enjoy a movie there)
  • enough restaurants (although more is always possible)
  • a few hot tubs for Arturo :)
  • and more I won't list here
  • This was probably an average cruise (not cheap, not high class), and honestly, I found that we got good value for our money: room with partial view for about $600 per person. The food wasn't best ever, but it was more than decent, especially for the price. This was the obstructed view we had outside our window. Not great, but enough to see still, and enough for my GPS :)


    Thankfully it also had no waterslide and therefore hardly any kids, which was good. On the flipside it did have many older people, some had a hard time getting around and made it difficult at times for us to get around them, given that we were walking twice as fast :)

    movie under the stars, except it was pretty cold and the movie volume was a bit too low
    movie under the stars, except it was pretty cold and the movie volume was a bit too low

    one of the two performance stages
    one of the two performance stages

    it was a decent room
    it was a decent room

    Tech-wise, there was overpriced satellite internet (50c/mn or so). The room had a satellite map for those who didn't have their own GPS :)



    and low resolution picture of the front of the ship
    and low resolution picture of the front of the ship

    It felt like 2/3rd of the staff was either from Malaysia or the Philippines. A few were also from eastern Europe. All from countries were money was worth more. The chefs were good and did a pretty fair job given the food they were given for their menus. They also did carving competitions:




    high tea in our dining room (several on the ship, this was the closest one to our cabin)
    high tea in our dining room (several on the ship, this was the closest one to our cabin)

    outside of our assigned dining room with servers, there was a buffet that was just above average
    outside of our assigned dining room with servers, there was a buffet that was just above average

    but it was fun to see at times
    but it was fun to see at times

    leaning tower of pisa
    leaning tower of pisa

    they were quite good about trying not to spread germs and get everyone sick
    they were quite good about trying not to spread germs and get everyone sick

    we also got a tour of the kitchen
    we also got a tour of the kitchen


    it was big, over 2000 people to feed
    it was big, over 2000 people to feed


    not sure if we were supposed to see this
    not sure if we were supposed to see this



    The boat tried its best to sell you stuff while you were onboard, from jewelry, to art. They did an art expo for us and tried to auction off some pieces:







    A few random boat pictures:






    wine tasting, not sure how good it actually was, though
    wine tasting, not sure how good it actually was, though

    they had a good live band
    they had a good live band

    During the evening activities, some were gameshows, and Jennifer also sung karaoke:


    I played the yes/no game, went first like an idiot and got close but didn't quite make it
    I played the yes/no game, went first like an idiot and got close but didn't quite make it

    Jennifer got a bit farther than me, but lost too
    Jennifer got a bit farther than me, but lost too

    another night, some boat staff gave us true and wrong definition of words and we had to guess who was who
    another night, some boat staff gave us true and wrong definition of words and we had to guess who was who

    cooking show
    cooking show


    More pages: September 2019