Monthly Archives: August 2013

Glaciers and Dog Sleds in Alaska

Visiting Alaska – The Final American Frontier

Alaska has been on the bucket list for a while now so we took an incredibly calm Norwegian Sun cruise from Vancouver to Alaska via the inner passage.

Norwegian Sun

Norwegian Sun

Our 11 day route took us to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and then onto a land tour in Denali National Park.  We are not really cruisers but we may change our minds after this trip.  The cruise had great food, great shows and incredible views.

Our Alaskan route

Our Alaskan route

If you would like to see a slideshow of this trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Alaska.asp

Ketchikan

After 2 days of sailing, we arrived at Ketchikan, a small town with a population of 8,000 and aptly named the “Salmon Capital of the World”. While we were there, we saw more salmon coming into the bay than I have ever seen — they lined the top of the water.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan was home to a thriving Native American population in the early days and boasts more totem poles than anywhere in North America.  There is still a small population of Native Americans  (just under 17%) living here and they are very proud people with a strong heritage. When we visited, we witnessed a tribal dance and they allowed me to participate.

Steve attempting a tribal dance

Steve attempting a tribal dance

I was struck by the beautiful totem poles and art pieces. We attended a presentation by one of the artisans that continue to create totem poles for other towns.

Our final excursion here was to attend a lumberjack show.  OK, it sounds corny (and parts of it were), but these guys are great athletes with skill and agility.

Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks

Juneau

In Juneau, we had an incredible excursion where we took a helicopter up to the top of a glacier where dog sleds were awaiting our arrival. The ride up was breathtaking, with incredible 360 degree views.

Once we landed, we met the friendly Alaskan huskies before embarking on a several mile ride upon the glacier in the dog sled. Many of these dogs have participated in the Iditarod, a yearly 1,024 mile dog sled adventure across Alaska. You may notice that many of the dogs look more like muts than Siberian Huskies. That is true, they are mixed but are chosen for speed and endurance.

IMG_0503 IMG_0517 IMG_0546 IMG_0543 IMG_0506

Our final excursion in Juneau was to visit the Alaska Brewery, home of the best Amber Ale I’ve ever had.

Alaska Brewing

Alaska Brewing

Skagway

In Skagway, we met a team that participates in the Iditarod and petted new Alaskan Husky puppies.

DSC_0104 DSC_0111

At this site, they had a room that was refrigerated to 40 degrees below zero to show how it might feel if in the Alaskan wilderness. We threw on big coats and hung out for about 5 minutes in the brutally cold room.  Invigorating!

Lynn in 40 degrees below cold

Lynn in 40 degrees below cold

We also took a chance at panning for gold. Altogether Lynn and I found about $20 worth of gold.

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Our final excursion was a photographer’s tour where we ventured into Canada to take some cool landscape pictures.

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Glaciers in Glacier Bay

The most thrilling part of the cruise was visiting the incredible glaciers. Our captain was incredible, he was able to maneuver the ship so that everyone could get great pictures of each glacier. We saw all the glaciers in Glacier Bay and woke the next day to Humboldt Glacier. We hung out at each  glacier for about an hour, saw the glaciers crumbling into the sea with grandiose sounds that reminded me of thunder.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Denali Land Tour

After leaving the cruise ship, we went straight into a 4 day land tour where we visited Anchorage, Denali National Park, and Talkeetna. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with a population of about 300,000. It felt like a small town that was heavily dependent on tourism.

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

At Denali National Park, we participated in a 7 hour tour of the park where we saw caribou, moose, grizzly bears, and many birds of prey. The highlight for us was seeing Mount McKinley, the largest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet. The guide said that only 30% of the people that visit Denali get a good view of McKinley because of the clouds. We were lucky to be in that 30%, as we enjoyed great views.

Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley

Moose antlers are heavy!

Moose antlers are heavy!

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

On our way back to Anchorage, we rode the train to a town called Talkeetna. The TV show “Northern  Exposure” was modeled after this town but was actually filmed in Roslyn Washington. Their claim to fame is that they elected a cat mayor of the town 15 years ago and we were able to visit where he hangs out in the gift shop. They like him because he never raises taxes and lets government stay out of people’s lives. Hmm, he must be a republican!

Train to Talkeetna

Train to Talkeetna

The Mayor

The Mayor

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Well that concludes our 3 month summer vacation. We are now returning to Florida to enjoy the rest of the summer, the fall, and then hunker down for the winter. I hope you enjoyed these posts.

Advertisements

Vancouver Canada is an Incredible Summer Getaway

Hanging out in British Columbia for a Few Weeks

Prior to our cruise to Alaska, we had almost 3 weeks to spend in Vancouver, Canada. The weather was spectacular: sunny days, low humidity and in the mid to upper 70’s.

For a slide show of pictures from this trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Canada_Vancouver.asp 

We rented an apartment for our stay with great views of the city.  If you are staying over 2 weeks, this is the way to go.  We were able to walk and bike to Stanley Park, Gastown, Coal Harbor and just about everywhere else.  Here was our night-time view:

View from our apartment rental

View from our apartment rental

Vancouver City Tour

As we always do when we make it to a new city, we took a City Tour.  This 4 hour tour oriented us to most of the sites and gave us a better sense of where things were and how to get around.  The tour took us to Stanley Park, Gastown, Chinatown, Granville Island, and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Vancouver Canada

Vancouver Canada

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver Canada view from Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver Canada view from Queen Elizabeth Park

Gastown in Vancouver

Gastown has a clock that runs entirely on steam.  Notice the steam vents at the top of the clock.  Very interesting!

Steam Clock

Steam Clock

During the tour, we saw this funky little home that is being for sold for just over $1 million.  Check out the roof.  Any takers?

Funky Million Dollar Home

Funky Million Dollar Home

Stanley Park

Vancouver reminds me of New York City, it is a large city with great parks (Stanley Park in Vancouver is larger than Central Park in NY).  However, it is very bike friendly, people are really friendly, and cabs won’t run you over.  It has a penchant for art with many artistic artifacts scattered around the city.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Totem Poles in Stanley Park

We rode our bikes around Stanley Park. It is a 6 mile trip that takes you by Lions Gate Bridge.  It was architected by person that designed the Golden Gate bridge.  Looks similar, doesn’t it?

Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge

Outdoor Art in Vancouver

The art around Vancouver is fresh and cool. This piece was produced completely in aluminum, but it looks like wood.

Art made all from aluminum

Art made all from aluminum

This artist created figures of himself laughing in different positions. Too funny.

Laughing Statue

Laughing Statue

These Inuit statues are seen a lot around this area. It was common for the First Nation Peoples (aboriginals) to erect these statues for navigation and as a token of friendship.

Inuit Statue

Inuit Statue

Excellent parks in Vancouver

Excellent parks in Vancouver

Granville in Vancouver

Granville is a funky area that offers a farmers market, water side views of the city, cool restaurants, and handicraft shops.  It gets really crowded in the summer and parking is hard to find, but the fresh fruit sold in the market is better than any I can remember having.  Definitely worth the parking hassle.

View from Granville

View from Granville

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver has one of the best aquarium’s I’ve seen.  It has a really cool 4D movie theater that thrills all your senses.  That includes 3D glasses, wind and water effects, and seat twitching to accentuate the experience.   It also has an array of jelly fish, penguins, sea otters, and Beluga whales.  This was the first time I had seen a Beluga whale in person, it was awesome.

Beluga whale

Beluga whale

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Jellyfish in Vancouver Aquarium

Jellyfish in Vancouver Aquarium

Whistler, British Columbia

We also had time to visit Whistler. This is where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held. You can take the Peak2Peak ride to the top of Whistler, the longest Gondola ride in North America.  Great views from the top.

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler Canada

The Grind at Grouse Mountain

If you like to hike and are up for a challenge, I suggest hiking “The Grind” at Grouse Mountain.  The hike is only 2 miles, but you climb 2800 feet in altitude.  When I heard about it, I knew I had to try it.

Everything I read scared me.  Personal trainers posted that it was incredibly harder than they had imagined.  Signage at the base of the hike said you do it at your own risk — it is not for novice hikers. Perfect!

Nicknamed “Nature’s Stairmaster”, it does not have any switchbacks. It is 1.5 to 2 hours of steady climbing stairs from bottom to top.  No chances to give your legs a break with small slopes, it is steep and long.

Warning: Not for Wimps!

Warning: Not for Wimps!

Nature's Stairmaster

Nature’s Stairmaster

Once I reached the top, I was ecstatic.  I made it in under 2 hours (about 1 hour 50 minutes) and although it was strenuous, I handily conquered it.   My cardio was good, never got too winded and I was not really sore the next day.  My workout regimen paid off.  It was so much fun, I highly recommend this hike if you are an intermediate level or better hiker.

Little sweaty, but I made it to the top!

Little sweaty, but I made it to the top!

Once you are at the top of Grouse Mountain, there are tree carvings, ziplining, movies, lumberjack shows, and great viewing points.

Top of Grouse Mountain

Top of Grouse Mountain

Things to do in Vancouver

If you visit and have extra time, there are tons of things to do in Vancouver. Of course, Capilano Suspension Bridge is a big attraction, see pictures below. But there are also other things to consider including:

  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden
  • Museum of Anthropology
  • Vanier Park
  • Bill Reed Aboriginal Art Museum
  • Seymour Valley Trailway (great biking)
  • Canoe Rentals in English Bay
  • Salt Water pools in Stanley Park
  • Hiking Stanley Park
  • Boat Rentals at Coal Harbor
Capilano Bridge

Capilano Bridge

Cliff Skywalk

Cliff Skywalk

We really enjoyed our few weeks in Vancouver and highly recommend it to anyone considering visiting the Pacific Northwest.  Now on to Alaska!

Cool Things To Do in Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria British Columbia and Butchart Gardens

We had only 2 days to spend in Victoria, Canada before heading to Vancouver, BC so we wanted to ensure we hit the hot spots during our short stay.  We’ve found the best way to get acclimated to a new city is to do a city tour, so we try to do that on the first day.  If they have a land/water tour (duck or hippo boat tours), even better.   Once you’ve done a city tour, you then know where all the hot spots are and how to get to them on your own.

We did that during our visit to Victoria, BC, here are the 9 hot spots we hit while in Victoria:

  1. Hippo Land/Water tour
  2. Butchart Gardens
  3. Royal BC Museum
  4. Parliament buildings
  5. Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown
  6. Craigdarroch Castle
  7. Spinnaker Pub
  8. Fisherman’s Wharf
  9. Beacon Hill Park

For a slideshow of our trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Canada_Victoria.asp.

Hippo Land / Water Tour

These land/water tours are always fun. Whether it be a “duck”, “hippo”, or any other creative acronym the marketing team comes up with, it is still a land/water tour and a lot of fun. I like the combination because  they take you through the town and show you the sites then plunge into the water to give you a different perspective from the harbor.

We’ve done several now and found that not all land / water tours are alike.  Sometimes they are party-like, with the guide playing fun theme songs as he/she cracks jokes and dresses up in costumes to match the playful banter.  The one we did in Seattle was like that and it was probably the most fun.

We’ve now done two in Canada (one in Halifax and this one in Victoria).  In both cases, they are a little more subdued and business-like.  Neither cracked as many jokes, dressed up in costume or played fun music.  But they did both give you a valuable tour of the city and you left with a good sense of how the city is laid out and where to go.  Maybe our Canadian friends are little more uptight, eh?

IMG_0270

Hippo: Land/Water tour

Hippo: Land/Water tour

From the Hippo tour

From the Hippo tour

Water taxis are $5 per trip

Water taxis are $5 per trip

From the Hippo tour

From the Hippo tour

Butchart Gardens

If you are crunched for time, this one is a must-see.  It is about 20 miles outside of the city so you need a car or arrange  for a guided tour that will pick up/return you back to your hotel.   You will probably spend a couple of hours here, more if you are really knowledgeable about plants and flowers.   You can even see it at night, as they light up the gardens.  We did not get a chance to do that but I wish we had.

Butchart is separated into different sets of gardens (Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Sunken Garden, etc.).  Our favorite was the Sunken Garden. It was built in an old limestone quarry and is simply stunning (first picture below).  Its views show the expanse of flowers, trees and plants.   I am not a big garden-kind-of-guy but I really enjoyed it.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

DSC_0114

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Royal BC Museum

You can spend several hours in this museum.  When we were there, they had an exhibit about the antarctic explorers that raced to be the first to claim a visit to the South Pole.   Two teams headed for the South Pole, one from Britain and the other from a Norwegian team.  It tells their story via an exhibit and IMAX movie.

Additionally, it has a Natural History gallery, First People (Aboriginal) gallery, and a Modern History gallery that shows what the city of Victoria looked like in the past.  I especially enjoyed the First People gallery, as it had totem poles, tools made by the Aboriginals, and a lot about their history.  I found their fishing techniques very interesting.

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Parliament Buildings

Each hour they will allow you to tour for free.  It was interesting to see how they govern and learn more about how their style of government is similar yet different from ours in the USA.

DSC_0016 DSC_0062 DSC_0030 DSC_0043

Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown

Chinatown is only 2 blocks long, so it is a small section of town.  It offers lots of Chinese markets and eateries.  The most famous area is the Fan Tam Alley that boasts to be the narrowest street in Canada.  To me, it just looks like an alley, but hey, whatever floats their boat!

Narrowest street in Canada

Narrowest street in Canada

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle was completed in 1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. This Victorian mansion, built on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria bragged to Western Canada that this was a rich and important family.

Robert died in 1889, before the home was completed, leaving the estate to his wife Joan who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908.  As you might imagine, no expense was spared in this house. You will see incredible woodwork, exquisite stained glass windows, and Victorian era Furnishings.

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Spinnaker Pub

This is the oldest pub in Canada and offers a good variety of craft brewed ales.  We actually stayed in their B&B, so we could walk to the brewery very quickly. They offered a very nice Hefeweizen that we really enjoyed.  Unfortunately,I did not take any pictures of the pub.

Fisherman’s Wharf

The Wharf is a pretty small area but offers up views of the marina, floating homes, and boasts the best “fish ‘n chips’ in Victoria at Barb’s Fish and Chips.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Beacon Hill Park

This is best known for the peacocks that roam the park and the kid’s petting zoo with about any animal a kid would like to see.  It also has totem poles and flows out to scenic views of the ocean.  As I was taking this picture of the peacock, it kept coming closer to me.   I am not sure if it wanted to attack me, wanted me to feed it, or just wanted me to her boyfriend.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill