Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adventures in Alaska: Part 1

Justin and I recently got back from our first trip to Alaska.  I hesitate to tell you that we went on an Alaska cruise, first, because that sounds like something retired married couples do, and second, because this "cruise" was nothing like you are picturing.  Or at least it was nothing like I was picturing. 

Allow me to begin at the beginning of our trip: Juneau.  The approach to the airport was semi-terrifying with thick fog and then a quick break in the clouds where I could suddenly see mountain peaks practically touching either wing.  Dropping down toward the runway it looked like we were going to crash land on the mudflats.  As far as I know this was an incredibly ordinary landing for everyone else on the plane, but I was thrilled when we were finally safe on the ground.  We arrived into Juneau on a foggy, wet Saturday morning. 



After checking in to the Baranof, we went adventuring and per our usual new-town protocol, we asked a random local for her favorite place to eat and favorite place to drink. Following her advice, our first stop was the Hangar restaurant on the waterfront.  They had great chowder.  After lunch we made our way to the Alaskan Bar.  It's a great, dark little bar with friendly bartenders and interesting locals.  The next day we were lucky to catch some tunes there by a couple of girls who were traveling around Alaska playing music. 
 

[Christa & Chloe]

We were actually a bit sad to leave Juneau and hop on our boat. Well, I guess we don't look that sad in this picture. But we really liked the folks we met in Juneau. 


A little back story in case you were wondering how we ended up on an Alaska cruise: We found out about American Safari Cruises/InnerSea Discoveries from Justin's brother, who had gone on an Alaska trip with ASC/ISD before.  While we never really considered going on a cruise, he told us about the trip he went on and we were totally sold: kayaking, hiking, small skiffs up to glaciers, gourmet meals, etc. And so we booked. And there we suddenly were. 

Our boat was tiny compared to the monstrous cruise ships we saw in the bay.  Once aboard we learned that there were only 60 people on our boat (including the crew).  We had our first dinner and got to know a few of the other guests, before settling into our cozy room for the night.


Early the next morning, I awoke to the sound of humpbacks surfacing just outside our window.  In case you missed that last sentence, there were literally humpback whales right off the railing of the boat, outside our door.  I hopped up quickly and threw on my robe, and stood at the railing watching in awe, before I remembered to grab my camera (thus the whale in photo below is a bit farther out).  


It was a pretty incredible way to start the morning. I got dressed to catch the yoga class on the back deck of the boat.  In between our downward-dogs and plank poses, we watched the whales some more.  Already our trip had become almost surreal.  Seriously, who wakes up to the blow of humpbacks, and then does yoga surrounded by amazing mountains and surfacing whales? Evidently me, but it hadn't quite registered yet. 

After breakfast, we arrived at the Glacier Bay visitor's center where we got off the boat for our first hike. 

It seems everything in Alaska is beautiful. We walked through the woods a bit, then returned to the boat to continue farther north into Glacier Bay. I don't think I was prepared for just how beautiful Alaska actually is.
 
 
 
 


Off in the distance one of the crew members spotted a tiny white dot hidden on the cliff, that happened to be this mountain goat.  So the captain drove the boat over so we could have a closer look.  (correction: Mar, representing the great 49th, has informed me that this is a Dall Sheep, not a mountain goat.)

And just a little farther up on the shore, we spotted a brown bear and her three cubs.  


After watching a while, we continued on our way toward Margerie Glacier.  It was pretty amazing how dramatically the landscape could change from one mile to the next.  
 
 
 
 


Since we were on a small boat, rather than a cruise ship, we were able to get right up near the glacier.  Justin and I finished off the night sitting in the hot tub on the back deck, watching glaciers calf into the water. 
Totally, totally incredible.  

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