Alaska, Days 13-14

From the 63rd parallel in Kantishna, it took several flights and a seven and a half hour train ride to get back to Austin over the course of 24 hours.  When we left Kantishna, it was about 42 degrees.

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Denali Backcountry Lodge

Rather than take the six-hour bus ride from Kantishna back along the park road, we opted for a 40-minute flight with Kantishna Air Taxi.  Fortunately, the weather held out for us—cloud ceilings of 2000 to 3000 feet AGL meant that we could fly about 1500 to 2000 feet above the ground and get a good view of the tundra and wildlife on our way back to the Denali Depot.

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Our Cessna U206D Super Skywagon, built in 1969

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In the lower right of the photo above, you can see the bus used by Christopher McCandless, who was attempting to live off the land by himself before he perished.  He was the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild.

 

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Denali Depot and the main Visitor’s Entrance to Denali National Park

 

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Coming in for our landing at Denali Depot

After arriving at Denali Depot, we boarded the Alaska Railroad southbound for our return to Anchorage.  We had beautiful scenery along the way.

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We spent the night in Anchorage before our long flights to Texas.  When we arrived in Austin, it was 101.

I’ll probably create another blog post in the next few days to cover a few things that didn’t fit into my earlier posts.  Stay tuned.

Alaska, Day 12

The rain continued off and on through day 12 in Kantishna, but that didn’t stop us from hiking a bit.  In the morning, we went to Blueberry Hill, near Wonder Lake.  We tasted wild blueberries and low-bush cranberries along the way

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View of Wonder Lake (and behind the clouds, Mount McKinley) from Blueberry Hill

As you can see, it was overcast.  We hiked in mist and the occasional rainshower.  The cloud ceiling was only a few hundred feet.

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In the afternoon, we hiked to the cabin of Fannie Quigley, a woman and local legend who lived in Kantishna from 1906 (before the park) until her death in 1944.

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We also hiked a couple hundred extra yards to get to the official end of the road at the air strip.  Here’s proof…

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Next up, a long day of travel from Kantishna back to Anchorage.  More to come.

Alaska, Day 11

I’m catching up after being off the grid in the Denali backcountry.

After the great weather in Talkeetna, the rain came again.

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Storm approaching Eielson Visitor Center

We took a bus to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, at the end of the park road, 92 miles from the entrance.  It was a six-hour bus ride, which included stops when we saw wildlife.  Our driver/guide pretty much talked non-stop for that six hours, describing scenery, animal behavior, park history, and anything else relevant for our trip.

Along the way, we saw Dall Sheep, Moose, Caribou, Grizzly Bear, Gyrfalcons, and WIllow Ptarmigan, to name a few.

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More to come tomorrow, as I continue catching up.

Alaska, Days 6-10

I apologize for not posting in a few days.  Our days have been full, and the internet less than speedy and reliable, so updating the blog took a back seat.

In Skagway, we took the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad to White Pass, briefly crossing into Canada before returning to Skagway.

 

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The next port of call was Sikta, where our good weather karma started to run out.  Our last day at sea met swells up to 18 feet, and winds up to 50 knots, as a large storm passed from west to east, as we went through in the opposite direction.  This same storm caused significant flooding in Sikta the day after we were there.

In the photo below from somewhere in the Gulf of Alaska, note the relationship between the horizon and the boat.  Our motion sickness patches worked great, though._DSC1017

 

One of the highlights of our trip so far was a stop at Happy Trails Kennels, home of Martin Buser, a four time Iditarod champion.  We loved the excitement of the dogs, playing with some 10-week-old puppies, and sitting in Martin and Kathy’s home talking about dog training philosophy.

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We next worked our way up to Talkeetna, where the good weather karma returned.  Denali is only visible about 30% of the time.  Many people come to Alaska and stay for days without seeing it.  Here are a couple of photos from Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.  These are from about 60 miles away.

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Tomorrow, we will probably be off the air for a couple of days in the Denali Backcountry.  More when we return.

Alaska, Day 5

Our day started inauspiciously with an unfortunately placed iceberg._DSC0513

Said iceberg was caught on a sandbar exactly in the middle of the entrance to Tracy Arm Fjord, blocking our entrance.  Unable to get into the fjord to see more icebergs, we proceeded onto Juneau.

In Juneau, we went whale watching with Gastineau Guiding Company, with Captain Jen and photographer Andy Davidson.  Captain Jen’s excitement about the whale activity was contagious.  She did a great job of positioning our boat for photography, and Andy did a great job of inspiring us with our photography.

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Here are some whale tails…

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After returning to shore, we went to Mendenhall Glacier, one of the more famous glaciers only a few miles from Juneau.  It’s about 13 miles long and ends in Mendenhall Lake.

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There are a few markers showing the historic locations of the edge of the ice.  This glacier has been retreating for centuries.  This marker is well over a mile from the current ice limit.

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More tomorrow, if connectivity allows.  Thanks for reading.

Alaska, Days 3-4

Our pilot from Alaska Seaplane Tours seemed a little concerned about how far we were from the plane as the black bear stared at us.

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So, we slowly returned to the plane.

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Then we noticed a second, smaller bear—perhaps we’d found a mother and son, with mom encouraging us to move along.

But let’s back up.  Day 3 was sailing Canada’s Inside Passage, before entering Alaska’s Inside Passage on day 4.  This morning, we docked in Ketchikan, Alaska’s fourth largest city, with almost 9,000 residents.

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The highlight of our day was a seaplane ride to Prince of Wales Island.  We flew in a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, built in 1957.  These are great planes for Alaska.  Here are more photos from the flight.

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We landed near the boats in this small cove.  The boats were waiting for some fishing to open nearby.

 

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You can see the small stream cutting through the rock beach.  Once we got close, we could see all the salmon thrashing their way upstream.  It was an amazing sight. The bears thought so, too, and they were hanging out there fishing.

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More, soon, I hope, depending on my internet availability.

Alaska Adventure, Day 2.1

I’m posting this aboard the Seven Seas Navigator, sailing north through the Inside Passage.  This is the post I wanted to publish earlier, but the internet wasn’t reliable enough.  If you’re seeing this, I managed to get it to work well enough to publish a few photos.

We left Vancouver yesterday evening, sailing under the Lions Gate bridge at the north end of Stanley Park.

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Every time I visit Vancouver, I’m fascinated by the seaplanes, and this trip is no exception.

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Seaplane flying over Lions Gate Bridge as we sail under.

 

The satellite internet isn’t as reliable as I hoped, so I may not be posting everyday, and my posts (like this one) may be short.

Alaska Adventure, Day 1

The good news is that I’m now a member of Mountain Equipment Co-op!

The bad news is that I had an epic boot failure that necessitated the visit to MEC.  The soles on both boots (a few years old) came unglued…

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Fortunately, this happened on our first day in Vancouver, rather than after we were on the boat.  The ship leaves this afternoon, heading up the inside passage.  We’ll be on the ship for a week, ending in Seward.

It’s my third time in Vancouver, which is a beautiful city.  Yesterday, we borrowed some bikes and rode around Stanley Park.

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Totem Poles in Stanley Park

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Girl in a Wetsuit (reminiscent of Den Lille Havfrue in Copenhagen)

More tomorrow!