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Alaska

July 22, 2018

For our summer vacation this year we spent a couple of days in Vancouver (which always strikes me as a cleaner version of Seattle, which is saying something because Seattle is already pretty clean) and then headed out on a nine day Alaskan cruise. I love Alaska (well, at least Alaska in the summer); the scenery is beautiful, there’s tons of wildlife and outdoor activities, and it’s a nice break from summer heat. We visited on a cruise in 2013 and I’ve always wanted to come back. On this trip we were once again on the Disney Wonder (we’ve had consistently great experiences on Disney Cruises), but with 9 days instead of last time’s 7 (adding visits to the Hubbard Glacier and Icy Straight Point to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Tracy Arm).

This year we had generally great weather. It was almost sunny in Ketchikan, our first stop, where we boarded a smaller boat for an expedition to Misty Fjords National Monument. Although we say only part of it (the Behm Canal, New Eddystone Rock, and Rudyerd Bay), the monument was very pretty, particularly the Bay: it was narrow with high walls, and reminded me a bit of Tracy Arm and the Geiranger Fjord).

Then it was on to Icy Straight Point, where we went hiking on Chichagof Island. The hike was pretty, although I wish it had been a bit longer. We didn’t end up seeing any bears, although we saw plenty of bear signs (scat and tracks). Chichagof is one of the ABC islands (Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof) where bears outnumber people, and Chichagof apparently has the highest concentration of bears per square mile on earth. I was a little disappointed we didn’t see one, but our daughter was quite happy to forgo that experience. We did see orcas from shore and humpbacks from the ship. The humpbacks were lunge feeding, which is the first time I’ve seen that behavior in person.

After Icy Straight Point we headed to the Hubbard Glacier in Disenchantment Bay. The glacier was amazing. We’d seen the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and the Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm on our last trip, but the Hubbard makes them look tiny. It’s also apparently the only glacier in North America that’s still advancing. We had plenty of time at it too, with opportunities to see it calve multiple times.

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We next visited Juneau, where we went zip lining in the tree tops and visited the Mendenhall Glacier again. The zip lining was fun. I’d done it forever ago in grad school, but I’d almost totally forgotten the experience. There were multiple runs in the course, so you got a chance to settle in and enjoy yourself after the first white-knuckle run. The weather was gorgeous too: low 70s with lots of sun. A bit contrast with our last visit, when Juneau was grey and drizzly.

Then it was off to Skagway, where we went horseback riding. The age limit for horseback riding adventures on Disney Cruises is 12 years, so this is the first time our daughter was old enough to do it, and she absolutely wanted to take advantage of that fact. We rode part of the Chilkoot Trail to the Dyea flats, where the gold rush town of Dyea used to be. The weather was windy and drizzly near downtown, but in the Dyea valley it was nearly calm and the rain held off (both of which we were thankful for).

Finally we once again visited Tracy Arm (although technically this time we took the Endicott Arm route). We got there very early (we entered the arm around 4:30 AM), and we had almost no time at the glacier (we pretty much got there and then turned around and headed back out). That’s in strong contrast to our last visit, when we had tons of time to view the glacier. I suspect the difference may be due to the amount of traffic: we saw a number of other boats in the Arm, while on our last visit (which was in mid-August) we didn’t see anyone else the whole time we were in the Arm). The weather was also very different too: very low clouds and drizzle, while last time we had lots of sun. It was actually fun to see the Arm under different conditions, though. And this time there were lots of ice floes in the Arm, which looked bright blue under the cloudy skies. While a bit more time at the glacier would have been nice, most of the fun in Tracy Arm is the trip along the fjord, rather than the glacier itself (particularly after seeing the Hubbard glacier, which was so much bigger).

Then it was back to Vancouver again and flying home. I definitely want to visit again; although we saw lots of whales and bald eagles on the trip, I’d still like to see a bear (from a safe distance). And I’m curious what Alaska is like in the winter. At some point I’d really like to see the Northern Lights…

From → Travel

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