Yesterday we drove back up from Homer to Anchorage, and then today was a shopping day for Kat + I whilst my parents wandered around downtown and relaxed a little. We got a bunch of stuff shipped back from Walmart including a bunch of dog food for Mia, and also mailed back about 15 bags of cereal in a couple of rubbermade boxes via USPS to keep us stocked up for a little while! It was a lot of stop + starting around town all day, but productive. As we were packing up the cereal and dried foods at Carrs, we were right under the approach path for the general aviation traffic coming in to Merrill Field which was pretty cool under the blue skies we’ve been experiencing (temperature in the 70′s all day today ):
Tomorrow we’re driving up to just outside Denali NP where we have a log cabin for three nights, including the full day Kantishna wilderness bus tour through the park on Saturday. Given the current weather, it should be great as it’s due to stay clear until Sunday/Monday, and staying in a log cabin in the area should be an experience too. Coming back down to Anchorage on Monday we’re stopping off in Talkeetna for the Sun Dog Iditarod kennel tour which Kat is really looking forward to!
A few weeks ago I was e-mailed to ask if one of my photos on flickr could be shortlisted for inclusion in a Schmap! guide to Edinburgh. I agreed not thinking much of it, as it wasn’t really one of my best – it was taken from a moving tour bus taking us around the city! But, the latest guide was published online and my photo was included for the Dynamic Earth center. It includes a few other photos too for the area, but is still pretty neat to be on there.
They’re also working on an updated guide to Anchorage and another couple of my photos have been shortlisted for inclusion (better ones from the Alaska Zoo this time, so I’ll be quite happy to see them included!) which should be fun to see what happens with those.
A fairly short drive from Soldotna down to Homer today, though we took our time and stopped off plenty of times along the way as the weather was just glorious and gave us stunning views across the lower Cook Inlet to the Alaska Range:
Since we got into Homer around lunchtime, we headed straight onto the spit to find lunch and wander around. It was a very weird little place with a bunch of gift shops to keep mam + Kat happy! We weren’t the only ones enjoying the day in Homer, there were three bikes parked up that had obviously had a little bit of a ride to get here:
The small boat harbor was jam packed with fishing boats, and it was fun watching a stream of the fishing charter boats coming back in and seeing the fish being processed right on the docks. Again, the great weather made it even better:
And of course one shot of a classic building along the spit, an old water tower now serving as a lighthouse – the Sawlty Dawg Saloon:
Tomorrow we’re driving back up to Anchorage for a couple of nights before heading further up to a log cabin around Denali National Park which should be great, especially if the weather continues as it has been the last few days
Today we had a fairly easy day without too much driving since we were just heading over to Soldotna/Kenai, but we did stop by Exit Glacier, just within Kenai Fjords National Park, to hike the trail up to the glacier itself.
It was a really nice walk through the trees and up to the glacier, though there was still quite a bit of water coming down the river leading away from it, so we couldn’t make it along to the tongue of the glacier, and then due to unstable ice and rocks the trail leading up to the edge of the glacier was roped off just short of being able to touch it too. Was still a nice walk, aside from the mosquitoes, and cool to see a glacier right up close.
Tomorrow it’s just another fairly short drive down to Homer to check things out down there, and this evening we sat outside in the sunshine making the most of it, so maybe the weather is looking up Kat + I headed to Cold Stone Creamery which was fantastic, just like the Subways of ice cream! Their servings were way too big, but delicious!
Yesterday we headed out with Kenai Fjords Tours on their wildlife glacier cruise and it was just fantastic! Again, we got very lucky with the weather which although was a little overcast, the rain held off and blue skies appeared towards the end of the afternoon. This was our boat, the Chugach:
Just after leaving the habour we came across three sea otters just hanging out eating on whatever they’d found at the bottom of the bay. The captain recognised them as being regulars that hang around causing trouble, and they seemed very okay with the boat getting right up to them.
Further on by No Name Island, a large group of Stella Sea Lions were lying on the rocks along the shore enjoying the sunshine. Again, they didn’t seem too bothered by the boat, and let us watch them for quite some time:
After passing Bear Glacier and Pederson Glacier, we then came upon the massive Aialik Glacier:
This was very impressive, and with clearer weather than last year at Portage Glacier, Kat + I were also very impressed. Quite a few chunks were calving off, and you really got to see just how blue the glacier ice is. We managed to get a cool group shot of us all too:
Heading back towards Fox Island, we came across humpback whales for the second time – we’d seen them going out to the glaciers, but they seemed a little shy. This time, one came up not more than 30 feet from the boat as I was standing at the side and surfaced a couple of times right next to us. It then headed away a little before diving down beneath the water:
We ended up seeing a total of five humpback whales, including a cow and a calf (which were very shy so we only got a couple of glimpses!), but it really was just fantastic to see them. Mam was very impressed and said it made it worth the trip just for that! An hour stop at Fox Island gave us a nice 15 minute park ranger talk about the Kenai Fjords area, along with a delicious grilled salmon dinner. We all would definately recommend the option of stopping at Fox Island for the salmon dinner as it was a nice end to the day.
Overall, it really was an amazing day, and just like the railroad ride, for $130 a person, a well-worthwhile trip. The weather was kind to us, we just have the Denali trip for it to stay nice for now Today we’re walking up to Exit Glacier, then driving round to Kenai, before heading down to the halibut fishing capital of the world, Homer, on Tuesday.
We’ve had a busy few days Feels like we haven’t stopped moving, but we’ve seen so much no-one’s really complaining. First up, we went to the Alaska Native Heritage Center which showcased the five main native cultures of Alaska. Alongside indoor displays and photos, they had recreated the dwellings of the different cultures around a small lake, letting you wander around between them and talk to the local guides. This was an interesting one of a traditional Yup’ik settlement:
They also showcased native dancing and games which Kat + I had seen a few times at school but was still cool to see, and mam + dad really seemed to enjoy it.
After a good few hours there, we then headed to the Anchorage Museum back in downtown where they also had a showcase exhibit on the Yup’ik culture with a ton of photos and objects from the area which was again nice for mam + dad to see more about. They also had an exhibit on the Iditarod which was fun to look over.
Yesterday we took the railroad down to Seward which was just awesome! Made for a very long day with being at the station by 5.45a.m and not getting back into Anchorage until 10.15p.m, but worth it. We were very lucky to have good weather on our way down which gave us fantastic views of the mountains, valleys and glaciers along the way.
Up through the mountains was fantastic, and we got to see moose, along with a couple of calves, and I also saw a bear on our way back.
Whilst in Seward we headed to the Sea Life Center which is well worth checking out (Kat got in for free as she’s a teacher up here!), and the area with the sea birds such as the puffins was great. The underwater viewing ares for the seals and sea lions were also fun just to sit and watch.
Today we then drove the highway down to Seward, stopping off at the Alaska Animal Conservation Center, another place worth checking out. The drive along Turnagain Arm was pretty cool with the clouds hanging around the top of the mountains, and again we were lucky with the weather.
Down at the animal center, my favourites were the the moose:
And then the brown bears:
One of the members of staff was feeding them as we were there and so the bears were standing up on the hind legs waiting for the food, and I really wouldn’t want to come across one of them in the woods! They were easily 7+ feet when stood up, and I was pretty glad there was an electric fence between us
Seward itself is pretty nice, though clearly mainly a tourist + fishing town. One of the cruise ships we saw yesterday was massive, and there’s a number of small ships that sail down the bay and around the Kenai area.
We’re off tomorrow morning on a Kenai Fjords coastal explorer with Fox Island tour which should be good – our hotel looks right out over the habour and the Kenai Fjords tour boats are right outside the window! Shouldn’t be too late a finish, so will try to get some photos up of the glaciers and any wildlife we come across, hopefully including whales!
Mam + dad made it into Anchorage this afternoon amidst the rain Tired, but glad to be here. Hopefully the weather will be a little better tomorrow for wandering around town.
Mia got all her shots done at the vets this morning and seemed quite okay at the kennels. We went back and took her for a walk earlier this evening to make sure she knew we hadn’t just abandoned her and was happy to go out and sniff everything new and then happily went back in with the guys working there.
Kat also got to eat La Cabana’s this evening so was happy as has been wanting to go back and eat there for the past year. Will see what goodies we get to eat tomorrow after also having Subways for lunch today Don’t have all that much planned as we’re all pretty tired after a couple of long days.
Well, Kat, Mia + I made it to Anchorage. This morning I got up to an e-mail from Nikki saying mam + dad’s flight out of Manchester was delayed by four hours after having to change a tyre on the plane, but checking the Vancouver airport site it’s due to arrive in the next few minutes so isn’t going to be too late a night for them. It’s only a three hour flight tomorrow up to Anchorage for them anyways.
Kat + I were ready by 9a.m for our bush flight which finally got us out the village around 12.30p.m… No problems in terms of time getting across to the Alaska Air desk and getting Mia checked in (who made a ton of friends, as usual!), but then the inbound flight was delayed. They still had us checked through security into the tiny waiting area (for want of a better way of describing ‘a room’), and then onto the plane right away, only to then find we needed a nose tyre changing We didn’t have the luxury of getting off the plane though, so had sit for an hour and a half without any air con going. Mia probably had the best of it as the flight attendants told me they’d left the cargo doors open so she was nice + cool!
Anyways, they came round and gave us all free water whilst we were waiting, then after we got in the air and started their in-flight service they announced they’d provide a free alcoholic beverage (usually about $5) to any passenger that wanted one as an offering for the delay. Well, having not had a beer in a year, and someone offering me one for free (is there anything sweeter than something you get for nothing?!), how could I say no:
Very nice, and everyone was in pretty good moods anyway despite the delays! Alaska Air really are the nicest airline I’ve come across in terms of customer service, and it says a lot they offered free water whilst waiting, then another free beverage in the air. Whether those passengers with connecting flights were quite as taken by it as I was, I don’t know. Getting into Anchorage, luggage + Mia were there pretty much as soon as we got down to the baggage claim, and we walked her through to the rental car pickup with her making even more friends along the way Quite happily now lying down on the floor in the hotel making her way through a chewy treat and thinking life’s just great!
So, despite the very long day to only get a little over 400 miles, glad we’re here. Get to see mam + dad tomorrow, got a free beer, and have Domino’s on the way Always got added to the rental car agreement without charge for under-age driver as Kat went down as primary and spouses go for nowt. Good day for free stuff I guess. It’s a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a very smart car to drive, and hopefully all our luggage will get in when we head down to Kenai and up to Denali!
Kat + I are starting to get ready to head to Anchorage in the morning. Mam + dad are already in Manchester, spending the night there ready to fly out to Vancouver tomorrow, then up to Anchorage on Tuesday. The weather decided to head back to rain today, though the bush flights are still wandering in + out so we should be okay tomorrow. Mia knows something is up as bags are being moved around and things getting packed up – hopefully she won’t be stuck in her kennel too much hanging around at airports.
Getting excited to see my parents again, and we should have a great trip regardless of the weather. It’s the kind of trip I wanted to do 4-5 years ago when I first thought of heading to Alaska for a holiday, so can’t wait to get out on the railroad, Kenai glacier cruise, and bus ride through Denali Should have internet whilst we’re away, so will try to get some photos posted along the way too.
The last couple of days I’ve been tinkering, mainly as it had been raining solid for pretty much a week. It did finally break this morning letting us glimpse sunshine + blue sky, and the temperature is up around 60F I was chatting with Carl Andrew yesterday and he told me that the elders always say if it’s a bad summer, it will be a mild fall (autumn). Here’s hoping, as the locals can’t remember such a poor summer – I don’t think we’ve gone more than a couple of days in the past 6 weeks without rain, and one of those spells was when it somehow got to 83F!
Anyway, the tinkering has been moving some of my back-end services onto the hosted Google Apps for Your Domain offerings. I’ve used them since the start of year on another site without problems, but fouldsy.com (and it’s associated e-mail, chat, documents, etc.) is my main focus, and it was getting a tad slow with a compressed local mail file over 500Mb, and way too many saved RSS articles to search through. Both mail + RSS have moved between multiple computers and apps for 3-4 years now and it was probably time for a clear out anyway, and since Gmail provides IMAP access, I could easily transfer out any e-mails from Mail straight into Gmail. Mass deletion has brought me down to only 40Mb in Gmail now I also imported all my RSS feeds into Reader, tagged a bunch of the old articles from Vienna in del.icio.us, and setup Fox Marks to sync all bookmarks between the different systems I use. All the mail functions got themselves up + running during Wednesday evening, but some e-mails from Europe still seem a little delayed as it’s taking a while for all the MX changes to propagate. Anyone getting e-mails bounced, try sending again, sorry.
But, it’s only a few days until we head into Anchorage now. We have our bush flights booked for Monday morning (for all that means!) and I already have the number for Domino’s on speed-dial for the Monday night My dad retired today (technically…) after 40 years of teaching today, even he can’t explain how he managed it, and they’re both excited to fly out to Vancouver on Monday too before heading up to Anchorage on Tuesday. So long as the weather stays like this rather than all the rain!
Iain Foulds, 29 years old. Originally from England, now living in St Louis after 4 years in Alaska. I currently work as a technology support specialist at St Louis University High. Very passionate about photography. More...