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July, 2012:

Alaska Day 12 – 7.11.12

Wednesday in Juneau! We chose not to do any excursions in Juneau so we could have a day to explore and do whatever we wanted. We decided to grab the GPS and head to the aerial tramway for a ride to the top of Mount Roberts for a hike and geocache. On our way to the tram, we saw a couple yachts, including this one.

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Just a normal boat . . . the fun part was that it was from CO!

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We had to giggle at this sign – all was normal until the second to last line.

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We had some great views from our aerial tram car as we went up Mount Roberts. Here’s a good one of our ship.

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We haven’t talked about the ship much, but it was cool! See the pool on the top deck near the middle by the green lawn? There’s a movie screen attached to the green lawn, so we could sit by the pool each evening and watch a movie.

 

Here’s a view of Juneau. I still think it’s weird that they chose a capital you can’t drive to!

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Dude and Princess thought the Totem on our hike was pretty cool!

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It was quite rainy and cool out, and we had to navigate some snow to get to the geocache.

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The waterfalls on the hillsides were beautiful! Looks just like Hawaii.

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The GPS led us to this spot, but the kiddos had a tough time finding the cache.

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With a little more searching, we found an awesome geocache in Juneau!

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Hubby had to have a picture with the airport, which was really cool! Having to fly though that valley to get to the airport – it was fun watching the large planes navigate in and out.

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Family photo at the top of Mt. Roberts – Yes, those are clouds right behind us.

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We headed back down and walked around town for awhile, because the kids definitely had not been through enough stores with trinkets, t-shirts, and slippers! We had an awesome fish and chips lunch on the dock while we watched float planes come and go. Then we found this!

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Dude thought he’d died and gone to heaven! Where else could you buy an RC airplane, Alaska socks, fabric by the yard, and shampoo all in the same store?

 

On our way back to the ship, we came across another M.A.S.H. sign – apparently those Alaskans like their M.A.S.H!

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This sign on the little Chamber of Commerce building made me giggle.

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We headed back to the ship for our 3:30 departure. Princess had been giggling at her bed the entire time and had to take a picture of it. Nice normal bunk that drops out of the ceiling …

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And then you read the warning sign…

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Really?! What else are you going to do with a top bunk other than let children sleep in it???

Anyhoo, we had a great day exploring Juneau. Princess really wanted to hang out at the pool, so we headed down there. Of course she ran into some friends from Kid’s Club and ended up playing with them in the pool for hours! Hubby, Dude, and I settled into some lawn chairs and watched a movie on the big screen outside . . . We Bought A Zoo. We weren’t going to formal dinner that night, so we all just got ice cream and shakes and pizza and burgers whenever we wanted it while we watched the movie. A great ending to our afternoon!

We headed back to the room to clean up a bit before going to the evening show in the theater. Back to the stateroom pretty early so we could get some rest before our day in Ketchikan – deep sea fishing!

Alaska Day 11 – 7.10.12

Tuesday – our first port day! We loved the glaciers and wildlife and cruising, but we were so excited to get off the boat and explore. Today – Zipline and Adventure Park with the Costas! A couple weeks ago we were wondering if we’d even get to do this with Jason being in a cast. I chose not to cancel it, hoping they’d let him do it anyway. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel because he ended up getting his cast completely off rather than replaced! Woo hoo!

When we docked at the pier, this was outside our window – bunches of ship names and the names of the captains painted on the rocks – pretty cool.

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We also took the opportunity to get our photo taken with the name of our ship.

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After a quick shuttle ride through town and out to the adventure park, we got all geared up and ready to go.

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The very stylish helmets are not to save our melons in the event of an accident but to protect us from change or anything else that might fall out of someones pocket as they soar through the air above us :-)

We hiked up to the beginning of the adventure park. The kids were first in line, so they had to sit and wait for the rest of us to get there.

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And yes – Princess’s helmet does match her outfit perfectly.

 

The adventure portion of the park started with a walk across the Indiana Jones bridge – this was designed to get us used to the harnesses and to trust the guides and the equipment. I can’t say that this was my favorite part 😉 Princess and Hubby did fine.

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 Then we got to walk across a wobbly rope bridge before heading to the single plank.

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 Hubby and the kids got all bunched up on one landing. Kinda made me nervous being so far off the ground with everyone on one landing!

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Princess is still smiling, ready to go on the first mini-zip.

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There were some other people in our group, so we had to wait for a little while after the mini-zip before we could head to the progressively bigger ziplines.

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We were all excited for the bigger zipline! Princess cruised down without any issues.

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Dude and I were a little more nervous to just jump off the platform. The platform ends before you can feel the harness tighten and hold your weight, so it’s a bit scary to take that leap! Full disclosure – I may or may not have sat down on the platform and slid off the bigger zipline 😉

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After each zipline, we had to take a little hike to the next one. The last 3 ziplines were all together, so once you went down one, you had to complete the last two. Here’s Princess all happy and excited, about 30 seconds before she freaked out and refused to go on the last 3 ziplines!

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The boys scared her by telling her the last zipline was really super long and you’d go 45 mph. That did not excite her . . . at all. So she hiked down with the guide after the rest of us went ziplining.

After some trail mix and hot chocolate, we headed back to town and had the bus driver drop us off at the brewery for a yummy lunch of fish and chips and local brewed beer. We explored around town for awhile, then walked over to the airport to check out the runway and the helipad.

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We met up with the Costas and headed back to the ship – but not before I got a picture of Dude and Princess actually not picking on each other.

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 We had a wonderful dinner on the ship, then headed right down to the theater. Dude wanted to get the perfect seats for the Landon Swank show! He was way excited when he saw that he was going to be performing on the boat. The show was very cool, and Dude and Princess even got their picture taken with them on our way out.

Tomorrow? Juneau – can’t wait!

Alaska Day 10 – 7.9.12

Monday – we wake up to foggy, rainy, chilly weather for our trip through Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay National Park is a very protected area, allowing a very limited number of watercraft into the area. This meant that we had the waters basically to ourselves the entire day, allowing us to truly experience this beautiful place.

Unlike Sunday with our trip into Yakutat Bay to see the Hubbard Glacier, the weather did not clear up today. We took advantage of the complimentary deck blankets and grabbed a few before heading outside to see the awesome views. It was rainy, but it wasn’t windy, which really helped!

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We tried to keep a little dry under the umbrella!

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We didn’t see much wildlife in the water or on land, but we did see tons of bald eagles and other birds. None of the birds were afraid of our ship at all! This guy was beautiful flying around.

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And his buddy was even more amazing just sitting on this little iceberg.

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There were quite a few of these guys flying around…

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Their white bodies looked beautiful against the blue water! Then this guy came to say hello.

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Princess and Dude spent a lot of time checking everything out with the binoculars. Love this picture of Princess!

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The Marjorie Glacier WAS just another glacier 😉 And for the kiddos, it was a little boring since we’d spent hours watching the Hubbard Glacier calf the previous day. They were wet and cold, so we finally let them go to the kid’s club. Hubby and I hung out on the deck for quite a while, and finally found shelter from the rain after a lot of other people bolted inside from the rain. Watching glaciers is so amazing! And it’s not so much watching them as hearing them. You can hear the ice crackling, then you find the area where it’s calving, see the ice fall into the water, and about 10 seconds later, you hear the light thundering sound. It’s very cool.

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When the boat started to leave, we looked out through the bay and saw a ton of ice that we had to cruise through! Hard to see in this photo, but you can see a line where it looks like the water is different . . . that “different” water is ice!

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We decided to throw in the towel. We went and got a couple drinks and had a fun adult afternoon together doing whatever we wanted. We grabbed the kids in time for everyone to get ready for dinner. This was OUR first dinner in the dining room at our table with QT, Ed, and the Wetherbees. The kiddos were pretty adventurous and refused to order from the kids menu. Instead they tried all the adult food . . . including calamari steak and clams! There are so many courses, that even if they only had a couple bites of each, they were still full. and of course there was dessert, which was always awesome! After dinner, we took the kids back to the Kids Club, because the adults were going to go out for the first time. Deb had discovered a “secret” little bar down some steps at the back of another bar, so we all headed down there. We were the only ones there, and had a great time chatting, drinking, and just being together.

Here’s the Birthday Group – Me, QT, and MS – all 40 this year!

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And here’s the crew of adult folks that joined us on our birthday adventure. Big thanks to everyone who made the trip to celebrate with us!

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Tomorrow is our first port day, in Skagway, and we’re looking forward to a great time at the Zipline and Adventure Park with the Costas!

Alaska Day 9 – 7.8.12

Sunday! Our first full day on the ship. We’re so excited to go into Yakutat Bay and see the ginormous Hubbard Glacier. But first, we had to enjoy the breakfast we had delivered to our room. No, she doesn’t look real thrilled to be up, but seriously, you’re eating breakfast in your stateroom with whales right outside off the balcony!

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Early in the afternoon, we went to the top very front of the ship to watch us enter Yakutat Bay. It had been cloudy all day, but it cleared up beautifully! It was quite windy and a little chilly, but the views were so amazing that we didn’t even care. Dude, of course, had gotten another mocktail to carry with him.

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We could see the glacier from way far away, and it got a little boring for the kiddos to just hang out and watch it from afar, so they invented a contest to see who could slide the furthest on the super clean and super slick ship deck.

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Other people started coming up, so the sliding had to stop, which gave me about 30 seconds where they were still for a photo :-)

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The little white square of snow to the right of Princess’s head is the glacier. Yes, we are still very far away! But there was still lots of fun stuff to watch – like this boat that was approaching.

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Why was this boat approaching? To drop off 2 pilots to help guide our captain and the ship through the iceberg filled water. Yes – seriously. They pulled up to the side of our ship. Then our shipped dropped a rope ladder out a door on the 5th level, which the two pilots climbed up. They stayed on the ship for the next 2 days while we went through Yakutat Bay and Glacier Bay.

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Here are some of the small icebergs we’re allowed to run into with the ship and push out of the way. The pilots are there to guide the captain around the larger icebergs that are attached to the bottom.

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We still had a long way to go to get to the glacier, so we decided to head down to our balcony with the Costas, where it was MUCH warmer!

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We had a great view of the smaller icebergs in the water. It was kind of like trying to pick out cloud animals.

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We also saw this boat cruising around the boat. This is one of the small rescue boats on the ship. Gives you a size guide for that iceberg.

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Earlier in the day, we had stopped at a poster making table on one of the decks. We were supposed to make posters so that when this boat drove around, it would take pictures of you with your posters. When we saw him, we ran into our room to grab our posters, which we’d forgotten about! We ended up buying that photo from the ship.

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We steadily approached the glacier, which was AMAZING!

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I couldn’t believe all the ice we cruised through and how close we got! And with the sunny weather, the glacier was so active, it was unbelievable. We kept hearing these loud crashes, then finally realized the glacier was calving! At first, small little snowslides appeared to be falling into the water, but they were big enough to produce the sound of thunder in the distance. We were enjoying it so much, that we didn’t even bother to dress for formal dinner night. I mean, it’s a glacier – right there! How could we possibly leave that to go eat dinner??? So we kept watching and ooohing and aaahing and being amazed. And then we saw two huge spires of ice fall off the glacier and into the bay. Absolutely amazing. It was the coolest thing ever. And because we were so mesmerized, I totally didn’t think to take pictures. We just sat there and enjoyed it and listened.

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The ship spent a lot of time at the glacier – 30 minutes for the starboard side, then it turned and spent 30 minutes for the port side. As we pulled away, we took the opportunity to get some photos on our balcony.

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We went up for another dinner at the buffet before dropping Princess off in the Kid’s Club for the first time. We told her we’d do the hot tub the next day, but that Hubby and I were going to relax on the deck and read for a while – she wasn’t interested in that. Then we decided that yes we did indeed want to sit in the hot tub! Everyone else was at dinner and the view was amazing, so Hubby, Dude, and I got our suits on and went to the hot tub at the back of the ship so we could watch the glacier as we cruised away.

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We went to pick Princess up in time for the show and enjoyed mojitos and mocktails while we watched a cheesy cruise production complete with singing, dancing, and a revolving pink cadillac in the middle of the stage. A great ending to an amazing day aboard the ship. On tap for tomorrow – Glacier Bay!

Alaska Day 8 – 7.7.12

Saturday! It’s the day we get on the boat. We’re excited to go on the surf part of our trip, but also very sad to leave Alaska and our friends. We’ve had such a wonderful time! We all drove to Anchorage to walk around the Saturday Market and do a little shopping before we head to Wasilla. Saying goodbye was tough, especially for these three sweeties – they all cried :-( But they did get to stop at Claires and pick out BFF necklaces to have as a momento of their week together.

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The drive to Wasilla was beautiful – see theme here? Everything in Alaska was beautiful! We saw tons of waterfalls along the way and we got to go through a one-way tunnel. We had to plan to get there close to 4:30 so we could make the trip through the tunnel. They open it one way for 15 minutes, at which time it closes to let the cars get through. Then they open it the other way at the top of the hour for 15 minutes. Pretty cool!

We got on the ship without any issues, put our backpacks in our stateroom, and headed out to grab some food from the buffet before exploring the ship. Dude and Princess immediately found giant chess and had to play.

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After getting our bearings on the ship, we headed back to our room for a little bit before heading down to meet everyone. I have to say I was very surprised at how large the room was! We’d gotten the mini-suite since there were 4 of us. The bathroom was huge for a boat bathroom – even had a super large bathtub! There was all kinds of space when the beds were put away. When we came back from our tour, Greg (our room steward) had pulled out the sofa and pulled down the bunk. Great arrangement for 4!

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We hung out on our balcony as the ship pulled away from port. It’s just so cool to see a large ship move sideways with its thrusters and turn on a dime! The view wasn’t bad at all. It was rainy and cloudy, but we could still see the awesome waterfalls.

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We met everyone in the lobby at our agreed on time to officially start the birthday celebration! We had gotten the kids the unlimited soda, shakes, and mocktails pass for the week. $7/day per kid . . . totally worth it when each thing is $3! They took advantage of it and went to the first bar they saw. It was so cute! Dude ordered Princess’s drink for her :-)

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There was a “sampler” show in the theater that evening, so we decided to head to the theater and see what kind of entertainment we’d be able to see throughout the week. Hubby and I ordered mudslides. Dude ordered another calypso cooler and Princess ordered a strawberry shake. Dude decided that sounded good, so he ordered one of those, too. Double-fisting it on his first night on the boat :-)

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Princess was too wiped out after drinking some of her smoothie and slept through the entire show.

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We headed back to the room, wondering if we’d be able to sleep at all! The seas were quite rough, so the ship was moving quite a bit. It took a lot of getting used to that first night, but after that we didn’t even notice. We ordered late room service breakfast for the next morning so we could sleep in and recoupe from our turf  vacation.

On the schedule for Sunday, Yakutat Bay and the Hubbard Glacier!

Alaska Day 7 – 7.6.12

Friday! Our last full day of the turf half of our vacation. We had no plans, and quite frankly, didn’t want any. The girls went out to play, and after 6 days, Dude finally decided he should go out and play, too. Two daughters means only girl stuff to play with :-)

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The kids had a great time playing outside all morning, and then Josh told us about his surprise for us for the day. His friend owns a float plane on another lake, and he was going to come take us on a float plane ride to see the Knik glacier! So excited!!! Dave pulled up to the dock, and we were ready to go.

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We had to go in two groups because the plane only seats 4. So Princess and I went first. Here we are taking off!

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Because we’d already taken a flightseeing tour of the glaciers around Mt. McKinley, I didn’t take the good camera. I figured we’d already seen it all. Big mistake! It was so cool! Very different seeing a glacier at 500 feet instead of 11,000 feet! Here are some photos Hubby took of the glaciers on his trip with Dude. I made them take the good camera :-)

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I’m still amazed at the awesome turquoise blue color that seems to be inside the glaciers. Very cool! I asked Dave if he ever landed in Lake George (the lake above). He said ya, if there aren’t too many icebergs. He said he’d land in there, reach out and grab some ice, put it in a cooler, and head back to his house and make margarits :-) When I asked him what would happen if he ran into one of those tiny chunks of ice, he said “Titanic. Total Titanic. Except the floats are compartmentalized, so only that one compartment will fill up and you’ll still be able to float.” Um, if I recall correctly, that’s what the TITANIC guy said! I was glad he didn’t decide to land . . . this is what it looked like the day we were up there flying around.

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On the way too and from the glacier, we saw all kinds of fun scenery. We saw a bunch of 4-wheelers out on the glacial silt:

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We also saw this guy skiing – brrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

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 This is the lake that the Rogness family lives on. Beautiful! Their house is the one toward the right of this photo.

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Everyone made it back safely and thoroughly enjoyed their trip!

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 Later in the afternoon, the Boedies decided to do some geocaching around the area. There were quite a few geocaches around the lake and around town, so we headed out to explore. It was refreshing to see this huge mushroom on the tree – moisture! – something we don’t have in Colorado.

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We looked for 5 caches and only found 2! Geocaching here was definitely not like geocaching in Colorado! When we geocache, we usually find geocaches that are at a point of interest . . . at the end of a great hike, near scenic areas of a hike, at a neat natural feature or old gold mine. Not here! The caches were just randomly placed in the middle of a bunch of trees . . . which meant a bunch of mosquitos!

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Our favorite cache was Micro in the Woods :-)

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It was hilarious! There was a geocache box inside the microwave.

Back to the house to pack, enjoy a wonderful last dinner with our friends, and get ready for our trip to Wasilla to catch our boat on Saturday morning.

Alaska Day 6 – 7.5.12

Thursday! We got to sleep in and relax and catch up :-) But then – we were OFF! Since our hiking in Denali was thwarted by the cloudy weather, we were itching to get outside, so we all loaded into the two vehicles for another try at Hatcher Pass. Today, it was beautiful! We got to spend a lot of time wandering around the old mining town. It was very cool! The kiddos loved seeing all the old stuff.

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They especially loved all the train cars. I’m pretty sure Hubby convinced Princess and Josie that if they pushed hard enough, they could actually move this car!

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Dude was particularly interested in this car, the one with all the controls and gears. He was convinced that THIS is the job he would’ve wanted to have if he worked in the mines.

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The girls found some large mounds of dirt to play on during our hike down the hill to have lunch.

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After a yummy lunch of Subway sandwiches we brought with us, we decided to head out on a hike up to a mountain top lake. The trail was so much like Barr Trail up Pikes Peak! Especially at the top where it was really rocky – just like the 16 Golden Stairs. The main difference? Even though we were above tree line and the trail was fairly steep, we were still only in the 3500-4000 foot range, which meant we could still breath :-) Here we are about half way up the trail.

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See all the buildings and parking lots in the background? That’s the mining town and where we ate lunch.

 

The kiddos got to hang out in a cabin from the 1930s. I still find it funny that “old” in Alaska is early 1900s :-)

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Dude and I made it to the lake first. Amazing! Dude loved standing there just looking at it.

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We had to hike over some packed snow to get to the lake; however, half way through the snow, we realized it was NOT packed! There was lake underneath! We finished, quickly, crossing and warned the others to go around. This is what we had walked over.

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Yikes! Lesson learned – we’re getting a little lax in our safe hiking practices!

After everyone else arrived, the kiddos had fun exploring and playing on this giant boulder. I love how Dude is helping Abby get up onto it. He’s such a sweet guy!

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Princess and Josie have been inseparable ever since we got back from our 3-day trip to Denali.

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The water in the lake was sooooo clear – and cold! And the view from the lake was amazing. Hubby just kept taking it all in.

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And we had to get our requisite family photo.

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The hike back down was just as fun as the hike up. It looks really rocky, but there’s actually a nice, well-defined trail in those rocks.

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Dude was itching for some real exercise, so he decided to get a little cross country practice in, and started running down the trail. When Abby and Princess, who are both part horse, realized they could run, they were off, too!

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On the way down, we saw a paraglider in the mountain valley!

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When we made it back to the parking lot, Dude couldn’t believe he came all the way to Alaska to see a MN license plate :-)

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And then we saw this guy next to our vehicle. He had the widest mustache! I had Hubby strategically place himself so I could take a picture of him and the mountains behind him (wink wink) to get a picture of the guy’s mustache. I was so proud of the secret picture I got. Then Dude got in the car after chatting with Hubby and Mr. Josh for a little while. Dude was giggling and said “Hey Mom. You should’ve just asked the guy like Mr. Josh did. He just walked up to him and said ‘Hey. Cool mustache. Can I take a picture of it?’ And he did!” Well – at least my way was more fun 😉

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We finally headed back to the house, and on the way, Dude saw a thrift store. He just HAD to go, so he and I took a walk to visit a couple of them. At the first one, he found just what he’d been looking for the entire summer so far! Seriously, he and I have been to every Goodwill, ARC, and other thrift store in Colorado Springs with no luck. What did he find? A black suit jacket that fits him – so he can wear it when he does his magic show. He was so happy about it! Yes – an 11 year old boy is in Alaska hiking around and seeing amazing things and he’s excited about finding a black suit jacket at a second-hand store – and it was half price, so it was only $6 :-) Another relaxing night on the deck was in order before our last day with the Rogness family.

Alaska Day 5 – 7.4.12

It’s Wendesday, and Hubby and I wake up to a discussion of the weird booms we heard around midnight. My first thought when I woke up at midnight was “Oh. They’re blasting for avalanche control.” But then I came to my sleepy senses and realized that was NOT what was happening. It was kinda weird. We let it go and get packed, fed, and ready to go see the puppies! Husky Homestead was Princess’s choice for the trip – she was dying to see huskies! Hubby and I weren’t real excited about it, because we figured it would just be a puppy mill type thing.

TOTALLY WRONG! It was very cool! The first thing they do when you get there is hand you a husky puppy!

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Dude and Princess got puppies that were 11 days old and were working really hard to open their eyes. Princess got the black puppy, which was like camoflauge since she was wearing all black.

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Dude got a cute white puppy that enjoyed gnawing on his fingers.

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Hubby and I got 8 week old puppies. They were all sooooo cute! This is one happy girl :-)

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We got to enjoy them for quite a while before other people arrived and we had to share the cuteness. Jeff (he of Jeff King 4-time Iditarod champion) and his staff said that they handle the puppies from day 1 because it’s very important that they are socialized as early as possible and learn to have complete trust in people. While we were waiting for everyone else to arrive, we got to walk around and check out the rest of the puppies. Dude and Princess caught the attention of this one.

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I love the inquisitive look on this little guy’s face!

 

Flat Stanley got all goobered up when he wanted his picture taken with a couple curious puppies:

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After everyone got their puppy fix, we all gathered for a talk. We learned so much about the huskies and got to see first hand their passion for pulling sleds. They train the dogs during the summer by hooking them up to a 4-wheeler. Why a 4-wheeler? So they can control the speed of the dogs. The dogs want to run 12-13 mph, but a good race pace if 10 mph. Anyhoo, anyone who feels sorry for huskies pulling sleds for work or a race should stop feeling sorry for them. OMG these dogs LOVE to run and work! When they got out the 4-wheeler and hooked up the harness, the dogs started barking and running around their houses and were so excited! They were all pleading to be chosen for that training run . . . and it was actually sad to see the 4-wheeler pull away behind the chosen dogs, because those that weren’t chosen just pouted – they slouched their shoulders and went back to their houses to nap or lay down or whatever. The funny thing is, they all know they get a chance during the day, but they all want to go NOW!

Much to our surprise, Jeff did much of the actual presentation. He is an excellent and entertaining speaker as well as a very humble man, and it was a pleasure to be there. Here he is with his husky that won the MVP award of the 2010 Iditarod. Jeff kneeled down, and this dog came up and did this all on its own and did not waver, just stared into Jeff’s eyes while Jeff petted him.

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While Jeff was talking, it was so fun to watch the dogs – especially Norton, who was right up front and a total ham. All he wanted to do was continuously knock his water bowl out of its holder and play with the bowl.

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One fun thing we learned about huskies is why they are named what they are named. Each litter has a theme. In Jeff’s case, he has 3 daughters and has always let them name the puppies. They’ve evolved from the Disney Litter (Aladin, Jasmine, etc.) to the cheese litter (cheddar, gouda, etc.) to the wine litter (merlot, shiraz, etc.) – and so on. So if you’ve evered wondered how huskies get their names, that’s how. Pick a theme and go with it :-)

One of the cool things we learned was that Jeff was the first to use giant hamster wheels to exercise his dogs. It’s hilarious!

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And the dogs love it! They have to leash them while they’re in there or they can’t get them out – they just keep running and running. Even after the handler tugs a little to get the dog to jump out of the wheel, the dog jumps right back in while the wheel is spinning at full speed. Couldn’t stop laughing! And it’s so cute – there’s a little wheel in the puppy pen, too, but they aren’t so interested in actually exercising in it 😉

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It was a little cool and starting to mist, so Jeff built a fire inside and invited everyone in to hear the rest of his talk, which was fascinating! Seriously. He explained how he was the first person to redistribute the gear on a dog sled. The main thing he did was put the dog food bin at the back of the sled behind the musher – and why? So he could SIT DOWN at points during the race. He laughed when he said he crossed the finish line that year to win while sitting down – because he could :-)

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Then he went through a day on the Iditarod trail. I had no idea! There’s so much cool information that you don’t know as a non-musher – like after 10 dogs, more dogs don’t add any benefit to the sled going faster – it just takes more supplies to feed the dogs. And even though more than 10 isn’t helpful, you start with 16 because you need to have a few extras in case you need to send a dog home for whatever reason. Hearing his stories of why he’s sent various dogs home is hilarious! A dog goes into heat and disrupts the entire team . . . a young dog is hell bent on proving he is awesome and will run fast, but only lasts 3 days before he’s so tired he’s begging to get flown home.

Did you know that the dogs rest as much as they run? A typical day, without all the details, is 6 hours of running, then 6 hours of rest. During rest, Jeff must unharness the dogs, feed and water the dogs, massage their feet and legs, massage their shoulders, put on their warming booties, take their pulse and other vitals and report to the medics on scene, wake up the dogs, feed the dogs, reharness the dogs. Then they do it all over. After doing all that, he has about 90 minutes of rest for every 12 hour period. 90 MINUTES! For 10 days straight. Amazing.

We all had to giggle when this person came in to model one of the cold weather suits he wears on the trip:

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We totally enjoyed our Husky Homestead Tour and would recommend it to anyone. We of course had to stop to take a photo of this “airport” near the Husky Homestead – I am married to a pilot afterall.

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We had promised the kiddos souvenir shopping back near Denali, and Hubby and I wanted to eat at the Denali Salmon Bake, so we headed back up the road to do just those things. M.A.S.H. anyone?

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The Salmon Bake was awesome! It’s built on a hill, and just like everything else in Alaska, there is no concept of level floors :-) It was really fun! We had awesome seafood chowder for lunch and other fish dishes before heading out so Princess could buy a couple more stuffed animals. On our way back to Wasilla, we ran across this place. A great idea at one point, I’m sure, but in a terrible location out in the middle of nowhere.

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Here’s a photo of the kiddos at a State Park pullout. We needed to stretch our legs and hike a little, and also had tiny hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley in all her glory.

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Do you see McKinley? Ya, us either. She’s hiding behind the clouds – again. We are NOT destined to be part of the 30% club.

Here I give you a couple photos of what a bored little girl does on a 3-hour car ride.

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When we finally got back to the Rogness house, you would’ve thought Princess had been reunited with some long lost friends she’d known for years and had been separated from for far too long – rather than 2 days! We were excited to be back in the comfort of their wonderful home. A yummy chili dinner was followed by a cruise around the lake on their little party pontoon. Here’s phot of their beautiful home from the lake:

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Princess and her new best friend enjoyed the boat ride by sharing a floaty tube.

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Dude, on the other hand, enjoyed the ride as any good lake going person should . . .

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We got to see Sarah Palin’s house – she’s a neighbor. We saw more float planes, the secret fishing spot, the park, and all kinds of other cool stuff. And during the course of our conversation, we learned that the booms we heard at midnight were fireworks! Well, duh! Midnight is the darkest part of the day, and officially is when it because July 4th, so that’s when they do fireworks in Alaska :-) We didn’t get to see them, and quite frankly were so tired we probably wouldn’t have tried to stay up for them, but it would’ve been fun to know about!

Another awesome day full of variety and adventure. We’re looking forward to another fund day with our friends on Thursday!

Alaska Day 4 – 7.3.12

Denali’s on the agenda for today! At the advice of pretty much everything we read about Denali and the many ways to tour it, we bought tickets for an early 7:00 a.m. shuttle. This, of course, meant getting up quite early which was tough after our late night.

We were way excited for our 8-hour bus ride through a teeny tiny part of Denali – 4 hours to Eilson Visitor Center and 4 hours back – on a school bus. The idea with the shuttle bus is that you can get off whenever you want to hike around or do whatever you want, then flag down the next green shuttle bus and get back on. This idea is great for families that want to see wildlife and get out and explore a little on their own – like us. But when you wake up and it’s super cloudy, you’re a little bummed :-( Our driver, Matt, was awesome. He made it perfectly clear that this was a shuttle bus, not a tour bus, BUT he narrated a little anyway. And he said if we saw wildlife, we would always stop, so if he didn’t see it first, just yell “Stop” and he’d pull over. He was true to his word – it was wonderful!

Here Dude and Princess are ready for the ride. I’m sure behind those smiles they’re wondering why I’m making them take an 8-hour bus ride in the middle of summer!

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The little mile-by-mile guide said the first 15 miles of paved road are the best opportunity to see moose and caribou. And we DID see a moose very close to the bus! He’s running through these trees and brush.

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What? You can’t see him? That’s because it’s so friggin’ foggy! But we did see him, and a few more, and it was really cool. In fact, we saw lots of wildlife – the “thing” we saw most were mama bears with 2 cubs. Every bear we saw had 2 cubs with it. Here’s Dude looking out the window at the first set we saw:

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Can’t see the bears? Check out what Dude saw through his binoculars:

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Not great photos, but it was very cool to see. We see bears a lot – this spring we had a mama black bear and her two cubs resting on our trampoline! But there’s just something different about seeing huge grizzlies and their cubs out in their natural habitat. They have no boundaries. They don’t have to dodge cars and kids and dogs. They are totally free . . . and the cubs are SOOOOO cute! They wrestled around like any siblings would. We could have sat there all day and watched it.

Our first scheduled break, not for wildlife, was at the top of Polychrome Pass. The guide was not joking when it said “the 3 mile nail-biting armrest grabbing drive up Polychrome Pass is one of the scariest parts of the ride.” I mean, the edge is RIGHT THERE! Luckily we were on the other side of the bus and all we had to see was rock wall :-) We got out and hiked a little bit to a photo op.

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It was fun to hike UP in the mountains without getting winded and still being able to breath! Even with the low, heavy clouds, the views were awesome. We put this on our list of places we wanted to get off and hike on the way back.

At almost exactly 4 hours, we arrived at the Eilson Visitor Center. It’s a great visitor center with all kinds of cool interactive stuff for the kids to do. We watched a short video on what it takes to climb Mt. McKinley. After hearing that it took the first climbers 3-4 months just to pack INTO base camp with their mules before they even started their hike, it seems a little bit like cheating when today’s climbers get air lifted to 7,000 feet to start.

Outside, we saw a very neat set of moose antlers. These two moose had charged each other in battle. One moose’s antlers got wedged through the other moose’s eye socket, and they were stuck together until they died.

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We stood around outside for quite awhile contemplating what to do. We REALLY wanted to hike an hour or so on the Alpine Ridge trail, which started at the visitor center. But, it was so cloudy that we couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of us, and since the trail went up, it was even more frightening. After seeing so many bears on the way in, we decided that hiking a completely unknown trail, in an unknown (to us) park, in complete fog wasn’t a good idea, with or without the threat of meeting a bear that we couldn’t see until we were right on top of it. So we grudgingly got back on the bus to head back, hoping to get out and hike at the summit of Polychrome Pass.

Speaking of Polychrome Pass, here are photos from on the way back. Much to Hubby’s dismay, everyone chose to ride the same bus back with the weather conditions, so we didn’t get to change to the other side of the bus. As a result, THIS was right outside our window:

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The drop off into the great beyond if the bus were to happen to slip off the edge. The real kicker is that this portion of road is a mandatory yield . . . it’s only 1.5 lanes wide, which certainly does NOT allow enough room for two busses to pass!

So if you see a bus, the bus going downhill has to yield. Great that one bus has to pull over and yield, but that doesn’t mean there’s actually ROOM to pull over and yield. Like this bus we met:

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First of all, you can see how curvy the road is from this photo. Second of all, do YOU see anywhere to pass this bus? Me either. But we did. And I’m not kidding when I say that the mirrors on the two busses scraped each other – that’s how close you have to get to pass. Hubby chose to “sleep” for this portion of the ride :-)

 

He did, however, wake up to see this little guy:

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A beautiful fox! You can’t tell in this photo because there’s nothing to compare it to, but this guy is the size of a coyote. Everyone on the bus through it WAS a coyote, until they got out their binoculars for a close up view and Matt finally convinced us all it was a fox. He also convinced us this guy is a direct relative of the cute little fluffy red fox we have here living under our driveway. I don’t believe it. I do believe that this guy knows what he’s doing though – I swear he sat down sideways to the bus and turned his head to look at us for a photo shoot. It was hilarious!

We continued on the drive back, seeing more bears, more moose, more eagles, and even some Dahl sheep way way way up high on the cliffs. Then, at the very last moment before we entered the trees near the end of the road, everyone gasped and yelled “Stop!” Because there she was . . . she had decided to come out:

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For an entire 45 seconds the clouds broke and we got to see part of McKinley WAY off in the distance. We live in the mountains and get to see cool mountain views every single day, but there’s just something majestic about seeing a 23,000 foot mountain rise above the other mountains from sea level. McKinley is so many miles away from us in this photo that it’s hard to believe we can even see her from here – THAT’S how big she is.

Since we didn’t do ANY hiking like we wanted to (too many people at Polychrome Pass since the sun came out on the way back, and too many bears at another hiking point so Matt wouldn’t let anyone off the bus), we arrived back to the visitor center with enough time to catch a shuttle (yes, another bus!) to the sled dog demonstration. So glad we went because we ran into Queen Taunya and Ed! It was so fun to see them :-)

After the sled dog demonstration, we took the opportunity for group photos at the Denali park sign.

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QT and I had to get our 40th birthday trip photo taken. I asked if we could wait and do it on a day when I’d actually showered and not spent 8 hours on a bus. She said no, because this is who we are :-) She couldn’t be more right!

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As always, she borrows my kids for some fun. I always say that when she’s out in public alone, she’s just weird 😉 But when she’s out in public with my kids, she’s the Aunt with Gum :-)

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We all decided to do pizza dinner together at an awesome pizza joint nearby. Many times in the vehicle, we all said “That was so cool. Denali is awesome!” So when we saw this sign at a rock shop, we just had to stop for a photo:

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At dinner, we were chatting about what everyone was doing on Wednesday. QT and Ed were taking a bus to Anchorage, with a stop in Talkeetna. The Boedies were going to see Husky Homestead – the home of Jeff King, 4-time Iditarod winner! I was assuring the rest of the Boedies that we got to sleep in a bit on check out day. I was certain I’d signed us up for the 11:30 tour. Hubby’s quick response was “There’s no way you signed us up for the 11:30 tour! You know it’s the 8:30 tour because there’s no way you’d waste daylight!” Everyone, including me, laughed – because we all know it’s true 😉 But hey, in my defense, it’s ALWAYS light in Alaska. The darkest it gets is right at midnight, and it lookes like about 7:00 p.m. So you have no concept of time unless you wear a watch. And you HAVE to have dark curtains if you want any sleep! And when you wake up and it’s light out, whether it’s 4:30 or 10:30, you want to get up and go :-)

The rest of the fam got ready for bed while I went to the kitchen to order breakfast to go in the morning – because it turned out that I did indeed sign us up for the 8:30 tour :-)

Alaska Day 3 – 7.2.12

Monday morning started AWESOME when we woke up and found Dude’s bag had come in the middle of the night! He was so excited to get his own clothes back – and I was so excited we could take the clothes we bought back :-)

From that moment on, the day only got better. On the schedule for today was our trip to Talkeetna for our flight seeing tour of Mt. McKinley with a landing on a glacier. I’d say the drive was amazing and awesome and very cool, but it’s really not :-) The highway is lined with trees, so it really looks like you’re driving through Northern MN. We didn’t stop at any of the view pull-outs for Mt. McKinley because we wanted to be sure to make it on time.

We arrived at our destination a little early and had a little time to look around…

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 The kiddos checked out the Otter that we were going to fly in. Very cool!

 

They entertained themselves with some of the play things around the airport.

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Then it was time to put on our awesomely stylish glacier boots – whose purpose was to keep our shoes dry while we STOOD ON A GLACIER!

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Dude was lucky enough to get to sit in the copilot seat for the first half of our flight. It’s always cool to be the copilot, but this time it might not have been a bonus as he had a hard time seeing over the dash. But he still enjoyed it.

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Here’s a view of the Talkeetna Airport from above. Pretty cook how they line the planes up along the name.

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Princess was all ready and happy to fly.

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And we were off into the partly cloudy far reaches of Denali National Park. I have a bazillion pictures of glaciers, but they’re a lot like photos of the Grand Canyon – it’s so big and so beautiful and so amazing that if you weren’t there, you cannot truly understand it’s awesomeness. So I give you just a few photos. When I saw the first glacier, I was floored. Raise your hand if your vision of a glacier was a smooth white ice flow maybe covered in soft fluffy snow?

Um ya – totally not like that at all!

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They are very choppy and peaky and not smooth and not flat and decidedly NOT white! In fact, they are filthy and dirty from carving away all of the mountainous terrain on its way through. Most of the glaciers we saw actually looked totally like dirt.

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One particularly incredible and very beautiful part of all glaciers are the brilliant tourquoise blue pools that form in them, even in the dirt colored sections. I couldn’t figure out a rhyme or reason to why they occurred where they did or why they were so blue. None of our guides could tell us either. I’m sure the Universe could tell me, but I kind of like the mystery :-)

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The next two photos show how cloudy it really was on our flight seeing tour. Remember that not only are we flying at about 10,000 feet in a “valley” between really tall mountains, we are also flying with my Hubby, he of the Aviation Safety Ph.d, who was less than thrilled with all the rule-breaking 😉 I’m pretty laid back about this stuff, assuming these pilots know what they’re doing. At one point, pilot Mike said “We’ll try to get all the way around McKinley, but if it’s too cloudy we’ll turn back the way we came and go the other way to the glacier.” 10 minutes later, we still hadn’t turned around, at least not to go back. His only turning was to let the other side of the plane see the Haversham Wall – and he turned TOWARD the wall, which did not impress Hubby one bit 😉 At one point, even I was saying in my head (or maybe not) “turn around – turn around.”

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I really wanted us to turn around, until I saw this magnificent little guy peak through the clouds…

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Finally! We got a glimpse of Mt. McKinley’s peak. But only for a second before it disappeared again. And then . . .

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One more awesome glimpse! Nothing compared to a full head to toe view, but it was truly beautiful. One thing I will always remember was hearing Mike tell us we could see the peak out our side of the plane, and I kept thinking “Liar! We cannot!” until I finally looked the right direction, which was UP and realized just how far above us she actually stands.

Then I snapped out of it and thought “Look at all those clouds hiding many lower mountain peaks! Turn around!”

He must’ve heard me, because he did turn around. And while I was happy he turned around, I was NOT happy that he had to turn an otter around 180 degrees in the clouds inside a mountain range.

But, I forgot all about it again when I spotted this!

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Look closely and you’ll see a hook of lines in the snow (right behind the dark spot that has permanently placed itself on my lens!). Those are the tracks left by the planes dropping climbers at base camp to climb McKinley. In the lower right corner of the photo you can see the little black dots – TENTS! Pretty cool.

Then I noticed THIS!

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Crazy people. CLIMBERS! Seeing them out in all that snow and weather and in the middle of absolutely nowhere with nothing but a ginormous peak to climb in the next 2 week gave me an appreciation for these people – and also renewed my thoughts of how absolutely INSANE they must be! But still cool to see :-)

We finally made it back around the mountain and landed – ON A GLACIER – which itself is a little scary because you land uphill. It looks like you’re going to crash into the side of an icy/snowy mountain (which for someone who’s written a case study on a pilot crashing doing this, and then 3 subsequent crashes by US Coast Guard helicopters trying to rescue them is a little unnerving) . . . but you instead make a nice smooth landing. And then you get out and It. Is. Beautiful.

Quiet. Beautiful. Amazing. Huge. Cold. Slushy.

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See that little mountain to the right in the middle of the photo? They call that Mountain House. Why? Because there’s a “house” and an outhouse up there! Look closely at this photo – you can see the chimney.

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People actually pay money to stay here – bachelor parties, getaways, you name it. Also, the National Park Service lets artists use this place free of charge. They’ll take them out here with 2 week’s worth of supplies and the artists create art inspired by the area. The only catch is they have to donate their art to the National Park Service for display in their visitor centers. Pretty cool if you ask me!

 

Here’s Hubby’s after-we-were-safe-on-the-ground contemplative self considering the cloudy mountains we just flew through – and the fact that we have to do it again to get out:

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I have to include a photo of my Princess looking beautiful as always.

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On the flight back to Talkeetna, we enjoyed the views of the vast, lush wilderness – hearing stories about the people who live here and how they have no driveways. In the summer they use 4-wheelers to get out. In the winter they use snow mobiles. I could see me living here :-) We also saw these two moose and a trumpeter swan cooling off in a stream. I don’t have a telephoto lens – look closely to see the two brown spots and one white spot.

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We were finally back to partial reality, and walked around the end-of-the-road town of Talkeetna. We enjoyed yummy pizza at Moutain High Pizza Pie before the kiddos began their souvenir shopping at all the cool little shops in town. They got to kiss a moose:

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… and were very excited when they found a business Noisy Grandma could buy when she moves to Alaska, since the business already had her name on it.

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We drove to our tilty cabin and got checked in before heading out for some dinner – pizza! After a long and awesome day, we were all crashed, waiting for our next adventure on the shuttle bus in Denali National Park the next day.