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So here’s the whole deal…about Alaska, I mean.

August 6, 2009

On Board Day 2:  07.08.09  Carnival Spirit enroute to Whittier Alaska via the inside passage.

 

Our dinner in the dining room was nice last night.  Our waiter, however, is a bit dour.  We are so used to the waitstaff having a wonderful sense of humor.  I don’t think this guy smiled once…maybe he had a bad day.  I know my husband; he will keep trying to til he gets him to smile…or irritates him beyond measure. 

 

After dinner, we took in the casino where I won $58.00.  We did a little ship exploration and ended up on the Lido for a late night snack of meat, cheese and fruit.  Rodney of course, had his customary chocolate.  Then he talked non-stop for the next 3 hours.  LOL.  It’s his vacation too so I let him have it!

 

Did my laundry in the sink last night.  The showers on cruise ships have the curved rods…must be where the idea for those in our houses came from…what do you think?  Anyway, there’s a clothesline high in the shower so that’s where I hung the clothes to dry…unfortunately, there’s not a lot of air flow in there so even my quick-dry overnight stuff is still a bit damp this morning.   Rodney hung my big drying towel on the balcony this morning.  Because the wind is really blowing, he anchored it to the deck chair.  It’s a special blend of rayon, nylon, and polyester that you roll wet stuff up in and then squeeze the water out.  The towel itself is supposed to really dry fast…I think I was sold a “bill of goods” on that one! 

 

Had a yucky night due to stomach upset.  Took a bit of medicine just a while ago.  I’ll feel better soon.  As usual, I can’t do nothing so I have been doing a little water color from one of last night’s gorgeous sunset pictures.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful colors.  I was amazing, really.  The farther north we traveled, the lighter it got.  The sun was still there til way after 11 pm. 

 

Today is a gray day at sea.  No ports of call.  The water is pretty calm even though the wind is blowing really hard.  Under this blanket of low-lying clouds, the water is varying shades of gray.  Since we are in the strait, the water is shallow enought that we see lots of algae and the occasional log floating on top.  Far away, probably a good 10 miles, you can see the tops of mountains along the horizon.  The weather forcast is for clouds today but bright sunshine for the next 3 days.  That is wonderful!  I really would hate to miss out on whale watching and panning for gold and seeing my first totem poles because of weather.

 

Since today is a quiet day on the water, I resolved to take my meds and relax.  I’ve been sitting on this nice comfortable bed, propped up with pillows, drinking some coffee, painting, and watching the swell of the waves.  I rather enjoy the motion of the ship but I guess I’ve never watched from this angle before; it’s a bit disturbing if you dwell on it.  Because of the wooden rail at the top of the plexiglass barrier on the balcony and its everchanging position in relation to the horizon, the motion of the boat as it sways side-to-side is very apparent.  I never realized how much a ship this size could sway.  Maybe I thought the size of the vessel would keep it more steady but it is a big ocean. 

 

Donna, Peter, and Rodney have gone to an art lecture.  I probably would have enjoyed that but I have to say, I have really had a good time with my paints and with my blog…

 

More later…

 

‘At noon we took off for the grill up on the Lido deck.  End to end that deck is one big swim party and buffet line.  So many people were up there that we decided to eat outside.  It was still pretty gray and windy out on deck that there were few people sitting at those tables.  We chose a protected place and were fairly warm.  While it continues to be overcast…the ship was in a more constricted part of the strait where the shoreline was more easily seen.  We passed island upon island, all covered with towering green trees.

 

I chose lunch from the “comfort food” line today…mac ‘n’ cheese, smoked ham, corn salad, and lemonade…served with some really fine herbed foccacia bread.  We found Peter and Donna about 12:30 and had a slice of key lime pie and decaf with them.  We noticed that the trees were getting closer on each side of the ship and so decided to check out the scenery up on deck.

 

Wonders of wonders:  about 1 pm, we came upon an area where the cloud cover had lifted and blue skies ruled.  The water took on the blue of the sky and we got fantastic pictures.  2 sailboats appeared on the horizon and looked perfectly beautiful against the blue and green all around us.  We took in the panarama deck where we got some really good shots.  Suddenly, though, the ship turned into the wind and it was really cold.  Before we could leave the deck, we were back under cloud cover.  We elected to turn in for a while and rest before getting ready for the elegant night ahead.  Just in the time it took to get back to our rooms, we are completely socked in by fog and haze.  You can’t even see the water from the balcony now…Amazing how fast the change happened.

 

There is a golf course and driving range on this ship.  Wonder if the fog affects how well you can see what you are doing up there.  Haven’t been in the spa or the gym yet.  If it is as nice as the rest of the ship, it will be worth a visit.  The elevators in our part of the ship are bathed in pink light…interesting.

 

Nap time.  To be continued…

 

Didn’t nap much.  The phone rang a few times and we passed by way too much pretty stuff.  The sun reappeared for a while and the mountains were so close on either side of the ship that it seemed you could reach out and touch them.  So much green.  So much cool air.  So many trees.  So beautiful.  Ahh.

 

After all the pictures and the nap, it was time to dress for dinner…the first formal night on board.  Everyone looks so nice especially our guys in their tuxes.  Lobster tail for dinner.  MMMMMM.  The apple puff pastry was quite nice for dessert too.  After dinner, we spent a while in the casino playing penny slot machines…I’m way too cheap to go more.  Won 12 bucks…not bad for a reverse high roller.  Then it was time to have some rest.  Although, a 10:30 pm, it’s still way to light to sleep w/o the black our curtain.  The fog horn is blowing constantly on the ship as we are suddenly socked in by fog again.  I was on the balcony just now amazed by the light still able to shine through the dense white swirlies out there and out of the cloud, there came a Canadian pilot boat.  The Spirit was stopped.  It seems we just crossed the line from Canada into Alaska and the Canadian pilot was relieved.  The pick up boat sped off back into the fog with the pilot and we continued on slowly with a new man at the wheel.  Fascinating, all this political stuff.

 

Tomorrow, we leave the ship for a few hours in Ketchikan.  We are going shopping in the morning so room service breakfast at 6 and disembark at 7, yes am…that’s clarification for all you guys who know I am not a morning person…but I wouldn’t miss this for anything.  IN the afternoon, we are going to a lumberjack show.

 

Now, it’s time to sleep.  10:30 here but our bodies are still on Jacksonville time, which is 12:30 am.  Night.

 

Ketchikan Day 3:  07.10.09  Excursion to Tinglit saxon village and to a lumberjack competition. 

 

We started the day off early this morning.  We do computerized wake up calls and I started out by giving the wrong time.  It was supposed to be at 6 am but I put in 7 am.  Then we didn’t realize that another time change had occurred.  We woke up at 6 but it was really 5.  Craziness happens.  We had room service toast and coffee and planned to eat in Ketchikan in port only we couldn’t find a breakfast menu anywhere in town…lots of salmon and restaurants which served fish and chips but no bacon and eggs.  There were lots of shops though and for all of you expect soveneirs, I did buy a few but mainly I took the most gorgeous pictures.  Alaska is most gorgeous. 

 

Our early foray into town, about 8 am led to souveneir shopping, an hour long guided tour on which we got awesome pictures of bald eagles and had a great bear search.  We never saw bears but eagles are really abundant.  They are everywhere this time of year as the salmon are moving upriver to spawn and they enter the waters here. 

 

We went back to the boat at 11 and had a late breakfast on the Lido.  Then we returned to Ketchikan for our scheduled excursion.  We saw Saxon Village, a Tinglet settlement sporting many totem poles representing their tribes or clans.  The poles were made of western cedar, hugh trees.. hand carved and painting and depcting Tinglet history and stories.  Abraham Lincoln and William Seward were depicted on the poles, Lincoln in honor, Seward in derision.  The Tinglet are not suble about their insults when mockery is due.  The pricds in tyhe settlement were outrageous but I was pleasantly surprised to find handmade items and non of the items had “made in China” tags. 

 

After our bus tour of the Tinglet grounds and a viewing of Tinglet native dancing, we moved on to totem pole carving and a lumberjack show.   Most of the humor was lame and I never though about lumberjacking as a sport but, I was impressed with the physical prowess and awesome endurance of the sawyers and choppers.  Spectacular muscles and strength.

 

Returned to Spirit about 4:15 for a quick rest before dinner and then hurried into dress up clothes and jewelry.  Checked on photos in the gallery and then headed into the dining room and an awesome chef-prepared dinner.  My steak was perfect! 

 

Then we were off to the casino.  No losses for me tonight…pretty much broke even….played penny machines so hard to lose there.  They aren’t supposed to smoke in the casino but they do and eventually I have to leave before I suffocate.  Stopped by a piano bar on the way up to our room.  It too was smoky but the entertainer was taking a break and an adolescent boy was playing rock and roll til the regular guy came back…I’m glad he finally made it.  The pianist returned and we sampled our drinks while he played another number or two.    We drank our drinks and packed it in for the evening.  We came back to our room to catch up on a rest and relaxation before another  exciting day tomorrow.

 

It was a nice day…Tomorrow…maybe I will have a facial.

 

 

Juneau, Day 4:  07.11.09  Excursion to Juneau, Douglas Island, Mendenhal Glacier, and Mendenhal Valley. 

 

We were up by 7 this morning and our toast, cereal, and coffee arrived at 7:30.  We left the boat by 8:30 and were standing on the dock ready for our tour by 9.  We boarded a bus for the glacier and wow what scenery!  Had my picture made in front of the Mendenhal Lake and Glaceir with a couple of great kids.  I promised to put their pictures on my blog, whick I’ll do when I get back home.  For some reason, it isn’t possible to get my photos uploaded from the ship’s internet connection.  The compressed ice of the glacier was so blue.  There were waterfalls and waterfowl, eagles, bears, salmon galore, and icebergs.  After a short hike and an hour of picture taking, we were back on the bus and headed for the salmon hatchery where I bought stuff to make salmon dip, which I will make when my kids come home to visit next time.  We actually watched the salmon climb the ladders into the hatchery and spawn in the tanks.  Did you know salmon eggs are red?

 

The driver dropped us on the dock and we hurried up to our rooms to stow our morning purchases and have some lunch on the Lido.  Today’s menu included Asian food, which I ate with chopsticks and a garlic ginger spread so hot that smoke came from my ears.  After lunch, we rested about 30 minutes and then headed off to explore Juneau.  Both Peter and I wanted to see the goernor’s mansion up close and take pictures.  We took off on foot and walked up a really steep hill.  We made it 10 or so blocks before our feet were crying and we hailed a cab.  The cabbie was Ted Ford, the most awesome tour guide…if you ever come to Juneau, ask for Ted; you won’t be sorry.  He took us to the mansion, showed us all around the town…even the places in Juneau where tourists don’t usually go.  We saw Gold Creek and the Romance Stone, on the location of the first gold found in town.  He took us to Douglas Island, accessible only by bridge, boat, or air transport.  We took pictures of the GAstoneau Channel, the cruise ships in port, the Governor’s mansion, saloons, and other local landmarks…really thorough.  Then, he took us to Sheep Creek where we saw dog salmon coming in to spawn at the mouth of Sheep Creek.  The water just teems with salmon.  They are so eager to die…After the eggs are laid, the adult fish die.

 

By 4:30, we were back on board the Spirit and resting in our rooms.  I spent a bit of time online with Amy before dinner.   We didn’t dress up tonight but as usual, the dining room was quite elegant.  I had a great meal of snow crab legs, fruit cocktail, and polenta with a mushroom puff pastry.  I followed all that up with strawberry cheesecake.  MMMM.  I am always inspired by the food I eat onboard.  I can’t wait to get home so I can try out some of the recipes in the cruise cookbooks.

 

After dinner, we played movie trivia as a team of 4 and won!  Peter takes home the “ship on a stick”.  Stopped by the casino but since we were only minutes out of Juneau port, it was closed.  We decided to rest a bit and then go up on the Lido for a late night concert and to check out the midnight buffet.  We won’t be up late, though…our excursion begins at 9 in the morning!  I think we are leaving early and eating in town in Skagway in the morning….whatever we do, it will be a beautiful day.

 

Skagway Day 5:  07.12.09  Added bonus:  it’s Peter’s birthday.

 

One thing they never told you in geography class is how beautiful the world is.  (Boy that’s a grammatically correct sentence!)  Teachers expect you to learn mainly the facts and figures;  what the main export is, how large the cities are, the population, the climate and so on.  So, on the cruise, we learn some of that too but the scenery is so amazing, so spectacular.  Oh my goodness, how gorgeous. 

 

Today we spent in Skagway, also spelled Skaguay by the locals.  I’ll go with the “w” because that is what I saw on the sign for the US postal service.  This is mainly a summer town with the main industry being tourism…duh.   Like Juneau, it’s land-locked…can’t get in except by boat or plane, yet this place has lots and lots of RV parks…they have to ferry those in. 

 

We left the ship at 8:30 this morning for a tour of a gold dredging apparatus and then, we panned for gold.  Between us, Rodney and I managed to find about $20.00 worth.  We elected to keep it in our “poke” and that my friends, is a plastic tube sort of like a 35 mm film canister.  In the old days during the actual gold rush in the Klondike, a poke referred to whatever bag the miner or panner carried his find around in on his person.  So we have this little black canister with our gold flakes in it.  Panning was fun but I have to say I’m glad I don’t make a living that way.

 

After panning, we went back to the ship for some lunch.  On the way, we were delayed quite some time by a tourist train but that’s ok…we had the most awesome view of Harding Glacier.  We had our lunch ont he Lido and then Peter and Rodney made a short foray into town, while Donna prepared for Peter’s birthday party in the supper club and I first went to the chapel and second, did a bit of watercolor on the balcony.  Had about a 30 minute nap and then got ready for dinner.  I pulled out my little black dress, the sparkly jewelry, and the high heel shoes along with a wrap.  Despite the sunshine and the relatively warmer day today, this evening it is really cool as we head out to open sea.

 

During our meal at the very top of the ship, we had spectacular views of the mountains and glaciers on both sides of the ship.  The food was unbeleiveable…started with escargot and just got better after that.  Humpback whales were sighted by the ship naturalist but try as we might, we never caught a glimpse of a splash and certainly not a whale tail.  That’s ok.  On tap for tomorrow is the great sea otter and whale adventure, where they guarantee you will see a whale or you get your money back. 

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Our last activity of the day was a short stint in the casino.  I haven’t had any luck really, this trip.  Guess there is always tomorrow.

I can’t wait to be able to post the pictures that go with each day.  You, the reader will not get quite the same effect as the actual visualization but maybe it will make you want to take a trip, north to Alaska.

 

Day 6 Sitka, Tuesday 07.13.09

We were up and out early today.  We left the boat at 7:30 so that we could have breakfast in town.  We walked down the main street in Sitka and found a neat little cafe.  It seated maybe 20 people.  I had the most wonderful Irish cream French toast with maple syrup and a marvelous blend of coffee.

 

After breakfast, we set off once more past the Alaskan Frontiersman’s Home, the oldest Russian Orthodox church on the North American continent (still in use) and the usual port full of shopping.  While we bought a few souveniers, mostly we just looked around.  We were welcomed to the Lutheran church of Sitka and given a tour.  When the nice lady found out I could play, I was invited to play their original organ built in 1845.  It was my first time to play a pipe organ and, oh, the sound.  This experience will go down as one of my favorite ever.

 

We visited the Russian America Company.  This was a shopping experience unlike any other.  Babushka dolls were everywhere.  Some had 50 pieces.  They also sold chess sets and faberge eggs.  All manner of hand painted items were sold there.  My favorites were Father Frost.   The one I liked best was seated on a polar bear and cost about $795.00.  Needless to say, I didn’t like it that much!!!

 

About 11 am, we headed back to the port to grab a quick beef kabob grilled in the open air.    They also offered fresh clam chowder and crab cakes.  It all smelled wonderful.   It was also fun to sit outside with the other tourists and watch all the port happenings.

 

At 1, we boarded the St. Tatiana, for a 3 hour tour…yeah, yeah complete with Maryann, Gilligan, and several professors.  We saw all manner of wildlife, birds, and otters, but the best sigtings were the humpback whales.  My pictures are awesome and I can’t wait to share.  Because we were on the water, the reflection was really bright…this is because Sitka actually had sunshine today…a very rare occurence, indeed.  I had sunscreen, a hat, a jacket, and a scarf but the wind blew so I received a rather bad burn in a Vee right at my throat….pretty bad and very red.

 

After the tour, we were taken directly to our ship and were boarded through the crew gangway.  That was different.  We arrived just in time to prepare for dinner, after which, we went to the casino for about 4 1/2 hours.  I pulled out 40 bucks and stuck it in a penny slot machine.  I won nearly $400.00.  Then we went to the piano lounge for a little music.  At 1:15am, it was still light.  How amazing is that?

 

Tomorrow is a day at sea, touring different sounds and glaciers.  I can’t wait.

 

Day 7, Prince William Sound and College Fjord.  07.14.09\

 

We slept in today til 8:30.  We’ve been up early most every day so a little extra shut-eye was nice.  My husband, being the morning person he is, was chipper as usual and he went up to the Lido for breakfast and brought me a muffin, coffee, and yogurt back to the room.  By the time he returned, I was at least feeling a bit more human.

 

Did a bit of laundry and hung it on a makeshift clothesline on our balcony.  It was really windy and cold out there and pretty overcast.  I did worry a little about my underwear taking flight so I anchored it down.  They only have 4 tiny washers and dryers on board for passenger use and there were terribly long lines to use those.  As usual, I just washed it all out in the sink.  There was only the two of us to wash up for…the ones I felt sorry for were the families on board.  Several of them had 6 and 8 kids.  Last day laundry would never do for them.

 

The scenery today leaves one speechless in awe and amazement.  More than ever, I wish I could get pictures posted.  What a world.  Compressed ice without oxygen is blue.  Ice fields turn into glaciers and glaciers into rivers and waterfalls which often bring icebergs out to float in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Pacific Ocean.  This part of our tour took us into waters laden with glacier silt, where the ice and silt made the water look thick and gray, while on top of the water small ice bergs floated, some of which were filled with “dirty” ice, caused by volcanic ash from active volcanoes in the area. 

 

All day long, between packing, we took lots of pictures.  It finally came down to a pattern of activity.  Pack.  Check the laundry.  See the scenery.  Run for the camera.  Get really cold.  Run for shelter.  Start over.  Sea otters were sighted several times playing alongside the ship.  In the ice floes near College Fjord, we also saw seals.  The ship’s naturalist also told us she had seen bears on shore below the glaciers but I missed those.  The captain pulled us into the middle of College Fjord and then turned the ship around in a circle twice so that we could all stand in one set place and take pictures of all the glaciers in the Fjord.  There were several and all were named for universities.

 

Instead of returning to our table in the dining room tonight, we decided to check out the buffet on the Lido.  We could skip dressing up in that way and that would help our packing efforts.  After dinner, we went back to the casino and played the progressive slots again.  You win some.  You lose some.  That’s all I have to say about that.

 

At 11:20 pm, with the sun still shining, we arrived in Whittier, where we will disembark in the morning.  This late night sunset just blows my mind.  The farther north we go, the later the sun sets each day.  It may never go down tonight.  It is still light outside now at 1:15 am.  I have to go to bed!!!

 

Day Somewhere between Whittier and Anchorage.  Wednesday 07.15.09]

 

Up at 5:30 am today.  Got everything packed up last night and ready to go.  All that was left this morning was ME.  I’m not sure the sun ever went down last night.  It was, however, overcast in Whittier and so windy on the dock.  After a final breakfast on the Lido, we were off the boat rather quicly and herded onto a large bus parked right on the pier.  One funny thing: from our balcony, it looked as though there was no on and off ramp for the buses.  I was begninning to wonder if we actually drove across the water!  The gangway for the new cruise ship passengers actually hid the drive way and gate for the buses.  I have to admit to being relieved. 

 

We had to wait on the bus for a while.  In that time, we did see the eskimo yo yo demonstrated.  LOL.  that was fun.  Then, we entered a 2-1/2 mile tunnel through the mountain.  The anticipation of claustrophobia is almost as bad as the real thing! The tunnel serves both vehicles and railroad and moves only one way.  Traffic into Whittier begins at 7 am.  Traffic ntraveling to Anchorage must wait at the stop light until 8, when the traqffic moves through the tunnel in that direction.  It takes 12 minutes to drive through the tunnel at 25 mph.  The regular traffic runs right on top of the railroad track.   Because the mountain has a glacier on top, the walls inside the tunnel are quite damp. 

 

In Whitter, it was so windy and cold, dark and overcast.  After traveling through the mountain, the termperature moderated somewhat and the windy was lessened.  We came out of the tunnel into a beatuiful valley.  Right in front of us sat a glacier and a pretty clear gray lake, Portage Lake.  As we drive through this valley, the land is fairly flat.  Lots of water.  Lots of vegetation and trees.  The wildflowers are outstanding.  We learned today why fireweed was named such a thing.  Alaskan fireweed is the first thing to grow back after a forest fire. 

 

Due to the glaciers high up in the mountains, waterfalls run down the mountainside all around us.  Turnagain Arm, a seawater inlet,  is both  huge and beautiful.  Much of our trip at this time seems to be in traveling around the inlet.  The tide fluctuates greatly in the arm during the course of a day and great care must be taken to avoid being overtaken and trapped by the tide when it rises.  Baluga whales have been known to come up into the arm but at this time, we are out of season for whales to enter the arm.  Too bad, I would have loved to see them.  The chutes have little vegetation and are sans trees.  Leaves and twigs and branches litter the chutes. 

 

Salmon won’t run here til the middle of August.  Different here than in Skagway and Juneau, where the salmon are already spawning.  In Anchorage, the bus was third in line to drop us off.  Since it is an airport rule that no more than 2 buses can park in front of the airport at once, we took several “tours” of the area.  Finally, we were able to collect luggage and Peter came riding up in our rental van.  We stacked in the baggage and we were off on the next of our adventures.

 

We spied a Target and thought we’d make a run for snacks but on rounding the corner, we discovered it was under construction.  Further down the highway, we happened upon a shopping mall and a Wal-mart.  Yes, they do have those in Anchorage.  Had a little Thai food in the food court.  Picked up Alaska souveniers at Wally world for a lot less than we found them anywhere else and they had a really big selection.

 

We drove back toward Whittier but turned off at a tiny town called Girdwood, nestled in the shadow of Mount Alyeska, a resort area known for ski slopes in winter and fishing in summer.  It’s a tiny valley with towering mountains, some with glaciers; all are beautiful.  The Carriage House B&B is set among the mountain cedars and pines.  There are chickens and turkeys in the back yard.  Tons of flowers ring the house.  The house is made of wood and stone.  Huge beams are the supports. The owner built it all by hand.  There are several rooms downstairs here.  All the guests live downstairs and the owners with their 2 children live upstairs.  Our rooms weren’t quite ready when we arrived so we spent some time looking around and taking fantastic photos and checking out the local eating joints.  When we got back to the B&B, I took off my shoes and had a nice nap.  No a/c here.  It isn’t needed.  I was lulled to sleep by the sounds of a chattering squirrel and clucking hens. 

 

We eat breakfast in the mornings in the dining room upstairs.  The rest of the day, we are on our own.  We headed for a place called the Chair 5 Restaurant tonight where we sampled really good local fare.  For supper, I had halibut and french fries…mmm.  There were also delicacies like moose and elk burgers on the menu.  Rodney had chicken.  Donna had steak.  Peter had pasta.  All had more than we could eat.  We brought home our doggy bags.  The B&B cat, Lucy, met us at the door for a treat….we are now friends for life.  Peter also brought dog treats in for the dogs.  Yeah, the animals, at least, like Texicans.

 

After our long day on our own tour, we were tired and turned in about 8.  The sun was still quite bright.  Because of my nap, I think had a bit of a problem with sleeping…that and Rodney fell asleep without the CPAP…never a good thing, but particularly bad when he is tired.  He was doing electrical work and carpentry, loudly!  It took some time to wake him enough to insure he put on his breathing machine so that he could rest.  By 11pm, we were asleep but awaked about once each hour due to animals in the woods behind the window.  I don’t want to know what it was or what it was doing!

 

Day 8.  Girdwood, Alaska.  Panning for gold on the Crow Creek mine.

 

We had a fantastic breakfast today before setting out.  We were 8 in number around the table.  The four of us were joined by a couple from Poughkeepsie, NY and two fishermen from Valdez, Alaska.  Conversation was lively.  Once more, we find that Texans are greatly misunderstood.  That’s all I have to say about that.

 

Our main objective for the day was finding GOLD.  We panned earlier in the week as a boat excursion on the cruise and Gold Fever struck in our party.  We had a “rocky” journey to the top of the mountain, literally.  The real pavement ended and the road became first, gravel, and then dirt.  It grew narrower as we got closer to the mine.  The buildings around the mine, above the river were so quaint.  The whole area was set up like a little community from gold rush days.  People actually live in the houses.  The trail up the mountain and then down to the creek was a booger for four more mature people but we made it.  I borrowed Rodney’s cap thinking sunburn would be less likely…I was wrong.  We wore jeans and tennis shoes.  Should have brought waders.  In no time, we were wet up to the knee.  We panned for 5 hours and had a ball.  We even found a little bit of gold.  I brought mine home in a tiny glass bottle.  So that I could tell the difference from now on, I had them put my pieces of pyrite in it too.  When they are packaged together,  you can tell which is which.

 

One interesting note:  people kept coming up to take our pictures because we must have looked like we knew what we were doing.  When we were done at Crow Creek, I had to have help getting up from my perch on the rocks and now, we had to take the trail back up to the mine entrance.  Hmm, I don’t think I had this many sore muscles when I started.  Oh, my achy breaky back.  I felt every step but I carried my little poke proudly.  We hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we were hungry.  So much for weight watchers today…I made a chilicheeseburger and fries disappear.  I’m banking, not on the gold we found, but on the exercise I got finding it that I used more calories than I consumed!

 

Back at the B&B, we got out of wet jeans and shoes and donned warm pjs.  Donna brought in Biofreeze, scones, and Bailey’s.  Some combination but it worked.  I was warmer in a hurry!  It must have been the scones, right?

 

So, we’ve checked in with the kids, the dog, and my mom.  Everything is great at home so it is with a clear conscience that I can turn out the lights, lower the blinds, take a nice warm shower and climb into bed tonight. 

 

Day 9 A little road trip complete with unintended detour.

We started out our day by filling our tummies with an excellent breakfast.  MMMM….have to get that recipe our hostess made.  A blueberry french toast casserole.  I know one of my kids would love it….Right , Amy?  Our table mates in the mornings are varied and interesting.

 

 I can’t help but believe that the citizens of the world have some strange ideas about the tendencies and characteristics of Texans.  It seems that I have met people from all over the globe who have preconceived notions of what they should expect of me just because of where I live.  Our breakfast crowd certainly had a good time questioning us about our alleged ranches, our horses and our lack of boots and Stetsons.  They also seemed have the notion that we were all rich, which is a big revelation to me, but oh well.  I had to tell them all that I’ve ridden a horse twice, think cows smell pretty badly, and hate both cowboy boots and hats of any kind.  I live in the country but there isn’t anything larger than a dog within 10 miles.  One lady from New York actually made the statement that she found most Texans pushy and arrogant.  I don’t think I am but I guess I can’t be sure of it.  I found similar attitudes while we were out and about.in Alaska.  The worst thing was the notion that people from the south and Texas in particular are uneducated country bumpkins without the sense to come in out of the rain.  I graduat’ed from the 11th ranked university in the country and it is located 30 miles from my home in deep east Texas.  Let’s be real.  I guess my feelings were hurt.  But, they’ve been hurt before.  I can live with it.  I’m pretty tough.

 

During our trip toward Whittier, we saw the now familiar sights of glaciers and snow-capped mountains, the many waterfalls, and abundant wildlife for which the Kenai Peninsula is noted.  Coupled with a diet Dr. Pepper, the scenery soon made me forget my bad mood due to the rudeness at the breakfast table.  Fishermen lined up along bird creek waiting for their first strikes from the multitude of salmon racing up the waterways to their ancenstral home.  Those that aren’t landed by an eager fisherman will spawn and die.  So whether in nature or at the hand of the fisherman, their days are numbered.  It’s a fantastic journey that the salmon traverse from birth to death.  For all God’s creatures the end result of life is death but for the salmon, it’s very predictable as to the “when” of the event.

 

After an hour on the road in our rented van, we make a stop at a wildlife refuge and get some fantastic shots of bison, mudox, bears, elk, moose, and eagles.  My favorites were the orphaned moose calves.  They don’t look like the adult moose at all.  They haven’t yet reached the stage where their heads seem too big for their bodies.  They clumsy on their long, long legs, which only adds to their cuteness and infant appeal.

 

Upon leaving the park, we were detoured by road construction and somehow missed the sign for Whittier.  We were many miles underway before we realized that we were headed for Seward instead, but we were flexi ble as Seward was our afternoon destination.  We stopped at a charming Greek restaurant on the main street.  It was my first taste of Greek cooking and I really enjoyed it.  We headed across the street after our meal for a bit of souvenier and postcard shopping.  I seem to have increased my desire for good coffee while in Alaska.  It probably had something to do with all the wonderful coffee shops found in every town.  The smell on the street was excellent.  After our purchases, it was off to the coffee shop for an extra hot cinnamon latte…Oh my goodness, it was good.

 

We spent a couple hours in Seward, checking out the sights and the shopping and then turned toward Whittier.  Now, there’s a saying in Alaska about Whittier, which isn’t very nice.  People also say that Whittier is beautiful on the 2 days a year that the sun shines there.  I want to go on record that I found Whittier not as appealing as other places we visited but I think Alaskans don’t give Whittier enough credit.  There are great places to eat in this tiny town and a great museum.  The people are quite friendly.   It is isolated, however.  To get there, you have to either come through the mountain via the tunnel or you can fly or sail in.  There’s only one road out, though, and it’s shared by the train and one lane of vehicular traffic.  I felt a bit claustrophobic.in the tunnel and the idea of so limited options on traveling away might perpetuate that feeling.

 

We checked out the old military base in Whittier.  The buildings, long abandoned by the armyt were donated to the city of Whittier.  One building, which probably would be added to a historical register if it were located in the lower 48, stood tall over the city, overlooking the harbor.  A once proud structure both elegant and efficient, it now sports window glasses, long broken out, rusted metal railings, and peeling paint.  Whittier residents were once proud of this building as evidenced by the exhibit in the small museum.  The other large military building in Whittier is now split into condominium living.  I understand they sell these condos for $140,000.00 each with the understanding that the new owner will “fix ‘er up” and help bring the building back to former glory days.

 

We headed back to the B&B and had the opportunity to see the difference in the morning and evening tide levels on Termagin Arm.  To an inland-bred girl, that was fascinating.  What was dry in the morning was covered completly on the return trip.  One of the highlights of the trip back to Girdwood, was the sighting of a “swan-shaped” ice berg in Cook’s inlet….really, really cool.  We got back in time for a nap before dinner, then headed out to a recommended dinner spot.  Donna and Peter had tuna steaks.  Rodney got his usual steak and I had a pork schnitzle with watermelon BBQ sauce.  It was all quite different but all very good.  Then it was back to the B&B for packing.  We are going home tomorrow and we are bringing back several things more than we came with….It should be interesting to see what we have to do to get it all in our bags.

 

Note:  by midnight, all the bags are packed and the lights are out but the sun still shines and the chickens are still cavorting out back.  I don’t know that I would ever get used to the land of the midnight sun.

 

Day 10-11.  Checking out Anchorage and the flight home.

We left the B&B for our trip back to Anchorage and the airport about 9.  We stopped at a McDonalds for internet use and an online check-in for our flight later in the day.  While surfing, we watched a small plane grow larger and larger as it neared our location.  As it got closer, we realized the pilot was out of control and spinning wing over wind and it was headed toward us at a very fast pace.  Just before he got to us, he seemed to gain control.  Whew!  I thought we were gonners.

 

After Mickey D’s we stopped at a Mall and took in the latest Harry Potter Movie, The Half-Blood Prince and then had a late lunch at Subway, ending our vacation dining on a more “normal for us” note in hopes that the swelling in our ancient feet would be minimal.  We arrived at the airport around 4 and much to our dismay, the rental car company had “forgotten” to inform us that the car was due at 10am and they had charged for another day.  We unloaded at our terminal and waited for several hours before our flight. 

 

After several gate changes, we boarded and were on our way by 9pm.  I came prepared for this night flight.  I brought an inflatable neck pillow, a light blocking eye cover, my mp3 player with earphones, and a blanket.  I was determined to sleep on the flight home.  Rodney and I were seated across the aisle from each other and so I woke every so often to reach out and see if he was there but I never took off my sleep mask.  I actually got some rest.

 

We arrived at DFW about 6:30 and had breafast at TGIF’s in DFW’s terminal D.  Our flight home left about 10 and we were hugging Grandmother and Amber by 11 in Tyler.  We stopped at Cheddars on the way home for lunch and then Walmart for some milk and bread.  It was good to get home and to see my Darby dog!  It was a great vacation but I was glad to sleep in my own bed again.

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