Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Returning Home

When the time to depart from Alaska came, we experienced mixed-feelings.  There was the need to stick to the schedule and make it home on time (we were a bit sad because we really love this beautiful and bountiful wildlife heaven, but at the same time we were excited to go back on our trail and visit places and see people we love), so, without hesitation we took our wintry clothing and rain gear, and on our way we went.  As usual, it was a rainy, foggy and cold day.  

On our way to Canada, we took the White Pass and Yukon Route (on the road, not the train), beautiful road trip!  We encounter many tourist  buses parked on the road while people took pictures of the area.  I tried to do the same from my back seat; here are some of those pictures… 

Hundreds of Beautiful Water Falls
Canadian Customs Fraser
We went directly to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory (around 320 miles).  The temperature had dropped considerably in the last two weeks and they had frost few times already!  We were relieved when the rain stopped and we could see a beautiful rainbow as a promise of better weather waiting for us on the way. J

In Watson Lake we visited the Northern Lights Centre (just 2 miles from our hotel) and had a great time watching the show.   There are few things to do in this small town, and this was one of them, besides visiting the World Famous Sign Post Forest (just across the street from the Northern Lights Centre). 

World Famous Sign Post Forest
It was funny to find our new friends from Minnesota once again at the “Air Force Lodge”; they were on their way back home as well.  After a nice chat with some of the guest, we got ready for a well deserved night’s rest since next day we would be on the road for 12+ hours.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We wanted to visit Skagway and Sitka, but the State Ferry schedule didn’t allowed us enough time to do it, so, we will visit Sitka next time since the middle of our vacation time arrived and it was time to return.  We took the state ferry to Skagway, a one hour trip for just 15 miles.  The ferry was on time and offered a great service.  They had an emergency drill going on for few minutes (which is required and truly appreciated), it rained once again, but other than that the voyage was enjoyable.  For our surprise, there were three other motorcycles from NC!  They were also on their way back home.  Small world…  Oh! By the way, if you plan to take your bike, may sure you have at least two straps to secure it.  The supplies are limited… we bought the last two at the store (plus the prices are almost double)!

Securing the bike

Skagway is a beautiful historic town.  Remember the “Gold Rush”?  Well, we discovered many things but… we didn’t find any gold! L

We went straight to “Skagway Fish Company”, a well recommended restaurant on 2nd St.  From there we visited the Skagway Museum (here we could see a collection of Gold Rush tools and artifacts used by the gold seekers of that time), the Visitor Center (where you can see a movie about how the Gold Rush forever changed Skagway), gift shops and some jewelry stores.  There are many things to do in Skagway.  Hiking at the glacier trails, taking the White Pass &Yukon Route train tour, visiting museums, life shows where you get to play with the actors, and more.  You can stroll around on your own, or choose from various commercial tours available.  You might also want to consider a flight-seeing tour to Glacier Bay, the “world’s most beautiful rivers of ice”, or a helicopter tour to one of the local glaciers.  If you feel lucky, you can go and pan for gold at the creek, and have your own mini gold rush fever.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad was build between 1898-1900
She wanted to trade bikes!

The average summer temperature range from 46 to 67 F, although it can get into the 90’s.  So, with a sweater at hand you will be comfortable all day long.  They get just 26” of rain per year (it all came down while we were there!).J

The opportunity of visiting original buildings and staying at the same place where all the excitement of those days happened made the whole experience come to live.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the hard work, difficulties, frustrations and risks these people had to endure.  Many of them succeeded in pursuing their goals of riches, but many others lost everything they had, even their lives.  The perseverance and determination of these people was so evident but yet, so uncertain due to the inexperience with the terrain and weather conditions.   There were cases of single women making their way among the men and some of them ended up in higher position that their counterpart.  Many others mined the miners with their much needed services.  People came from all over the world with the same purpose.  It was horrible what they had to endure, but yet, they tried over and over again.  Many gave up and returned back home with empty hands and shattered dreams.  This was not a game or a vacation trip.  It was the daily life they will be living for a while.

Skagway is a principal Port of Call for all cruises visiting Alaska (we could see the street full of people that have just arrived on a cruise), so you will see few cruises along the harbor.   You also have the possibility of traveling by air, vehicle (via Whitehorse, Yukon Territory) or taking the ferry.   Make sure you have reservations before hand or you might find some problems with accommodations.  We had the blessing of getting the last available room at “Sgt. Preston’s Lodge”!

So, we basically traveled the entire Golden Circle… Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Haines, Juneau, and SkagwayAlaska’s Garden City – in ten days.  We loved it and will definitely come back!!! J

Sunday, August 21, 2011


We decided to take a one day cruise to Juneau with Fjordland Cruise.  It was a wonderful experience.  The trip from Haines to Juneau takes 4½ hours.  We spent time watching whales (humpback and orcas), sea lions, bears (black and brown), bald eagles (of the 100,000 bald eagles in the world, about 50% live in Alaska), swans, mountain goats, and other wildlife.  The weather was not splendid but there was so much to see and do, that again, we put our rain gear on, and enjoyed it anyway.  At the cruise, they offered breakfast and dinner (delicious clam chowder). 

A Lighthouse for sale!

Once in Juneau, a tour guide took us on a bus to downtown, and after showing us around, he gave us 3 hours to stroll the town on our own.  We visited the museum, few galleries, and shops and had lunch (fresh halibut fish and chips).  We could see the governor’s residence (which is undergoing renovations at this time) and enjoyed the history of this place. 

Once the 3 hours period was over, our tour guide took us to the Mendenhall Glacier, where we spent 1½ hour.  The Mendenhall has a small population of bears and when salmon are in Steep Creek, right at the glacier area, the numbers of bears and viewing opportunities increase.  So, yes, there were some bears feeding on salmon… what a great diet! 

The Mendenhall Glacier was an experience on its own.  There is this beautiful blue glacier seating among five great mountains and waterfalls.  It was impressive to see the size of the icebergs on the Mendenhall Lake comparing to the people canoeing around it.  At the visitor center you can watch the 11 minutes movie, “The Magnificent Mendenhall”, enjoy the view from the observatory, listen to a ranger’s talk, explore the interactive exhibits, and peer at mountain goats and glaciers.  I couldn’t help but ponder a panorama of the icefield.  We took pictures, and more pictures… and then, some more! 

On our return, we shared experiences with other passengers and crew, and enjoyed another session of wildlife viewing.  We strongly recommend this trip to anyone planning on visiting Alaska any time.  You will love it!  

Poor Matt... running to the bus!

Question:  Does it always rain in Juneau?
Answer:  No.  Sometimes it snows!  They get about 150 inches of precipitation a year; they call it "liquid sunshine"  So, lets go to get a liquid sun tan!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Haines a Friendly and Lovely Place

View of Haines from the ferry

We have enjoyed a lot our stay in Haines.  We know most of the places in town, and met many other travelers and local residents.  The town is so small that the chances of finding the same people everywhere you go, over and over, are very high.  For example, Barbara, the lady we met at the museum, was at the same Mexican restaurant we went for lunch on Friday, and next day, we drove 33 miles to have lunch and guess who was there?... Barbara and four other girlfriends!  She introduced us to her friends and next thing we know, we were invited that evening to a birthday party. 
Some of our new friends in Haines
Dawn, one of Barbara’s friends was celebrating her birthday and wanted us to see the view from her front porch and share a piece of cake (since Matt and Lucy’s birthday was few days after hers), and play some board games.   We accepted the invitation and few hours later we were sitting at her table for cake and ice cream, and later, a scrumptious sockeye smoked salmon salad, and king salmon salad with pumpernickel bread.  We also played “MIT Chinese Checkers” (don’t ask me! lol).  Dawn’s husband was trying to help me while Dawn and Barbara helped Matt.  It was so much fun!!!

View from Dawn's porch

After couple of hours of chatting and playing, they asked if we would like to go to Lucy’s place (a beautiful Assisted Living Home right behind our Bed & Breakfast) to play music and sing hymns.  So, there we go… Lucy’s daughter played the piano while the rest of us spent a good amount of time singing hymns to the enjoyment of the employees and some of the residents.  It was like being at church!  We loved the opportunity to meet these great people and share such a special time with them.  We will always treasure these moments in our hearts.