Friday, June 21, 2013


Greg & I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Alaska. Actually, we got home two weeks ago, but I have been sick with a sinus infection, cough, laryngitis, etc. since the minute we landed in Portland. Thus I haven't felt like doing much lately but finally managed to sort through most of my photos & videos and get them uploaded for sharing this week. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for those links.
departing from Skagway
I wanted to take a few minutes to mention some of details about our trip. I plan to write more blog posts on specific topics like the breweries we visited, the cruise, Denali National Park, etc. But I'm short on time right now. I will be going to the airport later this evening to pick up my Aunt Elaine (my mom's sister). She will be staying with us until July 1st. In addition, my mom, step-dad, sister, and two nephews are arriving on Sunday. They will be here until June 30th. So I will be very busy over the next week playing tour guide for my family, all of whom have never been here except my mom & step-dad!
a beautiful day to fly home - this is the Columbia River & Mt Hood
First, a bit about our itinerary. We ultimately decided to book a 7-night Glacier Discovery cruise on Holland America's ms Zaandam, sailing from Vancouver, BC to Seward, AK. Greg & I still prefer to travel independently and we seriously considered using the Alaska ferry system to travel around the Inside Passage. However the logistics were tedious, it was going to require a fair amount of physical effort on our part, and the cost was not that much cheaper than the cruise when you factored in everything (food, accommodations, transportation, etc.). We both enjoy cruising and feel that HAL represented the best value for our money.
ms Zaandam docked in Skagway
We flew from Portland to Vancouver a full day before our cruise so we would have time to visit a few breweries and stroll around town. We stayed in a hostel in Gastown that was convenient to public transportation and walking distance from Canada Place (the cruise ship terminal). At the end of the cruise, we disembarked in Seward and had plans to do some sightseeing there, then took a motorcoach to Anchorage. We spent two nights at a hostel in downtown Anchorage then rented a car and drove to Denali National Park, stopping along the way in Talkeetna for a flightseeing tour. We stayed in a hostel just outside the park for three nights, which gave us two full days to ride the park shuttle buses as far as the road was open at the time (Eielson Visitor Center). On our final day, we drove back to Anchorage, with sightseeing/beer drinking stops in Wasilla and Palmer, and checked in at the airport for our flight to Portland (via Seattle) which didn't actually depart until 12:30AM the next morning. Thus our trip encompassed a total of 14 nights.
leaving Vancouver under cloudy skies
The trip was everything we hoped it would be even though the weather didn't always cooperate and there were other factors beyond our control. We knew that by traveling early in the season there was a high probability that we would experience cooler temperatures and more rain. As it turned out, it had been a long winter, with snow falling in many parts of the state just one week before we arrived and a visible dusting of fresh snow in the higher elevations during the time we were there.
drinking beer on the patio of an Anchorage brewery in 50F weather
During the cruise, we were lucky not to encounter too much rain during the days we were in port. Glacier Bay was another matter; heavily fogged in, cold & wet, but we still got to see the face of Margerie Glacier up close. Sadly, when we disembarked in Seward we found out that our hiking trip to Exit Glacier was cancelled because there was still too much snow on the trail. Ditto for our flightseeing trip out of Talkeetna a few days later, which was scheduled for 8:30AM and got delayed multiple times. Luckily we had left some extra time in our schedule that day and we were able to wait it out until the clouds finally parted enough for a 3:30PM flight (and it was well worth the wait!). Our first day in Denali was very overcast but we saw some blue skies on the second day, though not enough to see Mt McKinley. Our final day of the trip, which was primarily dedicated to the five hour drive from Denali to Anchorage, was probably the nicest, with temps in the upper 70's and sunny blue skies.
self portrait at Margerie Glacier
I've added a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures to the home page of my blog. You should be able to see them in the top right corner. Click here to open another window and view the Highlights album. Click here to go to my YouTube channel and watch all of my Alaska video clips.