Alaska 2008

Diary of Linda, Conrad, Kathy and my trip to Alaska July 2008

7/3/08      Linda and I are off to Reno this morning for our Alaska trip.  Our friend George Humphrey drove us to the airport.  We are off to a bad start as the marine layer in San Diego is causing Southwest Airlines a 2.5 hour delay on the ground.   We finally got off and arrived in Reno about 3:00pm.  Kathy made us dinner at home and we retired to bed early.

7/4/08      I got up at 4:45 am to shower and get ready.  Conrad drove us to the airport and parked the car in long term parking. To our horror our 7:00am Alaskan Airline flight was cancelled due to an mechanical problem with the plane and we could not get another flight to Vancouver Canada in time to meet our ship departing at 5:00pm.  Royal Caribbean finally, after allot of hassling agreed to fly us to Ketchikan Alaska to meet our ship on the 2nd day of its cruise.  Kathy was very emotionally upset but got over it quickly.  We ended up flying to Ketchikan and staying in the Cape Fox Lodge for two nights.  Our rooms had a view of the bay and mountains to die for, were large and very nice.  The restaurant was also very good.  All expenses except food were paid by Royal Caribbean.

7/5/08      Got up 8:00am for breakfast.  I had eggs Benedict with Dungeness crab instead of Canadian bacon for breakfast which was excellent.  It was raining and Linda had no rain gear.  Conrad, Kathy, and I walked around town and finally ended up in huge nice sporting goods store, where I purchased an umbrella and two ponchos.  I used one poncho over my rain jacket to keep my camera dry.  Returned for Linda and she was happy with the blue poncho we had purchased for her.  We all walked along Ketchikan Creek to a totem pole museum.  We then visited an eagle rescue center and a salmon fish hatchery which was very informative.  Next we did the local NFS Discovery Center building which had many displays showing Alaska’s forest and wild life history.  I did not realize that Alaska is larger than California and Texas combined.  It is made up of 85% federal land.  It rained on and off all day long.  We did lunch at Steamers Restaurant and later had dinner at the Cape Fox.

7/6/08      I got up at 6:30am and watched our ship Radiance of the Sea cruise into Ketchikan Bay.  It is still cloudy and raining.  We finally got on the ship about 9:00am.  It really is an impressive vessel.  Its kind of like staying at the Mirage or Winn Hotel in Las Vegas.  Our room was lovely, quite large, ocean view, with an outside patio.  There was no wifi or Ethernet internet in the room unfortunately.  We had breakfast on the boat at the Windjammer Café and the food was excellent.  Linda, Kathy, and I did a walk around town after breakfast.  We got back and had lunch in the formal dining room.  We sat at a table with 3 other couples.  We enjoyed the lunch and socializing with the 3 other couples from Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Orange County.  Before dinner Conrad and I played Blackjack at a 8 deck table.  Rules; hit soft 17, double on anything, 3/2 pay on BJ.  I lost $100 after 1-1/2 hours.  Conrad lost $10.  At night we had dinner at the gourmet Portofino restaurant.   It cost $20 additional each to eat here.  The food and service was excellent.  I had lobster, scallop, shrimp seafood combination which was really good.  Kathy and I split a full bottle of Carrano Fanarri Fume Blanc.  At this rate of eating and drinking, I am going to gain 25# !!!!!!!!

7/7/08      Last night the ship cruised all night arriving in Juneau about 8:00am.  I got up at 6:45am and had breakfast with the group.  We all then got on a tour bus for our whale watching and wild life tour.  The huge houseboat style boat was very comfortable with inside and outside locations to watch the whales.  We saw 5 humpback whales, harbor seals, sea lions, bald eagles. Common loons, and the Gieromont pidgeons.  The weather was cloudy with broken patches of sunlight.  It is only sunny about 35 days a year here.  The marine biologist guide was excellent keeping our attention about the facts of the wild life.  On the way back we stopped at wayside to get a photo opportunity of the beautiful valley leading up to the Mendenhall glacier.   We returned to ship and had lunch.  I then slept about 3 hours to rest up for dinner!!!!   I had venison pot roast for dinner.   Conrad and I went to magic and comedy show which was quite entertaining.  We then play BJ for an hour.  I am down $148 total now at the tables.

7/8/08      Last night the ship cruised all night arriving in Skagway about 7:00am.  As most of you know there is only 3 ways into these beautiful inland passage Alaskan cities;  Airplane, Ship, or birth canal.  We all did the narrow gauge train for 20 miles up the canyon towards White Horse.  This is the route that the miners took for the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897.  The trip took 4 hours and was very beautiful.  Unfortunately you could not get off the train but sneak outside on the platform where the cars connect for air or photo opts.  Each car had a bathroom and the seats were comfortable.  When we got back it was very windy about 35 mph I would guess with a severe chill factor.  I am sure glad I brought my down coat.  Had a delicious dinner on board at the dining room.  I had tiger shrimp in garlic butter sauce that was excellent.  The service is also superb.  I have been ordering wine every night which is bit pricy but not prohibitive.  If you don’t drink it all, they will keep it for you for the next night.  We attended the variety dance and musical show.

     We cruised all night arriving at Icy Point Bay about 7:00am.  This is the most beautiful port so far.  We anchored in the bay and commuted via shuttle boats.  We did an Adventure Wildlife search tour.  We road into the island Tongass NF about 12 miles and then hiked on a trail down to the river.  We saw eagles, deer, and one bear from long range.  This island has more bear than people.  In a few weeks the salmon will be running and this trail with platforms will be swarming with bears.  We had a guide with an high powered rifle to save us if we got charged by a bear.  Our Raven Eskimo Tlingit guide Donna was another excellent guide really giving us some insight into the tribe and their status in this wild country.  The menu had lobster tonight which was very good.  I had two helpings and had a great time talking with our India family table mates.  We all went to the Nelson brothers remembrance concert of their father Rickie Nelson.  Conrad and I played BJ for an hour after the show.  I lost only $5 this time.

7/10/08    We cruised all night and were awakened at 7:00am as we approached through Yakutat Bay toward Hubbard Glacier.  We had breakfast as we entered the bay watching the beautiful scenery.  The ship entered the iceberg strewn bay to the glacier.  A local Naturalist gave us live narration about the glacier and the local people who live here.  We got within 200 yards of the glacier and stayed there for about an hour listening to ice breaking loose from the edge of the glacier.  The captain said that he had never seen more glacier activity.  I got lots of digital pictures for my web site.  Conrad, Kathy, and I entered the Black Jack tournament.  None of us made the 2nd round.  We all went to the captain’s question and answer show which was very informative and comical.  Had a nice dinner our last night on board this wonderful ship.

7/11/08    The ship cruised all night and we woke up in the port of Seward Alaska a large bay surrounded by snow capped mountains.  We departed the ship about 9:30am and got onto a nice Prevost bus, our transportation for the next 6 days.  We first visited the Alaska Sea Life Center; an aquarium and rescue center which was very interesting and educational.  Next we got on the bus and headed for the harbor.  We got on small boat to do a 5 hour Resurrection Bay wild life cruise with a wild salmon bake lunch on Fox Island.  This cruise was extremely scenic and beautiful even without the sun.  I saw Horned Puffins in the wild, a life bird for me.  We saw abundant sea birds, Stellar Sea Lions, seals, porpoises, hump back whales, and sea otters.  After returning we got on the bus and went to Windsong Song Lodge which was in a beautiful wooded setting along a river with views of snow capped mountains and glaciers.  The tour agency did all check in and after finding our luggage we just proceeded to our room. The restaurant view was majestic and the expensive gourmet food was to die for.  I had wifi at this hotel so I did some email and then went to bed early at 9:00pm.

7/12/08    Got up 7:00am for more internet time.  I had breakfast at 8:30am, then more wifi.  We left at 10:00am for Anchorage about 130 miles north.  This is a very scenic highway with the snow capped mountains, rivers, and many lakes.  We stopped about midway at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  This is a non profit organization that takes in injured local animals and nurtures them back to health.  The photo opportunities are phenomenal here.  I especially enjoyed the brown bear, caribou, moose, musk ox, and the bison.  We arrived in Anchorage around 3:00pm and visited the local Farmers Market for 2 hours.   We then checked into the Marriot Hotel in down Anchorage.  We had very nice rooms on the 18th floor with a view of the bay.

7/13/08    Got up at 6:00am to make our train to the Alaskan town of Talkeetna, the TV series town of Northern Exposure.  The two story train was extremely comfortable and had really good visibility.  The breakfast coffee and citrus drinks were really good.  I had buttermilk blue berry pancakes with bacon for breakfast in the dining area below, which were the best pancakes of the trip.  We left the train at Talkeetna and toured the town for two hours.  It was very commercial to say the least.  We got on the bus and headed up to Denali.  After a 3 hour very scenic bus ride we arrived at McKinley Village Lodge just outside of Denali Park.  I was really tired and glad to be out of a train or bus seat.  We got checked into the hotel and took a shuttle to town for dinner.  We had no agreement between the girls and the guys on where to eat, but finally we ended up at a Pizza House which to my surprise was quite good. 

7/14/08    We got up at 6:00am and got ready for our Denali Tundra Tour leaving at 7:00am.  It was a full bus.  Our guide a resident of Denali was very knowledgeable and loved Alaska.  It was cloudy and rainy the entire 8 hours of the tour, so we never saw Mt McKinley.  We went into the park 64 miles one way, 94 miles is the maximum length of the road.  The first ½ was good asphalt road, but then turned into a dirt road.  We saw grizzly bear, bull moose, caribou,  Dall sheep, Golden Eagle, Bald Headed Eagle, Ptarmigan (a life bird for me), and gray squirrel.  The bus driver had a very good video camera that was wired into several monitors throughout the bus that she used to zoom and display the wildlife.  She stopped for every sighting.  The general scenery: small spruce trees, birch brush, huge glacial made green valleys with rivers running through them, was absolutely very beautiful.  There were no hiking trails in this park.  Back Packing is allowed on a permit basis, but you make your own trail.  The park service thinks this will keep the park wilder.  I enjoyed the park allot but was sure happy to get back after that long 8 hour bus drive.

7/15/08    Kathy and I did the very fast moving class 3 Nanano River rafting trip in the morning.  The full trip took about 3.5 hours with about 1.5 hours on the river.  It was a rare sunny warm morning.  The glacial river was 36 F., so all participants had to wear dry suits.  This was my first ever encounter with dry suits and I really liked them.  They cost $400 and up but keep you dry and warm.  The scenery along the river was beautiful but no wild life this trip.  There were 4 Hi-Side 8 person rafts in excellent condition.  Two of the very capable guides were young women in their 20’s.  We got back to bus just in time for our short trip to the train station.  We got on a train bubble observation car and headed south to Talkeetna Lodge.  We had a delicious lunch on the very comfortable scenic 4 hour ride to Talkeetna.  I really appreciated the untouched stark beauty and vastness of this land on this particular leg of our journey.  The modern scenic Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge could be considered a world class destination with its majestic lobbies, large modern rooms, most with a view of Mt McKinley.  Unfortunately the clouds never completely lifted showing the 20,300’ tallest north American mountain.  We all had a nice dinner in the gourmet restaurant.  They had numerous tours leaving from this hotel; flights around Mt Kinley, float trips, glacier trips, helicopter dog sledding trips, fishing trips, etc.  All you needed was the desire, time, and money.  After dinner we did a short hike around lodge getting exposure to some hungry mosquitoes.   Closed up the drapes for sleep, as you may know there is only 4-5 hours of darkness this time of year at this latitude.

7/16/08    I had a nice crab omelet for breakfast.  We left about 11:00am on the bus for Anchorage and got checked into the Marriot down town hotel.  We celebrated Conrad and Kathy’s 20th anniversary by going to Sullivan’s steak house which had the best steaks of our trip.  Kathy and I had a great bottle of Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon wine with dinner.  We had chocolate and grand marine soufflés for desert.  Yum yum.

7/17/08    Had a good buffet breakfast before departing for the airport for our 1:30pm flight to Seattle.  Our 3.5 hour flight to Seattle went well.  I used my IPOD and noise cancelling headphones to listen to a mystery book called Falling Sky Women by Kirk Mitchell.  We had a boring 3 hour layover in Seattle for our Reno flight.  The Alaska Air turbo jet flight finally departed and we arrived in Reno two hours later about 11:00 pm.  We stayed with Kathy and Conrad in Sparks  this night.

7/18/08    Departed from Reno at 7:45am arriving home at 11:00am.  Our friend George Humphrey picked us up at the airport.  It was great to be home.  It took me 3 nights to recover from all the sitting and traveling of the past 2 weeks.  The trip was well worth it however and I will never forget it.

Last updated on February 7, 2019