Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alaska ........ part 1

Alaska - truly 'America the Beautiful'

Alaska is one of those places that has been on my travel list for years. It has been a place that I have wanted to visit but never thought I would get to before I retired (mainly due to cost). However, I went on this exchange year and had the opportunity to travel internally in the US during the summer holidays. Suddenly, I had time during the 'nice' northern hemisphere summer to travel and I was already in the country, which meant I wasn't needing $2500 to fly here from Australia. All of a sudden my dream looked to be a reality. And it was. In April I booked myself 12 days of Alaska adventure - including some rail travel and self driving. Below is my Alaskan adventure........

Note: As much as I tried to capture the truly majestic views of this amazing land, my photos show only a 2D version of this magic. The vistas were awe inspiring and truly looked like they were a technicolour painting someone had placed in front of me or behind the road in the distance. If you find these photos gorgeous, multiply it by 100 😍 My photos cannot do Alaska the justice it deserves, even though they are awesome and I'm enlarging a lot of them for my walls when I get home! Enjoy 😊


I arrived in Anchorage late Sunday night, around 11pm. What amazed me right off was not the cool weather that required me to put on my one jumper I had bought with me (I knew it was cooler but I had just left averages of 90 - 100 Fahrenheit (32 - 37 Celsius) which was a drop coming into 60 Fahrenheit (15 Celsius)). What gave me pause was that it was still light - a great welcome to the land of the midnight sun! In the following days, this midnight sun would mess up my sleeping patterns but for the moment I found to fascinating to see like it was light twilight at 11pm (the sun set that night at around 12:54am).

The next day was cold and windy and cloudy - and of course I had left my wind jacket in Palisade. A handy reason to go shopping! Throughout this free day in Anchorage, I bought a rain jacket, a hoody and a t-shirt, as well as took a city tour and spent time at the cultural centre. It is a very quiet city, despite being the largest city in the state with more than 40% of the state's population. What made my day was that on the way out to the cultural centre, my first hour out and about, we passed a moose on the side of the road! Wildlife viewing off to a great start! Check out my day in Anchorage below:

First moose seen in Alaska by me 😊

This is how close to the road he was!

At the cultural centre they had examples of different traditional cultural group homes

This entryway is traditional - it leads down on an angle and you
crawl out (see below). All this was to protect the home from polar bears - providing
either a safe entry or escape route.

Moose sighting number two - this female had her calf with her!
The fence gates off feeding land so the moose don't get hit by cars, particularly
in the winter - this land is permafrost tundra and Alaskans wont build on it anyway.

Alaskans fly....... different statistics around but they have huge numbers of pilots
as a lot of Alaska cannot be reached by road or water.

This is a house built underground! You can see the skylights (the domes
in the grass) - there is 30 feet of dirt on top of the roof!

I have put in a page break so all these photos don't download at the same time and it makes it easier for you to read - just click on the 'read more' link below to see photos and read the rest of the post.

Alaskan Railway

The following day I left Anchorage on the 6:45am Coastal Classic towards Seward. It was a cloudy and misty day as well, but that didn't stop the views from being magical!

The front of this carriage was called the 'bump bar' - they would use
it to bump moose off the tracks before the actual train came past.

Anchorage Railway Station

And the gorgeous scenery begins........

View from my seat forward on the train.

This mud is quite dangerous. The tide swell can be up to 30 feet and it
comes in under the mud. If you are standing on the mud, the tide can turn it to
quicksand as it comes in and you can become quite dangerously stuck in the mud!

The highway runs right along the coast for most of the way to Seward.

The closest glacier the train comes past.

The train arrived at 11:05am. I had booked a tour that left directly from the train station and so I collected my overnight bag and met the bus straight away. The tour visited the Seavey's Iditarod Sled Dog Tours, went to Exit Glacier and included lunch and viewing of salmon swimming.

The Iditarod is a sled dog race held every year on the historical trail between Seward and Nome. It was first raced in 1973 to preserve the sled dog culture in Alaska , which was being phased out due to the introduction of snow mobiles, as well as saving the significance and historical aspect of the original Iditarod trail. The competitors travel about 1,150 miles to go the 650 airline miles from Anchorage to Nome and pass through checkpoints like the freight sled teams did years ago - although these days the fastest competitors can do so much quicker than was done in the past!

The Seavey family has quite the involvement in the race - Mitch Seavey is a two time winner (2004 & 2013 - becoming the oldest winner at 53 years old) and the family has six racers in total over three generations, with 100 champion sled dogs. It was so wonderful to hear about the race and visit the dogs here. We took a summer sled ride as well, and even met some new 18 day old puppies!

My tour bus 😊

The kennels

So cute! 20 mins cuddling was not enough time! 😚

Mitch Seavey's sled and our guide putting on some dog cold weather protection.
Our guide races as well - she was a junior champion winner a few years ago.

A stop on our ride. The dogs got breaks as it was very hot for them, even in
the high teens. They also still have their winter coats.

Thanking my drivers!
Following our cuddles with puppies and riding with dogs, we went for lunch at a restaurant with a gorgeous view!

From here we drove to Exit Glacier, which is a National Park now. There is an easy hike up to the viewpoint and it was great to see up close. The hike to and from also produced some pretty views!

See if you can read what it says on the bottom left - what to do if a bear
attacks. We had a moment there thinking about it!

The hike in to the glacier.

First viewpoint.

You can see where it has been - it is retreating at a fast rate!

A little bit closer now - you can see the blue better.

On the hike back out, more pretty views.

On our wrap up of the tour, we drove to a salmon stream and watched the salmon try to jump upstream. It was entertaining viewing! One would jump, land, and then the force of the water would push him back down. There would be a pause, and then another would try. Then another.

They would try to jump on top of the water flow.

A bit further down, waiting to get close to the water fall.

At the end of our tour, I was dropped off at my hotel for the night, where I spent my first night without blackout curtains trying to get to sleep. Wasn't very successful but I was sure in a few days I would be better at it!

Next to come:

* Kenai Fjord Cruise and heaps of wildlife!
* Return train ride to Anchorage
* Exploration of Alaska Interior

I will continue the next post shortly - I have to break it up for all the photos and videos I have! 😊

More soon, so keep smiling,
Candice πŸ˜ƒ

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