Saturday, June 27, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We are back from Alaska. We arrived home last night around 9pm and since we were still on Alaska time we decided to meet up with Jachin and Ty at Dubliners in St. Paul for a drink. Kasie stayed at our house for the week and did an excellent job taking care of our gardens. Just look at the progress.

garden growth

And the flower new blooms:

sunflower



We are also getting excited about our roma tomatoes.



Stay tuned for more on Alaska... between the 7 of us we did take around 2,000 pictures.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alaska Day 8 - Anchorage

We woke up in Willow and headed toward Anchorage. Here are some pictures from Lily Lake in Wasilla and another stop on the way to Anchorage. The cute little boy on the right was learning to fish at that stop. He hadn't quite gotten the hang of the casting, so Nathan gave him some pointers.

Lily Lake, Wasilla, AK

We arrived in Anchorage and found a RV Park within walking distance of downtown. So, we all headed downtown and went on seperate tours of downtown Anchorage. Patrick and I did a little exploring, only in Anchorage would some one hang their high water boots on the balcony of a nice hotel.

Around Anchorage

There was a little park near downtown, that Patrick and I checked out.

Resolution Park

While walking around Anchorage we ran into Nathan, Nickie & Luke. We decided to take the Ulu Factory Shuttle down to the river area. We met this sled dog puppy on the way, he was pretty cute. Of course I was convinced to buy an ulu at the factory, a rounded knife invented in Alaska.

Our Trip to the Ulu Factory

From the Ulu Factory we walked down the river area, where there was supposed to be tons of people fishing for salmon. We saw a few salmon, but not many people fishing.

The Pier - Anchorage

Here is the Ship Creek Campground we stayed at in Anchorage.

Ship Creek Landings RV Park

On Friday morning we got up early and went to the airport. Our flight didn't leave until 12:45, but the motorhome had to be returned by 10:30am, so we spent some quality time at the airport. The flight back wasn't full either, so each couple had their own set of three seats, and there was an extra seat in Luke's row as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alaska Day 7 - Denali National Park

Denali National Park is around 6 million acres and only one road runs 90 miles into the park to a town called Kantishna. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour, which ran 54 miles into the park. Below is a map of our route.

Bus Tour Route

Here is the bus that we took on the tour. At almost every stop the bus driver/tour guide would wash all of the windows so we could see out for about two minutes before they got dirty again. The road is gravel because of the permafrost it would be too costly to maintain the road.

Denali Bus Tour 1

We couldn't see Mt. McKinley because it was too foggy, but we did see snow along with a grizzly bear and her cub.

Grizzly Bear and Baby Cub

We were only 30 feet from the bears, luckily we were safely in the bus watching them.

Baby Cub

It was really kind of neat to see how untouched by man this area was. The park service really does a good job of making sure the area is preserved. There are only certain people who can drive personal vehicles on the road and the only way most of the general public can see Denali is by bus or hiking. The willow trees in the lower right hand corner are stripped because this is what the snowshoe hare ate all winter long.

Denali Bus Tour 2

After we got back from the eight hour bus tour, we went back to the entrance area of the park where they had a visitor center and some hiking trails. Here is a moose we saw on the side of the road.

Moose

Here are some pictures from our hike. The weather started to clear up a little, or enough that we could see some mountains in the distance.

Denali Hike

We started back towards Anchorage, the plan was to camp somewhere in between Denali and Anchorage. We decided on the Willow Creek Campground, but before that we stopped at the Mt. McKinley south viewing point and saw Mt. Foraker and maybe a glimpse of Mt. McKinley in the background.

Mt. Foraker

Here is what Mt. McKinley would look like on a clear day from the same spot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alaska Day 6 - Talkeetna & Cabin Nite Theater

Talkeetna wasn't far from our campground, and is the starting point for anyone who climbs Mt. McKinley, or Denali. Since it was raining our first stop was the Ranger Station where we watched a video on climbing the mountain. We learned all about climbing, it takes two weeks to climb the West Buttress and only two days to make the decent. The climbing season is very short, only from May to July. June is the ideal time, as May is usually still too cold and by July some of the areas that were easily passable have melted making the journey much harder. Here are some stats on the climbers.

Ranger Station

After the Ranger Station, we stopped at the Roadhouse for some sourdough bread, they are known for it in Alaska. It was decent, but nothing compared to San Fransisco sourdough bread. We also did a little driving tour of the historic areas of Talkeetna.

Roadhouse, Talkeetna

Next up was Denali. There were several stops on the way up that we supposed to be good viewing areas of Mt. McKinley. Since it was foggy and rainy we didn't see any mountains on the first attempt. Here is our view of Mt. McKinley.

Our View of Mt. McKinnley

After a couple more failed attempts to see the mountain, we ended up finding a RV Park right outside the Denali Park Entrance. There were tons of souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels near our RV Park, so we all went our seperate ways and went exploring. Patrick & I ended up finding the river they use for white water rafting. We also did a little souvenir shopping and Patrick found a moose hat.

Patrick & Sara in Denali

Nathan, Nickie & Luke also found the rafting river. It looks like they were finding plenty of ways to keep themselves entertained.

Nathan, Nickie & Luke in Denali

Our only planned event for the day was the Cabin Nite Dinner Theater. It was an all you can eat salmon and barbequed ribs dinner and a play about the Denali town Kantishna, the only inhabited area of Denali National Park. One of the most entertaining parts of dinner was when our waitress Fanny told us that if we wanted more food we all had to hold up our napkins together and yell, "Fanny, bring us more food." Well, she assigned our friend Greg below in the red plaid shirt and orange hat to be our leader, and boy did he lead. Once the salmon was barley gone he started yelling "Fanny, we need some more food" and she was standing right next to our table. Then she asked what we needed and he said "more salmon, ribs, corn, potatoes, and whatever else you got." He was quite entertaining.

Cabin Nite Dinner

Although Greg was entertaining, Luke's kiss from Kitty was even more entertaining. There was an annoucement before dinner saying that if you knew anyone who needed a kiss you just needed to wave a dollar over that person's head and Kitty would come over and help them out. Well, mom thought Luke needed a kiss, so here is the aftermath, including when Luke got mom back with her own dollar.

Luke's Big Kiss From Kitty

Here are some scenes from the play.

The Show

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alaska Day 5 - Girwood & Wasilla

Our plan for the day was to drive toward Denali and camp somewhere part way there. When we left Homer it was raining out, but we still wanted to check out a tram ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska in Girwood. Apparently, on a nice day you can see mountains & glaciers. Since it was rainy and foggy the day we were there we could barely see to the bottom of mountain where Hotel Alyeska was. Here we are on the tram.

Mt. Alyeska Tram Ride

After we ate our lunch that was included with our tram ride purchase, we checked out Seven Glaciers, a very nice mountain side restaurant. For some reason the doors were open and no one was there, so we took that opportunity to take pictures and explore most of the restaurant. Luke even played host for a couple minutes.

Glacier Seven Restaurant

After we left the Kenai peninsula, the weather started to clear up and by the time we arrived in Wasilla it was actually really nice out, probably 60 degrees. We stopped at the Iditarod Trail Headquarters Museum in Wasilla and watched a video on the races.

Iditarod

Here are the boys pretending to have their own sled dog team.

Iditarod Dog Team

From Wasilla we drove a little farther north and settled on the Montana Creek campground in Willow. This campground had some nearby hiking trails, so even though it was getting later it never gets dark in Alaska so we did a little hiking.

Montana Creek Campground

Here are Nathan, Nickie & Luke on their hike. Patrick & I were already back from ours, but my mom was freaking out that Nathan, Nickie & Luke had been raped and killed in the woods. Needless to say that didn't happen, but they did meet some people, fishing. I think these are their scared in the woods pictures. Also, I am pretty sure this was the only need for a flash outdoors in Alaska.

Nathan, Nickie & Luke's Hiking Adventure

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alaska Day 4 - Halibut Fishing

Again, we were up bright and early Sunday morning for our fishing adventure. We were scheduled to leave the harbor at 7am, so we arrived at the boat a little before 7am. Our fishing spot was an hour and half trip through Kachemak Bay to the Cook Inlet.

Here is our fishing gear. Halibut are bottom feeding fish so we had to use a 3 pound weight to get our line to the bottom of the ocean. Our line had herring on it as bait, Patrick also caught a cod that we used for bait.

Our Fishing Gear

Here are some pictures of Patrick and I reeling up our big catches. I was having more issues than most. Looking back, I am surprised that I didn't lose the $300 pole in the water.

Fishing

Dad, Nickie, Luke & Nathan reeling up their catch, or the 3 pound weight. Mom decided after reeling up the weight a couple times that she was done fishing.

Fishing

Here is everyone with one of their halibut. We each caught at least our limit and a couple more for Mom. Check out Nathan's baby fish in the bottom left hand corner. He was bound and determined to catch the biggest fish, but we were running out of time so he had to settle for the baby fish.

The Other Catches

Patrick & I and the halibut we caught.

Our Catch

Our deckhand David, who is from Eden Prairie and is a junior at Bemidji State, filleted our fish as we made the trip back to Homer.

Fish Fileting

It was crazy to watch the seagulls follow the boat all the way back to Homer. David would throw the fish carcasses off the back of the boat and the seagulls would be right there to feed off the carcass.

The Segulls after the fish carcus

Here is our deckhand David, our boat, and our captain Rick.

Our Boat & Crew

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Alaska Day 3 - Beluga Slough & Homer Spit

After the boat ride we were on a mission to get on the road. Patrick drove us toward Homer, our destination for Saturday. After driving for a couple hours and the sun wasn't setting, we ended up stopping in Cooper Landing looking for an RV Park. All the RV parks were full, so we ended up spending the night on the side of the road. Here we all are the next morning.

Cooper Landing

After some more driving we reached our destination: Homer, Alaska. Our first stop was the visitor center. It was raining out, but we decided to brave the weather and walk on the Beluga Slough Trail. Below are some of things we saw on the trail. Oh yeah, and this is where Nathan decided that it was a good idea to taste the seaweed he is holding. I guess he survived, so it must not be too bad.

Beluga Slough

After our visitor center adventure, we hit up Safeway again for some more chips and pop. We then found Heritage RV Park on Homer Spit. This was a welcome change from the previous nights accommodations, showers and all. Once we got to the campground everyone but Patrick and I went out exploring. Mom & Dad went on the $5 walking tour, while Nathan, Nickie & Luke went looking for a fishing charter for the next day. Patrick & I stayed back and watched Taken.

Later Nathan, Nickie and Luke came back to tell us about our plans for fishing the next day. Here are some pictures of the seagulls going for the fish carcases someone was throwing to them. The bald eagle wanted a piece of the action and swooped down the took the fish away from the seagulls.

Seagulls & an Bald Eagle

Here are some pictures from around the spit. There were lots of unique stores and restaurants along the spit.

Homer Spit

While Mom & Dad went to a play at the Pier One Theatre, the rest of us walked around looking for a place to eat dinner. We ended up eating at a Mexican place, Patrick and I shared halibut tacos, Nathan had salmon quesadillas, and both Nickie & Luke had fish and chips. On our quest to find food, Nathan, Nickie & Luke met Johnathon Hillstrand from Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. I didn't know who that was at the time, but have since watched a couple episodes.

Homer & Deadliest Catch Man

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alaska Day 2 - Exit Glacier & Kenai Fjords National Park

We were up bright and early with the 4am sunrise. It was light when we went to bed and light when we woke up. I am pretty sure I never saw darkness the whole time we were there, hence the pink eye mask that may appear in photos on a later date.

First up, the paved path to our campground said it was part of the Historic Iditarod Trail and the historic start was only a mile or so away. Patrick, Nathan, Nickie, Luke & I took the trek down the path and checked it out.

Historic Iditarod Trail

Next up, we all got in the RV and drove a couple miles north of Seward to Exit Glacier. We learned that the hike to the glacier was only a mile which was perfect since we already bought tickets for a 3:00pm boat ride. We also learned that the only way we would be able to touch the glacier would be to get wet. Luke was the only one who actually suceeding in not getting wet crossing the water.

Exit Glacier

Us at Exit Glacier

On the way back to Seward, we had our first animal sighting, a gimp moose. Good thing he moved so slowly, otherwise we wouldn't have a picture.

Moose

At 3 o'clock we were scheduled for a six hour boat ride just to see a glacier fall into the ocean and puffins. We saw the glacier fall, but no such luck on the puffins. Oh don't worry though, on our other eight hour boat ride we were fortunate enough to see the puffins. We also saw a bald eagle, sea otters, sea lions and two porpoises.

The Orca

The scenary on the way to the glacier.

Kenai Fjords National Park

All seven of us on the boat. Check out Nathan's picture of Luke & Patrick messing around on the boat. Don't worry they got scolded by the captain for the jumping, he even threatened to turn around if someone so much as cut a finger.

Us on the Boat Ride

And for the main attraction we saw pieces of the Aialik Glacier fall into the water.

Aialik Glacier
Our route on the boat ride, except we visited the Aialik Glacier and not the Holgate Glacier.

Our Route