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We retired at the end of August 2014. Alaska has always been one of my bucket list trips. Karen & I are combining a 7 day Alaska Cruise, a 6 day packaged land tour and 10 days traveling independently into our Alaska adventure. We fly from Cleveland, Ohio to Seattle on June 12 and board the Star Princess in Vancouver on June 13. Our "Off the Beaten Path" land tour (Princess Tour T5AKA6) begins in Whittier on June 20. Our independent travel begins June 26 in Anchorage. On July 6 we fly from Anchorage to Seattle and return to Cleveland on July 7.
Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.
A mid morning flight got us into Seattle around 4:30 PM. After picking up our rental car, we drove to a Hampton Inn in Surrey, British Columbia.
We drove from Surrey, BC to the Vancouver airport and turned in our rental car. Then we took a shuttle to Canada Place and boarded the Star Princess for the first portion of our adventure.
Great show. Brought back memories of our visits to Sea World Ohio in the 70's & 80's.
The park is. very interesting and in a beautiful location.
Nice ride to 1800 feet above Juneau. Great view of the entire area.
We visited Mendenhall Glacier and walked to Nugget Falls. This is a beautiful area.
Wonderful tour with Allen Marine. We saw an eagle near Portland Island, a young humpback whale and then a pod of about a dozen humpbacks in Stephens Passage. While watching the pod, they surfaced to eat in what the guide called "bubble net feeding". Seeing all the whales surface at once was an awesome sight.
Took the ferry from Skagway to Haines. Then we took the Alaska Wilderness River Adventure Tour. It was a great boat trip through the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. We saw Eagles, a mama bear with 2 cubs, a moose and miles of beautiful scenery.
The Star Princess cruised Glacier Bay from approximately 7am to 4 PM. It was a great experience with wonderful scenery and was narrated by Park Rangers. Additionally, the rangers presented about an hour long seminar on the park.
The Star Princess cruised north through the Gulf of Alaska to College Fjord. We viewed the glaciers for about 2 hours. Then we sailed to Whittier, where our cruise will end tomorrow morning.
We disembarked the Star Princess this morning. We boarded the Fairweather Express catamaran and sailed to Valdez. We saw whales, Stellar Seals, and ocean otters in route. We ate lunch at The Fat Mermaid (excellent) and then boarded a bus to the Copper Center Princess Lodge. The lodge holds a wonderful flag retirement each evening.
We took the Kennicott Explorer tour from the Princess Copper River Lodge. We had a great lunch at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. We took the Alpine Guides walking tour of the Kennicott Mill, which was extremely interesting.
We participated in the Black Diamond Covered Wagon Ride & Dinner, which is located in Healy. Sam & Lydia did a great job as driver & guide. The dinner was delicious, especially the salmon, corn on the cob and coleslaw.
Princess shuttled us by bus from Copper Center to Denali. We took the Richardson Highway north and then traveled west on the Denali Highway. We had a great lunch in route at the Maclaren River Lodge.
We took the Kantishna Experience bus tour into Denali NP. Sheryl was a great driver and guide for the 12 hour tour. We were lucky enough to see wolves, caribou, moose, bear, Dall sheep and a Gyr falcon.
Today we visited Denali NP. Nothing I can write can describe the spectacular views and wildlife.
We took a 2 hour float trip with the Talkeetna River Guides on the Talkeetna River. Steve was a great guide. He handled the raft well and was very entertaining.
Today we were transported by bus from the Denali to the McKinley Princess Lodge.
This morning Princess transferred us from their McKinley Lodge to Talkeetna. We boarded the Alaska Railroad for Anchorage. This is the final leg of our Princess Cruise/Tour. Tomorrow we start our personal 10 day adventure.
About 4 miles outside of Seward, we took the turn off to Exit Glacier. After talking with a Ranger in the Visitor Center, we walked the 1.3 mile trail to the side of the glacier. We were able to get within a hundred yards or so of the glacier. Then we completed the drive to Seward. After checking into our hotel, we walked the Gold Rush Bistro. We had their Apple-Berry-Rhubarb Pie Ala-Mode. It was delicious!
We stopped at Moose Pass and had a wonderful meal at Trail Lake Lodge. As we continued toward Seward we came across a beautiful lily pond.
Today we drove from Anchorage to Seward. We stopped at a couple of view points along the Turnagain Arm in hopes of seeing the Bore Tide. However, the conditions were not correct. Our next stop was the AWCC . The was a nice area to view animals in various stages of rehabilitation.
Today we drove from Seward to Soldotna. We stopped at Kenai Lake on the Seward Highway. There was a little rain coming down. However, it was still a great view.
After passing Cooper Landing on the Sterling Highway, we turned onto the Skilak Lake Road. We stopped at the Hidden Creek Overlook for a good view of Skilak Lake.
We also stopped at Lower Ohmer Lake on the Skilak Lake Road. This is a very quiet place to spend some time. After this stop we were forced to turn around and return to the Sterling Highway to proceed to Soldotna. The balance of Skilak Lake road was closed.
Alaska Homestead Lodge uses Natron Air to get guests to their facility. We met Tim, our pilot, about 8:30 am. The 30 minute flight left on time at 9:00 am. It was a smooth flight and an new experience to land on a beach. Tim returned to fly us back to Soldotna at 5:00 PM.
Don, our guide for the day, met us on the beach as soon as our plane landed. He said there were bears digging for clams down the beach. So, we jumped in the ATV trailer and off we went. We saw two bears on the beach, before we headed to the lodge to be fitted for waterproof boots.
After lunch we returned to Silver Salmon Creek and took a short walk. As we were leaving we crossed paths with a park ranger and were able to get a NP stamp for our NP Passport. Then we drove down the beach to the Johnson River. We saw some seals and an eagle on an island in the delta. We headed back to the lodge On a trail away from the beach. We again encountered the mama bear & 2 cubs. However, this time there was a male bear nearby, which kept mama on the lookout for where he was at all times. After watching for a while, we headed back to the lodge and then the beach. Tim from Natron Air picked us up at 5:00 PM for our return to Soldotna.
After being fitted for waterproof boots, we headed out in search of bears. We had a great morning with several sightings. The highlight was when we came upon a mama and 2 cubs. We watch for a while and then headed to the lodge for lunch. We had wonderful homemade chili, cornbread and chocolate chip cookies.
We started the day driving to Homer. We went to the end of the "spit". While leaving the "spit", Karen spotted an eagle on a Tsunami warning system pole. About halfway back to Soldotna, we saw several groups of eagle soaring. There was a group of 4, which seemed to be flying the exact pattern together. From Soldotna, we drove to Anchorage.
We ate dinner at the Tap Root in Anchorage prior to watching the Whale Fat Follies in the same venue. Mr. Whitekeys has written a very funny musical parody of Alaska's good, bad and weird. We had a great meal and a fun time.
We rode the Alyeska Tram to 2,000 feet above the resort. Clouds were rolling in and out. But we still had great views of the area, including Turnagain Arm.
We drove to Portage Glacier and toured the visitors center. Since it was raining heavily, we didn't take the boat tour to the face of the glacier.
On our return to Anchorage, we stopped at mile 92.5 on the Seward Highway. We witnessed a 3 star Bore Tide in the Turnagain Arm. There were 4 people surfing the tide as it came in. It was quite a site.
We drove the Glenn Highway from Anchorage to Glennallen and turned South to Copper Center. After leaving Anchorage, we took the Old Glenn Highway to see the sights and avoid traffic. We mad a lot of stops. The trip took us 7 hours. The highlight of the drive was the Matanuska Glacier. We man many stops between mile 93 & 108, including the State Recreation Site at mile 101. Here we walked the 1 mile loop trail to get unobstructed views of the glacier.
Today we drove from Copper Center to Fairbanks. It was raining a lot of the way. So, between the rain, clouds and smoke from the fires near Delta Junction, we didn't see much scenery. The Summit Lake area was nice. We went to the Alaska Salmon Bake in Pioneer Park for dinner. Then we walked to the Palace Theater (also in Pioneer Park) to see the Golden Heart Revue. It is a history of Fairbanks in song, dance, stories and skits.
We started the day with a tour on the Riverboat Discovery. I had some doubts when I booked this, since it seemed to be included in all land tours passing through Fairbanks. However, it was a good time and very informative. We also ate the family style lunch in their facility after the tour, which was very good too. Then we drove to Denali NP and began with the Visitors Center, which we were unable to visit while on the Princess tour.
We spent the entire day in Denali. We started with a Ranger program on the history of the park. We viewed a film in the Murie Science Center on the Aurora Borealis. We watched the sled dog demonstration at the park kennels. We finished the day with a drive to the Savage River. This included walking the Mountain Vista & Savage River Loop trails. It was a great day.
The final leg of our Alaska Adventure was the drive to Anchorage from Denali NP. When we reached the Denali North Viewpoint the top of Denali was visible. In our previous days at either the Princess McKinley Lodge or in Denali NP. We had not had a view of the mountain. So, it was a treat to get this view. As we traveled further south, Denali was shrouded in clouds at all other viewpoints.
Today we flew from Anchorage to Seattle. The photo is of Karen & me at the North Denali Viewpoint yesterday.
Today we flew from Seattle to Cleveland and arrived home late in the evening.