This week I took my one and only vacation for the 2011 Alaska season. I was lucky to get the days off and they were definitely well spent.
Monday we spent the entire day driving the Denali Highway. It’s a completely dirt road riddled with potholes and washboard areas. It was a beautiful drive but I was very happy once we hit pavement again in Paxson.
There were 11 of us on the coach, so we got 4 seats each, which was nice when it came time to stretch out and take a snooze (more than a snooze for me, I tend to fall asleep the instant I get on a bus).
We arrived at the lodge, took a quick tour, ate dinner at a table overlooking the vast Wrangell-St. Elias National Par, hung out in our room for a while, went for a walk in the dark (yes, it’s finally getting dark around here these days) and then headed to bed.
Tuesday we drove the 2 hours into Valdez and boarded the boat for our Prince William Sound glacier cruise. The weather was awful. It rained all day and the fog was thick. My pictures, as you will see, did not turn out very well. It also didn’t help that I had my camera on a funky setting all day long and didn’t realize!
As we boarded the boat I spotted another boat in the harbor with the name Kodiak emblazoned on the back. I knew right away it was the boat from one of my all time favorite TV shoes, Deadliest Catch. A fellow passenger overheard my excited squeals and confirmed I was right and that the boat was there to help in the salmon harvest that the area is famous for. Pretty cool if I do say so myself!
We also got a good look at the terminal point for the oil pipeline. The line starts way up north in Prudhoe Bay and ends in Valdez. Maybe it’s the nerd in me but I think the pipeline is pretty incredible and I was glad I got to see such an important part of it.
While we didn’t see any whales, we did see some amazing glaciers including the HUGE Columbia Glacier, which we got so close to I was a little scared! There was some minor calving but nothing too impressive. What really was incredible were the bright blue hues of the glacier and icebergs. The colors are truly unlike anything I have ever seen before. The hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the green cliffs into the ocean were also breathtaking. I am a bit of a waterfall fanatic so it was a great day indeed! Wildlife sightings on the trip included bald eagles, sea lions, sea otters, Dall porpoises and lots of birds.
The cruise lasted 7-hours and by the time it was over we were sufficiently frozen and ready to head back to the hotel. On the drive home we stopped at a few more waterfalls and another glacier.
That night I barely had time to eat a little dinner before I fell exhausted into my comfy bed.
Wednesday we were back on the road, this time the Glen Allen Highway, headed home to Denali. We arrived home about 8 pm and again, I pretty much ate dinner and went to sleep.
It was a great few days off spent with some great people and I am so glad that I decided to go. It was another great Alaskan experience that I know I will never forget.
(The internet tonight is painfully slow. I will try and upload pics tomorrow! So stay tuned!)