Thursday, May 27, 2010

From Mountains to Sea

Well, this will be the last post from Alaska. We are sad and happy to say we will be starting our trip home tomorrow (Friday), although it will take us until Saturday to get home! But the days have been glorious and the weather fabulous. Even the locals say it shouldn't be this nice. Funny - we know all the locals because although it is only 60 degrees - they are dressed in shorts and tank tops!!! Cracks us up!

So we left good ole Girdwood and moved on down the road. We stopped off at a Ski Resort called Alyeska and rode the ski tram to the top. This resort has the longest double black diamond ski slope in all of North America - it was frightening how steep it was! We planned our travel days with nothing else planned so we could find lovely unexpected destinations. This was no exception. We saw a sign for Portage Glacier so we made a u-ey and off we went. There before us was this amazing white with blue tinged glacier and lake, with the lake having huge and tiny chunks of glacial ice. It was brrrrrr cold and absolutely georgeous! We explored until we couldn't feel our fingers anymore!

Once in Seward, we checked into our lovely room that had oak floors and ceiling with an amazing view and two comfy glider chairs at the front windows to sit and watch the view.
The next day we went Sea Kayaking. It was an amazing experience. The weather was beautiful and the water was like glass and on the way back when we were nice and tired, we had a tail wind instead of the head wind the weather man predicted - God is very good to us. We saw sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, eagles and a lonely jelly fish. Explored a bay called Thumb Cove and had lunch there sitting on the beach with our two (easy to look at) guides! After it was all said and done, we asked - so just how many miles do you think we paddled today? He replied - I'd say 11-12 miles. We about fell over, but our arms certainly confirmed that fact. We were surely happy we did not know how far we were going when we started!

Yesterday we did a Kenai Fjords Wildlife and Glacier Cruise and indeed we did see both. The highlights were seeing the Orca or Killer Whales surfacing and diving right next to our boat, the Humpback whales flipping thier tales out of the water and the Dall Porpoises flying through the water like they were on fire! The picture is of a few of the Orcas that we saw, and although it looks like we went to Sea World to take the picture, that really was the color of the ocean!
The Glacier we saw was one and a quarter miles across and it was calving - meaning it was shedding great big, huge chunks of ice that fall into the water and sound like a freight train or loud cracks of thunder.
Amazing! Then the final blessing was the fresh baked, still warm, chocolate chip cookie they served us on the way back into port! All in all it was an INCREDIBLE day!

Today, we did some shopping and after we finish here will hike to another Glacier called Exit Glacier where we will be so close we can reach out and touch it. Alaska days are amazing days and this trip has been one gift from God after another. We truly do walk in His favor and LIFE!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Moving on Down the Road

Day 2 in Denali began early with a bus trip into the park. We rode 3 hours in, about 56 miles, on a school bus. Along the way, we spotted some of the animals in our last "picture post". We were surprisingly close to dall sheep, tons of caribou, and a few grizzlies. We saw a mama bear with a very tiny cub, right on the road in front of us. We scared them into the woods when our bus roared around a bend - and there they were. The driver slammed on the brakes and we watched them scurry off into the trees. We also saw a moose from a distance, but weren't able to get any decent pictures of it through the brush. We're still hoping to see one...just not while we're hiking. Sherri and I did hop off the bus for a long hike. We saw some excellent vistas of mountains and tundra, but no wildlife. That evening, after dinner, we drove our car back into the park - cars are permitted the first 15 miles into the park, and we had heard that the best wildlife viewing is in the evening when the animals are stirring. We were rewarded with the treat of seeing two grizzlies heading back to their den for the night. They walked so near our car, that we got to see some fun moments. Along the way, they had to pass by a rest area where there were some benches, and the smaller bear - a three year old cub - was having a grand ole time "wrestling" with the bench. That is, until he realized that mama had moved on, and then he ran to catch up.

We left Denali on Saturday morning, heading south towards Girdwood. Girdwood is a small town just past Anchorage, about a 6 hour drive. Along the way, we stopped off at Eklutna Lake, this amazingly blue-green lake surrounded by white topped mountains. It took our breath away. We grabbed our blanket (the one we had to buy at the beginning of the trip to protect us from the nasty bed at our first hostel), some fruit, our peanut butter and bread and had ourselves a pleasant little picnic at the side of this fabulous lake. What a relaxing afternoon and an unexpected gift!

Our "home" in Girdwood is a nice little hostel with a view of Turnagain Arm, a cove surrounded guessed it, more snow-capped mountains. This morning, we hopped on some ATV's for a fun, wet, dirty ride through Chugach National Park, which borders Girdwood. It was such a blast...we kicked up dust, plowed through huge mud puddles, slid around on ice, bounced over rocks, and did 360's in a stream!! We are now sitting at a laundromat, so that we have clothes to wear tomorrow, because we were covered in mud!!! Just how we like it!!! :)

Tomorrow we hit the road again, heading on down to Seward, where we hope to see some eagles, whales and glaciers in the bay. And, hopefully, find a computer so that we can check in again! Until then!

Love ya, Amy and Sherri

Sheep, Caribou, and Bears, OH MY!!!

No, they are not quite as scary as the specimen in the back of the pickup truck eating an ice cream cone, but they can be intimidating in their own right. We saw all of these on our venture into Denali National Park.

Catching Up - With Pictures...

Just some pictures to illustrate our last post, since the internet was soooo slooow at that time. The first two pics are from our sitting log along the Talkeetna River, with Mt. McKinley in the background. The last two pics are from our hike around the icy lake to Cascade Falls.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Perfect Day! Well, More Than One!

Hi All!
So today is day 6 (Thursday for us) and we have traveled abut 400 miles so far! Incredible vistas that you wouldn't believe! And with almost 20 hours of daylight the days are pleasantly very long!

Talkeetna ended up redeeming itself very nicely! Once we got over the culture shock and decided to see the beauty of God's creation! Of course there was also the homemade ice cream and giant, yummy homemade cinnamon rolls! But our favorite was sitting down by the river on a huge driftwood log and watching God show off. They say only 30% of people who come here get to see the Great Mountain - Mt McKinley because of cloud cover. We got to see her in full view 2 days out of 3. Did we ever tell you how much favor we walk in! We can't even tell you all the times God has given us favor! (by the way, the warm and very sunny weather we have been having is an anomaly as well!) So anyway, the mountain is huge and snow covered and bathed in sunlight. That along with the river flowing in front of us and the Arctic birds divebombing the water for fish - it was a breathtaking vista! We sat for hours and stared. We also met some new friends. Chris, a really nice young man from Germany, and Dixie, our new friend from Homer who came up here to visit and never went home. That is very common here. Plus many others we have chatted with - people are VERY friendly here! We took this wonderful hike around a number of lakes, about 3.2 miles. No worries Mom, NO wildlife! The sky was blue, the water was so crystal clear and greenish in hue. Oh, we did see a couple of fish! Very nice hike. A good start for our legs!

The next day we left for Denali National Park, but along the way we stopped off at the State Park and hiked by another lake. THis one was vastly different - the ice was still on it, but all broken up into little pieces. The pieces run into one another when the wind blows and they sound like the most beautiful chimes you have ever heard. A symphony! Ooooo, along the way there was this really cool suspension bridge. Ya know, Amy's favorite kind that you get out into the middle of and jump and rock the thing! I let her go first (Sherri)! The end of our hike culminated in a water fall called Cascade Falls and that is a misnomer - it more shot across the rocks with a vengeance. We of course, had to climb up next to it. We have photos of course! Unfortunately, this computer can't keep up with my typing - and that is really slow - so no uploading of photos tonight. I have to say, I was a bit nervous at moments knowing there are bear and moose there with us, but we did exactly as told and made lots of noise and talked to each other and we have successfully seen NOTHING! BUT... on our drive we saw two Caribou lazily grazing on the side of the road. Although we left the tires on the road when Amy slammed on the brakes - my forehead print is on the winshield - only kidding!!!! I certainly would have done the same!

Our hostel in Denali is great, too! Very cute and quaint little cabin in the woods. And the best part - it is clean!!

Today was our most perfect day! We started out by sleeping in nice and late. Then had perfect, hot showers and went on our way. We had white water rafting today and we were excited. They literally stuffed us into these "dry" suits and off we went on to 38degree water! Thankfully we only got splashed! How do we describe the beauty - perfect azure blue skies with puffy white clouds, huge snow capped mountains all around us, and nothing but nature in sight. In many places there is still ice on the river and chunks of it floating with us. Our guide was wonderful as well. About two hours on the water and a few bumpy rapids - enought for fun, but no fear - it was like we said - perfect! Of course, we weren't done yet! SO we grabbed some grub and took our guide's advice - and rented two kayaks on a lake called lake Otto. Equally beautiful, we had the whole lake to ourselves and explored every inch of it. No ice on this one, but we did sing a round of Otto Titsling (for those of you who have seen Beaches) and scared the ducks away and had ourselves a great laugh! Now we just finished an awesome meal - and it is still light outside!!! Even though it is 10:50pm!

So we bid you good night and love you much!!!!
Looking forward to another perfect day tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Culture Shock

Day 4 of our trip. We left our romantic notions of what we expected Alaska to be like and traded it in for the reality of what Alaska really is. Amidst the amazing beauty and grandeur of the mountains lies a "third world" mentality in the homes and towns. Not at all what we were expecting to see. I think my minds eye pictured something more along the lines of Switzerland, with quaint villages and homes tucked in among the mountains and forests, all neat and tidy. This feels more "Appalachian" but on a much grander scale. However, aside from the culture shock, we are beginning to acclimate to our surroundings. We are acclimating to both the surroundings, as well as to the light and time difference, although I think it's been harder (at least for me, Amy) to adjust to the light and time. Sherri on the other hand is sleeping like a baby...

Yesterday, we drove from Anchorage to Talkeetna, and about halfway to Talkeetna we saw the most amazing mountain pop out of the trees on the road in front of us. After studying the map, we realized that it was the big one, Mt. McKinley. We had read on the internet that the mountain is most often veiled in clouds, and that it is a rare thing to actually see the mountain. I had asked God to let us see the mountain cloud-free, and sure enough our first sighting of it was indeed. Further down the road, right before we arrived in Talkeetna, we saw an amazing vista of Mt. McKinley again, with Mt. Foraker and Mt. Hunter right beside it. Right now, they are fully snow covered, but we learned that the snow will melt off up to about the top 500' of the mountain in the next few weeks.
We drove on in to Talkeetna, where the culture shock really set in for us. It is literally one street, and the only paved street after leaving the "highway"...and really, I am at a loss for words on how to describe that one street. For now, I'll just let that speak for itself. We drove out of "town," crossed the railroad tracks, and entered into the "suburbs," a few dirt roads where we found our hostel. Although clean and eclectic on the inside, when we pulled up to the little shack with the "hostel" sign in front of it, we hesitated to actually get out of our car and find out what we were getting ourselves into. We were relieved when we entered and found it to be clean and not a haven for chain-saw massacres.

Yesterday evening, we got on a ten-seater bush plane and took an AMAZING flight around Mt. McKinley and over thousands of jagged, snow streaked peaks. It was incredible. We flew over glaciers that curved around peaks, glaciers that we learned are around 3,000' deep and move about 3' in a day. The pilot landed us on one, Ruth Glacier, and we walked around for about a half hour. Just yards away were little tents huddled into the snow, base camp for some crazy Mt. McKinley climbers ready to embark on their ascent. Now, Sherri and I like to tent camp, and we aren't afraid of being a little cold, but even we thought that was a little insane.

Today we are going to venture into nature for a hike around a lake nearby. It looks like another wonderfully sunny, clear day out there, which is not what we were expecting from the weather reports...but God has a way of blessing our socks off when it comes to these things!

Bye for now. We'll catch up with you again soon.

Love, Amy and Sherri

Monday, May 17, 2010

Amy and Sherri's Alaskan Adventure

Hi Everyone,
Well, here we are in Anchorage! It is 10:30 at night for us and hopefully you are sleeping soundly as it is 2:30am for you! We got in yesterday and were amazed to see incredible, breathtaking mountain ranges right there at the airport! And we thought - and it is going to get better from here!!! We took a taxi to our Hostel and we found out quickly and sadly that Hosteling in the USA is not like Hosteling in Europe. Our room is sparse, which was true in Europe, but here in good ole Alaska our room was not so clean! Not so clean enough that we walked into town to a JCPenney's and bought a blanket and two pillow - tell you anything!!! The mattress is plastic covered with rips in it and it is much smaller than the so called box spring underneath it. But we were exhausted and we did manage to sleep and sleep in until 7:30 Alaska time, meaning 11:30 am your time! We really needed it. Thankful to say that the showers were clean and hot - ahhhhhh!!!!

Today we walked downtown, a couple of times! The first to go to a outdoor market selling art and food and Alaskan souveniers. I (Sherri) bought two amazing photos! Can't wait to hang them! We also bought sove very yummy over-priced fruit - strawberries the size of Alaska! Then we just roamed and shopped the tourist trap area! Cindy Helton, if you read this, the slogan around here is "Alaska, pissing off Texas since 1959". Hilarious!

It never rained even though it said everywhere that it was going to! We have thanked God for that over and over. It is chlly here, but really not bad. When the sun is out it is quite pleasant!

Tomorrow we are picking up our rental car and driving to Talkeetna and going for our Flightseeing Tour. Fun!

So, I dragged Amy down here and she is fading fast, so we are going to sign off for now! One final cool thing - it is nearly 11pm now and it is still light outside!

Love and miss you all!!!

Sherri and Amy, Alaskan Adventurers Extraordinaire! :-)