Tuesday, September 29, 2015

From Land to Sea

Hey peeps, thanks for joining us again.
This will be a relatively short post because today we are being transferred from Anchorage to Whittier where we embarked the beautiful Coral Princess in order to commence the 7 day sea portion of our Alaskan adventure.
On our route to Whittier we stopped by The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center herein referred to as the (AWCC).

AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center.
Does anyone know what extirpation means? I didn’t, and have since learned what it means by visiting the AWCC. If you didn’t know “Extirpation” means completely gone from a particular region—in other words, “locally extinct.”

After more than 100 years of extirpation throughout Alaska, wood bison have found their way back to the state! In collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, AWCC is working to reintroduce the wood bison back into the Alaska wild. In 2003, 13 wood bison were brought to AWCC from a disease-free herd in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Yay Canada!!!!
The goal is to release the AWCC herd back into the Alaska wild. Currently, AWCC is home to the only wood bison herd in the United States. The first wood bison calves born in the state of Alaska in over 100 years were born at AWCC in 2005. In 2008, AWCC received 53 calves from Canada and placed them with the existing AWCC herd. Since 2006, AWCC has seen the birth of multiple calves every spring.
We were lucky to be able to see some of those that will be released back into the wild as well as a few that will remain at the center for educational purposes. I believe about 130 have been released back into the wild since the onset of the program, here is a link in case you would like to read more about the final release.

Here a few more pictures of some of the residents…

Alaska’s growing season is about 100 days and studies have shown some interesting effects the midnight sun has on plants. Here are a few examples of what a vegetable garden yields during this short growing season…

The drive from Anchorage to Whittier had us travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America.

The one-lane tunnel is shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions, and it usually needs to be aired out in between trips (with jet turbine ventilation). The unique design enables a single lane of traffic to travel directly over the railroad track and automobiles and trains take turns using the tunnel. It’s actually a pretty cool experience driving through it too. We were sitting in the front seat of the bus and captured a small portion on video of us exiting the tunnel on the Whittier side. It is our intention to upload it or at least a link to it soon.
In the below picture you will see one of the entrances to the tunnel, we have just left a staging area.

And look what is waiting for us on the other side!
The next leg of our adventure begins, 7 days onboard the Coral Princess. Our next posts will be all about where we travelled and what we saw or did from this point on. We do hope you stay with us as we make our way to Vancouver.
Rick and Sandra :)

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, Talkeetna to Anchorage...

For many folks, a trip to Alaska isn’t complete without seeing Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), and with good reason. Denali is North America’s tallest peak (20,320 feet), and beautiful.

From afar, Denali is massive. You can see that for yourself in the picture that we posted in our previous “Denali National Park and Preserve” post. We weren’t far from Fairbanks when we were given what we now know was the only opportunity to see it let alone photograph it.

Sadly the entire next day and evening was raining and very foggy. The McKinley Princess Lodge's location provides for that up close and personal view of Denali. One would think it would be easy to see it whilst there, but actually seeing the mountain can still be difficult; Denali is so massive it makes its own weather apparently, and it’s completely shrouded by clouds roughly 1/3 of the time.

Clouds, storms, fog, and sunny high-pressure systems all battle it out around Denali; the peak can actually appear at any moment and be gone in the blink of an eye. You might see it from a river rafting trip outside Talkeetna, driving the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks, as we were fortunate to do or from the Alaska Railroad tour. Unfortunately it didn’t do that for us and therefore don’t have any close up pictures to share with you.
Our travel companion Wendy, had the zoom lens on her camera the day we stopped on the highway. She has kindly allowed us to post a couple of her pictures. Bare in mind we were about 50 miles from Denali when these shots were taken so it will give you some idea of just how massive Denali truly is. The first photo is Denali or the high one, and the second photo is other mountains that form part of the Alaskan Range.

I will talk a little bit about the lodge itself and share a few pictures. The lodge is located approximately one hour from the town of Talkeetna, which is nestled at the base of Denali and is where we will be catching our train to Anchorage.You may be tucked away in the wilderness, but you won’t lack for anything that’s for sure.
 Below is a sweet spot provided for guests to capture the best view of Denali when it does make an appearance.  This was one of those fleeting moments that I previously mentioned when the skies tried to clear; in our case it wasn't enough for that photo op we were all waiting for.
The sign is strategically placed that if you stand facing it Denali is perfectly centred within the two posts along with a well positioned advertising opportunity!
Here is Wendy hamming it up for the camera outside our rooms.
Okay, Sandra getting in on the action too…

Okay enough silliness; let’s move on to our trip from Talkeetna to Anchorage via The Alaskan Railroad…

I’d like to point something out before we go any further. A little tidbit of information that I personally think is pretty cool. As we stood watching our train pull into the station I immediately looked at Rick and asked him if he built this particular locomotive. He in turn said, “I sure did”!

I can’t begin to describe how it felt to know my husband helped build the engine that would ultimately transport us from Talkeetna to Anchorage Alaska. How cool is that?

All aboard!!!

Traveling on the Alaskan Railroad is a fantastic way to see Alaska. Beautiful domed cars with lots of room to walk around, excellent food and drinks, wonderful friendly service, and amazing views. The 2 hour trip was narrated from start to finish, and the train would slow down for any scenic or wildlife photo ops, and with fall at its peak the vistas were extra amazing.
If you are lucky you will see Denali from many different viewpoints, but of course today was another day where we couldn’t capture it.  


Rick had the opportunity to chat with one of the two engineers on board and he took a moment to have his photo taken with him once we arrived in Anchorage.


After that we were bused to the Captain Cook Hotel for an evening of leisure. Check out the awesome hotel room we lucked out with. Isn't it suite? Pun intended!

The next morning we will be heading to Whittier to embark on the sea portion of our trip. We will also be stopping off at a wildlife refuge along the way, so I hope you continue to tag along with us. Thanks for stopping by. 

Rick and Sandra :)