Alaska, The Last Frontier   4 comments


Alaska, The Last Frontier

Jim & Marilyn and Don & Wanda

Aug. 20 – Sept. 4, 2010

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“From towering mountains to gleaming ice-blue glaciers, Alaska’s natural wonders are on a scale unmatched in North America.”  This was our 24th trip with Grand Circle Travel/Overseas Adventure Travel and we found this quotation from their brochure to certainly be true.  Jim & I and our friends Don & Wanda discovered that the itinerary provided was certainly top-notch, allowing us to see and experience a great deal of Alaska on our 16 day adventure.




We spent the first two days in Vancouver British Columbia, then boarded the MS Statendam and headed North to Alaska.  Our ports of call were:  Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Seward and also Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord.  We disembarked in Seward and did a land tour that included Kenai Fjords National Park, McKinley Explorer train ride, Denali National Park Tundra Wilderness tour, Fairbanks Riverboat and a Gold Dredge tour.








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Vancouver British Columbia, Canada:  From our hotel balcony we enjoyed the skyline of the city.  We visited the ceremonial area of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Stanley Park & Totem Poles, Granville Island, Gastown, etc.



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Ketchikan, Alaska:  Our first port of call has a population of approximately 7,000 and is the 5th most populous city in the state.  Our first venture in Ketchikan was to watch a lumberjack show which was enjoyable.  Then the four of us boarded a city bus and rode about ten miles out of town along the coast to Totem Pole State Park to see (you guessed it) totem poles.  Back in town we strolled around historic Creek Street which is the old original town which it is built on the stream and up on stilts.   It is a very pretty area.  It was salmon spawning time, so we got to see hundreds of big salmon.  (Salmon are born in fresh water, then they migrate to the ocean to live in salt water, then they migrate thousands of miles back to their natal stream to spawn, turn a reddish color and die.)


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Juneau, Alaska:  The capital of Alaska was our 2nd port of call.  It has a population of approximately 31,000 and the land area is larger than that of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  We got off the ship in Juneau and went on a twelve mile drive to Mendenhall Glacier while admiring beautiful scenery all along the way.  It was very impressive seeing our very first glacier and it was imposing to get to walk up within a half mile of it.  Back in Juneau we took a tram ride to the top of Mt. Roberts, where we could certainly overlook the town and enjoyed walking on some trails on top of the mountain.   Not to be missed in town was the famous Red Dog Saloon, and another old saloon that is on the national historic register.


View Skagway 

Skagway, Alaska:  Our next port of call was the gateway to the Klondike, and it began as a boomtown in 1896, when gold was discovered in a tributary of the Klondike River.  Today the town only has a population of approximately 850.  I really liked the little town with all the board walks.  A visit to Skagway wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the historic Red Onion Saloon.  Built in 1897, it operated as one of the finest bordellos in Skagway.

View Train 

White Pass Summit Excursion by Vintage Train from Skagway: The train was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and this narrow gage railroad was a civil engineering landmark.  They literally blast into the coastal mountains in 26 months.  The WR&YR climbs almost 3,000 feet in just 20 miles, features cliff-hanging turns, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles.  The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.  Along the route we actually got to see the original gold rush trail (top small photo on the left.)  A beautiful, beautiful trip!


View Glacier Bay 

Glacier Bay National Park:  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it can only be reached by boat or plane.  It encompasses over 5,000 square miles.  We saw dramatic ice formations that stretched from snow capped mountains above to the crystal waters below.  One word…..phenomenal!




View College Fjord 

College Fjord in Prince William Sound:  The Fjord contains five tidewater glaciers, five large valley glaciers, and dozens of smaller glaciers.  Most are named after East Coast Colleges.  This one is the Johns Hopkins Glacier.


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Kenai Fjords National Park: We disembarked our ship in Seward and began the land portion of our tour.  On that beautiful sunny day we took a small boat for a six hour cruise in this fabulous park that includes over 900 square miles of wilderness.  We got up close to the Ailiak Glacier and watched and listened to it calving, which sounded like thunder.  In addition to the lovely scenery we saw bald eagles, puffins, humpback whales and sea lions.


Seward Alaska:  Our final port of call.  When American explorers and prospectors arrived in the north, they quickly learned from native Alaskans that sled dog teams were the only way to reliably move goods and people across the frozen landscape.  Thus, the “Seward to Nome trail” as the Iditarod was originally called, was first mapped and marked in 1908 at this very spot were Don is standing.  Seward is a small town with a population of approximately 2,800 people.  We walked all around the little town, and Wanda & I had time to shop while the guys sat at the welcome sign.  Of course there was certainly time for lunch at a Rodehouse, after we got the guys away from their comfortable resting spot.


View McKinley Explorer 

McKinley Explorer:  We rode in this luxurious glass domed rail car from Anchorage to Denali National Park and again from Denali National Park to Fairbanks.  The views were spectacular.



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Denali National Park:  The park covers more than six million acres of diverse terrain and includes North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley.  The eight hour Tundra Wilderness Tour by a park service bus was splendid.  The scenery and some of the roads were breathtaking and we also saw bear, moose, Dahl sheep, wolf and caribou.  We were surprised to learn that park rangers with dog sleds patrol the park all winter.  It was a perfect time to drive in the park because the autumn colors were magnificent.  As we were exiting the park we saw a glorious rainbow!



View Fairbanks 

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Fairbanks: We went to the old El Dorado gold mine area and learned all about panning for gold.  I’ve always heard about the Alaskan Pipe line and now I’ve seen it.  Next was Gold Dredge #8, a National Historic District which was described as a floating work horse or mechanical gold pan.  It extracted millions of ounces of gold from the frozen Alaskan ground.  Later, we boarded a sternwheeler riverboat, saw Susan Butcher’s home and sled dog kennels and went then went to an Athabasca village to see how the natives once lived.  A fun and informative day.


Sure was a fun trip to Alaska!!


Posted September 28, 2010 by marilynfarmer in Travel

4 responses to “Alaska, The Last Frontier

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  1. Those are some beautiful Alaskan photos you got there. Looks like a fantastic trip!

  2. High quality post which has so much info about Alaska. Thank You.

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