We Are Headed North (2017) 7/9/17

Header image courtesy of Jill Sawatzki:  Huge crowds arrived on Mackinac for the 4th of July.  This pic is from the annual Stone Skipping Tournament at Windermere Pointe Beach, next to Hotel Iroquois.

Hi Friends!

Hopefully, a week from today we will be loading our baggage on a Shepler ferry and crossing the Straits of Mackinac to our favorite island!  It’s still up in the air whether we’re leaving on Monday or Tuesday – everything depends on how much we get done today. Ted is already fussing about the number of bags I need (because he has to somehow work out the logistics of loading them into the back of the truck), but I’m sure he will get it all packed in – just like he does every year!

We spent the 4th of July with great Sunset Inlet friends at a neighborhood cookout at Jen and Ernie’s. Then we all crossed the road to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Some of our neighbors brought sparklers, so we had “pre-fireworks” fireworks!

The “show”!

The rest of the week was spent tying up all those loose ends you have to take care of if you’re leaving home for a few months.  Too quickly it was time for Blake to fly back to Colorado.

Blake will be leaving to go overseas in mid-August, but we won’t see him again until next summer when he comes home for a few weeks.  Let me restate that.  We won’t see him until next summer UNLESS I decide to be brave and go visit him.  And yes, I’m thinking about it!

So hard to say goodbye on Friday, but I know he will be doing good work where he’s going.  And I know our Father will be taking care of him.

Enjoying our morning coffee surrounded by a lot of our deck furniture. Everything outside has to come inside when you leave the coast of Florida. You just never know when one of those pesky hurricanes will decide to show up uninvited.

Bodie and Maddie already know something is up.  As soon as we started pulling out suitcases they went on high alert.  This will be an interesting adventure with Bodie, as we have no idea how he’ll be on a long trip.  Bear NEVER enjoyed traveling and would stand between the two front seats the entire 1200 miles.  We’re praying Bodie will be a less anxious traveler.

We were worried about having to help Bodie into the truck until yesterday.  He jumps easily into my SUV, but the seats of Ted’s truck are much higher, and he refused to jump in.  Until . . . . . I used cheese as a lure.  Bam!  He was in that truck so fast he was a blur.  Good boy, Bodie!

We have a full week ahead.  We’re stopping on Wednesday to meet Ted’s sisters, Deb and Sher, in Hudsonville, MI.  After that we’ll be on our way to Spring Lake, MI and four nights with cousins Dave and Di.  On Saturday there’s a family reunion at cousins Marv and Ruthie’s place in Marne, MI.  It’s going to be quite a wonderful week, filled with new family we’ve been so blessed to have found.

Then on Sunday morning, July 16, we’ll be leaving for Mackinac . . . . .

Our home-away-from-home for the next three months. We have the bottom unit on the right corner – right next to Grand Hotel’s turn-out corral for their Hackney horses.  Can’t wait to see those beauties running up and down the fence again.  The landscaping is in, and the condos look absolutely gorgeous. We’re hoping to get there in time for a condo party late that afternoon. See y’all soon, neighbors!

As soon as we’re on the island and I get everything up and running, I’ll report in on the blog.  Until then, you can always follow us on Facebook. I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of posting as we make our way to Mackinac!

Please offer up a safe travel pray for our journey, and I’ll talk to y’all soon!

God bless.

The Beach, the Island . . . . and Places Far Away 7/2/17

Hi Everyone, and a huge Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

We’re nine days away from leaving for Michigan, with an arrival date on Mackinac penciled in on or about July 16.  Once we reach Michigan, we’ll be visiting family along the way, and our gang will be spending a few nights with cousins Dave and Diane Bennick near Grand Haven.. There’s also a family reunion where we’ll get to spend more time with cousins who visited us on the island last summer AND meet relatives we have yet to see face to face.  Dave assures us that Bodie and Maddie are welcome and that there are four Golden Retrievers in their neighborhood for Bodie to play with.  LOL – this should be very interesting!

Bodie says he sincerely hopes everyone has a soft spot in their hearts for teenage goofballs who always seem to find a way to get into trouble – even when they’re not trying.


Bruce LaPine shared this and the next two photos toward the end of Lilac Festival week. A Shelper’s boat rounds the breakwall, framed by lighthouses and white lilac blossoms.

The flower beds outside Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor at Grand Hotel are flourishing!

More beautiful lilacs – overhanging a white picket fence and framing the Mackinac Bridge.

This is soooo cool . . . .

In honor of the 130th anniversary of Grand Hotel, David Lorch, PhD, LEGO designer, and engineer, created a 9 ft. replica of Grand Hotel made entirely out of LEGOS.

The details are impeccable and include people, horses, a Grand omnibus . . .

. . . . even the chess set on one end of the front porch and pots of geraniums!

I can’t wait to tell you about this . . . . . .

Mother and daughter team, Barbara Toms and Marcia Dunnigan (on the right), have joined together with artist Sharon Griffes Tarr (far left) to create the Mackinac Island Cottage Cookbook.  These three ladies held a book signing at the Island Bookstore last week.

The book is a compilation of Barbara and Marcia’s tried and true personal recipes. Their cottage (shown above on the book cover) is always filled with warmth and laughter, and these are two of my favorite “women of Mackinac”.  That front porch has been the scene of many an island party, and these ladies know exactly how to make everyone feel welcome.

Sharon’s illustrations of island locations are beautiful and add even more fun and enjoyment to the book’s charm.  The Island Bookstore will carry the books, but if you don’t have a trip planned, Jill says just give the store a call, and they will be glad to ship it out.  She has one tucked away for me already, and I am excited to get my hands on it in a couple of weeks!


We’ve had such a great week at the beach.  Jason and Blake flew in on Wednesday, and on Wednesday night Julie, Jordan and Matthew joined us for grilled burgers.

It’s so hard to get everyone together in one place at one time!  We hated that Matt was out of town and couldn’t join us, and Jen and Alex couldn’t come because Alex had a swim meet.

Jason flew back to Atlanta on Friday, and Blake will be with us until this Friday when he’ll return to Colorado.  In mid-August Blake will return to Ankara, Turkey for a two-year commitment teaching English at a local university there.  He is in the process of raising support.  Please keep Blake in your prayers for his safety and for his purpose there.  There is a need in that country, and work there can impact the regions surrounding it.

Please remember me too in your prayers during this time. This is hard.


Ted, Jason, Blake and I were at Turtle Shack Thursday night, and we ate outside. This huge crab sauntered across the sidewalk from behind the building, and when we got up to take a pic, he scooted behind the tire of one of the cars nearby. He sat there until we finished eating and was still there when we left. Biggest crab we’ve seen down here so far.  I guess you can grow that big when you’re wise enough not to cross busy highways during dinner  hour.


On my way to work last week this lone cloud was hovering over the ocean. I pulled over to get this pic ’cause I thought it was kind of spectacular.

Talk about spectacular! Sunset from our deck last night. I don’t usually like iPhone photos of sunsets because they tend to wash out the colors. But this one was perfect.

One more spectacular shot.  Blake took this panorama as he was walking the beach last night at sunset!


Those of you who follow this blog often read comments by “Jason-the other one”.  Jason has read the blog for many years, drawn to it because of his love of the island.  Jason served in Afghanistan until 2010 with Ben, his military service dog and partner.  Ben returned to the states a month ahead of Jason, then went home to meet Jason’s wife and parents (Jason had applied to adopt Ben when he knew the dog was being retired).  Jason returned overseas, and Ben spent the rest of his retirement with Jason’s family.  Jason would see him when he’d come home on vacations over the years.

Ben crossed the Rainbow Bridge last week. Jason writes, “I’m writing to let you know my beloved partner Ben crossed oer the Rainbow Bridge last Wednesday. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we deal with his passing. If not for him I wouldn’t be here today. He saved many lives, allowing countless service members to come home safely to their loved ones. He served our country with honor and had a very blessed retirement. He passed away at 14 years of age. Even at 14, he loved to play and rough house. He was found at home asleep on his bed. We guess it was just his time.”  The photo above is from Ben’s retirement ceremony in 2010.  His service years were March 2004-June 2010.  His last patrol in Afghanistan was June 5, 2010.

Rest in Peace, brave Ben, and thank you for your service.

God bless.





Friends – Part II (You Can Go Home Again) 6/29/17

My trip back to Georgia this past weekend was a mix of nostalgia and happiness, all rolled into a ball of emotions that at times made me teary-eyed, then rolled over and made me laugh out loud.

A few miles past the Georgia line I was already surrounded by trees that were green from the ground all the way up to their tip-top branches.  Instead of palm, I was passing pine, oak, and pecan trees, and they were anchored in miles of green grass.  I started grinning about there.

My first stop was Sylvester, my home town (I was born in Albany , but Sylvester was where I grew up and went to school from third grade through high school).  I drove out to the cemetery and visited mama and daddy, sheddng tears and talking to them for a while.  Yes, I know they aren’t there, and I know they’re busy enjoying Heaven.  But it made me feel as though we’d touched base anyway.  There’s a peace in that place, and I was the only one out there at that particular time.  It was a good visit.

I had called Wanda, a first cousin, on my way into town.  She wasn’t home, but I left a message, and just as I was about to leave Sylvester, she called back.  I swung by her house and stayed for a good hour, catching up on all the Sumner family news.

I stayed with Dawn and Stevie both Friday and Saturday nights, driving to see Helen during the day on Saturday.

At the ri’vah, a lot of transportation is done by golf cart. While we waited for Stevie to get home from work, Dawn and I headed for Booger Bottom, the local hangout . . .

. . . .where things had not changed one bit. There was a large group hanging out on the deck . . .

. . . and a table full of girlfriends on the inside!

Crossing Lake Blackshear at sunset. After Stevie got home we headed to Pat’s Camp and the best catfish on the river.

Saturday night, after I got back from Helen’s, Stevie grilled ribs, and I stuffed myself silly. Then we boarded the golf cart again and rode up and down the street, stopping and visiting as we went.  That’s just the way it’s done at the ri’vah, and I have sure missed it.  Soooo good to see everyone – love y’all!

We all have those friends who, even though we don’t talk to them often – and see them even less than that – we know they’re there for us. And vice versa. Dawn is one of those friends. Even though she’s almost 15 years younger than I am, we’re like two peas in a pod – like the same things, don’t like the same things. We get each other. Maybe it’s because she’s from Sylvester too! Love you, Dawnie!

I left their house Sunday morning and instead of turning left on Hwy. 280, I went straight across to Flintside Drive, where Ted and I lived for so long.  I drove down that road that wanders the curves of the Flint River for almost five miles, every mile making my heart hurt a little more.  But, when I slowly drove by our place, it didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would.  I loved that house.  It was home for a lot of years.  But as I turned around at the end of the street, and started back out to the highway, I realized it was the people and the ri’vah itself I miss so much – not the house.  Ted and I have been married 29 years, and we lived at the ri’vah almost 20 of those years.  It was a big part of our lives together.  I’ve missed it.

I connected back to I-75 and drove toward Florida, stopping at the Florida Welcome Center just over the Florida-Georgia line.

As I got out of the car and looked around the parking area, there were cars from as many states as there were parking spots.  A line of folks were waiting to get a photo snapped of themselves standing under the new “Welcome to Florida” sign. I looked around and took in the newly planted palm trees, seeing them through all these visitors’ eyes – so different from Georgia and just about every other state in the U.S.  I could see their appeal.

I smiled and walked inside for my free sample of orange juice.  Then I was back on my way further south.

Even though Florida is now where I live, and Mackinac Island has my heart, Georgia will forever be where I come from.  I love its red clay and pine trees, its peanut and cotton and tobacco fields, its slow talking Southern drawl. I was born in Georgia, and it’s where my children were born. It’s where my mama and daddy are buried, and it’s where my relatives and many wonderful friends still live.

I loved going home again.

God bless.




Friends – Part I 6/26/17

Sometimes you just have to pack a bag, get in your car, and go on a road trip by yourself.

I did that this weekend.

Ted babysat the dogs, and I headed for Georgia.  My original intent was to visit my very best friend in all the world – Helen McCorvey – and her husband Paul.  I did that, but I also got to spend time with cousin Wanda in Sylvester, spend two nights with wonderful friends Dawn and her husband Stevie – AND got to see tons of friends at the ri’vah (where we lived for many years before we moved to Florida).  It was a very special few days, and I arrived home Sunday afternoon with my heart overflowing with the joy of friendships that never change – regardless of how much time has passed since we’ve even been in the same state.

Helen was my Junior year English teacher at Worth County High School in Sylvester GA.  Paul taught me World History.  Neither had been long out of college.  It was Paul’s fourth year teaching and Helen’s second.  Paul made history as exciting as it could be for this girl who hates history, but the time I spent in Helen’s class changed my life forever.  She taught words and language and expression with a passion I’d never heard before.  She opened the world of writing to me and planted the seed that took years to germinate into a blog – but germinate it did, and I have Helen to thank for that.

But that’s not where the story ends.  In the late 80’s I was a single mom working in a bank when Helen was named Public Information Director for the Dougherty County School System in Albany GA.  I heard she was looking for a secretary and called her, even though we hadn’t spoken in almost 20 years.  I told her who I was, said I’d heard she needed a secretary and that I was interested in the job.  She said, “Can you type?”  I said, “Yes, I can.”  She said, “You’re hired.”

And so a relationship, which began in a high school English class, has now spanned over 50 years.  I worked for Helen until she retired, and what I learned from her over those years qualified me to take not her place (nobody could) – but her position in the school system, where I worked until my own retirement.

Working for Helen was like being in her class every day of the year.  She taught me more than I could have ever learned from anyone else (the mechanics of publications, writing, design and marketing), but instead of giving me grades on a report card, she gave me her friendship.  Over the years Ted and I, she and Paul, and another couple went on annual “after-Christmas” trips to the beach together.  We exchange gifts and cards on important occasions, and we love each other across the miles that separate us.

Helen hails from Charleston and is the consummate genteel Southern lady.  She still speaks with a Charleston drawl that I admit took me a while to understand back in the day.  The first time she asked me to look in a “draaaaw” for something, I scratched my head and said, “Ma’am?”  I finally figured out she was saying “drawer”.

Helen always dressed to perfection, with never a hair out of place and with makeup perfectly applied.  None of that has changed a lick. She was always prepared, always had projects ready ahead of deadline, would not accept anything but perfection in grammar and punctuation (I always worry about that since I know she reads this blog), and made it all look as easy and natural as breathing.

As a friend she is loyal, trustworthy, true, kind and loving.  She saw me through some of the roughest times of my life and never once judged the many mistakes I made.  She was the big sister I never had, and I love her to the moon and back.  I remain in awe that she feels the same way about me.

In a nutshell, Helen was my hero.  She still is.

When Helen retired, I gave her a little framed memento that read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.  I hope mine is right next door to yours.”  Lord, I pray you work out a way to make that happen, even if I’m just in the shed out back.

Helen loves the outdoors and her beautiful yard shows it.  They live on a beautiful Pine Mountain ridge near Manchester and Warm Springs.

Helen and I during our days of working together. This was probably at a Teacher of the Year banquet. She has this framed and sitting near their fireplace. Lawd! Was I blonde or what!

Paul did the photography honors and snapped this Saturday afternoon as I was preparing to leave.

I’m still smiling about seeing this beautiful lady this weekend.  We went out to eat lunch at the Bulloch House in Warm Springs, and everyone in the place knew Helen and Paul. That didn’t surprise me at all.  They’re just good people.

Hope to see you again soon, Helen and Paul! Love you more.


More on my time at Lake Blackshear this weekend in a couple of days!  It was so much fun!




Counting Down to Mackinac 6/20/17

Hi Everyone!

Lots of personal news to share tonight . . . .

We’ll be leaving for Michigan on or around July 10 (around three weeks), and the days leading up to our departure are just about as packed as they can be!

This week – on Friday, I’m leaving for Georgia on a road trip – the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time.  On my agenda is a two-night visit with my wonderful friend Dawn at the “ri’vah” and her husband Stevie (hoping to see other friends while I’m there too)!.  I’ll spend Friday night with them, then on Saturday morning drive to Manchester GA to visit my best, best, best friend in all the world, Helen McCorvey and her husband Paul.  It’s been way too long since we’ve had a chance to catch up face-to-face, and I can’t wait to see them.  I claim Helen as the sister I never had.  She taught me English in high school in Sylvester GA, and I worked with her in the Public Information Office of the Dougherty County School System in Albany GA.  It was Helen who gave me my first encouragement in writing.   We go “way back”, and I love her and Paul to the moon and back.  I’ll return to Dawn and Stevie’s on Saturday night, then head back to Florida on Sunday.

The next week, on Wednesday, June 28, both Jason and Blake will fly into Daytona Beach.  Jason will be here until that Friday, and Blake is staying another week after that.  This will be Jason’s, Ted’s and my last chance to spend time with Blake before he leaves the middle of August for a two-year commitment to teach in Ankara Turkey (he’ll be home for 4 weeks next summer).  More on that later in the summer, but please keep Blake in your prayers now as he prepares, and over the next months as he makes this transition.  I have a lot of concerns as a mom about this, so please also remember me as you pray.

Blake flies back to Colorado on Friday July 7, and Ted, the fur babies, and I will load up and leave for Michigan either Monday or Tuesday of the following week.  Once we make it to Michigan we will spend time meeting and visiting with more of Ted’s newly found family.  There’s even a family reunion planned!  We are very excited!

Then – if all goes as planned, and the good Lord is willing – we’ll arrive on Mackinac Island on Sunday, July 16, where we plan to stay until mid-October.

Somewhere in the middle of all that will be doctor, hair, nail, dog grooming and car servicing appointments.  Mail will be forwarded, live indoor plants will be “fostered out” to sweet neighbors, the boat will come out of the water and be put in dry storage, and outdoor furniture will be moved indoors.


So . . . . until we arrive on the island, I’m just going to post occasionally when I come up for air!.  Once we’re on the island, I promise to get back to doing what you all love – sharing beautiful Mackinac.


A few entries from this past Sunday’s 69th Annual Lilac Festival Parade! A beautiful team of horses photographed by Heather May for May’s Fudge.

The ever popular Clown Band. (Photo: Joann’s Fudge)

A great group from the Pink Pony float! (Photo: Pink Pony)

Lilacs and Love! (Photo: Dan Denardo)

Two blog readers – Karen and Barbara – meet over the books stacks in Island Bookstore (with a little help from Jill). I LOVE when that happens!


We got new dining room furniture recently, and we’ve been searching for a piece of art to go over the buffet. We found it in this photograph by Kenny Fasnacht through Ocean Art Gallery in Flagler Beach. He captured perfectly our cinnamon beach, beautiful sky and ocean, and the Flagler Pier before it was damaged by Hurricane Matthew. If you zoom in on this photo, you can actually see the grains of sand on the beach. We thought it was beautiful . . .

. . . and it was perfect for that spot!

“Make him stop looking at me, dad!” LOL – just look at that crab’s beady little eyes!  I can’t wait for Bodie to get to Mackinac and realize he’s going to be somewhere cool (relatively speaking) for three months, with woods galore to explore.  I think he’s going to be one very happy Golden!

Finally – acceptance. Maddie would groom Bear’s face every morning, but this was the first time I’d ever seen her do it to Bodie. He seemed to enjoy it as much as she did. I guess she’s finally decided he can stay. So sweet.

Ok – that’s all for now.  I’ll be checking in over the next three weeks as often as I can.  Take care!  Love you all!

God bless.

Lilacs and Storms and Fun Galore! 6/15/17

So happy to be writing about Mackinac again!  I feel as though our two weeks in Alaska (and then two weeks spent writing about it) pulled me far away from the island, but our trip to Alaska is something I will remember and cherish forever. It was awesome, but now it’s time to switch back into my favorite gear and get caught up on what’s been happening up north!

The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is in full swing!  As happens most years, the lilacs are blooming at exactly the right time, and thousands of visitors a day are walking off ferries into that enchanted “back in time”  land of lilacs, fudge, horses, beautiful homes and flower gardens.

This beautiful young lady is Amelia Balinski. I met her along with her mom (Theresa), dad, and brother Mike at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor several years ago. The whole family had been reading Bree’s Blog for years, and it was a real treat to meet this wonderful group face to face. Amelia is spending her second (I think it’s her second) summer on Mackinac as a Dock Greeter for Mackinac State Historic Parks, and she also is a Ticket Agent and Tour Guide for Haunts of Mackinac. I just wanted to introduce you because many of the photos you’ll be seeing today are Amelia’s, and maybe if you’re on the island and spot her, you can say hello!

A close up of lilacs in two different shades. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

I can just imagine what the air smells like along this white rail fence on Main Street near the Marina! (Photo: Sandi Steensma)

Along that same white fence  – lilacs bend in the breeze as a horse team pulls a shuttle toward Mission Point.  (Photo: Grace Reimer)

Lilacs, lighthouses, and lamp posts – beautifully framed by Katy Rise.

St. Anne’s – through the lilacs. (Photo: Dan Denardo)

Main Street is definitely playing a starring role in this year’s Lilac Festival! (Photo: Sandi Steensma)

Lilacs aren’t the only flowers blooming on Mackinac. These tulips are bright and happy at Mission Point Resort. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

On Sunday, June 11, a storm hit Mackinac during the afternoon.  Thank goodness the damage it did was much less than it could have been.  The ferocity of this storm’s appearance was really terrifying, but except for one tree down and limbs breaking here and there, the island fared well.

This photograph was shown on WZZM-TV as a shelf cloud built over the Mackinac Bridge. . . .

. . . and Sandi Steensma captured the cloud just before the storm broke over the island.

Before the bridge was closed for a short time, this trailer, being pulled behind a truck, was tossed on its side.


Beach flowers can find a way to bloom even through stone. This cheery yellow face appeared among the rocks on the island’s east side.  (Photo: Tom Chambers)

The Pearl Mist, a Great Lakes cruise ship, arrives on Wednesday morning. (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Runners pass through downtown during the Lilac Festival Race. (Photo: Katy Rise)

Grand Hotel continues to add wildflowers, lilacs and milkweed to their lawn in an effort to attract and sustain Monarch butterflies, whose numbers have decreased on the island in recent years. (Photo: Grand Hotel)

Jennifer Sorrentino spotted this baby owl on the island this week. How cute is that!

Friend Pam Day took this shot from the porch of her condo across from the Grand Golf Course one morning this week.   Ted and I will be in those same condos the middle of July, and I hope to join Pam for a cup of coffee!

A just for fun shot by Jill Sawatzki. Jill found a whole dolly full of Moomers Ice Cream containers sitting unattended near the Island Bookstore. Glad I wasn’t there, or we might have tempted each other into arranging for at least one of those containers to end up in the condo freezer!  FYI: All that goodness was on its way to the Good Day Café on Main Street!

Something hard to see and harder to get a close-up of on Mackinac – a baby bunny. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

And the sun sets on another beautiful Mackinac day . . .

. . . both photos by Amelia Balinski.


Happy Father’s Day in Heaven to my daddy, Leonard Sumner. He loved my mama . . .

. . . and me with a love that was unconditional and never ending. He gave me, his only child, the kind of childhood every little girl should have. I love you, daddy, and Imiss you every day. Till then . . .

See you back here soon for more Mackinac news and what’s happening at the beach!

God bless.


At Sea in Alaska – Part II 6/11/17

We moored in Juneau Harbour at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday, May 21.

Each day we received a copy of the ship’s newsletter, the Princess Patter, with detailed itineraries and facts about where we were and what there was to see.  Ted nor I realized (until we read it in the Patter) that Juneau, the capital of Alaska and the state’s second most populous city, is only accessible by boat or plane.  We both found it really amazing that a state capital had no roads connecting it to the rest of the state nor to the rest of America (although ferry service is available for cars). Only one other state capital (Honolulu, Hawaii) can also make that claim. The absence of a road network is due to the extremely rugged terrain surrounding the city, and this makes Juneau an island city in terms of transportation, since all goods coming in and out must go by plane or boat.

Juneau sits at sea level and is surrounded by steep mountains up to 4,000 feet high.  Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow.  We would be traveling to one of those glaciers (Mendenhall) later in the day.

But first . . .

. . . we were off early that Sunday morning on the “Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest” excursion. We traveled by bus from the Juneau harbor and were soon aboard . . .

. . .an Allen Marine tour boat, searching for Alaska’s amazing sea life!

The day was wet, cold, and very windy, but inside the cabin it was very comfortable.  The captain thought we might have to go out pretty far to spot whales, but within 15 minutes a humpback was sighted, and we spent the next two hours trying to get decent photographs of huge mammals.

Ted was much better at this than I was because he went outside on that rolling deck and stood for long stretches of time in the wind and rain, snapping one pic after another and hoping just one would be good enough to use.  This is a humpback whale, which can consume as much as a ton of krill and small fish per day in the summer.  They spend their summers in Alaska after having fasted all winter.  During the summer they build a thick layer of fat called blubber which stores the nourishment the whales will need in autumn when they return to the warm waters of Hawaii and Mexico to breed.  They don’t feed again until they return to Alaska in the spring.

The best shot of whales for the whole morning – this pod of Orcas (killer whales). They were chasing sea lions, but are capable of successfully attacking whales much larger in size than themselves, including the humpbacks. Hunting in groups gives them an advantage over their larger prey.

Several sea lions were escapting the Orcas by jumping onto this buoy!

We saw a lot of whale tail  flukes because by the time someone shouted, “There’s a whale”, it would be diving, and only the tail would be visible!

Note to self:  If there is another trip to Alaska, just sit back and enjoy what your eyes see and forget about looking through the eyes of a camera lens or at the screen of a cell phone!

After lunch we boarded another bus and headed for the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

The center rises out of the landscape like it was formed there along with the mountains and trees.

We left the center and walked down one of the trails to get this view, which includes the glacier and Nugget Falls . . .

. . . and after we snapped a photo of a sweet young couple who spoke no English, they kindly returned the favor.  Once again, in this vast land that is Alaska, we were awed by our surroundings.

To say we were tired when we got back to the ship that day is an understatement, and we slept very well that night.

We arrived in Ketchikan on Monday, May 22 – the last stop on our journey before our cruise would end in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Of all the Alaskan villages we visited on the cruise, this beautiful little spot was definitely our favorite. We had no excursions planned that day, so we were free to just walk around and wander in and out of the many shops. It was here we bought souvenirs for the first time and took this photoof historic Creek Street, said to be on the Top Ten List of Most Photographed Streets in the U.S.

Ketchikan is the Salmon Capital of the World, and inside this cozy little restaurant right on the water I had the best seafood chowder I’ve ever eaten. It was made with fresh salmon and served with made-from-scratch cornbread. Oh. My. Goodness!

We bought sweatshirts and had this art piece of a humpback whale shipped home to serve as a reminder of our wonderful trip.

We have it displayed on our dining room sideboard.

Ketchikan’s harbor from the ship, as we left late Monday afternoon.

We spent Tuesday at sea, moving on a southeasterly course across Queen Charlotte Sound with winds southwesterly near gale force.  At 2 p.m. two British Columbia Pilots boarded Island Princess at Pine Island pilot station.  They assisted the Bridge Team as we traveled the inland waterways north of Vancouver Island.

We passed under the Lions Gate Bridge at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning . . .

. . .and by 7:30 we were at our berth at Canada Place.

Because our flight out of Vancouver was before noon we were with the group who left the ship first. We boarded a bus, arrived at the airport, were whisked through security and customs, and still had plenty of time to eat brunch at the airport before our flight left.

Heading home from the trip of a lifetime.

We’ve been home almost three weeks now, and I’ve had time to reflect back over the many memories we made.  Several people have asked if we’d do anything different, and here are my thoughts:

  • I might go a couple of weeks later.  There were a couple of things we wanted to see that weren’t open yet.
  • I’d love to see Alaska in the full summer with everything green and blooming. But – we’ve heard it can be almost hot AND buggy in the summer months, so I think late May and early June would be good times.
  • I’d love to fly back up, rent a car, and just explore.  Friends of ours here in Florida, Jack & Carolyn, have done that three different times.  They loved the freedom of no schedules, and now that I’ve been, there are a few more places I’d like to go – like the Arctic Circle.  But I say that because I’ve already been on the Alaska cruise – the cruise, the majestic beauty of the mountains from the sea, the icy force and strength of glaciers – all of that was phenomenal.  If you’re first-time Alaska travelers, I’d also recommend you do both the land and sea tour.  If you don’t, you’re going to always wonder what you missed.
  • The 22 hours of daylight didn’t bother either of us.  All the places we stayed had blackout curtains, and we were so tired by the end of the day we had no trouble sleeping – at least not because of the light.  The 4-hour time difference took a couple of days to adjust to as far as sleeping, but it was a minor thing.
  • The Alaskan people were amazing – friendly, eager to talk about their state, helpful in directing us not only to places we wanted to visit, but also offering suggestions about other scenic spots.
  • A silly thing – I had two weeks of good hair days!  Alaska has almost no humidity (at least not while we were there).  It was the strangest thing – even on the days it rained, my hair stayed straight.  Weird, huh? And something only a woman would find gratifying.

Would I want to live there?  No.  But I say that as a senior citizen. I loved the vastness, the rugged beauty, the miles and miles of untouched wilderness, and I loved the people. So . . . twenty years ago my answer may have been different.  Well, maybe thirty years ago.

We’ve never talked to a single person who has gone to Alaska and came back and said, “I didn’t like it, and I never want to go back.”  Not one single person. If Alaska isn’t on your bucket list, it needs to be.  It truly does.

See you back here in a few days.  We’ll get back on track with news about that magical island that we all love.  In five weeks we’ll be there!  I think I’ll start packing now!


God bless.