About bree1972

My husband Ted and I are in transition. We are building a new home in Beverly Beach, FL and should be there full-time in June, 2014. We spend our time now at our lake cottage in south GA and will be spending two months each summer on beautiful Mackinac Island in Michigan. We have three children and two grandchildren and are also blessed with two dogs and two grand-dogs. We are so blessed.

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.

At Sea in Alaska – Part I 6/10/17

After 9 1/2 hours on the scenic train ride from Denali to Whittier, we were ready to disembark and get settled into the cabin  on the Island Princess where we’d be for the next seven nights.

The Island Princess is a beautiful ship . . .

. . . and our mini-suite was spacious and very comfortable.  We had plenty of closet space, two TV’s, and a sweet little balcony.  Because of the weather, we didn’t get to enjoy that balcony too much, but we would dash out there whenever an announcement was made that  marine life had been spotted.

I hate to mention this, but it took us at least two days to get our bearings as to where our cabin was in relation to everything else – the dining rooms, the ship’s theatre, the atrium, the casino, the internet café, etc.  The elevators closest to our room didn’t go to all floors, which meant we’d travel down a few floors, get off, and then walk half the length of the ship to get to the elevators that traveled down several more levels.  We laughed at ourselves (and others – we certainly weren’t by ourselves) when we’d exit an elevator, step out, and then stand there a few seconds deciding whether to go left or right.

Our cabin was almost at the front of the ship on the Baja deck (floor 11), so we only had to walk a short distance down our hall and go through two doors to be . . .

.. . at the front of the ship, directly under the bridge.

We left Whittier on Wednesday, May 17, (temp 43 degrees) and navigated the Passage Canal into Prince William Sound. During the night the ship set out across the Gulf of Alaska.

In the dining room on Thursday morning we watched as the ship cruised through very cold water filled with ice in Yakutat Bay.

In some places it was as though we were moving through a giant cup of pale blue slushy ice . .

. . . and we also saw several large icebergs that the glacier we were approaching had “calved”.  It’s hard to get a perspective here on the size of these bergs, but they were large enough that our captain didn’t risk the ship by bringing us as close to the Hubbard Glacier as he would have liked.

After leaving Yakutat Bay, we sailed toward Cape Spencer and the approaches to Glacier Bay, and by Friday morning we entered the waters of the Glacier Bay National Park.  National Park Rangers from the Park Ranger Boat “Serac” joined us on board during the morning and gave several talks throughout the day about the park.

Margerie Glacier as we approached . . .

. . . and closer up (this was with as much zoom as my cellphone would allow).

I filmed a short video that includes the sound of ice breaking off the glacier (calving).  Make sure your sound is turned up!:  https://www.facebook.com/brenda.horton.714/videos/10154969285198301/

Some “icy” history:

In 1750 the glacier in the photos above was jutting out into Icy Strait . . .

Today you have to travel 65 miles into the bay to view the tidewater glacier.

We did spend quite a bit of time outside on the decks while viewing Marjorie Glacier on Friday.  The landscape was so foreign to us Southerners that it was jaw-dropping just to stand and gaze around.  Pure frigid splendor

While we slept the ship slipped into a northerly course and by morning we awoke to find we had just docked in Skagway at 6:55 am.

It was 52 degrees and partly cloudy as we set off to check out this tiny village that was once the “Gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush”.

In 1897 news of gold discovered in northwestern Canada, near where the Klondike and Yukon rivers join, reached Seattle, and the gold rush was on.

Even in 1897 Skagway had electric lights and telephones.  It also had 80 saloons, three breweries, many brothels, and other service or supply businesses.  It was the starting point to the White Pass Trail, 10 miles longer, but less steep and 600 feet lower than the original trail (Chilkoot) taken by the first gold miners at Dyea.  But after two months of overuse, White Pass Trail was destroyed.  The next year investors began to build the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad.  By the time it was finished in 1900, the gold rush was over.

After lunch we climbed aboard a train that would take us to White Pass.

The train travels 20 miles up to reach the summit at White Pass and climbs from sea level to almost 3,000 feet in less than 2 hours.  That’s a pretty speedy trip considering it would have taken the average gold stampeder a month or more to move their supplies to this point on the trail.

The route features steep grades of almost 3.9%, and the tight curves of the White Pass called for a narrow gauge railroad.  The rails are three feet apart on a 10-foot wide road bed.

Each of the vertical “fingers” reaching down the mountains is evidence of an avalanche.

Those tight curves meant we could often see the front of the train from the other cars.

At the top, Summit Lake – one of a series of lakes forming the headwaters of the Yukon River.  It has the same stunning blue color as the ice bergs in Glacier Bay.

In 1901, the 1,200 foot-wide gorge at Milepost 18.6 was spanned by the famed Steel Cantilever Bridge.  At the time, the 215 foot high structure was the tallest railroad bridge of its kind in the world.  It was one of the many reasons the White Pass Railroad was designated an international Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a title shared with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and the Panama Canal.  The bridge was retired in 1969.

The one that we went over was plenty high (and scary enough) for me!

There’s no way these pics give you even a tiny, tiny look at the reality of this train trip.  Because there was very little “green” yet at this location, the photos came out gray and dull.  You just have to trust me that the reality of this venue was spectacular beyond words.  And these pics don’t tell the unbelievable story of how thousands of gold miners WALKED and CLIMBED to this summit as the railroad was being built.  Each miner was allowed to cross into the Yukon with one ton of supplies.  That meant MANY trips on foot back and forth across this summit as they carried on their backs and on the backs of horses as much as they could with each trip.  This is one of the many parts of our Alaska trip I’d like to repeat later in the summer..

Two more pics from Skagway. This one to show how surrounded by BIG mountains we were everywhere we went . . .

. . . and this one showing our crew practicing abandon ship maneuvers in Skagway’s harbor.

Tomorrow night – from Juneau to Vancouver!  Come on back for the last leg of our journey!

God bless.


Having a Moment 6/4/17

Hi Everyone!

I’m using my woman’s prerogative to change my mind tonight.  I know I promised Alaska cruise pictures, but it’s been a busy weekend, and I haven’t had time to go through over 700 photos we took while at sea!  So, although you WILL get to see a couple of photos from the cruise, it’s going to take a little longer to get the “cruising” photos put into a blog.

Instead, I want to tell you a cruise story . . . .

The Island Princess presented wonderful entertainment each evening in the theatre, and Ted and I would try to eat early enough to catch the first show.  Each evening was different, but they were all filled with wonderful singers and dancers, fabulous costumes, and songs that brought back all kinds of memories from our “younger” years.

On one of the nights a Motown tribute show was presented, and we had a great time listening to music made famous by the Supremes, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, and many others. We were late getting to the show because we were talking (imagine that) to a couple seated with us at dinner, so we had to go all the way down to the second row from the front to find seats – just before the lights dimmed and the show began.

An announcement was made each evening – “no filming or flash photography” of the live entertainment – but we were so close I took a shot or two of the dancers and the stage set for the first number (no flash), placed my cell phone on my lap, and then settled back to enjoy.

About 15 minutes into the show, the lead singer was alternately serenading two of the female singers, who were both pretending to be vying for his affection. He pretended disgust with both of them, came down off the stage, and walked over to a beautiful lady, dressed in black and seated on the aisle seat of the very front row.  He pulled her up out of her seat and finished the song, singing directly to her.

It was then I had the strangest moment.  Something about this lady – her beautiful silver hair, her smile, her sweet surprise at being showcased in that way – it reminded me of something, but my mind couldn’t put it together right then.  All I knew was I had to capture it, so I grabbed my cell and snapped a pic.

At the end of the show I walked across the aisle and introduced myself and showed her the photo on my cellphone.  She was so excited, and I asked if she had an email where I could send it. She said no, so I asked the lady who had been seated next to her (who was listening to all this and who I assumed was her daughter) if I could send it to her.  “Oh, I don’t know her,” she said.

That’s when Joan (whose picture I’d taken) introduced me to another lady coming down the aisle who was a friend who had accompanied her on the cruise.  Like us, they were late getting to the show, but had to separate to find seats.  That lady gave me her email address, and I said I’d send the photo to her when I got back to the room.

Which I did.

I thought about Joan several times that evening and into the next day, looking at the photo each time.  And it finally struck me why I’d made the connection . . . .

Quite a few years ago, at my son Jason’s wedding reception, Jason and Blake had pulled their Mema out onto the dance floor.  For a few precious moments my mom was the center of attention, as her two grandsons danced with her and then danced around her as she stood in the center of the dance floor – silver hair softly waving, more “dressed up” than she’d ever been in her life, beautiful smile on her beautiful face.  Oh my gosh how she loved my two sons.  I had the photograph of that moment transferred to coffee mugs for her and for Jason and Blake. Mama drank her coffee from that cup every single morning of her life on this earth until the week she passed away, and it is now in my cabinet here in Florida.

Later that afternoon, we answered a soft knock on our cabin door and found Joan on the other side. I had given her our cabin number, in case the photograph didn’t come through (which it hadn’t), and she stopped by to see if there was any other way she could get a copy.

She sat with us a little while and told us this was her first trip without her husband, who had passed several months before.  Her friend had asked her to come with her, and she had said yes.  She wanted the photograph to show friends and family back home.  I said I would send it to Shutterfly that night to have it printed, and she should have it by the time she returned home.

And then I told her the story of Mama on the dance floor.  She smiled at me and said, “You had a moment, didn’t you?”  And I smiled back through my tears and said, “Yes, I did – through you, I had a very sweet moment.”

Joan sent me an email this week saying the photos had come, and she was sharing them with everyone.  I said I would be writing about “our story” on my blog soon and would send her the link when it was published.  Which I will do tonight.

This one’s for you, Joan. Thank you for giving me my “moment”.  Hugs, sweet and beautiful lady.


Riding the Rails in Alaska/A Springtime Visit to Mackinac 6/1/17

On Wednesday, May 17, we boarded the Wilderness Rail in Denali for the 9 1/2-hour trip to Whittier, where we would transfer to the Island Princess for the cruise portion of our Alaska adventure.

When we were first approaching the train, I looked up and saw the second level was a glass-enclosed dome, and I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, I hope we’re on that level!” No worries – EVERYONE rode on that level. The bottom level was designed for dining, and a spiral staircase connected the two portions.

These two ladies, Toni and Carol, were sitting behind us upstairs. They sat across from us at breakfast, and we struck up a quick friendship. These two are so cute and funny, and we enjoyed hanging out with them throughout the cruise.

We had a guide riding with us throughout the trip, who told stories about the areas we were passing and gave us lots of history on this great state.  Honestly though, narration was totally unnecessary.  I could have happily just stared out the window in silence for the entire trip.  What glorious scenery!

We were free to walk about the train both upstairs and downstairs throughout the trip, and there was plenty of legroom at our seats.  We could also go outside on the “backporch” of the cars to get a fresh breath of clean, mountain air and take photos unimpeded by glass.  Once again though, the further south we traveled, the cooler it became, so people weren’t spending a lot of time out on that porch!

A river winds through a valley far below the rails.

Looking back toward the back of the train as we make a curved turn.

Passing snow-covered mountains and lakes still crusted with ice.

Going into Whittier we traveled through a tunnel cut through a mountain.

And when we emerged, we got our first glimpse of the Island Princess, enshrouded in fog.

That misty, foggy, rainy, windy, very cool weather would follow us for the next six days as we made our way to Vancouver.  But we’d had almost seven days of perfect weather, and we weren’t about to complain.  After all, being on a ship in rainy weather isn’t nearly as bad as being on land.  We could stay inside the entire time and be entertained royally by a crew who catered to every passenger’s needs.  We could eat non-stop 24/7 (thank goodness, we didn’t do that), and we could go to sleep with the gentle roll of the ship rocking us to sleep.

More on the cruise coming in the next few days!


I mentioned earlier that Kem & Ed Green and Mike and Pam Day were on the island recently.  Here are a few pics from Pam and Mike!

Waves along the rocky shore on a foggy day.

Love, love, love this.  I’ve never seen them take the horses up Turkey Hill.

Thanks, Pam and Mike, for sharing!  That marina looks a little empty right now, but by the time we arrive in July it will be bustling with the yacht races!

Another blog reading couple, Jan and Don Weir (Harbor Springs & Indianapolis) shared the following:

Tulips, tulips, tulips . . . .

. . . at Grand Hotel . . .

. . . at Mission Point Resort . . .

. . . and at points in between.

Pink umbrellas at the Chippewa’s Pink Pony patio!

The flower gardens are in at the Iroquois Hotel. In a few weeks these beds will be overflowing with blooms.

A few lilacs are beginning to bloom, but the main show will happen during the Lilac Festival June 9-18.

A slow, early spring day on Main Street. That will change quickly also.


A sunny day at Windermere Point.

The private horses are arriving in the stables behind the bluffs.

A few more tulips!

Thank you for sharing, Jan and Don!

Jill shared that there’s a new picnic table in Marquette Park!

And Clark Bloswick posted this beautiful photo of the Mackinac woods awakening to spring.  Is there a green prettier than spring green in the north woods – with a few Forget-Me-Nots sprinkled along a path?  I don’t think so!

I’ll be back on Sunday with a wrap-up of the Alaska trip, as we cruise among the glaciers.  Have a great weekend!

God bless.

Denali 5/30/17

Just like some celebrities are known by one name (Cher, Elvis, Madonna, Adele, Bono), when we’re talking about the tallest mountain in North America, we call it only Denali.  The native Koyukon Athabascan people gave the mountain that name, which translated means “The Great One”.

First, a little history:  In 1896 a gold prospector, William Dickey, changed the name to Mount McKinley after President William McKinley, and the park in which the mountain resides was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917.  The state of Alaska officially changed the name back to Denali in 1975 and asked the federal government to do so too..  However, when the park was tripled in size and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, the federal government retained the name Mount McKinley for the actual mountain.  It was President Barack Obama who finally gave approval (in 2015) to officially rename the mountain Denali.

Days four and five of our Alaska adventure were spent traveling to and enjoying Denali National Park and Preserve.  Denali was a 123 mile bus ride south from Fairbanks.  We would continue to go south for the rest of our trip, and interestingly – it got colder the further south we went.  We were told that was because we were getting closer and closer to the Gulf of Alaska.

The bus stopped periodically along our route south, and once again we were struck at the vastness of this great state.

A stop for snacks along the way revealed a gift shop with specimens of just about every known Alaska animal . . .

. . . including bears!

This fish wheel on display on the property is a little better pic than the one in the water yesterday.

We loved the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.

An expansive deck overlooked the Nenana River, with views of the park in the distance.

I think one of the things that struck me each day we were in Alaska was how big it is and how unpopulated it is. One of our guides said that if you applied the people to square mile ratio of Alaska to Long Island, NY, there would be only 16 people on Long Island.

We had a great meal our first night at the lodge, and the next morning we were on a bus at 7 a.m., driving the one-mile distance to the park. We had barely gotten out of the lodge parking lot when our driver spotted this female moose walking down the side of the road at the edge of the forest.

She would be the first of several females we saw that day (this one was about an hour later in the park). We were told within the next couple of weeks the calving season would begin.

Dense forests and mountains. Denali National Park encompasses six million acres- the size of the state of Massachusetts.  So beautiful!

What we came to this spot to see . . . .

Denali.  We were told that only 30% of the visitors to the park actually get to see the peak of the mountain.  That’s because the mountain is so tall (over 20,000 feet) that it produces its own weather and is usually covered in clouds. We felt very fortunate.

They’re very hard to see here, but on the far side of this thawing river – and beyoud –  are caribou.  We saw lots of them that day, along with Dall sheep (as tiny white specks high up in the mountains), many Ptarmigan (Alaska’s state bird), and a few rabbits and squirrels.  We did not spot any bears, wolves, or fox.

No idea what was so funny!

I’ll be back in a few days with more of our trip AND some very current photos from a blog reader’s trip to the island this week.

Hugs and God bless.