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!

WHAT’S HAPPENING ON MACKINAC

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.

Trillium!

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.

Riverboats and Panning for Gold 5/29/17

We arrived in Alaska around 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, May 12. Outside it looked like it was about four in the afternoon, but we’d traveled over 4,000 miles in the last 12 hours, and we were a little tired!  After all day Friday and Saturday on Alaska time, by Sunday we were ready for our first official day of touring.  I think we had it much easier than folks who flew in Saturday night and immediately had to hit the ground running on Sunday!

On Saturday evening we were on the lodge deck, and this double-decker raft floated by. It was obviously hand-built, and the young people aboard had equipped it with a sofa, a bicycle, a grill, and several coolers. FYI: This wasn’t going to be the last time we saw this raft!

Princess Cruise Line has a big presence in Alaska.  We were staying at Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge, and most of the transportation services we used in Alaska were either owned by Princess or booked by them.

On Sunday morning we entered a big Princess bus and were off to board the only remaining authentic Alaskan sternwheeler for a cruise along the Chena and Tanana rivers.

Steamboats similar to this paddleboat were used during the gold-rush days, but I’m sure they didn’t have the advantage of heated glass enclosed decks and video equipment!

Early in our voyage we were joined alongside by a bush pilot who had just landed on the river a little ahead of us. He talked to us via radio, explaining a little of the history of bush piloting in Alaska, and then he took off. So cool!

The next time we slowed down was to visit Trail Breaker Kennels, established in 1980 by husband and wife team David Monson (Yukon Quest champion) and the late Susan Butcher (four-time Iditarod champion).

Trail Breaker Kennels is now one of the longest operating kennels in Fairbanks, and visitors can experience and enjoy an Alaskan mushing lifestyle.  During the winter months, the huskies train for and participate in sled dog races around Alaska.  In the summer, the dogs take a break from racing and enjoy short training runs around the lake (they were about to pull that ATV (with David aboard) around the lake in the pic above.

In the summer, they also enjoy swimming in the river and interacting with visitors from around the world.  These dogs LIVE to pull sleds, and their excitement when they’re chosen to be hooked up to a team is really something to see!

Our first official stop was at an old Chena Indian Village. The strange contraption in the water is a wooden fish wheel, still used extensively in Alaska by people living a subsistence lifestyle.  The wheel, complete with baskets, is situated on a river, usually on floating dock. The wheel rotates due to the current of the water pressing the bottom basket. The baskets on the wheel capture fish actively swimming upstream and also capture fish simply drifting. The fish are shunted to one side and out an opening in the side of the basket by gravity. They are caught in a holding tank. The fish wheel owner comes by several times a day to remove and process the caught fish from the holding tank.

Smoked fish (mostly salmon) are processed by the thousands during the summer by people living in the wilds as Alaska – to be used as both people and dog food.

Native guides took us on a tour of the Athabascan Indian village and talked about Alaskan Native life and history. We were very impressed by the young people at each stop who were acting as guides and narrators.

Also at the village was a replica of Susan Butcher’s cabin and storyboard of her life. Sadly, she died from leukemia in 2006, after winning the Iditarod four times with the same lead dog, Granite.

Susan and her husband wrote a children’s book about Granite before her death.

Her husband was signing copies at the cabin . . .

. . . and we bought a copy for Jill, who is an avid follower of the Iditarod and was a huge Susan Butcher fan.

Where the clear waters of the Chena River meet the Tanana, the world’s greatest glacier river, carrying tons of glacial silt from the Alaska Range, our boat turned around. It was there we once again saw the 2-story raft. We’re assuming the young folks went ashore and camped for the night.  They must have had those tents aboard also!

We ate lunch at the sternwheeler dock, then climbed back aboard a bus. Next stop was a shuttle train to visit Gold Dredge 8, a National Historic Monument. Where we got off the shuttle we saw a portion of the Alaska Pipeline, then were taken to pan for gold at a genuine dredge camp.

Each person is given a sack of “pay dirt” and an explanation on how to pan for the gold guaranteed to be in each sack.

Ever wonder what $36 in gold flakes looks like? Here it is – mine and Ted’s combined panning riches.

 

We found it a little interesting that almost every couple came away with around $36 in gold, but what we really wondered was who, at the end of the day, gets all the gold that we novice panners pour into those big troughs of water everyday!

And so ended day 3 of our Alaska adventure! Tomorrow we travel to Denali National Park!

God bless.

We’re Home! 5/28/17

Hello, dear friends!

It’s been three weeks since I sat down at this laptop.  During those three weeks we’ve packed up, taken dogs to the pet sitter, traveled close to 10,000 miles (when you’re traveling at over 500 mph, that doesn’t take long at all), unpacked, picked up dogs, and done severak (SEVERAL) loads of laundry. 

Sharing our Alaska trip will be something I’ll do in daily photographs over the next couple of weeks, as I fill in the spaces with info about Mackinac Island, Sunset Inlet, and our family happenings.  Alaska is a big place (understatement of the year), and telling the story of our exciting visit there will take a while!  I know many of you followed along on Facebook, but for those of you who didn’t (and those who did), I hope I can come close to giving you a feel for the experiences we had while there.

SHARING ALASKA

Where else but in Alaska does a polar bear greet you at the airport?

We had two whole days at the beginning of our trip to explore Fairbanks. We’d take the shuttle into town each day and use the city map to find our way around.

The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center was one of our favorites (did you spot the wolf in this exhibit?).

Wonderful exhibits of everything from rustic Alaskan cabins . . .

. . . . to wildlife like grizzly bears!

Along the riverfront in Fairbanks we came across the Antler Arch, made up of over 100 moose and caribou antlers collected from all over interior Alaska.

We also loved Bouchard’s International Dog Mushing and Sled Museum, which gave a great look into the history of mushing in Alaska and the Iditarod races.

Interesting Note:  We found that everyone we talked to who lived in Alaska (whether for a year or their entire lives) thinks Alaska is the greatest place to live in the world.  They know it isn’t for everyone, but they love talking about their life there and were very friendly and helpful about sharing special places to visit.  It was the curator of the Dog Mushing Museum who told us about the Morris Thompson Center. She also shared with us that Alaskans don’t like most of he “reality” shows about their state that are showing now on different cable networks.  The only ones they view as “authentic” are Alaska State Troopers and Life Below Zero (which I’ve been binge-watching for weeks on Netflix),

In the Fairbanks Ice Museum we entered a room that is kept at 20 degrees year-round (the museum provided warm jackets)! There were photo ops among the ice sculptures . . . .

. . .  and Ted, of course, was the first person to volunteer to ride the sled down the ice hill!  The ice museum was in an old movie theatre, and the ice sled started at the top of the sloping side aisle and ended when you ran into the “stage” at the end of the aisle.  And I do not exaggerate when I say “ran into”.  It was an abrupt stop, and I’m so glad I was too chicken to try it!

I’ll be posting segments of Alaska daily, so tune in tomorrow for what was our official first day of the land portion of our tour – a riverboat cruise and gold mining expedition!

MACKINAC ISLAND

Friends Kem and Ed Green have been on Mackinac the last few days and shared the following photos!

In the “things you don’t see everyday” category, Kem and Ed finally found “the old car” in the woods of Mackinac. They’ve been searching and searching and were finally given some good directions by someone who had found it several years ago. I’ve heard several stories about how it came to be on the island, but I have no idea which one is true. And no, I’ve never found the car nor would I know where to look. It’s kind of a deep, dark island secret, and I think it’s fun to keep it that way!

The tulips are up at the Courthouse . . .

. . . and at Grand Hotel.

By the way, the last week or so has not felt much like springtime on the island. Kem and Ed came over in these conditions, and the fog didn’t break until basically the day they left. But, as Kem and I both say, “so what”? You’re on Mackinac!  Slip on some rain gear and get out there and enjoy! (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Another chilly, foggy day photo. (Photo: Jill Sawatzki)

Hoping this pic from Tom Chambers from yesterday shows the beginning of real Spring and warmer, clearer weather for Mackinac!

Kem and Ed and Pam and Mike Day – blogging friends who were on the island at the same time this week. Makes me so happy to see all of you getting together and enjoying the island!

I’ll have to file this one in the “never saw THAT before” file! I’d say this jazzy can go pretty much anywhere! Thanks, Jill, for snapping this one!

BEVERLY BEACH

After two weeks away, we were so happy to land in Jacksonville a little after midnight last Thursday morning.  We drove to Beverly Beach, arrived home around 1:30 and were too wired to go to sleep until after 4 a.m.  Neither Ted nor I realized Alaska was four hours behind Florida.  Add that to about two hours of “darkness” and 22 hours of daylight for two weeks, and it’s taken a while to readjust. We sure enjoyed the much cooler temps of Alaska, but I think it’s making Florida seem just that much hotter.

Our four-legged babies survived just fine without us.  They both enjoyed the freedom of a huge fenced yard to play in, although Lilly (our pet sitter) said it’s been so hot they really didn’t get out that much.  For the first time Maddie forego sleeping in the bed with Lilly or her mother and stole the bed of one of Lilly’s dogs and slept in that pulled up next to Bodie’s crate.

Having daily pics from Lilly . . .

. . . helped us know these two were doing just fine.

We are ALL happy to be home.  One of my readers asked if Ted and I were going to be buying a place in Alaska now.  We both laughed and agreed that wasn’t happening.  Alaska is very, very beautiful, and the vastness of its wilderness just boggles the mind.  But no small voice spoke to me and said, “This is where you need to live.”  Only one place has done that, and it’s a tiny island in Lake Huron called Mackinac. 

See you back here tomorrow for more Alaska tales, and thank you so much for all the safe travel prayers you lifted up for us. 

Love and hugs.  God bless.

We are Heading North—-West! 5/7/17

Usually when I sit down to post about an uncoming trip North I’m talking about our annual sojourn to Mackinac.  But tonight the trip we’re preparing for is even further north – with a sharp turn to the west!  The time has finally arrived – we are heading for the great state of Alaska on Thursday!

A year-and-a-half ago I began planning a surprise 70th birthday trip for Ted (his birthday was Friday, May 5), but an email message to our travel agent – that I’d forgotten to hide in another folder – spilled the beans only a couple a months into the “surprise”.  But that’s ok – it’s all worked out just fine, and we are excited to start this new adventure!

Celebrating the big 7-0 with Julie, Matt, Jordan and Matthew at Flagler Fish Company!

I’m realizing that packing for Alaska is like packing for a spring or late fall trip to the island – gotta have all kinds of clothes and be ready for any kind of weather.  Looks like mostly highs in the upper 50’s and low 60’s and low’s into the 40’s for the two weeks we’ll be there, so we’re taking everything from shorts to fleece jackets!

For anyone interested, here’s our schedule:

Thursday, May 11:  Flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta to Seattle to Fairbanks, arriving just before midnight.

May 11-14:  Fairbanks

May 15-17: Denali National Park

May 17: Transfer to Anchorage (Whittier) and board Island Princess

May 18-19: Scenic cruising – Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park

May 20:  Dock in Skagway

May 21: Dock in Juneau

May 22: Dock in Ketchikan

May 23: At sea

May 24: Transfer ship to airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Fly from Vancouver to Houston to Jacksonville.  Arrive in Jacksonville around 10:30 that night.

We have excursions planned at several of these places, and we’re hoping to spot everything from moose to whales before we return.

MACKINAC ISLAND

Believe it or not, I haven’t had my mind on Mackinac much this week, but I have to share this one photo from Jason St. Onge!

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, crossing Main Street and headed for Doud’s Market and an early cup of coffee. Only on Mackinac!

Oh, and here’s one more VERY important pic, shared by Chuck Wagon on Mackinac:

Jill has arrived on Mackinac, and now the season can begin! As you can see, the Chuck Wagon was her first stop this morning for a breakfast sandwich! Love that place and owners Sharon and Donnie!

Ok – here’s the plan.  I’m not taking my laptop to Alaska, so there will be no blog posts for the next two weeks.  But – I’ll be posting on Facebook every day (well, IF I have coverage every day).  If you’re on Facebook and we’re not already Facebook friends (and you want to keep up with our trip), just send me a friend request, and we’ll be all set!  If you don’t do Facebook, I’ll post lots of pics on the blog when we get back!

We drop Maddie and Bodie off at the petsitter on Wednesday afternoon.  It’s definitely going to be hard leaving them for two weeks, but they will be in the best of hands with Lilly.  They’ll have a huge fenced-in yard to run around in, and Miss Maddie will probably once again be sharing Lilly’s mom’s bed.

I’ll end with this cute video I shot of Maddie letting Bodie know just what a Diva she is yesterday!

Please lift safe travel prayers for Ted and I and “happy vacation” prayers for the pooches.

Hoping to see you Thursday on Facebook with updates on our trip.

God bless.

This photo and header compliments of Princess Cruises.