Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Skagway, Alaska

The second port on our Alaskan cruise was Skagway.

In this city, my mom suggested that we try dog sledding.  I mostly thought it sounded fun just to be in nature in Alaska.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to experience nature from a dog sled.  It turned out to be super fun.  Definitely, an awesome idea.

However, Robyn wasn't very interested in the dog sled so she chose to sleep in and relax that morning.

We got off the ship and immediately got onto a bus which took us out of town.  The Musher's camp was located about 15 miles away, so we rode the bus for a little while through some Alaskan wilderness.

I just kept snapping pictures like this.  It was so beautiful.
The bus took us to the Musher's camp and there was a short walk to actually get into the camp.  During the walk my mom told me that since Robyn wasn't with us, it was my job to take pictures of flowers.

I did my best to fill in for Robyn.

I didn't get very far before the paparazzi started snapping shots of me.
I was loving the beauty, and our adventure hadn't even started.
We went left.  Next time: zipline.
Once we got into the base camp we climbed aboard this Unimog made by Mercedes-Benz.  It was able to climb us up to wear the dogs train.
When we pulled in, we saw the dog version of a parking lot.
These dogs are actual racing dogs.  During the winter they pull sleds, but they need to continue to train for the summer.  So they hook them up to these little wagons and give people like us rides.  Several of the dogs that were pulling us have competed in the Iditarod before.
This is what the wagon looks like when it's empty.
This is what the wagon looks like filled with my family.
This is what the wagon looks like filled with family with dogs ready to pull.
Finally they started to pull.
They gave us quite a ride.  The musher would stand on the back of the wagon and call out commands.  He didn't have any reins or anything, everything was verbal.  He said they get up to about 20 mph.  It was fast enough that it blew my dad's hat off.  You can hear the musher asking my dad if we need to go back for it in the video below.  (Don't worry, one of the other dog teams grabbed it and it was safely returned to him.)

They took us on a ride for about 10 minutes.  After that, they let us meet and play with the dogs.
One of the dogs really wanted a selfie with me.  He's a fan of my blog.

After meeting the sled team we took the unimog back to base camp where we also got to go meet some puppies.  They are future racers and they want them to get accustomed to people, so part of their learning to socialize is letting people like us hold them and cuddle them.
Be honest, which one of us is cuter?
After the puppies we had some hot chocolate and got back on the bus.  The bus offered to drop us off in town, but since I was missing my wife, I rode the bus all the way back to the ship.  I met Robyn for lunch on the ship and then we headed back out together for another adventure.

This adventure was not a guided excursion so we had to use the city bus system.  Their bus system is the SMART bus.  For 5 dollars you can be branded and get all you can eat (or ride) access to the bus.
I'm smart.  My arm says so.
We rode the bus to the very edge of town.  It dropped us off next to a little train yard with a trail running past it.  We began our march onto the trail, and ventured into the wild.

The first thing we came upon was an old 1850s cemetery
The cemetery has definitely been restored.  The headstones were too readable to be original.  But it was fun to walk through and look at the dates.  If that cemetery is any indication, it seems that 40 years old was truly ancient back then.  Most of them died in their mid twenties or early thirties.  Can you imagine having your mid life crisis at your sweet sixteen birthday party?

We hiked through the cemetery and the trail went into a heavily wooded area that was green and beautiful.
Robyn said that Alaskan wilderness had a peaceful, zen feeling
At the end of the trail was a beautiful waterfall.
This is Reid Falls
It was beautiful.  The air was fresh and cool.  The trees were green.  Alaska has joined the ranks of my favorite places on the planet.

Finally, it was time to head back to the ship.  We had to hike back to the bus stop.
We're cute when we sit on the ground waiting for transportation
The bus got us back just in time for a delicious dinner on the ship.  Cruises are awesome.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Juneau, Alaska: Sea Lions and Glaciers and Whales Oh My!

As most of you know, I recently returned from a cruise.  It's taken me a while to get around to writing about it.  It was amazing!

Our first port was in Juneau, Alaska.  I saw whales!

Before I tell you anything else, I just need you to see this great picture Robyn took.
It's a tail of a whale!
I feel better now.  That just had to be done.  Did I mention I saw whales?

But I suppose I can tell you the story of what happened the entire day.

First of all, I wore pants.
This is my view while waiting for the ship to dock.
People had told me tales of how cold Alaska is.  Since we were going whale watching, I figured the boat moving quickly over water would make it pretty darn cold.  I should have stuck to my gut and worn shorts.  Even Alaska doesn't get cold enough for long pants.  At least not in July.  (I imagine if I was doing the Iditarod, I'd want some long pants.)

The first thing we did in Alaska was get on a bus.  The company that we booked our whale watching with had a tour bus that took us around.  The driver was super knowledgeable and super fun.  She drove a school bus in the lower 48 during winter and came up to Alaska during the summer to drive a tour bus.  She gave us lots of information about Juneau.  Things like the fact that you cannot drive to the city of Juneau.  Alaska's capitol is only accessible by air or sea.  Who knew?  Also, Juneau has a Walmart.  She was very excited to tell us that.
The weather forecast: Cloudy with a chance of bears and eagles
The first stop the bus made was at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor's center.  We had only paid for whale watching, but they said the bus stops at the Mendenhall Glacier first, so that was included for free.  I'm really glad we got to do that, it was beautiful.  

The hike to the best viewpoint for the glacier was about 1 mile round trip.  We booked it out there as fast as we could because our time there was limited.

The Alaska wilderness was rejuvenating, as evidenced by Robyn's pose
Zack and I were precious as we approached the glacier.
The closest you  can get to the glacier without getting in a boat or swimming is from nugget falls.  Here is a panorama to show you the view from the shore.
As you can see, the glacier is still across a bit of water, but Robyn was able to get some sweet shots, nonetheless.

This is about what it looked like with the naked eye
This is with Robyn's telephoto lense.  I love the blue color.
We enjoyed the view of the fall and the glacier for about 15 minutes, then it was time to book it back so we didn't miss the bus.

Our next stop was at Auke Bay Harbor, to go see whales!
I took a selfie with the locals

We learned some fun facts.
Finally we got on a boat
The cold wind made Robyn sad
The boat didn't have to go very far before we started to see wildlife.  After just a few minutes the boat slowed down to let us see the eagles.
They also took us by this little buoy where the sea lions like to hang out.
How the one climbed into the higher area is one of life's greatest mysteries.
Finally, we got to see whales.  I think my favorite picture was the awesome tail shot up above.  But here are a couple others.
Here is a whale hump.
Here is a whale spouting 
Whale watching was a neat experience.  Our guides would pull up to an area in the boat.  They would point to an area of water and tell us there is a whale out there.  We'd keep our eyes peeled until we'd suddenly see a spout.  We probably saw 10 different whales during the time we were out there.  It was super amazing.

After the whale watching, we still had some time before we had to get back on the ship.  We walked around downtown Juneau.  We noticed there were several Russian shops.  I guess that's the thing when you're that close to Russia.  
I really wanted this hat, but I didn't 85 dollars want it.

Robyn is the cutest babushka ever.
We did see a bear while we were there.  Unfortunately, it was stuffed.  It was the only bear I saw in Alaska.  It is my belief that all Alaskan bears are stuffed.  That is based on my extensive experience in Alaska.

Also, I never saw Sarah Palin.  Based on my experience, she is not in Alaska.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Roadtripping to Seattle!

As many of you know, I recently returned from a super fantastic trip to Alaska.  We did a lot of things, so there will be multiple posts chronicling our many adventures.

The cruise ship started in Seattle, Washington.  That meant that if we wanted to be on that ship, we needed to be in Seattle.  Unfortunately, my house is in Lehi, Utah.  A little known fact about Utah is that it's not in Washington.  In fact, my house is a little under 1,000 miles away from the port where our ship would be leaving from.

Several members of my family were going on the cruise with us.  They are all normal.  So, they all took the normal form of transportation when you need to go 1,000 miles.  They all flew on an airplane.  (Airplanes, rather.  They weren't all on the same plane.)

Robyn and I are not normal.  In fact, I really like road trips.  Plus we figured we didn't want to buy plane tickets twice this year, and we want to go to California for Christmas.  We prefer to drive in summer rather .than winter.  So we decided to drive to Seattle.

The key to a good road trip is making stops on the way.  To make this possible, we did our road trip in 2 days.  That gave us the time to stop and enjoy a few places on the way.

I worked a full day on Wednesday, July 3rd, and then we hopped in the car and headed to Twin Falls, Idaho that evening.

I love Twin Falls.  There is a beautiful canyon just outside of town.  It totally sneaks up on you, and you don't see it until a few hundred yards away.  But it is fantastic.

We spent the night in Twin Falls.  Of course, we stayed in a La Quinta, because I love their breakfast.  It's super good.  The me of a year ago would have eaten about 5 of their waffles plus loads of other stuff.  The new me splurged a little and had one waffle with some eggs and sausage on the side.  I was full when I was done.  The new me is a strange creature.

After Twin Falls we headed back out on the road.  That's when the real road tripping began.  The reason I love road trips is because Robyn and I are stuck in a car together, just the two of us.  There are no distractions, all we can do is talk.  It's super good quality time.  We talked about everything we could think of.  Then we talked about more stuff, without thinking.

Then it was time to turn on some tunes and sing our hearts out.
"Bye bye Miss American Pie!"
Eventually we made it out of Idaho into Oregon.  Oregon took about 1000 years to get through, because their speed limit is ridiculously slow.  Apparently Oregonians are unable to control their vehicles at 75 mph on perfectly straight roads, so they have to keep it at 60.  Also, Oregonians are unable to pump their own gas.  I got to experience someone else pumping my gas for the first time.  I only had to pay an extra $.50 per gallon to enjoy the privilege of waiting 5 minutes for the girl to make it over to my car to begin pumping.

Lest you think I didn't enjoy my time in Oregon, let me share with you the Dusty Spur Cafe.

As we passed La Grande, Oregon it was time for lunch.  We asked Foursquare to suggest a good place to eat.  The Dusty Spur sounded like an adventure.

When we first pulled up we were skeptical.  But who wouldn't want to eat in a barn?  So we went inside.

On the inside, it was actually a really cute little restaurant with a rustic feel to it.
Even if we were the only ones there

Not to mention I got to sit with a really cute girl.
Sorry it's blurry.  Apparently I couldn't hold still to take this picture.

The food was really good as well.  It was a pleasant surprise.

After the Dusty Spur we got back in our car and exited the state as fast as we could.

Once in Washington, we decided to take a little detour from the highway and hit up Snoqualmie Falls.  It's a beautiful waterfall.  So, naturally we took a beautiful selfie.
I should have worn sunglasses
Clearly, I had to take an animation of it.

After Snoqualmie Falls we finally made it into Seattle.  We checked into our hotel and called my mom.  We met the family for dinner in a little seafood restaurant near Pike's Place Market.  After that it was bed time.

The next day we got on the ship.  Stay tuned for more posts about the rest of the trip.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coming soon!

We JUST got back from our amazing vacation and I will (or more then likely, Jeff will) post all about it.  Here is just one of the many beautiful things we saw!