No, We Didn’t Win the Lottery

After reading about all of the adventures we’ve had this summer, you must be thinking we hit the lottery. I mean, really, who could afford to do all of those things?

Links go to the blog post I wrote about the adventure.

Two glacier cruises…

Kenai Fjords Glacier Cruise-7651
Our cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours
IMG_4499
Our cruise with Major Marine

Two Helicopter tours…

Marathon Helicopter-8414
Marathon Helicopter tour
Seward Helo Dog Sled-8646
Seward Helicopter Tours

Dog sledding…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8662
Turning Heads Kennel

Rafting…

img_5833
Rafting with Alaska River Adventures

Took the tram…

Alyeska Tram-8545
Riding the Tram

Visited the wildlife center

AWCC-7384
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

And did sight seeing on our own…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8041

img_5653

Kenai NWR-8737

Kenai-8495

Hopw-8247

Hopw-8215

Drive From Anchorage-7268

Homer-9071
11 1/2 week old eagle in Homer

6J2A1219

 

 

One thing I haven’t written much about is the fact we are working. For May, June and most of July, we worked full time, 40 hours a week. We are the “On Site Hosts” at the Spruce Moose Chalets in Moose Pass. What does an on site host do, you ask? Well, lots of things. But one of the major things we do is be an ambassador for the area. Chalet guests come from all over the world and want to have the best experiences possible. But how can we recommend an excursion if we haven’t tried it ourselves? Would you recommend a restaurant you’ve never eaten at? No! So what I did was contact all of these businesses and explained to them we would be here for the summer and wanted to be able to tell our guests about our adventures. I asked if they would be willing to give us a discount in exchange for our testimony. Simple as that! Nearly every place I contacted offered us a deal and discounts varied from place to place.¬† We never would have been able to afford to do all these things if I hadn’t been able to leverage our position as the on site host.

I still have one more post to write (maybe two) about our time but I am pretty much caught up. Finally!

Our job contract here is almost up. We will be leaving Moose Pass on Sept. 4th, but our adventures are far from over! We are heading up to Denali for a week (where we have an interview for a job next summer), then we will be heading down to Haines for 4 days. I have mapped out a pretty ambitious trip back to Florida, 4 National Parks and lots of cool sights along the way. I hope you continue to follow our adventures!

We’d love to hear your comments!

Drifting into Happiness

Despite the fact the weather hasn’t been all that great this summer, we’ve been very lucky to have mostly warm sunny days when we’ve scheduled an excursion. Our rafting trip through the Upper Kenai River was no exception. Our trip began at the office of Alaska River Adventures in Cooper Landing, where we donned rain pants, rubber boots and a life vest. (The rain pants were for “just in case” we get splashed by the rapids) We walked down to the launch area and were given a quick but thorough safety speech. Our guide, Austin, promised us he hadn’t had anyone fall overboard, at least not accidentally. This was good news to me!

img_5833

Our float would take us nearly 7 hours covering the entire Upper Kenai River. This portion of the river is closed to all motorized craft. Drifting (and paddling) is the name of the game. A family at the launch waved as we headed off…

Rafting-8750

There were only 2 other couples on our trip, both on their honeymoon. That made Steve and I “the old married couple.” Austin pointed out landmarks and mountains of interest as he seemingly effortlessly paddled our way. The flow of the river is very calm here and he mostly just used the paddle for steering…

img_5837

As we rounded a bend in the river, Austin gave a shout, “There’s a bear!” Of course we all turned trying to get the best view…

 

Rafting-8766

He told us another rafting company had put it there to fulfill the promise of seeing a bear in the wild. We all had a good laugh, but I was hoping for one just a little livelier. This time of year, the river is full of fisherman, hoping to land the big one…

Rafting-8756

Rafting-8755

Rafting-8777

Rafting-8797

Rafting-8825

The current began to pick up a bit as we neared the confluence of the Russian River and the Kenai River…

Rafting-8778

The Russian River Ferry brings fisherman to the far bank. This is an extremely popular fishing spot and where you can witness combat fishing. I, for one, was happy there weren’t too many anglers out on this day. It would be neat to see fisherman shoulder to shoulder on the river, but I imagine tempers can flare…

Rafting-8781

Rafting-8786

If you’ve never heard of combat fishing, you should Google it! It’s nuts! Anyhow, back to our adventure. We lucked out and got to see several eagles as we drifted…

IMG_4944

Rafting-8806

Rafting-8837

We were coming up on the only Class III rapids on our trip and I decided to video going through the Kenai River Canyon…

Austin noticed a couple up on the bluff, they were pointing and looking at something across the river. And guess what – finally – a bear…

Rafting-8830
See the couple on the bluff

Rafting-8834-Edit

We were getting closer and closer to Skilak Lake, which would mark the end of our float. Austin knew of a small side channel where he frequently sees moose. Since we had plenty of time, we left the main part of the river and found ourselves in the most beautiful, peaceful area I’ve been in for ages…

Rafting-8846

The detour was a wonderful addition to an already exciting day. When we finally got to Skilak Lake, Austin broke out the makings for our lunch…

Rafting-8852

After we had eaten, Austin packed up everything and prepared to lead us on a mile and a half hike to where the van was waiting…

Rafting-8853

It was a beautiful hike to the van. I’m hoping Steve and I can go back and hike the trail again.

You won’t believe it, but I am almost caught up! It’s a good thing too because we only have another 3 weeks in Moose Pass before we head to Denali!

Thanks for coming along with us on our adventures.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A Bit of Winter in July

It’s not every day you can combine two amazing adventures in one. Well, not completely true. In 2013, the owners of Turning Heads Kennel bought Seward Helicopter Tours and began flying folks like Steve and me up to Godwin Glacier for a bit of dog sledding. These aren’t just any old sled dogs. They are canine athletes! They’ve competed in races like the Tustumena 200, the Willow 300 and the Iditarod. Like all athletes, training is important. But how do you train sled dogs when there isn’t any snow? Well, you set up a base camp on a glacier! Then you fly people up there to share the experience.

We began our trip at the Seward Airport. Where we donned over-boots to keep our feet dry and warm parkas which were provided for us because, well, we were flying up to a glacier! Then we waited for our turn to board the helicopter…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8632

It takes about 15 minutes to reach the basecamp on Godwin Glacier and the scenery was incredible…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8638

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8722

After landing on the glacier, the mushers introduced us to the future stars of sledding – the puppies!

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8650

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8647

img_5808

After getting our fill of puppy kisses, our musher talked with us about what life is like for a sled dog. He said educating people about dog sledding is an important part of the experience. Someone in our group asked, “What makes a sled dog want to pull and run?” And I loved the answer – “What makes a retriever chase a tennis ball or jump in the lake? It’s what they do, what makes them happy.” And the chorus of barking dogs told me these were some happy pups!

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8688

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8695

Our team was already hitched up and we got settled onto the sleds to begin our ride…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8656

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8662

The dogs’ excitement was contagious as we started across the glacier. There were two sleds hitched together, our musher stood on the back of the first sled and we all got a turn at standing on the back of the second sled…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8671

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8669

Blue skies and breathtaking scenery helped complete the picture perfect day…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8720

While Steve was taking his turn on the back, I took a video from the front seat…

And soon, we pulling back into basecamp…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8677

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8668

When our ride was over, we had plenty of time to meet our team and the other dogs who call Godwin Glacier home. I noticed several of the lighter colored dogs had dark circles around their eyes. Our musher explained it is eye makeup and it helps them not get snow-blinded…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8709

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8705

We also got to witness the obvious love the mushers have for their dogs…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8691

All too soon, our return helicopter landed to whisk us back to the airport…

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8646

Seward Helo Dog Sled-8714

It doesn’t get any more exciting than this! Helicopters, glaciers, dog sledding and puppies!

The Alyeska Tram

We had the morning off, but had to be back at the chalets to meet incoming guests by 4 pm and we needed to stay within cell coverage in case the guests needed any directions. So – what to do? Where to go?

We decided to drive over to Girdwood and take the tram ride at the Alyeska Ski Resort. Since it was a beautiful, sunny day, we figured the scenery would be worth the hour drive. And boy was it ever!

Once we found a parking spot and bought our tickets, we got in line for the next tram. They run every 15 minutes, so we didn’t have to wait too long. When we got to the top, the first thing I saw was an interesting sign…

Alyeska Tram-8519

Hmmm – okay. Note to self, don’t play with unexploded artillery shells. There were so many trails to chose from…

img_5776

The tram operator said his favorite trail was the Mountain Top Trail. He said it was a bit steep, but the view would be worth it. Before we started up the trail, we walked around the tram building and took in the sights…

Alyeska Tram-8525
Steve lining up his shot
IMG_4730
Wow!

There was still some snow at the beginning of the trail and Steve was wishing he hadn’t worn sandals, but I was ready to start our climb…

Alyeska Tram-8530

The trail was constantly switch-backing, so the climb wasn’t too steep. We stopped several times along the way to gawk at the view…

Alyeska Tram-8533

Alyeska Tram-8545

Alyeska Tram-8531

Are you noticing a trend here? Every time I turned around, Steve was sitting down taking pictures. But you can’t argue with the results!

IMG_4718

Alyeska Tram-8521

When we got almost to the top, we stopped for “our selfie to prove we were there”…

img_5679

Then, Steve took a seat (again) while I took a closer look and the flowers covering the mountain side…

Alyeska Tram-8548

img_5682

Far below us, others were hiking through the fields and forests…

Alyeska Tram-8541

Can you spot the hikers? Wait, let me zoom in a bit…

Alyeska Tram-8540

After our climb, we stopped for a quick beer at the Bore Tide Deli & Bar before we took the tram back to the base.

The guests had texted me they were leaving Anchorage, so I knew we’d better head back to the chalets. In the end, we pulled in almost right behind them. Talk about timing!

The Alyeska Tram is a great way to spend the day and you just can’t beat the views!

 

Wonderful Whittier

Ok, to be completely honest, it IS wonderful, but it’s also a bit weird! If you are claustrophobic, you might want to skip heading to Whittier in your car since the only way to get there is though the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. This 2.5 mile long tunnel under Maynard Mountain is not only the longest highway tunnel in North America, but it also one of the only tunnels used for trains and cars, oh, and it’s one lane! Although the railroad portion of the tunnel was completed in 1943, it didn’t open to vehicles until June 7, 2000. (Click here for some interesting tunnel history.)

We were going to be taking a cruise to Surprise Glacier with Major Marine Tours at 12:15. I wanted to have time to explore Whittier a bit before the cruise, so we opted for the 8:30am tunnel crossing. We arrived at the staging site, paid our $13 toll and waited for the tunnel to open to traffic bound for Whittier. Once the tunnel was cleared, we began our drive through the mountain…

img_5535

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. We arrived in Whittier with plenty of time to explore. One of the things we wanted to see was the Buckner Building. Steve had read about it on Atlas Obscura. Once touted as “The City Under One Roof”, it is now a place of moldy walls and asbestos filled air, not quite hidden behind chain link and razor wire. The daredevil in me wanted to venture inside but the saner side of me opted to take a few shots from outside. It was a close call though when I found an opening in the fence! If Steve hadn’t been pointing at the No Trespass sign and shaking his head, I might have done it.

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7981

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7966

We still had plenty of time before the cruise, so we drove out Shotgun Cove Trail. We stopped at a few of the day use areas and were treated to some spectacular scenery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7991

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7999

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8018

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8034

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8040
Notice the boat? Gives a small sense of scale.

And my first sighting of a steller jay…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8006

At the end of the trail, we found¬† this…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8011

I had been seeing splashes of yellow along the road and was finally able to get close enough to get a picture. Turns out, it was yellow skunk cabbage…

img_5544

As we headed back toward the harbor, there was one more building I wanted to see. The Begich Towers are home to almost the entire population (all 200) of Whittier. (great story here)…

img_5549

Finally, it was time to check in for our cruise. We found a parking spot and walked along the harbor to the Major Marine office…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8041

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8043

As we left the dock, we had a great view of the Buckner Building…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8188

The onboard park ranger and the captain did a great job of explaining the variety of things were to see. Our first stop was at a kittiwake colony…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8051

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8063

I was content to take in the scenery and listen to the narrative as we navigated through Prince William Sound. The captain stayed a respectful distance form the sea otters, many with babies…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8096

When I saw movement and splashes of color, it wasn’t until I got out the binoculars that I was able to see the kayakers…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8070

The lingering clouds made a dramatic display in the mountains..

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8113

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8118

26 different glaciers can be seen from Prince William Sound and the ranger pointed them out as we passed…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8127

But our cruise was to a specific glacier – Surprise Glacier. As we entered Harriman Fjord, we got our first glimpse…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8131

The captain explained we would be staying 1/2 a mile from the face of the glacier since it is actively calving and a 1/2 mile was safety factor needed for the tremendous waves possible if a large shelf were to calve. The closer we got to the glacier face, the more ice we saw in the water…

img_5574

I knew ahead of time about the glacier ice margaritas we could enjoy, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw two members of the crew scooping up ice…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8136

It is hard to describe the eerie beauty of the glacier. Between the stunning blue ice and the rifle like cracking sounds, I can only describe it as breathtaking…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8143

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8142

It’s hard to get a picture of it calving because by the time you hear it, it has already happened, I got a very short video…

But, Steve managed to get a great shot of it calving…

IMG_4499

It was time to begin our journey back to Whittier, but there were still lots of things to see. We cruised though Esther Passage…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8163

And stopped at a working salmon hatchery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8181

And of course, enjoyed our glacier ice margaritas…

img_5576

It was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise, made better by adding the all you can eat prime rib and salmon buffet! But, as you know, all good things must come to an end. So with our bellies full, our camera cards loaded with pictures and our eyes having absorbed so much amazing scenery, we once again took our place in line at the staging area to enter the tunnel one more time. This time, though, we had to wait for the train to clear the tunnel before we could enter…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8197

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8201

An interesting article about 1899 Harriman Expedition can be found here.

Have you ever been to Whittier? What did you think of the tunnel?