Cruising Resurrection Bay

The town of Seward is about 26 miles south of us and is the heart of Resurrection Bay. There are glacier cruises, fishing charters, kayak adventures – nearly anything you’d like to do on the water in Resurrection Bay is found in Seward. In late May, Steve and I went out With Kenai Fjords Tours hoping to see some wildlife and knowing we’d get to see several glaciers.

Our cruise left Seward at 10 am and I didn’t have great expectations about the weather. It was overcast, cold and windy.

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Everyone was bundled up! As we left the harbor, we had a great view of the town’s waterfront RV park (a place I’d love to spend some vaca time!)

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Looking back at the pictures I took, I was really disappointed. I don’t think any of them captured the beauty and excitedness we saw and felt.

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We hadn’t even gotten out of the harbor when we saw our first wildlife – sea otters…

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The captain and crew gave a first rate running commentary on everything we were seeing and made every attempt to get us as close to the wildlife as was possible without disturbing them. Despite the crappiness of the weather, there is no denying the beauty of the scenery…

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Our next wildlife encounter was a group of Dall’s porpoises. They seemingly played in the boat’s wake, riding the waves and swimming along side of us, as if to race…

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With their black and white bodies, if you look quick and don’t know the difference, you might think they were killer whales (orcas). The porpoises finally tired of playing with us and we moved on. Our next sighting was special because it isn’t often the endangered fin whales are this close to shore. Fin whales are the second largest creature to ever live on earth!

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Leaving the fins behind, we came upon a pod of killer whales, aka orcas. Killer whales aren’t whales at all, they are members of the porpoise/dolphin family.

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As we were watching, a smaller boat drifted in. They got a close up view…

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As if the dramatic cliffs and soaring, snow capped peaks weren’t enough scenery to make your jaw drop, the captain brought us into a cove with a glacier fed waterfall…

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All this excitement and we hadn’t even gotten to the glacier yet. Our destination was Aialik Glacier, deep in Kenai Fjords National Park. The closer we got, the more ice we came across and, luckily, the bluer the skies became…

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And then, there was Aialik Glacier…

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See the group of kayakers near the center of the picture? No thanks! As much as I enjoy kayaking, that wouldn’t be for me!

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We didn’t get too witness any calving of the glacier, but the abundance of ice in the water suggested it had been active recently.I’m pretty sure Steve was enjoying himself, what do you think?

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We were about half way through our cruise, but there were plenty of things yet to see. On our way back towards Seward, we motored around several of the islands. My favorite was the one with all the steller sea lions on it…

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And the colony of kittiwakes nesting on the face of the cliffs…

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But, our luck hadn’t run out yet, we came across a humpback whale…

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One of the reasons we chose this tour over some of the others, was this tour stopped at Fox Island for an all you can eat prime rib and salmon buffet. I would have taken more pictures of Fox Island, but I was too busy stuffing my face! Steve and I both opted to add the king crab legs (at $15 a person, how could we not!)

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We were almost back to Seward when we got our final wildlife encounter. There were mountain gloats high above us on the rocky outcropping…

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All in all, even if I think the pictures don’t do it any sort of justice, it was an amazing cruise with stunning scenery and more wildlife than I ever expected.

Up next…looking for bears…oh my!

 

 

 

Our First Day Trip

So we crossed from the Yukon into Alaska on May 1st. Here it is July 1st and I am posting about our first day trip on May 12th. Reminds me just how far behind I am.

We’ve actually been in Alaska for 8 weeks and we’ve been on several day trips now. One thing I have decided is that Nat Geo has been lying to us for years! There is not a moose standing in the road around every bend and there aren’t bears catching salmon in every river and creek. As a matter of fact, I saw my first wild bear just this week. That being said, if you want to make sure to see all of the Alaskan wildlife, you need to take a day trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

We drove past the entrance to the AWCC because we had heard there were a bunch of eagles in Turnagain Arm. The tide was out and, who knew that eagles will stand in the shallow waters to hunt…

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It was amazing to see so many eagles in such a small area.

It was a cold, raw day and the skies kept threatening to drench us. We had dressed for it and were ready to explore the AWCC. The conservation work being done there is truly impressive. They have helped re-introduce wood bison and other large game back into the wilderness. Some of their wildlife are movie stars, having been on loan for the filming of Into The Wild.

I loved how much room the animals had and how natural their habitats were. Here are my favorite pictures from our day…

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Elk
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Musk Ox
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Grizzly bears
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Black bear
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Looking for lunch
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Something’s on the wind
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Part of the caribou herd – I think they see the lunch truck coming
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Wood bison with nursing baby
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Learning to walk

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Successful fishing in Turnagain Arm
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Wolf surveying his domain

There were several other species I didn’t get any decent shots of, like moose, lynx, porcupine and reindeer.

I’m hoping to see most of these animals in the wild and if you’ve been following me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know which ones I’ve seen so far.

Up next…Kenai Fjords National Park.

Thanks for coming along!

Our Hinkey Summit Adventure

Page had told us about another drive we would enjoy. “If you follow the road through Paradise Valley, you will come to the base of Hinkey Mountain. There is a road to the summit, your Jeep wouldn’t have any trouble,” he said. Frankly, the prospect of getting to do a little 4-wheeling really appealed to me.

First we had to find the road to Paradise Valley. Page had said it was easy. “Head out Hwy 95 for 25 miles or so, when you see a gas station in the middle of nowhere, take that left. That’s the road to Paradise Valley.”  Seems simple enough. Steve and I were enjoying the drive, just chatting about our adventures the previous day (you can read about that here) when I noticed these tiny heads popping up along the side of the highway. “Did you see that? What are those? Look, there’s another one. Slow down, I want to see what it is.” Well, there were cars coming up behind us so slowing down wasn’t an option. Lucky for me, our “middle of nowhere” gas station was just up ahead. Hopefully when we made the left, there would be more heads popping up. Sure enough, as we made our way down Paradise Valley Road, there they were. Steve pulled to the side of the road and I waited anxiously for the critter to makes its appearance. I didn’t have to wait too long…

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They reminded me of the pocket gophers we had seen in Texas but these were prairie dogs. It was comical to watch them pop up and scurry around, only to disappear into another burrow. We watched for a bit then resumed our drive. All the sudden, without a word, Steve banged a u-turn. Huh? What had he seen that I missed? He pulled over again and pointed to one of the prairie dog holes and said “Isn’t that an owl?” We got out the binoculars and sure enough, it was a burrowing owl. The problem was, it wasn’t feeling like being social. Every time we tried to get a picture it either dropped back down into the hole or it would fly off to a fence post just out of camera range. With a little patience we were finally able to  get a few shots…

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Leaving the owls to their activities, we drove on. I was thinking “Wow, Hon, get catch with the owls!” when a pheasant flew into the road. Naturally, it didn’t stay long enough for either of us to get a shot. Now it was my turn…”Pull over!” I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I wanted a closer look. When I walked over to the fence line, this is what I had seen…

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Hey, it’s still wildlife, it’s just long dead wildlife. As I was getting ready to get back into the Jeep, I looked down the fence line and saw something a little more photogenic…

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Wow, I was loving all this wildlife! Once again, we started back towards Paradise Valley. Finally, we made it and had to get a few pics while we were there. It is another ‘has been’ town with more abandon houses/businesses then occupied, but it has a saloon too…

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We finally found Hinkey Summit Road. It wasn’t going to be 4-wheeling unless the road got a heck of a lot worse further on. With no other vehicle in sight, we crawled along, ever ready for our next wildlife encounter. Steve stopped by a pond and I got out to check it out. Lots of ducks and geese and a couple birds I couldn’t identify at the time…

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American Avocets – Thanks Google!

We came to the entrance to Homboldt National Forest where the road to the summit truly began. I oohed and aahed at the scenery…

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I took pictures of the winding road…

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As we neared the summit, I noticed a natural bridge…

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At the summit, we almost got to go 4-wheeling. There was still snow to play in…

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OK, not really enough snow to 4-wheel in. Perhaps it was the elevation getting to me but I had an idea – I would take a video on the way back down the mountain. Maybe not my best idea ever, but what do you think…

Thanks for coming along.

I am almost caught up. I have one more post about our trip then I will start on arriving in Alaska and our adventures so far (there have been some cool ones!)

Searching For A Cold Beer

We left Beatty (and hopefully all of Waldo’s troubles) and headed north. So far, most of our getting to Alaska trip had been west. Now it was time to go north. The drive from Beatty was hundreds of miles of absolutely nothing but breathtaking scenery. Once again we were on the side of the road, but this time for a good reason. I wanted pictures of the amazing landscape around us…

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We were traveling on Hwy 376 when the GPS said to take the next exit onto The Loneliest Road in America. I looked at Steve and asked “What did the GPS just say?” Sure enough, the stretch of Route 50 through Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America! Some day, I’d like to travel the entire 3000 mile of Route 50. It goes from Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California.

When I was researching our stops, I found a New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca. Originally, we were just going to spend the night and move on, but it looked like there were lots of things to do and see there. I had picked up a bunch of brochures at the office and we spent our first evening there trying to decide what adventure would be first on the list. In the morning, we decided to visit some of the ghost towns in the area. While I was pouring over the brochures, Steve was searching AtlasObscura.com. What he found sounded way cooler than what I had found. A ghost town that wasn’t a ghost town! And, it had a saloon! Before we headed out to find the saloon, we had to pick up some supplies. We were looking for a hardware store and someone said there was an ACE Hardware nearby. Now, that doesn’t sound all that exciting I know. You are probably wondering why I’m mentioning it at all. But…the ACE Hardware was inside of Riddley’s Family Market. Yep, a hardware/grocery store. The only place where you can get pipe fittings and pickles all in one stop. (Thank you Josie) I loved it! With our shopping done, we went in search of a cold beer.

Midas can’t truly be called a ghost town because there are still 9 full time residents. As we made our way further into Nevada’s back country, we passed all sorts of places. Some where beautiful scenery, others made me scratch my head a bit…

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I wonder how many people drive down this dirt road and think “Yeah, I want to buy that”

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We had to stop for the free range cattle a few times

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We were almost to Midas when a tumbleweed blew by us. I’ve seen lots of tumbleweeds in the movies and wanted to see one up close…

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So, the funny thing about this picture is while I was standing there holding a tumbleweed, some of the “locals” drove by. I can only imagine what they were thinking.

With only 3 miles to go, we wondered what we would find in Midas. Was there really a saloon in the middle of nowhere? Here are some of the things we saw when we got to “town”…

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And YES, the saloon…

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Notice the open sign!? Woohoo! Inside, the owner, Page, popped open a couple cold ones for us. We spent the next several hours talking with Page. He was a retired electrician. He had spent 30 years working for a gold mine operation and now owned the saloon. He told us Nevada is the worlds 4th largest gold producer. An article I found confirms this…

4th largest gold producing country 

In fact, if Nevada was a country, it would be the world’s fourth-largest gold producer, behind China, Australia and Russia, according to the US Geological Survey. Reported gold reserves (resources that are economical to mine) at the end of 2015 were about 70 million ounces, enough to sustain gold production near current levels for the next 12 to 15 years, reads a 2016 report from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG).

Wow! I went out to check out more of the town while Steve continued to chat with Page. And who did I see? The folks who had driven by while I was chasing down the tumbleweed. They were nice enough to let me take a picture of their truck…

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Page told us about lots of things we could find near the town, but in the end, we spent so much time chatting with him, we only had time to go to the far north end of town. Here we found the abandon part of town…

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One of the entrances into the mine

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You know I had to go inside and look around!
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An old star drill bit
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Mr. Bunny was kind enough to pose for me

I think this sign was one of my favorite things I saw in Midas..

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With the light and my energy fading, we began the drive back to Waldo. I wondered about the people who had once lived in Midas. Had they found their fortune? Or did they give up and leave everything behind? The town was such a strange mix of abandon, fixed up, new and cold beer. Our final run in with the locals came just as we were nearing the highway back to Winnemucca, riding off into the sunset…

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Up next, our visit to Paradise Valley…

Have you ever gone to a ghost town for a cold beer?

Petrified Forest National Park

Since the Petrified Forest National Park wasn’t on the list of places we planned to visit, I hadn’t done any research. Sometimes this works out well, because everything is a surprise. For one thing, I didn’t know Arizona’s Painted Desert is within the 150,000 acres which make up the park.

We entered the park on the north end and drove the 28 mile road through the park. Our first treat was the painted desert…badlands2

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It is hard to give a sense of scale and these pictures don’t do justice to the beauty. We stopped at the Painted Desert Inn and took in the sights…

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I love how it blends in with the scenery

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You do not want to fall on one of these!

We stopped at nearly all of the scenic overlooks.

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Notice the white car near the top on the right

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We couldn’t resist stopping where Route 66 used to be…

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“Our obligatory selfie to prove we were there”

Another stop was at Newspaper Rock, there are over 650 petroglyphs in the area…

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Imagine a time when you wanted to leave a message for another traveler and the only way to do it was to carve it into the rocks using symbols. There is no “dictionary” for the symbols, so we can only guess as to all of their meanings. Another stop was the Puerco Pueblo. The remains of quite a few building mark the place where as many as 200 people might have lived. There are also petroglyphs here…

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The building in the background houses several exhibits about the history and culture of the Puebloan people

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When I look at this set, one of the things I see is a bird eating a frog, other people see a stork bringing a baby. What do you think?

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And I was worried about rattlesnakes
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Near the beginning of Blue Mesa

We were beginning to see more and more pieces of petrified wood…

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We were nearly at the end of the 28 mile road when I caught sight of a pronghorn antelope. I had been hoping to see one, but had almost given up.  Steve got this shot.

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At the south end of the park is another visitor center with a walking trail passing gigantic petrified logs…

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The man in the pictures gives you an idea of the size

What amazed me the most about the logs was the variety of colors…

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Have you ever visited the Petrified Forest? The Painted Desert?

 

 

A Year in Review

With 2017 and Peterborough in the review mirror, I realize just how much our life changed last year. When 2017 began, we were still living in a stick and brick home, we owned a business and we were still making our plan to hit the road. Then, something happened and it all changed. Accelerating our plan to move into Waldo full time a year ahead of schedule required quite a lot of work. First, had to decide what we wanted to keep and what needed to go, then we had to get rid of all our belongings that weren’t going with us…

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One of our many yard sales

We had to get the house ready to sell. Clean, paint, new flooring…

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kitchen cabinets

And, of course, the we had to wait for the weather to warm up…

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Sometimes, you just have to take a break!

Then, there was all the work we needed to do to Waldo before we could leave. My favorite “upgrade” was our new curtains…

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What do you do with family photos?
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You turn them into iron-ons and make curtains!

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We said goodbye to family and friends…

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Finally, Florida bound…

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By far, the biggest improvement we had to do was get a new roof. We decided Florida was where we should get that done. The benefit of being able to stay with my dad while the repair was done, made the decision an easy one…

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Steve began to adjust to not going to work every day…

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It was July before we truly ready to hit the road. We had a job waiting for us in Texas and it was time to go…

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Our first meal living full time in Waldo.

And then, our new temporary home in Texas…

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The next 5 months seemingly flew by, bringing us to December and the impending new year.

How things can change in 12 months! From this view…

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To this view…

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From using wood for winter heat…

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To using wood for camp fires…

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It’s been a year of major changes, all for the better. We’ve visited beautiful places and made some wonderful new friends. It means so much to me to have you along on our journey. Thank you.

May 2018 be your best year yet!