I could write posts and posts about our Alaska cruise, but I’m trying not to! In the interests of not boring everyone senseless, I’ve condensed the entire week into this single account, itself a lightly-edited version of the brief notes I took each day. We sailed with Princess cruises from Anchorage (Whittier) south through the inside passage to Vancouver, past the glaciers of Yakutat bay and Glacier Bay national park, stopping at Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan, and then caught the decidedly unglamorous but perfectly convenient Greyhound bus down to Seattle for a cheaper flight home to Newark.
Along the way we saw harbour seals and Steller sea lions, Pacific white-sided dolphins, humpback whales and a lone orca, and, magically, the Northern Lights. We shared a dinner table with some extremely nice people, and met all kinds of fellow travellers around the ship. We ate lots of food, drank plenty of cocktails, and generally had a lovely time – looking through my notes and photos is making me wish I was back there right now!
Friday September 1st was going to be our big day out at the Alaska State Fair, until we checked our tickets and realised that it didn’t actually open until noon. Luckily this happened the night before, so we had time to choose another local attraction to visit in the morning – the Independence gold mine. (We very nearly didn’t make it there either thanks to a Google mapping snafu, but happily the wonders of mobile technology set us back on track.) Continue reading →
Denali National Park is particularly concerned with preserving as much land as possible in a pristine wilderness condition. Consequently, there are only a handful of areas within the park boundaries that visitors are permitted to access, and across its 6 million acres there is just a single 92 mile-long road, only the first 15 miles of which are paved. Visitors can travel the road by means of the park bus service, there are a handful of campsites along the way, and a few lucky individuals can take a backcountry hike with a ranger each day.
I never used to understand when people complained about travelling – how is it possible to travel too much, I thought…. Well, it turns out that four back-to-back trips, on top of several others earlier in the year, proved to be enough even for me. We’ve been home for a little over two weeks now but somehow it still feels like we’ve just landed. I’m even resisting booking our next batch of flights (including some conference travel, not just for fun), which is completely unlike me!
Pretty much as soon as we got home from our 2015 trip to Hawaii, we started joking that Alaska was next on the bucket list. However, the distance involved, and the fact that everyone we know who has visited encouraged us to take a cruise, meant that it was very much on the “one day” end of the spectrum. Fast forward to a quiet weekend in autumn 2016 – we were idly wondering just how much a cruise might cost, decided to look it up, discovered an affordable option in early September 2017, and booked it on the spot.
Since the cruise was a week-long voyage from Anchorage (well, Whittier) south to Vancouver, we decided to arrive early and spend some time in Alaska before boarding the ship, which quickly turned into a fairly epic trip – we flew into Anchorage and spent a day there, rented a car and drove up to Denali national park for a couple of days hiking and enjoying the wilderness, headed to Palmer for the Alaska state fair, and then ended up back in Anchorage to return the car before setting sail.
Having come all this way, of course we had to make sure we were as close as possible to the centre of full totality, so the morning of eclipse day (Monday 21st August) saw us collecting a rental car and hitting the road to Greenville, South Carolina. As always we’d pre-booked our car, and I was particularly glad on this occasion since apparently no spare cars were available. The roads were correspondingly crammed with eclipse-chasers, and we spent a boring couple of hours in heavy traffic before the satnav took pity and re-routed us via a series of much emptier minor roads, but happily we’d set out in more-than-plenty of time. Continue reading →
Tom started considering possible viewing options as soon as he found out that a full solar eclipse was occurring over North America this year, but as the date drew nearer and nothing was booked I assumed he’d decided against it (or just forgotten). Then, a mere two weeks out, he came up with a plan – a thirteen hour Amtrak ride to Charlotte in North Carolina, then a Greyhound bus into South Carolina to experience the total eclipse. I was welcome to join him, or not, but he was going regardless! Continue reading →