My trip to Alaska and Seattle, June 1-20, 2005, was extraordinary. This was the first time I'd been to either of these places. I had one week at home between the 2005 trip to England and this one, just enough time to prepare.
The flights went from Syracuse, to Newark, to Seattle, and on to Anchorage. The plane's approach to Anchorage took us through the Turnagain Arm body of water, with gorgeous snow-covered peaks on each side. What a terrific way to begin a journey in Alaska. Alaskan time is four hours earlier than Eastern time.
On the first day in Anchorage, we went to the Anchorage Museum, beautiful inside and out with marvelous displays of Alaskan native culture, paintings, and full size historical and diorama exhibits. We ate lunch in the museum's cafe, enjoying a very nice fish chowder. That afternoon we got a rental car and headed north for Denali on Route 3, beautiful scenery all the way, with a bit of rain. I had my first $9.95 burger that evening! We settled in for the night at the Crow's Nest cabins.
At the visitor's center in Denali National Park, we boarded the shuttle bus, which took us as far as Toklat, a six-hour round trip, with a few stops along the way. The scenery was beautiful, taiga, tundra, mountains, clouds, rain so Mt. McKinley didn't appear. Nor did we see bear or moose, but we did see Dall sheep, caribou, marmot, and magpies. After the Denali NP tour was over, we headed north to Fairbanks. The scenery on that drive was lovely, woodlands and broad valleys.
Fairbanks was one of my favorite places of the trip. It's easy to drive in Fairbanks. I especially enjoyed using the traffic lanes to the left and right of the main thoroughfare. At the University of Alaska campus, we visited the Museum of the North, the Georgeson Botanical Garden, and a cafeteria for lunch. Dandelions have been brought to Alaska from the south and they prosper in the nearly twenty-four hours per day of sunlight. The people who care for the gardens have a fight on their hands with this weed. We took a walk at Creamer's Field, a waterfowl refuge, and formerly a dairy farm. The walk was accompanied by mosquitoes, pretty much our only encounter with the Alaskan fly.
In downtown Fairbanks we stopped at the Visitor's Center and I enjoyed the Golden Heart Plaza by the Chena River, a fountain and monument, a beautiful clock tower and a pedestrian bridge. Also, while in this area I thought I'd lost the car keys, and after having the car opened to the tune of $25.00, I found the keys tucked away in my purse. Bleah! We all have those days, right? That evening we attended an Alaskan Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park, halibut, salmon, prime rib, and fixings, good food, and then wandered through the park, where old machinery was parked and small shops were open for browsing.
A happy birthday wish, by phone, from my eldest daughter, started my day, so nice. Headed out to the Riverboat Discovery cruise, a sternwheeler aka paddleboat. The sights included two different planes taking off and landing next to or on the river, Susan Butcher's dog compound, and a Chena Indian Village. The "wedding of the rivers" was interesting. The clear Chena flows into the glacier-fed Tanana River and a distinct line is formed between the two. The homes along the river are beautiful and many of them have an airplane parked in the yard. The cruise was very worthwhile. Farewell to Fairbanks as we head south.
Following an overnight in Wasilla we went on to the Kenai Peninsula and an overnight stop in Seward where we visited the Alaska SeaLife Center. On the following day we dropped off the car in Anchorage. The next day, we took a plane from Anchorage to Valdez. In Valdez we had a wander down to the docks and I visited the museum, where a quilt exhibition was in progress, very nice.
The second leg of the journey was a ferry boat trip from Valdez through the Inside Passage to Bellingham, Washington, with three full days in Seattle. The first day out on the M/V Kennicott, our first port was Tititka, where the walkway ramp got stuck and we were docked for four hours while the repairs were made. Underway again and out to sea, the boat started to pitch forward and back all day. I put on my seasick patch (too late) and once the cafeteria people started to cook supper, the smell of the food did me in. I went to our cabin and fell asleep. The next day I was fine, but didn't have much of an appetite!
Juneau is land-locked and can be accessed by air or water. We went on a city/glacier tour. Well done, we saw the city main features, drove across a bridge to Douglas Island, went out to the Mendenhall Glacier, impressive, and around Auke Lake. While we were eating lunch, apparently fish were being cleaned down at the docks, and the eagles showed up for their lunch, too. I think the count of adults and immatures (brown) had to have been close to two dozen birds, soaring, diving, gliding, what a show it was! The next leg, was on a catamaran, the M/V Fairweather, a four and a half-hour trip to Sitka, smooth, quiet. I liked Sitka, second favorite to Fairbanks. The museum was in a octogan building, of significance to me, because we have octogon buildings in South Otselic. The Sitka National Park offers a woodland stroll with totems around every corner. I toured the Bishop's house, very interesting, Russian built, the chapel especially beautiful. Was able to visit the very beautiful St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral the next day.
Aboard the M/V Columbia for the last leg, three nights, to Bellingham. Further south, we're now seeing sunsets, no snow on the mountains, and more forest. On the sailings we saw the whales' blowing spouts, a back and a fin here and there, some dolphins, but 'twas a disappointing showing for breaches. The scenery was very enjoyable. We disembarked in Bellingham, had a bit of a hike to the bus terminal, then boarded a Greyhound to Seattle and then got a taxi to our hotel in Pioneer Square. That afternoon I took a city tour. We drove through city neighborhoods, went to the locks, saw a salmon ladder, stopped at the Fisherman's Terminal for a photo of the monument to fisherman lost at sea, stopped for a photo of the troll under the Aurora Bridge, drove by the Public Market, the Central Library, and the Space Needle. This type of tour gives me the opportunity to decide what to explore further and the new library went on the calendar for Sunday. After the tour I walked down to the waterfront.
On a Saturday, we went to the famed Public Market, for all the wonderful fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, fish, fish tossed around, shops selling all kinds of merchandise, from used books to cow souvenirs. As the market got more crowded, we moved on to the Seattle Aquarium.
The last day in Seattle I went to the Smith Tower and up to the Observation Deck. The lobby was gorgeous, with vintage Otis elevators, they've replaced the cable, Mexican onyx and wooden carvings of Indian heads. Up to the thirty-fifth floor to the Chinese room and the observation deck. The views, 360°, were wonderful. Then we did the Underground Tour, which left from Pioneer Square. Interesting. And after lunch at Fabo's, an Irish pub, I headed to the Central Library, up four steep blocks. It was worth the climb. I've never been in a building like it. The pictures don't do it justice. It's all glass and steel, so bright with the sun, shadows play, and I'd like to see it when it rains. This is a must-see for anyone visiting Seattle and I may go back to see it a second time.
At home, again, my pug and I were happy to see each other.
The pictures of the Alaska 2005, trip are on my website:
Alaska Part One
Alaska Part Two
Joyce N. Church
Written July 2005
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