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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Copper River, AK (June 19th-20th)

It was a quite a journey down the Denali Highway to get to Copper River. It was over an 9-hour ride down the unpaved, narrow road on our motorcoach, but it was a very scenic drive. Bob, our bus driver, was quite the tour guide. Along the way we saw glaciers, caribou, waterfalls & stopped for strawberry rhubarb pie at what we would term a "hole in the wall".

When we arrived at the Denali Copper River Lodge we could immediately tell that we would love it. It was very secluded and the view from anywhere around the lodge was phenomenal. Mt. Wrangell & Mt. Drum sat centered right behind the lodge. The lodge was smaller and more personal than any of the other lodges we had stayed at thus far. Chris & I enjoyed the hiking trails cut around the lodge. Here's a picture of the lodge looking down from the 2nd floor balcony.

Friday morning the men headed out before 6 a.m. to go salmon fishing on the Klutina River. Us ladies headed into the little town of Copper Center to explore. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but they did have various locally made products, so this is where I bought our birch syrup & my blueberry vanilla candle that smells oh so delicious. We had been anxiously arriving the men's arrival back at the lodge & were waiting for them in the lobby when they finally got back. They had each caught atleast one Alaskan King salmon & they all were thrilled. Each tourist can only keep one fish each so the rest had to be thrown back but they were all ok with that. You could tell that they had such a great time. Here are some pictures of my bebe fishing, an action shot of him reeling it in & all the men with their fish. It was especially neat because we paid for the salmon to be shipped to our house after we got back so now we have 13 lbs. worth of Alaskan King salmon that Chris caught in our freezer waiting to hit the grill..yummy!
Friday afternoon we took a jet boat tour on the Wrangell & St. Elias Rivers. We saw quite a few bald eagles and got to pan for gold again. We all enjoyed taking our turn riding on the very back of the jet boat. Here's a cute picture of Chris while we took our turn on the back of the boat.

Next....Valdez to Whittier to board the Sapphire Princess!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Denali, AK (June 18th & 19th)

From Fairbanks we headed to Denali via train. The train had glass all around so that you could see pretty much everything from wherever you were walking/sitting. We had breakfast on the train, which was neat. The ride was long, but scenic.

Once we got to our Princess Denali Lodge we quickly settled in and headed out to explore. That evening mom, Cheri & Jesse, Chris & I went whitewater rafting down the Nenana River. IThe preparation was quite an adventure since we all had to get dressed in dry suits that nearly sealed us off from getting wet since the river is fed from glacial melting hence the water is super cold. We had a great guide & a great time. We did class III & IV rapids! There was a bit of squealing going on!

After we got back from rafting, Chris & I set out to walk on some trails near the lodge since it's stays light nearly 24 hours! We took a bike trail that took us from the lodge to the entrance of Denali National Park. It was quiet for the most part, and all of a sudden we heard a little scrambling in the trees to our left. If really sounded like something small though. We sped up a little regardless & walked down the path a little further. I turned around & crouched down to see a she moose feeding on the bushes there. The picture below is a picture of her as she crossed the path behind us.

The next day, Chris I got up at 6:30 a.m. to start our hike up Mt. Healy. Chris had picked this particular trail even though we only had tennis shoes and no hiking boots. It was hot even that early in the morning, there was mud all along the trail, and it was very steep the last half-mile. I was a bit miserable on the way up, but the view from the top was so worth it. We enjoyed that alone-time we had together. Here are pictures from the hike up Mt. Healy.

That afternoon, we took a guided tour of Denali via school bus. It is probably the most beautiful place I've ever seen! Although the park covers over 6 million acres, there is only one road cut through it that is merely 93 miles long. Only the first 13 miles of that road are paved. The park service only allows school buses to travel on that road unless you have a special resident pass. Our tour guide, Mary Jane, was great as we took our 8 hour trip in the park. We saw bald eagles, golden eagles, & other birds; Dall sheep, brown bear & bears cubs(from a long distance), caribou, hares, artic ground squirrels, a fox and lots of wildflowers along the way. Here's one of my favorite landscape shots...

That evening, Chris and I took the same path for our evening walk where we encountered yet another moose &....her CALF! Too cute! We nearly walked by them because they were hidden in the brush eating willow leaves. We slooowwwwlyyy backed away & let them have their peace. They walked out right in front of us & crossed the road. Here's a picture of the two of them.

Then we hit the long, dusty Denali Highway...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fairbanks, AK (June 17th & 18th)

We landed in Fairbanks, AK (at the smallest airport I've ever seen!) @ 1250 local time, or 0450 our usual Eastern time. Yes, it was still light outside too! We had been in route their for over 14 hours by the time we landed. Here's a picture of Chris with a stuffed polar bear in the airport after we landed.We were rather exhausted to say the least. It was 0200 by the time we made it to our lodge & to bed.

Our Monday started nice & early with a Riverboat Cruise down the Chena River. Along the way we saw a bush plane land on the water next to our boat, we saw a four-time Iditarod winner's dog sledding camp complete with the dogs :-), and we got off the boat to tour the Chena Village establishment. On the way back up the river, we enjoyed lunch & snacks. We ate smoked salmon on crackers, which I loved & Chris even ate a reindeer hot dog!

In the afternoon we headed on the City of Gold tour. We rode a train into a mock gold mining village where we learned how gold used to be mined, how it's mined today, & then we panned for our own gold. I ended up with $8 worth of gold & Chris had $4 worth. On the way back to the lodge, we stopped and saw a portion of the Alaska pipeline that spans 0ver 800 miles across Alaska. They managed to construct that entire pipline in just over 2 years! Because of the oil revenues in Alaska, residents do not pay state taxes & each year receive a check from the state with an interest payout from the oil profit of the year...how nice! Here are pictures of Chris & I panning for gold & the Alaska pipeline.

We finished the evening off at an Alaskan Salmon Bake. They had all-you-can-eat prime rib, grilled salmon (delicious!), fried cod & hallibut, a salad bar, baked beans, hush puppies, & of course desert. No sweet tea though...that's all we were missing. I only found sweet tea once while we were gone & it still wasn't sweet enough for me. I survived though!

Off to Denali...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Home Again!

Well, I've finally made it back from the Land of the Midnight Sun, Alaska, where we had an awesome 2 week vacation! Actually, I've been back since Sunday morning but I've been incredibly busy since then. I was supposed to fly in at 2350 Saturday night, but instead I got home at 1030 Sunday morning...yuck. I had airline delays/missed flights that aren't your fault. Oh well. I made it home safely & that's what really matters.

We had a great time on our trip. I'm planning to journal it all right here on my blog! So, be looking for that to be here soon. I'm working this weekend so I'm hoping to start either Sunday night or Monday.

I got back in on Sunday & then we headed down to Chris' parents lakehouse on Tuesday evening to spend the 4th there. It was a nice relaxed holiday & we got to spend some quality time with Chris' parents, Erin, & his grandparents. It meant I didn't have much time at home after coming back from Alaska before going back to work, but it turned out o.k.

Sadie missed us so much while we were gone. Chris said she was so happy to see him when he picked her up after her week stay at the kennels. They said she had fun there. I think she does miss having other puppies to play with, but we're so glad to have her home!

Our garden has done well in some aspects & horrible in others. Our squash has flourished. We've picked over 50 squash!!! I'm cooking everything possible with squash in it! I'm going to try baked & hollowed sqaush next week. However, the deer ate all of our string beans which is a real bummer. I love fresh beans! Our tomatoes look great & should be ripe in the next couple of weeks. We'll have some bell peppers too. I can't wait to make stuffed peppers with fresh bells.

Keep checking back for Alaska vacation updates & pictures.