Final Update

August 8, 2014 by

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It’s hard to believe that we were actually in Alaska for 8 days! We truly had a great Alaskan experience and a fantastic adventure. Just think about what we did and saw. We saw whales, sea otters, sea lions, moose, caribous, bear and so many birds it’s hard to remember. Our weather was good, rained when it didn’t matter, and the “retail therapy” was forever rewarding! The scenery in itself is fabulous. So I would say it was a pretty successful trip.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see Mt. Denali but then only 30% do see it. We did not let that spoil our Alaskan Vacation. Everything was so spectacular that it’s hard to remember all we saw and did.

The new friends and family that we made in Alaska, also made this a great adventure. We had a great time – don’t you think! You were a wonderful group of people to travel with and let’s do it again! Thank you for your cooperation and making my job easy! On behalf of myself and 4 Seasons Vacations, I thank you for choosing to go with us. We love showing Alaska off and we think we have a great trip. Please join us again when we can show you another destination and a great time. Please stay safe and healthy until we meet again.

May God bless you,
Sue Barber

Day 8 ~ August 6 ~ Minneapolis

August 8, 2014 by

Good morning everyone! We were able to sleep in again. We are liking this. We have a later flight. The only problem is that we will arrive in Albert Lea late. Bummer!

Anchorage

Anchorage

We had a wonderful breakfast buffet again. Lot’s of choices and fresh made Omelets. It was great. The comment was made as to who will prepare our breakfast tomorrow! Byron and Shirley told us all farewell. They are staying on to enjoy more of Alaska. Lucky them!

Historic City Hall

Historic City Hall

Anchorage Visitor Center

Anchorage Visitor Center

John came back for us at the Hilton in the “deluxe” motor coach. Why didn’t we get this one for the last week! It even had bears on it. After loading the luggage we headed for the airport. Sue gave us quick instructions for the airport. Everyone is a little concerned about the weight of their checked bag!

We were soon at the airport and we had help off loading the luggage. John appreciated that since the bags are much heavier then when we started. We said our farewells to John. What a great driver and friend! He certainly made us feel welcomed and shared an abundance of wonderful information about the state of Alaska. We will be back John and thank you for a great vacation.

Everyone was checked in rather quickly and we all made it through security. We even had time to meander around the airport before we started boarding. What a beautiful day for flying! Some even tried out the reindeer sausage dogs.

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The flight was a good one. It didn’t seem as long as the flight there. Everyone pretty much napped. We need to catch up on our sleep. That tour director sure kept us moving!

We gathered our luggage and our luggage handlers loaded them up. We said goodby to our new friends who departed in Minneapolis and we made our way to the coach via the tram. We met our motor coach driver, Don. It’s dark outside. What’s with that! We aren’t use to dark! We dropped off Dale at the hotel and ended at 4 Seasons. Most of us are looking forward to a good night’s rest in our “own beds” and not living out of a suitcase. What a fantastic vacation in Alaska!

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Day 7 ~ August 5 ~ Anchorage

August 8, 2014 by

Everyone was up early again. The sun is shining. Are we sure we are in Valdez? Now it’s more like Valdez. After a filling breakfast and not so good coffee, we loaded up and we headed out. We are ready for another good day.

We stopped at the Fish Hatchery to see the salmon. Everyone stepped off the coach and immediately said it smelled of fish. Then they saw why. Tons off salmon. It was very cool to see them all. No bears though.

Fish Hatchery

Fish Hatchery

Watching the salmon at the fish hatchery

Watching the salmon at the fish hatchery

Because we are on the same road going back out of Valdez, we went passed the avalanche again. The avalanche closed Valdez for 11 days this past winter. Not so good for the people of Valdez particularly since it’s one of the places in Alaska that gets the most snow.

Another view of the Avalanche

Another view of the Avalanche

Snow remaining from the Avalanche

Snow remaining from the Avalanche

We stopped at Worthington Glacier which is in the Chugach Mountain near Thompson Pass – the snowiest place in Alaska. Worthington Glacier is a valley glacier and has been steadily retreating for the last 150 year. It is the most accessible glacier in Alaska. Most of us headed down the path to get as close as we could. It is a beautiful day. Keaton ran up the glacier! Too be young!

Worthingon Glacier

Worthingon Glacier

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier

We stopped at the Hub in Glennallen for a rest stop. The clerk wanted to hop on our coach and join us. She is originally from Forest Lake, Minnesota. We told her to come along. We turned unto the Glenn Highway and we continued on to Anchorage. The road now became very bumpy. Hope it doesn’t last until Anchorage.

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We headed for Grand View Lodge Cafe and were met by Dwight and Colleen. What a lovely log cafe and so very charming. Everyone enjoyed their lunch. It was delicious! We spotted some Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain. What a sight! Alaska – the beauty is absolutely spectacular!

Lunch at Grand View

Lunch at Grand View

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Looking for Dall Sheep

Looking for Dall Sheep

Everyone is looking for Dall Sheep

Everyone is looking for Dall Sheep

"John, are we there yet?"

“John, are we there yet?”

As we traveled along we saw more fireweed. It’s a pretty pink purple flower which is actually a weed. John told us about the fireweed at the beginning of our trip. Fireweed begins blooming from the bottom and works it’s way up the stalk. Once they are full bloom, the summer is over and snow will begin in 6 weeks. So Alaskans really watch the fireweed grow.

Fireweed

Fireweed

John also pointed out the road you take to his cabin. He invited us to come back and see him. He can sleep 12 people in his cabin and said we’d use paper plates so we didn’t have to do the dishes! We saw pictures of his cabin and we’re ready to visit.

The road was extremely curvy and the view was awesome. John is some driver! We saw the Matanuska Glacier which is the longest and widest glacier in Alaska. Pretty awesome.

Palmer Visitor Center

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Our next stop was in Palmer at the Visitor Center. We visited the museum and “gift shop” and walked around the beautiful gardens. Everyone is in awe over the flowers and foliage.

Palmer

Palmer

Palmer

Palmer

Palmer

Palmer

We arrived in Anchorage and John showed us some restaurants for dinner. Then we headed to the Hilton. At first it looked like they didn’t want us but we just had to go to the front desk. All is well. Sue handed out the keys and we headed to our rooms. We scattered about Anchorage to have dinner and do that last minute shopping. Some even did the Trolly City Tour. Unfortunately our time in Alaska is coming to an end.

Day 6 ~ August 4 ~ Prince William Sound

August 5, 2014 by

We were able to sleep in today! Yea – what a vacation. Our breakfast cook evidently expected us earlier. The weather is a little on the foggy side and of course it’s raining. This is very typical for Valdez!

During breakfast, we were entertained by a visit from a black bear. It just appeared across the street and we could see it from the windows. Now the question was if it was the real thing or John in a bear suit. Sue met John outside the breakfast room and he went outside. Then the bear appeared. Then John came in for breakfast. Hmmmm? But we decided it couldn’t be John because the bear didn’t know which way to go! John did tell us he couldn’t go with us today because he had to dry out a bear suit! But we have now seen a bear.

John shuttled us the short distance to the pier. We boarded the Valdez Spirit, our home for the day and headed out into Prince William Sound. The fog should lift.

Waiting for the cruise

Waiting for the cruise

Our first sighting was of a bald eagle, high up in the tree. Hopefully we’ll see one closer.

Our first Bald Eagle

Our first Bald Eagle

We saw an old sight of a cliff mine which did rock mining. They evidently took a great deal of gold out of it.

Remains of a Cliff Mine

Remains of a Cliff Mine

We saw several small waterfalls in Mt. Thomas. Really pretty. We saw Anderson Falls with a couple of bald eagles. The falls are created from Anderson Glacier. The Sound is so beautiful. Soon we sighted a small Stellar Sea Lion. It was hard to see it lying on the rock. Another one joined it in the water. We saw a few Sea Otters floating out and about.

Falls on Mt. Thomas

Falls on Mt. Thomas

Anderson Falls

Anderson Falls

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Some people were sea kayaking. They have been out hiking and are on their way back to Valdez. They looked very wet. We may want to stick to our motorcoach.

The Sound is home to many bird life. We saw pigeon guillemots. A small black bird with little white wings. We met up with some Dall’s Porpoise. It is a very fast porpoise. We continued on to Bull Head Point and we saw Horned Puffin and Tufted Puffin. They are different. Also saw Marbled Murrelet, a little brown bird.

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At Bull Head Point, we also saw Steller Sea Lions. They were just lazing around the rocks. There were many of the Lions and they were either fighting or playing. Not sure which.

Stellar Sea Lions at Bull Head Point

Stellar Sea Lions at Bull Head Point

Stellar Sea Lion

Stellar Sea Lions

 

Kyle and Tom

Kyle and Tom

Then it was time for lunch. Gosh we haven’t eaten for a couple of hours. It was very tasty. We had chicken with white rice and Alfredo sauce. Good vegetables and a bread stick. They topped it off with Oreo cookies. We’re having a great time!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Keaton

Keaton

We saw some real nice racks of sea otters. They look so funny floating around on their backs. Then they pop down in the water to feed. Very interesting. The sun is out now and the rain has stopped. It’s a little chilly but not bad.

Dale and Marilyn

Dale and Marlyn

As we headed to Mears Glacier, we started seeing glacier ice. Lots of it! What a spectacular sight! We saw calving and many got pictures. Most of us didn’t realize we would get that close to the Glacier. We spotted harbor seals out on the ice. There were many of them. It’s gotta be cold! Our captain was a very good driver missing all the brash ice. One of the crew took some ice out of the water and brought on board for us to touch. COLD!!!! The Glacier was all that we hoped it would be!

Mears Glacier

Mears Glacier

Mears Glacier

Mears Glacier

Mears Glacier

Mears Glacier

Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal

Michelle at Mears Glacier

Michelle at Mears Glacier

Going back was pretty rough in spots. Pretty choppy and some pretty big sprays of water. It’s raining again and not quite so nice.

On the cruise

On the cruise

Then we continued on back to Valdez and we came upon Humpback whales. How fun! You had to be quick to see them. We followed them in the water for a while. Gosh this was great! The Captain said we were very fortunate that they stayed with us as long as they did. They were really showing off.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Whale

Whale

We went by Columbia Glacier where we saw many ice chunks. Columbia calves many times during the day and produces a great deal of ice. As you see an iceberg, you are actually only seeing about 10% of the iceberg. The rest is under the water. It is the tip of the iceberg! Many were amazed at the blue color of the ice.

Oil tanker with pilot boat

Oil tanker with pilot boat

Fishing Boat

Fishing Boat

We also came across a couple of dolphins. Real fun to see them!

A very successful day with wildlife. We saw many different birds: Pigeon Guillkemot, Horned Puffin, Bald Eagle, Marbled Murrelet and Tufted Puffin. We saw Steller Sea Lion, Humpback Whale, Sea Otter, Dall’s Porpoise, Harbor Seal and dolphins. We even saw calving of the Glacier. Life can’t get better.

Our last Bald Eagle

Our last Bald Eagle

As we headed back to Valdez, we were treated to a bowl of clam chowder or minestrone soup. It tasted good. Whale watching, glacier viewing and being in the Alaskan fresh air, sure makes you hungry. We saw more Harbor Seal on a buoy as we got closer to Valdez. Also learned about the Valdez Marine Terminal where they store the oil from the pipeline. We arrived back to the harbor very happy, a little tired, but we had a spectacular day.

Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound

Day 5 ~ August 3 ~ Fairbanks to Valdez

August 4, 2014 by

We will start a little later today. Sue has only 75% of the people! The Arctic Circle people got stranded in Cold Foot. They finished their tour and started back but had mechanical problems and had to turn around. Because of restrictions, they could not fly another plane up until morning. So they put them up in the “hotel” for the night. The tour company called Sue at 1:00 am and said they would have them back by 7:30 am.

Sue tried to catch everyone at breakfast to share later start time. Yesterday they were wishing for a later start! Our survivors show up. We gave them a “little” time to freshen up and gather their belongings and then we got on the way. Most everyone else got an extra cup of coffee.

We headed out and Tom told us the story of the Arctic Circle Adventure. They sounded like they had a wonderful time and really have a story to tell. They would do it again in a heartbeat!

We’re on to the North Pole with the hope of seeing Santa Claus. We are assured of seeing a “gift shop”. We arrived at the North Pole where every day is Christmas. Santa Claus House is “some” gift shop. Some were busy writing on post cards so they would be post marked from the North Pole. The whole town has candy cane everything: signs and street lights to name a few.

Santa Claus House

Santa Claus House

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The Santa Claus House

The Santa Claus House

Pat, Dale and Tom at the Santa Claus House

Pat, Dale and Tom at the Santa Claus House

We continued down Richardson Highway enjoying the beautiful countryside. It’ a beautiful day. We did see a moose and that’s exciting but a caribou decided to run back and forth across the highway. Not bright! Later we saw a caribou who decided to just sit down and rest. Now if we could just see a bear.

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou resting

Caribou resting

We stopped to visit historic Rika’s Roadhouse and Landing in Big Delta State Historical Park. First we had a short walking tour of the property with Tyler. We really enjoyed seeing all the antiques inside the Roadhouse.  We had a quick lunch or snack. It was lovely walking around the area and visiting the gardens. Some checked out the retail therapy.

Rika's for lunch

Rika’s for lunch

Rika's Roadhouse

Rika’s Roadhouse

Look at the sod roof

Look at the sod roof

The sheep were very noisy

The sheep were very noisy

Inside Rika's

Inside Rika’s

Photo stop at the pipeline

Photo stop at the pipeline

 

We headed on and continued to enjoy the beautiful scenery. After watching the scenery and a little cat napping, it was time to play Moose Tracking. You had to keep tracking the gift you wanted unless you were No. 1 – you watched your gift disappear. Eventually everyone received the Alaskan souvenir they couldn’t live without. Playing cards were in abundance. The hot item was an Alaskan mug. Also the moose mat was in demand. We had a lot of fun and Vanna aka Michelle did a fabulous job giving out gifts. John our driver thought the oohs and ahas were a bit much!

Our prizes

Our prizes

We stopped at a “sst” sweet smelling toilet. We could stretch our legs and saw salmon. John came to the rescue with toilet paper. What a driver!
We did stop at the largest National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. It is beautiful out and we went to the look out to check out the view of the mountains. Spectacular! Also, many enjoyed the very nice visitors center.

"SST" break

“SST” break

John to the rescue

John to the rescue

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve ~ Byron and Dick

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve ~ Byron and Dick

As we headed on to Valdez, we were in awe over the beauty of the area. We drove through Thompson Pass and into Keystone Canyon. We stopped at Bridal Vail Falls and Horse Tail Falls. Spectacular! We have really enjoyed this day. A little long!

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Horse Tail Falls

Horse Tail Falls

Then it was into Valdez. We checked into our hotel. Everyone was ready to walk around and check out the area after the long ride on the coach. We needed dinner too! Another exciting day and still more to come.

The Pipeline

The Pipeline

 

Day 4 ~ August 2 ~ Fairbanks

August 3, 2014 by

We woke to another cloudy foggy day! A little drizzle but it’s going to clear up! After a filling buffet breakfast, we headed to the Gold Dredge 8. Sue shared with us that it was Saturday, August 2. It is a very special day for Keaton. He turned 18 today! Happy Birthday Keaton. We sang Happy Birthday to him and gave him a gift. A bear bell and keychain. Have a wonderful day!

Happy Birthday, Keaton

Happy Birthday, Keaton

Sue announced the winners of the “moose migration” pictures. It was a stretch to call them moose! She lost one of the drawings. It was a dead moose on the road. She can’t figure out where it went. Grand prize went to Cletus, most flowery to Wallace, what is it to Michael and the worst moose we’ve ever seen to Helen. Everyone needs art lessons or at least see more moose!

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We arrived at the Gold Dredge 8 with a couple of other coaches – ok maybe more then that. We off loaded and headed up to board the train. When we walked to and from the train, we went under the Alyeska pipeline. The 800 mile long Trans Alaska Pipeline System is one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. Everyone was amazed at how big it is. We’ll see more of it tomorrow as we travel to Valdez. On our way back to the coach, we had a very informative presentation about the pipeline.

Jack telling about the pipeline

Jack telling about the pipeline

The pipeline

The pipeline

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This is a note for all the children of our Alaskan “family” who are reading this. Your parents are coming home with “gold” but don’t get too excited. It isn’t enough for you to be able to retire!

We spent some quality time at the Gold Dredge #8. A ride on the Tenana Valley Railroad took us into the adventure after we were serenaded by our conductor, Earl Hughes. He sang and played the guitar for us. We rode through the area around the dredge and were given some very interesting information about mining. Jack told us about the changes in mining throughout history. We met Yukon Yolonda, a female miner, who told us about the dredge. We all wanted her nuggets which were made into jewelry.

Gold Dredge No. 8

Gold Dredge No. 8

Gold Dredge No. 8

Gold Dredge No. 8

Yukon Yolanda

Yukon Yolanda

The warehouse

The warehouse

Then we had a demonstration about panning for gold. That’s when the adventure really started. It was soon our turn and they gave us a poke and we tried to get “rich”. We determined it wasn’t easy and we’re glad that’s not how we earn our living. Sue got $3!!!! The most was $46 for a couple.

Earl Hughes

Earl Hughes

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

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Dale

Dale

Fortunately it didn’t matter how much gold we got, we still got to have fresh homemade cookies and coffee or hot chocolate. This of course was served in the “gift shop” and we were captive until the train was ready to take us back. Many ladies were sporting new jewelry.

On board the train

On board the train

Gold Mining

Gold Mining

On our way to Steamboat Landing, Sue told us we should be watching for moose. She guaranteed that we would see one and it wasn’t the moose crossing sign. Everyone kept looking around for the moose. There were actually 2 moose but they were painted on a garage door. The group was not impressed.

Lunch today was at the Riverboat Dining Room. It is a miner’s lunch. We had beef stew, variety of vegetables, tossed salad, rolls, and yummy chocolate dessert. It was very hearty! At lunch, Michelle and Marlene discovered that they are related. Michelle’s Grandmother and Marlene were cousins. You just never know when you will run into relatives.

Then it was time to board the Sternwheeler Discovery III and set sail on the Chena River. The weather is better. It’s looking good for no rain! They have complimentary homemade blueberry doughnuts and coffee. That is all we do is eat!

Discovery III

Discovery III

We saw a bush pilot take off and land on the river. The private aircraft is essential to the delivery of supplies in Alaska. The pilot spoke to us about the plane and how valuable it is to his life in Alaska.

The bush pilot takes off

The bush pilot takes off

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The next stop was at the home and kennels of the late Susan Butcher, four time Iditarod champion, where her daughter spoke with us about the Alaskan Husky dogs. We saw several puppies being trained for confidence by jumping over logs and walking on the dock. They showed us how they exercise the dogs in the summer. They harness them to a non-motorized 4-wheeler and the dogs pull it just like a sled. It was unbelievable! The strength those dogs have and the energy is unreal. The dogs are trained to know the commands to go, to go right or left, but once they’re running they don’t like to stop. The 4-wheeler does have a brake. Trailblazer Kennels was an interesting stop.

Susan Butcher's daughter and kennel

Susan Butcher’s daughter and kennel

They want to go!

They want to go!

Relaxing after the run

Relaxing after the run

Puppies!

Puppies!

We saw reindeer! We found out that reindeer and caribou are the same animal. Reindeer are domesticated caribou and they don’t fly – unless they belong to Santa Claus! None of them had a red nose either.

Reindeer

Reindeer

 

An Athabascan native, Ashley, showed us how to fillet a salmon. It was the kind of salmon that they feed to the dogs. She was at the fish camp which is the summer home for interior Athabascan natives. She showed us where the salmon are hung up and then the smoke house. She also told us about fish head soup which they also feed to the dogs.

Ashley filleting salmon

Ashley filleting salmon

Ashley and a fish wheel

Ashley and a fish wheel

We then continued on to Chena Village and the boat stopped. We went unto shore to visit the village. We were split up into groups and visited various places with guides. We discovered a moose who had been real at one time. Obviously it ate too much like us and was now stuffed!

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Stuffed moose

Stuffed moose

We saw how the Athabascan’s lived in cabins made from spruce logs with sod roofs. We saw the primitive shelters and an authentic birch bark canoe. The cache was a real treat to see. It’s where they kept their supplies so the critters couldn’t get them. We saw beautiful animal pelts and how the Athabascan’s tanned the hides of the larger animals like moose and caribou. We were shown the garments that the Athabascan’s made. One of the young ladies that was our guide modeled a fur coat for us. It was very lovely.

Beautiful handmade parka

Beautiful handmade parka

After the village, we headed back to Steamboat Landing. While we cruised, we were given samples of salmon dip on crackers. It’s a pretty simple recipe. One can of salmon to 4 ounces of cream cheese. What a nice treat! Our guide continued to give us interesting facts about Fairbanks, the river, the boat we were on and the Binkley family who are the owners of Riverboat Discovery and the Gold Dredge 8.

All too soon our cruise was over and John took us back to Our hotel. When we were back at River’s Edge, everyone went for dinner, drinks, walks and/or a good night’s sleep except for those who headed to the Arctic Circle Air Adventure. It was another wonderful day in Alaska. It just gets better and better!

Off to the Arctic Circle Adventure

Off to the Arctic Circle Adventure

Day 3 ~ August 1, Friday ~ Denali Park to Fairbanks

August 2, 2014 by
Denali Park

Denali Park

After a nourishing breakfast buffet and a good cup of coffee around 5:30 am we were ready for our 6:55 am departure for the Natural History Tour of Denali. Some had to get their breakfast to go!

Loading for the Natural History Tour

Loading for the Natural History Tour

We found out our rafters had a wonderful time. They all lived through it even Dale! We were glad to see them well and happy. Evidently Keaton got a little wet and he was the experienced one in our group.

We met Aaron our guide who was entertaining and extremely knowledgeable. How he can remember everything! We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center and watched a movie about the origin of Denali Park. The stain glass windows in the center were amazing. Then it was on into the park to see what wildlife may be in store for us. It’s raining and a little chilly right now but nothing we can’t handle.

Introduction to the movie at the Wilderness Access Center

Introduction to the movie at the Wilderness Access Center

Ranger Sophia

Ranger Sophia

We continued on to Savage cabin which was built in 1925. We met the wife of Grant Pearson, a man who worked in the park in the 1920s. She told us what life was like during the time when Denali National Park was first opened and she told us some interesting stories. She hoped that we would all take time to enjoy the refuge of the beautiful Alaska land and take that with us. We enjoyed the stop.

Grant Pearson's wife

Grant Pearson’s wife

Savage Cabin

Savage Cabin

At Primrose, as far as we were going, we met Carol, an Athabaskan native who told us about her ancestry. She shared her life in her Athabaskan village which is 350 miles from Denali. Her village lives a subsistence existence where they live off the land. She said 1 moose is enough for her family for the year.

Carol, an Athabaskan

Carol, an Athabaskan

During our tour, we saw caribou just meandering in the grass. We did see a moose up in the trees on the side of the road. She kept fading in and out of the trees making our picture taking difficult. Then we dropped off a couple of people at the Visitor’s Center and on our way out of the park, a moose was having a nice lunch by the side of the road! Now she made picture taking easy!

Caribou

Caribou

Great picture of the second moose

Great picture of the second moose

Almost a successful morning. We saw wildlife! Wonderful! But we didn’t see the mountain. Only 30% of the people who come to Alaska see Denali Mountain. At this point, we aren’t part of that group. Aaron did tell us that there is a picture of the mountain in our book he gave us on page 36 so we do know it’s there. He also said he’s quoted in the book on pages 40 & 41. “Seasons tend to blow open and shut like doors in the wind here.” Aaron Coons

We headed back to Denali Park Village for lunch, retail shopping or whatever. We had some quality time for a change.

Lunch time at Denali Park Village

Lunch time at Denali Park Village

John met us and we were on to Fairbanks. It took us a little while to get out of Fairbanks because of the road construction. They are repairing all the bridges. So it was stop and go for a while. Then it started raining again.

We made a stop in the community of Nenana. Sue told us that a true “Alaskan character”, Joann Hawkins, had passed away in November. She owned the Tripod Gift shop among many other businesses in Nenana. Ok she owned about 95% of the businesses in Nenana. Joann had written a book called “M &M” – Men & Money. A few ladies purchased her book. It was very sad to see everything that Joann owned closed up and run over with weeds. John gave us the 5 minute tour of the town and we hope no one blinked.

Nenana

Nenana

Byron and Shirley in Nenana

Byron and Shirley in Nenana

Then we continued on to Fairbanks. 10% chance of rain. Wonder what you get with 50% chance. Sue thought maybe we should liven up. So we played “Moose Migration”. We were to show our artistic skills by drawing a moose. Everyone should be fantastic at this since we just saw 2. However, the moose migrate. You draw one part and then pass your card back or forward. Then your moose migrates until your very artistic drawing  is finished by several people. There was much laughter. Do they even come close to what moose look like!

Upon arrival in Fairbanks, John took us to our hotel, River’s Edge. Many have individual cottages and several are in the main lodge. It’s right on the Chena River.

We had a little time to rest and freshen up before we headed for the Alaskan Salmon Bake. Everyone was ready to eat! We wouldn’t want to miss a meal. The food was delicious and everyone got their fill. We had cod, salmon, and prime rib. As a special “just for us” they had crab. Let’s not forget the delicious hot dogs! Everyone was very happy and content and we headed home for a good night’s rest.

Michael, Gary and Marlene

Michael, Gary and Marlene

Brenda and Donald

Brenda and Donald

Joyce and Charles

Joyce and Charles

Gary, Mike and Marlene at Salmon Bake

Gary, Mike and Marlene at Salmon Bake

You go girl!

You go girl!

Dick is sharing wise words with John, while Gary listens in!

Dick is sharing wise words with John, while Gary listens in!

Our vacation in Alaska is what we expected and more! This wilderness is beautiful and so amazing. It can ‘t get any better – good new friends, great food, fresh air, fantastic shopping, and lots of great sleep (ha)! What more can we ask for on a vacation.

Day 2 ~ Thursday, July 31 ~ Alaska Railroad (Talkeetna to Denali)

August 2, 2014 by

After a hearty buffet breakfast we headed to the Iditarod Dog Sled Headquarters. It’s a little cloudy and a little cool. But it will clear and the sun will come out, hopefully. It’s Brenda’s birthday so we sang to her and gave her a nice gift from the group.

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day!

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day!

Happy Birthday Brenda!

Happy Birthday Brenda!

After a quick drive to the Headquarters, we took a group picture and then watched a movie about the Iditarod race. We witnessed the courage, strength, and perseverance of both the dog and the musher. The movie showed us how they care for the dogs. It’s just like caring for children.

Iditarod Headquarters

Iditarod Headquarters

Heart of Alaska Group 2014

Heart of Alaska Group 2014

 

The group with John, our driver

The group with John, our driver

Unfortunately, Raymie Redington had a very busy day yesterday, so he didn’t arrive until 9 am. Raymie Redington who is the son of Joe Redington – Iditarod co-founder – gives the dog sled rides. We were able to watch him get the dogs ready but no time for rides. Raymie had his puppies with so many were able to hold one. Everyone did have time for more “retail therapy”.

The puppies

The puppies

Pat and Michelle with the puppies

Pat and Michelle with the puppies

Everyone is amazed at the flowers. They are so beautiful! They have such a short growing season but with the daylight, the days are long. The colors are so vibrant.

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We boarded our coach and continued on to Talkeetna to board the Alaskan Railroad.

Michelle and Sue with the train

Michelle and Sue with the train

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the mountain yet. Too cloudy today. The native Alaskans have officially changed the name of the mountain back to Denali. Hopefully tomorrow will be clear and we will see Denali Mountain in the park. Only 30% of the people visiting Alaska see the mountain. If we see it, we will be part of the 30% club. We arrived in Talkeetna an hour before the train was due to depart which is what we are told to do. This is a terrific group of people. John told us about Talkeetna being the town where the television show “Northern Exposure” was patterned after. We did see the neat little town as we started out. John left us here and we will see him in Denali.

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train

We figured out the car situation. The cars behind us are Princess/Holland America cars so are off limits. We go forward and can go to the dome car or the snack car. Many spent some time in the dome car. Most did lunch in the snack bar. The scenery is so beautiful. We reached Hurricane Gulch and it was spectacular and a real highlight. Totally awesome! A few people saw a bald eagle and a salmon jumping in the river. Also, a few saw the hind end of a moose but we sure would have liked to see more.

The train ride

The train ride

Hurricane Gulch

Hurricane Gulch

Wildlife sighting from the train?

Wildlife sighting from the train?

Good-bye train

Good-bye train

John met us at the depot and we headed for Denali Park Village. Lovely property. We think we’ll like it here! Some spent the evening looking around and finding something to eat.  A few brave souls went rafting on the Nenana River.  We can’t wait to hear their stories.

John, Annette, Joyce and Norma

John, Annette, Joyce and Norma

Rafting

Rafting

Many spent the evening at the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater. They had a great dinner and enjoyed the show. It was interesting to hear the history of Alaska with song and dance. Everyone was glad they went. We also sang Happy Birthday again to Brenda. One of the actors sat down beside her and she put him in his place. Go girl!

Byron and Shirley at Cabin Nite

Byron and Shirley at Cabin Nite

Cletus, Patricia, Dick and Beth at Cabin Nite

Cletus, Patricia, Dick and Beth at Cabin Nite

The cast at Cabin Nite

The cast at Cabin Nite

Hopefully everyone will be able to sleep with all the daylight as we have an early wake up in the morning. Our Natural History Tour begins at 6:55 as in the AM!

Day 1 ~ Wednesday, July 30 ~ Depart for Anchorage

August 1, 2014 by

We had a nice leisurely departure. We didn’t leave Albert Lea until 11:00 am. We even had time for fresh baked donuts and coffee. Marty, our motor coach driver got us to the airport in good time and we said farewell. Jim checked us in at the Delta group desk and the rest of our group met us. We are just missing Byron and Shirley who are meeting us in Anchorage. We made it smoothly through security!  Our Delta flight pretty much left on time and we arrived on time. There were a few bumpy moments but on the whole a nice flight. We were all very happy to be able to get up and move around. It was a very . . . long flight. It felt like it would never end! We had to get the legs to remember how to move.

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We are now in Alaska, the land of the midnight sun.  Our motor coach driver, John, met us at the airport. It was great to meet him and he was ready for us. He is a wealth of information and very fun to have as our guide.

It is a beautiful day in Anchorage.  The temp is 74.  Actually is hot for Anchorage.  This is unusual weather for Alaska.

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John shared with us about his life in Alaska, 9 months out of the year he lives in his cabin in a remote part of Alaska with his 3 dogs. It’s a community existence where they help each other and share home grown vegetables and wildlife that they shoot or catch. In the summer, he bathes in the creek and in the winter the people all meet for dinner on Wednesday at a place that has hot running water and take a shower before they eat! We in the lower 48 aren’t quite so sure about that!

By this time, everyone was hungry. So off to Sourdough Mining Company which is a replica of an old mill house. It opened on Mother’s Day in 1984. We were served family style dinner consisting of garlic new potatoes, cold slaw, spare ribs, barbecue chicken and their famous corn fritters. Wonderful! Sue told us to put our bibs on because she didn’t want any messy people in her group! We topped it off with soft served sundaes. Everyone ate their fill and headed across the street to Alaska Wildberry Company.

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Sue told some of us about a wagon that was made in Albert Lea, Minnesota. It is 100 years old. For those of you who aren’t aware, Four Seasons Vacations is located in Albert Lea. Just a little trivia.

Wagon made in Albert Lea, MN

Wagon made in Albert Lea, MN

Then it was time for “retail therapy”, a fancy term for shopping. It sounds better don’t you think. Everyone was amazed at the 3000 pound chocolate waterfall in the store. It’s the world’s largest chocolate waterfall. We all drooled over the chocolate candies and fudge. If we just weren’t so full!

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World's Largest Chocolate Fall

World’s Largest Chocolate Fall

Tired but happy we headed for our hotel, Grandview Inn & Suites in Wasilla. John told us that the Walmart in Wasilla sells the most duct tape in the world. So it’s claim to fame is more then Sarah Palin. Everyone went to their rooms for bed. It’s only 10 pm in Alaska but midnight at home. Our first day in Alaska was wonderful but we are exhausted.  Another day tomorrow!

Heart of Alaska ~ July 30 – August 6, 2014

July 12, 2014 by

DAY 1 WEDNESDAY, JULY 30
Depart via Delta Airlines to the land of the Midnight Sun. Upon arrival in Anchorage, we head to the famous Sourdough Mining Co. for an included dinner. After dinner we visit the Alaska Wild Berry Products where they make handmade jams, jellies and chocolates.

DAY 2 THURSDAY, JULY 31
We begin our day with a visit to the Iditarod Trail Headquarters where we learn about sled dogs and the 1,049 mile Anchorage to Nome race. We then board the Alaska Railroad at Talkeetna and travel the spectacular rail route to Denali National Park. This evening participate in one of the optional tours, White Water Rafting or the Cabin Nite Dinner Theater.

DAY 3 FRIDAY, AUGUST 1
This morning we travel with a local guide into the park to enjoy a sampling of the six million acres of Denali National Park. At only 75 miles away, this will also be your best opportunity to view the majestic Mount McKinley. We depart for Fairbanks making a stop in the quaint river town of Nenana. This evening we delight in an authentic Alaskan Salmon Bake.

DAY 4 SATURDAY, AUGUST 2
Today we will take a cruise on the Sternwheeler Discovery on the Chena River. We will visit the Chena Indian Village, the Kennels of the late four-time Iditarod winner, Susan Butcher, and see a float plane take off and land right next to the boat. A delicious lunch is included at the Riverboat Landing. Then it’s on to the Gold Dredge No. 8 to have a short course in gold mining and try your hand in panning for gold. Take the optional tour to the Arctic Circle this evening.

DAY 5 SUNDAY, AUGUST 3
As we depart from Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway we will follow the route of the Alyeska Pipeline to Valdez. We will stop at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. Then we continue on the highway and stop at the scenic Rika’s Roadhouse in Big Delta National Historical Park with an included lunch. As we continue to Valdez, we will travel through scenic Thompson Pass, one of the highest passes on the Alaska Highway System, see the Chugach Mountain Range, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and spectacular views of Worthington Glacier.

DAY 6 MONDAY, AUGUST 4
Our day begins as we cruise the majestic waters of Prince William Sound from Valdez to Mears Glacier. We will have a chance to view the Sound’s wildlife in addition to seeing the spectacular Mears Glacier. Lunch and an afternoon snack are included on the cruise.

DAY 7 TUESDAY, AUGUST 5
Today we will travel to Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. The highway is sandwiched between two mountain ranges, the Talkeetna to the North and the Chugach to the South. Enjoy a stop for lunch at the quaint Grand View Café, often offering a spectacular view of the Dall sheep on the mountainsides. We will pass through the agriculturally rich Mat-Su Valley.

DAY 8 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6
After a leisurely buffet breakfast, we will transfer to the Anchorage airport for our return flight home. Our adventure into the “last frontier’ will be memories that we will enjoy forever.