Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 5- You Know Juneau?

Socked in by clouds is common in Juneau...Rain is a way of life here!
Well, I'm sure you've heard of Alaska, and I'm sure you learned that its capital is Juneau. However, have you ever had the chance to visit Juneau? Today is your lucky day! Join me as we tour this wonderful state's capital city!

The rain continues...all day long...starts and stops, but all day long.
In the picture above I am headed out of Juneau for a ten minute ride to the neighboring harbor. We are getting ready to go whale watching!
Note the unusual pier mooring above...can you figure out why they are so tall?
As I arrived at the pier I learned one of the most unusual facts of the day. The water height varies so much that the pier and the boats have to be able to raise and lower by as much as fifteen feet with the tide. Therefore, to keep that in mind, the rectangular pi-shaped structures above are the anchor points where the docks and boats attach. If I were to come back at high tide, I could look down at the top of the mooring!
Learn how to whale watch with Mr. K.!
Here we are out with Captain Cory taking in our first whales of the day! Since I am a Chicago native, I had to first learn how to the find the whales in the water! Captain Cory told us to look over the water for columns of water vapor. Those columns indicate that the whales were exhaling and getting ready to dive! Look at the picture above...can you see the column of water vapor?
There they go! Two whales dive into Auke Bay!
Just as Captain Cory suggested, the two whales went under water! Two tails up...what a TREAT! Besides seeing the graceful whales surface and dive, I also learned that boats can only loiter near whales for a specific amount of time, then they must move on to other areas to view new specimens.
Peaceful Auke Bay!
As Captain Cory piloted the boat from whale to whale, there was plenty of opportunity to reflect on the day's geography. Alaska's scale is beyond comprehension. Here I am in a smaller bay and it seems huge. From the bay, one can go to the even grander Inside Passage, then to the ocean. Within Auke Bay I was surrounded by beautiful scenery in all directions. The clouds constantly changed, the sun came and went like to shy child...there one minute, hiding the next.

Mendenhall Glacier...Epic!
As if whale watching wasn't enough of a cool experience, about about visiting a huge glacier to round out the morning adventures! Mendenhall Glacier, tucked into the Tongass National Forest is a great way to come face to face with a natural phenomenon. The photo above suggest the scale of the glacier as it is about a mile from where I took the picture. The ice you see is hundreds of years fact you are allowed to touch some when you see a chunk on display in the visitor's center!

Note how the mountains give way to the glacier's on-going ice parade caught in super slow motion. As you stand facing the glacier you can feel the cool, moist air blown across the lake while you hear the roar of the lively waterfall to the right of the frame. I only had about an hour to visit the Mendenhall Glacier area...I would love to spend a day there in the future...
The floating hotel awaits...!
After a fantastic day, it was time to return to the ship...Cruising offers such value and opportunity as you can have fantastic day adventures and return for rest and relaxation after dinner. Stay tuned...tomorrow we're off to
All aboard!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day 4- Catching Up in Ketchikan

Welcome to Alaska...Typical weather, but it changes all the time!!
 Good morning blog readers...Thank you for joining me today in amazing Ketchikan! I titled today's entry "Catching up to Ketchikan" because a visit to Ketchikan will instantly remind you that to truly understand Alaska means that you have to be open to rethink and relearn what are the United States. Alaska as a state is the outlier, the game changer, the rogue agent, the one that will catch you by surprise. To experience Alaska, you have to catch up to their lifeways, because until you see state #49, you'll struggle to understand what it's all about. In simple terms, it's big, it's beautiful, and it's breathtaking. Let's discuss these points below as I share with you my day in Ketchikan!

I thought this picture put the ship's scale in perspective...big busses...bigger ship!
Ketchikan- They love to carve things!
Ketchikan is known as Alaska's "First City" as it's typically the first city people visit when they come to Alaska due to its southeastern location within the state and it's a typical port of call for cruise ships and the Alaska Marine Highway. The center of town has a variety of shops for the curious, but the real adventures happen when you venture outside of town...
Even the carvings of wild animals are wild!
Signs like the one posted below are not trying to be cute and quaint. They are legitimate...Join me on a hike through the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary located eight miles outside of Ketchikan.
The sign says it all...

Bear Highway...
While I learned many interesting new facts on the hike through the Rainforest Sanctuary,  the most compelling information focused on the topic of bears...For example, the picture above reveals a bear path through the brush. Apparently bears do not like extra work, so once they blaze a trail in the underbrush, they tend to stay on their trail. Notice it's a well-worn trail...
A Climbing Tree
Climbing trees are trees where  bears teach their cubs how to climb. Apparently, the cub is taken to the base of the climbing tree and plopped down. Mom briefly wanders off then rushes her cub with nipping and clawing until the cub climbs the tree...Notice that this tree has plenty of fresh marks for this subject...
A leisurely stroll adjacent to the Tongass National Forest...won't be quiet for long...
The path above is lovely. A gentle breeze, the warm sun, and cool air fill your senses. It's peaceful and serene, and you are surrounded by beauty. Just around the corner is a bear having a snack in the bushes two feet from the trail. There are few times in life where I have known true fear...this was one of them. Our group stumbled on the bear while it was eating and some could hear it growling. While I did not hear the growling, I certainly saw its hulking mass just off the trail. A few seconds passed in what seemed a few hours and as we got our bearings (pun intended) the bear made a decision for us and took off into the under brush. A remarkable moment, one that I will remember forever.
There's no place like abandoned bear den.

Our trail friends...the hiking group observes a bear by the water.
The bear seen above is bear number two of our three bear hiking trip. While in the Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary we saw three classic Alaskan animals. The previously discussed bears, bald eagles, and salmon spawning in the stream. The eagle below is a permanent resident at the wild life sanctuary as it was injured and it can no longer care for itself. These are impressive birds in the wild, and when you seem them up close, you can truly appreciate their majestic stature.
Rescued and content...A beautiful Bald Eagle

Totem pole real as it gets
I've long had an affinity for Northwest Coast Indians. Their tribal areas areas are in remote, unforgiving parts of the world and they thrived in a social microcosm isolated by The Rocky Mountains, harsh winters, and a love of water. From a sociological point of view I truly enjoy their fascination with totem pole carving and mask making. Above you see a master totem pole carver in action. His work is delicate and deliberate, his mannerisms gentle and serene, and in several months time he will add to the great collection of totem poles at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary by finishing his latest piece shown above.
Around every corner is another great view!

An Alaskan BBQ: Fresh and delicious
After a morning of touring and hiking my return to the Island Princess was a welcome respite. Meals are always an adventure and today's surprise was a topside Alaskan BBQ with all of the trimmings! My plate above highlights the line's offerings, including: Fresh BBQ salmon, BBQ shrimp skewers, whitefish kebabs, fish cakes, and Cajun rice. The clouds dispersed, the sun appeared, and our ship set sail at 1:00, heading through the Inside Passage to our next port of call of Juneau, Alaska's state capital. En route we were treated non-stop rolling scenery that was a feast for the eyes and balm for the soul. Enjoy an afternoon with me below...

Mountains to the sea...Alaska's grandeur does not disappoint.

Smooth sailing: Into a beautiful, long afternoon in Alaska's Inside Passage.
Thanks for joining me today. See you tomorrow...Mr. K.

Copyright 2013
Summit Educational Services
Ray Kinzie

All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 3- At Sea Onboard the Island Princess

On-board the floating hotel...looking from the top deck down to cruise terminal

Going on a cruise can boggle the mind...At first you might bristle at the thought of spending seven days on board a ship. Sooner or later, you might wonder why you only booked a seven day cruise. I'm here to tell you three things about cruising: It is an excellent way to cover a lot of ground in short period of time, it is a great way to bond with your traveling companions, and it is an excellent value as food and hotel costs seem to be a real bargain. With cruising you get great food all day long, tons of on-board activities, and a rolling panorama of scenery as your ship effortlessly glides from port to port. For this trip I was on the Princess Cruises' Island Princess, by no means a small ship, but the on-board logistics are so well thought out that the fully booked cruise never seemed crowded with its 2000 passengers and 1000 crew members. Join me as we walk around the ship and learn about it's amazing spaces...
View down the Promenade Deck...Life boat hanging by its rigging. Three laps equals a mile...

Imagine if you will a floating hotel that has fourteen floors, swimming pools, several restaurants, two theatres, a library, game rooms, shopping plazas, and an outdoor movie theatre. You travel with three thousand other people from around the world. They come from Hong Kong, Australia, England, New Jersey, California, South Carolina. Your world becomes incredibly small as everything you need is right there for you on your ship. However, this small ship world is the catalyst for great adventure as you are then able to go from place to place with no worries about how it all happens.
A theatre for musical performances and lectures...tons of seats...
Vancouver sail away...heading out of the city to the wilderness...our journey awaits...
Heading to the Inside Passage off the coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska...
Thrilled to adjust to ship life and its simplicities...
Serene twilight at sea...A Disney ship on pace with we look from a distance.
I love the last picture above as it reminds you that a large cruise ship is swallowed up by the vast beauty and scale of nature. The first day's excitement is amazing, but I promise you that the best is yet to come...

See you tomorrow...Mr. K.

Copyright 2013
Summit Educational Services
Ray Kinzie

All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 2- Voila Vancouver!

Good Morning! I had just an evening and a morning of free time before I had to board the Island Princess at noon (wouldn't want to miss lunch on board, eh?). Although I had just a small amount of time it was easy to have big experiences in this very with-it city!

Here comes the food!
Well, if you know me, you know that I love to travel and I love to find the food! A hearty good morning was had at a great bistro just down from our Hotel Listell on Robson Street. Pictured above is what appears to be a plate of eggs and potatoes. However, this was no ordinary plate! The eggs featured fresh salmon, the potatoes were crunchy outside and creamy inside, the toast a hearty gluten-free slice with a great tooth, and the coffee completed the meal. Eggs and salmon...not my typical Chicago fare!

Stanley Park...A Vancouver legend
No visit to Vancouver would be complete without some time contemplating the FANTASTIC totem pole collection in Stanley Park. Stanley Park (Yes, named after its founder Lord Stanley, as in cup...) is a fantastic city park (akin to Central Park in New York...) that has trails, roads, vistas, and more! Not to be missed, the Lion's Gate Bridge as seen below from Stanley Park. It is a great specimen of bridge architecture and it is the springboard one needs to explore the surrounding mountains near Vancouver.

The Impressive Lion's Gate Bridge
As you wander around the sea wall walk of Stanley Park, you get a great view back to the Vancouver Harbor and skyline. 
The Island Princess behind the Disney adventure begins in just under two hours
While Vancouver offered much to impress in my short twenty-four hour stay, the raison d'etre of this journey lurks in the above picture as the Island Princess sits in her berth. The seven days ahead lead to an area of the world that exists in nearly unspeakable scale, pristine natural beauty, and effortless travel. Be prepared to be amazed!

Epi-curious Epilogue

Before we begin the ship portion of the journey, I must share with you the outstanding small plate appetizer I enjoyed the night before my departure. Pictured below is a delicious flatbread that is sure to make a great plate for your entertaining at home. It's simple: Select a great flatbread, sautee down and puree your favorite recipe for grilled onions, spread same on bread. On top of the puree add goat cheese crumbles, a balsamic reduction drizzle and arugula lightly tossed in oil, etc. A tomato here or there to garnish and you will turn heads with this great plate! Enjoy!
Bon Appetit!
See you tomorrow...Mr K.

Copyright 2013
Summit Educational Services
Ray Kinzie

All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 1- Chicago-Vancouver: My Adventure Begins!

Welcome to Mr. Kinzie's blog about his trip to Alaska in August, 2013. The purpose of this blog is to share with you the highlights of this fantastic journey and whet your appetite to visit this great state. Alaska is a stunning treasure of the American states and its vast scale is best understood after your first visit. Join me as I share with you my musings and photos of a ten day odyssey beginning with an arrival in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a ten day, 1700 mile cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage, and a two day visit to Anchorage before my return home.

Where to today?
Off to Vancouver! My international flight was wheels up at 8:15, that means you get up at 4:00 A.M. to get there by 6:15 A.M. so you have your two hours prior to departure requirement in good order.

Super nice pilots! I have always loved travel and transportation. Some of my fondest memories are from cockpit visits and pilot chats throughout the years. This is the place where magic happens as pilots manage a four hour flight and you find yourself on the West Coast in a different country. The process never gets old...the flight from Chicago means the adventure begins!

Best seat in the house...
Beautiful airport art...a great installation! Airport code is YVR...can't wait to visit YYZ!
Whew! I made it!
Vancouver is a great cosmopolitan city and there's something here for everyone! It's a town that celebrates life in all forms and provides the backdrop to many a great adventure. I'll tell you about my day's adventure in tomorrow's post!

Later...Mr. K.

Copyright 2013
Summit Educational Services
Ray Kinzie

All Rights Reserved