Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reflections on Alaska

Although I am happy to be home with J and my cuddly cats, Asha and Elvis, I must admit that it was hard to leave such a breathtaking state. I said it so many times on my vacation, but I'll say it again ... it's impossible to truly capture the beauty of Alaska. I took many pictures, but don't feel that they show the awe-inspiring landscape that laid before my eyes. This is why I will recommend that everyone visit Alaska in their lifetime (sooner rather than later to see the fast disappearing glaciers).

Overall it was a fabulous trip--we were able to pack in so many activities in such a short time!

Day 1 (only a half-day): Introduction to the Great Land--ride on scenic Seward Hwy & visit to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Day 2: Sea kayaking in Resurrection Bay and Caine's Head State Park hike; in the evening we walked up the handi-cap accessible trail up to the base of Exit Glacier.

Day 3: Volunteer work for the National Park Service--pulled invasive exotic plants from Kenai Fjords National Park; learned about the history of Seward; visited Alaska Sea Life Center

Day 4: Learned about the native Kenaitze (Denina) tribe, participated in various cultural activities (song and dance), "hunted" for agates on the shore, visited Cooper's Landing and explored the K'Beq archaeological site, took a walking tour through Kenai and learned about the history, watched locals dip net fishing on the shores of the Kenai River, and ended the day by enjoying a salmon feast prepared by Kenaitze tribe members. On our way home we saw a moose cow and twin calfs.

Day 5: Boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chiswell Islands National Wildlife Refuge, covering 120-miles. Due to bad weather (13-14ft swells) we were unable to travel out into the Kenai Fjords Tidewater Glacier area to look for whales and observe calving of glaciers (process where a glacier shed giant blocks of ancient ice into the water). However, we were able to spend several hours in Resurrection Bay observing wildlife (see below). In the evening we drove to the Kenai River and saw 5 Grizzly bears (female with 2 cubs and 2 other adult bears). In the evening we hiked Mt. Marathon, which we could see from our windows at the Moby Dick hostel.

Day 6: Exploration of Exit Glacier - a vigorous hike up the mountain passing alder and conttonwood forests and beautiful mountain meadows. (see below)

Day 7: Departure Day - on our way to the airport we saw a giant bull moose on the exit ramp! He was walking very slowly without a care in the world.

The 7 students and the mom who accompanied me were so great! They were fun, hard-working, upbeat, positive, and grateful! They enjoyed and made the best of every adventure we had. The weather on the day of our boat tour was a bit rough--cold with heavy drizzling rain and 4-5 ft swells in Resurrection Bay, yet the students managed to find a list of positives in this experience (and really every adventure we had). All of the students huddled at the bow of the boat, held on, and road the waves like a roller coaster. I joined them and have to say that it was quite a thrill ride! We were getting blasted by cold water, but laughed and enjoyed the exhilerating ride! We were happy and thrilled to see plenty of wildlife on the boat tour: Dahl's porpoises, harbor seals, stellar sea lions, many sea otters, tons of birds including tufted and horned puffins, common murres, red and black-legged kittiwakes, marbled murrelets, double-crested cormorants, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, bald eagles, and a variety of gull species.

On our last day of the trip we trekked 1.5hrs up the mountain to Exit Glacier. Although we only hiked up 2.25 miles (1225 feet in elevation), it was steep, rocky, and had numorous switchbacks. We saw marmots, black bears, and many songbirds on the trek up. It was a very physically-exhausting hike and at times I really had to mentally push myself through it, but when we got to our destination I felt quite triumphant. Unlike most tourists we were fortunate to be able to treak onto the glacier (yep we walked up, down, and across the glacier). When we reached the ice, we donned crampons, ice axes, and helmets. This gear let us navigate the icy undulating terrain of Exit Glacier and confidently approach the crevasses, waterfalls, Moulin, and ice-caves. I was a bit nervous about this activity, but once I stepped on the glacial ice for the first time I felt a rush of adrenaline. This is actually laughable because I am the exact opposite of those "adrenaline junkies" who sky-dive and bungee jump, but the glacial hike gave me a taste of the "drug" they seek and I now understand their addiction!

Normally when I return from a vacation I feel somewhat depressed. You spend weeks anticipating the trip and then you go on the adventure, which is great, but you return to not having that excitement and anticipation. However, this trip is different. I have something amazing and even more exiting to look forward ... tomorrow is our 2nd ultrasound! The appointment is in the afternoon, but I will be sure to update my blog early tomorrow night. Both J and I will be accompanying K to the appointment and we're all hoping to see two growing little beans with strong beating hearts! Keep your fingers crossed for us!


Meg. said...

Thanks so much for sharing your adventure! I can't believe how much you guys were able to do and see in 7 short days. What an experience.

I'm excitedly awaiting your post about the U/S! Grow, little beans! Grow!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home! It sounds like an amazing trip.

I will be stalking your blog tomorrow!

Amy and Angela said...

I have been to alaska twice and it is truly full of raw beauty. I'm glad you got to experience it! Looking forward to your ultrasound post!


Infertile In the City said...

Glad that you had so much fun! I am so excited for the scan! Can't wait for you and K to have some good news :)

Natalia Ritchie said...

That's a nice home coming if I ever heard of one! Can't wait to hear how the beans are growing!

Tiffany said...

Your trip looks amazing, fingers are crossed!

MyLifeMyWorld-SharingADream said...

Wow, your trip sounds just amazing! Will be thinking of you tomorrow on your u/s day...hope you see those heartbeats and sweet little darlings growing nicely.

Kelly said...

Those pics are awesome!!! Looking forward to a great report on the twins tomorrow!!

Kay said...

Our dream is to do an Alaskan Land and sea cruise! I have my fingers crossed for you today, which is really making typing hard!!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip...

Have enjoying reading your story, however, when this is viewed on an iPhone it is almost impossible to see the font:) It appears as a light blue on a yellow background.


~Denise~ said...

How absolutely beautiful!