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Danali… Alaska

Danali

This is also a condensed version as we now are at Seattle with Brian and Sonia, good friends, from our time in Tralagon Victoria when we were first married.

We docked in Seaward and then traveled north to Anchorage a very large city in comparison to the other towns visited in Alaska. We travelled north on the Alaskan Railways in the dome roofed train through forest of many shades of green, passed lakes and finally arrived at Anchorage. It was a very early start and a long day but very well organised by Silver Sea where we finally bid farewell to  Silver Sea travel at Anchorage. A well oiled organisation with an enormous staff. Loved it.

The next day required another dome roofed train to travel to Denali.

 

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We spent the night in a lodge at the gates of the park as our arrival in Denali was too late to enter the park.

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I am glad we got to experience the Grand Hotel Denali which was perched on a high mountain top overlooking glaciated valleys and the small township of Denali. What wonderful views so we spent some time on the outside deck rugged up and soaked up the atmosphere with a few drinks. We became part of the entertainment at the hotel as people came to see who would sit outside when there is warmth inside.  

You only think it is late afternoon as the sun only disappears for about three hours a day and it is light the rest of the time. Amazing as it is probably dark by 5.30 at home.

Denali Park

Will we see the wildlife? 

We slowly snaked into the park on a dirt road, sometimes single lane on high cliffs. Top speed limit 20 mph. No cars allowed but many tourist buses that must have frightened the animals away as they were still in hibernation….  The landscape once again was spectacular and showed signs of glaciation. Snow still appeared on the mountains which was unusual as it is usually melted at this time of the year and only the peaks remain covered. This year has been a very cold winter and Spring is slowly showing signs as some of the flowers are appearing on slopes and around the roads.

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Check the left hand side of the photo below and you will see a very sophisticated weather station. Andrew wants the extras now but I don’t think it will snow in Brisbane.

5732DBAD-14C6-42B1-84FA-3DAFDB55A4CCMax our tour guide and a very good driver of the large bus, spotted caribou and many varieties of birds but no bears until in the last stage of our journey we rounded a bend and there was mother bear and her two cubs strolling along the road. What a find….

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The Kantishna lodge will be our home for the next three nights as we slowly wind down from a journey of a lifetime. Memories will be shared when we return and we will be able to relive a great trip through the many photos we have taken.

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Some of us went on bush walks, visited areas of interest and watched a dog sledge performance with new dogs and a four wheel farm vehicle. We learnt about Iditarod, dog sledge racing.

The original Malamutes are not used now as they get very hot and break and water stops take time out of the racing so breeders are crossing the malamutes with Borders, Irish setters, Labrador’s and are now looking at breeding with kelpies as they are fast and nimble.

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What a great time we have had.

Some of us are heading home, some going to an area near Kamloops and us to Seattle to visit friends and the Boeing Factory. We leave on Sunday and get home on Tuesday missing out on Monday as we loose a day on the way home.

What a journey and a great way to finish my many years as a teacher.

Vancouver to Seaward by sea….

The Silver Shadow

As we have been out of wi fi and it is very slow I am condensing the rest of the blog.

Sailing from Vancouver to Seaward.

All I can say is WOW, the weather superb, sunny, water crystal clear like a lake no movement except for the second day where a few of us didn’t drink champagne. The seas were six to eight feet that day( everything is in feet and Fahrenheit here ) which made me feel a little wobbly so sat in the doorway of our room in the fresh air. Andrew poured a champagne at midday thinking it would help and guess what the healing power of the great bubbles helped me partake of high tea and dinner that night.  The fridge was stocked with blue top Hiedsieck  Monopole champagne, a very good drop, beer, whiskey, red wine and Baileys. Wow weight will be a problem when I get home and not in the suitcase. Food was amazing, dinning an experience and all this came with your own butler.

My first cruise and I enjoyed it Immensely.

Itinerary onboard.

NFirst day was sailing and pleasant and WPHS required practise before we left shore. We were sent back for life jackets and told to drink the champagne.

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Great accessory for ones attire. I couldn’t put mine on needed help…. as my jacket was the old style, thank heavens we didn’t need them.

Second day rough but good after midday.

Third day we had an excursion into Ketchikan and visited the Totem pole cultural centre and Potlatch Park. At first I thought not another totem pole but the whole experience and the understanding of the culture of the people and their artefacts changed my mind completely and it was a great expedition. They have such a relatively young history in comparison to our indigenous people.

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…… and there was a car display at Potlatch Park .

That afternoon we walked around Ketchikan a small village that now relies on the tourist trade from cruise ships.  It once was a bustling mining village of several salons and bordello’s with many ladies hoping to take some of the gold from the hard working miners when they came to town.

Below two suspects we found on the walk.

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Juneau was a land and sea photographic exhibition. We were very fortunate to see a pod of Orkas moving northwards. A very rare sight we were told and under a sunny blue sky it was a very special moment. We moved onward after a half an hour to have sightings of seals, sea lions, eagles and hawks. Alaska is so different to our own island continent, it is still moving and developing geographically and this is reflected in the rugged mountain ranges covered with snow that surrounded us.

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It is interesting to see the many jewellery shops appearing in the towns that have men and women standing in the doorways encouraging you to come into their shops that sell even Australian opals. These shops appear at the cruise season and then close down and appear in the Mediterranean and Caribbean in their cruise season.  It is like walking around in Hong Kong. These shops and their overpowering men and women trying to get you to buy jewellery from around the world spoil the culture of the small towns.

  I am glad we didn’t book in peak season as the streets were busy enough with crowds of people and it is only about four weeks into the season.

Skagway was our next port of call where we travelled back into Canada on a bus up the mountain over white pass and then returned down on the Klondike railway over white pass. This was the route the miners looking for gold, trudged for many days to seek their fortune during the gold rush in the early twentieth century. Sometimes they would take this route three times before they had all their belongings finally at the destination on top of the mountain  This could take many weeks and sometimes miners gave up and looked for ways to relieve anyone who had found gold through shifty business deals.

Some of the brave group crossed the swinging bridge over a fast flowing stream many, many feet below. All of our crew completed it except me. Don’t do heights.

Below the Klondike railway.

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On the bus tour on the way up we stopped at a very unusual garden in Skagway which featured blown glass from their kilns on the premises and then placed strategically around the garden. Their were glass Flowers, sculptures and bowls one would be pleased to display on a coffee table but here they were in a garden at the foothills of the mountains.  Seedlings were being planted  into the gardens for the spring and summer blooming. 

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We had lunch at the original building which had been converted into a tea house. The mat on the floor is painted.

 

The last port to visit was Sitka. The ship anchored in the bay and we were ferried ashore in tenders that have hung on the side of our ship during the voyage. We walked to third deck then out to the tender through the cargo hole of the ship.

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 We were the only ship in sight as the larger boats could not enter this port. This meant that the town was not awash with visitors and appeared a very natural and quaint village.There was plenty of evidence of its Russian heritage prior to the US buying Alaska from their close neighbours. 

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Our boat trip in the Sitka waters revealed lots of sea otters and eagles. An initially shy humpback whale then decided to put on a major tail slapping exhibition at close quarters. A sighting of a brown bear on the shoreline completed the impressive sightings from our visit. 

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The last days we were cruising to the port of Seaward via the Hubbard Glacier.  The ship entered a quiet bay to approach the Hubbard Glacier which is one of the few known glaciers that is still growing. We approached slowly passed the broken ice to within half a mile of the face and the captain arranged a 720 degree turn to allow all passengers a good view. You could hear the glacier groaning as it makes its way forward. It moves approximately an inch a year.

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We then sailed west to Seaward with a continuous line of snow covered mountains to the near north and the vast Pacific Ocean to the south. Alaska makes you realise just how old our continent is and how young Alaska is in comparison. 

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The cruise was amazing and worth every penny. Service, food, excursions on land, the entertainment and the atmosphere was fabulous for a first time cruiser like me but our seas were very, very calm thank heavens. I would recommend Silver Sea as a cruise company for the inside passage to Alaska as it is a small ship of about 350people and is able to go into the Hubbard Glacier and Sitka because of its size.

What a great time we have had and memories we will always treasure …….now off to the wilderness of Denali Park.

Vancouver

Vancouver

We had a little problem with derailments and trains but arrival in Vancouver Day two was successful and a great trip.

Arrival at our units where we were staying was very amusing, front door only and intercom.  We were let in and then a locked lift came to get us and take us to the parking area, where we found an official office.  It all appeared a little strange and we were worried about our units. We were sent to the fourth floor where a very nice two bedroom, two bathroom and large lounge and kitchen awaited us. Fabulous although the shower was still over the bath.

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That night we had small snacks on the top patio of the units. Great venue and great night with friends, plus we had eaten on the train at 4 o’clock. Food aboard the Rocky Mountaineer was great but would say The Ghan menu was much better.

The next day we boarded the hop on, hop off bus to get a feel for the city. The only drawback is they are single buses and with tourist season beginning were usually full by the time they reached us. Eventually an empty bus arrived and we travelled a third of the route to a very nice tea house in Stanley Park where we had lunch. I would Recommend it if travelling in Stanley Park.

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We continued the trip after two attempts to board the hop on, hop off bus around Vancouver.  There is a very big population of homeless people and some streets in Chinatown we were advised not to get off the bus. 

We quickly bought a BBQ Dinner for eleven from Safeway’s and occupied  the rooftop patio of the units looking over Vancouver. The BBQ was cooked by our group chef Robert and a great night was had by all looking over the city of Vancouver.

 Today the troupes went on different excursions, some to the Capilano Suspension Bridge which hang extremely high above a large valley and others a walk around the Stanley Gardens. We chose the later which turned into a long walk, ten miles……., in warm conditions. It was great to stretch the legs after bus and train travel.

A long lunch was at the bistro in the park, very relaxing day.

We then returned to get ready for the boat trip with Silver Sea to Alaska on the inside passage

Banff to Vancouver

Rocky Mountaineer Voyage Two

Banff to Vancouver

Goodbye Banff and for those who remember F Troupe, would remember  “the burglar from Banff ffff”. . Just a little aside….

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Banff was a great stop off and we spent three nights at the Fox enjoying one another’s company over Mexican and Italian food washed down with Chardonnay and Red. People can’t believe we are not on a tour, we say… there are eleven of us led by our Fearless Leader John and we are doing our own thing.

Up early to board the Rocky Mountaineer but alas we were told there was a freight train derailment last night and we would have to be bused from Banff to Golden, consequently missing the spiral Tunnel.  Not happy Jann….. We boarded the bus from our units at the Fox to be taken on another tour of Banff (time filler). We were then let off at the train station at Banff to board a coach to transport us around the derailment. We would then board the train at Golden.

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Golden, the boarding stop for the train, day one’s journey begins on the Rocky Mountaineer.

Two and a half hours, one toilet stop for 300 people and the viewing of the Spiral tunnel from a road stop, you could imagine there were a lot of grumpy passengers.

At Kamloops we also have seven more carriages attached behind our train, as the Jasper train joined us from a different rain journey.

Passengers not happy, staff grumpy but scenery spectacular as usual. The weather perfect to view the sights.

Kamloops to Vancouver

Day Two Of the Rocky Mountaineer Vogage Two

Overnight stay in Kamloops was very successful. Everything is big here, large meals and big glasses of Soda Water.

Great hotel, good sleep and now ready for a new day, refreshed.

At Kamloops we also have the Jasper train joining us, so seven more carriages were attached.

The coach took us from the hotel in Kamloops to the train and everyone said …… this would be the best day of the two day train trip. We were not disappointed. We crossed many rivers, snaked along steep valleys beside raging streams, passed through many holiday fishing resorts and viewed the spectacular scenery.

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There is something different around every corner. The scenery is Semi arid, desert, but not like our deserts, flat and red. There is little rain in these regions consequently it is classified as a desert.

 

Lake Louise to Banff

Lake Louise to Banff

A few more walks around Lake Louise and after lunch at the village we waved goodbye to the iconic Fairmont nested on the side of a very icy lake.

We set off on our road adventure in convoy, Pegler’s and Scott’s in the aircraft carrier – everything is big here. Followed by Joanie, Helen and Frank in the Dodge, Rob, Angie, Mary and Tony in the Ford. One thing they  have over here are car spaces big enough to park very large vehicles and allotted spaces for RVs, buses and us, something that Coles and Woolworths at Kenmore Australia could aspire to…..

We chose a back road and not the freeway hoping to see wildlife but unfortunately they were all resting. I suppose we have seen some bears, long horned sheep, elks with very white bottoms, and breathtaking scenery.

 

We stopped half way to hike into a Johnson’s waterfall but unfortunately Helen and I needed to rest and chose a seat on the side of a path where unbeknown to us we had a little mate behind us, a very small squirrel who found us as entertaining as we him.

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The crew arrived back and were a little disappointed with the falls, different type of falls, still worth the walk but the Athabasca  falls are the one to visit.

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We journeyed on to Banff which is a very picturesque town nested in amongst the snow capped mountains. We will be spending three nights and two full days before boarding the Rocky Mountaineer Stage Two.

We set off for the Banff Gondola which again was breathtaking and very very high and very very steep. Top was 7000 feet and the viewing platform a mastery in architecture.

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F0F4EFD8-733F-4003-AB89-4FB8D1011D57Views were captured on the many cameras but didn’t do the spectacular vision justice.

We returned to view the village on foot and to be a shopping tourist.

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We toured around the town surrounds, visited the cultural and Arts Centre, amazing village of theatres, sound proof huts to practice musical instruments and views to die for. 

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Anastasia needs to visit this before spending millions on a concert hall etc. above Roma Street Railway. Vision is a very necessary component of any project.

We then  drove around Tunnel Mountain and then out to Lake Minniewanka

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We finished the day with a steep drive up to the Lookout with its amazing red chairs to sit on and contemplate the city of Banff.

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise

I have always wanted to stay at the Fairmont Lake Louise and today we leave Jasper for Lake Louise.

We headed along the picturesque route, around every corner is another breathtaking scene, be it mountains, streams, valleys or waterfalls and today we called into the viewing platforms of the Athabasca Falls. They were magnificent, the force of the water and the energy was truly daunting. They have paths and platforms that allow you to get quite close to the cascading water and enjoy the cool mist.  There was even a rainbow!

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Lunch stop was at the Columbian Icefields. The restaurant overlooked the glacier and for many tourist dollars you could have a bus ride onto the glacier and then get off the bus and walk on the glacier.  We chose to have a hot chocolate and view the happenings from the restaurant.

 

We travelled along the Iceland’s Parkway and descended into the Bow Valley and stopped at Bow Lake which was  still covered in ice.  The mountains behind were gradually losing their snow. The weather is rather warm and it is very unusual for this time of the year for it to be so warm. We have been so lucky with the weather so have been able to view this magnificent country in all its glory.

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Finally we reached our destination Lake Louise and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The lake was still covered with ice, and the grandeur of the Fairmont was reflected in the iced lake.  We were lucky enough to have a lake view on the fourth floor so could view the lake in all its glory until about 10.30 when night began

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Andrew,s photo when he went on a night walk after dinner.. the reflection was amazing.

Jasper

Arrival Jasper

We left the train at about seven and we were delivered to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

Some of us chose the buggy to the room, others followed Rob around a windy road dragging our suitcases. A wave from Marg showed us where we were staying and Andrew and I headed straight to the door not seeing a large Elk Stag sitting on the lawn at the front of our cottage.

He was a little close to us so hid behind Andrew and headed to our cottage.  

Outlook cabin was amazing. Six bedrooms, lounge, sitting  room, chess area, large dining room and Kitchen all situated overlooking the lake.. WOW

It appears in1939  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed in Outlook Cabin.  Unfortunately, in 2000 the Outlook Cabin burnt down and because there was so much history involved in this building, Fairmont wanted to keep it as close to the original as possible. The same blue prints were used and the original furniture and paintings were matched. It is almost a replica of the old building, but has an additional 600 square feet to allow for wheel chair accessibility. In 2005,  royalty occupied  the cabin again when Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip stayed in Outlook Cabin during their visit to Alberta to celebrate the Province’s 100th Anniversary. Outlook Cabin was crowned with the title: Outlook Cabin, the Royal’s Retreat. 

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Next day we picked up the cars for our journey to Banff then some of us went to Lake Maligne and some chose the gondola to view Jasper from above.

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That night we had an Aussie BBQ at the Outlook Cabin, the Royal Retreat.  We had a royal feast in a royal retreat. It was very hard to leave such wonderful accomodation.

F6E0550F-59B1-4EBC-B295-A9A1E9F5337AGroup photo in the queens bed.

Off to Jasper

Day Three Destination Jasper.

We arrived at Quesnel at 8.30, it was a very quite town, flooded from the snow melts in places but once again people were very friendly.

 

We started the day early again, and slowly wound through forests of Spruce, meandering fast flowing streams and very high bridges. The view straight down to the ground was spectacular but hard to capture on film. We peered out of the train and it showed no appearance of any support, until we left the very high bridge on the other side.

We saw the first white bottom of a caribou today as it turned and ran from the train. Wildlife is started to appear from their very long and cold winter.

We stopped at Prince George for two freight trains to pass. One was 3 kilometres long and passed over the swing bridge. We spent about 40 minutes parked on the side before taking off at the fastest speed so far. Approximately 60 km per hour. 

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Engineers discussing how the bridge works………………….

We saw three and a half bears today, the half was a baby bear and they were probably all looking for porridge after a long hibernation.

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The Rocky Mountains are hard to capture, their beauty and dominance were breathtaking as we weaved our way through the U valley.

Notes for train

Food magnificence

You need a cap for the sun while sitting in your seats if you are in the dome carriages.

Clothes from tee shirt, long sleeve top, jacket.

Layered clothing as like melb you can have all the weather cycles in one day.

 

Day Two Rocky Mountaineer

20 May

Rocky Mountaineer

Our stay overnight was at Whistler, we toured the touristy village and had an ice- cream.  Yum, little things from home are a great delight.  The Ice cream is better than the coffee. Hot chocolate is a great substitute for coffee.

The Olympics were held in Whistler in 2010 so villages and attractions have seen a major facelift.

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The  day started with a little rain but turned out to be a fabulous sunny day. The best thing when you leave your hotel for the train they transport your luggage from the room you stayed in overnight and then you only need to worry about hand luggage in the train for the day.

We boarded the train and started our journey around Lake Anderson which was 22 kilometres long and then travelled through very wooded rainforest. The rainforests are very different to ours, full of pine trees and dense undergrowth.

 

Spotted through the forest were many Dogwood Trees covered in magnificent white flowers. Once again we saw many waving natives. It is customary for the residents in the isolated areas to come out and wave to the passengers on the train.

We also saw our first bear in a field having a nice time until the train went past and frightened him.

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Spot the black dot in the field.

The vegetation changes abruptly, you go from heavily wooded areas to suddenly semi arid land and you can see the change is very different in the foliage and rocks.  Logging is very predominate along the track and today’s logging community was once a gold mining community.

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We crossed the river at Lillooet and then travelled through very denuded areas. We slowly meandered around the mountains to rise to 5000 feet. We rose at a gradient of 2.2 percent to go from 2000 to 5000 feet in 35 miles.

We went through the large blackened remains of charred trees and homes that the forest fires burnt last year in British Columbia. Three million hectares were burnt.

Food on the train has been most enjoyable but their sparkling wine, oh dear!  We are in Canada with a French influence so why is there no good champagne?

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The end of the day was Quesnel at the Best Western.

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 Day Three, we leave Quesnel for Jasper tomorrow.