Tonight, we were due to meet the chef and maître d' and 8 other passengers for hors d'oeuvres in the galley (kitchen) at 7 to begin an indulgent dining experience. Dining at the Chef's Table on the Sapphire Princess was one of the big highlights of our trip and a definite "Must Do" if you can secure yourself a place.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska with a population of 30,000 people and accessible only by sea or air because of the mountains and huge ice field that surround it. it was a rainy day today and fog obscured the best of the views of Mendenhall Glacier. It is a great place for whale watching!
Exploring Gold Rush Country - In an attempt to prevent starvation, the authorities at the time of the gold rush required all men to carry all their requirements with them for a whole year so that they wouldn't have to depend on any other man for survival. It was a good job that they were self sufficient as there was stiff competition on the tail and a reluctance to help out a fellow stampeder. They let their horses die on the road, which was littered with horse carcasses in places. Carrying a year's supplies entailed many trips backwards and forwards up the trail - men would have to retrace their steps 20 to 40 times, depending on the size of the load they were prepared to carry each time.
What left a lasting impression of Glacier Bay for me was the sound of it. You could hear the glacier almost crunching as it creeped icily into the sea. Occasionally, you could hear a sound like a thunderstorm when it calved. You could hear the screams of gulls and seabirds too, which seemed to echo around in the otherwise still air of the icy bay.
with my camera a bit more today - nice to have the time to do that properly! We sailed past an iceberg or two and then came face to face with the beauty of Hubbard Glacier. It was totally awesome - I have seen nothing like this before and it was definitely a highlight of the trip so far. It appears to be a beautiful fluorescent blue in places, which is apparently because when the light hits the compacted ice, long wavelength colours (reds) are absorbed whilst short wavelength colours (blues) reflect back through the ice to your eyes.
Princess Cruises - Sapphire Princess - Accommodation Review. When I say cabin, that is something of an understatement... We have a large, comfy bed, a lovely bathroom with a deep bath, a lounge area and, best of all, a huge balcony that wraps itself around the front of the ship with a dining table and chairs, 2 steamer chairs and still plenty of room to walk around! Flowers, fruit and a full bar - I could get used to this!
Goldilocks and the 3 bears ... We were rewarded by seeing a family of three brown grisly bears on the journey back to civilisation out of Denali National Park. It was amazing to see this bear family walk across the road right behind the bus as though we were part of the landscape.
Yesterday, we were just practising. We missed the cut off for the guided hike sign up - 11 people got their names down before us and that is the maximum limit. So, we decided to go it alone - well - not quite alone. We found 3 other brave explorers to hike with us - Vash, Lindsay and a guy named Doug. Armed with pepper spray, a hand drawn map (?) and borrowed walking poles, we set off to climb up to Quigley Ridge.
OK - this is the wilderness, but I was kidding about the accommodation. We were in the Denali Backcountry Lodge, which has warm rooms, comfortable beds and hot showers. Thank goodness, because it is cold now. There was a frost this morning. The bit about the key was true though - it still feels odd to leave your room unlocked all day - even out here!
We had a morning to kill before the bus ride to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, so we took the shuttle up to the Denali National Park Visitor Centre and learned a bit more about the flora and fauna and the history of the gold rush. I particularly liked the recipe for blueberry pie made famous by one of the early pioneers, Fanny Quigley. First, catch, your bear ... - see the photo for the full recipe! Life was very tough here.
Today, we took the great Alaskan Railroad train to Denali National Park. Check in was 7.15 for an 8.15 departure. It took 7 and a half hours to arrive at the park entrance. There is only bus a day that goes into the wilderness - no other vehicles are allowed in the park - so we stayed overnight at Denali Cabins at the Park Entrance.
Alaska is such a big state! To get to the heart of it - Anchorage - we took an early taxi yesterday to Sea-Tac airport to catch a 10 am Alaska Airlines flight. The flight took around 3 hours 40 minutes. We are booked into the Embassy Suites, Anchorage for 2 nights. The hotel is in Midtown Anchorage, but there is a free airport shuttle Downtown, so exploring is easy.
Comfortable rooms, not far from shops and restaurants - we had to go to nearby Walmart to get some teabags so we could have a cup of tea though!
The Arctic Club Seattle - Accommodation Review A great choice for a stay in Seattle. Centrally located - great facilities. HOTEL WEBSITE Exterior of the Arctic Club Seattle Eskimos keep…
Seattle proved to be very possible in one day - with the benefit of some careful planning and research in advance, of course. One fully packed day, with plenty to see and do.
Alaska - The Last Frontier. It's so far away that you can't fly directly to Alaska from the UK - you have to go via Seattle. Seattle is a fascinating city to visit though, so I'm not complaining!
We start our big trip to Alaska in less than a month now. I always really love the planning and looking forward bit of a trip though. Sometimes, I think the looking forward and then re-living the memories when you get back are as much fun as the actual trip itself?! Read More for our Alaska Itinerary.