Posts Tagged With: National Parks

Alaska Cruise: Glaciers Galore & Whales Breaching

I had no idea Glacier Bay National Park would be so incredibly spectacular and awe-inspiring. Early Thursday morning the Norweigan Pearl pushed through the fog like an icebreaker. I was worried we’d have limited visibility of the glaciers for our few short hours in the bay and given our Alaskan weather to date. However, upon our first view of Margerie Glacier in Tarr Inlet the got had lifted and we had great viewing opportunities.


While I’m not a huge fan of cruises, a cruise ship is an excellent way to see Glacier Bay. Our captain did an excellent job of maneuvering the Pearl around Tarr Inlet so everybody could see the majestic Margerie Glacier and a rather dull Grand Pacific Glacier. We had an aft cabin and had planned to view Glacier Bay from our balcony. But our initial arrival was bow first and the cruise opened the bow of the ship (usually used for mooring only) to passengers. We quickly made our way to the front of the ship and were able to secure an excellent position on the port side of the bow for excellent viewing opportunities, including the sights and sounds of glacial calving.


After a few hours of rotating maneuvers around Tarr Inlet we headed away from Margerie Glacier and into John Hopkins Inlet to view the John Hopkins Glacier.


After John Hopkins Glacier we headed close to the Lamplugh Glacier where kayakers in the turquoise waters provided some scale to the behemoth block of ice.


Leaving Lamplugh Glacier in our wake we got a quick peek at Reid Glacier before weaving our way out of Glacier Bay and down Icy Strait on our way to Ketchikan. We’d have the rest of the day at sea.

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Reid Glacier

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Fishing boat in Icy Strait

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Dramatic light in Icy Strait.

Tawny and I headed up to the spa (which had some of the best views on the ship). We spent our early afternoon spotting numerous porpoise, whales, and dozens of sea otters clinging to kelp from the warmth and comfort of our saunas.

We took a quick lunch in one of the specialty restaurants – the Sushi Bar. We had found that this consistently had the best food on the boat and Aries, our sushi chef, made us many chef special roles, each more delicious than that last.


That afternoon we landed a prime bow facing window seat in the Spinnaker Lounge where Tawny and I spent the afternoon playing dominoes and spotting Dall’s porpoise and whales. We were lucky enough to see a gray whale breaching seven times right in front of the ship. The ship had to slow to wait for it to pass and as the captain announced the sighting we were already in the best viewing location with a hundred passengers craning their necks behind us for a peak. While we had good binoculars with us we didn’t have our camera. All we were able to get is this iPhone video of a few breaches. It was a bonus round added to an already perfect day.


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GART Day 18: Buffalo Bill and Yellowstone Day 1

We filled the trailer with water because we knew the campsite we’d have in Yellowstone for the next two days would have no services. It added another 750lbs to the trailer and we knew we’d have a 2500 foot elevation gain into Yellowstone from Cody.

Before heading to Yellowstone we took a side trip to the very well done Buffalo Bill Cody Center, which is 5 museums, one for Buffalo Bill, the Firearm Museum (largest collection of American firearms in the world, a natural history museum focused on Yellowstone, a Native American Plains Indian Museum, a Museum of Western Art. We toured three of them; the Firearms Museum (which I could understand how it might be interesting if you were interested in firearms, as there were several thousands of them, but I personally couldn’t muster any interest, nor could Tawny or Clara. So after ten minutes or so we left and headed to the Buffalo Bill Museum.

The Buffalo Bill Museum was pretty interesting. I didn’t know the history of Buffalo Bill at all. Knew nothing. But it was really interesting to learn about how one person single handedly helped to shape the enduring image of the American West and the Cowboy. Buffalo Bill has a fascinating personal story, as well as legend and enigma. Rather than detail it here you can read about Buffalo Bill on Wikipedia. 20130728-213629.jpg







As we checked out the natural history museum – which focused on Yellowstone – we realized we’d rather see the real thing, so we left and headed to the park…
On the way to Yellowstone I got the first speeding ticket I’ve received in over 20 years. We were going from a 65 zone to a 50 zone and I wasn’t even going 65 (because our trailer was so weighted down). I wasn’t paying attention and got caught going in the low sixties in the fifty zone – speed trap. The annoying thing was I wasn’t intentionally speeding. We weren’t in a hurry and we had nobody behind us pressuring us on. I was just enjoying the view and the drive. I chalked it up to an “entrance fee” for Yellowstone.

We came in from the East Entrance and continued on into the park and Yellowstone Lake. We headed to the Bridge Bay campground and checked in. Our friends Andy, Pam, their derby daughter Zoetrope and her friend Nico would be joining us but hadn’t yet arrived. We went and set up camp, putting on the big r-dome on our r-pod trailer and getting out the picnic table, chairs, etc., to cozy the place up. We had a very cute little meadow vole living in a hole right next to our fire-pit and we watched him work on redecorating his hole entryway. Very cute.

Just as we were pulling out to do a little touring we saw Andy, Pam and family. We directed them to our site (they were car camping with tents) and told them we’d be back in about 2 hours for happy hour. We headed out to Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron. As we approached Mud Volcano we saw some Bison by the road. We pulled over, took a few shots and moved on parking at Mud Volcano. One Bison was working his way through the parking lot and along the road very close to us. We saw our first thermals, bacteria mats, the Dragon’s Tongue, Mud Volcano, etc and headed up the plank trail to see more. As we headed up the hill there was another bison laying just below the platform. But just over the crest of the hill was a heard of buffalo with babies and they were standing on the trail. There were people stuck on the opposite side of the trail and this trail was open plank with no railings on the side. A group of people – idiots – started approaching the buffalo from the other side and it cause the buffalo to turn away from them and start moving towards us. We, and about 30 other people quick turned tail and hustled our way out of there.






That close encounter made us leave Mud Volcano and go across the street to Sulphur Cauldron where we could see a herd of buffalo with babies across the river. It was beautiful and we stayed there some time watching before returning to our campsite to fix dinner and hang out by the fire with Andy, Pam, Zoetrope and Nico. The kids ran amok in the fields and wore themselves out while we had a fine dinner, and roasted marshmallows by the fire.







Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

GART Day 13: Dead Horse Point & Canyonlands

Another stormy night. Hot, but windy. Up early to visit Canyonlands National Park. But first we had a side trip to Dead Horse State Park which has a awe-inspiring overlook of Canyonlands. Its a Utah State Park and has an interesting story linked to its namesake. Its Utah’s “Grand Canyon”. At the visitor center we saw several animals. A sizable and colorful lizard, a large hawk, a desert cottontail, and many white tailed antelope squirrels.






Then we headed on to Canyonlands National Park focusing on the Island in the Sky side of the park. Our first stop was a short hike to Mesa Arch, which rivaled any arch in Arches National Park. A sheer drop of hundreds of feet just beyond the arch…like a portal to another world.








Next we went to Green River Overlook which had sweeping views across Canyonlands.




Our next stop was Upheaval Dome which is theorized to be the site of a meteor strike. Unfortunately the nearest view point was a 1 mile hike (in and another mile out) across sand and slickrock. At 101 degrees nobody was willing to make the 1 hour commitment to the walk. So we just took this picture instead and headed to Grand View.

Grandview was just that – A grand view. We decided to have this end our day at Canyonlands. Stellar views. This is a park to visit again on bikes or for hikes in cooler times like spring and fall. Most of the park is back country and only accessible via dirt road, hike/bike trail, or raft. A tour by car was short but sweet and memorable.




The kids had been good and only complained a little (and we only had to tell them to put down their devices and look out the f-bomb window a half dozen times. So we decided to take them to a dinosaur and geode place we had seen just outside of Moab. Here they stocked up on obsidian, geodes, dinosaur “bones”, fossilized dino-poop, and desert roses. Then we spent the afternoon in the pool to escape the 100+ temperatures and run some errands (laundry, clean out RV, make beds, go to store, organize car, etc. Tomorrow and the next day we have LONG drives through Colorado and Nebraska to make our way to Mount Rushmore and Badlands (we hope). We’ll see how far we get tomorrow.





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