A Whale of a Good Time!

Let’s go back to where I left off in this series of Alaska adventure stories (there’s more brewing so stay tuned in the weeks to come!).

As we sailed away from Ketchikan’s port leaving behind this charmingly touristy city, that was when it hit me that we were in actually in Alaska. We were standing on one of the ship’s outside balconies and the view was just breathtaking! All those azure blues and forest greens appear to be bold splashes of color against the far away snow capped mountains.

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Juneau was the next port of call. It is the capital city of Alaska. Did you know that there are no roads going to or leading out of Juneau? Yes, it is an island and I bet it is pretty expensive living there.

Our main adventure for the day was to go on a whale watching tour. We booked ours online many many months before through Harv and Marv’s. I highly recommend getting them (no, I don’t get paid for endorsing this) if you wish to have a more serene, up close and personal whale watching experience and not be crammed into a boat with 100 other people which is what will happen if you booked through the cruise ship.

It is a bit more expensive but you will get what you pay for. There were seven of us who split the costs of the tour. You have the ship captain and your very own naturalist who will talk to you about anything and everything whale related. You can ask as many questions as you like and they even have drinks (non alcohol) on board. And, get this, very important for a tropical fish like me, the inside of the boat is heated!

They picked us up at the dock and normally, would bring you back after the tour following a quick visit to Mendenhall Glacier. But we wanted to wander around some more after the glacier so the driver dropped us off at a secret local spot for some awesome wildlife viewing (which is another story for another day). It was close enough to the port so we just walked back.

Humpback whales are the most common ones you will find in Juneau. Once in awhile they have a pod of Orcas too, if you’re really lucky. So, you never know what you’ll see. These are wild animals and you cannot predict their behaviors. We were just here for the ride.

Enjoy the photos!

sea lions

I would have wanted to see bubble netting and breaching but like they said, it does not happen as often as the tail and the spouting. But, we got a bonus with the sea lions.

And last but not the least, our grand finale….

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Exploring Ketchikan on Foot

“Catch me if you can, Ketchikan!”

This pretty little city in Alaska was the first stop on our seven-day cruise. As the sun rose that morning and we were already getting ready to dock, we could see colorful houses dotting the hillside, boats anchored by the port or out to sea, a wide expanse of evergreens and snow capped mountains in the distance.

Postcard perfect.

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We only had less than six hours to spend here. Crazy ship scheduling making us rush through our tour, but we were at the ship’s mercy so we had no choice but to improvise. How do we make the most of Ketchikan?

There were lots of activities to do and things to see that it was almost close to impossible to narrow it down to doing only the things that we REALLY wanted to do. But we wanted to do everything! That was the dilemma.

So, here’s our version of how we did it in under six hours.

First, go walk to the nearest visitor center for maps, travel tips and other information.

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Then, as you head on to your next destination, make sure you observe the scenery around you. Seeing new things with excitement, hearing the sounds of nature, breathing in the smell of pine trees and crisp cold air, tasting local food and most of all, be amazed at the beauty of God’s wonderful creations. Don’t forget to take photos!

salmon running

Our target destination was “The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show” to which we already pre-purchased tickets online. Look it up on Trip Advisor for reviews. We had a good time clapping and cheering for our teams, that’s for sure. And the stunts that these guys did, make you think twice about what being a lumberjack truly means.

It is also worthy to mention that some of the men here are eye candy of the rugged kind (think of Alaskan Bush People meet Alaska State Troopers ). Always makes it more interesting to watch!

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The show was basically the only one that had a time schedule. The rest of our short itinerary for the day was mostly sightseeing and lots of walking.

The infamous Creek Street used to be a red light district with brothels lining Ketchikan Creek, now this historic boardwalk is turned into quaint charming stores and shops for visitors and locals.

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Ketchikan is known as the Salmon Capital of the World. When summer comes, thousands of salmon make the run upstream to spawn and die. We didn’t see a lot on the creek yet as the locals said the salmon are sometimes late for the season (salmon traffic jams maybe?) but in our later adventures, the boys get to actually FISH!

In the meantime, this little fella was putting on quite the show…

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Ketchikan creek

After Creek Street, we just mostly walked wherever our feet led us and to whatever piqued our curiosity, exploring freestyle. We passed by this Totem Museum and saw lots of houses with totem poles in the backyard as well. A little google research showed that Ketchikan has the largest number of totem poles in Alaska.

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Other mundane things I discovered on our walk…

scoop it

Our little walking self tour of the city came to an end with just enough time for us to buy some souvenirs. Of course, we were breathless by the time we reached our ship.

And as our ship left the port, this was our view…

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“Catch me if you can, Ketchikan!”

Gone Glacier Hiking (and eight other fun facts about glaciers)

I haven’t done a travel post in awhile. Since our Philippine trip last year, we haven’t really traveled anywhere else, after having declared an “indefinite self imposed travel ban” to recover on finances and credit card expenses. (Because we have to work to travel, ugh, and also mostly due to poor money management, I know, I know…) So, I reckon it is high time I bring back memories and exciting stories of our Alaska adventure, where everything is set against a backdrop of Mother Nature in her full awesome glory!

One of the thrill seeking activities we did was glacier hiking. (MOST of the activities we did in Alaska involved some sort of adrenaline rush in one way or another.) Our group of seven friends who traveled from Florida to Vancouver to Alaska was more of the intrepid crazy kind who would literally jump at the thought of doing anything fun, the more physically and mentally challenging, the better.

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We weren’t satisfied with the numerous glaciers that we have seen from afar while on the cruise, we wanted to get up close and personal with it, play on it, step on it, learn from it, BE ON IT.

Here are some icy tidbits about glaciers:

1. A glacier is a large moving river of ice formed many years ago, sometimes centuries! Imagine what it is like stepping on something so old and cold that is slowly evolving and carving out the landscape as it slowly traverses along the way.

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Matanuska glacier

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2. Why is a glacier blue? Because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. The thicker the ice, the bluer it looks.

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3. Glaciers can be dirty too! Because it is moving, it scrapes away rocks and soil beneath its surface hence, the dirt (along with air and other tiny animals) gets trapped in this massive icy river, sometimes forming different layers.

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4.  You get to see pretty “cool” stuff such as crevasses, seracs, moulins and ice caves. Take your (ice) pick.      

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Crevasse, a deep open crack in a glacier
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Serac, a block or column of glacial ice  
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Seracs are also formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier
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Moulin, a hole in the ice where water enters from the surface
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Ice cave, self explanatory 🙂

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5. So how do you walk on ice? First, you need water proof hiking boots. Then you need these mean looking foot wear… No slipping allowed!

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Crampons are an ice walker’s best friend! 
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Our guide had the sharpest and meanest looking crampons!

6. Bet you haven’t tasted glacier water yet?

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7. The different glacier surfaces we’ve hiked on look like this…

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8. Best of all, be cool (literally and figuratively) and bring a sense of adventure with you!

ice fun