Category Archives: Travel

Ketchikan, Alaska and Cruising Inside Passage

Ketchikan was a cool place. It has these gritty undertones that at times I’m not sure are there or if I am just imagining them. The bootleggers and prostitutes have moved out long ago but remnants of the old way of life can still be seen. The brothels of Creek Street have been converted to gift stores.

Creek Street
Creek Street

The seals in the harbor are playful and put on a show. They are incredible swimmers. There are a lot of salmon in the harbor and the seals effortlessly catch them. You can see the seals playing with and toying with the salmon before they enjoy their tasty lunch.

Oh hello there seal
Oh hello there seal

Ketchikan is a good place to stroll around and not see much. Get lost and try to see the gritty undertones. We went for a quick ride on the Cape Fox Hill-Creek Street Funicular, which is a mix between a cable car and a railroad cart. At the top was a hotel and nothing too much more. We walked back down the hill and strolled through town some more. There is a tiny little park by this eagle reserve and salmon hatchery that is nice. Supposedly the reserve and hatchery is closed, it was when we were there.

Walking through Ketchikan
Walking through Ketchikan

But there is salmon all over the place in Alaska so that was not really a big bummer. Strolling back through Creek Street we got to see these salmon.

Salmon swimming in the creek
Salmon swimming in the creek

We stopped at Annabelle’s Keg & Chowderhouse and grabbed some king crab legs one last time before we hopped back on the ship. We hung out on the ship before grabbing some sleep while the ship headed off for the Inside Passage and the ultimate destination of Vancouver.

The day cruising the Inside Passage was a nice relaxing day after spending the previous three days hanging out in three awesome Alaskan towns. There were still sites to see as always.

Cruising Inside Passage
Cruising Inside Passage

We grabbed dinner at the Italian restaurant on the ship which was pretty good. They had an Italian restaurant and a fancy seafood and steakhouse style grill on the ship that both provided a nice alternative to the buffet which became a little tiresome after the week.

It was fun getting fancy some nights
It was fun getting fancy some nights

The service on the ship was awesome. The staff knew my name before I ever saw them and we always had fun towel animals. Here we are with our rabbit.

Oh hello there rabbit
Oh hello there rabbit

Juneau, Alaska

The capital of Juneau was the biggest stop on the cruise. But even though it’s a large city for Alaska standards, the nature never stops being everywhere. We decided to do some whale watching and it was well worth it. We got a good deal by buying on the shore instead of through the cruise line. We saw a bunch of eagles up pretty up close.

Saw a couple eagles while whale watching
Saw a couple eagles while whale watching

And we saw a bunch of whales. It’s pretty magical heading out on a small little boat in search of creatures that are many times larger than your vessel. Getting to see and hear these creatures this close is amazing.

Pfshewww!
Pfshewww!

Our tour guides were awesome. They were very knowledgeable and respectful of the whales and the water. They found a pod and got us close.

Humpback
Humpback

It’s pretty typical of Alaska to be in the midst of a pod of whales set amongst a stunning backdrop while an eagle swoops down and catches a salmon.

Eagle hunting for salmon while whale watching
Eagle hunting for salmon while whale watching

I’m not exactly sure which of the wildlife pictures that I took eventually won me the bet of who could take a better wildlife picture but there were a lot of great shots that came from this trip.

Gotta be happy getting this shot
Gotta be happy getting this shot

After whale watching we got a chance to see Mendenhall Glacier, which was included in the tour. It was pretty cool, but its beauty may be diminished due the number of glaciers you see everywhere in Alaska. That is currently changing though. Although Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles long, it is retreating due to global warming.

Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier

A wild bear decided to show up. We followed him for some time and got some good shots. The park ranger who was escorting us said that the older bears have predictable routes that they follow every day and aren’t really a threat. It’s the younger bears who haven’t established their daily routine that are more dangerous. It’s interesting to see this behavior that is so common in humans repeat itself in bears. We both search out the repetitive daily grind and then grind it away until the end of our days. We probably would do best to be like the young bear, exploring the world and experiencing new things than to do the exact same thing every day of our lives like the old bear.

Wild black bear crossing a beaver dam
Wild black bear crossing a beaver dam

I trusted the park ranger and so we walked along and got pretty close. At one point the bear was only a couple feet away.

Wildlife in Alaska is hard to beat
Wildlife in Alaska is hard to beat

But I wasn’t worried because, like the joke goes, you don’t have to outrun a bear to survive. You just have to outrun the people you are with. I was sure my girlfriend and I could outrun the seniors who were also following the bear, trying to get a better look.

After a long day of taking in some great nature and wildlife, we had to stop in at Tracy’s King Crab Shack (as seen on Top Chef!). This is the place to go for king crab in Alaska. There was a line but it moved pretty quickly.

The line at Tracy's is worth the wait
The line at Tracy’s is worth the wait

The king crab legs here are huge and delicious. They also sell Dungeness crab which is honestly a waste of money in comparison. You just can’t beat king crab in Alaska. Fresh and delicious.

Some of the legs weigh in over a pound
Some of the legs weigh in over a pound

Our stop in Juneau was another great stop. We hopped back onto the ship and checked out some music and did some dancing.

Haines, Alaska

Our first time back on land was when we finally got to Haines. Haines is a cool little town.

Pretty much the whole town of Haines, Alaska
Pretty much the whole town of Haines, Alaska

After we got off of the ship we went around the little shops before heading into the woods for some hiking along Mount Ripinsky Trail. It was nice to get into the woods after being on the water. The green provides a nice contrast to the vivid blues that you see.

Hiking the Mount Ripinsky Trail
Hiking the Mount Ripinsky Trail

There are bald eagles all over Alaska. They are massive and beautiful to see flying around. They are gracious, elegant, and powerful creatures. Trying to get shots like this is why I think I would pick up a nice zoom lens. I thought I had a decent setup with my DSLR but sometimes the nature in Alaska is just too demanding to score a great shot with a basic setup.

It is awesome to look up and see this
It is awesome to look up and see this

We hiked several miles before turning around, a little short from the peak. But we were breaking a good sweat and in need of some hydration and food. This was provided by Big Al’s Salmon Shack back in town.

Fried halibut and salmon
Fried halibut and salmon

The seafood in Alaska is tough to beat. Getting that fresh high quality product on the land really overshadows the cruise ship food back on the boat.

After we changed out of our hiking gear and through on some nicer threads we strolled the town a little more. There’s a nice cemetery hidden amongst the pine trees on the outskirts of a park in Haines. For dinner we went to the Fireweed Restaurant which was a little disappointing with its lack of seafood choices (I can get a pizza back in Jersey). The view was nice and we had a chance to look out on Mount Ripinsky and were pretty impressed at how far we had hiked up the mountain. After dinner we headed back to the ship where I was greeted with “Oh hello again Justin Bieber” by one of the workers which always gave me a laugh considering I looked like this on the trip.

Classic Justin Bieber
Classic Justin Bieber

Departure and Glacier Bay

After spending some time on the boat, walking around, and seeing the beautiful town of Seward we were ready for our 8 PM departure. The first night consisted of the usual getting to know the ship. But since it is Alaska and it only gets dark for a couple hours, you can also head outside to see if there is any cool nature going on. And there always is. There’s almost always sunlight in the summer and there is always something to see. We just happened to pass this random glacier. Huge mountains are everywhere. There’s no announcements made over the loudspeaker to look because the announcements would never stop.

Glaciers are everywhere
Glaciers are everywhere

Having the day at sea in the beginning of the trip was great as it provided some nice rest from all the flying and lack of sleep. It was relaxing to cruise around and not have a care in the world.

The next day cruising Glacier Bay is probably the most beautiful day I’ve witnessed in my life. Otters, seals, breaching whales, salmon jumping out of water, eagles sitting on icebergs, bears, massive mountains and glaciers everywhere.

Glacier Bay is alive with creatures
Glacier Bay is alive with creatures

It’s pretty breathtaking seeing whole pods of whales swimming. Sometimes they’re off in the distance making the faintest puffs of water vapor and other times they are right along the boat, startling you with the noise the make.

Probably saw a dozen whales
Probably saw a dozen whales

All of this happens amongst the most beautiful backdrop.

Glacier Bay is amazing
Glacier Bay is amazing

The beauty of Alaska really can’t be overstated. You immediately see it and it keeps getting better and better as you see more of the state.

The glaciers are massive
The glaciers are massive

The mountains are tremendous. You move from one side of the ship to the other trying to take it all in. Hours and hours of amazing scenery.

Just one of the many gorgeous scenes
Just one of the many gorgeous scenes

There is so much wildlife in Glacier Bay.

Oh hello there
Oh hello there

It never ends.

It's fun to watch these salmon jumping
It’s fun to watch these salmon jumping

Ever.

One of the many humpbacks
One of the many humpbacks

We caught the most beautiful sunset leaving Glacier Bay. It’s one of the many moments that hopefully you are fortunate enough to catch in Alaska.

I had to have this framed and put on a wall
I had to have this framed and put on a wall

The most annoying part about Alaska is that you have to sleep. You are always missing something awesome. There is always sunlight and always something to see. If you’re not missing the breaching whales at 6 in the morning, you are missing part of a glacier cracking off at 3 in the afternoon or a bear along the shore at 11 at night.

The Beginning of our Alaskan Cruise

Decided to go on an Alaskan cruise with my girlfriend. After finally picking up a DSLR we were ready to go.

Itinerary
July 13: Fly NJ to Anchorage
July 14: Take The Alaska Railroad to the cruise ship in Seward. Set sail.
July 15: At Sea
July 16: Glacier Bay
July 17: Haines
July 18: Juneau
July 19: Ketchikan
July 20: Cruise the Inside Passage
July 21: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
July 22: Fly back home

Flew from Newark, NJ to Anchorage, AK. Flying into Anchorage is intense. You get pretty close to Denali National Park and Preserve. You catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley. I was bummed that I wouldn’t have enough time to check out Denali but was happy to get at least a glimpse of it. After you touch down on the runway, you notice the immediate immensity of the nature. The mountains around the airport are massive and foreshadow what is in store for your trip in Alaska.

When we got in to town we stopped at Glacier Brewhouse. Grabbed our first king crab, salmon, halibut and Alaskan brewed beers of the trip.

Our first taste of Alaskan brews
Our first taste of Alaskan brews

We had to be up in a few hours to catch our ride on The Alaska Railroad so it wasn’t too long of a night. I must say it was a little bizarre heading to the hotel room after midnight with the sun still shining.

One way to get to your cruise ship is the 4-hour train ride from Anchorage to Seward. We heard it was a beautiful ride so I was hoping to get some sweet shots with the new camera. It didn’t disappoint.

Four hours of this
Four hours of this

Alaska is amazing everywhere you look. I had a bet going with family vacationing in Yellowstone, Montana and Colorado about who could get the most epic wildlife picture from the trip, so I was pretty pumped to see two moose this early in the trip.

A couple of moose
A couple of moose

The nature is bigger here than most places. It’s in your face and it doesn’t stop.

Everywhere you look
Everywhere you look

After hanging off the side of an open air car taking pictures for four hours I didn’t want the train ride to stop. There was beauty everywhere and I’m glad that we chose that option to get to our cruise ship.

We had a couple hours to hang out in Seward. It’s a small but beautiful town. We grabbed some oysters, smoked salmon and brews at Ray’s Waterfront and strolled around the town.

Smoked salmon is hard to beat
Smoked salmon is hard to beat

We decided to check in to the cruise ship early so we wouldn’t have to rush. Amongst the many seniors, we were easily the youngest people on the trip. But that was to be expected. This was a cruise around Alaska and not the Caribbean. Even without departing the land, there is nature everywhere you look. It never ends in Alaska.

Shot this from the cruise ship
Shot this from the cruise ship