ALASKA DOUBLE, 2006

Part 1: Glacier Wonderland

Day 1, Sunday, July 23 Arrive in Anchorage
Call a taxi at 5 for the trip to the airport.Fly from Houston to Anchorage. Requires an "extra" night in Anchorage (for almost $300).

1Delta DL 1647Houston - Salt Lake City7:30 - 9:303:002:04
2Delta DL 0731Salt Lake City - Anchorage11:34 - 2:324:5710:01

Both flights are totally full. Mini-snax-meal (but not much). SLC is supposed to be over 100F today.

I'm met at the airport by Dominique (very nice - from New Zealand) and we have a nice talk while waiting and waiting for luggage. (At least it made it here.) Transfer to the $heraton Hotel included. Walk down to the 5th Ave. Mall for supper. The weather is cool and gloomy, but no rain (yet). Its been a long day (its 3 hours later in Houston.) Still light at 11PM. ($one night$ - no meals!!)

Day 2, Monday, July 24 Sail from Whittier
Rain overnight. Snax (from home) for breakfast since it isn't included. Even time for lunch in that Mall (again.) At 1:30 in Anchorage board a Cruise West motor-coach to travel to Whittier in the rain. Our route is along the beautiful mud flats of Turnagain Arm, famous for its sweeping tidal changes (far out), in the shadow of the Chugach Range. Keep watch for the sure-footed Dall sheep that nibble grass on the steep cliffs overhead. Go through the railroad tunnel and arrive in Whittier about 3:00 in fairly heavy rain.

INCLUDED: Whittier Tour Drive via Turnagain Arm from Anchorage to the port of Whittier on Prince William Sound. The wetlands of Turnagain Arm are a haven for animals from the air, land or sea. From salmon to migratory birds, there are dozens of creatures to see. On this stretch of byway, visitors will find a sampling of some of the best Alaska has to offer. From jagged mountains to a coastal fjord, the scenery of Turnagain Arm captivates drivers. Keep our eyes open and we may catch a glimpse of a beluga whale (ha!) in the water or a Dall sheep along the cliffs. Prior to embarkation in Whittier we enjoy a brief bus circuit of the tiny (200 people, almost all of whom live in a renovated WW II officers barracks/apartment building) village, focusing on the unique lifestyle of this secluded town and its history as a secret port built in World War II. See above. (1.5 hours - cut very short due to rain)

About 3:30 the crew welcomes us aboard the "Spirit of Columbia" - class B cabin #109 - no single supplement, no portholes so be sure to take a "nightlight", my home for the next 4 nights. The ship departs for seldom-visited areas of Prince William Sound, and will anchor in a secluded cove. (The "Spirit of Oceanus" is docked right behind us - makes our vessel look like a little lifeboat. 62 passengers, 78 maximum - this trip. Expedition leader Karen Walker. D

OPTIONAL TOUR: Sea Kayaking - cancelled due to heavy rain.

Day 3, Tuesday, July 25 College Fjord and Esther Passage
Wake up near the face of a glacier in College Fjord. We will ease close to the active faces of numerous glaciers that calve icebergs into the sea. Too bad that it's so foggy and rain making it impossible to get pictures. The weather was MUCH better when I was here in 2001. Continue on to narrow Esther Passage, a waterway only small ships can navigate. Playful sea otters live here, and our Captain knows where the best sightings will be found. The whiskery otters are often floating placidly on their backs in a bed of kelp, dining on crabs. In Eaglek Bay we welcome onboard a local oyster farmer ("Suzie, the oyster farmer" - excellent) who will share tales of her unique life in the wilderness.

The weather for most of the trip: early mornings in the low 40s; afternoon about 60 - subject to additional wind/rain chill. It did get up to about 10 degrees warmer in the afternoon on our "nice" days. The heat index was 112F in Houston on Saturday before I left. Evening presentation: Marine Mammals of Prince William Sound. BLD

Day 4, Wednesday, July 26 Cordova
(NEW!) Very bumpy ride overnight as we make our way from west-central Prince William Sound to the far east end of the Sound. Early morning excitement: someone ran their morning hot-shower too long and it set off the fire alarm. Fire doors closed automatically and all the crew ran to their stations. Fortunately, no fire, just too much steam - a bit embarrassing for a couple of the (guilty - we had been warned) passengers..

Make a port call at tiny Cordova. This fishing village, which is inaccessible by highway, has become world famous for its Copper River Salmon. These delicious, oil-rich fish are caught nearby in the pristine delta of the Copper River. Unfortunately one of the popular fishermen died recently and today is his funeral. Almost everything is closed. At least the weather is finally improving. An included sightseeing tour of Cordova highlights area history, including a stop at the delta of the mighty Copper River. If we have energy to burn, there are optional wilderness tours including hiking and river rafting. BLD

At the eastern end of Prince William Sound, Cordova enjoys a picturesque location by the sprawling Copper River Delta. Once linked by railroad to rich copper mines inland, Cordova today is accessible only by air, ferry - or small ship. Its modern claim to fame is the Copper River salmon fishery. This flavorful, oil-rich salmon is a favorite in gourmet restaurants nationwide. Cordova's fishermen also harvest cod, crab, shrimp, razor clams, oysters, halibut, and scallops. Evening presentation: The Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Included Experience Upon our arrival in Cordova, members of the Eyak Native Corporation will come aboard and introduce themselves. (Cancelled - they are all at the funeral. *&#$#($!!!!!) They will tell us about their history, culture, and life in Cordova in yesteryear and today. Immerse ourself in Cordova's history, as our guided bus tour points out places of interest in this small landlocked fishing village. Instead we go to the Ilyak Cultural Center/Museum for a presentation (3-part). In the first, the Center Director can barely read/stumble through her "speech"; the rest of the presentation is excellent with dancers, crafts, etc.

What's left? We travel out the Copper River Highway to the shores of Lake Eyak. The tour concludes at the Cordova Museum, which highlights information on copper mining at the Kennecott Mines, the railroad that used to travel between the mines and Cordova, and more recently, the Copper River salmon fishery that has kept the town alive. (1.5 hours) Disappointing.

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS
Sheridan Glacier Hiking & Rafting Adventure. Cost: $140 per person Duration: 4.5 hours, moderate activity. This all-Alaskan experience includes hiking, rafting, glaciers, and icebergs. First, a naturalist leads a half-mile hike amid stunning mountain and glacier views to Sheridan Lake, formed by the retreating Sheridan Glacier. Don safety gear and board rafts for an exciting paddle among giant icebergs. Don't forget to look for ice worms! Then, our raft proceeds into the Sheridan River. The Class II and III whitewater rapids are big enough to be exciting, but not scary. Then the river mellows, allowing a relaxing float across the Copper River Delta to the takeout. At the end of the trip, visit a log cabin for a real Alaskan treat: the prized Copper River salmon, served with hot and cold beverages. Gear provided includes a raincoat, rain pants, knee-high rubber boots, insulated rubber gloves, and dry bags for camera and binoculars. Dress in layers. Moderate physical activity is involved, over uneven terrain. Nice tour - cut short and price cut of $20 since the river rafting part is deleted - so much rain recently that the river is dangerous. (We get to see an ice worm!)

Alaska Rainforest Hike. Cost: $70 per person Duration: 4 hours. Come for a hike in the farthest north temperate rainforest in North America. Hike among lush green carpets of moss under a dense forest of spruce and hemlock trees. We may see bright orange fungus or lichens hundreds of years old. The hike follows a well-maintained trail for approximately two miles into the forest. A van will pick us up in town and take us to the trail head about five miles away. We will provide bottled water and a variety of trail snacks. Bring cameras and binoculars, as wildlife is plentiful. There are no restrooms available from the time we leave the dock until we return 3.5 hours later. (No thanks - will do this in Juneau)

Million Dollar Bridge Tour. Cost: $75 per person Duration: 5.5 hours. The road out of Cordova runs through the Copper River Delta, with views of the Chugach Mountains. Fifty miles out is the Million Dollar Bridge, and although the 1964 earthquake caused one end of the fourth span to drop into the river, the bridge has since been modified so that smaller vehicles can still cross it. Just downriver from the bridge is Child's Glacier, an impressive, 300-foot-high, five-mile-wide wall of moving ice. From our vantage point only 1,200 feet away, tons of ice regularly slam into the Copper River with such concussive force that we can feel the tremors from where we stand. The tour includes an optional one-mile hike along the riverbank. An included picnic lunch features smoked Copper River salmon. Not offered any more due to the long drive - the price of gasoline is "too high" - it's $2.76/gallon (iw was $3.02 in Houston!)

Cordova Dock Walk Cost: $37.00 (price includes a jar of smoked Copper River salmon) Duration: 45 min Ever heard of a highliner? Is that a king or a sockeye? What's the difference between a bowpicker and a tender? What does it mean to get corked? Learn the answer to these questions and much more on the Cordova Dock Walk. Come walk the docks and discover the inner workings of Cordova's fishing industry. Learn about the fish and fishermen that make Copper River Salmon so special. We hop on a working fishing boat, talk to a fisherman or two and hear tall tales on the sea. We can also take home a jar of the finest smoked Copper River sockeye we ever taste! Led by the Copper River Watershed Project, this tour will get us behind the scenes and show us the fishermen, families and industry that support this small fishing village. (no thanks)

Day 5, Thursday, July 27 Chenega Glacier and Knight Island
Beautiful weather today. Today explore southwest Prince William Sound, where sculpted wilderness islands lie offshore from the craggy mountains of the Kenai Peninsula. Narrow Icy Bay leads toward a stunning glacier experience at the head of the fjord. Watch for seals on the icebergs and mountain goats on the cliff faces. Later, enjoy "gunkholing" around the nearby islands - a term for poking around the next corner just to see what's there. Evening presentation: Slide Show. BLD

Day 6, Friday, July 28 Arrive in Whittier - Fly to Juneau
Beautiful weather today. After a cruise past a kittiwake colony, disembark the Spirit of Columbia at Whittier. Transfer to a motor-coach for our trip via Turnagain Arm back to Anchorage. First we go to the $heraton Hotel then there's an included transfer right back out to the airport to catch my flight to Juneau to start the next part. On arrival in Juneau, transfer to the Goldbelt Hotel is included - even a very brief personalized tour of the town - I'm the only person arriving 'today.'. The 'gap' between the two segments requires two extra nights in Juneau. (Goldbelt Hotel, 3 nights) B

3Alaska Air AA 64Anchorage - Juneau2:16 - 3:541:38--

Crammed full flight on a 737-Combi (2/3 freight, 2/3 crammed "2-legged sardines") I manage to get some nice pictures of the mountain range from the plane. Weather in Juneau on arrival is cool and windy, but no rain. Both the "Spirit of Alaska" and the ("new") "Yorktown Clipper" are in port.

Day 7, Saturday, July 29 Free Day in Juneau.
(The Nome/Kotzebue option I had wanted to take just couldn't be worked into the schedule, in part because Cruise West doesn't offer it any more - it's actually is/was an Alaska Airlines booking that Cruise West did for their clients.) At the Goldbelt; the hotel's waterfront locale is a perfect base for exploring Alaska's beautiful capital city - and a great step-off for several optional excursions during the time. Lunch at the Paradise Bakery and Grill, dinner at "El Sombrero".

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS
Rainforest Nature Hike Cost: $35 per person Duration: 3 hours, easy to moderate activity. Don't miss this chance to experience the world's largest temperate rainforest up-close with a personal guide. Drive the scenic shoreline of Douglas Island to Outer Point Trail. This mostly-level trail winds its way through several distinct ecosystems before arriving at the ocean. Step inside a unique old-growth forest and learn about its inhabitants. Walk the shoreline of Auke Bay, the home of the original inhabitants of Juneau. Bring sturdy walking shoes for this 1.5-mile hike. The beach section of the hike is uneven terrain. Excellent tour.

Glacier Flight-seeing Adventure Via Floatplane Cost: $155 per person Duration: 45 minute flight. Depart the Juneau waterfront via floatplane on this multi-glacier adventure. Watch for bears, moose, mountain goats, seals, and eagles as we ascend over the lush rainforest bordering Gastineau Channel. Gaining altitude, we approach five stunning glaciers. Lively narration adds depth to this already incredible flight over the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield. Everyone enjoys a window seat! Super nice flight - DeHavilland "Beaver": pilot, co-pilot's seat for me, 4 other passengers. Luckily it's a beautiful clear day.

I managed to get the above two on Saturday with good weather. After that, the weather went "downhill."

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS
Juneau Historical Walking Tour Cost: $20 per person Duration: 2 hours, easy to moderate activity (hills) . Walk back in time through historic downtown Juneau. We "meet" the characters and hear the stories of life in the 1880s when Juneau came alive with the cry of "Gold!" More than 200 buildings are original constructions from the turn of the century. We see the 100-year-old Russian Orthodox Church, the Governor's Mansion, and the State Capitol Building. Admission is included to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (Since this one didn't 'make', I did lots of walking around Juneau looking for things to see.)

Mendenhall Glacier and City Tour Cost: $35 Duration: 2.5 hours, easy to moderate activity. Discover Alaska's capital city and its stirring human and natural history. We see the Governor's Mansion, the Mendenhall Wetlands Refuge, and University of Alaska Southeast en route to the inspiring Chapel-by-the-Lake. Next, drive to Juneau's famous neighborhood ice wonder, the Mendenhall Glacier, where our guide will offer a hands-on interpretive nature walk through the fascinating glacial plain. Get up-close to learn about the effects of glaciation and the emerging ecosystem. During mid-summer through fall, bears are often spotted feeding on spawning sockeye salmon. Morning tours include the Forest Service Visitor Information Center. This tour operates under a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service.

I wanted to do these today, even with some light rain, but not enough people signed up. Try again tomorrow - there's time, barely. Instead, do lots of walking around town to see whatever I can see.

OTHER OPTIONALS - not considered.
Taku Glacier Lodge Salmon Bake Via Floatplane Cost: $220 per person Duration: 3 hours round trip (from downtown, including flight and salmon bake). Flight time 50 minutes. . Fly over glaciers and alpine meadows in a floatplane as we travel to and from the Taku Glacier Lodge. At the Lodge, nestled against the mountains and in the shadow of Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier, enjoy a full meal that includes all-we-can-eat salmon, homemade side dishes, and actual glacial ice to cool our drinks. Before returning to Juneau, relax among the collections of pioneer artifacts, furs, and gold nuggets, or walk along a trail through the virgin rainforest.

Helicopter & Glacier Dogsled Adventure Cost: $425 per person Duration: 3.5 hours. Soar over Juneau's wild mountains and spectacular glaciers by helicopter! A narrated ride carries us to the advancing Taku Glacier, the cascading Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier, and Dead Branch Glacier, floating in its own melt water. Then, we land on a remote glacier and visit a unique Dogsled Camp set up on the icefield. Meet renowned race veterans from the 1,049-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and enjoy a dogsled ride on the glacier. Return to Juneau by helicopter. Note: This tour is weather dependent, rated easy to moderate activity, and may not be available late summer because of ice conditions. Not offered.

Four Glacier Helicopter Flightseeing Cost: $244 per person Duration: 2 hours (1 hour flight and 1 hour transfers and preparation.) . Soar through the spectacular backcountry and over the gold mines that made Juneau a gold seeker's paradise. See the majestic Juneau Icefield and visit four unique glaciers in different stages: advancing, retreating, cascading and a one-of-a-kind floating glacier. We land on one of the glaciers for a chance to walk on a piece of history. Towering peaks, vast expanses of ice, and lush forest are all part of this feast for the eyes.

Helicopter Glacier Walkabout Cost: $295 per person Duration: Approximately 3.5 hours (includes approximately 30 minutes of flight time, a glacier landing, one-hour walk, plus transfer and briefing time.) Discover the diversity of the Southeast Alaska landscape via helicopter as we fly over the temperate rainforests and granite peaks that surround the Juneau Ice-field. To begin our walk, our pilot will choose a landing site on one of the 36 glaciers born from this 1,500-square-mile ice-field. On a non-strenuous, one-hour interpretive walk, our guide will provide detailed explanations of glacier environments and allow ample time for photo opportunities. Rain and wind-proof outerwear, boots, and gloves are provided for our comfort on the ice. Supplied trekking poles and crampons will provide superb balance and traction enabling us to travel easily on the gently rolling glacial terrain. Walkabout with us and put the grandeur of the glacier at our feet!

Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter & Guided Walk Cost: $199 per person Duration: 2.25 hours including transportation. Flying high above wetland habitat, alpine ridges, and lush rainforests, and we gain new appreciation for this rugged land as our pilot shares a lively narrative. As we approach the ice field and its many glaciers we marvel at the twisted spires, deep blue crevasses, and carved peaks that make up this ancient landscape. Then, land gently on the Mendenhall Glacier. As we explore the glacier's surface with our expert mountaineering guides, we will discover the geological processes that created those majestic landforms. "Glacier-walk" boots and complimentary beverages are provided.

Part 2: Wilderness Waterways

Day 8, Sunday, July 30 Free Day in Juneau
Another free day in Juneau - time for some more optional excursions. Lunch at the Paradise again plus some "reindeer sausage" sandwiches. No, I didn't eat at "McBarf Burgers" as I had originally thought I might do. Unfortunately, the weather has turned quite rainy, windy and "cool." Since the local tours 'didn't make' I take the tramway to the top of Mt Roberts to look around at the many things there (but the weather is too poor for any good pictures so didn't even take the camera). Heavy rain tonight.

Day 9 (1), Monday, July 31 Sail from Juneau
Another attempt at the two options above, but no luck. WAY too much rain. No tours run today due to miserable weather

Our small ship, the "Spirit of Discovery" (same as I was on for the Columbia River Cruise - same single cabin #308), sails in late afternoon, leaving me too much more time to (not) explore Juneau in the rain. Once onboard, step out on deck to watch Gastineau Channel glide by as we enter Alaska's true wilderness.

INCLUDED: Juneau Orientation Drive Board a Cruise West motor coach for a short drive through the core of historic downtown Juneau. Our trip will give us a quick orientation of town sprinkled with a few historical insights. Our guide will point out the many attractions to see and do later. Conclude at the dock or at our hotel in time for the rest of our adventure. Oh Boy! After being here for 2 days I finally get an orientation tour!!

Wrong, all we get is a short drive in fairly heavy rain over to Douglas Island, turn around and come back over the bridge and board the boat. Waste of time. (30 minutes) 78 Passengers aboard (84 maximum). Expedition leaders are Jeff Pietka (excellent) and Megan Atcheson (relatively new and tentative). D

Day 10 (2), Tuesday August 1 Endicott Arm and Tracy Arm
Words can't (?) prepare us for the splendor of these narrow fjords - many travelers consider them the most spectacular spots in Alaska. Sheer cliffs rise thousands of feet from waterline to snow-capped peaks, their sides studded with stunning waterfalls. The sounds of cascading water alone prove that we have left the ordinary far behind. And there's the ice. Conditions permitting, our crew will welcome us into inflatable excursion craft where we explore the waters and shorelines amid bouncing bergie bits calved from ancient glaciers. This (inflatables ride) is a super nice way to really see the scale of the place. It's extremely hard to judge distances and heights of the cliffs from the boat. Everything looks much closer/smaller than it actually is. Foggy view of the glaciers but still nice - some light rain but bearable. A really good day after all. Evening presentation: Glaciers are People, Too. BLD

Day 11 (3), Wednesday, August 2 Frederick Sound and Wilderness Exploration
Pitch and roll night. Weather a bit better but still rainy and windy, so no inflatables rides today. The waters of Frederick Sound teem with the humpback whale's favorite food - and the whales take full advantage, feeding in the rich waters as they prepare for their long migration south. Lots of whales today and we even see the doing their circle/bubble feeding (very rare to see this). Good photo opportunities. Once they leave Alaska waters at summer's end, these giant creatures will not eat again until they return next year. This afternoon we discover the joy of gunkholing, a nautical term that means, among other things, "exploring at leisure." Our Captain and Exploration Leader know these waters intimately and each voyage is likely to be different, depending on what they find to share with us at that time. Bear hunt this evening. Evening presentation: Marine Mammals of Southeast Alaska. BLD

Day 12 (4), Thursday, August 3 Sitka
(NEW!) Through Peril Strait overnight and arriving in port this morning - with good weather!!! This beautiful little city is thought by many to be the "jewel of the Inside Passage." Its setting alone is breathtaking. But, for us, getting there is half the fun. While big ships must plow through miles of open ocean and moor far from the tiny docks, our small ship will come to Sitka "through the back door," threading through beautiful Peril Strait and navigating the delicate passage through Sergius Narrows where tides challenge all but the most expert mariner's skill. Take in the historic beauty of the artifacts of St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church. Come face-to-face with majestic birds of prey at the fascinating Sitka Raptor Rehabilitation Center. Then, listen to their cousins in the wild as they cluster and chatter over our head at the beautiful Sitka National Historical Park. Hopefully there aren't too many large cruise ships sending in passengers also. Evening presentation: Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Icon. BLD

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS
Walking Historic Sitka Cost: $15 per person Duration: 1.5 hours . Stretch our legs with this intimate stroll through historic downtown Sitka. Along the way, our local guide will present a mixture of Russian American and Tlingit history, and modern anecdotes about Sitka's characters and the Last Frontier. Stroll past Totem Square and the Pioneer Home to Seward Street and the Russian Blockhouse. Morning tour (Poor guide) Sitka still has a noticeable Russian influence in some of its buildings, but not nearly as much as I had expected. It's "just" another little fishing village. The nice thing is that it's isn't totally spoiled by the occasional large cruise ship (they do get some) and Holland-America cruises hasn't 'bought all the local businesses' - they are still locally owned and run. Time after the tour to look around before getting back on board for lunch.

Tongass Rainforest Nature Hike Cost: $60 per person Duration: 3 hours. Begin our adventure with a 20-minute drive to the Starrigavin Muskeg trailhead for a four-mile hike into the Tongass National Forest. Gently rolling trails will lead us through the world's largest temperate rainforest. During the course of our hike, we traverse the muskeg area and the Starrigavin Estuary where we pause for a snack, bird viewing and a restroom break. Continue our hike along the Mosquito Cove Trail, which ascends into the headlands before descending to the ocean where our guide will familiarize us with the tidal zones and temperate rainforest ecology. Our knowledgeable local guide will relate the history of Old Sitka, the site of the first Russian encounter on Baranof Island in 1799, before returning to the ship. Morning Tour (skip this one since I did one in Juneau)

INCLUDED TOUR Historic Russian & Raptor Center Tour Duration: 2.5 hours. Visit the historical highlights of this former Russian capital city and tour through the Alaska Raptor Center. View magnificent bald eagles up-close, and learn how the clinic rehabilitates birds of prey. Visit the Sheldon Jackson museum whose collection has been called a jewel in the crown of Alaska ethnographic collections. We are driven through the historic district to view (no stops) the Russian cemetery, Block House, and Castle Hill, site of the 1867 land transfer ceremony. Afternoon tour. GREAT driver/guide (Randee) - one of the best!!! Very nice afternoon.

In the evening after dinner, make a swing out towards the Pacific to St. Lazaria island to look for Puffins. It's still light fairly late so this is nice.

Day 13 (5), Friday, August 4 Icy Strait
(NEW!) First up to Katarina Bay for another inflatables ride. Watch for the gentle humpbacks as they feast on tiny krill churned by waters from the Pacific Ocean. Today, try to count, not only the whales, but the numbers of behaviors we see them exhibit. Spouting. Sounding. Breaching. Tail slapping. Fin smacking. Lunge feeding. Even rare bubble feeding if we're very, very lucky - and we are! WOW!!!. The tiny Inian Islands stand between us and the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska, with enticing opportunities to get out there and explore by inflatable craft. Be sure to keep an eye out for Stellar sea lions, orcas, harbor seals, and porpoise. More bear hunting this afternoon, but unfortunately the fog and rain move in again. Stormy weather ahead. Evening presentation: Wilderness at What Price? BLD

Day 14 (6), Saturday, August 5 Elfin Cove - can't get there, do Idaho Inlet
(NEW!) Tucked on the north shore of Chichagof Island, Elfin Cove gives us a rare look at what it means to "live off the grid." No vehicles are used here because there are no roads. Wooden boardwalks connect the few structures. We have time to hike, explore, and maybe even share a friendly chat with the locals while we're here.

Unfortunately the Pacific Ocean is rather rough and there's even a small craft warning posted so after taking a quick early morning attempt to get through the passage, we turn back away from Elfin Cove (they've made it out less than 1/4th of the time) and explore Idaho Inlet instead - nice day and location for a zodiac ride and nature walk (in a light rain and fairly heavy fog.) Then we make our way back through Peril Passage and make the turn north for Glacier Bay. Pretty much just cruising this afternoon.

Just after dinner tonight, stop at Bartlett Cove, the entrance to Glacier Bay, for a short (1.25 mile) nature walk to the lodge for a Forest Service presentation on the Bay (in lieu of an onboard presentation). Very good. Slight problem - when we get through, it's gotten really dark and it's hard to find our way back to the "Discovery" - we can see it from the lodge, but how to get there? (The "Spirit of Endeavor" is docked right next to us on it's "Inside Passage" tour.) Our two guides (Forest Service and Tlingit Interpreter) come onboard for the night so they will be with us tomorrow AM at the head of the Bay. BLD

Day 15 (7), Sunday, August 6 Glacier Bay National Park
(NEW!) Declared by many to be the most extraordinary place in the world, Glacier Bay National Park shows us the earth in transition. In a timeline unmatched anywhere on the planet, the glaciers here are receding rapidly, leaving in their wake scoured cliffs and deep fjords. We witness firsthand as nature moves in to reclaim newly revealed territory. There are far too many highlights to list them all, but a few of the most outstanding are:

The birds and harbor seals of Marble Island, where we find life teeming off what appears to be barren rocks.

The 15,000-foot peak of Mt. Fairweather, although almost never visible under the clouds that hover around it, represents the steepest climb from sea level in the world.

Massive glaciers of all varieties - hanging, tidewater, and valley - abound here. We have an opportunity to watch spectacular calving as the changing faces of the Park's massive tidewater glaciers continue to shape the landscape.

Wake up right in front of Marjorie Glacier. The weather today changes almost half-hourly. Sometimes very heavy fog and other times somewhat clearing. There are even a couple of times when it's actually nice. In a full day of exploration, accompanied by a National Park Ranger who boards our small ship in early morning and stays until evening, we travel 65 miles into this primal wonderland, discovering the new revelations around every bend. There's also a Huna/Tlingit Indian interpreter/presenter aboard. Both the Ranger and the Interpreter are VERY good. Evening presentation: slide show. BLD

Day 16 (8), Monday, August 7 Arrive in Juneau - Fly Home
Time to say goodbye with regret as we disembark in Juneau this morning (but I won't be tired of the cramped "facilities" in my cabin. Depending on my flight arrangements, I may have time to explore this charming city a bit more (gads! Not again!) but at least it does give me time to have a couple more reindeer sausage "hot dogs" with sautéed onions. (Great!). It is an almost immediate flight out since Houston is already 3 hours later and I want to get home *sometime* today/tonight. B onboard
4Alaska Air AA 0076Juneau - Seattle2:04 - 5:302:261:10
5Continental CO 0185Seattle - Houston6:40 - 12:52AM4:127:48

Full flight. Running a bit late. Beautiful view of Mt. Ranier as we leave - wish I had had my camera available.

Day 17, Tuesday, August 8 Arrive Home
I wasn't going to call this a 17 day trip, but due to circumstances (late at the airport and luggage problems, I call this Day 17. Originally scheduled at 12:38, late - almost 1AM when we get to the gate. Then after a LONG wait for luggage - no more luggage coming down the belt and everyone else is gone … and my luggage isn't here. I finally find the baggage claim office (1 person on duty) and tell her my bag didn't make it. In fact it's still in Seattle - Alaska Air fumbled and didn't get it to the Continental staff. Supposedly it will get to the airport here about 7AM tomorrow morning and I'm promised that it will be delivered between 9 and noon. Now to try to find a taxi to get home - eventually about 2:25 AM. I'm both too tired and too keyed up (luggage) to even try to sleep. It's going to be a long (2) day(s).

After waiting all day, finally about 6PM there's a phone call - luggage is on the way. It finally gets here about 6:35. Finally to bed at about 10:30. But it's been a nice trip.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge



WILDLIFE SEEN - by somebody on board, verified by the Exploration Leaders

BIRDS
Black-Legged Kittiwakes, Glaucus-Winged Gulls, Bonaparte's Gull, Mew Gull, Surf Scoters, White-Winged Scoter, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Harlequin Ducks, Pigeon Guillemots, Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffins, Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, Hermit Thrush, Arctic Tern, Red Necked Phalaropes, Ravens, Pelagic Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Common Merganser, Dark Eyed Junco, Grouse. Black Oyster Catcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Yellow Warbler. Northern Fulmer. Common Loon. Canada Geese, Belted Kingfisher, Cliff Swallows, Barn Swallows

SEA LIFE
Humpback Whales, Harbour Seals, Sea Otters, Steller Sea Lions, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise, Silver Salmon, Sunflower Sea Star, Bat Star, Moon Jellies, Lion's Mane Jellies

ON LAND
Chipmunks, Squirrels, Coyote, Wolves, Sitka Black-Tail Deer, Dall's Sheep, Mountain Goats, Beaver, Black Bears, Brown Bear, Moose, Caribou

"DIFFERENT"
Ice Worms, Banana Slug
AIRLINES:
1Delta DL 1647Houston - Salt Lake City7:30 - 9:303:002:04
2Delta DL 0731Salt Lake City - Anchorage11:34 - 2:324:5710:01
3Alaska Air AA 64Anchorage - Juneau2:16 - 3:541:38--
4Alaska Air AA 0076Juneau - Seattle2:04 - 5:302:261:10
5Continental CO 0185Seattle - Houston6:40 - 12:52AM4:127:48