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Taking Time Off in Alaska

We’re just returning from a vacation in Alaska. Vacation is not something we get to do, and this one was very special because we spent it with our daughter Andrea, her husband Tim, and most importantly, our granddaughter Avery. We spent a whole week away from the heat in Houston to spend in chilly Alaska.

Our trip started in Seattle to catch a cruise ship for a one-day trip to Ketchikan, Alaska. We arrived and went directly to our “shore excursion,” which was to go fishing for halibut, salmon, or rockfish — whichever one would hit our line.

Fortunately, we got all three… or should I say the boys in our group did. The girls sat in the front of the boat and the boys in the back, but when all the fish were being caught in the back, Andrea decided that she and Tim should change seats.  You know what happened then. Tim caught a fish from Andrea’s spot.  Oh well. That’s why they call it “fishing,” not “catching.”

We then went on shore for a “shore lunch” of the fish the boys caught. What fun! Avery walked along the beach and collected the two shells she could bring back. Back to the boat and on to our next adventure.

Juneau was our next stop for a day of whale watching. We were very fortunate with the weather there. Juneau gets a lot of rain since it’s in a rainforest, but our day was beautiful. We were also fortunate to be able to see how whales get together, rounded up the fish, and ate them. It was great to see animals in their own habitat. We saw four whales come to the surface and smash into the fish they had just herded in a circle.

We learned how these whales were here in Alaska eating a lot of fish before they made their way to Hawaii to have their babies since the water in Alaska (surprise) was too cold for the babies to survive. Hawaii sounds like a better and warmer place to have a baby whale that is 14 feet long.

After all the sightings we then moved to see a real glacier. It was incredible to realize how old and how blue the Mendenhall Glacier really was. This is one of the U.S. Forest Service parks, and there were park rangers there to explain how it all works. There were also walkways to get as close as you would want to get to a block of ice that is a mile and a half wide and 12 miles long.

We got back to the boat and off to cruise the Sawyer Glacier. There were incredibly beautiful mountains with glaciers on many of the mountains and ice blocks floating in the water. It’s very weird for a girl from Texas to see ice blocks floating in the water outside our balcony. We toured the mountains until dark which is really late – there are 17 hours of daylight and very little night. Thank goodness for really heavy curtains in our room to block the light out.

Skagway, Alaska was the next stop and of course the gold miners’ train trip. Next time we will take the floatplane to the Yukon to see the bears, but this time we chose the train. Wow, what scenery as we went up on a train on tracks that were over 100 years old through a very primitive land where the Klondike Gold Rush took place. Another trip to learn the history of the gold rush and the hard life the miners had. The trail they had to take to the mines was 2,300 feet straight up on a path that was only three feet wide. They had to carry all their tools with them and there was no stopping on that track. Made me tired just thinking about it!

On to the boat for a day and a half of cruising to Victoria, British Columbia, to the beautiful Butchart Gardens Gardens. They have 55 acres of flower gardens and the fountains are over 100 years old. And it’s still run by the family who started it. We also got a tour of the city with the last stop in front of The Empress Hotel. It’s a big, beautiful old hotel that refuses to air-condition the original parts of it, as it would take away from the original hotel.

We got to the boat and realized why this is called the windy city. Oh my, the winds came up and were gusting so bad that one of the cruise ships could not come into port because the waves were too large to let the ship get in port safely. So they spent the night on the ship in the middle of the bay. We talked to some folks on that ship and they said it was a little rocky all night. We were lucky enough to get away and cruise to Seattle to arrive safe and sound at 6 am and get off. Then we were off to the airport and back home.

What a great time – seeing places we had never seen before and spending time with our daughter and her family. We would recommend this trip to anyone. Just remember to take your coat and rain gear. We were lucky to have beautiful weather the whole time, but the week before was not as good. Call for shore excursion ideas!

Going home to await a new little Ash — Joseph James Ash will arrive sometime this week and add to son Brian’s crew of Rayden and Emma. Looking forward to holding a new baby and being a grandma one more time.