Alaska Cruise–Week 2

(Click here for more photographs.)

This post is a continuation of Alaska Cruise – Week 1.

Byron Glacier - Anchorage

Day 8:  Anchorage, AK.  This is by far the largest city in Alaska and is the commercial and transportation center for the state.  Valerie’s cousin Prudence is working on a temporary assignment at a hospital in Anchorage.  We were able to meet up with her and she generously offered to drive us to see some of the natural beauty around Anchorage.  We drove south from the city along the coast of Turnagain Arm.  Our first stop was a brief hike in Chugach State Park, one of the largest state parks in the United States.  While hiking, Prudence spotted a moose with a calf at about 150 yards from the trail.  At a little further along the road we hiked to Byron Glacier and spotted a black bear at a comfortable distance.  Back to Anchorage we stopped briefly at the Earthquake Park which captures some of the impact from the massive 9.2 earthquake that hit Anchorage in 1964.  Near there we saw a young moose grazing on the side of the road.  Finally, after a quick stop at Point Woronzof for a classic view of Anchorage across Knik Arm, we stopped into 49th State Brewing before returning to the ship.  It was a good day with beautiful weather and we thank Prudence for showing us around.

Homer, AK

Day 9:  Homer, AK.  Homer is located at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula which also contains the city of Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park.  Homer is a favorite weekend and vacation destination for the residents of Anchorage and the surrounding area.  They come to camp and fish in the Kachemak Bay.  Across the bay is the beautiful Kachemak Bay State Park with lots of coves, inlets and glaciers.  We saw lots of eagles here.  The weather was a little cold but dry.

Day 10:  Further south from the Kenai Peninsula is Kodiak Island.  This is the second largest island in the United States, second only to the island of Hawaii.  Almost all of Kodiak Island is part of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.  Among the wildlife found here is the largest concentration of brown bear in Alaska, approximately 12 per square mile.  The visitor’s center for the refuge is located in the town of Kodiak.  We walked across the bridge from Kodiak to Near Island to see the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center.  They have a large aquarium and touch tank that allow a close up view of much of the sea life found in the waters around Kodiak Island.  Kodiak is also home to the largest Coast Guard base in the US accounting for about 3,000 of Kodiak’s residents, including those serving and their families.  Before returning to the ship, we sampled the Kodiak Island Brewing Company.  We tried their “Bering Scotch”, a scotch ale with extra hops, very good.  One of their brews is called “Sarah Pale Ale”.  Clever.  We had cloudy skies but it was dry and pleasant.

Hubbard Glacier

Day 11:  From Kodiak, the captain pointed us east back across the Bay of Alaska, aiming for Yakutat Bay and the Hubbard Glacier.  Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier on the North American continent.  A tidewater glacier is one that ends at the water line.  We arrived at Hubbard Glacier at approximately 3:00pm.  This glacier stands as much as 350 feet above the waterline and another 250 feet below the water.  The face of it at the water line is about 7 miles wide.  For some perspective, look for the distant picture with the tiny cruise ship against the face of the glacier.  This was another cruise ship that came to visit the glacier as we were leaving.  From its source in the Yukon territory of Canada, Hubbard Glacier stretches 76 miles to the sea at Yakutat Bay.  It is part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  This is the largest US national park, six times the size of Yellowstone, with peaks upon peaks and glacier after glacier.  Malaspina Glacier, of which we could see only a small part from Yakutat Bay, is the size of Rhode Island.  We were super fortunate to have near perfect weather for our visit to Hubbard Glacier.  We spoke to other passengers who had been here on multiple occasions and had never before seen the mountains behind the glacier due to clouds and/or fog.  We had calm seas, near cloudless skies and sun.  A truly unique and incredible experience.

Sitka, AK

Day 12:  Sitka, AK.  When the United States purchased Alaska from the Russians, the ceremony marking the completion of the purchase was held in Sitka in a place known as Castle Hill.  Sitka is on Baranov Island in southeast Alaska and is the 4th largest city in Alaska by population.  For our visit to Sitka, we took a bus ride that dropped us at Fortress of the Bears and the Alaska Raptor Center.  Fortress of the Bears was started in 2007 to provide a way to rescue abandoned cubs which are routinely shot or euthanized.  The state of Alaska has no established program to protect abandoned cubs nor does the state allow bears to be reintroduced into the wild after undergoing rehab or treatment.  Fortress currently has 4 brown bears and 3 black bears in residence.  They have rescued others that have been provided to zoos and other facilities in the lower 48 states.  The Alaska Raptor Center, founded in 1980, has a similar mission for local birds.  They treat about 200 birds of all varieties each year although they focus on all types of raptors: eagles, hawks, owls, etc.  They have a “flight center” where eagles that have suffered injury can relearn to fly in a near natural setting before being released back into the wild.

Day 13:  This was a day at sea as we headed south from Sitka destined for the Canadian city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.  We had pleasant weather with generally calm seas.  The Jones Act requires any foreign registered vessel that departs from a US port to visit a non-US port before returning to the US.  Our stop in Victoria will satisfy that requirement.

Victoria Inner Harbor

Day 14:  We docked in Victoria at around 2:30pm.  When we first left the ship it was cool with light rain but as the afternoon went on the skies cleared and we had pleasant weather.  We walked from the dock to nearby Fisherman’s Wharf and from there took a water taxi to the inner harbor area.  Victoria is the provincial capital for British Columbia and even though it was Sunday we were able to take part in a tour of the capitol building.  As we know, the head of the Canadian government is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and their head of state is Queen Elizabeth II as the Queen of Canada.  I don’t pretend to understand how this works but it harkens back to the days when Canada was a British Commonwealth.  We enjoyed a pleasant but brief visit to Victoria.  Our only other visit here was in 2015.

By the time we awoke the following morning, we had already docked in Seattle.  Since we had no need to rush we chose to leave the ship with the last group which occurred at 9:30am.  Once we collected our luggage we summoned an Uber ride back to the Lake Pleasant RV Park.

The stats provided to us show that on the cruise we traveled 3,687 nautical miles and consumed 822 metric tons of fuel.  The passengers consumed 32,760 eggs.

Next stop:  Anacortes, WA


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