Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alaska Part I: Cruisin' the Inside Passage

We spent our big vacation of 2015 in Alaska: 7 days cruising the Inside Passage in honor of my father-in-law's retirement followed by 3 days of adventuring on the Kenai Peninsula.

The cruise embarked from Vancouver.  Here we are in Stanley Park.

The Inside Passage is only a small portion of the vast state of Alaska and is an archipelago bordered by mountains.  It hugs the coastline from the Puget Sound all the way to the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.  Because of the calm waters most Alaska cruises are within the Inside Passage.  The landscape is mostly temperate rainforest with snow-capped mountains.  It's also home to the only tidewater glaciers on the Pacific coast.


For our first port of call, we did a family salmon fishing excursion at Knudson Cove.   Most of the King Salmon in the area where we were fishing were actually hatchery salmon.  This means that they were spawn at a hatchery and released.  The physical characteristics of hatchery salmon are different from wild salmon and they are smaller.  "Sammy Salmon" was a typical hatchery salmon--around 30 lbs and producing 7-9 lbs of salmon steaks. 

"Sammy Salmon" poses with the family

Icy Strait Point/Hoonah

We had no planned excursions for Icy Strait Point/Hoonah, located on Chigahof island.  I had read that there were no hiking trails in the area. Finding that hard to believe (this is Alaska, right??) we asked a number of locals, all of whom advised us not to go into the woods because of the dense bear population. So, what to do?  We walked from Icy Strait to the Tiglit community of Hoonah and continued down the road.  When we came upon a nice little log cabin home with an elderly gentleman in the yard,  I put on my biggest smile, walked into his yard, and started chatting.  When we told him we were in search of some nature, he pointed to his backyard which abutted an inlet and told us we were free to go there...

Walking into Hoonah

Local's backyard trail in Hoonah


Prior to the cruise, I had reserved an all-day trek of the Mendenhall Glacier with Above & Beyond AK for our day in Juneau. Above & Beyond AK promised an active day for adventurous travelers.  It was the highlight of the cruise for Michael and me! 

In front of the Mendenhall
Adjacent to the Juneau ice field (which is the size of Rhode Island), the Mendenhall Glacier is a favorite tourist destination for cruisers. Now is the time to see the glacier, as it is currently receding at an impressive rate.  Not surprisingly,  it's heavily studied by scientists researching global warming.

After our guides outfitted us with crampons, harnesses, etc. we hit the trail.  It was a 4+ mile trek to the base of the glacier itself, with a little bit of rock scrambling involved.

On the Mendenhall Trail

Mendenhall Trail

Mendenhall Trail

The Mendenhall is situated in the Tongass National Forest, a temperate rainforest. This made for a nice hike of contrasts---green and humid on the rainforest trail vs. icy and cold on the glacier.  We finally made it to the glacier, put on our gear and started our 2 hours of ice time!

Ice axes!!  These proved quite handy...

Michael climbing on the glacier

On the way down the glacier, we stopped in a REAL ice cave.  It was an amazing experience!


Skagway is a Klondike gold rush town on the border to the Yukon.  As soon as we arrived in town, we made a bee line for the National Park Service Ranger station and asked for a hike suggestion.  Within minutes we were at the trail head for Upper Reid Falls. We saw very few people on the 7 mile trail which was a welcome relief after the close quarters of the cruise ship.

That evening, Michael's family honored our 1st wedding anniversary with dinner at the Millenium's Olympic Restaurant.

Olympic Restaurant

For our final day at sea, we cruised into Yakatak Bay to see the Hubbard Glacier.  The captain maneuvered very close to the glacier itself and we enjoyed watching the "calving"--breaking off of pieces of the glacier--into the bay.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

And, here we are the last night of the cruise in an impromptu ping pong tournament with some lovely Chileans.

Ping Pong Tournament!

Stay tuned for part II of our Alaskan adventures in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula...

1 comment:

  1. You look like you had a wonderful amazing time!! Can't wait to see part II!