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It's true, we haven't posted here for a while. But we have a good excuse. We're just back from a trip to Alaska.

I do some work for Expedia, and that’s how we were able to take a cruise up the Inside Passage from Vancouver to Alaska. We didn’t do any backpacking, but we did some great hiking at various ports in Alaska. Whatever our expectations, and they were high, this trip exceeded them all.

We started with a couple of sunny days in Vancouver—and if it isn’t the most beautiful city in the world, it sure comes close. We loved our hike through Stanley Park, and another walk to Granville Island (a quick stop for lunch and picnic supplies) and back to the waterfront. And we ate three wonderful meals: Peruvian themed-Ancora, a fabulous Japanese restaurant called Yuwa, and our old favorite Heritage Asian Eatery.

Then it was onto the ship for a cruise north. The first day was spent sailing up the Inside Passage, with magnificent views of the surrounding islands and snow-capped peaks. We saw whales, dolphins, seal lions, and scenery that is hard to match, anywhere in the world. A perfect day at sea.

On the second day, we were in Ketchikan, where we kayaked out to the Tatoosh Islands amid glorious sunny weather. Bald eagles were everywhere out here, and we loved how close we could get to the shore…the vertical walls and gentle seas allowed us to touch the rocks in many cases, exploring the starfish below. In each port we were told that it was the first day the hosts had put on sunscreen all year—and this day was no exception!

Day three was in Juneau. We had visited the Mendenhall Glacier on a previous visit, so this time we decided to spend a memorable morning at the State Museum—really far better than we expected, with great collections of Native American artifacts and a come-to-life exhibit on the salmon canning industry that dominated the town. It was a real treat. And after a delicious halibut and chips lunch in town, we hiked out the Perseverance Trail to the Falls, along with most of the population of Juneau. It was a sunny Sunday, and the residents were all enthusiastic about getting out on the trail! Great hike, with great views, and we came back on the flume trail, giving us yet another view of the area.

On day four we were in Skagway, where we had signed up for a session of rock climbing. This took us up towards White Pass, stopping only a mile from the border station on the way into Canada. We climbed up a couple of different routes, then rappelled down, and finally headed back to town with sore muscles and an odd sense of accomplishment.

Since we had a little extra time, we hiked out to Yakutania Point for some lovely views along the sound, as well as powerfully perfumed wild roses. Alaska continues to amaze.

Day five was in Sitka, where I joined a few people to take a ride out to the end of the road north of town, then a boat to the head of Katlian Bay, where we fished for bright silver Dolly Varden trout in the Katlian. (And yes, I caught a few—in fact, way more than anyone else.) But the scenery there was even better than the fishing. (Six trout, from 10-16 inches.)

Day six was the only day we really had any true Alaskan summer weather, as the fog limited our visit to the Hubbard Glacier. Given that a Norwegian ship had hit an iceberg here only a few days ago and had to cancel its itinerary, we agreed with the captain when he announced he was going to demonstrate discretion instead of valor. We edged in until visibility was only about fifty feet, then turned and slowly backed away. The scenery, mountains swathed in cotton, was still remarkable.

Day seven took us to Seward, where we ended the cruise. We dropped off our luggage and consulted with the Kenai Fjords National Park visitors center in town. That led us to the Exit Glacier shuttle, which took us out and back for $15. What a deal!

We hiked the Exit Glacier Trail, or at least the parts that were not under water from snowmelt, and then went partway up the Harding Ice Field Trail to some amazing views. On the way back into town, we asked the shuttle driver to drop us off at the local Safeway, where we got food for lunch. And then a local told us about the free shuttle that would take us back into town. VERY convenient.

We headed back to town to eat lunch and then visit to the Alaska Sea Life Center---a world-class museum along the lines of the Monterey Aquarium closer to our home: great exhibits, plus a tidewater “petting zoo,” and big tanks full of sea birds, seals, and even a massive sea lion. Thanks to a tip from our shuttle driver, dinner was at the Flamingo Lounge—a fifties cocktail lounge that has been re-worked into a really good restaurant. And, of course, some delicious halibut. Really good.

The next day we started with a short hike on the Two Lake Loop just outside of town, and it gave us a great sense of the rainforest here.

We had booked a tour on the Kenai Fjords Tours boat Coastal Explorer. We cannot recommend this team highly enough. Their customer service was exemplary! And the tour was unforgettable. We had a magnificent sighting of a pod of humpback whales, complete with all their behaviors, from blowing and breaching to fin slapping and bubble-ring feeding. Better than National Geographic.

And then on to see fin whales. Steller dolphins, Steller sea lions, the Aialik glacier, puffins, murres, and so much more.

You’d think that day would have worn us out, but we didn’t have time to sleep, because we had to catch the bus into Anchorage along one of the most scenic highways on the planet. Simply amazing scenery from beginning to end. We checked into our hotel and fell into bed, with the sun streaming through the window at ten p.m. Happily, there were blackout curtains!

And on the day of departure, we could see Denali from the airport, and got the birds-eye view as we flew out of Anchorage over the ice fields of Kenai Fjords on another sparkling day.

It was an amazing trip—and totally overwhelming. Yes, we are already thinking of going back. But there were so many great places, I’m not sure we can even begin to narrow down what we’d like to do next time. And there is no way to expect the kind of weather we got on this trip. Truly once in a lifetime.

The complete photo log is here;

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