Q. What do you do when it’s March in Ohio, and you’re sick of winter?
A. You go to Alaska.
Okay, maybe our logic was a little skewed when we planned the trip back in October, but neither of us likes crowds (not a problem in Alaska in March), and we wanted to be available when things started happening with our bees.
Look how well that turned out. Sigh.
Still, our forty-ninth state was beautiful, thanks very much, and we enjoyed our stopover in Seattle and six days in Vancouver too.
I enjoyed it so much I feel compelled to share photos. These were taken on my phone. Imagine what someone could do with a real camera.
First, we flew to Anchorage, where we explored the aviation museum and seaplane base. Only we’d kind of forgotten the lake would be frozen, so we didn’t actually see any seaplanes take off or land. (No worries. We made up for it in Vancouver.)
We also saw a moose one night. It was laying on the lawn of a small house in Anchorage, right at the bottom of the front porch. At first I thought it was a lawn ornament. Because, you know, moose lawn ornaments are all the rage in Anchorage. Not.
Next we drove down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward. The weather was beautiful and the scenery amazing.
The picture above is from Turnagain Arm. There’s a huge tide, so big I guess people surf there.
Evidently, there are also whales. But we didn’t see any.
When we got to Seward, we stopped at a little park. I’m pretty sure we saw a seal. I know we saw otters in the bay, and some waterfowl we didn’t recognize.
The next day was our whale cruise. Though the season had just opened, we saw a whale blow several times in the distance, but never managed to get close. We also saw Stellar Sea Lions, more otters, Dall Sheep, and lots of Bald Eagles. Then, after we’d given up on the possibility of seeing more whales and headed back toward the bay, we saw a pod of Orcas, followed in rapid succession by a school of porpoises, some of them Dall’s and another type whose name I didn’t catch.
I’ll warn you now, I didn’t even attempt to get photos of any wildlife because then I’d miss both the photo and the experience. Instead, I opened my eyes wide and tried to take it all in.
We returned to Anchorage, and the next morning boarded the train for Fairbanks — a twelve-hour trip. Because they were still running the winter train, it was a “flag stop” train, stopping every so often to pick up and let off passengers in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.
We ate, drank, and watched the scenery, scanning for wildlife. Here’s a list of what I saw: many more eagles, about six or seven Moose, the backside of two Caribou, and more Dall Sheep.
I loved the skinny pines (which we were told were Black Spruce) and Birch. By the time we neared Fairbanks, many of the Birch were bent over almost in a circle, probably from previous snows. Looks like I didn’t get any pictures of that.
And here’s a little movie. It’s not very exciting (but it is short with some nice train noise), and I’ve no idea why WordPress let me post it.
In Fairbanks, we had a balcony view from Pike’s Lodge. Here’s what you saw if you looked out past the air conditioning unit on the roof beneath our window. Believe it or not, they need air conditioning. Though the temperature regularly gets to -40*F in the winter, it hits the 80s and 90s in the summer. In town, they have electrical plugs in the parking lot, not for electric cars, but for engine block heaters so residents can start their cars after being at work all day.
The next day, we took a flightseeing tour. I was very proud of myself because I secured the right seat (next to the pilot) for The Engineer.
The guy sitting next to me said, “He must be a pilot, right?”
I nodded, and he said he was too.
“We have a Cessna 182. What do you fly?” I asked.
“Oh,” he replied, “I’m a military pilot. I fly fighters.”
We agreed he needed to switch seats with my husband for the return flight.
Once again, the weather cooperated, and the views were stupendous.We landed in Coldfoot, greeted by two young women. One was wearing flip-flops.
Here’s a nice pic of the airport.
We got a little tour (it’s very small town, more of a way station). We also had a beer because how many people can say they drank a beer above the Arctic Circle? (Beer looms large on this trip. The far north and western Canada seem to require it.)
And that was the end of the Alaskan leg of our trip. Our only disappointment was not seeing the Northern Lights. Guess we’ll save the Aurora for another trip. (Iceland, anyone?)
The next morning, we left for Vancouver. When planning this trip, I’d discovered the only way to get from Fairbanks to Vancouver is through Seattle, and all the planes from Fairbanks seemed to land after the last plane to Vancouver. No matter what time we left Fairbanks, we’d end up catching the plane the next day. Since we didn’t want to sleep in the airport, we’d arranged a hotel, and to fly to Vancouver the next evening.
This gave us enough time to take the train into the city, and have a quick walk around, then hop on the ferry for a view from the water.
In Vancouver, we had a great AirBnB, close to public transport. It was an apartment on a street that was surprisingly quiet despite being conveniently close to a commercial district full of restaurants, shops, night clubs, and more importantly, a grocery store. If we walked down a small hill, we reached a beach on English Bay where we could take a little ferry to a variety of places.
Here’s a view from the roof.
British Columbia is considered a temperate rain forest, which means it rains nearly every day. At least it did while we were there. We got used to wearing our rain gear everywhere.
On one of our first excursions (to Granville Island), we mistakenly took some bad advice and ended up taking a bus over the island, and had to navigate our way back down. By that, I mean The Engineer navigated, and I followed.
Darling Daughter thinks I have no sense of direction (correct), and can’t find my way anywhere (incorrect). I am actually quite capable of navigating. I’m just lazy and it’s easier to follow The Engineer.
By the time we got there, it was really raining, so we ducked inside the brewery, and, yes, had more beer.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit we spent some time in English-style pubs watching Premier League football. I offer no excuses except to say Liverpool was playing Man City, and on Sundays, they had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.
Another day, we took public transport to the Waterfront Station. The next two photos look a little odd because they were panoramas, which kind of skews the the perspective a little.
There was a seaplane base and service, and during our time in the city, planes were continually taking off and landing.
And the trees were beginning to bloom.
In Gastown, there’s a steam clock (and lots of other tourists). On the only clear day during our stay, we walked around Stanley Park (about 6-7 miles). Since we also walked to the park and home, our stroll ended up being about ten miles. We packed sandwiches, drinks, and munchies, took our time, and enjoyed the scenery, exercise, and fresh air.
There were purple Sea Stars nestled among the rocks by the side of the water.
Our walk in the park ended near this collection of totems. A visit to a new city wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the library.
We also took the ferry to North Vancouver, where there is a strong shipbuilding history. The city has left many remembrances of the industry on display near the waterfront.Vancouver has a bike loaning program, and these pigeons seemed to be waiting to hitch a ride.
On our last day, we did a walking tour of Chinatown.
There, we saw the world’s skinniest building.
Evidently, the original building jutted over the street. When the city wanted to clear the roadway a bit, they made a generous offer for that part of the building, assuming the owner would tear the rest down since it would be useless. Instead he took the money, extended underground and continued using the building.This building is owned by an indigenous people’s group. The totem and concrete lodge on top represent a blend of traditional and contemporary architecture. Inside, the group runs a small hotel and art gallery, with the profits funding community housing for indigenous persons in the building next door.
The tour (and our touring of Vancouver) ended with a visit to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden — a green oasis in a busy city.
You can see more photos of our trip on my Instagram account (kymlucas54).