Alaska – May 16-23, 2015

This year was my big sister’s “golden” birthday. I’ve been told it’s not a thing, but the only people who tell me that are the ones who have missed their own. So I think it’s a thing. They’re just being jealous.

In any case, it’s not turning 25, nor is it turning 50. It’s turning the same age as the date you were born (i.e. My birthday is Jan 24th, so my 24th birthday was my “golden”).

So, my sister’s golden birthday. I went to Hawaii for mine so she picked going to Alaska for hers. She also picked doing it on a cruise, which I’d never done before. So my sister, my mom, and I journeyed to Seattle, boarded a big ass boat, and sailed NORTH!…to Alaska (this was the theme of our cruise. And yes, it was annoying as you imagine).

For a week, the 3 of us shared a 159 ft2 room on a 952 ft long ship. There were about 3,000 passengers on board and around 1,200 crew members. I read 2 books and ran 20 miles. It was a good week.

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I will start out with the negative of cruising – let’s just get it out of the way. I keep saying it’s a bit like going to Las Vegas but you can only do things in the hotel you’re staying in. Your hotel has plenty for you to do and sure, you can look out your window at the other hotels, but you can’t explore them. And you have the same handful of choices for dinner every night (we eventually became like old ladies at a nursing home, I think. “Ugh, the watermelon isn’t as good today as it was yesterday!” “Why don’t they have those chocolate pudding things they had last night!?”) These are first-world problems, I realize. But I’m just sayin’…

One fun thing (I thought, anyways) was that our cruise featured two “formal nights” for dinner. We clean up nice, don’tcha think!?

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More of the positives? Being with my family…in Alaska…for a week. We lounged around the boat, we went to shows, we watched movies, we had unlimited ice cream. It was interesting how a cruise can be just about anything you want it to be…you can be busy all day long or you can do nothing. I think they design it that way.

(Also, you’ll notice in many of these photo sets that we are in t-shirts and tank tops – I promise it was Alaska! We had such spectacular weather; everyday was mid-70’s F and perfect. I am told this is rarely the case.)

Our first stop was Juneau and I was set on going hiking. My sister took the tram up to the top of Mount Roberts while my mom and I hiked up the back way. The view of the mountains, the town, and our ship were beautiful. We saw mountain goats in the distance and a few eagles flying overhead.

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There was a gift shop at the top where a guy was carving a totem pole. Tourists, of course, were invited to have a go at it, and for a laugh we made a little fun of my sister’s work 😉

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After a few hours in Juneau we were back on the boat and the next day we were in Skagway. This is where the historic gold rush of Alaska and, sadly, I think now the town is a little sleepy, relying exclusively on tourists to survive. The most popular thing to do here was a scenic train ride, but we opted for some whale watching instead. We saw a handful of humpback whales, countless bald eagles, and hundreds of sea lions! All the wildlife and scenery were highlights of our excursion but we definitely were able to get close to the sea lions, which was fun. Those guys were brave and would swim right up to the boat, begging for treats with their distinct mooing-burping hybrid bark.

20150519_190548996_iOS 20150519_222811902_iOS 20150519_222644190_iOS 20150519_220422678_iOS 20150519_220412488_iOS20150519_224721647_iOSOur whale-watching boat made a brief stop in Haines, AK and then sped quickly back up to Skagway. Once back in Skagway, my sister wanted to explore the town a little more and I was itching to get on some Alaskan trails so we split up and I made my way to Sturgill’s Landing. The trail started with a pretty good incline up to a lake (a popular destination, but clearly not many continued past this point because I didn’t see a human again until I returned) and then turned rolling and fairly technical. There were some decent rock scrambles and would often open up to some incredible views. I will admit, I was nervous about seeing bears. I realized trail maps and excursion guides were warning of meeting of a bear as a cautionary tip and because it’s an exciting notion, when in reality, some locals confirmed, the chances of seeing a bear on those particular trails were slim to none. I’m glad I didn’t end up being a gullible tourist who bought a bear bell!

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Our next day we were “scenic cruising” in Glacier Bay. We saw the Reid, Margerie, and Grand Pacific glaciers. I was able to catch some ice calving on Margerie and the thunderous sound it makes is really quite cool. Otherwise, I have no words to accurately describe this day, so I will let the pictures explain it to you.

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Can you spot the eagle in this one?

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Margerie

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Grand Pacific

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Following Glacier Bay, we were in Ketchikan, which was my favorite of the 3 Alaskan towns. I don’t know why, but it seemed like the most “real” of them all. It seemed to have actual life happening, not just sparsely populated with gift shop owners waiting for the next cruise ship to arrive in order to keep their doors open. There were real businesses that didn’t sell souvenirs, actual fishing boats that weren’t selling excursions to cruisers…just every day life. Here we ended up strolling along “Married Man’s Trail”. For a little snicker, follow this link for the description 🙂

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After a few short hours in Ketchikan, we were back on the boat to sail down to Victoria, BC. Victoria was a beautiful city and it was disappointing to only be there for a few hours late at night. The sunset was a beautiful pink (we sadly were not in any good spot for photos, but I promise you it was stunning) and we found ourselves in front of the legislative buildings enjoying a market and the sailboats.

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The following morning we were back in Seattle already. Jesse picked us up and we all went out for a quick breakfast before parting ways. Jesse and I had booked tickets on the Bolt Bus to get back to Portland so my mom and sister took off for Idaho, but not before dropping us off at the Seattle Bouldering Project! I was pretty rusty (and also a little tired from being on vacation – go figure). We had a fun pizza experience at Humble Pie, hopped on our bus, made it to Portland, and hopped on a train, then walked a mile home, drove to pick up RileyBear, ended up at home and I fell asleep instantly. It’s funny how vacation can wear you out that way.

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