Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Alaskan Adventure

This past May, my Mother very generously bought me, my Brother, and my Grandmother a one week Alaskan cruise:





I've wanted to go to Alaska for as long as I can remember, and I had never been on a cruise before! So when she suggested the idea, I was immediately on board. I mean, let's be real, if someone got me a cruise to pretty much anywhere in the world I'd be on board - but that's beside the point.

We flew up to Seattle to catch the ship (We went on the Ruby Princess, for anyone who's curious!), and had a full day at sea before heading to our first destination - Ketchikan, Alaska:


Immediately when we made port, I was deeply in love with Ketchikan. It's a tiny, magical little island and we caught it during a rare sunny day:


The pic above was taken from my cabin on the ship using a GoPro. You'll notice quite a few GoPro pics in this post as my new employer offers a GoPro lending service that I took full advantage of. I made sure my trip was action packed and I wanted to capture it! My adventure in Ketchikan? Ziplining through Tongass National Rainforest:



The course was about an hour long, with the longest zipline being 700 feet! I don't know what it is about being in a tree that I love so much (I was probably a woodland nymph in a past life), but I could have spent all day zipping through the forest. I LOVED it. As if zip lining wasn't amazing enough, while soaring through the trees I saw wild bears, reindeer, and eagles. Eagles are EVERYWHERE in Alaska! I had never seen one before this trip but they are indeed majestic creatures. 

Sadly we only had an afternoon in Ketchikan before we had to head back to the ship. Even though I wasn't there that long, of all the places in Alaska we went, Ketchikan is my #1 place I would revisit! 

I shared my cabin with my Grandma, and woke up the next morning to her yelling "ALYSE, GET UP. GET OUT OF BED, COME TO THE WINDOW" at 6 A.M. At first I thought she was a creature of PURE evil for getting me out of bed that early while on vacation, but when I got up to see what she was yelling about I was absolutely floored: 


Our ship took a detour through Tracy Arm, a glacier/fjord in southern Alaska. I'm not going to include many pictures of it because photos do it absolutely no justice whatsoever, but Tracy Arm is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places I've ever seen in my entire life. Completely untouched & serene, I felt like my ship was floating through frickin' Pandora from Avatar: 


It was absolutely freezing outside, but I didn't care. I sat in my blanket on my balcony for 3 hours as we floated along. The feeling I got was that of genuinely having my mind blown. I can't really explain it. It made me feel very small, but in a comforting way. It's very moving. The only other time I can remember feeling this way was when I was backpacking Europe and took a train through the Swiss countryside. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. Well let me tell you -  this rivals it, big time. 


(Some of the pieces of ice floating in the water were this gorgeous bright turquoise color) 

This same day was an 'at-sea' day, meaning we didn't make port anywhere. Now first let me say, I love being on a boat. Any boat. Being on/in/near any vast body of water makes me super happy. That being said, the actual cruising part of my cruise was my least favorite part. The boat was HUGE, and had tons of things to do - a spa, gym, movie nights, shops, art galleries, a library, dozens of dining options, bars, clubs, live theatre, a casino - you name it, the boat probably had it. Yet somehow I found myself fairly bored on at-sea days. I did enjoy an evening at the pool/hot tub, and splurged on a fancy hair treatment at the salon, but other than that I spent a lot of time eating, going to the gym, and watching movies in my cabin, anxiously waiting to port so I could go explore.

Our next stop was Alaska's capital, Juneau, where I did the most Alaskan thing EVER - I went dog sledding:


I assume you're noticing that there is no snow - that's because it's spring! During the warmer months they train the dogs by putting the sleds on wheels. You CAN pay an absurd about of money to helicopter up to a glacier and dog sled there (my brother did it and LOVED it) but I was perfectly fine doing it snow-free.


The puppies are kept far away from the city, in a little outdoor paradise in the mountains. Anyone who knows me knows I have serious puppy-fever, so this was right up my ally. 


(THAT FACE. Dead.) 

I loved cruising through the mountains with the pups, but I think I loved petting them even more: 



(I wanted to take this one back home with me. Enter the emoji with the tears down its face here.)

After a full afternoon of dog sledding, I met back up with my family to catch the Mount Roberts Tramway up to the top of the mountain to take in a gorgeous view of Juneau: 


(View from the tram)


(View from the top!) 

Once we got to the top I noticed that there was a trail head leading to a higher view point, so I decided to take a mini hike and explore the mountain. When I let my family know my plans, this tough old bird decided to join me: 


We weaved our way through the forest, where I watched her wrestle grizzly bears and tame eagles:  




(Smiling at the top of the mountain, post-bear wrestling) 

I went to sleep early that night and woke up in Skagway, Alaska, where my little brother Trevor and I decided to seize our day by taking a Jeep tour from Alaska into Yukon Territory, Northern Canada: 


We started off driving by lush, green mountains, that progressively got more snowy as we drove on: 



(Little Trevy with his dream car in the mountains)

We learned a lot about Yukon Territory, whilst seeing some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever witnessed: 


(This island is uninhabited, and our tour guide said that he knew of a man who, for his honeymoon, canoed out to the island with his new wife and they lived there for a week using it as their own private island. Best. Idea. Ever.) 



(While the rest of the people in my group went to take pictures with the "Welcome to the Yukon" sign, I walked down to this lake and found this creepy looking abandoned chair. I've created loads of spooky stories in my head about how it got there. ) 

I have no idea how, but within this lush, cold, mountainous region, there is a frickin' desert. Yes. An ACTUAL desert: 


Carcross Desert, to be exact. Which happens to be right next to this: 




Emerald Lake, named for its intensely green-y blue color. The water reminds me of the water I saw when I was in Greece, which blows my mind because I was in Northern ass Canada. How the climate works up there is beyond my comprehension, but this lake gets its color because of calcium deposits that float into the water from the mountains. My photo doesn't do justice to exactly how radiant the water is! 

By the time we reached the end of our journey, we were in what I can only describe as an ice jungle: 


It was the most incredible drive, where waterfalls were spitting down at us from the side of the road. Such an amazing way to spend my day - and it wasn't even over yet! After 6 hours of driving, we arrived back in Skagway to go glass-blowing with my Mom and Grandma. I made a glass orb (that's currently looking super beautiful in my bedroom) followed by afternoon tea and a stroll through their glass garden: 




The next day was spent at sea, followed by a short evening port in Victoria, British Columbia. I don't have any pictures from my evening there because if I'm honest, I spent the majority of my night trolling shops for maple-related goods. Very shameful, although I will say I HAVE been there before! So I don't feel like I missed out on much.

We made port back in Seattle the following morning, and immediately flew back to San Francisco. Overall, I would totally go on a cruise again, despite the boredom on at-sea days. Next time, I want to go somewhere warmer. My family already has our eyes on a cruise of the Panama Canal - only time will tell!


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