Sunday, August 29, 2010

Alaska 4

Here are some more photos from Alaska. Click on any photo for a bigger view. As you might guess, there are lots of animals to see in Alaska. Many you will see in Denali National Park as you travel the one road and look out across the open tundra. You can see a long way and sometimes the animals look like dots that require binoculars, but other times the animals walk right past the car or Denali bus. You also see animals anywhere you go. You have to be aware of moose and bear (both black and grizzly) everywhere you hike or drive.

A couple of interesting things about bears and moose in Alaska. The general advise is bear = stop and raise your arms and voice. Moose = run! Rangers in Denali said they would rather meet a grizzly in the back country than a moose. They don't recommend bells on your pack to alert the bears because they say it just irritates your fellow hikers. They don't recommend pepper spray for most people because they say that usually they just spray it into the wind and incapacitate themselves.

Dog sledding and the Iditarod are very interesting. We saw dog sledding demos at the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla near Anchorage, in Denali, and in Fairbanks. When the mushers go to hook up a team the dogs go nuts barking because they all want to go. "pick me, pick me". The racing dogs are not large and powerful, they are small and fast. The breed is mostly "Alaskan Husky", which is smaller than the husky you might have seen in the "lower 48". "Gee" is the command to turn right, "Haw" mean go left, and "Whoa" is considered only a suggestion to stop because if you fall off the sled the dogs won't stop. The 3 rules of mushing are, 1-hang on to your sled, 2-hang on to your sled, and 3- hang on to your sled.

In Denali, we hiked to a beaver pond and saw a beaver emerge from its lodge and swim in the water. Then, later, on the trail, we spotted a beaver in the woods and followed it to some freshly downed aspen trees that it had cut. We watched as the beaver cut through a 4 inch branch in about 2 minutes. Then he/she took two pieces of the aspen and dragged it through the woods and down the trail and to the pond. It was storing up limbs to place under the water for winter feeding when the pond was frozen.

We looked long and hard to see a sea otter. These are much larger than river otters and they spend their entire life floating in the sea. They dive to the bottom and get shellfish and then float on their back while they crack open the shells and eat the food. They are very cute floating on their backs and looking around. In Homer, we found lots floating in the ocean. One was very close to shore and we got some good photos.

We are heading back to Anchorage today (from Homer) and then back to Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alaska 3

Here we are, still in Alaska with another week to go. The weather, the scenery, and the animals have all cooperated very nicely. Seward had 32 straight days of rain until the day we got here and it has been beautiful (70 and sunny) since. There was a rainbow over the harbor the evening we got here.

Grizzlies walk through the yard of the B & B that we are staying at, but we haven't seen one yet. A couple of hundred yards away there is a salmon stream full of salmon that the bears come to.

We took a 6 hour boat trip into a National Park yesterday. This trip is known for being unpredictable in terms of wildlife spotted and especially for roughness of the trip. Among the first instructions when we boarded was which rail to puke over. They told us to lean over and "go for distance". At the end of the trip one of the deck hands said that they call the boat the "puke boat" because many people can't handle the ride. I had a big breakfast so I would have lots of ammunition but no problems, our ride was the smoothest of the summer they said. No seasickness at all. Whew!

The photos are of the day's catch from one of the fishing boats you can go out on. They are mostly halibut, 2 red rockfish, and 2 gray looking cod.

The blue water with the black spot is a fin whale. At 120 feet long it is second in length to only the blue whale. If you click on the photo to blow it up you can see the back fin and also the vapor from a couple more fin whales nearby.

The boat is similar to the one we were on. It is in front of a calving glacier. Calving is the process of large pieces of the glacier falling into the sea with a big crash and subsequent wave. Very cool! We also saw harbor seals, Dall's purpoise, sea lions, puffins, sea otters, bald eagles, more glaciers, etc., etc.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Alaska 2

Here is the second Alaska posting.

I will catch up with last week's adventures later, but here is info and photos from today.

We drove 80 miles south to Valdez today. This is where the Alaska pipeline ends. Over the past several days we followed the pipeline for several hundred miles from north of Fairbanks to Valdez. The pink salmon were about done spawning and dying by the thousands...they all die after spawning. The silver salmon were just coming into the bay and people were fishing for them by the hundreds. We saw a black bear catching and eating pinks. On the way back to our b and b we saw a grizzly a few miles from where we are staying catching and eating salmon from another stream. Also saw a porcupine.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Well, here we are in Alaska for a 3 week adventure. I'll put together a little information about where, what, etc. in a couple of Blog entries...this is the first. I have been struggling to find internet access without hanging out at a Starbucks, but I have some here in Kenny Lake, about 80 miles north of Valdez.

If you are a robber planning on checking out my house while I am away, try not to upset the state champion shotgun skeet shooter staying there while we are away.

We have been Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, and now we are near the Copper River where the best tasting salmon in the world comes from. The sockeye salmon here is high in omega fats and therefore the tastiest. It is only available fresh about one month out of the year. We bought something called "Keta" salmon in Tennessee a few months ago at the supermarket. We found out that here in Alaska it is a kind of salmon that they don't eat and only use it to feed dogs. Interesting!

At the first Bed and Breakfast that we stayed at in Anchorage a black bear visited us the first morning. We were sitting at breakfast and Marion exclaimed "Oh!". Then she said "oh, for a minute I thought that was a bear." Then she said "It is a bear!" A large black bear was 3 feet away just outside, on porch, beside the large glass window. However, by the time I got my camera upstairs, he/she was gone.

However, here are some photos from Denali, where we saw grizzlies, moose, dall sheep, caribou, and wolves. Plus, we saw the "mountain"...McKinley. It is only visable because of clouds about 30% of the time. We saw it 2 days, and once it was out all day long...a rarity.