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rma2001

Trip Report June/July 2019 - DIY Land/Cruisetour/Royal Princess Southbound

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This is going to be long and broken up into posts as I have time to get through everything.

 

Our Alaska trip planning started about 18 months ago when our families all talked about how seeing Alaska was on our bucket list.  Our daughter would be 5 and is a really good traveler, loves animals and the outdoors and we thought it would be a good time to go for her.  I am doing a marathon in all 50 states and haven’t done Alaska, so that limited the time frame for the trip since we wanted to check that box off as well.  My wife is a teacher so summer is best for a vacation like this.  I decided on the Mayor’s Marathon that happens around the equinox so the time of year was set for us.  We also collect National Park stamps so we wanted to see as many National Parks as possible in the time frame, and that of course includes Denali.  With those things in mind, we knew we had to take at least 2 weeks for the trip.  Most of my details will be what I did, as our group did different things in each port and even town.  If you like hiking, this might be more interesting to you as I did a LOT of it.

 

High level itinerary
Day 1-3 Travel to Anchorage, sites around the city and the Mayors Marathon
Day 3-6 Travel to Seward, Kenai Fjord cruise, Kenai Fjord visit and travel back to Anchorage
Day 7 Connect with Princess Land Tour group and travel to Denali
Day 8 Bus ride to Eielson Visitor Center
Day 9 Bus to Talkeenta
Day 10 Train to Whittier for cruising
Day 11 Hubbard Glacier
Day 12 Glacier Bay
Day 13 Skagway
Day 14 Juneau
Day 15 Ketchikan
Day 16 at sea
Day 17 Vancouver and home


Day 1  Our trip took us from Denver to Anchorage.  The flight was (relatively) quick and easy.  Once we had our bags (2 25in suitcases, car seat bag stuffed with coats) we went to pick up our minivan from the Enterprise.  Super easy process for an airport location.  We were meeting my parents and mother-in-law later that afternoon so we killed some time and had a lunch of pizza over by the University of Alaska while we waited for the marathon expo to open.  It hit the spot and then the expo was open to get my bib.  If you are a runner and like big expos, this is not for you.  I was in and out in under 5 minutes and there wasn’t much to look at or shop.  Probably good as I didn’t blow a lot of money like I can at a normal expo.  After that, we went back to the Clarion and hopped in the pool, since to a 5 year old, if there is a pool, you must go in.  We had a quick swim and relaxed a bit before venturing out for food, finding a nice meal at the White Spot Cafe.  I had the halibut sandwich and was very pleased.  Just as we got our food, I got a text that my parents had landed about 40 minutes early.  We ate quick, picked them up and then turned in for the “night”.  Turns out even when it is 10PM (midnight to our body clocks), it is tough to get a kid to sleep when it looks like 3PM.  Quite an adjustment.
 

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Day two began early for me since I was still on mountain time, so I went for an early morning run around Delaney Park.  The theme of the trip was amazing weather and today was sunny and in the mid 70s.  This was a nice area and some interesting things to see.  By the time I got back the rest of the group was stirring.  My parents we out for breakfast at Snow City Cafe (they loved it) and my frugal family had the breakfast at the hotel.  It was decent enough for me, but I’m not fancy.

 

After breakfast we headed more downtown Anchorage to get our National Park Passport stamp and look around the visitor center at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center.  This was a nice stop to get information on the surrounding National Parks and outdoor areas.  Inside they also had some pelts that my daughter loved learning about.  She also picked up the Junior Ranger booklet to complete that day.  If you haven’t heard about the Junior Ranger program that the NPS has at most of the sites, and you have kids, do yourself a favor and look into it.  My daughter loves doing the booklets and getting her badges and patches at each one.  Lots of learning done with those as well.

 

After that, we walked over to the Anchorage Museum, and man, what a place (we got the combo ticket to the Alaska Native Heritage Center).  This was another place that was really good for kids.  Lots of hands on activities about volcanoes, earthquakes and marine life.  We could have spent hours here on just the first floor.

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But we moved on and took some time in the Observatory for a film about the Northern Lights and some exhibits about the native people of Alaska.  Every one really enjoyed that.  We were hungry by then and decided to take the whole group over to White Spot Cafe again where I had more halibut.  

 

Feeling our blood sugar back to normal we took the second half of the day over at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  This was another really nice place for kids. The villages they had set up were interesting and informative and my daughter had a blast going in them and touching everything.  We ended watching a demonstration on songs and dances of the native people by a group of high school (and possibly college) kids.  They were having fun it seemed like.  I wanted to get off my feet so I ordered some Olive Garden to go, picked it up and put my feet up at the hotel.  I had to run a marathon the next day.  The rest of the group went to Lucky Wishbone for fried chicken.  They RAVED about it.  Dessert was Alaskan Shaved Ice from a trailer downtown.  I was asleep by the time they got back since I had to be up really early, and they were nice enough to not wake me up coming back into the room.
 

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Day 3 was a looooooong day.  I was up really early to eat, get dressed and catch a bus over to the marathon start.  

 

This isn’t a marathon report so I’ll keep it short.  

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The course was pretty nice and scenic.  The part through Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was tough and took a lot out of me.  I didn’t see any wildlife, but apparently there was a black bear that went across the course, that would have helped me pick up the pace.  I finished the 26.2 miles in just over 4 hours and felt surprisingly good.  I hustled back over to the hotel to take a shower before getting right into the van to head to Seward.  I would have felt bad cooping the rest of the group up in that van smelling like I just ran a marathon…


On the Seward Highway, we had a quick stop at Beluga Point to see if we could see any whales, but no luck this day.  

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Back into the car and a couple of miles down the road spotted some Dall’s Sheep perched on the rocks and it was conveniently right by a pull out, so that worked out well.  

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A few minutes later we were back in the car and headed to Girdwood and the Alyeska Tram.  There was a ticket deal for a tram ride and vouchers for lunch at the top, and that was perfect since I was starving.  The views were spectacular all the way around the mountain.  Coming from Denver, it was weird seeing the treeline at around 3,000ft.  It made me feel higher, but then we could see the Turnagin Arm just off in the distance and you realized you weren’t that high.  On the way up we spotted a bull moose taking a nap right below us.

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When we made it back down, we were ready to get back on the road to Seward.  We had one more stop on the way, the Begich Boggs Visitor Center to learn about the Portage Glacier.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time here as it was getting close to 6 and the center was closing.

 

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 Back into the car one more time and we got to our VRBO in Seward.  We unloaded the van into our rooms and surprise, surprise, we were hungry again.  We walked down to Seward Brewing Company and had more pizza and I enjoyed a celebratory beer.  I guess we weren’t that full on the walk back so we stopped about 50 feet later and got ice cream at Sweet Darlings.  I didn’t feel guilty at all.  

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We walked back to our place and I made a quick drive to Safeway to pick up some bread, peanut butter and jelly and other essentials like cookies and milk.  Exhausted when I got back, I passed out almost immediately despite the full sun.
 

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Day 4 came and looking out the window it could have been noon, but it was 6:30.  For me, that is sleeping in.  I took a nice easy 3 mile run down the harbor path, into the marina area and back.  I got back to the group stirring and eating breakfast.  We all made sandwiches and snacks for our next adventure, a 7.5 hour tour with Major Marine to see some glaciers and more wild life.  We bought our tickets on Black Friday for a HUGE discount.  My frugal self loved that.  We had a boat change due to mechanical issues, so the itinerary was a bit different, but still very enjoyable and got to spend more time looking for wildlife/whales.  Again, the weather was perfect.  The water was very calm and no one in our group got sea sick.  I think I only saw one person with a bag, so that was nice.  We didn’t do the on board meal, but it looked pretty good.  But so are my PB&J’s.  The National Park Ranger on board was great and so enthusiastic about everything.  There was a chance to do the Junior Ranger program on board, but we did it the next day in the park visitor center.

 

We saw Bear, Little Holgate, Holgate and Surprise glaciers on our trip.

 

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We also had lots of animal sightings, harbor seals, Dall’s porpoise, humpback whales, sea otters, fin whales (apparently rare), tufted puffins, and lots of other birds. 

Once we got back, we cleaned up a bit and headed to eat (I guess we like to do that) at The Cookery.  It’s a more fancy type place, but it was delicious (I had the salmon).  Not a lot of kid options here so my daughter ordered the Blueberry Dutch Baby (basically a fancy pancake) with cream cheese ice cream.  Dessert is good for a meal right?
 

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Day 5 came and I was once again up early and went for another 3 mile run.  It was a bit cooler and foggy, but started clearing up nicely.  First on the agenda today was heading into Kenai Fjord NP and seeing Exit glacier.

 

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 We stopped in the visitor center and my daughter turned in her Junior Ranger book and took her oath and got another badge.  We then started walking the Exit Glacier trail.  We got to the creek and I went out to take some pictures, hopping on some rocks and staying dry.  It didn’t work out as well for my daughter and grandpa, as they slipped on a small rock and got the seat of their pants a little wet.  Luckily, it wasn’t a crisis and everyone laughed it off.

 

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 Then off to Exit Glacier overlook.  This was a little tougher than it seemed in reading, but everyone made it just fine and the views were amazing (I think I used that word a lot).

 

 


Once we got back down, I was at my next stop, the Harding Icefield trail.  I went my way on my own and they went back to the van to get to their next event (more on that later).  As soon as I read about that trail, I knew I had to do it.  Who could say no to 8+ miles and close to 4,000 feet of elevation gain?

 

I started out and was in awe of the scenery around every corner.  I was going pretty quick and light on the trail since I was solo and wanted to get back at a decent time.  I had a CamelBack with 90oz of water, a couple sandwiches, few cliff bars and a few energy gels to get me through. I wore trail running shoes and was fine with traction and my feet stayed dry.  Although hiking boots could have been nice if it was raining and muddy, but I was able to go faster in my shoes.  I also had a vest and puffer jacket just in case, but didn’t need either once I started moving, perfect weather again.

I stopped near Marmont Meadows for a quick break and snack. Not a bad view.

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There were some rangers here at an overlook talking about the wildlife.  Another nice break and off again.   
 
Once above treeline there started to be more snow on the trail and the crowds started to thin out more.  In the snow, there were some sketchy spots but there were spots with “stairs” built in.  At the top of the cliffs I took another break for PB&J and soak in the view.  There was no one around as far as I could see.  Breathtaking.  I then started up again to make it to the shelter.  Crampons would have been nice here, but I was able to make it up without sliding too much.  

 

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Once up, I couldn’t stay long as I needed to get back down to catch my shuttle back into town since my family had the car.  The way back down can take more of a toll than the way up, but it wasn’t terrible.  I started getting behind some larger groups but they let me pass and continue on my way.  Once back in the trees, I spotted the back half of a black bear leaving the trail and back into the woods.  Shouted a few “Hey bears” and hoped he had moved on for good.  I made it back to the visitor’s center in just over three hours and forty five minutes of hiking/moving time. I had some stopped time as well to take it all in.  

 
Finally back at the visitor center I waited for my shuttle to come.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  My scheduled 3PM shuttle wasn’t there at 3:40 so I started walking back to Sward with my thumb out. After about 15 minutes of walking, a very nice family stopped their RV and drove me right back to our VRBO.  We had a lot in common as far as our jobs and hobbies.  Very cool experience for my first time hitch-hiking.  I was refunded my money as well after contacting customer service.

While I was on my epic hike, the rest of the group was doing a tour with Turning Heads Kennel.  They learned about sled dogs, held puppies and took a ride on a summer sled.  My daughter got to try on the winter gear that they wear in the Iditarod race.  

I got back and did some laundry at the VRBO since we had to wear everything a few times.  Nice perk to staying in a place like that.

For dinner that night we went to the Gold Rush Bistro.  It was a nice casual and pretty affordable meal.  I had another halibut sandwich, I can’t get enough.
 

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Day 6 I was up early again and did another easy run along the harbor to loosen my legs up after the long hike and saw a ship coming in for their day in town, and I was wishing we could stay longer.  But, we needed to head back to Anchorage to hook up with Princess and head to Denali.  We headed back up the Seward Highway and stopped at a couple places we skipped on the way down. 

 

One of them was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  It was a pretty quick stop but everyone enjoyed seeing all the animals up close.

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Once we got back to Anchorage we checked into the Captain Cook and I went to return the car at the airport.  Hopped on a Princess Shuttle and was back in no time.  For dinner we went to 49th State Brewing where I did a sample of the beers.  Pretty good offerings and the food was good too.

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Day 7 I got up early to make sure we had everything in our bags that were going to Denali and the ones that were going to the ship and then went out for one more quick run in Anchorage.  Once everyone woke up we went down to the bus and surprisingly everyone in the group was on the bus before the requested time, I think that was the first time that has ever happened for me.  Our bus driver gave us some great narration on the way up.  Just outside of Anchorage, we saw a moose and calf walking through a field.  My daughter was excited about that.  We drove a little more and before we knew it, Denali was poking out above the trees every now and then.  We stopped for lunch at Veterans Memorial in Denali State Park.  Some good picture opportunities that day.

 

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We finally made it to the Denali Wilderness Princess Lodge and took some down time in the room.  I really like how they had someone come on board and give us the room keys and luggage tags.  Made it a lot easier to get off the bus and avoid a big rush to the front desk.  After a quick rest we did a little walk to get the obligatory picture of the Denali National Park sign.  Nice little walk over the river and saw some people on a raft.  

 

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We went back and had dinner at the Grizzly Burger, good food for the money.

 

After dinner, we were off to another adventure, the Husky Homestead Tour (booked through Princess and did a price match when they had a sale).  It never a bad day when when you can get off a bus and get handed a puppy.  

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The dogs were going crazy when they thought they might get picked to pull the ATV.  After a short demonstration, the adults went into hear a presentation from Jeff King, and the kids all went to have a puppy party, hanging out with the pups. I was a little jealous.

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Day 8 We knew this was going to be a long day but we were excited. I did an early morning run into the park a little on the Jonesville Trail.  If you needed to walk over to the Bus Depot, you could take this.  There is a decent uphill grade so be prepared for that.  

 

We canceled the Princess provided tour and booked the NPS transit bus to the Eielson Visitor Center.  If you do this, get to your scheduled bus on time.  We saw a big group that missed their bus and have to break up into smaller groups on buses after it.  They weren’t happy.


Our driver did a great job and narrated the whole time even though he didn’t have to.  He earned a good tip that day.  Once again weather was perfect.  Blue sky and just a few high clouds.  We made quite a few stops along the way when seeing animals. The first thing we saw was a bear taking a nap in the sun.  He was a little far off for me to get a picture, but with binoculars saw him great.  Not long after we saw another for a couple seconds lumbering down a hill.

 

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A few more stops and we were at the visitor center.  It was a very nice stop (for about 30 minutes) just looking at the mountain from top to bottom and taking it all in.  

 

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We ate some of our lunch looking at the mountain (packed in PB&J).  I’ve said it before, but Alaska is just huge.  If, you go to Denali, make it to Eielson at least.  If it was just me, I would have stayed here all day, but with a 5 year old, I knew it could turn into a disaster on the way back, so we got back on the bus and started working on the Junior Ranger packet on the drive back.  We saw a few more animals, mainly birds, until we got closer to the entrance.  Near the entrance, we saw a coyote (apparently rare) and then 3 more moose grazing right beside the road.  Awesome sight.

 

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We got dropped off at the other visitor center and my daughter got her Denali Junior Ranger badge and then headed back to the lodge.  

 

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We had dinner at Grizzly Burger again and then had to pack up for the next lodge.  If you have the time, I would suggest staying here 3 nights.  The 2 we had were great, but more time would have been better.

 


Day 9  I did another early morning run into the park and saw a few squirrels but no moose (that could be good or bad I guess).  Our bags got picked up and we were on the way.  Another really good bus driver with interesting stories going down to Talkeenta and the Mt. McKinley lodge.  We stepped off the bus to a perfect sky and view of Denali once again.  

 

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It was starting to warm up a bit, getting into the mid 80s.  I was worried that the room would be too hot, but the fans made it feel fine.  We had lunch at the grill at the lodge on the deck looking at the mountain.  

 

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Nice place to hang out.  

 

Then we had a little drama with our suitcase.  It came to our room wrapped in tape and a strap around it to keep it closed and it was all scuffed up.  

 

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There was a note to contact the front desk to start some paperwork.  We called in and they said someone will be down to take care of the paperwork so we started looking at the damage.  It looks like it was on a cart and then fell off and either broke open from the fall or got hit by the trailer or another vehicle and stuff went everywhere.  My daughters toiletry bag had a tire mark on it even.  Had to wait about an hour for someone to finally show up, took the report and said they would bring a bag to get us through the rest of the trip.  I had to wait another hour for that to show up and in the meantime found that my electric toothbrush was destroyed, only the very bottom part of it made it back in the bag.  I went up to the front desk to get a loaner toothbrush and they told me they didn’t have any and I would have to buy one from the gift shop.  I was a little annoyed at that customer service and dealing with that, I didn’t get to really explore the lodge area.  Luckily I didn’t have an excursion planned to get interrupted by all of that.

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Day 10  This day we were traveling down to Whitter on the train to get onto the ship.  We were sad to say goodbye to the land portion but excited to have a little rest from traveling from town to town.  We took one of the early busses into Talkeenta to explore a little and have lunch before getting on the train.  It was a nice little town to walk through.  Lots of little cafes and shops.

 

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We stopped in at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station where the climbers of the mountain will stop in before beginning their journey.  We talked to the rangers a bit about the process of preparing, climbing and how the rangers support climbers on the peak.  Very interesting place.

 

Afterwards we stopped for lunch at Talkeetna Roadhouse and stuffed ourselves.  Everything we had was great there. We then headed back to the buses and got transferred over to where the train was going to be.  We were lucky it was a nice day because there isn’t really any shelter if it was rainy or anything.  

 

Once the train came in we got on and found our assigned seats.  I had read about tables or seats and our train had all tables except for a couple cars that were lounging or dining.  Each car had someone narrating and it was nice and everything, but it was nice to walk around a little bit and have some quiet. We took some snacks and our water bottles and didn’t have to buy anything on the train.

 

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When we got to the ship we made it quickly through security, even though we weren’t Elite level.  We got to our room where our “meet us at the ship” luggage was and then it was off to the muster drill and we met all of our group in the main dining room.  It was a nice first meal but we were pretty tired and went back to our room for some rest.

 

 

Day 11  It was nice to have a relaxing sea day as we traveled to Hubbard Glacier.  In the morning I went up to check out the gym and get a quick run in.  I was pretty turned around and spent a good 20 minutes wandering around.  Turns out it was just a couple levels above our room.  Made it pretty easy to get to it the rest of the trip.  It was a crowded morning since everyone has good habits on the first day ;)
After my run I cleaned up and got some breakfast in Horizon Court and looked out at the water and it was pretty foggy.  Turns out that was the theme for the day.  We made it quite a while and then it was apparent that we were not going to see the Hubbard Glacier and the Captain came on announced we were turning around.  Pretty disappointing but we understood, as the Captain said, fog, chunks of ice and boats don’t mix. Dinner that night was a formal night, but no one was really formal.  I wore a sports jacket and jeans and was one of the better dressed.  After dinner we went to the show and had a good time.  No major issues of people saving seats ;)

 

 

Day 12 was another sea day as we traveled to Glacier Bay National Park.  I threw in a load of laundry before going up to the gym to get them started.  Every washing machine was open so it was easy.  The treadmills this morning were less crowded and looking out the window I could tell it was going to be a nicer day.  Blue skies and not too cold.  We had a quick breakfast and then headed up to deck 18/sports court area and found a spot by the railing.  I was wearing jeans, long sleeve shirt and a puffer jacket that I would be taking off and on and a beanie.  Being up on 18 we were able to go side to side easily as the boat turned at each spot.  

 

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There were never any really big crowds to deal with and it was easy to hear the narration of the rangers.
As we traveled between stops, we went down to the Vista Lounge and saw the displays the NPS brought on board and talked to them.  My daughter got another Junior Ranger badge as well.  We went out onto deck 7 and were greeted with a humpback whale swimming along side of us.  All in all, it was a really nice day at sea.  
 

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Day 13 we headed to Skagway.  I was the first one off the ship as I wanted to do a quick run around town.  It was pretty deserted that early but I could tell it was going to be a busy day as there were already 3 ships in port.  I got back on board (probably the first one back too ha), changed into my hiking gear.  I wore my trail running shoes, hiking pants and long sleeve light weight running shirt.  I like the long sleeves for sun and bug protection.  I also filled my CamelBack up with water (100oz) and put on mosquito lotion and sprayed my clothes with mosquito spray.  I packed my running vest in my pack as well, but didn’t needed it.

 

I grabbed a quick bite in Horizon Court and met up with my sister to do our massive hike.  We both wanted to get away from crowds and everything so we had decided to do Upper Dewey and Devil’s Punchbowl (and Lower Dewey if there was time) for our excursion.  We headed out and felt really good as we hit the first incline.  I could tell it was going to be an interesting day just from that initial climb.  We headed up, up, up and more up.  A note, if you aren’t in decent shape and prepared to hike uphill a LOT, this hike isn’t for you.  We were stopping every now and then to take in what was all around us, and get a little break of course.

 

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We finally came to a clearing and wow what a view.  We ate a little (Clif Bars that I had brought) since I knew it was going to be a long day.  After climbing some more we came to the clearing and knew we were close.  The lake up there was simply stunning.  I’ll just have to let the pictures do the talking.

 

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After a break that I could have stayed at a long time, we started the climb up to Devil’s Punchbowl.  

 

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This isn’t an easy hike either and if you aren’t experienced in finding cairns or finding paths in unmarked trails, this might not be for you.  You need to take your time in places here to make sure your footing is good and you plan your route through the boulder fields.  

 

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It took us another 45 minutes or so from Upper Dewey to reach the Punchbowl and I thought it was worth it.  My sister was getting a little tired and I was trying to stay positive since the walk down a mountain can be worse at times.  

 

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We were the only two people on the trail for a long time until we met a father and 3 of his daughters as they were going up and had to direct them to the next cairns.  We stopped again at Upper Dewey for another quick break and snack before we headed back down.


If you haven’t descended a mountain trail, it is easier on your cardio but is a beating on your leg muscles and knees if you aren’t prepared.  As we were going down, throngs of other people were going up and I kept getting asked how far they had left to climb.  At first it was easy to say “oh it’s a quarter of a mile” but that soon turned into a mile left for them and some disheartened faces.  I could tell they were hurting already.  To their credit, some continued on, but some turned around.  We finally made it to the bottom and I still felt decent, but my sister was done.  At the split, she went back towards the ship and I decided to take the Lower Dewey Loop.  I just didn’t want to miss anything.

 

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If you don’t want to climb a mountain, this Lower Dewey Loop is a good alternative, but after seeing Upper Dewey and Punchbowl, it was a little disappointing to me.
My total hike time was about 6hrs 15min and just over 10 miles and almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

Another tip if you are going to do Upper and Punchbowl is start early.  It was nice weather when we were going up but the temps started to rise quite a bit and people didn’t have enough water IMO.

 

I was able to get back to the ship pretty quick after that loop and took a quick break on the balcony people watching and kicking my feet up.  Pretty sure my sister took a nap.  I still had some time so I cleaned up and walked out to Skagway Brewing to try their Spruce Tip beer.  That and their Chilkoot Trail IPA really hit the spot.  I walked back to the boat and the rest of our group was getting back and we went down to dinner again.  I probably could have eaten 10 meals.  

 

After dinner we went down to join the "Puppies in the Piazza".  More puppies the better right?

 

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We went to the show again after dinner and then I was ready to sleep.  That bed felt sooooo good.  My Garmin watch tracked me as taking almost 45,000 steps and thought I walked up 353 flights of stairs.
 

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I am LOVIN your trip report.

 

There's nothing better IMO than people doing what they love to do when they go anywhere, but especially AK. I can't hang with all your running but down at a hiking level, I'm right there. DH went to CSU for grad school, we were married in Loveland and we thoroughly enjoyed the time we could spend in CO. DH went to HS there, so he has more familiarity even, but CO is in our hearts for sure. It was the beginning of our love for backpacking. Hiking has always been there for me...

 

When we did our AK cruise, we were northbound..we packed backpacks, fishing poles, etc. We went camping post cruise. We spent time in Seward. We couldn't do Denali the way we have always dreamed so we skipped it with the plan to have a dedicated Denali trip in the future.

 

I'm really admiring your 5-year old!! For real...and the way you seem sensitive to her needs while balancing your own.

 

So sorry you missed Hubbard...

 

Enjoying your photos...and everything about your report. Looking forward to more.

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Day 14 We headed into Juneau this day and main goal was seeing Mendenhall Glacier.  As we were getting into port I did a quick run on the treadmill to loosen up my legs from the day before.  I was interesting to see the area as we sailed in. I had rented a minivan about a year prior from Avis.  I did the walk over to Avis and got there right at 9 when they opened.  I highly suggest that since the line got a bit long with other passengers coming over.  I picked everyone else up at the ship and we took the drive out to Mendenhall.  It was nice to get out there early as we got to park about as close as you can be.  We picked up a Junior Ranger packet for my daughter and headed out to Photo Point trail.  It was a nice spot and there was a ranger there taking questions and doing a little talk.  

 

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We then took the nice Nugget Falls trail. This was a pretty easy walk with great views at the end.  

 

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After some time there, we went back to the Visitor Center, watched the video there and turned in her Junior Ranger badge again.  We headed back to the ship and turn in the car.  Some of the group went back off to get some lunch, but we were good to eat in Horizon Court.  I think if we would have had more time more of us would have gone back off, but we wanted to relax a bit.  We sat out by the pool, had a couple adult drinks and talked.  Really nice afternoon.  

 

 

Day 15  I got up early again and headed up to the treadmill.  As I was running we were pulling into the port.  It was interesting to see our huge ship navigating around all the small ships.  My goal for the day today was hiking up Deer Mountain with another member of our party I didn’t really know (boyfiend of my brother-in-laws sister).  We got off as soon as they let us (around 10:30) and walked to the trailhead.  Others have suggested taking a cab to the trail but it was a bit of a mad house so we just walked it.  The last part is steep like everyone has said before.  Nice warm up though.

 

The trail up wasn’t as bad as the Upper Dewey/Punchbowl trip, but it was still strenuous.  We didn’t have a lot of time in the port so we did a quick tempo hike with not a lot of stops to rest.  There are a couple of places to take in views and turn around if you are short on time, but we had a goal so we kept on.  

 

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We saw a fairly fresh bear track in some mud but no other sign of four legged creatures.  We did see a TON of bald eagles.  In fact, as I turned the corner to summit the mountain I heard a sound and felt a woosh of air as a bald eagle took off.  Scary and amazing all at once.  My phone locked up on me so I didn’t get any pictures at the top unfortunately.  It took us just under 2 hours to go up and just about an hour to make it back down to the trail head.  Then we started walking back into town and stumbled upon the 4th of July parade the town was having.  They had quite a few floats and I even got some candy, bonus!  We got back to the boat about an hour before we were scheduled to leave so I just grabbed a beer and ice cream by the pool after cleaning up and it was time for our routine of dinner and a show and after show activities.

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Day 16  I got up early again and went for a run on the treadmill and even from way up high we were spotting humpbacks.  It’s not every day you can run and whale watch at the same time.  It was getting to the end of our journey and it was a little sad.  We spent most of the day in Horizon Court by the windows and saw a log of wildlife as we went alone.  Whales were everywhere as well as a few porpoises and otters.  Outside of packing, not a whole lot was done this day.  Not a terrible way to end the busy vacation.


Day 17 I got one more run in, this time on the running track outside.  It was a dreary morning, only the second bad weather day we had so no complaints.  We were on our way back to Denver today.  It was tough knowing we would have to go back to the real world, but getting back in our own beds and seeing our animals again.  We got the bypass Canadian customs thing, so getting off the ship was really easy.  Hopped onto a bus and went straight to the airport.  We did have to wait in the lobby for a bit before we could check in since it was a little over 3 hours before our flight.  Once we got check in and bags dropped off it was pretty easy to get through everything.  Since we had a young kid they let us go through the more “Express” lines.  I think we were through security and US Customs in about 30 minutes.  Not too shabby.

 

Hopefully this was informative, and sorry it was so long.  Didn’t realize how much we packed in.  I'll be putting up some more about what the other people in my group did in ports too as soon as I get some reports from them
 

Edited by rma2001

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