Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back to the North (Part I: Valdez)

Brian and I arrived home Wednesday night from a 2-week+ trip back up to Alaska to visit friends and family. For the most part the trip was excellent, except for the food poisoning we both got last weekend. Somehow upset stomachs seem to be a trend in our travel (i.e. our honeymoon). Thankfully the good outweighed the bad- by far.

We had a 3-hour layover in the Seattle airport on our way up to Fairbanks, so we had our first Alaskan Amber and Alaskan IPA. It tasted like home!
We flew into Fairbanks on Monday and then drove to Valdez on Tuesday. Outside of Valdez we stopped at Worthington Glacier. It has receded even since last time we were there, which was interesting (and a little sad) to see. I was pretty excited to be hanging out by glaciers again- not many in Iowa. Horsetail falls in Keystone Canyon. Beautiful even on a rainy day. We had such a good time with Mom and Dad (Platt)! Their downstairs apartment was open, so the accommodations were excellent- even a stocked refrigerator and cabinets! Even though it was cloudy and drizzly a lot of the time, we spent as much time outside as we could- including taking many walks. While exploring "old town" (the old Valdez town site that was destroyed by a tsunami in 1964) we came across a humpback whale that had been hanging around the harbor. Here's the whale only about 20 yards offshore- amazingly close. And here's Dad's black lab Bolt going after the whale. He has a history of chasing large marine mammals. Last year there was an incident with a pod of orcas. Bolt- the dog with no fear. Brian at Old Town.
One of Dad's newest hobbies is collecting, cutting, and polishing interesting rocks. So, he always has an eye to the ground. Here he found a lovely olive rock. Alaskan, isn't he with his Filson hat, extra tuffs, and rain paints?
Mom on the Dock Point trail.
The Valdez small boat harbor from Dock Point. There's plenty of wildlife to photograph in Valdez. Here are some black-legged kittiwakes nesting on the bridge by the salmon hatchery. For the last few years we've been sending Dad grow-your-own-mushroom-kits for his birthday. We haven't been there to see (or eat) the harvest until now! Here's dad with a few of the mushrooms he harvested during our visit (button and portabellas). Mom and I made stuffed mushrooms using Julia Child's recipe. The stuffed mushrooms were eaten before I could take a picture- but they were tasty! Julia Child sure knew what she was doing!We played a lot of Parcheesi (the greatest board game ever). Brian's father was very kind and let us borrow his new 4-wheeler for our trip to Valdez so we could do some exploring with Mom and Dad. Here are a few photos from our trip up Mineral Creek. Mom and Dad- getting ready to head out. Mom and Dad crossing the bridge to Mineral Creek road. Brian testing out his dad's machine over a landslide. Even on a cloudy day the views are spectacular!Dad getting annoyed at my photo-taking because we needed to get back for a Stan Stevens cruise. Heading home. Mom and Dad treated us to a Stan Stevens cruise that toured us around Prince William Sound. The cruise lasted about 6 hours. We were served a tasty lunch of soup, a bagel with cream cheese, and Oreos. I did not pack well and had to buy a coat for the trip- guess I forgot how cold it can be on the water even in June. I loved the coat I found on sale a The Prospector, so it all worked out okay. Here I am inside the "Glacier Spirit", excited for the cruise. We saw lots of wildlife. Like this friendly otter. And this sea lion. Lots of sea lions. And more whales. One of the highlights of the trip was when a group of Dall Porpoises played between the bow of the boat and a humpback nearby. They would zoom to the whale, then zoom around the boat. They were hard to get a photo of, but he's my best shot. The Dall Porpoises kinda look like a mini orcas- black and white. Columbia Glacier (off in the distance) and miles of ice in front of it. Stan Stevens was our captain. He brought us closer to the ice than I'd ever been- having to break through many small ice bergs to get us up to the edge of the ice flow. We bought new hats for the cruise. Ice, ice, baby. That's the end of the cruise around Prince William Sound. As this post is getting a little long, I'm going to continue in another...

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