S: Alaska and the Yukon 2011
FC: Alaska and the Yukon August 2011
1: On August 6, 2011, a group of 88 intrepid souls embarked on "Marlena's Alaska Cruise" with Marlena Adkison from Country Legends 106.9 and Emma from Cruise Holidays of Topeka. The tour spanned eleven days and included the Inside Passage at sea aboard the Holland America ms Zuiderdam, then a motorcoach and train tour of the Yukon and Alaska.
2: Vancouver, British Columbia. Lovely weather, and too short a time in such a beautiful city.
3: The Holland America Zuiderdam
4: I shared a balcony suite with Judy Godsey. It was quite nice and spacious (by ship standards, anyway).
5: Jeanette and Marlena came by to check out our suite. They're sporting the red and blue 'Marlena's Alaska 2011' tee shirts we were all supposed to be wearing that day. | Judy and me enjoying the breezy balcony, scofflaws for not being 'in uniform'.
6: Goodbye, Vancouver!
7: We were lucky enough to see some whale activity - little portions of a group of orcas. | The Inside Passage is breathtakingly beautiful.
8: As we neared Juneau on the third day, A number of us took an excursion to Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer glaciers.
9: North Sawyer Glacier, lots of ice floes. I particularly loved the icy blue ones. | We did not see a glacier calving, but the day after our visit, South Sawyer Glacier made the news when an excursion boat got too close as a big chunk came off.
10: South Sawyer Glacier
12: Humpback whale | Judy got a good shot of an eagle ... | ... and a group of orcas.
13: Next stop, Juneau. We had a delicious dinner then bought way too much smoked salmon as gifts next door at Taku.
14: While in Juneau, we took the tram to the top of Mt. Roberts. It was much higher and death-defying than it appears. | I mean, the thing was build on matchsticks! | A view of our ship from afar. | At least, that was my experience. Judy, on the other hand, got some great pictures (above) while I was trying to breathe.
15: From Juneau, we sailed to Skagway, a charming little tourist town, and our final port. From here on, we were on land.
16: At Skagway, we hopped on the White Pass and Yukon historical train for a scenic ride.
17: The train took us to Fraser, where we boarded the first of several Holland America motorcoaches. | Our tour group was divided into two bus groups as we headed up the Klondike Highway. | Sam, center, was my bus group's tour guide. She is pictured here with two of our motorcoach drivers. | Picture by Marlena.
18: The Yukon provided beautiful scenery along the way. | After a short rest stop in Carcross, we arrived at Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory. They had provided a secure eagle's nest, as the natural one kept getting knocked down. It was inhabited by a juvenile when we visited. | Mama was overseeing things close by.
19: We spent the night in Whitehorse and were entertained by the talented troupe at the Frantic Follies. | Up early the next morning to head to Tok, with stops at the Braeburn Lodge, home of huge cinnamon rolls, and stops at some truly offbeat little places.
20: Our next destination was Dawson City, where we had the luxury of spending two nights. Some say that the TV series 'Northern Exposure' was based on Dawson City. It was certainly charming and quirky enough for this to be true. Above, Marlena, Jeanette, and Judy take a shopping break next to some 'Kansas' sunflowers. | (The three photos above are by fellow-traveler Larry.)
21: Surprisingly, the community-operated radio station in Dawson City was also 106.9. | The Klondike Spirit | Jack London's re-created cabin. | Marlena and Nick (right) with two guides. The fellow on Marlena's right is a DJ at the Dawson City 106.9 station.
22: On our last morning in Dawson City, we took a ride up the Yukon River on the Yukon Queen. We saw some bald and golden eagles and this bear swimming the river in front of us. Then, back on the bus to head to Alaska!
23: From Dawson City, our motorcoach headed out on the Top of the World highway on our way to Tok, Alaska. Despite its elegant name, the highway is sparsely traveled and alternates pavement with stretches of gravel. Customs awaited us. | Our bus sprung a leak, which was discovered at Customs. We were in for a lengthy wait for a replacement bus. Luckily, the view was scenic and there were outhouses. | Marlena and others thumbin' a ride. (Picture from Marlena.)
24: The replacement bus wasn't quite as cushy, but after hours of waiting, we were very happy to see it! | Clockwise: caribou on the ridge; beautiful scenery; the fireweed was in glorious bloom everywhere; and an inukshuk left by a former traveler.
25: View of the Top of the World highway. | A brief stop in Chicken Alaska. Yes, this was the outhouse there (picture by Judy). | Moose at happy hour.
26: After a short and sleepless night in Tok, we were up early and headed to Fairbanks via the Taylor and Alaska Highways. | We topped for a lunch of hearty beef stew and a tour of an old gold dredge, then we hit the road again. | Spotted at another of our quirky stops. I joked that this was going to be our next replacement vehicle. | Alaska has a short growing season, so plants get big in a hurry.
27: Next, panning for gold at the Eldorado Gold Mine, then a stop to see the Alaska Pipeline. | Picture by Larry.
28: As soon as we checked into our room at Fairbanks, Judy and I were off on a separate excursion to fly to Fort Yukon, just inside the Arctic Circle. | The scenery was quite varied on the route.
29: Fort Yukon on our approach. The town is mostly native First Nations people, and is quite remote. Access is by air or boat. | Our pilot (left) and one of his staff. | Proof that I was in the Arctic Circle -- if only just across the imaginary line.
30: On the McKinley Explorer from Fairbanks to Denali National Park. The dome car was very comfortable and provided wonderful views.
31: Just outside the Denali National Park entrance. | Lodge entrance (picture by Larry).
32: As soon as we arrived, we boarded a rustic bus for an eight-hour tour of part of the huge Denali National Park interior. It was gray and rainy. We saw some Dall sheep, a showshoe hare, and six or seven grizzly bears, who, like this fellow, were out feasting on the ripe berries. Although it was mid-August, our guide told us fall in Denali was only a week or two away.
33: Up very early the next morning for a flight into Denali Park. The weather was not looking good, but the pilot grabbed a window of opportunity, and we were airborne! Flights just after ours were canceled due to the weather. As we flew further into the park, the skies cleared. | Our pilot and plane.
35: Awe-inspiring. Mountain peaks and glaciers everywhere.
37: Everything was breathtaking, but the whole point of the excursion, of course, was to catch the elusive lady herself, Mt. McKinley. Denali, 'The Great One'. She's so massive that she creates her own weather, and is usually shrouded in clouds. I'm told that perhaps one in three visitors get to see her.
38: And then, there she was. The tallest mountain in North America. At 20,320 feet, Denali is the actually the tallest land mountain on Earth; however, since the base is so near sea level, it is only third in terms of elevation.
40: After the flight, it was back on the McKinley Explorer headed for Anchorage. We got another look at Denali from the train, which also passed through famous Wasilla on the way.
41: More scenery from the train, including this pair of trumpeter swans.
42: All maps are from Google Maps, Inc. | From home (Topeka, Kansas) to Kansas City, Missouri airport, 75 miles | Kansas City to Minneapolis, Minnesota, approx. 400 miles by air | Minneapolis to Vancouver, BC, Canada, approx. 1500 miles by air | Vancouver to Skagway, Alaska through the Inside Passage, 1,027 miles by ship | Skagway to Fraser, BC by train, 22 miles | Fraser to Carcross, Yukon Territory, about 43 miles by motorcoach | Carcross to Whitehorse, 45 miles by motorcoach | Whitehorse to Dawson City, 332 miles by motorcoach | Our Itinerary | Our Itinerary
43: All maps are from Google Maps, Inc. | Dawson City (A) to Tok, Alaska (B), 188 miles by motorcoach | Tok to Fairbanks 202 miles by motorcoach | Fairbanks to Fort Yukon, 288 miles round trip by air | Fairbanks to Denali National Park, 122 miles by train | Denali National Park to Anchorage, approx. 250 miles by train | Anchorage to Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2500 miles by air | Minneapolis to Kansas City, approx. 400 miles by air | Home again, home again, 75 miles | Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park, approx. 100 miles round trip by bus. Round trip flight to Mt. McKinley (Denali), 200 miles | 7,769 miles, give or take a few
44: On February 25, 2012, we had a reunion at a sports bar in Topeka. About half of the group attended. (I am just barely visible in the back row next to Dallas.) You can tell it was a fun group!