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Alaska!


How do you describe “Alaska”?  I’m going to start with the words magnificent, amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, unforgettable, and truly majestic.  As I continue to re-enter my normal, daily life after returning from our weeklong, photograph-intensive cruise, I can’t help but re-live my awe-inspiring memories as I meld into the comforts of the mundane, familiarities of the life I know.  I’m glad to be home; and I’m thankful to have gone.

Oh, and how I missed Rainie!  Even though, legally, I could have brought her with me, I decided to leave her home since we were taking a seven-day cruise.  I’m glad I did.  Since Rainie is an energetic dog who loves to go on runs and chase after balls (and squirrels), she would have been miserable having no place to run free.  For exercise, she would have had to be on leash as I walked/jogged around the wooden “Navigation Deck” that encircled the ship (3 laps = 1 mile).  And since she gets anxious in crowds, she would not have done well-being surrounded by the throngs of other passengers (2,100 total) as we searched for dining tables and waited in line to get to the buffet.  Another concern of mine was that she would have been the only dog on a ship so large.  There would always be people wanting to reach for her, and no place for her to have ‘personal space’ outside our state-room.  I believe she was much happier going to ‘summer-camp’ at her foster-mom’s were there were other dogs, a pool, and lots of loving attention. Along with missing her constant companionship (I’ve grown accustomed to having her by my side, and didn’t know what to do with my free, unleashed, left hand) I especially missed Rainie for her blood sugar alerting!  I discovered I’ve lost almost all my ability to sense where my blood sugar is.  There were times when I’d do my blood sugar “just because it seemed like it was the right thing to do”, only to see numbers in the 30s and 40’s peering up at me from my meter.  How did that happen?  I felt fine!  I never have numbers like that with Rainie around – her alerting wouldn’t let me.  I had some pretty scary episodes on the trip.  I missed her so much!

Rainie aside, our trip was incredible!  The reason my husband and I chose this cruise was to participate in a photography workshop.  Rick ended up taking over 4,000 photos.  Thank goodness we don’t use film anymore.   We discovered that the grandeur of Alaska can only begin to be caught on film

As we traveled from Seattle toward Juneau, the weather was inclement and stormy (I had trouble getting my sea-legs, which was surprising since I used to be a sailor), but after that, the seas were relatively calm, and the sky mostly sunny.  We went whale watching in Juneau.  At one point, there were eight hump-back whales doing their whale-thing near us.  None of them breached, but there was plenty of tail slapping going on.  We were told that the whales were attracted to the captain of our boat (he was one of the original whale-watchers in the area).  We also saw our first bald eagles, stellar seals, and a glimpse of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Mount Fairweather

The day we slid into Glacier Bay was absolutely gorgeous.  The tranquil ice blue waters were stunning and reflected the beautiful mountains that surrounded is on all sides. It is a rare exception to see the great while pinnacles of frozen ice glistening in the sunshine.One of the naturalist onboard said that day was the first time in three years she‘d been able to see Mount Fairweather (named because you could only see it during fair weather).  We saw huge pieces of ice cleave away from the main glacier body, creating thunderous roaring crashes as they entered the water, followed by their ‘footprints’ of waves and ripples.  We were lucky because one of the ship’s pursers invited a small group of us to take photos from a high balcony that was designated for crew only.  It was a truly phenomenal day.

While visiting the town of Sitka, we hiked through the Tongas rainforest (where I would not have brought Rainie due to the wild bear population), and viewed a great collection of native totem poles.From there, we hiked to the Alaska Raptor Center where raptors (eagles, owls, falcons, etc.) are brought for rehabilitation when found hurt.  Here, the docents honored us by brining two owls and a bald eagle out of their enclosures so they could be photographed.  (This is generally unheard of, and would not have happened if Rainie were there).  The snowy owl was quite happy posing in its regal way, while the bald eagle wanted nothing to do with the paparazzi. Then came the highlight of the trip for me!  We were brought to “the Fortress of the Bear”, a sanctuary that takes orphaned or problem brown bears and prepares them for a “more positive future”.  The bears were huge!  (And, to me, loveable and so cuddly-looking.)  It was fun to watch them frolic, tease and play with each other, and pose for the camera.  After seeing the eagles at the raptor center, it was wondrous watching them dive into the bear arenas and snatch up the salmon that was being thrown for them, and the bears.  I wished we could have spent more time there – I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for bears.

We also went to Ketchikan, a quaint canning and tourist-oriented town, and visited Victoria, B.C. at night.  Both places have their charms and charisma. However, for me, the highlight of the trip is still the Fortress of the Bear; and that is a close second behind being home with Rainie.

If you’d like to see more photos, please go to my husband’s Flickr pager at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickfreeman00/sets/72157630832350612/