Monday, June 8, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 13 - Wednesday, June 3

This was our last day of our vacation. We got on the local transit bus and went out to North Pole, Alaska. They have the Santa Workshop with all sorts of Christmas stuff. Santa was there and I videotaped a message for each of the grand kids. We then got some post cards that will be mailed to each family at Christmas time. We also went to the post office and got our passports stamped with the official postal stamp from the North Pole. We also purchased some postcards there and had them mailed to the grand kids with the North Pole stamp on it. The light poles are all done like candy canes (see the picture below) and every thing else has a Christmas Theme.

In the afternoon we took the bus to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and went through the museum there. It was quit the museum. They had exhibit about the history of Alaska, they also had a visiting exhibit about the polar bears. We watched a movie about the Northern lights and we learned a lot more about how they are made. They come from the Sun spots and are always present in space. The stronger the sunspot the stronger the appearance of the northern lights and the farther away from the poles they go. They are also found on both poles, but the northern lights are stronger than the southern lights. The earth's magnetic pull also has a lot to do with the intensity of the lights; the final aspect that controls them is the earth's atmosphere. That helps give the color to the light.

We then headed back to the hotel where we met the shuttle that took us to the airport. Our flight will take about an hour to go from Fairbanks to Anchorage, and then we have an hour layover in Anchorage. On the way to Anchorage the pilot took us close to Mt. McKinley and so we finally were able to get a look at it; even if it was from 30,000 feet. The picture is out of the plane window, so is not the best quality, but at least we got to see it. Our flight to Denver will take about 4 hours, but we lose two hours as we cross two time zones. On the flight to Denver, we had to sit in the very back seats because we were one of the last to get our boarding passes and seats. We got the boarding pass for the Fairbanks to Anchorage flight online, but we were not able to get them for the Flight to Denver. Once we arrive in Denver, we have 1 hour layover after which we catch our last flight from Denver to Salt Lake City where we arrive around 8:22 am. Our flight from Anchorage to Denver took an hour 1/2 longer than it was supposed to, so we missed our connecting flight to Salt Lake City. We ended up getting on a 9:00 am flight and arrived in Salt Lake City at 11:30. We then got the shuttle to pick up our car and went to Mike's to get Snoopy. We had lunch with John & Jessica and the kids, where we gave them some things we got for them in Alaska. We then headed home for a long rest.

Alaska Cruise - Day 12 - Tuesday, June 2

After a relaxing morning we finally got up and went and got everything ready for our departure later in the day. We then went and got a late lunch since none of us were very hungry after the late dinner last night. In the afternoon we took a trip out to Jeff King's Alaskan Husky Farm. Jeff has won four Iditarod races and has a husky farm where he breeds and raises his dogs for his team. Those he does not choose for his team he will sell to other racers or anyone else that is interested in racing dogs. He usually will sell about 30 dog each year for about $1500/ea. When we first got there they let us hold the new puppies for a few minutes and take pictures with them. Then they showed us the older dogs. They were all in the yard tethered to their houses so they would not be running all over the place and getting into mischief with other dogs. One of the workers started howling and then all the dogs joined in, it got pretty noisy. Then they brought in a 4 wheeler that they use in the summer to train the dogs. They hitch up the dogs to the 4 wheeler and they then pull it instead of a sled. As soon as they brought in the 4 wheeler all the dogs started going crazy. They were barking a jumping around as if they were saying, pick me, pick me! It was quite a site. They then took about 10 dogs and hooked them up and off they went. They do this all day long, so all of the dogs get their chance to pull it. When they come back from their run, there is a puddle that they all lay down in to cool off and get a drink. They also have this large wheel (like a hamster wheel) that a dog climbs into and starts running. That wheel got spinning pretty fast. They also had this merry go round like thing that several dogs were chained up to and when the lead doge was put in the house on the top, he started barking and the dogs took off running. The lead dog continued barking sounding out commands to the dogs pulling.

We then went inside and watched a short DVD about the Iditarod race and some of the things Jeff has done with the dog training. Jeff's daughter told us what it was like growing up in Alaska and as Jeff's daughter. She has competed in the Jr. Iditarod as well as other races. She is not sure if she is interested in running the full Iditarod race or not. After she was done, Jeff came in and talked and answered questions anyone had. When it was time to leave I purchased his book and he signed it and took pictures with us. This was one the best side tours we took. One the way back to the lodge, we came across a moose that was alongside the road eating the leaves off the trees. We stopped and took pictures (see below), then got to the lodge, retrieved our luggage and boarded the coach to go to the train depot for the ride to Fairbanks.

On the ride from Denali to Fairbanks we saw more beaver dams and trumpet swans. Our guide showed us the Nenana river and there was a sand bar in the middle of the river and she asked us if we knew what the sand bar was called and she said: nenana split! She we also saw a bald eagle flying around as well as raven. She told us that ravens have five pinions on their feet and the eagle has six. She said the difference between a raven and an eagle was a matter of a pinion (opinion)!!! Oh, these tour guides are funny.

In the town of Nenana, they have the ice classic, where people bet on when the ice will break up, usually late April or May. A tripod is setup by the river where there is a clock ticking away and everyone writes down the date they think break up will happen. When the ice breaks up the clock stops. The person(s) closest to the date wins the prize money. The annual payoff is more than $300,000.00 and is often split by several contestants.

We ate wonderful dinner on the train and just as we were finishing up, we were pulling into Fairbanks - good timing. We hopped aboard our motor coach and headed to the hotel and settled in for the evening. The picture of the sunset at the bottom is from our hotel room and was taken at 1:00 am. There was a sign on our hotel room that says the later the sun will set at 2:30 am and rise again at 3:30 am. One June 21, the summer solstice the sun will literally rotate all the way around - not setting at all. Crazy stuff.

Alaska Cruise - Day 11 - Monday, June 1

This morning after an early breakfast we boarded the McKinley Express, the Alaska Train that goes between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It was an eight hour ride through some of the most beautiful scenery that I have seen. We saw some eagles nesting in the trees, 4 bear, a moose, some swan, and a lot of beaver dams. The weather was beautiful with mostly clear skies; however Mt. McKinley was not visible. It is over 20,000 feet from sea level to the top of the mountain, making it the tallest mountain in the world. Everest's altitude is higher than McKinley, but it starts at a higher altitude. McKinley goes from sea level, to over 20,000 feet. Unfortunately, McKinley was covered in clouds so we could not see it. I was able to take a lot of great pictures, including a couple of trains going in the opposite direction. An interesting picture at the bottom showing an A frame house by a lake. The houses are so anyone having problems in the winter can land on the frozen lake and the A frame is stocked with emergency supplies, so they can survive for a few days while help come for them. After they are rescued, they are supposed to go back and restock the house for the next person in need.

One of the towns we passed was Wasilla, the town Sara Palin is from. I took a picture of one of the homes that she lived in (picture on the right - green roof). The have an interesting ordinance in that town; no signs can be higher than the American flag. So the picture on the left shows McDonalds with the golden arches really short compared to most restaurants in other towns.

Denali National park covers 6 million square miles and included Mt. McKinley. The national park area grew from 2 million square miles, to the current 6 million square miles over a 50 year period that began around 1945.

When we arrived at Denali National Park, we checked into our room and had a bite to eat. We went to a dinner show in the evening. The dinner was fantastic. We had BB Ribs, salmon, potatoes, corn on the cob, tossed salad and blueberry cobbler. It was served family style. Since my wife and I were seated at the head of the table they appointed me the "father". Anytime we needed anything we all had to raise our napkins in the air and one the count of three waive our napkins and call our waiter's name. We had a lot of fun with this. There was also one of the girls that if you held a dollar over someone's head she would come and give him a kiss (one of the guys would come kiss the women). One lady paid five dollars and so the guy got five kisses with bright red lipstick on. The lips were all over him, pretty funny stuff. After the dinner they put on a show about some of the Alaska people during the gold rush days. Each of the staff played the part of a different character. They sang and told stories about the different characters. One of the characters was Charley McGonagall. He was the first to climb the north face of Mt. McKinley. He was also the person that was looking after our table and when I told him my name was Harry Potter he thought that was funny. So I got a picture with him. One of the other tables did not believe that my name was Harry Potter, so I got out my driver’s license and showed them my name. They thought it was cool and one of the guys wanted his picture taken with me. All in all it was a fun day.
The picture at the bottom is sunset outside our cabin in Denali National Park at 12:20 am. So the days are getting longer the farther north we get.

Alaska Cruise - Day 10 - Sunday, May 31

Today we went to the Inlet View Ward for church. I had called the Bishop to see if there was anyone that lived in the area that could give us a ride to church and he made arrangements for someone to pick us up. They had a beautiful chapel/Stake Center and the meetings were just like any other ward. The members went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to make sure we had what we needed.

After church another fellow gave us a ride back to the Hilton. He worked across the street from the hotel and knew the lady that ran a cafe on the corner. We decided that we would eat lunch there. We went in and introduced us to the owner and we ordered our lunch. When we went up to pay for it, she said the Peter had paid for it.

After lunch we walked around town some more. we went to a show about the Alaska and the area. We also went to another presentation about the March 27,1964 earthquake. The 4th Ave slide in downtown Anchorage, moved horizontally a maximum distance of 17.5'. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Valdez and a tsunami devistated several towns in Alaska. Both shows were really interesting. The one about the earthquake was really interesting. The room even shook when the earthquake shook the area. The 1964 Alaska earthquake was one of the largest earthquakes in the North America. 130 people died from the earthquake and the Tsunami that hit the area. Many places that had cracks open up and dropped the ground anywhere from 8-20 feet.

We then went to see an exhibit that had information about the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights).This movie was really interesting and had a lot of pictures showing the lights.

Alaska Cruise - Day 9 - Saturday May 30

This morning we took a cab out to the Anchorage Temple. Interesting cab ride, because when we told the cab driver where we were going, he stated asking questions. He said he was Catholic and wanted to know what the difference the Catholics and the Mormons was. I told him that one difference was that the Catholics believed that their authority come directly from the Apostle Peter and we believe that there was an apostasy and that the restoration of the authority and the church took place in 1830 with Joseph Smith. He then went on a long discussion of why people change the name of God. The said some people call him Allah, others Buddha and others call him by different names. The fact that others changed God’s name upset him. We talked about that for a while and then he talked about the bible and I told him about the Book of Mormon and Christ appearing to the American people. This was interesting to him. When I told him that we have modern prophets today just like Moses, he had a hard time with that for a while then it made sense to him. So I did my missionary work for the day. A fellow at the temple gave us a ride back to our hotel.

We then went to the local farmer’s market and walked around for a while and had lunch. I ate a reindeer burger. The guy cooking them said reindeer burgers have a little beef in it so that it adds some fat. The reindeer meet is very low in fat and so needs to have the beef added so it has some fat to cook it. After the farmer’s market we walked down to the Anchorage Museum, where we picked up some tickets for a show tonight at 7pm.

We went back to the Anchorage Museum and went through the gold show. It was a traveling display about all things gold. They had some interesting information on gold mining. they said that gold is found on every continent and most countries. They also told us the all the gold that has been mined all over the world to date would only fill about 60 flat bed trucks or would be a 20 foot cube. Gold is getting harder to find and more expensive to extract from the earth. They had displays about gold from all periods of time throughout our earth's history. They had a lot of different displays that showed gold from each of the periods, including today. One of the displays was of Susan Sarandon’s Oscar, and someone's Emmy, and even a Golden Globe award. They had a place where kids could make their own crowns with some gold seals and other "jewels" that they could glue to their crown. We took enough materials for each of the kids to make a crown. We were not allowed to take pictures in the museum, so there is nothing to show.

After the gold exhibit, we went through the rest of the museum. We saw paintings from various history periods of Alaska. The museum just finished adding on a new wing. The new wing had the section for a traveling exhibit (that had the gold exhibit). There were a couple of other sections that were not finished and would be open next year. Today was the only day that the museum was free to the public, due to the open house of the new wing. So we were blessed to come at this time. I told them that it must be a celebration of my birthday.

Outside the museum there were different things going on all day. When we were there, these people were doing native Alaskan dances. It was fun and interesting to watch.

Alaska Cruise - Day 8 - Friday May 29

We got up showered and went to breakfast. After breakfast I went and took some pictures and video of the ship, its crew and other things. Then we waited for our group to disembark. We then boarded a motor coach that would take us into Anchorage. The trip was beautiful and lasted about 2 ½ hours. When we arrived in Anchorage, they dropped us off at a convention center and checked our carry on bags, so we could go eat and walk around town. After lunch we stopped by our hotel to see if we could check in early and they said our room was waiting, We went up to our room and all our bags were there, but one of Grandma’s. They said if it didn’t show up by 3pm, to go check with them. Sue and grandma rested while I checked my email and worked on the pictures I have taken.

In the evening we went out for a walk around the downtown area. We stopped at a few shops and found a nice little restaurant to eat dinner. Then it was back to the hotel for the evening. Somehow I deleted the pictures of Seward and Anchorage. All I have left is this picture of the sunset from our hotel window taken at 12:05 am. The sun is setting later and later each night.