I LOVE Alaska!!!

Somehow twenty years have passed since my husband and I got married…how is that possible??? Our anniversary was actually in March, but we decided to celebrate with an Alaskan cruise this summer. What a GREAT idea that was!!! I LOVE Alaska! I can’t wait to go back and see more of it.

I expected Alaska to be a lot like northern Minnesota, except with more mountains. But it really wasn’t. The forests were different. So were the small towns.

And as HOT as it’s been here this summer, it actually felt good to put on my fleece and still feel cold.

It rains a lot in Alaska. I think I heard that it rains 250 days a year in Ketchikan (it rained while we were there) and 300 days a year in Whittier (rained while we were there, too!). But despite the rain (I really don’t mind rain…it’s good “writing weather.”), I could actually see living in Alaska. Parts of it, anyway. I really liked Ketchikan and Juneau. Whittier was interesting…everyone in town lives in the same building! Anchorage didn’t do much for me, but I didn’t see much of it, either. It struck me as just another large city…they had all the chain stores that you see anywhere else. And Skagway was basically just shops, which drove me a little crazy…there wasn’t much to do there other than shop. It has a rather uh…colorful history, though. And once you got out of town, there’s A LOT to do! Each town was so different from the others…each one has such a rich history.

We signed up for just one tour before we left (my husband left ALL the touring decisions up to me)…a tour of a summer musher’s camp near Skagway (because that was the one thing I really wanted to do in Alaska). But I couldn’t decide what else I wanted to do at each of these ports…I knew I wanted to hike…I kind of wanted to bike…I wanted to see parts of each of the ports (the REAL towns…away from all the ship-owned stores)…but then my husband had that bike accident three weeks before our trip, so I figured we’d better just hold off on the tours until we see what he’s able to do.

Not signing up for ship sponsored tours turned out to be one of the best decisions we made on this cruise! It was fun to just wander around on our own and decide what to do at the last minute. At every port, once we got beyond all the shopping, we met up with local people who were offering some of the same tours as the ships for half the price! The tour we stumbled onto in Skagway was the best tour we did (next to the musher’s camp). One of the big things to do in Skagway is to take the train up the White Pass. But my husband was pretty sore…he didn’t think he could handle a 2-hour train ride. But when we wandered the town, we found a mini-bus tour that went up there for less than half the price of the train. AND…the mini bus STOPPED up there so you could get out and walk around, take pictures etc. The train doesn’t stop. Plus there were only eight people on our tour, and our guide was FABULOUS! I wonder if he’s a writer? He had such a great storyteller’s voice.

I think my favorite thing was visiting Randy Cummins’ summer camp. Randy came in 66th in the Iditarod last year, which was okay with him. His goal was to finish the race. I liked his attitude. And I loved seeing his camp and the dogs (I even got to hold a puppy). It was about 40 minutes outside of Skagway, so a bus came to pick us up at the ship. The bus let us off near the entrance to the camp and a van took us further in. And finally, we got in this little jeep like thing and a team of sled dogs pulled us the rest of the way! They needed the exercise (there’s no doubt…sled dogs LOVE to run!), and well, it was a blast for us! I enjoyed every second I spent at that camp; I could’ve spent the entire day there…

Other highlights of the trip include hiking on Mount Roberts in Juneau (we saw a marmot), seeing a bear in the wild in Ketchikan, watching the salmon swim upstream, staring at the mountains (I never get tired of that), watching the whales in Glacier Bay, the onboard entertainment, the wonderful food (my mother-in-law warned me she gains an average of 7 pounds on a cruise…and sometimes doesn’t lose the weight afterwards! So I was really relieved that I only gained 2!), and just being with my husband. This was only the third time we’ve ever gone away alone together since our first child was born 17 years ago…and it was by far the longest of the three trips, too.

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