Day 1 June 1

Our flight is at 2:45. Before we leave we go to My Thai for our fix of Thai food, knowing that it might be some time before we are able to enjoy Thai food again. Our flight is oversold, I try to arrange it so that we can still make our Fairbanks connection and take a later flight to Seattle. There is just no way to make it work. We barely make our connection in Dallas. Our plane from Amarillo is very late leaving. When we get close to Seattle I see a breathtaking site. Probably the most awesome site of our whole trip. I was noticing several mountain peaks popping just above the clouds when all of the sudden Mt. Ranier busts into view. It is huge and seems to rise above the clouds forever. It really was an awesome sight. We get into Seattle and have a short layover before getting on Alaska Airlines for our flight to Fairbanks. We arrive Fairbanks at 1:45 AM. We are met at baggage claims by someone to take us to the hotel. We wait and wait for luggage. Never shows. They tell us it will be in on the next morning flight and they will deliver it to the hotel. What really struck us odd was the fact that it was still very light outside. There was no real need for the driver to use his headlights. He said that this was about as dark as it gets this time of year. We are only about 125 miles from the Arctic Circle. We are staying at the Wedgewood Resort. It is real nice with a kitchen and living room. We learn that in the winter they rent these out to college students at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Day 2 June 2

We get our first taste of Salmon at the breakfast buffet (Salmon quiche). After breakfast we meet our tour guide, Kathleen. She is concerned that we have no coats. It is quite chilly out and our jackets are in our luggage. We go to the gift shop and buy two sweat shirts and a disposable camera. Cost us $70.00 but at least we will be warmer. We get on the riverboat Discovery for a trip down the Chena river and then down the Tanana river. A bush pilot takes off from the shore showing us how little space is required to take off and land. He uses only about 200 feet. We then stop by Susan Butcher's house and see where she raises her sled dogs. Susan has won the Iditarod sled race four times. We get to speak with her and she tells us what she looks for in sled dogs. We then get to see the "wedding of the waters" where the two rivers meet. The Chena is spring fed and the Tanana is a glacier fed river and carries much silt. You can see where the two join. We then go down to see a fish wheel that is used to capture Salmon for the native tribes. We see a demonstration of how they clean the Salmon and then smoke it for their use and also to feed their dogs. We then go through an Indian village to see how they lived. We see a variety of fur pelts and see their reindeer. The only difference between reindeer and caribou is that the reindeer are domestic and the caribou is wild. (Also, reindeer can fly). We see a sled dog demonstration by Susan Butcher's husband and he explains what the role of each dog is on the team. We then go back up river. We get our first taste of reindeer sausage; but not our last taste; every breakfast has reindeer sausage offered. We get back to Fairbanks and then go out to see the Alaskan pipeline. The pipeline is really something. It is 48" in diameter and is at least 5 foot above the ground so as not to interfere with migration of animals. It travels above the permafrost and below ground where there is not permafrost. It averages 1,435 million barrels a day and takes 6.2 miles to make the 800 mile trip. It is zig zagged to allow for sudden temperature changes and also earthquakes. There are some used pigs that are sent through the pipeline to clean it.Back to our hotel and still no luggage.I called the airlines and they said it arrived around noon and they would deliver it. By 4:30 it still had not arrived and I called again and told them we needed cameras and coats for our show this evening. They said they would try to get it to us before we left at 6:00. It came at 5:45. We grabbed the cameras and coats and got on the bus to go to Alaska Land and our Salmon Bake. The Salmon bake was all the Salmon, Halibut and ribs you could eat. The Salmon was the best I have ever tasted. Ann said the ribs were real tough. I ate several helpings of Salmon and Ann ate mostly Halibut. If you didn't want the fish or ribs, they had a 19 ounce steak available. We then went to a bar where they had a musical play about the early Alaskan frontier and the gold mining. It was pretty good.

Day 3 June 3rd

We got on the Alaskan railroad at 8:30 and then traveled by rail to Denali. We were in a domed sight seeing car. Breakfast was provided on the train. It was a good breakfast. We saw some beautiful scenery on the way to Denali. We arrived at Denali National Park about 12:30 and lunch was on our own. We went to a dog sled demonstration put on by the Park Service. They still use dog sleds to patrol the park in the winter. The dogs sure got excited when she went to select which dogs would get to pull the sled. You could go up and pet the dogs before the demonstration. It was raining very light and they smelled like wet dogs. We checked into our lodge at McKinley Village. It was a rustic lodge made out of spruce. The only trees up here are spruce, aspen and birch. That evening we go to supper at Fanny's Roadhouse and enjoy cabin night. It is all you can eat of Salmon and ribs. The Salmon was OK, but the ribs were out of this world. I saw a guy eat more ribs than you could imagine. The waiters were the actors and singers and they put on a show after they served us. They were really good and had excellent voices. We went to bed early tonight since we had to get up a 5:00 the next morning to go on our wildlife tour. We liked the lodge because we were able to get it dark in our room. It never got dark and that made going to sleep tough.

Day 4 June 4

We board our bus at 6:00 for our trip into the Denali National Park for a wildlife tour. The bus is a modified school bus driven by a naturalist/guide/bus driver. His name is Rich and he really is knowledgeable. As we begin to gain elevation, it begins to snow on us. At times the snow is so thick it makes it hard to see the wildlife. We learn later that the snow was a blessing, keeping down the dust on the dirt road. There is only one road into the park and after about 25 miles, the only vehicles allowed to enter are our buses. We see a moose and her calf down by a creek. The next animals we see are the Dall sheep. They are white and easy to spot where it is not snowing. They love to live on the steep inclines. We get to see them up close and personal as they cross the road in front of us. We see a Snowshoe hare; they have large white feet and are quite a bit larger than our rabbits. We see two herd of Caribou. There were probably twenty in each herd. We see a variety of birds including Harrier's and a Gere falcon. There are only 500 of these alive in the world today. TheGere falcon took over the nest of a golden eagle. Our guide said that he saw the two battle over the skies a week before and the falcon won. The Gere falcon is nesting on a cliff. Ann keeps wishing that we would see a bear and it is beginning to look like we won't, when someone spots one down in the river valley. It is a large grizzly that is digging up what our guide called Eskimo potatoes. We use our binoculars to watch him for quite some time. Then we go to our last stop before turning around and have hot chocolate. It really hit the spot. Our lunch today was a box lunch provided by the guides and tour service. It consisted of reindeer sausage, cheese, croissant, dried fruit and several snacks. At this site on the river you are able to watch a herd of Dall sheep on the mountain cliffs ahead of us. On the way back Ann and I spot the moose at the same time. We pull over and watch the moose again. Then farther down the road we see another grizzly. He is a little closer, but you still need binoculars to see him up close. The grizzly is about 80% herbivores (plants) and 20% carnivores (animals). We are instructed what to do if we should encounter a moose or bear in the park. For a moose we should start running away from it and it would probably leave us alone. If it had a calf close and we encroached on its territory, it would charge us if we stayed put. For a bear we should wave our arms and start talking (praying?). Running here would trigger a stimulus in the bear and he would attack. Denali National Park was really great. It is thousands of miles of untamed wilderness and the Park Service is seeing to it that it stays that way. When we get out of the Park, 4 members of our party ask the bus driver to take them over to the souvenir shops to do some shopping. It is about three miles out of our way, but he agrees. We cross a bridge and drop them off. Then as we start to go back they are bringing a wide load across the bridge. It gets stuck on the bridge and it takes 3 hours before they finally get it off. What an experience. We finally ask our driver if we can get off and stretch and he lets us. We are lucky in that there is a raft renting outfit close by and they have restrooms. This is probably the largest traffic jam Alaska has ever had. It has the road from Fairbanks to Anchorage is blocked for 3 hours. Traffic was really backed up, but not near as much as I had expected. There is just not that much traffic up here.

Day 5 June 5

Today is the farthest we will travel. I get up and notice that for the first time since we have been here that there are no clouds. I am hoping that we will be able to see Mt. McKinley or Denali (the great one) as the natives call it. After breakfast, Ann and I take a 30 minute walk along the Tanana river and surrounding area. The two girls that we took to go shopping and caused us the three hour delay showed up to get on the bus with bags on their heads. Pretty funny. We are very fortunate, only about 25% of the tourists ever get to see Mt. McKinley as it is only visible about 10% of the time. It is so large that it makes it's own weather. After about 25 miles of traveling we stop to take pictures of the mountain. Even though we will be closer, we take no chances, clouds could come up and cover it up rather quickly. The scenery on the way was spectacular.Thirty miles down the road we stop and take more pictures. Denali is the largest mountain in North America. I think it is over 20,000 feet tall. Lunch is on our own. We stop at a place called the Sheep Creek Lodge. We thought she said Cheap Creek and we were looking to eat cheap. No such luck. Food up here is about 50% more than we pay in Amarillo. We go though Anchorage and up to the Alyeska Lodge. On the way we stop and view the Portage Glacier. You have to travel by boat to see the Glacier. We just visited the information center and the lake caused by the melting glacier. On the way back we saw many bald eagles. They were really beautiful. We also saw an example of a hanging glacier. They are just hanging in the mountain.The Alyeska Lodge was spectacular. The resort is used by skiers in the winter and by the tours in the summer. It was very luxurious. Supper was from the menu at the Lodge. Ann chose the Rib-Eye and I had the fish off of the buffet. We saw the ultimate use of Salmon. Salmon spaghetti. They use Salmon in everything. That evening we went up the chair lift to the lodge at the top of the mountain.This view was rated the best view in North America by a famous travel magazine We saw hang gliders jumping off of the mountain and gliding down to the base. Ann had her eyes closed all the way up and all the way down. They had a very nice pool and exercise room. I went down and worked out.

Day 6 June 6

Today we left for Seward to go out in the Kenai Fjords National Park. We go around the Turnagain arm to get to Seward. The Turnagain was named by Captain James Cook when he was searching for the Northwest Passage. He would sail up one of the tributaries only to turn around again and go to another one. On the way the way there, we see scenery made for a postcard. At Seward we see two bald eagles resting in a tree. We get on our boat and head out to see some wildlife. Lunch was provided by the boat. It was a box lunch with either Halibut or chicken. The first animals we see were Dall's porpoise. Then we were able to see Orca Whales (Free Willy). We saw the humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, sea otters, along with many birds including puffins, bald eagles, murres and cormorants. We also saw a black bear on one of the islands. Ann was real excited and grabbed the binoculars to watch him. We saw the Holgate glacier and were really lucky to see it calve (have ice break off and fall into the ocean). The glacier is 400 ft tall and over 700 miles long. It really was a spectacular view. Supper was on our own. We got off the bus and ate at a small restaurant. After supper Ann and I walked two and a half miles back to the Resort. We were the mosquitoes supper. They were huge and they stalked you. They say that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito. The pool really felt good after the long walk.

Day 7 June 7th

Hey, we get to sleep in today. I went down to the pool and worked out this morning. Then we had breakfast and didn't leave the resort until 11:00 to go to Anchorage. We take a short tour of Anchorage. I notice that fisherman are lined up along Ship creek and are fishing for King Salmon. We are let out along 5th avenue just a couple of blocks from our hotel to go shopping. We eat in the food court of the mall and shop for souvenirs. That evening we go to the Gold Mining Company for our farewell supper. Guess what? Salmon and Halibut along with ribs are our choices. I go with the Halibut. I'm sick of Salmon. Ice cream bar for dessert. We then go across the parking lot to a huge souvenir shop. It has the world's largest chocolate waterfall. Back to the hotel and time to say good-bye to everyone. We really had a great group. There were 44 of us and we got to know most pretty well and some real well. It was pretty sentimental to say good-bye.

Day 8 June 8th

Since our flight isn't until 1:45 the next day we get up late and eat breakfast at a deli and then back to our hotel. We check out at 12:00 and check our baggage at the bell desk. I am going to spend the afternoon fishing and Ann is going to shop til she drops. I start walking down to ship creek (about 6 or 7 blocks) and smell onions cooking. Some is selling reindeer dogs. I choose a bratwurst and it really hit the spot. I buy a one day permit and a king Salmon stamp. I also rent a reel and pole and buy some bait. I meet a guy from Las Vegas that is a newbie to Salmon fishing also and we split the cost of the bait. (Fish Eggs). We find a spot on the dam and begin fishing. It takes me a couple of casts to figure the reel out, but finally I am casting like a pro. We see several caught, but for everyone that is hooked only about 5% are landed. This is the only time I have been fishing where the fish has the edge after being hooked. One guy on the far bank hooked one and he came clear across the river to about 10 feet from us and then headed down the river jumping about 4 or 5 times as he went. He finally shook the hook out. After about two hours of fishing, I set the hook on one and he was close to the shore. He took off and caught the line of the guy fishing next to me. It broke his pole and then he broke my line(30 LB test). I don't understand how it happened, but it did. I had several hits after that, but never got another one on my line. I saw several good ones that were caught. they were about 30 pounds on the average. I checked my poles back in and then headed up the hill to meet Ann in the food court of the mall. I washed my hands over twenty times and put lemon juice and cologne on them, but the fish egg smell still lingered.We ate at Phyllis' Cafe. Then we went shopping and finally went back to the hotel to get our luggage and leave for the airport about 9:00. Then we had a long time to wait for our flight at 1:45 A.M. The trip home was pretty uneventful although we saw Ranier again, but this time it wasn't as spectacular. When we got home it was out to My Thai for supper and then Walmart for groceries and then to bed. It got dark and I slept the best I had in weeks.

Overall, Alaska far exceeded my already high expectations. The scenery is beautiful and the people are very friendly.

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