Hubbard Glacier, Alaska Cruise Video

We were fortunate enough to get exceptionally close to the face of Hubbard Glacier and take this video. The Hubbard Glacier is a tidewater glacier in Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada. From here (Disenchantment Bay) it extends 76 miles to its source in the Yukon!

The sounds of the calving and cracking of the glacier can be heard in the video.

Landsat image of Hubbard Glacier

Landsat image of Hubbard Glacier

Ketchikan: Misty Fjords Excursion

We returned to the heart of Ketchikan after our zip-line expedition, in order to catch our next bus. We had scheduled an afternoon tour of the Misty Fjords by floatplane. This became by far the most relaxing, awe inspiring, breathtaking part of the entire vacation for me. It can’t be explained accurately with words, or pictures even… it was a feeling that took me entirely.

de Haviland Beaver Float Plane at Taquan Air

de Haviland Beaver Float Plane at Taquan Air

Board an authentic Alaska seaplane and take off from Ketchikan’s bustling waterfront on a scenic flight over the Tongass National Forest. You are en route to the nation’s second-largest wilderness area, encompassing more than two million acres and, to fully appreciate the vastness of the Misty Fjords National Monument, you must see it from the air. Since its first identification by Captain George Vancouver in 1793, Misty Fjords has been called a scenic wonder not to be missed. You will see majestic fjords, waterfalls and lakes, and perhaps wildlife such as bears, mountain goats, deer, wolves and eagles. Individual headsets allow you to enjoy the lively narrative and inspirational music as you take in the dramatic beauty of a land slowly crafted by the hands of nature. See sheer granite cliffs, 1,000-foot waterfalls, crystalline lakes and low-hanging mists on your flight from Tongass Narrows over Revillagigedo Island to Misty Fjords. At the entrance of spectacular Rudyerd Bay, your introduction to the monument, watch for New Eddystone Rock–a striking remnant of early geological activity. Enjoy a brief lake landing in Misty Fjords, giving you the opportunity to experience the silence, serenity, and monumental beauty that surrounds you. Each guest is guaranteed a window seat.”

We bussed through Ketchikan to Taquan Air, located just outside of the edge of town. We were a small group and as with previous bus trips, we were given a narrative as we passed the historic structures along the road. Within fifteen minutes we arrived at our destination and were prepared for our flight.

The Misty Fjords National Monument, sometimes spelled Fiord, covers 2.3 million acres of the southeastern region of Alaska. Wikipedia calls it the “Yosemite of the North” due to the similar geology. You basically find yourself flying through a never-ending mountainous forest, carved throughout by glacial activity, full of streams, small lakes and waterfalls. A misty steam rising from the water softens all of the edges. Glacial snow melt, volcanic lava flow and mineral springs add to the unique terrain. Being at such an elevation allowed us to truly understand how glaciation works, the kettles and moraines left by the prehistoric sheets of ice were quite visible to us.

Panorama Misty Fiords Float Plane

Panorama Misty Fiords Float Plane - Click for Full Size

We flew with four others and a pilot into the monument, Enya was being played over our headsets and everyone was just silent. Soon we were flying low through steep rock lined U-shaped valleys, encouraged to look for sheep and bear. It felt at many times we could reach out and touch the soft pines we were flying past. Halfway through our trip, our pilot landed us on a lake, allowing us to really be encompassed by the exhilarating silence. A lone sailboat was asea at the other side of the lake, the water was like glass. We climbed out of the plane to stand on the floats in order to best take in the scenery.

Ketchikan Cape Fox Hill Tram/Funicular

Ketchikan Cape Fox Hill Tram/Funicular

I can’t speak enough as to how much impact this one excursion had on me, it is the one experience I insist you take during your trip to Alaska.

We returned to Ketchikan proper for an hour remaining of shore time. We would have definitely enjoyed having a longer visit in order to explore the village itself, its streets of wooden walkways and fishing museums, but we took in some of the local art instead and bought our first piece to take home. At my husbands dismay, I also insisted on purchasing the obligatory long sleeved tees at the largest tourist shop on the corner, but they did come in handy as essential layering pieces during the rest of our trip!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Ryan was able to work on his portrait photography with a local bald eagle, this one being located at the street market, but we were very aware of the many flying overhead.

We ended our shore stint in Ketchikan with some fried fish from a shack located near the dock. Wow… albeit wrapped in newspaper and served with lemonade in a Styrofoam cup, it was an incredible meal.

Local and quaint is the way to go. I personally left the day fully satisfied, humbled and blessed.

The Decision: to Cruise or not to Cruise

Flag of Alaska

Flag of Alaska

My husband and I are travelers by nature. Not ones who like to follow the beaten path, but we like to set our own goals and timelines. We would never have guessed our travel plans could ever include a trip on a cruise line, but after several months of researching our desires, our financial limits and our time constraints through work, we determined a cruise would be the best way to experience Alaska.

We were interested in the culture of Alaska current, the history of the people, but mostly the sites and sounds of Alaska’s frontier. We both enjoy our visits to warm beaches, don’t misunderstand, but something about seeing a new great mountain range, calving glaciers, rainforests in the northern hemisphere, peaceful fiords really had us excited. We also couldn’t wait to try the fresh ocean-side cuisine. Alaska isn’t an easy land to travel via car. Getting to many cities can only be accomplished via boat or plane. We wanted to best orientate ourselves along but knew without an unlimited budget and over a month of time, we would never see everything on our list.

Denali - Mt. McKinley

Denali - Mt. McKinley, highest point in North America

Once we started getting serious about our plans, we contacted a travel agent who had helped us with a few trips in the past, including our unbelievable honeymoon to South Africa Our travel agent works with executive clients out of Manhattan, helping to plan their dream vacations. She and her husband travel frequently themselves and we knew they would be best suited to help us put our ideal cruise together.

She suggested a few lines based on our desire to find a line without the masses of people or preplanned itineraries. We wanted to come and go as we pleased, eat what we pleased and enjoy a few quiet nights on the deck of the ship. We ultimately selected Holland America Lines and were very pleased with the results, as you’ll learn through the continuation of this blog. We also scheduled several on-shore excursions through the cruise line and ended our journey with two days on our own in Denali.