Return to a Summer Favorite … Wellfleet, Mass.

IMG_2333With the focus on cruise travel the past few years, a favorite family summer destination had begun to fade to the background.  Not that Wellfleet, Mass., wasn’t still my favorite seasonal escape.  In fact, Wellfleet will always be our go-to spot to do nothing but relax, enjoy the beach and take in the sea air in this most peaceful of places on outer Cape Cod.  While cruising is a great way to explore new places all over the globe, there is just something so special about re-connecting with family and retreating to an old favorite for a week of fun, relaxation and quiet reflection.

David and I discovered the magic of Wellfleet nearly 30 summers ago.  Thanks to President Kennedy, the Cape Cod National Seashore became a reality in 1961, providing miles of protected beaches, ponds, salt marshes, sand dunes, hiking and bike trails from Chatham to Provincetown. 

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In the midst of this natural wonder lies Wellfleet, known for its art galleries, big ocean waves, tranquil bay beaches, fishing, boating … and oysters!  We’ve had many week-long summer retreats here – and a few brief off-season ones, too!  Memories of sunsets, long bike rides, swimming, beach combing, clam shacks and family hikes fill our minds and our photo albums.IMG_2476

With another cruise planned this summer for the two of us, this time to the Mediterranean, it looked as though another summer would pass with no family week on the Cape.  With vacation time scarce and the small fortune involved in a 2-week European sojourn at sea, an additional week on the shores of Cape Cod seemed highly unlikely.

Then came Alex!  When my daughter and son-in-law mentioned last fall their desire for a beach rental this summer in Wellfleet with our first grandchild, that was all I needed to hear.  Time and money be damned!  I immediately sprang into action, searching for the perfect bayside cottage to show off our beloved Wellfleet to 15-month-old Alexander.  A new tradition with many future years of Cape Cod summers immediately came to mind, and I made it my mission to start one.

There was just one problem:  The tiny 2-cottage colony we called home for our many years of Wellfleet summers were sold, and I now had to find something similar which would leave us with similar new memories.  

IMG_2561With great excitement, I went to my computer and googled Wellfleet rentals, which brought me to Home Away, a site dedicated to weekly vacation rentals.  With a family of 8 or so, we needed either a roomy 4 bedroom house or a pair of 2-bedroom cottages.  Finally, we found exactly what we were looking for: a pair the cutest little white-brick, blue-shuttered cottages I’d ever laid eyes on, directly across from the beach.  I contacted the owner, and learned that both side-by-side cottages were available for the second week in July.  While not the best week for Grandpa’s busy summer work schedule, he begrudgingly agreed to spend part of the time with us, and commute the rest.  With our cruise buddies also on board – also known as my brother and sister-in-law – I happily paid the deposit and eagerly awaited the arrival of summer and our return to family bayside bliss.

IMG_2354That week in July had finally arrived, and as we drove through the familiar narrow street to the tiny two houses on the shore, I felt that inner warmth and happiness that overcomes me whenever I arrive here in Wellfleet after a long absence.  It’s like returning home. 

IMG_2563As I sat there one early morning, amidst Wellfleet’s unassuming splendor, I thought how so very grateful and so very blessed I was to have this opportunity to share this best of vacations with my grandson.  I hope he learns to love and appreciate this amazing place as much as I do.IMG_2146

 

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My Top 10 Most Memorable Travel Moments of 2013

Japanese Gardens-San Francisco

Japanese Gardens-San Francisco

In 2013, David and I were blessed with another year of amazing travel firsts – first time to Alaska, first time to San Francisco, first time to the Grand Canyon, first time in a tiny 6-seater plane, and other notable moments of first glimpses. New and different sights and opportunities always produce an abundance of fresh stories and photos to share.  Here, in no particular order, are our top 10 most memorable travel experiences of 2013:

IMG_2455Flightseeing in Ketchikan, Alaska.  While aboard the Grand Princess on an Alaska cruise, we spent a large stack of bills on this privately-booked floatplane flight to see bears in their natural habitat.  Unfortunately, the bears did not come out to play with us, but the ride was exciting nevertheless, landing and takeoff smooth as silk, and the view from the sky was beautiful.  My initial fear of taking off in a tiny plane was replaced by sheer excitement, and the ride was worth every precious penny we paid.

IMG_1111The Grand Canyon, Arizona.   The thought of cold and snow at the South Rim made me really hesitant about visiting the Grand Canyon in February.  However, I was so glad we did.  Thankfully, the forecasted major snowstorm, which threatened to create a traveling mess, never materialized.  Instead, we were left with a fine layer of fresh powder and sun. The effects of natural light and snow-layered rims of the canyon enhanced the beauty and splendor of this natural wonder.  As we drove and stopped for photos at several points along the rim trail, I lost count of the number of “Ahhhh” moments where words could never describe what lay before my eyes.  The quiet solitude of the canyon in winter was a gift, making me wonder why anyone would want to fight the heat and crowds in summer.

cathedralrockCathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona.  On our drive back from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix for our flight home, we stopped for a night in Sedona.  The drive through the winding, mountainous roads blessed us with some of the most beautiful snow-covered vistas we’d ever seen, and as we drove closer to Sedona and caught our first glimpse of grand red rocks, the scene took our breath away.  As with the Grand Canyon, the light layer of snow against backdrop of red proved to enhance the beauty of these majestic rock formations.  We are not the adventurous or active sort, but we managed to hike our old, tired legs a short way up the trail in the lightly falling snow toward the grandest of the red rocks, Cathedral Rock.  Our hiking shoes were caked with red mud, but it was well worth the experience.

IMG_2361Glacier Bay, Alaska.  This is what we came to Alaska for and why we chose a cruise with Glacier Bay as part of the itinerary.  We were blessed with a gorgeous, sunny day when we sailed in, and as she ship slowly guided past the great ice, we marveled at the majestic splendor of the glaciers and mountains reflected in the calm, blue water of the Bay.

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Muir Woods, California.  A visit to the stately redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument was part of a post-cruise day tour of Sausalito and Marin County.  Although the sections of the park were crowded with noisy tourists, there was plenty of opportunity for quiet tranquility on the walk through this forest of old, beautiful redwoods.  The towering, majestic trees were simply stunning and I couldn’t help but feel small and inconsequential next to such natural beauty.

 

IMG_1705Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.  We had several opportunities to see the bridge, both on a pre-cruise city tour when we stopped for the obligatory photo ops and again on a post-cruise tour when we traveled over the bridge to explore the Marin County area and Muir Woods.  It seemed that the bridge appeared different each time we gazed at it.  At times the bridge was barely visible in the foggy mist, other times it was shrouded in clouds.  On our final day in San Francisco, the fog lifted and a blue, sunny sky revealed the bridge in all its glory.  But perhaps the most dramatic Golden Gate Bridge moment was gliding beneath the bridge aboard the Grand Princess on our way out of the Bay to Alaska.  You could almost hear a collective sigh as the bridge approached then disappeared above us, and the applause that followed by all the cruisers on deck said it all.

IMG_1664Dim Sum in Chinatown, San Francisco.  Chinatown in this amazing city is a huge area of kitschy souvenir shops mixed in with authentic Chinese art, sculptures, crafts and other unique wares.  There is a never-ending feeling of hustle and bustle here, and it was nice to stop at a small restaurant along the way for dim sum – good, inexpensive appetizers and tea to hold us over until dinner time while resting our weary feet.

IMG_1534Alcatraz, San Francisco.   I’d always been curious about this old prison since seeing Burt Lancaster as the Birdman of Alcatraz, and I wasn’t disappointed.  A steep hike up to the prison from the pier was well worth the informative self-audio tour.  Listening to the voices of former inmates tell of their time behind bars, stories of attempted escapes, the famous criminals imprisoned here, and what life was like at the prison made for a very interesting – and a little bit haunting – experience.

 

IMG_1956Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari, Juneau Alaska.  This was a 5-hour ship-sponsored excursion while aboard the Grand Princess on an inside passage cruise from San Francisco.  Unlike many large group shore excursions, this one was refreshingly different.  We were part of a small group of 12 other shutterbugs, both experienced and point-and-shoot type of travelers, and were led on a nature hike at Mendenall Glacier followed by an amazing small boat ride to search for whales.  This tour did not disappoint.  We saw amazing whale activity, enjoyed breathtaking views of Mendenhall Glacier, experienced beautiful plant and animal life, and learned some helpful photo tips along the way.

IMG_3091Japanese Hot Rock at Izumi, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.  My daughter, with whom I traveled on a cruise to Canada aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, is an avid fan of Japanese food.  So it was only natural we had to try Izumi, the newly-added Japanese restaurant to the ship’s roster of onboard eateries.  I decided to be adventurous and try grilling my own dinner right at our table, all by myself, with just a 550-degree blazing hot rock, some steak, vegetables and a spatula.  Like the waiter said, if it came out bad, I had only myself to blame.  Not much of a griller at home, and steak not being my specialty, I was a little intimidated.  However, it turned out to be lots of fun and the highlight of my onboard dining experience.

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20 Signs That You Chose the Wrong Cruise

pirate shipThink yours was the cruise from hell?  Here are some REAL signs you’re on a really bad cruise:

1.  Upon embarkation, you hear a computer voice calmly announcing that “this ship will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3 ….”

2.  The Captain’s name is Jack Sparrow, and he wants to know, “Where’s all the rum gone?”

3.  The Atrium resembles a waiting room, with a sofa, folding chairs, and a coffee table containing a copy of “The World’s Biggest Cruise Ship Disasters Ever”.

4.  “Stewart”, you’re cabin attendant, greets you on the first day, happily announces he’s going on vacation, and hands you a bucket and a sponge.

5.  That “size-of-a-closet” inside cabin you booked (against the advice of your travel agent) is just that – an actual closet.

6.  Your cabin is semi-private, and the bathroom is shared with the cabin next door.

7.  On a visit to the bridge, “re-CALC-ulating” is repeatedly heard from the ship’s GPS.

8.  The crewmembers are all wearing life jackets.

9.  It’s Day 3 of a 4-night cruise, and you still haven’t left port.

10.  Each passenger boarding the tender boat to go ashore is handed a pair of oars.

11.  Tonight’s “Surf and Turf” dining selection is Tuna Helper and Spam in a Can.

12.  Your dining room seat cushion also serves as your flotation device.

13.  The only song the band knows is “There’s Got to Be a Morning After” (remember the original Poseidon Adventure?)

14.  All the towel animals look like the Grim Reaper.

15.  There are sharks swimming circles in the pool.

16.  The end of the water slide is positioned off the side of the ship.

17.  The lido deck is occupied by chair hogs – the live, curly tailed, 4-legged animal kind.

18.  Dr. Hannibal Lecter is the doctor on call.

19.  The ship needs a jump-start at every port.

20.  The chief engineer is overheard mumbling something about a “bucket ‘o bolts”.

Author:  Janice Neves (October, 2013)

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“Mom Moments” From a Mother & Daughter Cruise

Mom&JennMy daughter and I just returned from a cruise from New England and Canada aboard the Brilliance of the Seas – or should I say from just Canada, since I already live in New England, and it seems strange to say I returned from a place in which I already live.  I thought I would share a few amusing personal cruise episodes, things that my kids fondly refer to as “mom moments.”  People of a certain age prefer to call them “senior moments”.

I’ve always been a little clumsy and absent minded, but generally I’d say these missteps, mispronunciations, misreads, mistakes, brain freezes and blunders have increased with each new gray hair and wrinkle that appears.  I think it started when I was about 40, when I decided to try eyeglasses with progressive lenses.  I must have tripped over a hundred things just trying to get acclimated. Since then, I always blame the eyeglasses for every mom moment – or senior moment that comes my way.

I could write a book, but here are just a few “mom moments” from our most recent cruise.

IMG_3307The Elevator.  So it would figure that on the first day just after embarkation, I would press the button for the elevator when the thing was already there beckoning in front of me with its doors wide open.  Must be my glasses, I said aloud.  My daughter immediately jotted this down as #1 in her notebook of mom’s cruise moments.

WET_FLOOR_CONECaution: Wet Floor.   Most people watch where they’re walking.  Not me.  I was looking around the Windjammer, admiring the room and figuring out which buffet food station to begin my grazing, and WHAM!  I walked right into one of those tall, yellow cones in the middle of the floor marked in big black letters, “Caution: Wet Floor”.  Why they needed to place it there I don’t know.  The floor wasn’t wet.  Fortunately, just the cone fell over – and not me.  The only thing that was bruised was my dignity.   There could only be one possible explanation – must be my glasses.

IMG_2176The Jock.  This wasn’t a blunder of any kind, but just an unfortunate situation that adversely affected the rest of my cruise experience – and eyeglasses had nothing to do with it.  I decided I was going to continue my daily at-home exercise regimen of 25 minutes on an exercise bike here in the ship’s fitness center.  I got on the bike, set the machine on automatic, set the tension to “it’s so easy an ape could do it” and off I pedaled.  I had a nice conversation with trainer, Six-Pack Steve, about workouts in general and how biking keeps my knee arthritis in check.  OK, Steve wasn’t his name, but the six-pack abs reference definitely fit.  I finished my 25 minutes, left the gym and went about my day, returning to the room for a catnap before dinner.  I woke up, and my knee had blown up like a balloon and I couldn’t straighten it or bend it.  I quickly raided my first aid bag, called for some ice, filled my handy Ziploc bags, and iced up the knee and limped off to dinner.  With the help of some Jacuzzi time in the morning, some ice at night, a bottle of Advil and one of those stretchy knee braces, I was able to make my way around the ship and even in port, but just a lot slower.  So ended my well-intentioned shipboard fitness plan.

I had never cruised at any time other than summer, and was not accustomed to so many older people.  Make no mistake – I counted myself among them on this cruise, and by day 2, and I was beginning to feel and appear like the oldest of the old, folks ambling about the ship with canes and walkers.  In other words, I fit right in.

IMG_2162As a side note, I was worried that 26-year-old daughter Jenn would feel out of place with this crowd.  In fact, one gentleman, while waiting for the elevator, asked her “What’s a young thing like you doing on this ship?”  To the contrary, she was very flattered being the youngest at the table every night.  She wound up being the go-to person for advice on movies, science fiction, Facebook and the Internet.

IMG_2959The Juggling Act:  Get me a job on a cruise ship, because I can juggle!  Too lazy to wait for an elevator, I was making my way down a flight of stairs one afternoon with two cups of coffee and a plate of pastry.  Hey, it was only one flight and my bum knee could certainly make the trip.  The only problem was I had only two hands – the plate in one and the two cups – one on top of the other  – in the other hand.  No hand left to hold onto the rail.  I was doing great until my heel caught on a step, and sent my cups wobbling back and forth and my hand sliding around feverishly in order to compensate.  Had to be the eyeglasses.  In the end, I saved the coffee and my wits.  Better yet, I didn’t fall.

IMG_3559Look Before Crossing.  Something happened to me after I double-fractured my ankle on another vacation seven years ago.  That’s right – I was as clumsy then as I am now.  I am a magnet for mishaps.  Memories of a double ankle fracture on Cape Cod as well as a trip and fall, landing face first on a sidewalk in Savannah, Georgia, make stepping off sidewalks and traversing a street equivalent to walking on eggs.  I don’t want to risk breaking another ankle, nor do I want to fall down in the street and get run over.  So, of course, there I was shopping with my daughter in Portland, Maine, last week, and while one side of my brain is concentrating on my footwork in navigating the sidewalk, the other side has failed to inform me of the approaching car.  My daughter grabbed my arm and stopped me in my tracks.   As I said before, it must be the eyeglasses.

Three things I have learned from this cruise:  (1) Get the knee fixed. (2) I can’t be trusted to travel alone, and (3) Lose the glasses and look into contact lenses.

IMG_3292Oh – and one other thing I learned:  I suck at mini-golf.

 
 

 

For details of our cruise, read my review: Boston to New England/Canada Aboard Brilliance, Oct. 6, 2013

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No Cure for This Cruise Junkie

DSCN1964When I told my husband I would be cruising without him come October, he was less than enthused.  We have enjoyed seven previous journeys at sea together, one being with Carnival, another on Norwegian, and the rest with Princess.  I was itching to try another line, not because I disliked the other three, but simply because I want to say that I’ve sailed every major cruise line, at least once.

25448_111060068905343_1039650_nDavid and I discovered cruising fairly late in life, at age 47.  Why we waited so long to sail away on a ship at sea remains a mystery, but embarking on our first cruise for our 25th anniversary got us completely hooked.  I spent countless hours over a 14-month span preparing for that first cruise – and the same is true for each one that followed.

Has the excitement and anticipation dimmed over the years with each new booking?  Not in the least.  The only thing that has changed is the number of bookings I have in the pipeline.  What was once the excitement and joy of booking one new cruise immediately after disembarking the last has now become booking three or four.   My family says I’m obsessed, but I don’t see it that way.  I just love to be on the ocean and see it as an opportunity to try new experiences – new ships and new itineraries.  No longer am I content to restrict my vacation time to the same week every summer to in order to work around a spouse’s school schedule.

brillianceTo quench my unending thirst for new cruises and to reaffirm my status as a cruise “junkie”, I began researching some other options and liked what I found.  For instance, just up the road in Boston, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas would be doing fall foliage runs up the coast through New England and Canada.  I was super excited – it would be a new itinerary for me.  Despite living in the Northeast my entire life, I had never been to any of the places on the schedule – Portland, Bar Harbor, Halifax and Saint John.

Neither had I yet sailed Royal Caribbean, a line I’ve always wanted to try, but my husband always vetoed because “it’s just not Princess.”  Well, I thought to myself, David will be busy with school when this cruise is set to sail, so here is my big chance to stray.  Yeah, he’ll object and otherwise put up a fuss over my going without him, but hey, he’ll get over it.

IMG_0817Next, I needed to find someone to join me.  I don’t fancy the idea of traveling solo, and even if I did, I am not prepared to pay an obscene single supplement.  So I started going through my meager list of family and friends and soon discovered it wasn’t easy to find someone with money to spare who wasn’t committed to work or babies.  There was only one logical choice:  our daughter, Jenn, who still had some vacation time coming.  She jumped at the chance to take a week off from her hectic job in tech support, and I knew she would be a great travel companion, too – easy going, quiet and she doesn’t whine!

I immediately blocked off a week from work and booked the cruise.  Even better, as luck would have it, I qualified for a senior discount – another first for me.  On one hand, I was dismayed that I would ever be considered “old”, but on the other hand, I was grateful for the savings.

Not willing to stop there, I continued my search for another cruise in the not-too-distant future.  I had been badgering my husband for years about cruising during school break, but he would always protest, preferring to be home catching up on reading, TV watching or – more often than not – school work.  What kind of vacation is that, I ask!

rubyLo and behold, my email reveals that Princess, for the first time ever, will be sailing short 4 and 5 day cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, and wouldn’t you know – one of them falls during April break!  Surely, he will come around this time.  After all, it’s Princess, his favorite cruise line.   Well, I was right.  Not that it didn’t take a little convincing, but he was on board with the idea pretty quickly.  Before he had a chance to change his mind, I went immediately to the computer and booked our 5-day Caribbean cruise on the Ruby Princess scheduled to sail during April break.

celebrity_reflectionFor what has become our annual summer cruise, my search for the new and different in 2014 resumed.  We’ve been talking about the Mediterranean for a number of years, but when it came time to book, we’d always end up somewhere else on the map.  Finally, it’s settled.  Next August, we are jumping the Princess ship and climbing aboard yet another – this time, Celebrity.  Once again, for David, it was not an easy sell to choose Celebrity over Princess, but the price was right, the promo was one we couldn’t refuse, and both were really enraptured with the brochure depicting all the fun we would have aboard the very beautiful Celebrity Reflection visiting Italy and Greece.

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I can’t wait to see what new cruise adventures await us in our retirement years … some day.  Maybe a transatlantic cruise?  A repositioning cruise?  A dirt-cheap last minute cruise only someone with a flexible schedule could possibly consider?

The possibilities are endless, so stay tuned!

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Winging It in Alaska … “Bear”ly

A cruise to Alaska isn’t about standing at the railing watching the scenery.  Don’t get me wrong; you’ll see some amazing scenery from the deck of a cruise ship – wildlife, panoramic vistas and glaciers.  No, to really experience Alaska, you’ll need to get off the ship and venture out into the wild and commune with nature.

IMG_2385My husband came up with the idea first – a flightseeing trip to see black bears in their natural habitat.  I’d seen pictures – tiny planes that fly relatively low and land on water. The pessimist in me (or “negative nanny” as the hubby affectionately calls me) immediately came to surface, as I thought to myself … are these little winged vehicles safe?  Is our will up to date?  Is our insurance going to cover if the plane goes down?  What if the plane breaks down and we miss the ship?  What if the weather’s bad?  Will I be able to get my arthritic knees up the ladder into the seat?  Will my beefy husband fit?  You can see where I was going with this.  I found the idea a little unsettling, to say the least.

IMG_2520When I am presented with any potentially new experience, I turn to my best friend, Google.  I immediately opened up the iPad and began researching small Alaska floatplanes, the best companies, and the best places to see bears from Ketchikan, one of our ports of call.  The more I read, the more I liked the idea.  “Hey, this could be fun!” I tried to convince my skeptical side.

My search revealed several well-recommended flight companies, so I began making some calls.  Two viewing locations for bears in Ketchikan were recommended – Anan Creek or Traitor’s Cove.  Both involved a half-mile trail through rainforest to a viewing platform overlooking a creek.  Traitor’s Cove provided a guide to the viewing area.  Anan Creek did not – once the plane landed, you were on your own, alone, at the mercy of any bear encountered along the trail.  Since our comfort level regarding meeting any large 4-legged wildlife in the woods is pretty low, we opted for the safety and reassurance of a guide and Traitor’s Cove a/k/a Margaret Creek.

The next consideration was price.  Like many tours involving travel to locations in the Alaskan wilderness, a flightseeing trip would mean expenditure of a small fortune.  Geez, I thought.  I could buy another cruise for that money – a short one – but a cruise nonetheless.  But, hey, this is Alaska.  A ride on a small plane would be an adventure well worth the price.  After reading some very positive travel reviews, we finally settled on a small family aviation business.  Run by a young couple with two very cute kids (according to website photos anyway), Dad was the pilot and Mom ran the office, and they owned just two planes.  Mom was very kind and friendly on the phone, patiently answered all my questions, took my credit card deposit, and we were good to go!

IMG_2533I had read stories of bad Alaska weather – rain, cold and thick fog – conditions that could possibly hinder the view from the plane, or preventing the plane from even taking off, for that matter.  As luck would have it, we were blessed with a perfect sunny day for our flight.  I won’t lie, though … I was really nervous.  My stomach was doing flips, and I ate very little that morning.   We were picked up as scheduled on the dock, driven to the DeHavilland Beaver 6-passenger floatplane, shown a brief safety video while we all settled our account, and led to the plane, along with our 4 other flight mates.

Now, remember when I mentioned the family owned two planes?  Well, as we’re walking to the plane, Mom apologizes for running a little late – that one plane had to go rescue some passengers stranded by their other plane that had developed a small mechanical problem out on a Misty Fiords run.  After registering the look of alarm on my face, she assured us that all was fine with the plane sitting in the water in front of us.  Dear, God – I thought – I hope you’re right.

IMG_2412It was time to board, and pilot Dad assigned us our seats.  David and I were seated side by side in the row behind the pilot.  It was a little tricky maneuvering up the ladder and in and out of the seats, but the pilot was happy to assist, and I am happy to report that we all fit just fine.

Once the engine started and we began to take off, my worries melted away, replaced by excitement, and I felt perfectly at ease.  Take off was very smooth, and we hardly felt a thing.

IMG_2427Even better was the view.  In a six-seat small plan like this, everyone has a window with a view, and we gazed in wonder at the mountains in the distance and the beauty of the islands and forestry below.

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After about 20 minutes of breathtaking scenery, with pilot Dad narrating into our headsets as we flew, we landed effortlessly at the dock.  A guide greeted us and brought us for a short walk to the van that would drive us into the rain forest.

Close to the van was a small outhouse, and I was reminded of a YouTube video I recently watched showing a woman held captive for some time by a curious bear pacing outside the door of the outhouse she was using at another bear viewing location.  I really had to go, and I prayed that wouldn’t be me.  Thankfully, no bears came calling.

IMG_2472After a short ride in the van and some preliminary instruction in the event of an encounter with a bear on the trail, we hiked along the half-mile dirt path, marveling at the quiet solitude and beauty of the lush rainforest, with our guide pointing out some exquisite plant life along the way.  As it turns out, we didn’t run into any bears in our pathway, but we did find some fresh bear poop (yes, you could even see the red berries he had recently eaten!) indicating to us that one may have been recently nearby.

No hike along a nature trail would be complete without a photo op.  In this case, we crossed a foot bridge and caught a beautiful view of the creek.  As an added benefit, two people fishing added a nice perspective and some interest to the photo.

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We finally reached an observation deck overlooking a creek, where we all had our eyes peeled to the running water below in the hopes of seeing a bear or two come and feast on spawning salmon.  We quietly waited and waited – for anything … a bear, a porcupine, a moose – something to start our cameras rolling.

IMG_2484Other than a few salmon in the running water in the creek below, there was no sign of life – at least none that we could see with the naked eye.  Finally, two bald eagles flew low overhead through the trees, landed and posed for pictures.  These two majestic birds flew around, landed here and there, and otherwise kept us entertained for the rest of the time at the creek.

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Come to find out, the recent spell of unseasonably warm, dry, sunny weather in the area – while great for the tourists – had not been so good for bear sightings. The water levels in the streams were low, with far fewer salmon running, resulting in fewer bears showing up for dinner.

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In the end, no bears were seen on this trip.  The only photograph showing evidence of bears at Traitor’s Cove was a detailed picture of bear poop!  Although we were disappointed that the bears did not come out to play that day, we thoroughly enjoyed the ride!

As an added bonus, we had a great view of our cruise ship – the Grand Princess – from the plane when we landed!

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For more photos of our Flightseeing excursion from Ketchikan, AK, view my Web Album.

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Alaska Cruise Highlight ~ A Day in Glacier Bay

IMG_2203This was it, the reason for our cruise to Alaska – to see glaciers before they melt.  We were aboard the Grand Princess, on an 11-day cruise, which left San Francisco on July 29, 2013.

The Captain told us the previous day that the best place to initially observe the glaciers would be port side, and a naturalist from Glacier Bay National Park would be on board to narrate about our wondrous surroundings.  We reached Glacier Bay about 6:00 a.m., and as the morning wore on, the skies became sunnier and the water bluer than we could have imagined, setting up what would become one of the most breathtaking visual displays of nature that we’ve ever seen.

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We woke up early, grabbed our cameras and binoculars, donned a couple of warm layers and headed up top, where we could get a good panoramic vista.  There were already a few hardy souls up there when we arrived, wrapped in blankets sitting in chairs by the railing.  This looked like a good idea, so we did the same.

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I won’t lie.  It was freezing up there on deck!  It wasn’t long before we ran back to the cabin for another layer or two.  We purchased a nice hot Irish coffee from the nearby cart to warm our insides and hunkered down bundled up in our chairs as the ship slowly glided through the bay.

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My new high-powered binoculars did not fail me as I scoped the waters for wildlife and calving glaciers.  I spotted a few sea lions swimming by and a few whale spouts in the distance, and I heard from others that a moose was seen swimming from one shore to another.  As beautiful as the hills of Ireland and Scotland were on our cruise last summer, they were no match for the beauty of these snow-covered rugged peaks, mountains, inlets, majestic glaciers and crystal-clear waters.  The mix of clouds, sun, shadows and mist lay over the glaciers and mountains in such a way that they sometimes appeared to be magnificent works of art.

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20130820-220008.jpgAs the ship made its way through the bay, we marveled at the splendor of it all, including two glaciers – Margerie Glacier and then John Hopkins Glacier – and were lucky enough to witness calving at Marjerie.

One especially large chunk of ice starting from the top of the glacier came down crashing into the sea below and, fortunately, was captured on video by my husband.  I had gone inside to warm up and, of course, missed the whole event, but we are so lucky to have it on record!

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IMG_2361Our day in Glacier Bay truly exceeded our expectations.  It was humbling to stand in the presence of some of nature’s finest wonders, and I hope to some day return again in the not-too-distant future.

This is just a taste of what we experienced on our recent Alaska cruise.  For the full report, READ MY FULL REVIEW.

Check out my “Best of Alaska” Photos 

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