Friday, July 25, 2014

Foto Friday: Wild Alaska

WARNING: The following picture of a male grizzly consuming a moose calf might be too graphic for some. Viewer discretion advised...

Just kidding, it really just looks like a furry brown rock.  But believe me, based off of the epic story the tour group who went in two hours before us told, of a momma bear with two cubs fighting a momma moose because she had already killed the moose calf, that actually is a bear eating a baby moose.  Alaska is wild, man!

Day 3: Tony Went Into the Wild...
One of the wildest things about Denali is that in the summer it is never got fully dark.  We were told that between 3:00am-5:30am it got to a dusk-like darkness but I went out at midnight (felt like 4:00am east coast time) on our second day there and got a good snapchat of what that looked like:

Even with the late night, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to get a jog recorded on my GPS watch all the way up in Denali. Since Rah is typically an early riser we went out and got a morning run in, and who should we run into but our dad! I guess Bizer minds think alike.

We got to tour Denali National Park, and learned about how the park was created, and the history of the park. Over the course of the day, we received maybe three different "What To Do If You See A Bear" talks (not all of them with consistent information, in fact, often it was contradictory). This was enough that it went from the realm of "OK, maybe this is a remote possibility" to "wow, people must actually see bears here sometimes." 

However, even with most of the group engaged in a park employee telling the story of the difficulties faced by early park rangers, reenacting it outside of the actual cabin rangers lived in in the 1930s, we turn around and who should have WANDERED INTO THE WOODS BY HIMSELF??? Tony, what was he thinking?!?! Luckily his bright orange UT coat gave him away and my mom was able to bring him back to the group and the rest of us could rest easy knowing he wasn't gonna be any bear's lunch.

We don't want you starring in Into the Wild, Too Tony to Care!

Denali National Park


She sang us a song her Grandfather had created as a tribute to the mountain (sound starts quiet but it's there):

Tony and the girls!

crazy pose!

posing by himself

Because I can't resist taking pictures of tiny nature:



After touring the park, shopping for souvenirs and a quick bite to eat, we split up and since my moms knee was bothering her, and Tony was a bit worn out, they went to the Cabin Night show with singer/dancer/servers and all you can eat seafood.  Yum!

The rest of us went white-water rafting the Nenana River. With 6 class 3 rapids and 3 Class 4 rapids (one which we avoided because the water was too high), it was a lot of work and a lot of fun. 

Our Family Group

Us plus Dad's co-worker, his wife and sister-in-law. His wife helped us organize the trip. He was very nervous about rafting
In our gear, I decided we looked like an early nineties show about aquatic space ninjas, the blurry picture just helps the idea!
When rafting, we actually got to hop out and float next to the raft at one point, and our  dry suits did their jobs and kept us dry.  I also almost fell out on one of the first class 3 rapids (called Ice Worm, ew) since I was in the front and we hit it perfectly. Our guide was great, he went by "Wookie,"
 and that gives you a great picture of who he is.

Our raft, minus dad, plus his three co-workers. The guide is the one that looks like he belongs in Alaska :)
Day Four: Denali to Anchorage to Whittier
The next day, it was time to say goodbye to Denali :( and make our way down to our cruise ship at Whittier by way of Anchorage.  I already shared most Anchorage pictures, but I didn't share the photos from our brief stop at an Animal Reserve... where we got to meet moose, caribou and bears, oh my! 

I was so excited to see moose up close, we had glimpsed two in the wild in the two previous days but they were nothing more than a fleeting impression.
Check out this stud!

but first, I moose take a selfie!




I Musk Ox how you are so adorable!

Elk-scuse me, I'm looking for a deer friend

glacier carved valleys
Her mate Adonis, lost a wing and was rehabilitated at the reserve, unfortunately he cannot fly to live with ehr in teh wild so every day she shows up and waits in the tree outside the reserve
Just swimming... watching you!
Hello friends, I know you want to get to know me but apparently it's feeding time so how bout we keep this fence between us K, thanks!

The next phase of our journey was very different as we experienced the Alaskan Coast on excursions from the cruise ship The Norweigan Sun.  I'm so glad that we added in the extra few days to see Denali and the Wild Frontier of Alaska's interior. Since I can't think of a uniform way to sign off these posts, I'll leave you with a joke one of our guides told us (based on the fact that reindeer are just domesticated caribou)

What do you call a scary Reindeer?

A Cari-BOO!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Foto Friday: Can Denali Come Out & Play?

Day 2: The Train Up from Anchorage to Denali & Our First Excursion!
New? Check out last week's Foto Friday to catch up! 

After a quick night's sleep we woke up early to board the bus and train up from Anchorage to Denali! 

We were so excited to see the interior of Alaska!
Rah introducing us to Alaskaaa!

It was a 6 hour journey, mainly because the train ran on the original tracks of the Alaska Railroad laid between 1903 and 1923 (Read more about the Alaska Railroad here) but it was so incredibly scenic and a great introduction to the last frontier.

Our group about to board the bus!
The sisters!

While onboard the train, we searched for wildlife: 

Even though we were unsuccessful in finding moose that day, we were incredibly lucky to glimpse Mt. McKinley, or Denali as there has been a congressional decision to start using the original name given the mountain by the native Alaskan population.  Denali is a very shy mountain and there is only a 30% chance of seeing her beauty on any given day.

The train also took some extra time as there is literally only one track, both northbound and southbound trains have to use the same track. The conductors communicate and alternate which trains get right of way and which trains have to pull over to side track and wait 10-20 minutes for the opposite moving train to pass

Timed this perfectly to catch the passing train!

view from the train car

Front of the train about to cross the 300 ft. bridge!

Denali looking fab!

The ladies Mom, Me, Kae, Rah, and Denali (although not all of us were quite ready)!

My wonderful parents and awesome Grandpa Tony!

Trying to catch the breeze and the cottonwood fluffs

What a view!

We made it to Denali, Alaska!
Once we unpacked at the Denali Bluffs hotel, it was time for our first official excursion.  It was something we decided to do rather late since we had traveled almost nonstop at that point.  My mom was really great in getting us all on board because it was a perfect end to the day and Tony could join in on this. My grandpa is 88 and is so much cooler than me, I hope to be able to do half the stuff he can at his age!

We couldn't actually go in the Park, they have a lot of limitations to keep the area as untampered with as possible, but we were able to ride around the north side of Denali National Park, in an area made famous by the book and movie Into the Wild (something we were reminded like 44,000 times). It was a great first excursion and the guides were wonderful, something we'd come to find with every tour/excursion we took!

Tony and his girls!

The Most Adventurous Father/Daughter Duo Around!

Stopping for a scenic viewpoint, check out Tony's skillz!

The rebellious younger generation took our helmets off when we stopped

Yoga everywhere!

<3 this picture!

Oh how I moose Alaska!

On the way to and from the ATV site from "downtown" Denali -- which was essentially a half-mile stretch of hotels, tourist shops, restaurants, and excursion offices -- we crossed over the Nenana 
River, on which a group of us would take a white-water rafting trip the next day. But that's a story for next week's post...

You can glimpse a rainbow over that far mountain, so gorgeous!