Grand Canyon Photos

Here’s a few pictures from our recent trip to the Grand Canyon. The pictures cannot capture the vastness and enormity of this beautiful spot. Standing on the rim looking in the canyon is breath-taking.

I had not expected trees to grow in the canyon.  Many spots are barren, but in other places trees grew abundantly on the walls of the canyon.  Such was the case in this spot near Mather Point. You can also see the layers of red rock in this picture.

  We were surprised by the variety of color in the rock strata.  In contrast to the brilliant red rocks in the last picture, these rocks looked as if they had been bleached white.

 Our first elk-sighting was unexpected and exciting. We were walking around the rim near the Aavapai Point, when she walked out of the woods several feet from us.

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 13 and 14–Moose and Caribou and Bears, Oh My!

 

For days as we traveled around Alaska, we had watched for moose.  We had seen lots of evidence of moose in the area (moose droppings) but no moose.  That all ended as soon as we arrived in Denali.  As we drove into the park we were greeted by a moose at the entrance.  We stopped the car and headed a bit nearer for a better look, staying a safe distance away–we thought.  A ranger alerted us that we were in fact to close for comfort and warned us to stay at least 75 feet away.

We were greeted by this moose upon our arrival in Denali.
 
Susan and the first moose of our trip.

After a few minutes of munching on shrubs, the moose wandered off and we continued our trip into Denali.  We were expecting to see wildlife as we drove the 15-miles that tourists are allowed to travel into the park; however, nothing prepared us for the sight of a grizzly bear walking down the road toward us.  Steve stopped the car and took pictures as the bear meandered by the car.  He was nearly close enough that Steve could have reached out the window and petted him as he walked by.  We held our breath and prayed that he wouldn’t decide to attack the rental car.  Fortunately, he had no interest in us and kept going on his way.

Grizzly bear walking down the road toward us.
We had a close encounter with this grizzly bear.
 

We continued on our way but didn’t get far before we saw more cars stopped.  In the field were three caribou.

Caribou in Denali
 
 

On our way out of the park we passed a couple more moose.  After seeing so much wildlife on our own, we weren’t certain that we really needed to get up at 4:30 in the morning for our 8-hour tour which started at 5 a.m.  But thankfully we did get up and go on the tour.  During our tour we saw several more bears and caribou as well as Dall sheep, Arctic hare, and a marmot.  It would have been perfect had our bus not broken down. We ended up sitting for nearly 2 hours until another bus could be dispatched to rescue us.  It was a long day, but all-in-all it was a wonderful day spent in a great nature preserve.

This Dall sheep seem to want to hitch a ride on our tour bus.
Another sighting of a grizzly bear.
 
Mt. McKinley, as viewed from Denali National Park 30 miles away.
 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 11 and 12–Talkeetna

After two days in Seward we  headed north to Talkeetna, passing through Anchorage on the way.  The drive from Seward to Anchorage was beautiful, with waterfalls, rivers, and amazing views everywhere we looked.

Upon arrival in Talkeetna, we took a plane flight for a better view of Mt. McKinley.  Steve was permitted to ride in the co-pilot’s seat.  Our plane landed on the Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Foraker and dropped off supplies for climbers preparing to ascend Mt. McKinley.  The glacial ice showing through the snow was a brilliant blue.

Brilliant glacial ice
Base camp for climbers preparing to ascend Mt. McKinley.

Talkeetna was my favorite of all the towns we visited.  It was filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants. I enjoyed shopping for handmade items created by local residents.  Among my purchases were a seal skin thimble, salmnberry jam, and a birchbark candle.  We ate at The Roadhouse, which was featured in an episode of ‘Man versus Food.’

Steve's blueberry pancake was larger than his plate.
Sunrise at Talkeetna, about 3 a.m.
We stayed at the beautiful Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 9 and 10–Seward

Our cruise ended in Seward, Alaska.  While there we visited Exit Glacier, went on a dog sled ride at Iditaride Dog Sleds, and toured Resurrection Bay.  While hiking up the mountain to get close to the Glacier, we encountered a jack rabbit and saw evidence that moose were in the area.  Unfortunately, we did not see a moose in Seward.

Me at Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska.

Mitch Seavey, winner of the 2004 Iditarod, trains dogs in Seward and owns  Iditaride Dog Sled Rides.  I first heard of Mitch when his nephew and nieces were my students at Fredericksburg Christian High School.  It was neat to visit their training facility and, we had a blast being pulled on a wheeled 6-person cart by a team of their racing dogs.  Afterwards we got to play with the puppies.

Iditaride Dog Sleds, Seward, Alaska
View from the dog cart
Steve and me on the dog sled
 
The puppies were adorable.
 
Our tour of Resurrection Bay took place on a chilly day.  The animals were out in full force, however.  We saw several mountain goats, including two mothers with twin babies, puffins, dolphins, a sea otter, and numerous sea lions on the rocks.  We lunched on grilled salmon and king crab.
 
Sea lions in Resurrection Bay
Mountain goat and twin babies

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 6 – 8–Juneau, Skagway, and Hubbard Glacier

Cruising the Inside Passage, there were magnificant sights everywhere we looked.  Whether  it was the snow-capped mountains on both shores or humpback whales swimming passed the ship, I could not help but thank God for His wondrous creation. 

Inside Passage between Icy Point Strait and Juneau

In Juneau we went to a salmon bake in a beautiful, remote setting.  The salmon grilled on the open fire pit was delicious.  The waterfall and river were stunning. 

 

This was our view at the salmon bake.
 
 
 
Waterfall in Juneau

 

   We also took a tram ride and were greeted with incredible views.  We ended our day in Juneau by visiting Mendenhall Glacier.  What a glorious day in Alaska’s capital city!
Mendenhall Glacier
 
Skagway was exactly what I envisioned when I thought of a typical small Alaskan town.  The town flourished during the gold rush days.  Today it boasts a year-round population of 902.  We spent the morning roaming through shops owned by the local residents.  In the afternoon we took a van tour through the mountains and into Canada.  We passed more hundreds of waterfalls.
 
Skagway
 

Steve and I at the Canadian-Alaska border near Skagway
 
There aren’t words to describe the immensity of Hubbard Glacier.  We were several miles from the glacier when we began to pass the large chunks of ice that had broken from it.  The captain brought our ship to within 2 miles of the massive glacier.  Even from that distance, it was impressive.  It was impossible to get a feel for how far away we were or of the glacier’s massive size.  A ship’s officer told me that the portion of the glacier visible above the water was twice the height of our 12 -deck ship.
 
Chunks of ice from the Hubbard Glacier
 
Hubbard Glacier

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Day 5–Whales, Whales, Whales

Whales at Icy Point Strait, Alaska

We spent Day 5 of our 30th anniversary trip at Icy Point Strait.  We visited the fishing village of Hoonah and ate fresh snow crab before embarking on a whale watching trip. What a glorious day!  As you can see from Steve’s pictures, the ship captain knew where to find whales.

 
We spotted whales by looking for the spray from their blow holes.

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Two whales surface together.

 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days–Days 2 – 4: Inside Passage and Ketchikan

The cruise got underway on a beautiful clear Friday afternoon 10 days ago.  We sailed out of Vancouver and headed north toward Ketchikan.  Steve and I spent much of the first two days searching for telltale signs of whales.  We saw a few dolphins and some seals, but no whales.

 
View of Vancouver from the ship

 

Beautiful Alaskan coastline

On Sunday we docked in Ketchikan.  We spent the morning walking around this quaint gold mining town.  We ate fresh king crab for lunch before taking in the Lumber Jack show.

 
Creek Street, Ketchikan, Alaska
Me and the American lumberjack team
 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days–Day 1: Vancouver

Steve and I are in the midst of a 15-day trip to Canada and Alaska in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary.  So far Steve has taken 782 pictures.  I promise I won’t post them all, but I will share a few of my favorites. 

We began our trip last Thursday by flying to Vancouver, Canada, by way of Chicago.  I’ve heard horrors stories about O’Hare; however, our experience was wonderful.  We arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule and more than our hour before boarding began for our flight to Vancouver.  We had plenty of time for the short walk to the gate and to get some breakfast.  We arrived in Vancouver shortly before noon local time.  We had a bit more than 24 hours to explore Vancouver before boarding the cruise ship that would take us to Alaska.

Vancouver skyline from our hotel room window

Vancouver is a beautiful city, with a mix of hundred-year old buildings and new, modern skyscrapers.  The city is very clean, and they take their recycling seriously.  Steve got fussed at for not properly deciphering the instructions on a series of recycling bins at the McDonald’s where we ate breakfast Friday.

After checking into the hotel, we ate lunch at an authentic Irish pub a block from our hotel, and then bought a pass for a “hop on, hop off” bus tour around the city.  Because we bought our ticket late in the afternoon, we were allowed to use it the following day.  We stayed on the bus for both of its routes Thursday, and on Friday we took the bus to Stanley Park.

River Walk at Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

We hopped off at the first stop in Stanley Park intending to spend 30 minutes exploring the area before hopping back on and riding to the next stop.  Things do not go as planned.  We walked about half a mile downhill to visit Beaver Lake, then we decided that we did not want to walk back up the hill to catch the bus. Rather we decided to walk to the next stop.  Thirty minutes later with the stop nowhere in sight, we realized that our reasoning had been faulty.  We  eventually made it to the stop, having walked about 3 miles through the park. 

3 nurse trees growing from one stump, Stanley Park

Stanley Park is beautiful, and I highly recommend spending time there if you have an opportunity to visit Vancouver.  We were particularly intrigued by the nurse trees which root themselves in dead tree stumps.

Our hotel was located next to Canada Place where the 2010 Winter Olympics medals were handed out and about 2 blocks from the Olympic cauldron.  We visited the site and made a quick trip to the Canadian Mountie store before boarding the ship.

 

Olympic cauldron
 
 

Canadian Mountie store

We were off for our Alaskan adventure! 

 

Daylight Savings Time, Spring, and My Top Ten Vacation Dreams

Daylight savings time arrived Sunday morning, bringing with it the promise of spring, longer days, and thoughts of vacation.  For many years I lived hundreds of miles from my family, and my greatest wish for a vacation was to come back to beautiful Virginia and visit my family.  I looked forward to spending time with my parents, my seven siblings, and my many nieces and nephews. 

Ten years ago we moved back to Virginia.  I get to see my parents every Sunday at church and often once or twice during the week.  Our children are grown and live nearby, and most of my siblings are within easy driving distance of us. I am so blessed to be able to see many of my siblings several times a year.  I love getting to watch their children grow up and participating in major events in their lives.

Another advantage of seeing family regularly is that vacation has now become an opportunity for Steve and I to go away by ourselves and experience new places.  We love the beach and warm weather.  Consequently, most of our vacations have been Caribbean cruises. This year, however, we will head in the opposite direction when we visit Alaska.  For many years, it has been my desire to see America’s wilderness frontier state, so this trip will be a dream come true.  We will definitely head for a warmer climate next year.

We are finding that our vacation appetite outweighs our vacation budget—monetarily and time wise.  We will never make it to all the great vacation places that we have read about.  So, I’ve decided to make a bucket list of the ten places I most want to visit.

1)      The Florida Keys—I can’t believe that we lived in Florida for twenty years and never visited the Keys.  It’s probably because Gainesville is 350 miles from Key West, and my heart was always longing for Virginia.

2)      The Grand Canyon—It would be a shame to live in America and never see one of God’s greatest creations.

3)      New England in the fall—We have close friends in Connecticut that we should visit.  I do believe we will get there in the not too distant future.

4)      Hawaii—Doesn’t everyone want to visit Hawaii?  When I was nine and my father was serving our nation in Vietnam, my parents considered having the rest of the family meet him in Hawaii when he took his R&R.  They decided against it, and Dad went to Sydney, Australia.  It would have been a great trip, but I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it like I would now.

5)      Sydney—I guess I’ve wanted to go Sydney ever since my father told us about his trip there.

6)      Jamaica—Jamaica was a port of call on our second cruise.  We had a wonderful time, and we’ve longed to go back and spend a week on this beautiful island.

7)      Seattle—I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for this city since I watched “Sleepless in Seattle.”  It’s still one of my favorite movies. 

8)      England—I think England is the ideal spot for one’s first visit to Europe. We speak their language, more or less, and many of Steve’s ancestors were British.  Until my father’s recent DNA test, I thought my ancestry was also British.  We haven’t discovered any British ancestors yet, but I still feel a bond to the nation that settled Virginia and most of the original colonies.

9)  St. Thomas—We have been there twice on cruises.  It is absolutely lovely. I would really enjoy spending a week on their many beautiful beaches.

10)  Alberta, Canada—I think my desire to visit Alberta stems from my I love of Neil Young’s version the song “Four Strong Winds.”  Alberta seems to embody the Canadian spirit, and I would love to see the Canadian Rockies.

So, that’s my top ten places I’d like to visit.  We may not get to all of them, but we’ll have a lot of fun trying.

 What are the places you would most like to visit?