Thursday, July 4, 2013

North to Alaska! Part 1 - The Background

South Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord

I've been wanting to go to Alaska for a really long time.  Finally, the chance presented itself this past week.  Along with my mom and dad, my brother, and my youngest sister and her husband and son, we took off for a 7-day cruise to Alaska, with a day in Seattle to start off with.  This will be a multi-part trip report, as we saw a whole bunch of stuff, and honestly, each port we visited is deserving of its own write-up.  This will serve as Part 1, some background on how this trip came together.

The Idea and Plan

As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, I've been thinking about a trip to Alaska for a really long time.  I've had the (admittedly crazy) idea of driving from Texas to Fairbanks since at least high school.  Naturally, that would have been my preference, but considering it takes 8 days of driving one way, that's not happening if I want to keep my day job.  Second choice would have been to fly to Seattle or Vancouver, rent a car, and then drive the rest of the way.  I'd given that idea serious consideration, and might still do that at some point in the not-so-distant future. 

However, getting up to Alaska took on some serious importance in my mind beginning in October of 2010.  Why?  My wife and I visited Hawai'i for our wedding anniversary, which meant Alaska was the only state I hadn't been to.  I couldn't let that fester for too long.  Then, after our last cruise to South America last December (the subject of a future series of posts, for sure), dad started talking about taking another one and bringing the grandkids along.  Well, cruises to Alaska went on sale pretty heavily come January, and lo and behold, one sister and brother could go, so we had an official family vacation on our hands.  So, June 23rd through 30th it was!

My first preference would have been to drive to Seattle and catch the ship there, then drive back, so I could get my road trip fix for the year.  Unfortunately, I just started my new job in January, and didn't want to get too greedy asking for vacation this year, so a roundtrip flight to SEA would just have to do.

The Itinerary

The cruise itself was a 7-day roundtrip from Seattle to Seattle, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway in Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia on the Golden Princess.  On our route between Ketchikan and Juneau, we would pass through the Tracy Arm Fjord.

Not liking to take chances on flying in the same day the cruise is supposed to depart, we decided to arrive on Friday the 21st, and spend Saturday looking around Seattle. 

According to the cruise log we received on the last night of the cruise, we covered a total of 1,970.5 nautical miles (2,267.6 statue miles) over our 7-day cruise.  That wouldn't be a half bad road trip, actually.  This would be a relatively light trip in terms of states visited, as we'd be hitting only 2 states (Washington and Alaska), 1 Canadian province (British Columbia), and 1 Canadian territory (Yukon). 

Personal Milestones

As mentioned earlier, this trip would mark a big personal milestone for me, as Alaska would be my 50th state to visit.  The Yukon would be my 6th Canadian province/territory to visit.  Juneau would be my 43rd state capital to visit.  And finally, our short jaunt to the Yukon would be the first time I've gone north of 60 degrees latitude.

What I Hoped to See

Glaciers, naturally (and as the cover photo gives away, we did see glaciers).  I was also hoping to see some Alaskan wildlife, namely bears and moose, and seals, whales, and dolphins on the aquatic side.  Amazingly, in all of my road tripping to moose country in both Canada and the northern U.S., I've never seen a moose.   I was also hoping to get a photo of the Alaska state welcome sign north of Skagway - one of my roadtrip traditions is taking photos of the welcome sign at each border, and Alaska is an especially hard one to get.  And naturally, a week of cool weather would be a nice break.  Alaska had been baking in a record heat wave the week before our cruise, but thankfully, the forecast called for more normal weather during our visit.

So there's a little background on how this trip came about.  Come back Saturday for the start of the detailed trip report!

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