Happy Centennial to the National Parks Service!

Hip hip hooray because it’s the National Parks Service BIRTHDAY!  Whether you realize it or not, national parks come in all shapes and sizes and today is the day that this grand organization turns a whooping 100 years old.  Growing up I was fortunate enough to spend time in the great outdoors from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite and even Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach, all of which I greatly miss while living back east.

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Alaska Travels: Cruising to Sitka

All good fun must come to an end and today I share the last of my pictures from Alaska.  Although, I do have to say while Monday and Wednesday’s posts provided a wonderful (biased of course) look at the state, nothing beats getting out to explore on your own!

IMG_8718After wrapping up the land portion of Un-Cruise on Friday, we took a tour of Anchorage and had dinner with a couple my mom knew when we lived in England for a short time.  They have moved around a lot in the last twenty years and are now locals of Alaska and loving it.  They selected the Moose’s Tooth as the destination of choice and boy was it crowded – must mean they are doing something well.  With unique beer brews and delectable [pizza] pies, I’d give it double thumbs up.

On Saturday we woke up bright and early (hello 5:30) and headed off to Juneau via flight.  The actual Un-Cruise cruise wasn’t set to depart until after 5pm so we checked our bags in and went off to explore the state’s capital in the rain.  After two weeks in the mist I can safely say I would not last long in the northwest.  I love my sunshine, even if it’s humid sunshine.

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We also took a bus out to the Mendenhall Glacier and then walked around the park a little bit.  The rain pants and rain boots allowed Meghan and I to wade through the water and get closer to the falls but were not exactly the most comfortable to power walk in.  Duly noted.

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^^ On the bus back to the hotel where our bags were staying we saw a bear! Correction: I saw a bear and my dad missed it by a smidge.  Hello bear and sorry dad.

By 4:30 we were were at our orientation and by 5:30 onboard, taking off from Juneau, and en-route to Stika.  We met the rest of the 70 or so passengers, enjoyed some nice bubbly and cheese and settled in for the week ahead.

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Every morning Meghan and I woke up around 6 to “workout” on the elliptical and stationary bike.  I honestly don’t know how I managed to use the elliptical so much in college because it can get quite monotonous…

We also participated in the morning “stretch” class led by one of the guides.  I use quotes here because 15 minutes of very light stretching doesn’t really cut it for most people.  There was some disappointment since they used to have a yoga teacher/masseuse but in the end, Un-Cruise needed someone who could actually help in other ways onboard.

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^^ Here’s the family mid-hypothermia dance

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Our activities ranged from skiff (boat) tours around the bays or coves, searching for wildlife, kayaking, standup paddle, bushwacking (hiking without a trail), or shore pokes (mild walks).  Overall Un-Cruise did a pretty solid job of avoiding disastrous weather, rearranging certain activities and cruise routes so that we wouldn’t have to deal with too much rain the entire trip.  Of course weather is never in our control and we just had/have to make due with what Mother Nature provides. << Something that’s always good to remember rather than get frustrated by.

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^^ Day 1 was spent in Glacier Bay National Park with some more excellent views of the local ice packs.  Sadly enough global warming’s impact is quite evident and I only fear what the next 10-20-50+ years will bring.

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^^ Personal floatation device (aka PFD) was a must on most outings and obviously made for a very attractive look.  You know for the amount of time I spent in rain pants, I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on as the next fashion trend.  Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse during the fall Fashion Week.

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^^ Oh yes.  The meals.  There were three square meals a day with buffet-style breakfast and lunch, a gourmet sit-down dinner and yes, dessert + coffee came with all three.  They actually had a beverage station so the coffee was optional but I decided to have tea and coffee at all three meals.  Despite the fact that I switched to decaf starting at lunch, that weeklong decision made for a TERRIBLE caffeine withdrawal upon my return.

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^^ From a shore walk to a bushwack adventure. Plenty of vegetation to see and walk through.  Much different in comparison to my usual NYC posts, right?  No concrete in this neck of the woods.

IMG_9176 IMG_9179 ^^ By far the best cookie of the week.  Certainly about the 10th cookie too many for the trip (they make a different batch every day for lunch…) but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t delicious.

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IMG_8841By Saturday it had been one full week on the water and it was time to disembark in Stika.  We left with a few more friends and definitely some good stories and plenty of pictures to look back upon.

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Alaska.  It’s been real.  Until our next adventure.

“To travel is to live” – Hans Christen Anderson

Happy Birthday Yosemite National Park!

 

Yes indeed.  While Yosemite may be celebrating its birthday, this glorious national park in California will not be open for anyone to enjoy its splendor.  Yosemite stretches across the central eastern park of California and includes Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera counties.  It extends over 761,268 acres and covers the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  I would hope you are all familiar with the picturesque views that John Muir discovered and worked so hard to protect. This is an excellent article on John Muir and his influence in Yosemite. The image of Half Dome alone is monumental, at least for those familiar with the great national park.  One day I hope to hike the difficult (some call treacherous) 14-16 miles, but it requires a permit, some training, and to actually be in the state of California.

The valley itself was protected in 1864 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant.  However, it wasn’t until later when John Muir pushed to create a larger national park that included the surrounding mountains and forests.  The valley and mountains hold millions of secrets and years of history that over 3.7 million people seek out each year.  There are campgrounds in the valley along with up in the Tuolumne river area, both of which are stunning.  I’ve stayed in both areas and have to say, even though it’s a mountain escape or destination, the valley is much more of a tourist attraction.

Check out Google’s tribute on its homepage here.

I’ll be back later this evening to share some of my favorite pictures from this beautiful landscape.  Like I said before, I may be transported into the concrete jungle, but I’ll always be a California gal.