You thought six months was long enough to escape it – but you were wrong. It would be a crime to not document the rest of our summer vacation in Alaska, and so here it is: the second installment of our vacation slide show.
After boarding the ship in Vancouver, we had four more ports to look forward to exploring. The first of these was Ketchikan on the 4th of July. We were only scheduled to be in Ketchikan for a few hours, so my adventurous in-laws (husband included) decided that it would be a great chance to scare me half to death with a zip-line tour of the rainforest. We were surprised to find ourselves amidst a rainforest in Alaska, but due to the amount of rain-fall (160+ inches per year!) this part of the state receives, they have a lush temperate rainforest.
We took a bus to the zip-line lodge where we boarded a giant all-terrain vehicle (via ladder). Given that we were first-time Alaskan tourists at this point in our trip, you can imagine our delight at seeing this guy on top of the building:
The canopy vehicle climbed up into the rainforest (in the rain, of course) and dropped us off at the top of a mountain where we would begin our zipping. As we suited up I was feeling incredibly terrified, but I smiled for a picture as we were asked to place all of our valuable belongings inside a plastic container. I probably would have tucked myself safely in there if I had fit.
We received about 5 minutes of training before we were pronounced ‘Ready to Zip.’ Then, they introduced us to our guides for the day. Leading the charge was this cheerful fellow:
Were you as thrown off by his obvious hang-over as we were? It only took me less than one pass on the zip-line to get on his bad side. After being asked – “How did that go?” I replied with an honest, “Ok, this isn’t really my favorite” – which was apparently far too much girl drama for his killer headache. I received a long eye-roll and the equivalent of “Get over it” before he zipped off.
The zip-line consisted of 10+ platforms, as well as a few suspension bridges. We were 150 feet in the air and got to see some pretty amazing sights. The rainforest below was breathtaking, and we all loved getting to rush through the trees while taking it all in (even me).
I did have considerable amount of trouble on the platforms. While the rest of the family was hanging around and enjoying the views…
…I was quietly standing, arms wrapped around the tree trunk, with my eyes closed. I could do the zip-line part. It was the standing and looking down business that I was really struggling with. I tried to be a good sport about it, but somewhere around this monster…
…our guide showed dramatic recovery/multiple personalities, and I transformed from ‘large pain in his neck’ to ‘reality show contestant’ – a reality show in which he, as my trainer, helped me to conquer my greatest fear. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had been up high a number of times, with my fear remaining constant and true. Somehow, my stoic push through the course had measured as ‘insufficient enthusiasm’ in his sudden burst of philanthropic spirit, and so I was forced to walk the length of this bridge with my hands in the air while he jumped up and down on the bridge behind me. It was truly a transformative moment, as you might guess.
Thankfully, we made it through to the end of the course, and were awarded free hot chocolate, medals, and another bald eagle sighting.
My bravery won me an extra medal. It did not, in fact, win me a conquered fear.
On our ride back to the ship, our bus accidentally became part of an Independence Day parade. Despite the fact that it was raining (of course), the streets were full of families waving to us as we plodded by. I think that most of the parade was composed of outside traffic, but it was neat to feel so far away from home, and yet still be home. I only wished I had a tiny flag to wave back at all my fellow Americans.
Our next port was Juneau, a few days later. The capital city was smaller than one might expect, boasting only one ‘sky-scraper’ and a McDonald’s as the main attractions. We were there for a ‘Bike and Brew’ tour. A very appropriate outing for our family – a 10 mile bike ride, our first glacier, and an Alaskan beer tasting to top it off.
The place where we picked up our bikes had an amazing view of the Mendenhall Glacier that we would be riding towards.
After the photo-op, we got on our bikes and headed off.
Along the way, we biked through the rainforest and were able to get a great up-close look at all the incredible greenery.
It started to rain while we rode, and our guides provided us with some one-size-fits-all rain gear to keep us dry and toasty. I loved my look – and believe I was a quite convincing outdoors(wo)man.
The Mendenhall Glacier was definitely the highlight of the excursion.
At some point, while we were visiting the glacier, I managed to get separated from the rest of the family and chanced to see this little guy run across my path:
At the end of the tour, we got to sample a number of Alaskan brews. The men especially enjoyed learning about each one.
This excursion was so much fun for all of us. Since this was our first time seeing a glacier, we were all taken in by the stunning blue color of the ice, as well as the overwhelming massiveness of the view. The Lord’s creation is far beyond my imagination. We loved standing and staring at all of the natural wonders that we saw on this trip. They were incredible testimonies of His greatness and His goodness.
The wildlife captivated us throughout the trip, as well. Throughout the day, the ship’s naturalist would call over the loudspeaker that a whale or a seal could be seen off the ship’s port side. We would all immediately run to our balconies with binoculars in hand and try to catch a glimpse (as well as a few pictures).
Our favorite were, of course, the whale sightings – even though these mainly consisted of a quick appearance of a tail or a fin. The boys were lucky enough to see a humpback whale breach at one point! In addition to whales, we saw sea otters, seals, dolphins, bald eagles, and a variety of other birds.
Our favorite animal fact from the trip was about sea otters. Apparently, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, otters will wrap their little ones up in seaweed and cast them out on the tide. They will do their daily hunting and then catch up with their babies further down the tide. I loved watching them float by with their babies on their stomachs, and this fact made me laugh every time I saw one.
I think that one of the reasons this was the most amazing vacation any of us have taken before was that there was constantly something amazing to look at. We got to watch wild animals every day. We were constantly riding past the most breath-taking views any of us had ever seen, and each day was different! We didn’t get as much use out of the ship’s constant stream of planned activity, because we simply had too many beautiful things to look at to be bothered with bingo or a shuffleboard tournament.
And with all this fun – we still had two more ports (and lots of glaciers) to go!
I promise to finish these vacation posts in one more installment. And soon! It would be too depressing to still be talking about our fabulous summer vacation in the dead of winter.
Update: Read about the rest of our trip: Part 1 & Part 3