Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Not Just a National Park

Glacier Bay is not just a National Park. It’s also a World Heritage Site. I don’t think you can really refer to Glacier Bay as a “port of call” as there is no port. You are cruising through this huge bay surrounded by icy mountains, glaciers and ice bergs. The ice bergs were a good sign. It meant that it was warm enough to cause the glacier’s to calve, that amazing falling ice that you see on the nature shows. 

Magarie Glacier

Warm is relativeTidewater Glacier

I just said it was warm enough for the glaciers to calve. That’s not to say it was warm. It was still gray and overcast. The misty rainy weather that had been following us since Vancouver continued to be the norm. The rawness of the wind just cut through any coat you were wearing. I counted on the excitement of seeing the glaciers to keep me warm; that and running from one side of the ship to the other so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Bald Eagle on an ice floeIce Bergs and Glaciers

We maneuvered into Glacier Bay from Icy Strait, named for the abundance of ice floes. The ice floes and mini bergs bumped and rattled along the sides of the ship. We took our time so that there were no big collisions. At one point we watched an eagle sail by on one of the ice flows. The glaciers were the high point. The ice was made up of  ribbons of colors. Blues and greens abounded. 

Our Own Private Balcony

Eventually it was just too cold so we went back down to our room and settled on our balcony. That’s where I finally saw one of the glaciers calve. It was just a small piece of ice. It seemed to hover before it dropped into the ocean below. It turns out that we had a much better view from our balcony than from the top deck and we were out of the wind so it felt much warmer. 

calving Glacier

Stock Photo

Cruise to Alaska Begins in Canada

The Alaska Adventure starts in Vancouver

Our Alaska Cruise departs from Vancouver, Canada. We flew into  Vancouver the day before we had to board. This time we were cruising on Princess Cruise Lines. So far I’ve been on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and now Princess.   I had been to Vancouver years ago for a convention. Its a beautiful city.

Cruise terminal

MountyWe didn’t have much time to explore but we did get a chance to walk along the waterfront after breakfast and before we headed to the ship. The staff at our hotel, The Best Western Sands,  were awesome; helpful with our luggage and transportation to the ship.

Strolling along the Seawall

Our morning stroll started in a sculpture garden. The main sculpture is  A-Maze-ing Laughter by the Chinese artist Yue Minjun.


Even though it was raining the gardeners were working on the landscaping so flowers were abundant.


So were the birds. There were Herons, gulls, ducks, geese and loads more that I couldn’t identify. I shouldn’t have been surprised about the rain. Vancouver and much of southwestern Alaska are part of a temperate rain forest! Who knew? I think of rain forest as the Amazon or Brazil but the Pacific Northwest is also rain forest! Little did we know that the rainy Vancouver morning foreshadowed what we would experience on our cruise.

Great Blew heron in Flight

Time to head to the ship

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time for lunch and then we needed to find the ship. The hotel concierge told us we were close to the port but with our luggage we felt a cab was a good choice. The front desk made a call bringing a cab right to the front of the hotel. It really wasn’t far to the port but there was a lot of traffic. We probably could have gotten there faster walking but I’m pretty sure we would have gotten lost! Taking the cab was the right choice.

So This is Wyoming

Day One Wyoming

Wyoming has certainly made a good first impression. I’ve arrived and settled in. Believe it or not that sandwich at Dornan’s was a long time ago. With no restaurant on premises it was time to figure out dinner. Time to test the concierge. I guess my question was easy. They had no hesitation recommending a nearby restaurant, Spurs. Located in Teton Mountain Lodge, next door, it was an easy walk, even for gimpy old me.

Beef, it’s what’s for DinnerSteak

I asked about a dress code and was assured it was “Resort Casual” and that I looked fine. A hostess greeted me immediately. There’s no waiting line in the “off season”. The menu was not extensive but it was varied. It was also on the pricey side, of course this is a high end resort. I don’t remember the day’s special. I only remember it was $51.00. Not quite ready to try elk meat I selected the SRF American Kobe Butcher Steak. I know what KOBE is but I had to ask about SRF. That stands for Snake River Farm, a local cattle ranch. I ordered rare but what I received was a strange looking lump of meat with an onion reduction. I cautiously took a taste. It was “like butta”. It melted. This was the most tender, flavorful steak I had ever eaten. 

Ruffed GrouseWhy Aren’t you Sleeping?

 It was a good thing I was walking after that meal. I startled a bird of some kind. It didn’t want to fly. It just ran ahead of me. I got a pretty good look. It reminded me of a chunky roadrunner with short legs. I made a guess that it was some kind of grouse. I later confirmed this with some of the locals. They said it sounded like a “Ruffed Grouse”. Doing a little internet search resulted in a picture. It sure looks like the same bird. I’m not sure why it was still awake after dark. Maybe it had a “big night out”?


Start Your Day with Sand Hill Cranes

The Endangered Sand Hill Crane

I’ve heard that Sand Hill Cranes are common in Florida. For some reason I’ve not been able to get a good look at them. Oh I’ve seen them at a distance but never close enough for a good look. After so many years looking, who would have thought that I’d finally get my chance after a major hurricane!

Sand Hill Cranes

The morning surprise

I had made plans to meet up with Joe but I stressed that I wanted to be able to sleep in so Don’t Call Early! Of course my body had other ideas and woke up at my normal time. Old habits die hard. With time on my hands I headed out to breakfast. I wasn’t thinking about Sand Hill Cranes or any other bird when a huge bird half flew, half ran right in front of the car! I recognized it right away. It was a Sand Hill Crane. It may have been the one to catch my attention but there were 3 more waiting for it on the side of the road. I quickly turned around and hurried back to my room to grab the camera. I didn’t really expect them to be there when I got back but I had to try.

Preening craneLost and Alone, Maybe

I grabbed the camera and raced back to the car. What did I see as I backed out? Another Sand Hill Crane. It was standing in the middle of the parking lot grooming! I rolled my window down and slowly rolled forward. Silly bird paid no attention to me. I got quite close. Then another car came along. It passed between me and the bird. The bird never flinched. It just kept preening! 

A Morning Tradition

Leaving my vain crane in the parking lot I went looking for the foursome I’d seen earlier. I spotted them way off in the distance. This was the start of a morning ritual. I’d head out to breakfast and the little flock of 4 would be next to the road. This happened every day while I was at the resort. After all this time looking for them, the Sand Hill Cranes paid me back for my persistence.

A Flock of Cranes

Air Boats and Alligators

Tom & Jerry’s Air Boat rides

The last part of the Florida Adventure tour is a 30 minute air boat ride. We had a 45 minute bus ride from Crystal River to Lake Panasoffkee for a 30 minute boat ride. I’ve been on air boats before but not on Lake Panasoffkee. Upon arrival the group was split in two. Only one air boat was operational. Or maybe it was because there was only one captain available.

Cruising the Lake

airboats and alligator

My group followed the Captain Jerry down the dock where we boarded a medium sized air boat. There were plenty of earmuffs on each bench seat. You really need to use them because the roar of the huge fan that drives the board is deafening. We started out slowly but soon Captain Jerry kicked up the speed. A great blue heron took off as we roared past. Captain Jerry slowed the boat and pointed it out. He said it was the first bird he’d seen since the hurricane. Usually the lake was teeming with birds.

Birds and Hurricanes Great Blue heron

Captain Jerry explained that the birds get into the eye of the storm and are carried far off their normal flight paths. It takes them awhile to get orientated and begin to return. He was very happy to see the Great Blue. A bit further on Captain Jerry again slowed the boat. This time so we could see a smaller bird. It was a heron too. This one was the tricolor Heron.

Where are all the Gators?

We finally spotted one alligator. Captain Jerry said he thought most of the gators were way back in the brush. The lake is usually about 6 ft deep at its deepest. With all the water from the hurricane it was more like 12 feet and still rising. It made for a beautiful blue lake but the marsh grass and Lilly pads were all underwater now. Alligators like to be able to hide. With the deeper water they felt exposed so were way back in the brushy area.

Want to hold the Alligator?

Baby Alligator

Back at the dock the 2nd half of our group headed out. One of the other employees brought out a small alligator to let us hold and take pictures. The really little gators were in an aquarium in the gift shop. Captain Jerry may have been disappointed that he couldn’t show us more gator’s but I didn’t hear any of us complaining. We had a great time all day!