On Tuesday afternoon we took a boat ride through Ressurection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. The first two hours were amazing as we saw a sea otter, played with dolphins and spotted several bald eagles, mountain goats, and humpback whales. We even witnessed some shenanigans from harbor seals and saw a juvenile bald eagle catching and eating its prey on the cliffs alongside the water. The flight of the gulls from the cliffs as the eagle made it's attack was breathtaking. After the excitement in the bay we headed out to the gulf where I learned that I do not have a future in sea travel. So much for that cruise Kirk and I always thought we would take. Even with the maximum dose of anti-nausea medicine I could barely open my eyes without wishing for the ability to lose my lunch over the rails. Needless to say the second half of the voyage was not as enjoyable as the first.
We departed the boat and made our way over to the diesel train that would return us to Anchorage. Whit was very excited to be on a train but was so overwhelmed that he wanted to get off shortly after boarding. Once we convinced him to stay on the train we had some dinner in the dining car as the train got underway. In the dining car we could just see the front of the train as we pulled out of the station. At this point Whit finally grasped that we were riding the train. This was a difficult concept for him because when we hear the train whistle from our house And Whit asks to "ride the choo-choo" I always tell him that we listen to the train, we don't ride the train. At first when we told Whit he would be riding a train he would say "no, Mama, no ride the choo-choo!" In the dining car we heard a lot of "the choo-choo! Ride the choo-choo! Ride the choo-choo, Mama!"
On the train we saw wildlife, beautiful views of the mountains and valleys that boasted snow measured in feet rather than inches. Whit reluctantly fell asleep with a blanket draped over his face to drown out the sunlight that continued to stream into our passenger car until we pulled into Anchorage at 10:30 pm.
Wednesday again dawned somewhat dreary so we made plans to visit the Alaska Native Heritage museum. If you are ever in Anchorage I strongly recommend visiting the museum. We saw native youth exhibiting hunting training games as well as native dancing. After the demonstrations we visited the cultural center documenting the history of the native peoples and most recently their integrations with European visitors. Being of European descent it saddens me to think that we barged in, not understanding, and interrupted the beautiful balance that the Native American people shared, and continue to share, with the planet. The fact that our modern ways are inhibiting the native children from learning and living their culture saddens me even more.
Thankfully, I was quickly cheered by Whit's enthusiasm to see the "doggies" (dogs and puppies of the 2011 Iditarod championship) and to race around the replica native village houses.
On the way home Grandpa took us up to an overlook where, on a clear day, you can see Mt Mckinley. We weren't able to see the mountain through the haze but we did have a couple more close encounters. On the way up the road we caught sight of a black bear that got a little too close to the car for comfort. On the way back down he was still grazing along the side of the road. We rolled the window down to let Whit get a better look as the bear was quite engrossed in his afternoon snack. Whit put his head out of the window and yelled "hey bear!" as loud as he could. It may have been that the bear expexted or smelled food or it could have been that Whit is charming not only to people but wild animals as well. Regardless of the reason, After just a few repetitions of "hey bear!" the bear looked up, made eye contact with Whit and ambled over to the car yet again. I quickly pulled Whit back into the car and rolled up the window urging my father to put the car in drive as quickly as possible. He, of course, took that opportunity to get out of the car himself and get an up close and personal photo of said bear. A little ways down the road we encountered yet another moose whom Whit eagerly called "horse! Hey horse!" Thankfully, the moose did not attemp to join us!
We ended the day with local pizza and beer and some downtime with family and friends.
Thursday: Sadly our last day in the great state of Alaska. After a lazy morning Kirk and I left Whit to play at the Anchorage Museum with Grandma and Grandpa while we had lunch together and did some sightseeing and souvenir shopping.
This afternoon we plan to go on a short hike (ie a walk in the woods) where hopefully our close encounters with local Alaska wildlife will not continue.
It's just 12 hours until our flight departs and we head back to reality and the hot sunny days of a Tennesee summer. I'm not looking forward to getting myself and Whit back on Eastern time but I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to see this beautiful place and spend some much needed time with my parents. Until next time, Alaska!