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Old 07-13-2013, 10:39 AM   #136
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We took the train down so did the opposite we picked hikers up. It really is beautiful up there.
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Old 07-13-2013, 07:25 PM   #137
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We took the train down so did the opposite we picked hikers up. It really is beautiful up there.
That makes more sense now!
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:45 PM   #138
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Wonderful photos

We loved the train journey - DH in particular was mesmerised; he could believe it when we got to the top and he realised how long we had been on board!
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:52 PM   #139
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Hey!! Just wanted to say Hi to a fellow middle school teacher!! Wohoo, isn't it fun! I wouldn't trade it for any other grade level. I have been teaching for 15 years and the majority of it has been spent in middle school.
I am looking forward to reading your trip report and I agree that there aren't many reports with details. We have four more sleeps until our adventure begins. We go to Philly on Thursday afternoon and fly out of PHL on Friday morning to Toronto and then Vancouver. We are spending three nights in Vancouver and then on to the cruise.
OK...now on to reading...
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Old 07-15-2013, 02:33 PM   #140
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Mountain tops peeking through the clouds.
That photo is really beautiful!
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Old 07-18-2013, 04:10 PM   #141
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Still following along and hoping more is to come soon.
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Old 07-19-2013, 11:02 PM   #142
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Day 5 - Skagway Part 2

Sorry for the delay, folks. Had an endorsement training all week! I left off in the middle of the train ride ...


After what seemed a short ride, but was really close to 2 hours, we reached the Canadian border. This is why you need your passport for this excursion. Before we were allowed to get off the train, the Canadian border patrol came on board to check our passports. We were given pretty strict instructions to not have cameras out, no one was allowed in the restroom (there was a toilet in the car), you had to be quiet and calm, etc. It was kind of intimidating, but the check was pretty quick and the patrolwoman who cleared us didn't seem all that grumpy compared to the previous ones we'd met so far. From there, it was immediately onto the small bus. It was a little disappointing, because the stop was at this enormous lake surrounded by snow mountains. The water was smooth as glass so the reflection was amazing. I was surprised that our tour didn't make accommodations for us to really take in that sight. We were on our way pretty quickly.


2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (578) by orcapotter, on Flickr
So I took photos from the bus

The bus was pretty comfortable, if not a little cramped feeling because each seat was full. Mike narrated the sights and made it clear that we would not be stopping at all of the places the "big guys" (the huge coach bus tours) would stop. We didn't stop until about 5-10 minutes in, where he took us right down to the water of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains.


Here is where I wish I had brought the bug spray with me. Because we were right at the water, there were very thick clouds of bugs! I panicked for a few minutes thinking they were mosquitoes and OMG I forgot the spray back on the ship. But they were simply gnats, and therefore, no more threatening than annoying. It was really the only time we dealt with any sort of insect. Needless to say, we only stayed about 5 minutes before heading on.

I took a lot of photos from the bus. We headed up into the Yukon and within the hour we were making our way to Caribou Crossing where lunch and the dog camp were. Seriously, I took a lot of photos. I'll post a few here and the rest can be found on my flickr account.


The last photo is Emerald Lake, which gets its color from glacier sediment. This was Mom's favorite stop on this tour. Only problem? Our tour-mates were not the type to stop and stare for long. By the time my parents and I would get off the bus, people were near ready to hop back on. No one seemed to like to look for very long. We were always one of the last back on the bus, and folks would give us these very judging looks--as if we were holding them up. Mike never rushed anyone but would take cues off of folks. Granted, by this point, we were starving. I wish I had remembered to bring a snack.

I'll mention here that there was an older couple on our tour; the woman had to be split from her husband at first because there were no more seats together on the bus. She ended up next to Dad initially. After a stop or two, Dad invited her to take the window seat, which she seemed very happy to oblige. Well, I noticed after the first few stops that she was leaning up against the window, seemingly asleep. No surprise; everyone had to have been up super early like we did. But even as we passed the small little town and some other stops, she never looked up or got off the bus. Now, this woman seemed perfectly fine on the train and for the first 45 minutes of the bus ride. So I began to really take notice of her when she showed no interest in "waking up" to see the town or Emerald Lake (she was directly in front of me).

Finally, we arrived at the little tourist "trap" called Caribou Crossing for lunch. At the previous stop, Mike gave out stickers to my family and the larger family with the college kids to indicate we paid in advance for the dog sled ride. Everyone was then given a different sticker walking off the bus that qualified us for lunch. Here's my only real big issue with this tour--we were given only about an hour to eat, look around, and have the sled ride. My parents and I were given a ride time only 30 minutes after we arrived, so 30 minutes to use a restroom and eat. The BBQ food was decent but if you wanted a drink other than iced tea, coffee, or water, you had to pay extra. The donuts were awesome, though! We quickly had our meal, than peeked around before heading over to the dog camp area.

Note: It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The high temp was in the 60's so I was pulling off layers. Only, get out of the sun and it was chilly. The dogs were "hot" and laying in mud puddles to cool off!

There were dozens and dozens of dogs. It was explained to us that the pretty, pure-bred huskies you see on TV and in movies aren't typical at all. Sled dogs are bred for strength and speed, not looks. So many of the dogs were mixed breeds. Many of them barked constantly, so it's quite loud over there and just a little bit smelly. Didn't help they were surrounded by farm animals in the petting zoo just outside. (There was a 2 week old donkey!) We were told that the dogs that are chosen for these summer runs (pulling tourists on the karts) are the ones that bark the most and the most enthusiastically. These dogs live to run. If they aren't barking, they're either tired, not interested, or ill. All the dogs are owned by the drivers, too. They each have their own team of dogs.

Plus, there was an area for the sled dog puppies; the litter there was only a few months old. Take note: you can't have puppies all the time if your adult dogs aren't "busy." Mom was quite scandalized by the sight of more "puppy making" amongst the dogs on duty. I found it amusing!

Originally it was just going to be my parents and myself, but a random lady from another tour insisted on paying on the spot to join us. The karts fit 6 people, so there was plenty of room. Mike took our camera to take some photos while we got all hitched up. Then it was off!


Coming up ... OMG BEAR! BUT WAIT ...
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Old 07-19-2013, 11:13 PM   #143
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Originally Posted by guarn3md View Post
Hey!! Just wanted to say Hi to a fellow middle school teacher!! Wohoo, isn't it fun! I wouldn't trade it for any other grade level. I have been teaching for 15 years and the majority of it has been spent in middle school.
I am looking forward to reading your trip report and I agree that there aren't many reports with details. We have four more sleeps until our adventure begins. We go to Philly on Thursday afternoon and fly out of PHL on Friday morning to Toronto and then Vancouver. We are spending three nights in Vancouver and then on to the cruise.
OK...now on to reading...
Debbie
While there are days I want to tear my hair out, I still love teaching middle school. Glad to know there are folks who still love it after so long! I suspect you're already on your cruise or soon to get back, so I hope it was awesome! It goes by so quick, doesn't it?
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Old 07-21-2013, 12:17 AM   #144
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Still really enjoying your report and not offended at all!
Me too...loving this report and getting more and more excited for next year...just 306 days now until we leave for Vancouver!

Sorry the character interactions were "difficult". I hope we have good luck, I hope my 5 yo (at the time) will want to search them out with me on some occasions. This mama really wants to have the characters in their Alaska outfits! Do I understand from your pics that they will be in the atrium, too, later that night? Does Mickey wear his fisherman outfit? I know the kiddo will want to do kid's club but I don't want him in there all day ahaha. I want a reason to buy the photo CD!!!
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:59 AM   #145
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Beautiful weather you had, we did to, it really adds to the experience doesn't it.
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Old 07-22-2013, 09:06 AM   #146
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Really enjoyed your report.....now I want to got to Alaska too...

I just was looking at another TR....and saw your parents and you in a video....it from Travellingwithnikki....deck 10 video...at the end....
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:53 PM   #147
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Thanks for another great installment with beautiful pictures. I am hoping that the lady on the bus is ok and that she brightens up to see the gorgeous sites.
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Old 07-25-2013, 11:41 PM   #148
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Day 5 - Skagway Part 3

I need to get busy finishing this report. School starts in 2 weeks and preparations are starting to pick up. Thanks for your patience reading along, folks!

We were just about to start our dog sled ride where I left off last time. This is probably your bargain option if you can't afford the hundreds of dollars per person to do a traditional dog sled ride. Individually, the tickets for this 15 minute jaunt into the woods I believe were around $30 PP. You can take the same excursion we did without the dog sled ride added on; only 1 other family on our tour did it other than us. I don't know if there is an age rule for kids; I'm sure the website would state it if they have one. The ride was really bumpy, so young/very small kids might have a problem holding on. I would imagine, though, that kids would have a blast doing this. We sure did!


The ride was awesome and the dogs seemed to effortlessly pull us along. The trainer had amazing control of her dogs, and yeah, they may be real sled dogs but they're also real dogs. Which means, if they see a critter, they want to chase after it! The trainer had to re-direct them with unique commands to the lead dogs away from squirrels. About half-way through the ride, the trainer stopped the dogs at a pit stop with several plastic kiddy pools full of water. Immediately they dived into the pools, some of them lying down completely to cool off. We stayed a few minutes for them to rest and drink, before moving again.


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (243) by orcapotter, on Flickr


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (244) by orcapotter, on Flickr


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (247) by orcapotter, on Flickr
Skippy, the retired sled dog, jogged alongside us.

Figuring there was no need to have my camera on and out anymore since I took many photos already of the same scenery, I put it away to save the battery. This would prove to be a mistake. We had just come back out to the stretch of dirt road leading back to the camp when all of a sudden, a black (though he was brown colored) bear ran across the track!!!

The dogs immediately went after it. So, imagine this for a moment. You are strapped to more than several dogs chasing a critter in the middle of wilderness. What's your first thought? Well, for myself (and my parents), it was OMG THE DOGS ARE GOING TO GET HURT! Then there was Skippy, the trainer's retired sled dog who had tagged along untethered with us. She immediately went after the bear, too. So add to our first thought: OMG SKIPPY NO!

Our trainer was just as surprised as we were, and urgently called to the lead dogs with "GI GI GI GI GI!!!" (which was her unique command she had trained the lead dogs to turn right--to go left, the command was "hot"). Not to mention her urgent commands to Skippy not to pursue the now-identified baby bear, which had disappeared by then behind trees on the other side of the track. For a few long seconds, the dogs didn't seem to listen to their trainer until finally they stopped the chase and veered back on track. The bear was nowhere to be seen, Momma Bear was nowhere to be seen, and my second thought was that I didn't get a photo of the whole event. It wasn't until my third thought that it hit me that hey, we could have been hurt!


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (248) by orcapotter, on Flickr
This was the last photo I took before putting the camera away. The bear went from right to left soon after this point.

Before you slam your fist down and proclaim complete abstinence from ever embarking on a dog sled ride through the woods less you're mauled by bears, the fact that it took me a while to realize we could have been harmed was testament to how much control the trainer had over her dogs. These were real sled dogs, as I've stated before, and therefore very highly trained and incredibly loyal to their owner.

Alas, all too quickly, the ride was over. We only had about 10 minutes left to explore the rest of the camp before we were due back to the bus. I desperately wanted to hold the puppies, while Mom wanted to look around the gift shop. Dad followed me to the puppies, where they were all piled in an exhausted heap from being tossed around so many tourists earlier. I did not want to disturb them. Meanwhile, a mother and son were holding a sleeping puppy, so I kinda hung around hoping they would move on and ask if I wanted a turn. NOPE. Didn't happen. Not that I blame the boy for wanting to keep the pup, but I was bummed that one of my goals of the trip didn't come true (goal: hold a puppy). Instead, I said hello to all of the resting dogs in the puppy area--at first I thought they were the mothers, but there were some boy dogs in there, too.


I went to find Mom, who had wandered into the taxidermy museum. By now, we only had a few minutes to get back to the bus, so after a quick glance around, we grabbed Dad and ran back on board. Well, we were exactly on time, but everyone was already on the bus and we were welcomed with semi-irritated expressions. One passenger blared the horn, stating that Mike went to go find us. Geez, people, relax! You're on vacation!


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (267) by orcapotter, on Flickr
The taxidermy museum was in a sort of warehouse

The woman I mentioned earlier who had appeared to fall asleep in front of me before lunch was back asleep again, only her husband was now seated with her. That meant my family was split up, much to my mother's annoyance. Looking back, if the husband had explained the situation, I doubt we would have minded at all. Because for the remainder of the bus ride, the poor woman silently got sick non-stop. This was very alarming at first, though she did her best to conceal everything under a jacket. Particularly since I was so close to her, I was worried that if she were sick-sick, would it be contagious? The last thing I needed was a stomach bug on a cruise ship! But here's the strange part: her husband did not seem particularly alarmed or worried at all. In fact, he got off the bus at all the subsequent stops. Even more interesting: he had packed Ziploc bags for her, seemingly for this exact situation. It led me to think they knew this was going to happen, though the woman did not appear ill at all for the first part of the excursion. Why would you pack Ziploc bags on an excursion if not for a specific reason? So, was she car sick? And if so, why book a tour that involves being on a bus through winding mountain roads? If she was sick with a virus or something and knew so beforehand, why did they leave the ship and not contact the ship doctor?

That aside, the remainder of the tour was incredible. Each vista was more amazing than the last, and we stopped pretty frequently. Unfortunately, there were no real wildlife sightings. We got super lucky with the bear. There were some mountain goats super high up to the point where they could only be seen with binoculars (there were some available on the bus), and there was one bald eagle. But the views more than made up for the lack of animals.


Passing customs back into Alaska was painless; we didn't have to show our passports as the agent working knew Mike really well. We were back in town by 3:30 and Mike offered to drop us in the middle of the shops. Most of us took advantage of this, and we wandered through the shops for about an hour or so. 2 of my favorite souvenirs we got in Skagway: moose pajama bottoms that have Alaska screen printed on them, and a photo album that holds 230 photos for less than $20.

Here was my goal for shopping on this trip: I wanted most of the things I bought to be made in Alaska, supporting real Alaskans. This proved to be a surprising challenge, especially if you're on a budget. Most of the shops were cruise ship owned that can also be found in the Caribbean. Some of the other shops were tourist chains allegedly owned by "Alaskan families." Almost everything for sale could be found at all of the ports, just sold under different store names.


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (326) by orcapotter, on Flickr


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (329) by orcapotter, on Flickr
Ulu knives are a big deal in Alaska (a sort of native knife) and will be confiscated on the ship until you disembark in Vancouver. They looked like tiny Klingon weapons to me (Star Trek nerd)


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (334) by orcapotter, on Flickr


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (337) by orcapotter, on Flickr


2013 June Alaska Cruise--Dad (340) by orcapotter, on Flickr

We picked up some things for family and friends, then sought out the shuttle bus to take us back to the ship. Again, $2/PP if you don't want to walk. Were I with friends, I would've walked, but it was far for anyone with mobility issues. Back on the Wonder, we got ready for dinner. We were in Animator's Palate, which I was excited for. While the technology in there is definitely out of date, I found I preferred it much more over the Dream's version. You didn't have to compete to talk over the music/shouts of fish and turtles all the time. There was no real disappointment about not being close to a screen and miss that personal interaction. The cute show with Sorcerer Mickey between your dinner and dessert was perfect. So, here's what I chowed down on:

- I did not care for any of the appetizers, but I loved the soups, so I got 2 instead: baked potato and butternut squash -- both excellent
- Entree: Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon Fillet -- OK; I didn't particularly care for the wrap
- Dessert: Animator's Sweet Temptations -- Pretty good

Tonight was the hypnotist's family show, so Mom was excited to see it. Dad and I were a little disappointed that some of the same things he did with the adults the night before he was doing again, but there were enough differences that we didn't mind. It was hilarious! Especially when he hypnotized one guy to believe his shoe was baby Simba, and whenever he heard the mike tap, the guy was to take his shoe off and present it to the audience with a look of rapture. They played the Circle of Life song whenever this happened, and it just killed us with laughter! Mom and Dad were crying, they were laughing so hard.

Now that it's been almost 2 months (INSANE) since the trip, I'm having a harder time remembering things. I don't really recall what we did after the show, so let's just call it a night on Day 5.

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Old 07-26-2013, 06:39 AM   #149
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Wow how amazing to see a baby bear.
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Old 07-26-2013, 07:13 AM   #150
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Cool baby bear I think your thought process would have been mine also

As for that woman that got sick, Talk about not thinking about the comfort of others. Kinda selfish even if she was just car sick. Why would she want to put herself thru that.
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