Continuing Day 4... After our lunch at the Brewpub, we got back on the motorcoach, and continued our trip South. We headed down to the area of the Cook inlet called the Turnagain Arm. It's an area that has the second fastest and most extreme tides, I believe in the world. (#1 is the Bay of Fundy). When the tide is out, the area is all mud flats. When the tide is in, it's like a normal inlet. (It's called the Turnagain Arm because Cook had trouble navigating all the way up it, and had to turn again & again to try & get up it...) People get in trouble, going out on the mudflats, and then having the tide come in. (Plus, the mudflats can be like quicksand! But some people are crazy!) When the tide is in, it's a common area to see Beluga whales (we didn't see any, but Krista, Paul, Betzy & Karen saw some when they had been down that way prior to the tour). Three years ago, when the Princess motorcoach took us that way, the tide had been out. It looked TOTALLY different with the tide out. Totally different! We stopped at an area called Bird Point, that had a lookout area over the Arm and the Cook inlet. We spent quite a bit of time there, just looking at & taking pictures of the gorgeous views. There was also a guy there with a high-powered telescope who had spotted a bear in the surrounding mountains, and was letting people use his scope to look at it. Very nice! It was a really beautiful area, and a wonderful way to break up the drive. (Honestly, it's a destination all its own, and should be officially on the itinerary. I loved it!) The views and the weather were, yep, SPECTACULAR! I really just loved that Tony & Nancy always held hands. You don't see that a lot any more, and I thought it very romantic and sweet... We finally made it to our hotel in Girdwood, on the Kenai Peninsula, The Hotel Alyeska. The hotel is just beautiful. It's nestled into a hillside (it's a ski lodge in the winter, with its own trails). The grounds are really pretty, and the Hotel is impressive. We all got window rooms, although a lot of the rooms were kind of oddly configured, and had odd windows. But the rooms were very nicely decorated & comfortable, and the views were not to be sneezed at! We had the rest of the day on our own. Dinner was, however, included. This night would have been the Jr Adventurer's dinner if we'd had Jr Adventurers. Instead, we just had the option to eat dinner at one of the Hotel restaurants at our leisure (off a fixed menu). I spent some time wandering the grounds, and the area around the hotel, taking pictures and enjoying the weather. I then made my way back to my room, and met Sherry on the way up. We agreed to meet for dinner after we'd cleaned up. Sherry & I had a table right by the window, with a fabulous view of the grounds of the hotel. We had arrived in Girdwood during their Fungus Festival D) and so we watched the goings-on on the grounds for the festival. There was a woman dancing by the bandstand, who danced (rather - um - freely? enthusiastically? badly?) the entire time we were there, only stopping when the band left. She certainly had a lot of energy if not much skill! Dinner was very nice. I had the halibut, and Sherry had the steak. Very tasty indeed! And a lovely presentation! Day 5 -- Fins & Feathers This day had one of the activities I was *really* looking forward to -- a cruise of the Kenai Fjords. On my 2006 trip, this cruise had been an option as an excursion during the land portion of the tour. I chose to do a hike of the Russian River instead. While the hike was really great, and I totally enjoyed it, everyone who came back from the Kenai Fjords cruise just raved about it. So one of the few things I regretted was not having taken the chance to do that cruise. I was pretty happy when I saw that the ABD tour did this cruise. It really was like I was *meant* to take this tour! The cruise did not disappoint! We headed down to Seward, and boarded the catamaran, the Aialik Voyager. Our ABD group got to pre-board the ship before the general public, and selected our seats (we took up most of the enclosed upstairs area) and got a bit of an orientation by the skipper. (Much of the downstairs was enclosed, also, but it wasn't as nice as the upstairs). We could move freely in and out of the enclosed area, but people respected that we had "saved" seats, and it was nice to have them as a base of operations. Lunch was a pretty simple box lunch (sandwich, chips, cookie. Rae & Jesse had made sure to get low-sugar cookies & snacks for me. I really appreciated it, and it turned out Tony needed them, too!) Just as we were leaving the marina, the boat stopped, and we saw 2 otters just hanging out in the water. Talk about the life! They just floated along, rolling with the waves, playing with each other. Adorable! We also saw sea lions & seals, and though at the time I knew the difference between the two, I'm not sure now which pics are of which.... I *think* these are the Stellar sea lions. ( I love the one towards the bottom of the first pic... just languishing on the rocks...) and these are the Harbor seals... Very majestic (and noisy!) and fun to watch! The area (including Resurrection Bay) was absolutely gorgeous, and very dramatic and spectacular. The water was a beautiful greenish-blue, and some areas were shrouded in mist; others were crystal clear in the sparkling sunlight. The captain started taking us towards the Aialik Glacier, but stopped by a tall island, and pointed out to us a VERY unexpected bit of wildlife -- black bears! I had to zoom quite a bit to get these pics, but there they were! Looked like momma & baby. Folks figured they must have swum to the island. Continued in Part 5: Continuation of Day 5.