I visited the Hubbard Glacier on a cruise over the summer. We arrived in the morning and the first thing I noticed was a sound like thunder as the ice breaks off the edge of the glacier. I’ve seen plenty of pictures but the noise that accompanies it something unexpected when first there.
To be honest I was found it difficult to get a sense of scale. We were about a kilometer away from the wall of ice which was taller than the ship. Our ship rose about thirteen stories above the water. So when these columns of ice broke off it created massive waves. I felt safe because we were a far enough back and we were in a big boat. But I cannot imagine traveling through here on a small craft.
Of course much of the ice is below the surface. That too gave me pause and again I was glad to be on such a large ship. Just sailing into this area we grazed chunks of ice as big as a house. I suppose ice that size is of little consequence to a large ship, but I shudder to think how a small vessel could ever navigate here.
We stayed here for a few of hours to observe the glacier. I was glad that we had an experienced captain who knew the area. I’m sure he sails here all the time, but it was a first for me and even as a passenger I found it a little unnerving. Having said that, once we returned to the open sea I felt a little less concerned. I was left with an impression of this massive field of ice, it is beautiful, spell binding and not to be trifled with. This is the raw force of nature in all its glory.
This is a shot of Moose Pass from the train between Seward and Anchorage Alaska. I love the pristine reflection of the mountains on the water. The sun was behind the train and you can see how it casts shadows of the trees onto the water. It’s a nice effect that I didn’t really notice until I looked at this later.
I was fortunate to be on this train. I know nothing about Alaska and I just assumed that the ship I was on would dock in Anchorage. Little did I know that wasn’t the case. Fortunately I received a pamphlet on the first day of the voyage offering transfers to the airport. I figured it would be a thirty minute cab ride at most. Little did I realize it was a four hour drive. I opted for the slightly longer train in hopes that I would have a better view of the scenery along the way. I definitely did and the train ended up right at the airport terminal so it was completely hassle free.
Travel shenanigans aside, I will always take a train if it’s an option. There is so much more to see and it’s nice to stand up and walk around, more practical in many respects. In this case the scenery was great and I was super happy it turned out this way. If not for reading a brochure I almost certainly would have missed my flight home in Anchorage and, this never-ending scenery that is the great state of Alaska.
When I was on the ship I was constantly taking photos of the landscape. Much of it was open waters bordered by mountains and peeks. That’s different from what I’m used to looking at back home so I soaked in as much as I could. This was taken as the setting sun casts a warm glow on everything. The way the ship moves around these straits I could never really tell which direction was west unless the sun was low enough in the horizon. Even then I would think it was in the wrong place, it’s a good thing I wasn’t steering the ship.
In the summers it never really gets completely dark. That was a new experience for me. It would be fun to travel further north and experience the constant daylight of the summer months (It’s on my bucket list). I would wake up in the morning to see the dawn light and then look at the clock to find it was three-thirty or four. Most mornings I was up around five, it was hard to sleep knowing it was light outside.
I walked to the bow of the ship where there is an observation deck and a helicopter pad. People would gather here at sunset or when there was some interesting spectacle. I came to catch the sunset, but on account of how slow the sun sets I stayed for an hour just watching the scenery. This is just a snippet of that.
I was in Alaska at the peak of cruise season which means you can get a look up close of these massive ships. And as big as they are they’re still about half the size the ships in the Caribbean, but I digress. This was in Skagway and I took this as I walked back to my ship which was behind this one. I believe this is a Princess ship but I didn’t make a note of it at the time.
I am still amazed at how big these ships are and how they operate. The elements can be unforgiving and the crews that sail them must be the best.
This year there was a YouTube of the wind pushing a ship into the dock and causing some damage in Ketchikan. When I was there a few weeks later I inquired about it because I saw no damage. The dock was already fixed, and there were no signs of the incident. It turns it was pilot, not he ships captain, at the helm that day and thanks to his quick thinking he avoided what would have been much greater damage. These pilots are retired ferry captains that know the waters like the backs of their hands. This pilot in particular decided it was better to take out the dock than hit one of the other ships. As it was explained to me, he is considered a hero for what he avoided rather than what was destroyed.
This was taken off the coast of British Columbia a couple hours out of Vancouver. I was on an Alaskan cruise and spending time on the balcony watching the scenery and drifting off. Its like soothing scenery overload. It puts you in a relaxed state of mind and before you know it, La-La land.
Actually it was probably more a reaction to the massage. As we boarded in Vancouver the spa personnel were out offering first day discounts on massages. Having a sore back I jumped at it. After that I headed back to the room and sat on the balcony alternately snapping pictures of the coast and falling asleep. A good way to start the week.
Many of us lead hectic lives and when we slow down our bodies use the opportunity to recharge. I wish I could do that more often, but then maybe I can on weekends or a little every day. In any case it was good to get away, watch the scenery go by and not think about a thing.
This is on the White Pass and Yukon Route railway outside Skagway. If you ever get a chance to visit this part of Alaska I recommend an excursion on the White Pass. It winds its way up a mountain range from the sea with spectacular scenery at every turn.
The best part for me is that each car has an outside platform where I could stand and take photos. I hardly sat in my seat the entire three hours. On the way up we were in the first car behind the engine. When reached the pass at the top of the mountain we pulled onto a siding where the engine relocated to the other end of the train. Now heading down the mountain I had an unobstructed view out the back of the train. This was one of a couple of tunnels high up the mountain.
There’s nothing quite like traveling through a tunnel on a train. This one is near the top of the mountain so when you come out the other end there are amazing vistas. As we were on the last car I shot this looking back as the entrance receded into darkness. In the next moment we came out along a high slope where we could see dozens of miles out to the sea below. Put this one on your list of things you must do.
If you visit Alaska perhaps one the places you will see is Skagway. The biggest employer in that town is the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. It winds from the sea port up the mountains into British Columbia. If you like trains then add this to your list because not only is the scenery spectacular there’s a lot of history preserved in these trains and the rail museum in town.
We took an excursion up to the top of the pass which takes about an hour-and-a-half one-way. On the way up we were in the first car behind the engine but on the way back the engine reattached to the other end and we were at the rear. That afforded me the chance to stand out the back and capture this other train as we entered the main track from a siding.
This is a popular attraction and for good reason. When we booked the trip there were no more standard tickets so we booked the first class parlor car. Boy, that was nice, we had soft cushioned seats, an attendant and all the food and drink we wanted. However I couldn’t manage to sit still, I preferred to stand on the outside platform taking picture most of the way. When we finally got back to lower elevations I came back in the coach to find everyone asleep in their comfortable chairs. That was pretty funny, but I’m still glad I stood outside and enjoyed the scenery from the cheap seats, even if I did pay for a comfy chair inside.
I did a short hike through the Tongass National Park in Ketchikan Alaska. Despite the northern latitude this is a rain forest and Ketchikan receives the second highest amount of rainfall in the world, second only to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. It goes without saying that the predominant color was green in all directions.
In fact it was raining during the hike, a light pleasant rain, however it was warm at the same time so a light poncho was all I needed. Tongass is the largest national forest in the US and I saw only a sliver of it.
These cedars are used for a lot of different things including the making of musical instruments. They are also used in the brewing of Cedar Top beer up in Skagway. Don’t bother looking it up (I just tried), it’s a local brew only. I know this because on advice of a guide I tried it at a bar in Skagway. It took a pint to get used to the flavor and after that it was smooth sailing on pint two.
Beer aside, I stopped on the trail when I came to a clearing and took this image. It just seemed kind of mystical with the low clouds over the mountainous terrain. And of course I was wondering how they got those cedar tops into the beer.
This is another image I took with my Sony 70-400mm G lens fully extended. I almost didn’t bring the lens on the trip because of its size and weight but I’m glad I did. It was key in getting perspectives I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Of course, having a tripod to mount it on was key.
The features of the landscapes like this are amazing and, for me, a little terrifying. The elements are entirely unforgiving. When I look at this my mind projects me onto the slopes and once there I consider my prospects dire. There is no easy way up or down and survival is anything but assured. I’m a problem solver by nature, but when I look at this there are no easy options.
Why I do that in my head I don’t know. Why is it that when looking at images like this my heart races? Yet despite my reservations, if given a chance I would probably climb. I would be terrified and on life’s thin edge yet continue nonetheless. Perhaps that’s why I get terrified when I look at this, because I’m already working out the route and know that this mountain is in fact, unforgiving.
The Eldred Rock Lighthouse is somewhere outside of Skagway Alaska. On our cruise I spent a lot of time on the balcony just watching the scenery and taking pictures of peaks and land features. For this I used a Sony 70-400mm G fully extended and mounted on a tripod. Thanks to image stabilization this was possible despite the vibrations of the ship.
One of the best things we did was to bring a set of binoculars which helped in a couple of ways. First we could see things along the shore up close, but perhaps more important, they helped provide a sense of scale. In Alaska everything is so large you easily loose all sense of perspective. The landscape tricks you into thinking things are not so large on account of the immense spaces. Upon closer examination with the binoculars the impossible size of slopes, cliffs, waterfalls and peaks become apparent.
Like anyone else I’ve seen Alaska in pictures and television yet was still surprised at what I saw. Images will never do justice to Alaska’s landscape. Nevertheless it’s still fun to take them if for no other reason than to remind myself of the experience.