My cactus must be about ten years old, and after a period of dormancy, it always takes me by surprise when it blooms. The flowers are such a happy yellow colour. They always make me smile.
Our holiday that we booked so long ago last year is here at last and here is our itinerary:
4 May – Depart Southampton on Sapphire Princess
5 May – Brussels, Belgium
7 May – Copenhagen, Denmark
9 May – Stockholm, Sweden
10 May – Tallinn, Estonia
11/12 May – St Petersburg, Russia
13 May – Helsinki, Finland
15 May – Gdansk, Poland
18 May – Southampton, England
The next two weeks will be spent travelling around the UK so will post if and when I can. Getting excited now!
Friday, 17 August:
The trip to Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge only took about 2-1/4 hours (still in Denali National Park) and we set off mid-morning for our final stop. Arrived to find yet more spacious, comfortable lodge-type accommodation and very attentive, friendly staff.
Denali, once called Mount McKinley, is North America’s highest mountain and you need a very clear day to be able to see it. In fact, we were told that in summer there is only a 30 percent chance of seeing this mountain, due to clouds and changing weather conditions. It was quite cloudy while we were there, so no chance of getting that “30 percent club” tee shirt! But that didn’t stop lots of us gathering around with cameras at the ready, looking for that elusive mountain – in all directions!
In the afternoon we checked out a list of things to do and there were several free activities offered by Princess. We decided on a nature trail hike with a naturalist with a very wide knowledge of all the plants and berries we discovered along the way, some edible and some not. We had a fun time exploring the area.
When we got back, we caught a presentation on everything you could ever possibly want to know about moose and later a very inspirational talk by Todd Huston, an amputee who holds records for climbing mountains. It was an amazing and very humbling experience to meet him and listen to his story.
Our bags were collected for the last time that night and we spent Saturday morning relaxing in the sun on the deck of the lodge, drinking coffee and enjoying the amazing mountain scenery for the last time.
All too soon it was time to jump in the coach for the 3-1/2 hour trip back to Anchorage for the night and Sunday morning to the airport for the 14-1/2 hour (!) flight home.
We really had an awesome time and enjoyed every minute of our time in Canada and Alaska.
Thursday, 16 August:
Denali Park encompasses 6 million acres of wild land. Founded in 1917 it was initially established to conserve wildlife. Today, it remains relatively unchanged, except for the completion of the Denali Park Road; at 92 miles long, it is the only road in the park and during summer, private vehicles may drive the first 15 miles. Beyond that, you will need to be on a bus, bicycle or on foot.
By riding a bus, everyone can enjoy the wildlife and scenic beauty of the park without the traffic, noise and pollution that thousands of individual vehicles would create.
This morning we set out by bus on a Natural History Tour with a naturalist on board, travelling 30 miles to the Teklanika River. We visited the Savage Cabin, the original ranger’s cabin, and listened to a very interesting presentation on the area and how this cabin is still used today by winter patrols.
At Primrose Ridge we found out about the local native culture, their stories and how the land has been used for nearly 10,000 years.
We saw some caribou grazing near the road and the driver was happy to stop and give us plenty of time to observe them. We were interested to find out that there is no intervention with the animals in the park.
The scenery was fantastic and varied and the staff so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed our tour.
In the afternoon we went to a sled dog demonstration at the Denali Kennels. Very excited to see huskies up close for the first time. One particular dog drew the crowd; he was the one that the staff were encouraging people to interact with. He got lots of petting!
We were then called over to the track where we watched as five dogs were chosen to pull the summer sled (on wheels). The dogs were very excited and vocal, all wanting to be chosen. While we waited, the ranger explained how the dogs are chosen and trained for the different positions. Once the dogs were harnessed, we were told that if we wanted a photo to be quick; they would only go around the circuit once!
After they were done, the dogs were given treats and we watched as each dog was individually unharnessed and ran at top speed back to its’ kennel. All except one – who suddenly ran back out and had the ranger in hot pursuit! Probably part of the show, but it was entertaining and gave everyone a laugh.
We found out that huskies work until they are 8 years old. When they are retired, people can apply to adopt them. The applicants must write an essay as to why they would be suitable. Criteria – they need to be active and live in a cold climate. Average ideal temperature being -10 deg F. Also, when the dogs retire, their names retire with them, not to be used again.
We all enjoyed this free demonstration immensely and the ranger gave a very interesting talk about dog sledding. Even without snow, it was a magical moment just watching the dogs do what they absolutely love to do the most – run!