Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Best of Kenai Fijords National Park

Kenai Peninsula tour, day 2.
by Robert L. Gisel

 Surfing links today I came across a great 5-day tour that has a variety of activities and gets one involved. It is too weird to use a cliche and call it proactive?

 Still, you get a train ride, kayaking, boat tour, whales maybe (they have to be home), over water, over land, Alaska fjords and glaciers. This is a pretty good 5-day package for doing the Alaska thing. Just leave your laptop at home, you won't want it where you are going.

 Alaska Heritage Tours calls this their Best of  Kenai Fjords National Park 5 days/ 4 nights. This is one of the partner companies of of the CIRI Alaska Tourism Corporation of Alaska Natives, links at the bottom of their web page. In other words, authentic Alaska.

 Look at their itinerary below.

Kenai Fjords 5-Day Tour:

Day 1: Anchorage / Seward / Fox Island


Day 2: Fox Island / Sea Kayaking


Day 3: Fox Island / Seward


Day 4: Seward

thumbnailDay 5: Seward / Anchorage

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Experience the Everlasting Great Land

Juneau, Alaska, from the gill netter Kiksadi.
by Robert L. Gisel

 It is a bright summer day when you can stand in Juneau and gaze upward to the summit of the mountains, green and white against the clear blue skies, with the last remnants of winter's snowfall glittering in the Alaskan sun. Looking thus you can almost hear the angels song, as your awareness expands outward to appreciate the vastness of untouched lands.

 When next you are asked where you are from you say Alaska, whether this be wholly from where you hail or not, such is the pride of having walked the walk. After announcing this you bemuse the odd questions asked as if Alaska were on another planet, or at least a lesser known continent only newly arrived at by Columbus.

 What you'd take for granted as every day life circumstance will be of intrigue to those who haven't caressed the land and challenged the wilderness.

 It is no myth: Alaska is a magical land. Its scenic beauty is breathtaking. The very extremes defy life. Yet living there brings out the best in more more ways than one.

 A group of bears that rip the salmon in their claws, a wild wolf pack sweeping back and forth in the woods in front of you, passing under the deepest blue of a glacier that does not cave in on you, encountering a snorting moose, very still lest he charge, traversing the rain forest to land on a small lake so remote you won't cross paths with a soul, silently slipping through the water in a kayak next to the blow of a sperm whale -- how many memories does it take to endear one to a special land.

 Invariably when I say I'm from Alaska it elicits the comment, "always wanted to go there". Or having been there, want to go there again. Truly it is an experience that never leaves you.

 It is the land, it is the the wildlife, it is the people that make it an unforgettable experience. It becomes you like no other place I have been. Thus the saying, once an Alaskan, always an Alaskan. If you live there now, or have, you know what I mean.

 You are invited north to experience this greatness. But only a few of you, so we keep the population down to frontier numbers.


Scroll the blog.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hiking Juneau

East Glacier Trail.
by Robert L. Gisel

 Heading off to the wilderness land without getting off the guided tour is touring without getting your money's worth, says this Alaskan. I'd recommend getting your money's worth on your trip to Alaska, but that may mean you have to be prepared to do some hiking, or pick up a paddle, or trudge a little in the snow. Finding extreme Alaska, or just getting off the beaten path to get a more inside view, you should be willing to strike an adventure.
Ice caves, West Glacier Trail.

 Here are a few tips that might have been missed by the travel agent.

 You can, of course, take it very easy on a trip to Alaska, ride the tour boat to the Main Street tourist shops and the Red Dog Saloon. If you have waited until your later retirement years where that is as strenuous as you best go, that is fine, do it. You can still pick up the flavor of old Alaska. Three short city blocks up the hill is the Capital Building, same as it was in the Territorial day. That is where you can see the legislative chambers, possibly in session, the Governor's Office and so forth. There is a mounted giant Alaska King Crab in reception. It is about half the size of the crabs that were caught in the 60s, yet still it will cover a small dining table.

 Off to the west on 4th Street and around the corner several short blocks is the Governor's Mansion, same one as the Territorial Governor occupied. It is right on the street and you can knock on the door if you want. The Gov may or may not be there, but that is where he stays when he is in Juneau. The street on the way has a good overlook of the lower city, the boat harbor, and the bridge to Douglas Island. If you are just walking the city it is good to walk this way.

 If your idea of seeing Alaska is more than walking some city streets, but rather setting out to explore without the guided tours, more power to you. Here are some options.

 There are evidently 90 hiking trails around the Juneau area alone, so there is no doubt one that will fit your interests and preferences and difficulty level. Lord knows where these all are, but that is the figure that is given.  If you dedicate a couple summers to that you could possibly check them all out.

 Several of these trails can be accessed from the city itself, no vehicular travel necessary. The Perseverance Trail starts 3,000 feet down the Basin Road at the top of the city. It is an easy walk up to the Glory Hole. Literally, you start from the city, and it is one of the easiest trails.

 Also starting from the city but one of the more strenuous hiking trails is the Mount Juneau Trail. It starts off from a little ways down the Perseverance Trail. It is a hiking trail, but it gets rather steep and tricky in places where you have to scramble up the rocks and switch backs. The view at the top is a nice payoff, beautifully panoramic.

 The Mount Roberts Trail starting from the city is factually a rather moderate hike through the tree line to the top, another spectacular view of the area. When you get there you can have lunch in the restaurant and talk with some people who came to the top in the sky tram.

  There are two trails you can drive out to on either side of the glacier. The East Trail winds up on the side of the mountains to the east, past a couple Falls and giving an unforgettable look down onto the glacier.

 From the West Trail you can approach, touch, walk on, and under the ice. This I say with reservation, as the glacier can be as deadly as a bear. You can go into the ice caves, at your own risk.

 These caverns are created from the pull back and the drainage runoff of the glacial mass. It can collapse randomly and will collapse provoked with enough noise. A school friend just had to see Alaska, went to Juneau, walked up on the frozen lake to the face of the terminus with a group of friends laughing, shouting and carrying on, until the face of the glacier calved. Now she is an ice worm, along with the whole group. Don't monkey around with that one, unless you have a death wish for a cold day in hell and like to be smothered in ice.

 On the lighter side there are trails to where you can kayak or canoe, and there is a white water rafting trip you can connect up with. You can even hike up to the ice field or arrange to fly there. The Lemon Creek Trail goes all the way up to the Lemon Glacier from where you can hike onto the Juneau Ice Field, if you are so inclined. If the weather is acceptable a couple of flight seeing tours will land to let you walk around or ride a dog sled on the ice field. This is the part about trudging in the snow.

 What is left of the wilderness frontier is still close at hand. Scraping your hands on the rocks and scratching your arms on the the underbrush in the fourth mile gets the juices flowing that serve to supercharge your happy memories. This is worth far more than any hundreds of photographs you might take. Taking it all in with the exhilaration of a 3,000 foot drop below you is worth more than all those Kodachromes combined.

 Pearson's Pond Luxury B&B Inn, Suites and Adventure Spa, which is highly recommended as a four-star B&B Inn to stay on your trip to Juneau, have gone to great lengths to detail all the pleasure spots and will be happy to point the way to some good hard fun and adventure.

 Come to Juneau for a visit, and bring your hiking boots.


Read the Full Blog

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kung Fu Bears

Be prepared: you never know when you might run into people.
by Robert L. Gisel

  It is a hackneyed saying, in the interests of survival in any bear habitat, don't place yourself between a mother bear and her cubs. The instincts of motherhood coupled with the combative power of the species put too much adrenalin in the fore to be reckoned with. It is called 'pissed off', or 'Extreme PO'. Then again, you should consider the wrath of the cubs may be worse.

 The good news is the mother will not permit this to happen where that is possible. Should you come in down wind,  run  in upon the cubs unexpectedly so as to surprise or corner or threaten the mother and cubs, this would be a sure way to invite battle. Given enough advance warning, the mother will herd the cubs out of danger.

 Yes, danger, as the bear can consider you dangerous to them as you may consider them dangerous to you. If you think about it, people kill far more bears than the other way around.

 An unusual event occurred in the night in Yellowstone National Park where a mother bear with three cubs ripped through tents to kill one person and injure two others before the campers found safety in their cars. The cubs were found to be malnourished. Goes to show, a mother might do anything to feed her kids.

 Use good judgment always, but make sure you have learned the parameters of appropriate response. Here is a link to a fairly good list on attack avoidance, for starters, and a definitive Tongass Forest article on living in peace with the bears. The key is mutual respect. Hey, with respect the Palestinians and Israelis could even learn to live without attacking each other.

 One man, Mark Stintson,  takes difference with the mother and cubs rule. He tells of a black bear sow that hibernated under their porch in Wisconsin for some months. He didn't have the heart to evict this bear, making such a racket under the porch, when he saw she was in labor having cubs. That's truly cohabiting with nature.

 Here is a person who walked with a mother and cubs and caught it on film. This modifying consideration does not invalidate the stable datum: don't get between the mother and her cubs without a negotiated settement. It is an apparency of threat that kicks the adrenalin into attack mode with all the wrath of motherly protection.

 Several decades ago a Southeast Alaskan family raised an orphaned cub as a household pet. This worked out well until he got too big for the house. The grown bear could stand on its hind legs and poke his head over the eve of the roof.

 The family forgot to inform the contract roofer about their pet. When the bear poked his head over the roof the worker was so scared he leaped off the other side -- forget the ladder -- and raced away from there in his truck. They had to get another roofer to finish the job as the first one refused to return. Scaredy cat.

 I believe he was eventually sold to a zoo, or maybe it was Hollywood (the pet bear, not the fearful roofer). Wild animals can learn to get along with people, where the people aren't so ornery.

 Another formidable reason not to violate the mother and cubs rule is that it has now been discovered bear cubs know karate. The Jackie Chan Martial Arts Program for Kids goes out of its way to be indiscriminate.


Scroll the blog.