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The US purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000, or two cents an acre (570,374 square miles).   Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, has three million lakes, more than 70 potentially active volcanoes, 33,904 miles of coastline, 16 of the 20 highest mountains in the US, and its largest glacier is the Bering Glacier complex, including the Bagley Icefield, covering 2,250 square miles.   State flower is the forget-me-not, state gem is jade, state tree is the Sitka Spruce, state sport is dog mushing.

The Alaska cruise was a 7-day north bound Voyage of the Glaciers cruise aboard the Diamond Princess.   The ship accommodates 2,670 passengers, weighs 116,000 gross tons, 970 feet in length, registered in Bermuda.   Total distance traveled from Vancouver, Canada, to Whittier, Alaska, was 1,878 miles.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - May 26-27, 2006

We traveled by chartered bus at 3:30 am on May 26 from our subdivision to the Orlando airport on May 26, taking America West Airlines (or Delta) and transfer in Phoenix, Arizona, arriving in Vancouver late in the afternoon, and stayed at the Delta Hotel by the airport.   There was a small "nature trail" along the middle arm of the Fraser River, but the bicycle path further on was under construction. This waterfall was outside the window of an underground McDonald's where we had breakfast the following morning.   The electricity was shut off for several minutes and the waterfall stopped, but when the electric was back on, the waterfall recovered quickly.

Diamond Princess



The steam clock in Gastown sounded its musical salute every 15 minutes.   We happened to see it on the hour and it put on a splendid display of music and steam.   After walking throughout the historic area, we boarded the ship at 12 noon and sailed at 5:30 pm.

Steam Clock


Ketchikan - May 29, 2006 (salmon capital of the world) is known as Alaska's "First City" because it is the first major community travelers come to as they journey north.   It is located in the Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest temperate forest covering 17 million acres.   On a bus/walking tour we observed salmon swimming in the downtown Ketchikan Creek next to the Totem Heritage Center.   We also went to the Saxman Native Village where we observed native carvers at work, saw many more totems, and took a trail through a wooded area where the huge wild skunk cabbage plants were a lush green.

Totem Museum


Juneau, Alaska - May 30, 2006

The capital of Alaska covers 3,248 square miles, making Juneau Alaska's third largest city with 30,000 people and one of the biggest towns in size in the world, only exceeded by Kiruna, Sweden, and Sitka, Alaska.   Gold was discovered in 1880 and resulted in three of the largest gold mines in the world.   It is the only capital in the US accessible only by boat or plane.   Juneau has 262.2 miles of hiking trails compared to their 41 miles of roadways from Thane at the South to Echo Cove at the North, and only 22 miles of road on Douglas Island. Alaska has one mile of road for every 42 square miles of land, compared to the US average of one to one.

Mount Roberts Tramway - Juneau

There were many breathtaking views from the mountain station which was 1,800 feet up the mountain via the 6-minute ride.   The trails still had a lot of snow and ice, but the accessible ones had pristine alpine meadows and spectacular views of Douglas and Admiralty Islands, Gastineau Channel, Lynn Canal, and the Chilkat Mountains.  There was a live bald eagle at the Juneau Raptor Center with an interesting program.



Rain Forest and Glacier Gardens - Juneau

One man transformed a storm-damaged ecosystem of 50 acres into a magical garden in the heart of this Alaskan rain forest on Thunder Mountain.   The colorful plants, trees, and flowers created a dazzling contrast to the lush green forest backdrop.   The hanging gardens in the upside-down trees and waterfalls were absolutely fantastic.   The temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska is distinguished by its many canopy layers and the lichen, mosses, and ferns and its dense, shrubby undergrowth.

A golf cart took us to the 580-foot level along forest pathways carved into the mountain toward the upper regions.   At the top was a yellow cedar boardwalk leading to a breathtaking panoramic view of the Mendenhall Valley, Douglas Island, Gastineau Channel, Chilkat Mountains, and downtown Juneau.   The descent along a different route went past ponds, waterfalls, and colorful floral arrangements where we saw the garden designer working on his latest pond - in a heart shape.  On the way back to the cruise ship, the bus driver spotted a tree that contained 8 roosting bald eagles.




The jumping off point for the Klondike Gold Rush.   Skagway has 850 year-round residents and covers 455 square miles of land and 11 square miles of water.   These towns were on Alaska Daylight Time, four hours behind Eastern Daylight Time.

Red Onion Saloon


White Pass & Yukon Route - Skagway

This "Scenic Railway of the World" was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush.   The narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.   Its route includes a breathtaking panorama of mountains, gorges, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles, the original Klondike Trail of '98 worn into the rocks, and historic sites, viewed from the comfort of vintage parlor cars.

International Flags

White Pass Railroad

Glacier Bay National Park - June 1, 2006

Park rangers embarked the ship at Bartlett Cove, and then we proceeded to Lamplugh Glacier and then Margarie Glacier.   Rangers disembarked at 3 pm, and we headed into the Gulf of Alaska.

The grand buffet was an amazing display of fruit and vegetable carvings and lush desserts.   On a single cruise, between 110 and 115 tons of food are delivered to the ship and loaded and stored.   The bananas on the final days were rather over-ripe.



College Fjord - June 2, 2006

Ship entered Prince William Sound at 1 pm and cruised by the impressive glaciers of College Fjord, including Harvard Glacier.  



Whittier - June 3, 2006

This town was founded in 1940 by the US military during World War II as a secret supply port and is still accessible only by land through a 2-1/2 mile tunnel that alternately serves auto and rail traffic.   While waiting for the signal for the auto traffic, we spotted a mother bear and cub near the top of the mountain.   My photos taken from the bus did not show the bears very clearly.

Bears (picture from brochure)


Anchorage - June 3, 2006

Located at the foot of the Chugach Mountains along Cook Inlet, Anchorage has more than 277,000 residents and is the state's largest city.   The one-hour Anchorage City History Trolley tour showed how and where Alaskans live, the Alaska Railroad, Lake Hood (the largest and busiest float-plane base in the world, Cook Inlet (with tides that are second largest in the world) with ample narration by the driver who was a third generation native Alaskan.   There was also a friendly free trolley that I rode after walking down to the river with a fisherman.

The earthquake epicenter only 80 miles from the city in 1964 measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale, the strongest North American in recorded history.   East/west streets are alphabetical and north/south streets are numbered.   The Log Cabin Information Center with the grass roof had many maps for self-guided tours.

The plane left Anchorage at 4:10 pm, but was late arriving for the transfer at Las Vegas, causing a delayed takeoff for the rest of the trip to Orlando.



Florida - June 4, 2006

The flight arrived in Orlando at 6:09 am.   The sunrise was above the clouds as we approached Orlando, and the picture was taken over the sleeping passengers on the plane.   Our bus arrived back at our subdivision at 9 am, after most people slept enroute.



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