Bryce Canyon

As we were leaving the Grand Canyon, someone recommended that we take a different route than the one we were planning on taking.  He wanted us to see the Navajo Bridge.  Navajo Bridge is a pair of steel spandrel arch bridges that cross the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry in northern Arizona.

This view was awesome!  There is also a very unique bathroom facility here that you need to experience:)   Now on to Bryce….

Welcome to Bryce Canyon!

While the Grand Canyon was just immense, Bryce Canyon was simply beautiful!  Bryce Canyon is known for its crimson-colored hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations. The park’s main road leads past the Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression lying below the Rim Trail hiking path. It has overlooks at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. Prime viewing times are around sunup and sunrise.

We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel.  This hotel is a Best Western and was a very nice place to stay.

Hotel Interior

We drove through Bryce Canyon National Park.  This Park consists of over 37,000 acres of scenic colorful rock formations and desert wonderland.

We just couldn’t get over the beauty of this place.  One of our stops was at Natural Bridge.

There are lots of hiking trails here and one night a portion of our group went on a moon hike.  I stayed behind with a smaller group and we just took pictures of the moon over the canyon.

We really all enjoyed visiting this canyon and had a great time exploring all the wonders it had to offer.

Join me next week as we travel from Bryce to Zion Canyon!!!

Grand Canyon

Welcome to the Grand Canyon!

In late summer/early fall of 2011 a group of us decided to take a trip out west to see the canyons.  We flew in and out of Las Vegas and visited Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon and ended up the trip with two nights in Las Vegas.  I am making this trip into a series of posts similar to my Alaskan trip posts.

We started out in Las Vegas and headed to the Grand Canyon.  We took the scenic/historic route 66 and our first stop was for lunch in Williams.

Of course our lunch stop included beer.  The guys found the Grand Canyon Brewery.  However, it was not opened but we were told that the diner next door served their beer so that was our lunch stop.  The diner was too cute!  It was called Cruisers Cafe and celebrates the Mother Road and features all sorts of memorabilia from the heyday of the 1950s. There are restored gas pumps, road signs, and other period artifacts.  Also, the bathrooms are really unique and something to see!

After lunch it was on to the Grand Canyon!  We stayed at the El Tovar which sits on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  This landmark limestone-and-pine hotel dating from 1905 is a 14-minute walk from Grand Canyon Village and an 8-minute walk from Grand Canyon Railway.

This hotel is located in the park and is definitely a place that I would highly recommend.  We spent several nights there and watched many sunsets and sunrises over the canyon; they were beautiful!

There is a bus shuttle that you can take to see the various sights around the Grand Canyon.  I would definitely recommend taking it as it is the fastest and easiest way around.  I’m sure it might be a little crazy during peak tourist season, but when we were there it was not bad.

The Grand Canyon is definitely something to experience!  Please join me next week when we head on to Bryce Canyon.

 

Dallas/San Antonio

My husband’s company was based in Dallas, Texas so one July we decided to go down to Dallas and then head on to San Antonio.  While in Dallas one of the places we went to eat at was called Pappasito’s and the food there was wonderful as were the margaritas!

We headed to San Antonio for the fourth of July weekend so we ran into quite a bit of traffic and it was super hot in Texas in July, but it was a fun weekend.  I would highly recommend San Antonio as a destination for a long weekend trip.  We stayed in a Courtyard By Marriott that was in the Market Square area.  It was a walk to get to the Riverwalk area, but it was definitely doable.  We really enjoyed the Market Square area as there were lots of shops and restaurants in that area that were fun to explore.

Market Square

The San Antonio River Walk is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets of San Antonio.  There are some hotels down here but the prices are super high.  There are also lots of restaurants and shops in this area as well and they are fun to go through.

If you go here, take one of the boat rides shown above as they are worthwhile taking as they will give you a historic overview of this area.

Of course, if you go to San Antonio a stop to see the Alamo is a must.  It is a small, shrine like fortress and monument to Texas history with a museum, artifacts, and gardens.

I have mentioned previously that my husband is a home brewer so a stop by a local brewery was a must.  He found one in San Antonio called Freetail so we stopped by there for a drink.

This was a fun long holiday weekend trip that we took by ourselves, which is rare for us to do, but this was a fun time and I would highly recommend going there and checking out some of the sights that San Antonio has to offer.

Alaska/Talkeetna

Welcome to Talkeetna!

Royal Caribbean had us staying at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and you can see from the picture above and below that it was an awesome place to stay!

We arrived at the Lodge late afternoon and we were pretty much on our own as to what we wanted to do.  Most of the group went on a hike around Talkeetna Lakes Park.  We had a guide taking us on this hike and since there had been a bear sighting in the area, I was glad to have him with us!  It was an easy hike, and the scenery as the sun was going down was beautiful!  The sun turned the top of the tress a very pretty yellow!

The next morning we went to eat at a place called the Roadhouse which had the biggest pancakes that I have ever seen.  I was not diagnosed celiac at that time so I did eat one of the pancakes, but I did share it with my husband.  When I say that they were big; I mean they were huge and I don’t think any of us were able to eat one entirely on our own.  They were delicious!

We only stayed at the Lodge over night but we didn’t have to leave until four the following afternoon so we went on a raft ride that while pretty boring.  However,  the sight at the end was simply awesome to see!  They called this trip a scenic float so don’t expect any whitewater rapids if you go on it.

The sight we got to see at the end of the raft trip was one that only about 30% of the people get to see.  We were all pretty awe struck by the sight.

It was quite cloudy when we started down the river and the guide told us that it is very rare to see the top of Mt. McKinley.  However, the sky cleared up just as we were finishing up our trip so we were one of the small percentage of people who got to see this magnificent sight.  I can still remember how happy we all were that we got to see this on our last day there.  In 2015 then President O’Bama officially changed the name back to Denali, but it was still considered Mt. McKinley when we visited Alaska.

Most of the group went back to the Lodge to just sit on the back deck with a drink and take in the beauty of the mountain.  Some of the ladies stayed in the town of Talkeetna to do some souvenir shopping and then we all returned to admire the view.

Believe it or not; there was a brewery in Talkeetna.  However, it was not open when we were there so sadly the guys did not get to sample any home brews there.

We got back on the Wilderness Express and returned to Anchorage where most of our flights back were going out of very early the next day.  We found a bar in Anchorage to eat dinner at and toast to having wonderful friends to vacation with and to an awesome trip!!!  I don’t think any of us will ever forget the memories we made on this trip!

Join me next week as I take you on a trip down the riverwalk area of San Antonio!

 

 

Alaska/Denali National Park

Welcome to the beauty of Denali National Park!

We stayed at the Grande Denali Lodge overnight which was beautiful!  We had various options that we could do for this night.  Some of our crew went on a whitewater raft trip.

Whitewater raft adventure!

Some of them went on a nature hike and saw some awesome scenery!

I went along with a friend to see Jeff King’s sled dogs.  Jeff King was a four time Iditarod champion and since we both just love dogs we figured this would be something that we would enjoy and we sure did!

The puppies.

Jeff King

We all met back up at the Grande Denali Lodge for an evening of fun and discussing what each of us did that night.  The next day the tour had us up early for a Denali Natural History Tour.  We met with the tour director who took us on a bus ride through Denali National Park.  Here are some of the scenery pictures that I took along our ride.

We went in September and the colors were simply beautiful as you can see from the pictures above.  After our tour through Denali, we caught the Wilderness Express for our next stop; Talkeetna.  The wilderness express is the Royal Caribbean’s glass train that takes you from Denali to Talkeetna and through which you can see some of the most beautiful scenery that Alaska offers.

Please come back next week for our adventure in Talkeetna!

Alaska/Anchorage/Fairbanks

Welcome to Anchorage!

We picked up a bus from Royal Caribbean that took us to Anchorage.   The plan was to visit the Anchorage Museum which was interesting.  We then had some time to eat lunch before we took a flight to Fairbanks.

Fairbanks!

Sophie’s Station

By the time we arrived in Fairbanks, we were all pretty tired and hungry so we went to dinner then to sleep.  Royal Caribbean put us up at Sophie Station Hotel which was nice.  They had us up and going early the next day.  We took a Riverboat Discover Tour; which was kind of touristy but nice.

Riverboat Tour

Moose we saw on the riverboat tour.

After the Riverboat Discover Tour we went into downtown Fairbanks where we were able to explore their historic downtown area and have some lunch.  After lunch we got back on the bus and drove to Denali National Park.

Alaskan Pipeline

Along the way to Denali National Park, we stopped at the Alaskan Pipeline.   The pipeline was constructed in 1977 as a means of transporting petroleum from the oilfields at Prudhoe Bay to the marine terminal in Valdez where it is loaded aboard tankers for the journey to US refineries.  It took two years to finish this project and was a major economic boost to Alaska.

Please join me next week as we travel to Denali National Park!

Alaska/Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier (Cruise By)

Welcome to Hubbard Glacier, the longest and most active tidewater glacier in Alaska.  Measuring 76 miles from its source to the sea, this marvel of nature stretches from Mt. Logan in the Yukon to Disenchantment Bay.

There is nothing more exciting than watching a massive chunk of ice as it comes crashing down into the bay.   The roaring sound that goes with it is just as thrilling.  This is called glacier calving or as the Tingit people say; White Thunder.  We managed to capture this phenomenon on video; see below.

We sailed along the face of Hubbard Glacier and could see numerous small icebergs float past us.  Since the Radiance of the Seas has so many windows, you can see this magnificent river of ice from just about anywhere on the ship.  We had a balcony room so we alternated between the top deck and our balcony to see the view.

This was our last night on the ship.  We docked the next morning at Seward and took a bus to Anchorage.  Please join me next week as we start the land portion of our trip.

 

Alaska, Hoonah (Icy Strait Point)

Welcome to Icy Strait Point and the town of Hoonah!

Our next port was Icy Strait Point.  We were originally supposed to go to this port earlier in the cruise, but two police officers were shot and killed during this time so the cruise line made a decision to have us port there later in the cruise when things had calmed down.

We all went separate ways at this port.  Some of us walked into the sleepy town of Hoonah; a couple went on a whale watch from the ship’s excursions and the rest went on a whale watch that they set up on their own.

I was part of the group that walked into Hoonah.  Hoonah is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska.  About 70% of its residents are of Alaska Native heritage.  There really is not much there to see so after a brief walk around we ended up back at the port where there was shopping.  We sat by the fire pit and enjoyed watching the zip line.

The dock area that had shopping.

The group that went whale watching did see a number of whales and sea lions.

Sea Lions off the whale watching boat.

After this group did the whale watching, they ended up in Hoonah where they lunched at The Office.  They all raved over how good the crabs were and you can see from the picture below just how big they were.

Of course they had to have beer with their crab lunches.  As I’ve said before, these guys are home brewers and will stop anywhere that has local beers on tap to try out.

I would recommend you look into some excursions while in the port of Icy Strait Point as the town of Hoonah does not offer much in the way of site seeing.

Please join me next week as we cruise past Hubbard Glacier!

Alaska/Juneau

Welcome to Juneau!

Juneau was by far our busiest port!  We had arranged for a taxi to take us to some places that we wanted to see as well as stops that our driver recommended that we see.  Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier.  Mendenhall Glacier is 13 miles long and ends at Mendenhall Lake and is easily viewed from the Forest Service’s historic visitor center.

Our taxi for the day.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

After we saw Mendenhall, we took at drive to the National Shrine of St. Therese.  The Shrine is dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of Alaska, missionaries, and the Diocese of Juneau. She is known for her  autobiography, The Story of a Soul, and in it she wrote that what really mattered in life was not our great deeds, but our great love.

St. Therese

St. Therese Chapel

The view from the Chapel.

After we took hundreds of pictures of this spectacular view, we had our taxi take us to the Alaskan Brewing Company.  As I mentioned in the last post, some of the guys are home brewers so this was a necessary stop.  You can see how the beer is made and sample the traditional Alaskan amber, malts and ales.  Of course the trip would not have been complete without Tony, who works there, giving us the history behind this brewing establishment.  A fun time was had by our entire group as we sampled our way through the store and bought a variety of souvenirs from there.  We ended up going to lunch afterwards, but probably should have gone to lunch before sampling all that beer.

We had bought tickets to go on the Mount Robert’s Tramway from the cruise ship as we heard that this was the easiest way to obtain them.  So after lunch, we headed for the tram. The view from the top of that mountain was beautiful.

The view from the top of Mt. Roberts.

The Mount Roberts Tramway takes you 1,800 feet high and then lets you explore a park offering cultural heritage education, crafts and some amazing, expansive views. It’s Juneau’s most panoramic and breathtaking view!  Visit the live bald eagle display, do some alpine hiking, and walk the trails.

The live bald eagle display.

After doing some hiking at the top of this mountain, we headed back down into town and the ship.  This was the night that the ship put on the Quest; which is an adult game show that all Royal Caribbean ships do.  This particular game was not bad, but some of the ones that I’ve seen since this cruise are really x rated.  Part of our group decided to play this game and it was so much fun.  We actually came in first place and had a great time doing it.  Of course our prize was just a Royal Caribbean hat, but it was a good time.

Join me next week as we going into Icy Strait Point, Alaska!

Alaska/Skagway

Welcome to our next port; Skagway!

We started out the day taking an excursion off the ship.  It is one of the few ship excursions that we took and it was a fun trip.  It was a bus trip to the summit which is a scenic drive to White Pass in the Yukon.  I’ve known a few friends who have taken the train ride and most have enjoyed it.  We decided that we didn’t want to be gone all day so took the shorter bus ride there.  Below are some pictures I took along the way there.

After we returned from our bus trip a group of us went on a helicopter ride to see a glacier.  See below the pictures that they took.  It looked amazing.

A visit to Skagway would not be complete without a stop at the Historic Red Onion Saloon. Located on the corner of 2nd & Broadway, the Red Onion is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. Built in 1897, the Red Onion Saloon operated as one the finest bordellos in Skagway and though times have changed, the spirit has not.  We did not have a chance to visit this establishment, but it sure sounds like a fun place to check out.

We ended up the day going to lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company.  Most of the guys we travel with are home brewers and love craft beers so everywhere we travel, they are on the lookout for local beers to try.   After lunch we did some hiking then some shopping in the town before heading back to the ship.

Next week join me as we head into the town of Juneau!