Thursday, August 6, 2015

Anchorage, Alaska.... Day 1!

July 3, 2015 ~ Time to rise and shine 'cause we are heading North to Alaska! When we had talked about planning a trip Alaska seemed so hard to reach and something we wouldn't do until we retired but we love adventure and we have the holiday weekend so why not do it while we are young and able to get around quickly! We've already been asked the famous question and we haven't even left he airport.... (At McDonald's getting a quick breakfast) Brandon ordered our drinks and asked for them to be in foam cups please... Guy looks at us and says "Where are you from?" Bahahaha! Missouri sugar! Never a dull moment!

Brandon flies free of charge as a "Companion Pass" when we fly Southwest Airlines so we used points to get us to Oregon and thought I would have to pay an arm and a leg for Alaskan Airlines tickets for both of us but to my surprise we got them for $700 round trip for both of us! That was cheap in my opinion and that got me really excited... guess I figured they would be really expensive!

 It was a 3 1/2 hour flight so let's go! 

Goodbye Portland! 
I love being up above the clouds and seeing what it looks like above the sky that we see on the ground. So peaceful and such pretty blues. 
Getting close now! 
Interesting island just before we landed.
 In the airport we ran across a few critters....
Dall Sheep..
"Please describe the device you are pointing at me...."
Albino Beaver...
"Get away from my wood ....."
Brown Bear...
"Do you know where I can get a good pedicure?"
"They call me Elvis..."
 We didn't have time to be hanging out making small talk with the critters as we needed to get our bags and get our rental! (Boy was that an experience) Be sure to hold onto your buns when they hit you with the price of a rental in Anchorage... Holy Moly they ain't cheap!
 This is what they gave us.... a brand spankin' new ride!
(Que up the hamsters and put a little oil on the wheel!)

He had a heck of a time finding all the dials/buttons but we didn't have time for a tutorial... 
'cause sugars we've got places to go! Oh goodness gracious... 
They put us in a Mini Cooper Countryman... 
This is freaking hilarious watching Brandon drive this thing! Couple of things...
1. We don't know how the heck to open the back hatch.
2. It's all-wheel drive. (Oh boy!)
3. The speed-o-meter is in the center where your radio is normally located. 
(Confusing to country folk like us)
4. We hit a speed bump and nearly knocked our teeth out!
5. Dang thing shifts itself! 
(Brandon is fat fingering buttons that control important things like shifting!)
6. Let the adventure begin! Bahahaha!

It was hilarious watching the Clampett's loading their luggage in this ol' girl. We didn't know how to open the dang back hatch and our luggage was rather tight in the back seat with long legs Brandon behind the wheel! Ha! Oh well... we are loaded and ready to check this place out! 

Hello Anchorage.... I sure hope you are ready for us!
 What a beautiful place and this is the view leaving the airport!
So I have a somewhat funny story.... As we were getting on the Seward Highway heading toward Girdwood, AK traffic was a slow moving standstill for a while. We had the windows down (it was 69 degrees so we were enjoying the weather) and all the sudden we heard lots of gunfire! We both look at each other and then start looking around thinking what the heck is going on! After a few minutes of not seeing anything we realize there was a firing range just ahead of us on the right! Oh my goodness that was crazy and scary at the same time!
(You just never know anymore but thankfully in this situation it was "normal")
It was a really slow yet pretty drive along the coastline.
Wish we could have stopped by this place but we were on a mission! 

Pictures really don't do this place justice.... truly amazing!

 We made it to Girdwood!

We made it to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center! 
AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center. You can visit their website to learn more about this place!
 The first critter we saw here was a cute moose with velvet antlers! 

Then we spotted a black bear sitting on the hill just watching everyone!
Then it was time to eat and that black bear was down that hill in a matter of moments! 

Beautiful country these animals live on and I loved this tree! 
(I know that it's nothing special and perhaps even dead but I still like it)

"Hey Boo-Boo... we've got company!"
These brown bears seemed so much more relaxed than the black bears.
"Hey girl.... How you doin'?"
"Come on down here so I can give you a big ol' hug...I'm really friendly!"
"Don't listen to her... she's crazy!"
 "I just want to give you a little kiss!"
"You are lying Bernice.... I'm outta here!"
(They are such funny critters!)

One more of the tree and we are moving on....

It was fun watching the Bison. The little one was head butting his momma and she turned and gave him a look... he stopped but then he started messing with her again. It was really cute and they kept their eye on us making sure we weren't going to hurt the babies.

This Elk had a massive rack!
 He was just chilling with his ladies!

If you hadn't figured me out now I have a thing for red barns!
Let's go see what's inside!

There were two of these cuties but I could only see one for a picture.
I would have loved to get in there an suggle with these cuties!

Y'all better be good 'cause these Reindeer are watching you!
(I've never seen Reindeer in person before... pretty cool that their antlers are in velvet still)

The Story of Adonis:
Adonis arrived at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in 1995. He was found near a remote village in Alaska and had been shot. His left wing required full amputation. Even though it is illegal to harm an eagle under the Bald Eagle Protection Act, an estimated 2,000-3,000 eagles are shot or poisoned in the United States each year. Since Adonis cannot fly, he has found a permanent home here at AWCC. (Information taken from plaque next to his area)

This is a black tail deer. He was a cute little feller and it was actually funny listening to him "slurp" the water as he was drinking. The rest of his buddies were hiding out in a shelter area just watching.

I know I have already said this but it was really beautiful country out here!

It was time to head North back to Anchorage!

We checked into our hotel and went to find something to eat! 

We found this neat restaurant that is a replica of an old mill house and were excited to check it out!
We had to order some of their World Famous Korn Fritters with whipped honey butter! 

Loved the feel and decor of this place! 

Prime rib was really good!

Dusty Sourdough gives a nightly story time and concert around 7:30 PM.
(We didn't get to hear him but popped in for a quick picture while he was practicing)

If you ever get a chance to visit Anchorage then stop by here for dinner!

Across the street was the Alaska Wild Berry Products store....
These two big ol' cuties greeted us at the door! 
Alaska's 20' Chocolate Waterfall! 
In 1994 when Peter Eden built the new main store, he knew it would have to be really special. After all, Anchorage wasn't exactly a world-class tourism destination at the time. So working from Peter's vision, Homer artist Mike Sirl designed and built this "Chocolate Waterfall."

The falls incorporates over 3000 pounds of chocolate, authentic copper candy kettles, and a specially built warming and mixing system. The chocolate gushes out of the fountain head, cascades down the kettles, then settles in the swirling chocolate pool. The chocolate itself is donated by the Peter's Chocolate Division of Nestle Foods and Guittard Chocolate Company.

And by the way, if you're tempted by the luscious smell to sample some of the flowing melted candy, please don't. The chocolate waterfall is for your visual enjoyment only. We have plenty of delicious chocolate at the candy counter to your left.

Next up we were really excited about  taking an Alaska Photo Trek Photography Tour!

I signed us up for the Cook Inlet Photo Tour and our tour guide would end up being the famous Alaskan Photographer, Jeff Schultz! Jeff has been the official photographer for the Iditarod Dog Sled Races since 1981... so we had the best of the best taking us on a wonderful adventure and hopefully capturing some beautiful things around Anchorage! We would get picked up at our hotel around 7:45 PM and return around 12:30 AM. This tour would take us to see an Alaskan sunset!
(We had a bonus guest with us as well... Jeff's wife, Joan and she even baked homemade cookies for everyone! Really nice people!)

Jeff took us to Lake Hood Float Plane Base to capture some of the float planes as they came in for a landing. While we waited for several to come in he talked about taking photos and composition of photographs. For example he said that many of us frame a picture so that it is centered (yep I am guilty of this) and actually you want to take a picture to draw the eye to it not away from it. He wanted us to get creative and taught many of us (mostly me...ha!) how to use different settings on our camera to capture certain things. I do have a good camera (Cannon D70) and sadly I really don't know how to use it fully so I was really excited to see how to make pictures pop a little more depending on time of day and lighting. He is a great teacher and I would love to attend some of his classes that he offers because I know I would learn so much more in my amateur photography hobby.

It was neat seeing all the different float planes lined up in their slips on the water.

We didn't spend a lot of time here but it was pretty cool watching several planes take off and land!

Just as we were leaving another plane was coming in for a landing.
(Wish I could have caught him landing on the water.... that was really cool!)

One last try at trying to get a good picture of the float planes with a creative eye.

Next we drove to Point Woronzof  to see downtown Anchorage!
(A closer view of Anchorage)
The Spry's!

We watched several planes come in over the top of us as they were landing at the airport just behind where we were and that was pretty awesome!

Brandon got a pretty cool video of a plane coming in! 

 As we were driving to our next destination we spotted a moose! It was awesome and she was just across the street so we pulled the van over to capture a few photos of her.
Just then her baby popped out of the brush!
It was so cool to see momma watching out for her baby!
Momma was so sweet giving her baby kisses!
By this point several cars had pulled over and scared baby but momma had her eyes on everyone!
We said our goodbyes and headed to our next spot!

This is at approximately 10:00 PM... crazy how it's still light outside!

Cute little flowers on the way up to a creek!

So this is where playing with the camera settings got pretty cool! I wish I had taken a "before" picture so you could see the difference but normally when you take a picture of water it looks like it just stops. Changing a few settings on your camera gives the water a softer feel as if it is smooth. So we spent a little time at this creek / waterfall area to try our creative eye and settings on cameras.

Here's several pictures that I captured at McHugh Creek....
Although I have a long way to go on learning the functions on my camera I really like how these turned out. When I take photos I never use an editing software because I have never learned how to use it and I am afraid I will start editing every picture which will drive me crazy!

This has to be one of my favorite pictures of us! Before we left this location I asked Jeff if he would take a quick photo of us.... yep he certainly knows what he is doing because this picture is perfect!

We made a mad dash to Glen Alps which is the trail-head up to Flattop Mountain so we could watch the sun set!
(Amazing how quick the sun starts setting and the beautiful colors just come out!)

This reminded me of Hawaii and heading up to watch the sunrise and crazy to think we are in Alaska getting ready to watch the sunset! (All pictures were taken while driving... not too shabby!)

We made it to the location we are watching the sunset just in time!

 Downtown Anchorage....

This was about 11:40 PM (ish) and it was cold and the wind was blowing pretty good. Jeff's wife, Joan grabbed a bunch of jackets to keep everyone warm. I told you she was awesome! 

One quick picture just after sunset! 
(Flash was used to capture us in this picture with a cool background)

Pictures certainly don't do this place justice but take my word for it... it was beautiful! 

The sky and mountains behind us! 

(Chugach State Park is where we went to see the sunset!)

This was an amazing experience for anyone who loves to capture photos! No matter if you have a smart phone with a camera, a point and shoot camera or a professional style camera you need to go on this tour if you ever visit Anchorage! 

Jeff and team dropped us back off at our hotel around 12:15 AM and I wanted to grab a quick photo with him! (Such a nice guy!)

I also wanted to get a copy of his book "Chasing Dogs" and have him sign it! 

I can't say enough great things about this awesome tour. I promise if you are ever in Anchorage, Alaska and have a chance to sign up for any of these photo walks you won't be disappointed. Jeff and his team are great with communication (we had to book this prior to our trip and I mixed up my times but thankfully Jody helped get me corrected as I built our itinerary) Thank you Alaska Photo Treks for a very fun and very memorable trip!

Now it's time to catch a few hours of sleep!

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