So I debated about which trip to blog about first--the Alaska birding trip I took with my mom and aunt; our trip last summer to North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park; or various birding trips of the past eight months. Alaska won out because, well, it's ALASKA.
This trip was a birding tour lead by Bill Sweetman of Bsweet Tours. It had been advertised on Michigan Audubon's Facebook page, and when I saw it in January, my mom and I were in the midst of trying to find a trip to do together this year. The price seemed more than reasonable for a 10-day tour, and included all travel in Alaska, lodging, breakfast and lunch. All we had to do was get to Anchorage and buy our own dinners. My mom paid for the tour itself, as that was beyond my artist's means, even at the relatively low cost. My aunt found out about our plans and joined us. In all there were nine participants plus Bill.
We arrived at Detroit Metro early on May 29th to catch our flight to Seattle. Mom had the window seat but I could catch the views too. I took some shots out the plane window with my iPhone. I had chosen seats that would place us on the north and east sides of the plane so the sun wouldn't be blasting in.
|Potholes region of North Dakota. We drove through this area last summer. |
It is a huge breeding area for waterfowl.
The sky was clear until we reached the mountains, where cracks in the clouds revealed snow-covered peaks below. I am not certain which peak this is, but it might be Mt. Ranier.
|Mt. Ranier? peaking through the clouds.|
Our descent to Seattle-Tacoma airport brought us above the city. You can see the Space Needle in the center of this image.
|Seattle and the Puget Sound.|
We had a layover in Seattle of a couple hours which allowed us to have a leisurely lunch. Several of the other tour participants met us there, including Bill and my aunt Terry. We boarded an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage, which took us up along the Northwest Coast. It was a spectacular sight.
|Northwest Coast. Canada? Alaska?|
This is from my journal, written as we flew above the coast:
"Soaring along at 35,00 feet, high above the clouds, I look down through the gaps and see snow-capped peaks and the jagged edges of the coast, green islands surrounded by blue. I am struck by the vastness of it, the seeming endlessness of it all. There is so much to do, so much to see, that I would need three lifetimes to do it all. The world is an infinitely beautiful place. I want to experience as much of it as I can in the time I have left. I want to revel in it. I want to see it and feel it and taste it. I want to fall in love with it, over and over again. I've lived half my life. I've spent far too much time feeling afraid, or lonely, or guilty. I'm done with that. I'm done with negative things. I am ready for joy. For love. I am ready to be shattered."
Heady stuff at 35,000 feet!
As we neared Anchorage the clouds thickened and lowered, so that when we finally slipped below them we were flying low above what I believe is the Kenai NWR. The Chugach Mountains rose up in the distance.
|Kenai NWR from the air.|
By the time we got to the Coast International Hotel, which is right next to the airport, it was around 7 pm, which was 11 pm Eastern time. I was tired but needed to stretch my legs after so many hours sitting. I found a path near the hotel that eventually led to a park (I did not get the name). The first thing I saw was this notice posted on a board at the parking lot. Welcome to Alaska!
|Moose warning! Cow separated from calf and she's mad about it!|
The park offered good views of the nearby mountains, though I have no idea which ones these are. The unfamiliar surroundings plus the low clouds and flat light meant I didn't know which direction I was headed.
|View from the park trail.|
|Who can resist paper birch!|
I did not see an angry moose, thankfully, but did add my first new bird during my walk, a Black-billed Magpie. I would eventually add 66 new birds on this trip.
Back at the hotel, I did my best to sleep. The sun doesn't set in Anchorage in late May until 1 am or so. By the time I settled into bed it was 2 am Eastern time--I'd been up for 20 hours. That was doable when I was 25--not so much at 47!
|Totem pole outside the Coast International Hotel.|
Next: Flight to Nome, Safety Sound and Council Road.