I apologize for the long wait, but we've been so busy!
In our first two weeks, we did many, many, many things, and it all began with climbing Flattop Mountain. Flattop Mountain is kind of like two kinds of mountains smushed together. One side has a flat top, the other side has a regular mountain top. We climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. We were not prepared for how difficult it was going to be. We were told that there would be a tiny scramble at the top. Well, because of the mile long scramble, we didn't reach the top. We came, at the most, a few yards close to it. But it was still a big accomplishment!
We went to the Anchorage museum and saw an exhibit called Mammoths and Mastodons, which was very interesting. Did you know that elephants are related to them? As well as musk ox, which resemble bison and buffalo, except they have these horns that look like blond curls parted down the middle.
We drove down to the Kenai Peninsula, where we panned for gold! You get your pans at this small stand in the midst of a beautiful, large garden and shacks. It was and is a mining camp, and the historic shacks there served as the commissary, cafeteria, barn, etc. We walked down beside a rushing stream. We were handed a sample pack of what looked like black gravel. We pored it into our pans and filed the pan with water from the stream to "clean it", meaning, get rid of all the dirt in order to better see pieces of gold. We did "strike gold", but they were tiny flecks, when we counted up all the flecks we found, we got 29. We kept them and got in the car so we could see the tide come in a couple miles down at 5 or more miles an hour!
This is called the Bore Tide. That night it was expected to come thruogh around 6:30 at night or later. Beluga wales swim in this water. Did you know that they are endangered? They come to the water about 2 weeks after the Bore Tide. While we waited to watch the tide come in, we met a man who let us look through his telescope and we got to se a black bear and dull sheep! Some people mistake sheep for mountain goats, but you can tell the difference by the fur on their legs. The tide was a sight to see! It came in so fast! There was almost no water, rocks were visible, and all of the sudden, whoosh!!! The tide went speeding in! The water was running in all different directions, and soon the rocks that we saw were gone, and I could only see the little sand on the beach. We saw surfers out there, and they fell off their boards quickly.
A few days later we visited Thunderbird Falls. We walked on a beautiful trail and came across the rushing sound of the water. We walked down beside it and we put our hands in the water. It was pretty cold, but I just wanted to get on a kayak and sail down the speeding stream. It wasn't long before we returned to the beautiful Kenai Peninsula.
This time, we stayed at the ski resort there, called Aleyeska. The day we arrived, we climbed the mountain behind the resort, Mt. Aleyeska, with the trams going up it, and on which many skiers ski. It is a 3,000 foot hike, and when I reached the top, I was exhausted! On the hike, you get a gorgeous view of "The Arm", it's full name being the Turnigan Arm. It was named by Captain Cook, and it is called "Turnigan" because they had to TURN AGAIN when they reached the arm. There was a time on the hike when we were walking through lots of leaves and wildflowers. The previous day it had rained, so the trail was really muddy. Once we got to the top, we got a free ride down on the tram! We showered up and went back on the tram, this time up, to the top of Mt. Aleyeska. We ate dinner at the Seven Glaciers, which is this 5 star restaurant that has a wonderful view of the gorgeous seven glaciers that lie on the mountains that surround Mt. Aleyeska. Most of them are "hanging" glaciers, which means that they don't connect to little waterfalls that empty into lakes. They just sit on the mountains, all blue and frozen. The dinner was amazing!!!! I tried all these different foods, some that I never even had heard of! We took the tram back down and went to bed, exhausted.
The next day we did one of the most exciting things I've done on this trip. We went to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center. It's like a zoo, but not really. All the animals there are in their natural habitat. This is how the system works. You drive on a trail that leads you all throughout the center. You can stop your car at viewing areas and get out, take pictures and such. You're allowed to drive around as many times as you like. We drove around twice. We first saw ELK, and we came very close to them. They were eating. Then we saw BISON, who were mostly sleeping, then we saw a MUSK OX , which was amazing. Then, I came 4 feet close to a female GRIZZLY BEAR. She waked on over to the fence to get some food. An employee was feeding her cherries!!! He just tossed them through the fence and she gobbled them up! I was baffled at how close he got to her. There were more bears to come, but first we saw some CARIBOU. Their antlers are gigantic! They look a lot like reindeer. Then I walked up to an EAGLE that sat in a very large cage filled with plants and another bird. Next we saw a BLACK BEAR, who was lounging in between two tree trunks that lay on their side. I came very close to him or her as well!
Off in the distance we saw two bear cubs, but at the time, we though they were adult bears because they were so big. We decided to drive around again and see if they came any closer. It's good that we did drive around a second time because this time, I came an inch close to a male MOOSE named Jack. He has a facebook page, Jack the Moose! He was sitting down right next to the fence with an employee who is his best friend. She told us that the fur on his antlers is called velvet and it is covered with nerves. Also, moose gain 600 pounds in their first year! Isn't that crazy?! We asked her what kind of bears we saw at the end, the ones who were playing off in the distance, and she told us they were KODIAK CUBS. We got back in the car and stopped to look at MOOSE CALVES who were eating and drinking. To drink, they bent their two front legs and kneeled, but they kept their back legs straight. We drove on to the Kodiak Cubs, who were now only yards away from the fence, playing and being fed!!! An employee was walking with the cubs, carrying a large bucket as they followed him. He stopped, turned over he bucket, and sat on it. Then, the first cub had to sit before he or she got the food! The same went for the next cub. As the other cub ate, one wandered off to a fallen tree and began to climb it, then it started to slip down! One cub made these signals when she wanted more food. She would swat in the air with her right paw! It was so cool! I was so amazed.
The next day was even more amazing. We drove a few miles out of the resort to the Great Byron Glacier. It was incredible! It was huge and blue, and beautiful! We took a trail up to part of it and came across a huge blue cave made of glacier. Green covered mountains surround you, then, BAM! Blue, white, ice, water, glacier!!!! We got to do some bouldering which is just climbing on a bunch of boulders for a little while. It was so much fun. Looking at the glaciers was just surreal. On our way home we stopped at a salmon viewing, and I saw a coho salmon. My mom is just dying to see a bear fishing for salmon at some point! I hope we do.