The 5th Annual ACFA Cruise
Last Updated 10/22/2010
There's a land where the mountains are
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land - oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back - and I will.
The Spell of the Yukon by Robert Service
For the last five years, the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA), with the help of St. Armands Travel, has sponsored a week long cruise. A percentage of the profits from this cruise are donated by St. Armands Travel to the fund-raising efforts of the organization. Until this year, the cruises were all in the Caribbean, but this time out ninety-nine intrepid travelers headed to the far North and Alaska! Words really can’t express how wonderful this trip was for Leah and I, although the quote from Robert Service’s classic poem above comes close. We hope you enjoy seeing some of our photos. If you were there, perhaps they will bring back happy memories and a smile to your face. If you weren’t there, perhaps you will now long to see the country for yourself (contact St. Armand’s at the link provided above and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you out).
Seattle – Early Arrivals!
Most of the small pictures can be clicked on in order to bring up a larger version of the photo. Please take a look at the larger versions in order to fully appreciate the details! I’ve also provided links to various areas of interest. The links will be underlined. Just click on them to visit those sites!
Leah and I decided early on that if we were going to travel clear from Florida to the Pacific Northwest (an area we’d never seen before), that we were going to go for a few extra days. So, we traveled up to Seattle the Wednesday before the cruise was due to set sail. After a long, arduous journey (over eight hours of traveling on two different airplanes and two hours getting to our hotel), we finally reached the fabulous Warwick Hotel where Steve and Carol Lawson of St. Armands Travel had arranged rooms for us. The staff there showed us an absolutely wonderful time during our stay and I highly recommend this hotel if you are going to Seattle. It is centrally located and the valets will drive you around to various restaurants and sights in the downtown area for nothing more than a tip! Once we had dumped our luggage in the room, we were raring to go out and see a few sights.
Our first stop was the famous Pike Place Market. Carol and Steve have told us about this place for years and Carol maintains it’s one of her favorite places to visit! We were tired from the long journey, but we still managed to hobble around the various flower, fruit and fish stalls, visiting with the vendors and buying a few unique items like garlic pepper jelly. Oh, yeah! Many of the vendors offered us samples of their wares. In the first photo you can see Leah having a taste of a freshly cut pineapple. The second photo shows some of the heaped up Dungeness crabs being sold by one of the fish vendors. Leah and I both love crab and we were literally salivating as we walked through the marketplace!
When we finally returned to the hotel, we were tired but ravenous. Leah was determined that we were going to eat at the Crabpot restaurant down on the pier. She had seen an advertisement talking about their “Seafeasts” which consisted of huge “pots” of seafood such as Dungeness crab (the crab word was the most important part!) and other kinds of seafood. So, after a brief rest, we had the wonderful Warwick Hotel valet drive us down to the pier and we hobbled (our feet were already killing us!) into the restaurant. It was indeed a wonderful “Seafeast” of food! As tired as we were, we still managed to down huge amounts of Dungeness crab, prawns, corn on the cob, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, snow crab, salmon, halibut, and new potatoes. It all came, as advertised, in a huge pot which they dumped out on our butcher paper-covered table. Afterwards, we walked along the pier to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop where we browsed among the souvenirs and saw some mummies. The photo below is one of the pictures I took as the sun was setting.
The next day, we headed out with Grayline Tours for an all day excursion to Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier National Park is the 5th oldest National Park in the nation and it celebrates its 100th year in operation this year. The mountain itself is the 4th highest mountain in the United States (14,408 feet high) and is actually an active volcano encased in ice! It also has more glaciers than any other peak in the country. The Indians of the region called the mountain “Tahoma,” which means “the mountain that was God.”
We learned along the way that a good portion of the National Park was still inaccessible due to heavy snowfall. I believe our guide (and later a Park Ranger) said that the road that enters another side of the park (which is usually included on this tour), was still under about fifteen feet of snow! The Grayline Tours to the mountain had only started up for the season a few days before our trip. We had a pleasant drive out to the park, nevertheless, and were quite excited when we reached Paradise Park (about 4,500 feet up the side of the mountain), to find the area not only covered in snow but a fresh snowfall happening just for us! You can see a solid wall of snow behind Leah in the photo below… but what you can’t see is that the wall extended about another ten feet or more higher! We were in the parking lot at Paradise Park at that moment.
All of the facilities at Paradise Park were still closed, not due to open except on the weekends for several more weeks yet, so our driver took us back down the mountain to Longmire. We had lunch there at the National Park Inn and then wondered around outside for awhile. Across the way from the Inn is a path that leads to some old hot springs. Skunk cabbage was blooming everywhere in the marshes there. The flower of the skunk cabbage is actually the little green-yellow blossom you can see sticking up. The yellow part that looks more like a flower is the hood. The leaves of the skunk cabbage will grow to be up to four feet long! The next day, in Victoria, we saw a mature skunk cabbage plant and the leaves really were that big. Later, throughout Alaska, we saw many of the plants growing alongside the roads.
Alas, I didn’t get to see a moose (and the rest of our trip became the Great Moose Hunt!) but we did see lots of birds and some deer (all of which managed to turn tail and run before I could snap more than their fleeing hindquarters with the camera). All of the photos below were taken between Paradise Park and Longmire except for the last one, which was taken behind the National Park Inn at Longmire.
On the drive back to Seattle, our driver stopped in front of a yard full of these wonderful sculptures. The ones pictured are made out of horseshoes (you can probably see this better in the larger version of the photo, so don’t forget to click on it to see the bigger version!). Alas, I didn’t get the name of the artist.
We spent an entire day exploring the downtown Seattle area. The Seattle Art Museum was good for a few hours. Their collection of art is small but very eclectic and we were interested to see some of the ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek items they have. Of course, they had a nice assortment of Northwestern Indian objects. Lunch was at the Tir Na Nog Irish pub, a relatively new establishment in downtown Seattle. We enjoyed the food there and can highly recommend you stop in! We finished the day with a wonderful trip through the Seattle Aquarium and a viewing of The Mysteries of Egypt at the IMAX theater. Some of my aquarium photos are directly below. One of the most exciting parts of our trip to the Aquarium was getting to see a baby sea otter. I did take photos but we were separated by a water-splashed wall of glass and the baby looks like nothing more than a little furball!
Our adventure continues! Click the link to go to Page Two!
Check out our Arkansas road trip page for more nature photography:
And our Colorado page for even more nature photography: