Glacier Bay National Park

IMG_0001 There are no roads to Glacier Bay.  Your options are: boat or plane.  We chose boat!  Cruise-ship, in fact.

We began a week-long Alaskan cruise by boarding Holland America’s “M.S. Oosterdam” in Seattle.  We were soon at sea on our way to Alaska, and after an enjoyable night of food and entertainment, arrived the following morning at Glacier Bay!

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As we entered the bay, Rangers came alongside and boarded our ship to provide information about the Park.  They pointed-out humpback whales, sea-otters, and sea-lions as we sailed-along, and described the geology of the beautiful mountains and coves around us.  The deeper into the bay we travelled the more raw the landscape became; new ground uncovered by receding glacial ice.
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We marveled at the size and majesty of glaciers.  The ship stopped alongside Margerie Glacier, a massive tidewater glacier that often “calves” enormous chunks of ice into the sea.  We were lucky to have a warm and clear day to encourage ice-melt and provide spectacular views!
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This is a truly remarkable place that everyone should see with their own eyes.  A cruse-ship’s comfort and high vantage-point provide an exceptional way to do so.

As we exited the Park, our attention was directed to a number of bears fighting over a whale-carcass that had washed ashore several months earlier:
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After a lovely day of fresh air and sunshine, we returned inside where Wm taught Lisa how to play Chess:
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North Cascades National Park

Cascades (7)After taking the summer off to avoid crowds (well Wm took time off, as you may know Lisa went to Europe and blogged about her travels at www.lisapleiss.wordpress.com), we were itching to visit more of America’s National Parks!

North Cascades National Park is only a couple hours drive from our home near Seattle, where it is situated in the Cascade mountain range that divides Washington State into “wet” and “dry” halves.  This extensive range begins in Canada and extends southward through Oregon and into Northern California, with hundreds of peaks rising over 8000 feet in elevation.

We arrived just after noon on a very warm day.  With no admission fee required, we were soon stamping our passport books at the park’s Visitor Center and learning about what the park held in store.
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Our first major stop was Diablo Lake, with its vibrant turquoise-blue that seems to glow with unearthly light:
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Given how warm the day was, we opted for the drive up to higher elevations in hopes of cooler temperatures.  The highway that runs through the park is surely one of the nicest drives in the world, with sweeping curves, smooth slopes, and majestic views. It reaches its apex at Washington Pass, where the usual snow-covered peaks were largely absent for our late-summer visit.
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On our way down, we stopped for a brief but rewarding hike to “Blue Lake”, a high-altitude body of stunningly clear waters.
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Because we were so close to home, we decided to for-go camping, instead opting for the comforts of a real bed.  But, we were so impressed with this Park’s natural beauty, we’ll no doubt return to explore its more remote regions.