Category Archives: Countries

World’s Longest Zip-Line at Icy Strait Point, Alaska

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“Just think of it like a really long roller coaster,” I advised.  My parents and I were spending the day at Icy Strait Point near the tiny town of Hoonah, Alaska.  It’s a privately owned place and run by native Tlingits in an old cannery area converted for tourism.  There isn’t much to Icy Strait Point (or Hoonah for that matter) except the world’s longest zip-line which towers from the mountain above town.

Now I suspect anyone who’s read this blog over the years knows what happened next, because I am not a woman who can turn down something like a zip-line that is over a mile long (officially it’s 5,330 feet, with a 1,300 foot vertical drop).  But I suppose after years of reading of his daughter’s exploits in various corners my dad felt the urge to join in too, and my mother decided to establish which side of the family the adrenaline junkie stuff comes from by staying at the bottom.

And hey, on the scale of adrenaline-y things to do, it turns out this zip-line isn’t too hard- not like you need to jump into the abyss yourself.  But that didn’t mean my father wasn’t going to have to endure some cheery speculation on maintenance standards in the Alaskan wilderness and the like on the ride up in a refurbished school bus from his daughter.

But anyway, the ride up takes about 45 minutes, and the ride down takes about 90 seconds.  And if a picture is worth a thousand words than who knows what a video makes, so here’s the entire experience!

Altogether not a bad experience at all!  And then we spent the rest of the day wandering around a bit.  It’s certainly a nice corner of the world when you have sunshine to enjoy and sea stars to spot in the water.

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Dispatch from the Yukon

This has nothing to do with my previous post here, but rather was crafted today and thought some of you might enjoy a “real time” update on my adventures in the North!

August 18, year of our lord 2014
Dawson City, Yukon Territory

Dear Log,
I have survived the Wild, as my friend Jack London refers to her, and staked a claim on Bonanza Creek next to where the first gold was discovered. Alas I am not a good gold planner, and will be abandoning my claim to favor my previous life calling.
Nevertheless I am in good spirits, and would declare this expedition as successful and morale high despite the low American bacon rations. Dawson City is a frontier town with every 19th century convenience a body would expect, from wooden sidewalks to false storefronts to a lascivious gambling hall where the can-can is common. The natives, or “Canadians” as they call themselves, are a friendly people even if the men often proudly display missing front teeth in these parts due to a barbaric ritual game on ice popular to show bravery.*
I will hasten to return to Alaska on the morrow by way of the Yukon River and, by grace of Providence, onwards to Anchorage where I will secure passage to the Netherlands in the coming days. I pray my resolve will see me through!

Yours faithfully,
Miss Yvette Cendes

*Ed. note: seriously, I’ve seem ‘em around!

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Misty Fjords National Monument

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First of all, I feel obliged to mention that Misty Fjords National Monument did not live up to its name at all.  This is because we had spectacular blue sky weather that only happens about 5% of the time in the Ketchikan area, so the fjords were not at all misty but I don’t think anyone was complaining! Continue reading

Ketchikan, Alaska

When you wake up with a view like this you know it’s going to be a good day!

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Vancouver

In honor of the first person who is going to point out Vancouver is not a part of Alaska, allow me to explain that I am catching a ship here north (later today). But a shame to not look around here first…

Vancouver honestly strikes me as a generic modern city whose charm lies in how easy it is to escape to the outdoors, be it the beach or the mountains via bike or boat or whatever you like. In my short time there I spent the majority of my time awake either on a bike or at the beach with an old travel buddy, which is a great way to kick start a holiday!

But all too soon it was time to go. The city near wilderness is a nice layover, but the Last Frontier calls…

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Norway Fjords in a Nutshell

It has occurred to me that before I head off on my big summer adventure to Alaska I really ought to post some pictures of the other corner of the north I explored, the fjords of Norway.  So let’s go on a little adventure, shall we?

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Tales from Bergen, Norway

IMG_1854Norway has been on my list for a long time now, but I knew enough about the place that I decided if and when I finally visited I wanted to do it right.  There was enough to see it was more than just a weekend destination, it rained often enough it was worth looking up just when it rained the least during the year, and it was far enough north that I knew to visit during the long days near the summer solstice.  I mean if you were going to a land of world-renowned scenery and $15 pints of beer in the pubs you’d make sure you maximized good weather, right?  Right.

So anyway, I finally found a long weekend straddling the end of May and beginning of June to visit, bought a ticket to Bergen on the coast entered the country armed with an umbrella and duty-free liquor… and promptly never needed the umbrella as the sun shone gloriously for 18 hours every day. (The duty free liquor was actually more for my Norwegian Airbnb hosts than for me, as the cardinal rule of Norway is you must always offer to bring alcohol to its citizens when visiting.) Seriously, I even got a little sunburnt by the end of it as taking sunscreen to Norway was just something that had not occurred to me!IMG_1865

All told, it was glorious.  Really.  I chose to base myself in Bergen, the second largest city of Norway with less than 300,000 people, a bustling harbor front, and a historic area of lovely little wooden houses called Bryggen, or Norwegian for “wharf.”  Every day the fishmongers still set up in the wharf area hawking their wares so you can have a nice meal by the water trying all the different sea creatures, as they have since times of yore except for the fact that the fishmongers now speak Spanish and Italian to each other, and on weekends the boaters from the area all tie up on the wharves for a bit of a party.  It’s all very hard not to like.

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Once the town got boring (really, it was small, so I’m not sure it was a “city”) one could head up into the mountains around town via cable car or incline- Pittsburgh-ese for funicular- and go hiking in the mountains around town.  I guess you could hike up the entire way too, but I preferred to save my energy to maximize the areas above the tree line where the view was spectacular.IMG_1870IMG_2020IMG_1877

Even if I hadn’t seen the fjords (which I did on a long day trip I’m determined to post pictures from still) Norway would have unquestionably qualified as a new favorite- no small thing to say when it’s your 55th country.  My only regret about the entire thing is I am now surely disappointed for the rest of my life when it comes to the weather in Norway- for me it should always be sunny with blue skies- though in the grand scheme of problems that’s a burden I’m happy to bear!