Friday, August 05, 2016

Alaska 2016

Some collage I made for a quick share of pictures during our 9 days vacation in Alaska last month.
Bears at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

some sights from our stay in Valdez, AK
Glaciers and Wildlife in Valdez, AK
Hiking at Lion's Head, Matanuska Valley
Root Glacier Hike, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK ( unguided )

Last 2011, on our first time to Alaska, we did the guided glacier hike on Matanuska Glacier. Our guide did very well in teaching us how to hike safely on ice, that we felt confident that we could do it on our own applying all the safety procedures she shared, and perhaps, be even more conservative. After our first guided hike last 2011, we decided to get some gears for icy hiking, which we also used for winter hiking in the mountains. Our very first unguided glacier hike was in Canada 2014. Then, on this trip, we did several glacier hikes on our own.

What I like most about unguided glacier hiking is that I'm free to go where I want to, I can spend more time for photography, and I'm free to look for features I wanted to see. It may take us more time to look for interesting features, but I believe it adds more to the fun of being able to explore on our own, SAFELY, of course. 


Find a Place to Stay When You Travel

Traveling can be a very expensive thing for many people to do. Therefore, there are people who like to do whatever they can to save money on their trips. This can be done in a wide variety of ways. There are quite a few sites that can help you to get cheap plane tickets. However, lodgings can also cost you a considerable amount when you travel. There are a number of ways you can reduce the amount of money you will spend on where you are going to stay. Here are some things to think about when you are making plans for where you will stay on your trip.

1. Stay at a hostel

A hostel is a popular place for people to stay who are on a very limited travel budget. Young people who are in college will frequently stay in hostels. You will need to carefully consider this option because the conditions in a hostel will not be satisfactory for everyone. It is common for people to have to share a bathroom with complete strangers. Also, security is a concern because many thefts occur in hostels. However, a hostel might be the right choice for you if there is somewhere that you really need to go and you have a very small amount of money.

2. Stay at a person's home

This is also becoming a popular choice for travelers who are on a budget. There are many websites like KomfortStay.com that connect people who want to rent their rooms with travelers. The prices that the owners charge are usually much less than you would pay to stay for the same number of nights at a regular hotel. This is an option that is worth looking into if you can find a person who has a suitable room for rent in a city that you want to visit. Always remember to ask if meals are included with the price of the room.

3. Book a hotel far in advance

Staying in a hostel or in a stranger's home may not be options that appeal to you. If this is the case, you should book your hotel room many months in advance. Hotels will usually give you a significant discount if you do this. However, the amount of the discount will vary depending on the hotel you choose. Therefore, you should call many hotels.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Surprised By a Grizzly Bear

When we were in Valdez, we usually started our day with a light breakfast, then, we would go to Solomon Gulch for some bird ( mostly bald eagles ) photography.
Bald Eagle, Valdez, Alaska
By 8:30 am, we would leave the area to have our heavier breakfast to fuel our major activities of the day, such as hiking and kayaking.
One of those mornings, we were surprised by a grizzly bear. We saw some kids running on the road following the bear as the bear crossed the road to go down to the water. We were at the other side of the stream. The sight of kids running followed by adults was scary since that is one of the biggest no-no when you see a bear, "DON'T RUN", or you'll scare/surprise the bear. That's when bears may attack humans, for offense is their defense.
However, the bear didn't mind the running kids and some adults at all. The bear just continued to go down to the water. 
Grizzly Bear, Valdez, Alaska
The bear was made very busy by flocking sea gulls blocking her way to the water. She would shoo the sea gulls to clear her way to the water to get salmon. She'd finish one salmon very quickly then go back to the water to get another one.

Why do the bears in Valdez and other coastal areas do not mind humans at all, unlike the bears in inland mountains? Because of so many salmons. In between us and the bear, was a stream overcrowded by salmons, where it seemed very easy for the bears and sea lions to get their food.
Salmons

The sea gulls? They most of the time flock around sea lions and bears to feast on their left overs. Perhaps, another reason why bears do not mind humans at all at the other side of the shore is because the sea gulls are too much for them already to shoo away so they can enjoy their fish.

Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park

Exit Glacier is one of the 38 glaciers that flow out from Harding Icefield. The name Exit Glacier was derived from the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in 1968 which exited in this glacier.If the hike to the end of trail of Harding Icefield is strenuous, the hike to Exit Glacier is easy to moderate. After hiking Harding Icefield, we took the much easier trail to Exit Glacier terminus.
Surface of Exit Glacier
The trail to Exit Glacier is only a 1 mile loop, though it has uphill/downhill slope, but not as steep nor as rocky as Harding Icefield trail making the walk a lot smoother and easier. In just a matter of minutes from the trailhead, you will be face to face with a glacier.
A Stream of Water Falling From the Melting of Glacier
Like many of the low altitude glaciers, Exit Glacier is steadily melting.You will hear the sound of the many waterfalls falling from the melting of ice when you come close to a glacier. The Exit Glacier has shrank 2 miles for the past 200 years.
Glacier Waterfalls 
If you are planning for a trip to Alaska, I really highly recommend putting Seward where Kenai Fjords National Park is in your list to visit. If you are physically fit and won't give up on physical and mental challenge, the hike to Harding Icefield is really out of this world and very mentally, emotionally and spiritually rewarding. However, if you think you cannot make it to Harding Icefield, the easy to moderate 1 mile loop hike to Exit Glacier is still very much worth it. 
Unlike the trail to Harding Icefield, the trail to Exit Glacier is almost free of rocks and snow during summer, and can be accessed even by some with disabilities. I am always happy to see this kind of trail since it allows and opens up our natural world to others who may not be able to take strenuous hikes because of physical reasons or because of having little babies in the family. 
One of the Many Tubes at Exit Glacier
The Exit Glacier shows many hollow tubes, and for me, these are the natural warning signs that we take extra pre-caution when we are in front or hiking in a glacier. The glacier is unsteady and parts of it can crumble anytime. Some may get tempted to have a picture inside the tube, but what if the ice above crash and you get buried? I have seen and heard a glacier crumbled, it is a phenomena that I will never forget. It is both inspiring and sad. Inspiring to see how nature carved the Earth and sad to observe how everything on Earth is temporary. 
In my next posts, I will show the other side of Harding Icefield.
Exit Glacier from Harding Icefield Trail
At the other side of this 4000 ft thick of ice and 700 square miles of icefield is the ocean. It is kind of hard to imagine that this vast mountain of ice sits right next to the sea, and everyday is changing.  

Top 5 Must See Sights in Auckland

Located in the North Island of New Zealand, Auckland attracts millions of visitors each year. The country's largest city has something for everyone, from amazing food to pristine beaches and breathtaking landscapes. Tourists can book wine tours, soak in the thermal hot pools, and enjoy up-close encounters with sharks and sea turtles. The War Memorial Museum, the iconic Sky Tower, and the Manukau Harbor are a must see. 

If you're planning to visit the "City of Sails," prepare your itinerary ahead of time. Search for car rental auckland online, book a hotel room at the seaside, and get ready for a memorable holiday. Here are top five sights you shouldn't miss on a trip to Auckland: 

St Patrick's Cathedral 

Built in 1843, St Patrick's Cathedral is registered as a historic place. Today, it is the Cathedral of the Catholic Bishop of Auckland. This majestic Gothic building is renowned for its architecture, featuring a historical display in the old confessional. Each Sunday, over 2000 come here to find their inner peace and attend Masses.

Mount Eden 

If you love nature and the outdoors, head over to Mount Eden. This volcano is the highest natural point in the region, offering scenic views of the city. Centuries ago, Mount Eden was a traditional fortified M?ori village. Visitors can explore its award-winning garden, see the housing sites and storage pits, and make their way to the top. Guided tours are available year round. 

The Skytower

At 328 meters, the Skytower is the most iconic building in Auckland and the tallest tower on the continent. It boasts a 360-degree revolving restaurant, three fascinating viewing platforms, and a lounge where guests can relax and enjoy fine drinks. There is also an observation deck, guided tours, and bungee jumping for adrenaline junkies. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Opened in 1929, the War Memorial Museum features a unique collection of artifacts that trace the history of New Zealand over the centuries. Visitors can admire a stunning Maori gateway dating back to the 12th century, a photographic collection of over one million images, a war canoe from the 18th century, and original Spitfire aeroplanes.

Mission Bay 

Auckland is world-famous for its pristine beaches, such as the beautiful Mission Bay. This gorgeous white-sand urban beach boasts a stylish promenade, cafes, and fine restaurants. Travelers can go jogging, rent bicycles, and indulge in water sports. If you simply want to relax, plan a family picnic or enjoy the views across the Waitemata Harbor.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Hoodoos Keep on Haunting Me

Bryce Canyon National Park Amphitheater

Utah rocks rock!!! The hoodoos around Utah will rock you with their spells. Hoodoos, which means to cast a spell, are pillars of rock left by erosion. The fantastic shapes of these rocks are accurately known to cast a spell on every visitor.They cast a spell on me, they kept on haunting me, as much as they haunt other visitors probably. They haunt me to come back, to look often at their pictures, to dream about them, and now, here I am, trying to undo that spell by writing about them. Let me share to you one of my favorite locations in Utah to experience magical hoodos, Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the 7 National Parks of the Southwest's Grand Circle. Its amazing beauty is the result of the destructive forces of water and ice carving away the weak limestone of the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The result of this water, ice and gravity erosion brought about red rock spires and horshoe-shaped amphitheaters of hoodoos, which Bryce Canyon is known for.
Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park