Orcas and Humpbacks and Bears – Oh My!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We have been anchored all night in Thomas Bay. When I exit our cabin for my 6:30 am workout I notice more snow-capped mountains and the air is decidely a bit nippier than it has been.  Our usual yoga group gathers at 7:00 and Shannon leads us through a great session.  The boat is relatively calm, therefore we are able to perform our favorite “warrior” poses.  Yoga is old hat by now and we are all feeling strong and powerful.

Breakfast is an awesome yogurt, bavarian cream, macerated berries (in St Germaine Elderflower liquore), granola concoction.  Janet and I choose to have ours and a bowl of oatmeal.  Great breakfast to fuel us up for the day’s hike(s).

We will be hiking to the Cascade Waterfall this morning.  We had gotten wind from Shannon very early in the tour that this is a fantastic hike and quite strenuous. However, last night when Flora was describing it she said it was a 1/2 mile hike to the waterfall and it was mostly board-walk lined.  It would take about an hour.  That’s when I piped up and said that I thought it was a tough, several hour hike.  Flora replied that beyond the waterfall viewing area the hike continues for several miles and is very difficult.  “Can we do that portion?”  She quickly ran to check and we could tell it was with a bit of reluctance that the answer was affirmative.  The issue is that we spent so much time detouring to Kake yesterday that Captain Mike wants to get back on track.  He defers to the guests requests and says that those of us who wish can venture further and can hike for a couple of hours.  Yay!

Janet and Eric have opted to take the shorter hike.  Janet has heard from Shannon that the descent coming back is worse than the trek outward. Me, Rich, 4 other guests and Shannon (our guide/yoga instructor/masseuse) are loaded up into the dinghy before the “short hikers.”  Wynn says that I am a “short long-hiker!”  I have to point out that the other long hikers are all pushing 70 years old and one of them is 77.  They are amazing and a true inspiration.

Shannon and Paul
Shannon and Paul

We land on a gorgeous, rocky island and begin our hike with a great sighting of a huge mound of wolf hair/fur.  No skeleton, no bones, just fur.  Wonder what happened?  The hike to the waterfall is easy and beautiful. The reward is spectacular.




We are all pretty much bundled up and it gets even colder around the fall with all the mist.  Later we will be peeling off our layers as we work to make the climb.

Brrrr (Notice my sunglasses are on my head)

Soon enough the boardwalk runs out and we find ourselves scrambling over rocks and roots.  The footing is difficult and you have to stop and make yourself look up at the surroundings instead of concentrating on your feet!



The layers are coming off now
The layers are coming off now



Tough footing!
Tough footing!


All too soon it is time to turn around and descend down the mountain.  It is, indeed more difficult than the climb.  For shorter folks some of the steps down feel huge.  I was really glad that I grabbed a walking stick and use it extensively to find footing and to lean on for support.



Taking a breather
Taking a breather

Everyone survives and makes it back to the beach to wait for the dinghy. What a fantastic trek! Only one casualty – my favorite Maui Jim sunglasses are gone.  I think when I put one of my layers on I forgot the glasses were on my head and just pulled them right off.  Oh well – I needed a new pair anyway.  Maybe in Seattle…



When we get back to the Explorer, we are greeted with White Wine Spritzers for “re-hydration” I am sure.

I hit the shower first thing.  We are going to be moving along very soon and I want calm waters for my shower.  Feels great. We are also starving since we expended so much energy.  Lunch is right around the corner.  Today we are served turkey/avocado/cheddar sandwiches and Israeli couscous salad.  This is followed by Coconut and Coconut Porter ice cream.  The Coconut Porter is a stout ale we have on tap.  Sarah has made ice cream out of it.  Both Rich and I like it.  Eric is not impressed.
Naptime is imminent. No way around it. I crash and burn for over an hour.  When I manage to pull myself out of my bed and wander downstairs this is what is waiting:

Sara claims these are gluten-free, dairy free, vegan, etc, etc.  And they are GREAT!
Sara claims these are gluten-free, dairy free, vegan, etc, etc. And they are GREAT!

The activity for this afternoon is whale watching.  Captain Mike tells us we are going to be in an area that is well known to have humpbacks.  We all keep our binocs out and our eyes peeled.

Five Fingers Litehouse
Five Fingers Litehouse
Watching the super fast Dall's Porpoise playing in our wake
Watching the super fast Dall’s Porpoise playing in our wake




Humpback “blows” are being spotted right and left.  Just when the action is hot and heavy a trio of Orcas join the party!  The male is close and is huge.  They are moving much slower than the ones we saw previously and we can all get great looks at them.  My camera is too tiny and too slow to get any good pics.  We will rely on pictures from one of the other guests who has a nice telephoto lens.


The mood at Happy Hour is even more upbeat than usual due to our plethora of whale/porpoise/sea lion spottings.


Cap Mike tells us about other Un-Cruise adventures


During Happy Hour Rich keeps jumping up and running outside to check on the whales.  Everytime he comes back he claims they are leaping out of the water.  I finally join him and it is true!  We see whales breeching and tails sticking out of the water.  It is awesome.

When dinner time rolls around it is difficult to drag everyone to the dining room.  The chef has held off for as long as possible to accommodate the whales.  Tonight we start with a great spinach salad with candied pecans.  This is followed by either Grilled Scallops or Pork Tenderloin.




After dinner Janet and I are discussion champagne options and came to the realization that they have bottles of Veuve Cliquot on board.  Eric says he will spring for it and we indulge happily.



Troy (Engineer) provides brings out his guitar to provide musical entertainment tonight.  He is a very good player/singr and we all sit around the lounge listening and sometimes singing along.


Day 6 (58) 05.23.14

Another perfect day in Alaska. Everyday we think it can’t possibly get any better and then it does. Tomorrow we are heading to Dawes Glacier.  I can’t even imagine what we will see there.



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