Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: National Parks & Places (Page 1 of 11)

One Day, Two Ports: Skagway & Haines

Foggy Morning in Skagway

After our long day in Juneau, the next day we visited two ports: Skagway in the morning and Haines in the evening. This was our first time visiting two ports in one day. We had planned to take a dogsledding excursion through the cruise line for Skagway, but we just planned to explore the town of Haines on our own.

Skagway is a town with a lot of history. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, the border between Alaska and Canada was only vaguely defined. When the Canadian government requested a survey in 1871 after being united with British Columbia, the United States thought an examination of the land would be too expensive. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory prospectors began heading to the Last Frontier to make the 500-mile trek in search of their fortunes.

Their journeys began by crossing the mountains over the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway. It is estimated that in the spring of 1898, 1,000 prospectors came through Skagway each week. Of all the people who flooded north in search of gold, no more than 4,000 prospectors found any, and only a few hundred became rich.

Foggy Morning in Skagway

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad opened in 1900 over one of the routes the prospectors took in search of their fortunes. The railroad still exists today and is a popular shore excursion for travelers visiting Skagway. This summer, because of Canadian border restrictions, the train was turning around before crossing the U.S./Canada border. I think this would be my first choice the next time we find ourselves in Skagway.

Downtown Skagway features about 100 buildings remaining from the Gold Rush days and is the home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, so of course, we had to stop in and get our National Park Passport stamped and watch the video about the area’s history. Of course, we also stopped at Klondike Doughboy for their famous Alaska Fry Bread.

All-in-all, Skagway was my least favorite port. I know the town is rooted in history, but it felt the most inauthentic of all of our stops. Everything there exists for tourists in a way that was different from Sitka and Juneau (Haines is the other extreme and you can read about that below). When I travel I really look for authentic experiences and that felt hard to find in Skagway.

Haines from the Water

Haines is just south of Skagway and refers to itself as the adventure gateway to Alaska. Haines is known for its bald eagle preserve and Historic Fort Steward (its not there anymore but you can read a plaque about it). If you haven’t made plans for Haines, there really isn’t much to do there. It felt like they stuck a cruise port in small-town America. We walked around for about an hour and just got back on the ship. One of my biggest regrets about this trip is that we didn’t book the evening canoe safari or another excursion in Haines because this ended up being a wasted stop for us.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week when I recap our dogsled excursion in Skagway! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Totem Pole

Totem Pole Trail

Sitka National Historic Park

Totem Pole Trail

After learning about bears and raptors, we headed to Sitka National Historic Park. The National Park Service Site is located a short walk from the Alaska Raptor Center. The park preserves the site of the battle between the Russian settlers and the native Tlingit people. The park was Federally protected back in 1890 and was the first federally preserved piece of land in Alaska.

Sitka was home to one of the first European settlements in Alaska being settled by Russian fur traders in 1799. In 1802, the native Tlingit destroyed the original settlement killing many of the settlers. In 1804 Russian forces returned and bombarded the Tlingit during a bloody battle that the Tlingit would have won had they not run out of gunpowder. Instead, they were forced to leave the fort under cover of darkness. The park sits on the site of this battle.

Yaadaas Crest Pole

One of the highlights of the park is the mile-long Totem Trail. The park is even known to some as the Totem Park. 18 Tlingit and Haida totems can be found along the trail conveying ancestry, history, folklore, and memorials. There are three main types of totem poles: house posts, which were carved as support poles for a home; frontal poles, which were placed against or near the front of a home; and detached poles which were placed anywere in or near villages. The Yaadaas Crest pole (left) was re-carved in 1982 and the figures on the pole represent the lineage of the family that owned it. The village watchman sits on top to symbolize that the people are being watched over and protected.

The totem pole featured at the top of the page is the K’alyaan Pole which represents the Battle of Sitka. The figure on the bottom of the pole represents the raven helmet of the Tlingit warrior who led the battle. The rest of the pole depicts the clans of the raven moiety. The pole was carved in 1999 and stands on the site of the Kiks.adi fort.

There is much more to see in this 112-acre park than we had time to explore. So, like many of the places we have been lately, Sitka is on our list of places fo us to return.

Thanks for stopping by! To learn more about the Sitka Historic Park and the significance of its Totem Poles, visit NPS.gov. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Totem Park Pin Sitka National Historic Park

Planes, Buses, and Boats: Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Juneau from the Air

Cruise ships in Juneau, Alaska

We are back from another amazing trip! This time, we headed to the Pacific Northwest to cruise to Alaska on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas! We went to a lot of places that have been on my list for a long time and I really feel like I just got my toes wet in this beautiful area!

This may not come as a surprise to longtime readers, but we will go to some great depths for a cheap flight. For this trip, we booked nonrefundable flights to Seattle with a cruise leaving out of Vancouver with the thought that we would take Amtrak across the border, but when we went to book the train we learned that it hasn’t been operating since COVID. There was hope that they would get it running this summer, but now it’s been pushed back to the winter. So, after doing hours of research we decided to take the bus across the border. Because of schedules we ended up book Greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver and then QuickShuttle from Vancouver to Bellingham, Washington where we rented a car for the rest of the trip. I will give our thoughts on these options as it comes up in the trip report.

Here’s a little rundown of what is to come on this trip report:

  • Day 1: Seattle
  • Day 2: Vancouver
  • Day 3: Embark Serenade of the Seas
  • Day 5: Sitka, Alaska
    • Fortress of the Bear
    • Alaska Raptor Center
    • Sitka National Historic Park
  • Day 6: Juneau, Alaska
    • Mendenhall Glacier
    • Whale Watching
    • Mt. Roberts Tramway
  • Day 7: Skagway & Haines, Alaska
    • Dogsledding & Musher’s Camp Excursion
    • Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
  • Day 8: Cruise Tracy Arm Fjord
  • Day 10: Disembark Ship, Quickshuttle to Bellingham, Rent Car to Port Angeles, Washington
  • Day 11: Olympic National Park
    • Crescent Lake
    • Rialto Beach
  • Day 12: Hurricane Ridge
  • Day 13: Sequim, Washington
    • Dungeness Bay National Wildlife Refuge
    • B&B Family Lavender Farm
    • John Wayne Marina
  • Day 14: Hoh Rainforest
  • Day 15: Mt. Rainier National Park

As you can tell from this overview, this was a busy trip and I’m so excited to share it with you! Be sure to check in next week as I detail our day in Seattle!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Old San Juan

San Juan National Historic Site

One Day in Old San Juan

Castillo San Cristobal

After a whirlwind seven days on the Explorer of the Seas, we disembarked in San Juan. When planning this trip, I had a hard time figuring out where we wanted to stay on this day, especially once American moved our flight the next day from 1 pm to 5 am. Since Old San Juan is only a 20-minute drive from the airport, we decided to stay at the El Colonial, a boutique, adults-only hotel located in the heart of Old San Juan.

We disembarked the ship early and got a taxi to drop our bags off at the hotel, but the taxi driver couldn’t find it, even though he had Google Maps pulled up on his phone. I am not making it up when I tell you that he literally got out of the van and asked someone for directions. Eventually, we made it to the hotel where they offered us a cocktail (before 8 am, I might add) and held our bags so we could explore the city.

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

We first headed to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, part of the San Juan National Historic Site. With the construction of the Castillo having begun in 1589, it is the oldest building in the United States. I’ll never forget, back when I was recapping our St. Augustine trip on this blog, someone commented that they were glad I noted that the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest building in the continental U.S. because Castillo San Felipe is older.

While under Spanish control, the fort was attacked by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, and the Americans. The fort and the territory of Puerto Rico were transferred to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American war. In 1915, a shot from the Castillo is thought to be the first American shot fired in World War I. During World War II, the military added a Harbor Defense Fire Control Station to the Castillo to keep watch for German submarines in the Caribbean. At 180 feet above sea level, the lighthouse (above) is the tallest point of the Castillo.

From the Castillo, we explored the city a bit. The colorful buildings are very inviting and make the city fun to explore! We enjoyed delicious, homemade popsicles, before setting on a traditional Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch. This was the first time in my life that I had to tell a server I was allergic to bananas and ask what they had that did not contain bananas. If you do not like bananas, you should probably avoid Puerto Rican food. The food was good, but bananas and plantains are a staple of island cuisine and not being able to eat them really diminished my experience. Everyone else loved their mofongo, though!

Castillo San Cristobal

After lunch, we headed to the other section of the historic site, Castillo San Cristóbal (above). Completed in 1783, Castillo San Cristóbal took up 27 acres and featured the gates to the walled city of San Juan. The fortress was built to protect Castillo San Felippe del Moro from a land attack. The walls of the Castillo remained until 1897 until some of them were destroyed to allow the harbor to expand. In 1898 Puerto Rico joined the Spanish-American war when a cannon from the Castillo fired on the USS Yale. During World War II, the Spanish colonial water cisterns were used as fallout shelters. In 1949, together, both Castillos became the San Juan National Historic Site. In 1983, the Castillos and the walled city were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

With a 5 am flight, we didn’t stay out too late, although people were still at the hotel bar having a good time when our taxi arrived at 3 to take us to the airport. One day was not enough time for this beautiful city! You can bet that I have Detroit to San Juan flight alerts set up on my phone! You know the song, I left my Heart in San Fransisco? I left mine in San Juan.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Snorkeling Virgin Islands National Park

Honeymoon Beach

When I booked this cruise with two ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first thing I did was look up Virgin Islands National Park and see how possible it would be to get there from St. Thomas or St. Croix. As it turns out, the National Park is located on St. John and there is no airport on the island. The only way to get there is by boat, with a ferry running from St. Thomas.

With a limited time in port for the day and the number of steps needed to get to the National Park (taxi from the port to the ferry dock, ferry to St. John, taxi/tour around the island), we decided to book a St. John Island Tour excursion through the cruise line. Unfortunately, that tour was canceled due to lack of interest so, with one day’s notice after we had boarded the ship, we had to figure out a new plan. We decided the easiest way to the National Park was through the one available excursion which they called “Champagne Catamaran Sail and Snorkel”.

Boats at Honeymoon Beach

Boats at Honeymoon Beach

From the port, we took an open-air bus to Red Hook where we boarded our catamaran for St. John. After tossing anchor at Honeymoon Beach, we got a snorkeling safety talk and tips about where to view the coral and the turtles and we jumped in the water. For one of my friends, this was the first time she had swam in saltwater, so it was a shock for her!

Turtle Swimming at Honeymoon Beach

Snorkeling with Turtles

I enjoyed snorkeling through the reef and seeing all the interesting sea life, for me, but the highlight of this snorkeling adventure was seeing a turtle! It was easy to tell when someone had spotted a turtle because there were a bunch of people in a circle around it. We watched it swim to the surface and then go back down to the sand.

After our snorkeling adventure, we got back on the boat and sipped champagne and cocktails on the way back to St. Thomas. It was a great excursion and I am glad we chose it, but I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see the rest of the island. I guess we will have to go back sometime and get to spend some time on the land!

Fish seen snorkeling

We originally didn’t have any snorkeling booked for this cruise, so I didn’t end up buying a new action camera or waterproof housing for my phone as I had planned. So, the first night after booking this excursion, I had to go to the photo studio and pay cruise prices for a waterproof phone case, so I would have photos to share with you from this excursion. Learn from my mistake! If there is a possibility of snorkeling and you want photos to remember it (or if you’re like me and wear glasses and take photos while snorkeling so later you can see what was down there), buy your gear before your trip!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Virgin Islands Pin

Wordless Wednesday: La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

Wordless Wednesday: Swiftcurrent Dock

Dock on Swiftcurrent Lake

Wordless Wednesday: Norris Geyser Black & White

Norris Geyser Basin Black & White

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