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Re: Hyatt Awards And Upgrades Master Thread giving away Suite upgrades.
May 07, 2018, 04:12:08 PM
Re: Master List Of Unofficial Chabad Houses Without getting into an ideological discussion.

Many (most?) of these Chabad houses are located in remote geographical locations where it would be hard to create a feasible sustainability plan (partially the reason for there not being official Chabad centers). The young families that chose to move there face many challenges. They are very far (usually 12+ hr flight) from any family, many of them live several hours from another religious person, many of the women need to fly several hours just to go to Mikva, etc. They nevertheless relocated their entire family, live in poverty, have very hard times getting Kosher chicken/meat (many of them learn to shecht), have to teach their children without any other children being educated similarly....
All this is in order to prevent 1000ís of searching Jews (many ex IDF) from falling into serving Avodah Zorah Mammosh while on their spiritual quests.

This is literal Mesiras Nefesh for the spiritual benefit of someone they do not know.
Many 1000ís of backpackers have returned to their Jewish routes thanks to these families.

April 01, 2019, 09:23:33 PM
Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019) Unbeknownst to me, DW had been secretly planning a summer trip to the wilds of Minnesota and Michigan.  Ever since driving past Lake Powell a few years back, and seeing houseboats, DW had wanted to spend a few nights on one.  Lake Powell was not an option for a summer trip due to the heat, but after some research, she discovered that houseboating is actually a thing in one of the more northerly National Parks, Voyageurs NP in Minnesota, on the border with Canada.  Wanting to add a second national park to our trip, Isle Royale NP was the obvious choice.  Isle Royale is the least visited national park in the continental U.S., and most who go are backpackers.  Now she just had to convince me.  Although I had read about houseboating in Voyageurs National Park some years back, it never really registered on my list of places to visit.  I never gave much thought to Isle Royale National Park, either.  However, her persistence eventually paid off, and I reluctantly agreed.

Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

It made the most sense to fly into Minneapolis, where we could stock up on kosher food and eat at several kosher restaurants before taking off to Voyageurs National Park.  In addition, the kids looked forward to visiting the Mall of America, which has a host of family friendly attractions.  Although Duluth is closer to Voyageurs, there are no kosher shops or restaurants. 

While looking for lodging in Minneapolis, I initially sought a luxury hotel and was drawn to the Hotel Ivy, a Category 5 Marriott property.  However, after careful consideration, we decided it simply wasn't worth it for us.  A cramped room and the additional parking fee ($44 a day for valet parking and $20 a day for offsite parking) didn't make sense.  Instead, we booked the Hilton Home2Suites which offered a room with two queen beds, a sofa, table with chairs, full size refrigerator, and free onsite parking.  The total cost was 120k Hilton points for four nights (30k Hilton points per night).  Unfortunately, we couldn't take advantage of the fifth night free, as we only needed four nights in Minneapolis at the beginning of our trip.  Information about the Eden Prairie Home2Suites can be found here:

After the initial weekend in Minneapolis, we booked three nights on a houseboat at Voyageurs National Park.  Since Voyageurs is primarily an aquatic park, there are only three ways to see it: (i) your own boat; (ii) national park concessionaire day cruise; or (iii) on a rented houseboat.  In researching houseboat rentals, the name that kept coming up was Ebel's, so we went with them.  Information about Ebel's can be found here:

Ebel's rents a variety of houseboats, some of which can be very pricey.  We chose the "Voyageur 47" houseboat (10% off for moving our reservation up a day to begin in June; partially paid with Arrival credits), which sleeps a maximum of six, information about which can be found here:

Here's the approximate floor plan of the Voyageur 47:

houseboat floor plan by P Bryan, on Flickr

This particular boat wasn't equipped with air conditioning since DW was under the mistaken impression that there would be cool temperatures at Voyageurs (more on that later on).  The fancier boats have air conditioning (which runs off a generator) and a hot tub.

After Voyageurs, we decided to spend a long weekend in Duluth, which would give us a few days to explore neighboring Wisconsin.  We chose the Marriott Residence Inn, which had a king size bed, sofa bed, full size refrigerator, and free onsite parking.  Total cost was 25k Marriott points per night.  Once again, we couldn't take advantage of the fifth night free, as we only needed four nights for our second weekend of the trip.  Information about the Marriott Residence Inn Duluth can be found here:

After Duluth, our plan was to drive to Grand Portage, Minnesota, where we would stay in a lakeside cabin at the Hollow Rock Resort, which was managed by the Grand Portage Resort and Casino, information about which can be found here:

We chose the "Fish" Cabin, a two bedroom, two bathroom log cabin with a large deck on Lake Superior.  We decided to spend the night in Grand Portage because we had to be up very early the following morning for our ferry to Isle Royale National Park, which left at 7:30 a.m.

The following morning we were scheduled to take the ferry from Grand Portage to Windigo, Isle Royale National Park (paid for by Barclay Arrival bonus credits).  There are only three ways to get to Isle Royale, an island on Lake Superior: (i) private boat; (ii) ferry; or (iii) seaplane.  Information about the ferry to Isle Royale can be found here:

While on Isle Royale, we rented a cabin for three nights at Windigo.  Information about cabin rentals at Isle Royale in Windigo can be found here:

The two cabins at Windigo are in high demand, and we were told to book on January 2, which is what DW did.  She made sure to be up early to grab one of the two cabins.  The cabins are rustic but are equipped with electricity.  There is no indoor plumbing, kitchen, or air conditioning.  An outhouse is located nearby and flush toilets and paid showers are a short hike away down the hill. 

After Isle Royale, we planned to drive back to Minneapolis for our last weekend before our flight home.  We again reserved the Hilton Home2Suites in Eden Prairie.

Part 2 - First Weekend In Minneapolis

We booked direct flights on Delta from JFK to MSP and arrived in early afternoon.  Since the flight is so short, we booked in economy. 

JFK-MSP by P Bryan, on Flickr

After our arrival, we picked up our rental car at National.  Seeing the executive aisle bare, I asked one of the employees about vehicle availability, only to be told that there were sedans and pickup trucks left.  I explained that a sedan would not be adequate for us and that I didn't want a pickup truck.  I also told the employee that I had Executive Elite status.  Upon hearing this, he magically pulled an upgrade out of his hat to an Infiniti QX60.  Afterwards, the remainder of the day was spent on shopping and settling into our room at Home2Suites.

Our room at Home2Suites:

Home2Suites Prairie Eden by P Bryan, on Flickr

Supper was from the Prime Deli & Restaurant; I had a "Prime Burger Deluxe."  An accurate description of this monstrosity would be a burger wearing a tuxedo - overdressed and too large for my pie hole.  It really wasn't very good.  The Kosher Spot grocery store is right next door and this is where we bought our meat, chicken, dairy, and grape juice for our Shabbos meals (for both our first and second Shabbos).  Information about the restaurant can be found here:

The following day was spent at the Mall of America, where we visited the Mirror Maze, Nickelodeon Amusement Park, and had lunch at Earth Burger (kosher vegetarian burger restaurant). 

The Mirror Maze:

Mirror Maze, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Earth Burger, certified Kosher-Dairy Equipment by the CRC, was a hit with the family.  With the exception of one of the kids, we are not big meat eaters.  I had a burger, and actually liked it much better than the real-meat burger I ate the night before from the Prime Deli.  We also enjoyed their coconut soft-serve and kale ginger lemonade.  Information about Earth Burger can be found here:

Earth Burger, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

For supper we had a Basil pizza at its namesake; it was pretty decent.

On Friday, we went to the Breadsmith in St. Paul to pick up challah and other goodies for Shabbos.  Information about Breadsmith can be found here:

I recommend their soft pretzels, and DW really liked their zucchini walnut bread.

Breadsmith, St. Paul, MN by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190628_094830 by P Bryan, on Flickr

From there we went to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center located in the Science Museum's lobby.  They had some high-tech exhibits, like virtually navigating the river and a virtual reality eagle game.  We didn't stay too long, and opted not to go into the museum.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then headed to the Mississippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center where we learned about the falls (the only waterfall on the Mississippi River), and were able to walk along the lock wall.  DW and kids got their first Junior Ranger badges of the trip. 

Mississsippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississsippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Then we headed back to the hotel to prepare for Shabbos.

Shabbos table at Home2Suites by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 3 - Voyageurs National Park

On Sunday, we packed out of the Hilton Home2Suites and made our way to Orr, Minnesota, to pick up our houseboat.

Driving from Minneapolis to Orr, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Along the way, we drove through some mean looking clouds, before heading through a massive downpour:

Driving from Minneapolis to Voyageurs National Park - hit some mean looking clouds on the way. by P Bryan, on Flickr

Thankfully the weather was sunny and clear when we arrived in Orr:

Ebel's Houseboats, Minnesota, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After arriving at Ebel's we were told that this would be our houseboat, labeled simply as Boat 6.  I felt that this was an undeserving name for the pile of crap we were given, with a dated interior that looked at home in the 60's (middle daughter said the plaid curtains looked like they had come from some grandpa's basement).  So I promptly renamed our boat the SS Captain Poopypants:

Houseboat at Ebel's, Orr, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Looking from the rear bedroom to the front of the houseboat. by P Bryan, on Flickr

The bedroom at the rear of the houseboat with 4 bunks. by P Bryan, on Flickr

My little one's drawing of Captain Poopypants:

Picture of our houseboat, as drawn by my little one. by P Bryan, on Flickr

After checking in, our luggage was loaded onto Captain Poopypants and we purchased some last minute provisions.  The kids, especially my middle one, were looking forward to kayaking but Ebel's only had two single seat kayaks left.  We didn't really want to rent two kayaks for three days, but middle kid was quite upset and disappointed.  Figuring that the frowns weren't worth it and seeing middle kid so upset, we decided to splurge and rented the two remaining single seat kayaks.  Ultimately, it proved to be a smart move as the kayaks saw quite a bit of use. 

During our orientation, I learned an interesting tidbit about the houseboat.  We were under the mistaken impression that a houseboat is similar to a motorhome, in that it had a freshwater tank, gray water tank (for the shower and sink wastewater) and a black water tank (for the toilet waste).  What I then learned was that Ebel's houseboats are not equipped with a freshwater tank for the shower, bathroom sink, or kitchen sink.  Instead, all of that water is pumped up from the lake and only filtered to prevent fish and critters from coming in.  (There is a small hand pump in the kitchen and bathroom for purified water.)  My immediate response was "that's disgusting."  However, the folks over there don't seem to mind.  Their response was, well, the fish live in the water and you eat the fish. 

The Ebel's employees typically show you how to operate the houseboat until they feel that you are comfortable on your own, at which time they abandon you to your own failings.  Sensing our complete and utter noobness, as we had never captained a boat before, they decided to drive the boat and moor it for us.  I had to learn how to navigate the lakes, drive the boat, moor the boat and tie it up (using various knots).  What made things even more difficult was that they didn't provide a GPS and I had to navigate solely using a map:

Map of Voyageurs given by Ebel's by P Bryan, on Flickr

I asked why customers weren't provided with a GPS and was told that they were concerned that folks would follow the GPS instead of watching where they were going and that it was "something else for people to break."  We ultimately ended up using our Garmin car GPS, which gave us a general idea where we were. 

Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Ebel's employees moored the boat for the night at an undeveloped site on our own private island, Filla Island, on Sullivan Bay:

Location of our first mooring spot on Filla Island by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota (DSC_5472) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190630_205208 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After we settled into our spot for the night, DW and middle daughter went kayaking around our private island:

Kayaking around Filla Island, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Voyageurs National Park Minnesota, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

At some point, DW and the kids went to sleep, while I lay restless in bed from the heat.  As mentioned earlier, DW was under the impression it would be cool at Voyageurs, but it most certainly was not that first night.  The houseboat was quite hot and muggy.   As I lay awake feeling quite miserable while sniffing the occasional waft of propane sewage smell (about which we complained in the morning) I heard an unfamiliar howling in the night.  First thought was, can that be?  Is it wolves?  Then I heard it again and again - a pack howl.  A part of me thought that this was amazing to hear wolves howling in the night, while the New York skeptic in me thought that this was perhaps what park rangers do for fun in these parts.

The next morning, being quite unsatisfied with our current mooring spot and wanting to explore farther afield, we decided to strike it out on our own and pilot Captain Poopypants to another spot.

Initially I thought to pilot the boat to a remote spot that had previously been marked as a "nice" spot on the map.  However, the stress of driving and navigating the boat led us to decide to take the first nice developed houseboat site that we saw on Namakan Lake.  We ultimately settled on Blind Indian Narrows South, a beautiful cove with a small sandy beach, a BBQ pit, and nice hiking trails and overlooks.  We really enjoyed spending time at Blind Indian Narrows South and, except for seeing passing boats from time to time, felt as if we had the place all to ourselves.

MVIMG_20190702_091539 by P Bryan, on Flickr

As we pulled into Blind Indian Narrows South, I pointed the front of the boat into the sandy beach and left the boat in gear, as instructed, so it would not drift while I went to tie it up.  No sooner had I disembarked the boat and while holding the ropes, I turned around and saw that the boat shifted sideways and was now parallel to the shore.  (What I should have done was to give the boat some additional throttle to keep it pushed up against the beach.  This would have prevented the drift.  Live and learn.)  Although instructed to call Ebel's for help if this happened, I instinctively stripped to my underwear, jumped into the water and pushed the boat back to a position perpendicular to the beach.  As I'm in the water in my underwear, while muttering how much I hated Captain Poopypants, a boat from Ebel's pulls up.  We had radioed them early that morning complaining of a strong propane smell emanating from the back of the boat.  They decided to find us to check on the problem.  The guys tied up the boat for us and fixed a small leak in a fitting by the propane tanks.  After this fiasco, we decided that we would stay at Blind Indian Narrows South for our final two nights on the boat, rather than try to navigate and moor elsewhere on our own.

Photographs taken at Blind Indian Narrows South:

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (DSC_5563) by P  Bryan, on Flickr

Our rented houseboat at Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5508) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5513) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5514) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5564) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5578) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (DSC_5623) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Kayaking and swimming at Blind Indian Narrows South:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Taking the dinghy boat out to explore the surrounding islands and coves:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (MVIMG_20190702_113759) by P Bryan, on Flickr

While exploring with the dinghy, we saw a bald eagle eating a fish in a tree.  As we approached closer, the eagle took off with the fish in its talons. 

For both nights at Blind Indian Narrows South, we made a BBQ:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Veggie burgers on a camp stove:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

During our final night at Voyageurs, I got up at 2:00 a.m. to photograph the boat under the stars.  I have learned to view night and darkness in a completely different way, after spending time with my buddy Bruce Omori in Hawaii. 

Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5669) by P Bryan, on Flickr

In the morning, we pulled out of Blind Indian Narrows South before 6:30 a.m. to head back and return the boat, which was expected between 9 and 10 a.m.  But first I had to get the boat off the beach.  I put the boat in gear and gave it a bit of throttle to push it against the beach, to prevent it from drifting while I untied the ropes.  After untying the ropes, I boarded the boat and retracted the wooden plank.  To my surprise, the boat didn't budge.  It was stuck against the beach.  With DW reversing the boat, I had to jump in the water and push the boat off the beach, getting all wet in the process.  The moral of the story is that if you have a boat, you will get wet.  We then made our way back slowly, and were much more relaxed on the way out.  By this point, I was getting used to the boat and was much more comfortable with navigating and driving.  Even the wake of a passing boat in a spot called the "Narrows" didn't phase me too much.  The return trip took about three hours and we arrived at Ebel's by 9:30 a.m.  Captain Poopypants was no more, and it reverted again to being boat number six. 

Afterwards, we headed over to the Voyageurs National Park Visitor Center for Junior Ranger badge number two.

August 03, 2019, 11:18:11 PM
Re: 4 Legged Trip Challenge Well this was not the thread I expected when I clicked on the title.
August 13, 2019, 03:15:49 PM
Alaska - 8 days - August 2019

We are fortunate that we have family in Alaska. My mother-in-law lives in Wasilla which is just outside of Anchorage and we visit every year. Wife and kids usually spend 2 - 3 weeks and I will visit for a week +/- and do some hiking and some fishing and hopefully bring home some fillets to dine on over the following year. This trip focused on Seward fishing trips, hiking, and some river fishing from shore not far from Wasilla.

Flights from RSW - ANC 50k AA miles in business booked 330 days out
3 nights in Seward Best Western using mix of Best Western points from CC signup and Citipoints. Best Western is only chain hotel in Seward and they match my Diamond status but hotel was fully booked so no upgrades.
Used family car, spent 4 nights with family
Used coupons from Northern Lights coupon book to cut cost of salmon trip in Seward.

Day 1 - Flight from RSW - DFW - ANC.Long layover in DFW so used United Club pass from United card and got some work done in the lounge. Arrived late but sun still up as it never really gets dark and that takes some getting used to. Wife picked me up and we did the 1 hour drive out to Wasilla. Not sure you can get much more different from flat, hot tropical SW Florida and Alaska. Love home, close to Sanibel, Naples is great, beaches on Marco Island are amazing but also love the contrast afforded by the snow covered mountains and rugged individualism / lack of pretentiousness that permeates Alaska when you get immersed in it.

Day 2 - Drove from Wasilla to Seward with stops along the way to enjoy the scenery and look for Beluga whales. Saw a accident where a truck with camper had just hit a large bull moose just outside of Anchorage. Moose was still alive and game warden has just arrived to put him down. There are multiple families and/or agencies on a call list that get a call to come out and harvest the meat when this happens so he didn't go to waste but always hate seeing an animal have to die like that. Timed our drive down so we could watch the surfers on the wave of the bore tide that forms when the incoming tide hits the outgoing flow from the all the glacial and snowmelt headed out Turnagain Arm. Walked around Seward, went out to the head of the bay to see if the silver salmon were incoming yet. The salmon here are hatchery raised so you are allowed to snag them using weighted treble hooks and keep up to 6 per person each day. Sadly, the silver salmon were not there to be found so we rode out Bear Creek Road looking for some wildlife. Struck out on the bear hunt (camera only) too but it was nice to be out of the 95 degree / 95% humidity weather. Saw a moose but she disappeared before I could get a good picture. Checked into our room at the Best Western and went and grabbed some pizza.

Day 3 - Full day (14 hours - 3.5 hour boat ride out, 7 hours fishing, 3.5 hour boat ride back) halibut fishing with my son. Got a great weather day with calm seas which is great for sightseeing but high pressure usually dampens fishing. Overfishing of halibut has also decreased chances of getting large fish (100 lb +) and although the captain tried hard we didn't have any success on the larger fish but we each got our limit of 2 (1 under 36", 1 over) and had a great day on the water taking in the scenery. Saw a few humpback whales at distance, a pod of orca's, some sea lions, and lots of puffins. Had fish cleaned and arranged for them to be processed and frozen. Ended up with 38 lbs of halibut fillets, vacuum sealed and frozen for pickup later. Wife took train from Anchorage to Seward (one of most scenic train rides out there, upgrade to the better cabin) and was waiting for us at the dock. Cleaned up, back to Apollo's for some fresh seafood, and then off to bed.

Day 4 - Another early rise, breakfast at hotel, and back to dock for a half day salmon trip in the bay with wife and son. Some silver salmon around but not real thick. Salmon fishing is all about timing. If you are there when they are it can be fast and furious but if the schools aren't in yet it can be frustrating. Either way, a day on the water in Alaska is always a good day to me. We got a total of 9 silver salmon (our limit for inside the bay fishing) which amounted to 32 pounds of fillets that we had processed with the same company. Son and I went down to the small inlet where the late run king salmon were still around and watched a few people successfully snag some of them. These hatchery raised fish go into a small stream with no spawning areas and eventually die off so harvesting them for food is encouraged hence snagging is allowed. Site was real busy so we passed on trying to shoulder our way in and enjoyed watching the locals and visitors from elsewhere in Alaska compete for the few fish making their way through the narrow mouth of the inlet. Went out and had a great seafood dinner and walked the shore watching the otters play. Not sure if there are any animals on the planet that appear to enjoy life more than a sea otter.

Day 5 - Checked out and drove the few miles to the base of Exit Glacier just outside of Seward and started our hike up to the Hubbard Ice Fields lookout. Had to wait for an hour + at the base of the trail due to a black bear with cubs that was spotted walking the trail. I am fine with dealing with bears but bears with cubs can be unpredictable and deadly and park rangers kept trail closed until they had confirmation she was well off the trail. Love the hike, lot of fireweed in August that adds color, 65 and sunny, everything was great except the chest cold that seem to be trying to drag me down. Hiked up to the top, met a couple form Poland that had spent several years traveling the planet driving across continents. They had started in Chile and were on the last part of their journey as they were headed up to Barrow. By the time we reached the top of the trail it was obvious to me that the cold was winning. Nothing to help a good chest cold get a good foothold like 4 hours of heavy deep breathing. Went back to the processing house and picked up our hard frozen fillets, load them all in the cooler, and set off for base camp at in-laws back in Wasilla. Son spotted some salmon in a stream that crossed under the road so we found a spot to park and worked our way down to the stream to find it full of pink salmon. Pinks are okay to eat if eaten fresh but not our favorite. We caught a few before w noticed that there was big brown bear that seemed to favor the fishing hole too so we made our way back to the car and continued along our trip back to Wasilla. By chance, we passed our polish friends we met on the trail earlier and we pulled over at a scenic view point and gave them some salmon fillets for their dinner that night. They were sincerely grateful and we were happy to share. By the time I got to Wasilla I felt like death and was hacking up a lung or two. Mother in law isn't young anymore so wife isolated me into a single room with attached bath and that was my isolation ward for the remainder of the trip.

Day 6 - Felt like crap but didn't want to stay in room all day so son and I drove the 30 miles to a trail head on the Little Susitna River where we could salmon fish without a boat. Weather was amazing, clear, 65 +/-, with just a light breeze. At this location the water is all snow melt and the river is 2 - 4 feet deep in most places with some deeper pools where the fish congregate between runs upstream. Finally patterned the fish and started catching some but they were all chum salmon, aka dog salmon, because they are the fish that the locals catch to feed the dogs. Not good eating but lot of fun to catch. We took fishing gear with us but no waders so son and I stood in knee deep water surrounded by amazing scenery catching and releasing fish. Felt like crud, got a great ab workout from all the coughing, but it was the best sick day ever. Returned back to my isolation ward, heavily medicated myself, and kept reminding myself I could be at home preparing to go to work the next day.

Day 7 - Repeat day 6, helped a 12 year old girl visiting Alaska the first time catch her first fish ever and that was awesome. I saw here and her Mom standing on the shore, could tell this was all new to them, convinced them to shed their shoes and roll up their pants and wade out to where i was until I hooked one and then handed the rod to her and with a little assistance she finally got it in. I have caught my fair share of fish before and that was one of the most satisfying ever. Saw 2 moose on the drive to the river but no good pic opportunity. Tried hard to get some fresh silver salmon but all we caught were more chum as the silvers just were not in yet; hard to complain though and was thankful to have the opportunity to share these experiences with my son. We had spotted an old abandoned boat surrounded by some reeds that line the bay and we stopped and snapped a picture or two with the light behind me. Not sure why but that old weathered boat is now one of my favorites.

Day 8 -  Spent the day relaxing at the house before heading to Walmart to buy some insulated fishboxes (cardboard with Styrofoam liner)and dry ice. Loaded the fish up and headed to the airport for the trip home. 35 pounds of fillets, 6 pounds of dry ice and it makes it home just fine as checked luggage. Benefit of flying first is no extra baggage charge and no crazy charges for shipping fish home. ANC - DFW - RSW. Wife dropped me off, no goodbye kiss for my sick, heavily medicated self. Checked in and went and got a nice half hour neck and shoulder massage, ate a nice meal and boarded the late night flight for home. Drank a couple of cocktails, tooka little something to help me sleep, and woke up not long before landing in Dallas.

Far from our best trip to Alaska but as I recant the story here I realized just how enjoyable it was and how fortunate I am. Alaska is an amazing place with so much to see and do but it is also so big. Cut Alaska in half and both halves would still be bigger than Texas. It isn't cheap since their season is only 3.5 - 4 months and it should be booked as far in advance as possible. We have never done the cruise thing so I am of no help there but we have used the Alaska ferry system to get from Seattle to Seward before we had kids and I had a digital camera. The ferry system allows one to spend more time in some of the smaller towns and experience the scenery along the way without breaking the bank. If flying into and out of Anchorage, I would recommend at least 2 weeks to visit if you want to do a land tour with some ocean time for wildlife viewing.

I like to say I take a vacation three times. Once while planning it, once while enjoying it, and once while reliving it by sharing it with others. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you. Somewhere I have a sample trip for 2.5 weeks land tour beginning and ending in Anchorage and if/when I find it I will add it to this post if anyone is interested. Forgive my appearance, didn't bother to shave the entire trip, and felt like death warmed over in the pics. One of the many things I love about Alaska is nobody cares what you look like or what you wear.

2015 Alaska album below that included a trip up to Brooks Falls (bucket list place for wildlife lover like me) and a rainy day in Denali that was pretty much a bust until a single wolf showed himself to give me my best wolf picture to date. Also was the first time we have witnessed humpback whales bubble net feeding while halibut fishing out of Seward. Had better luck that trip and got almost 80 pounds of halibut fillets and 60 pounds of silver salmon fillets the next day.

Coupon book options, best one depends on what you plan to do but lots of value to be had with lodging and excursions

November 20, 2019, 12:00:11 AM