The 2013 Alaska HAL CruiseTour, Part 4

The 19-Day Holland America Line Alaska CruiseTour, Holland America ms Statendam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Four

(Remember to click “read more” if you’re looking at this from the main page to get the whole article!)

July 29 (Monday, Day 10, Motor Coach to Fairbanks, Alaska) –

Our luggage had to be out at 6 AM and the bus left at 7 AM making it another early morning. For breakfast Filbert ate some of his high protein bars while Snookums went across the street to pick up her pre-ordered breakfast box from Belinda’s. The bus got on the ferry to cross the Yukon River and a little before 9 AM we were at the border. The border crossing opened at 9 and our driver wanted to be there when it opened.

The Border

We stopped at Davis Dome, a scenic spot with long drops, and saw five caribou, probably members of the Pioneer Herd. They weren’t in any hurry to leave and everyone was able to get good photos.


We boarded the bus and started our journey and a few minutes later had to stop since there were three more caribou on the road. They ambled off the road after awhile. The fields were full of fireweed, a weed that blooms beautiful pink flowers. The story of fireweed is that when the last bloom opens, winter is next.

Our next stop was in Chicken, Alaska. Snookums bought a so-so blueberry scone and used the long drop. Filbert enjoyed a cup of the free coffee. Chicken consisted of the gift store/rest stop and a few other buildings. It was a typical “town” in the interior of Alaska! They say that the town is named “Chicken” because the settlers couldn’t decide how to properly spell “ptarmigan.”

Chicken, Alaska

Our next stop was in Tok, Alaska. We were immediately served our turkey sandwiches but had to wait for the bumbleberry crisp (blueberry, blackberry, strawberry) hot from the oven. Snookums ate both hers and Filbert’s and ended up with a bright blue tongue and teeth. More importantly, there was cell phone service!

Our final stop of the day was at Rika’s Roadhouse which is an historic sight in Big Delta State Historical Park. People lined up for the strawberry-rhubarb pie, but Snookums brushed her teeth in order to see if the blue stains would disappear. Luckily, they did! Rika was a woman that settled there and ultimately opened up a roadhouse to serve the traveling gold stampeders, hunters, traders and freighters.

Moose and calf

Finally we pulled up to the Fairbanks Westmark and got our room, the Fairbanks Suite! Laura and John were next door, like always, in a normal room. Somehow we were lucky and got the suite. It was just a normal hotel room with a living room attached, but it was more than a normal room so we liked it. We hustled to a Thai restaurant a few blocks away and had a tasty dinner before returning to the hotel for an early bedtime. It’s a good thing that Alaska hotels have blackout curtains since the sun was still bright at 10 PM.

July 30 (Tuesday, Day 11, Fairbanks, Alaska) –

Riverboat Discovery

Laura was sick and didn’t leave the hotel. Filbert, Snookums and John boarded the bus at 10 AM for a 3-hour cruise aboard the authentic sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery. We expected it to be another worthless boat ride like we had in Dawson City, but this one was great. The captain was very enthusiastic and knew everyone that lived along the river. Susan Butcher, the late Iditarod champion, lived there and her family still does and trains sled dogs. While we were on the boat, her widow gave a demonstration. After about an hour we reached a reenacted Chena Indian village and had three different interesting lectures/demonstrations. Then we enjoyed a hearty family style lunch of cheddar cheese soup and miner’s stew that was served incredibly fast.

Sled Dogs

After the riverboat tour we got back on the bus and went to Gold Dredge 8. We had a close-up view of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an open-air ride on a replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad, exploration of Gold Dredge 8, and then we got to pan for gold after each of us was given a little bag of dirt and stuff. Snookums let the bus driver, who pans for a hobby, pan for her gold and her baggie produced $14 in gold. Filbert panned his own gold and discovered $19 in his. John found $10 in his. We combined all three gold flake amounts and John bought a very nice pendant for Laura that contained all of the flakes.

Goldstream Dredge No. 8
Panning for gold

Dana, a woman that Snookums knew from work and went on a 2-week African safari with 25 years ago, picked us up and we drove by University of Alaska-Fairbanks and saw musk oxen in the distance at its Large Animal Research Station. Then we went to dinner at The Pump House and had a very enjoyable night.

July 31 (Wednesday, Day 12, Train to Denali National Park) –

Alaska Railroad

Our bags were outside our hotel door at 6 AM and we met in the lobby at 7 AM. The early mornings are starting to get old. We got on the train at 8:15 and had already decided to enjoy breakfast on the train. That was a mistake. Snookums’s food was wrong and Filbert’s was cold. After some other mistakes, including getting a hash brown with a bite out of it, we were done and our meal was free. We returned to our seats and shared our experience with John and Laura who were smarter and did not plan on eating on the train. The train ride itself was uneventful and we didn’t see any wildlife but did see lots of trees.

Flying to the Glacier

We got to McKinley Chalet Resort at 12:30 PM and we were shuttled to our building. There are a lot of housing units in this “resort” so a shuttle is needed to get people from their units to the main lodge where the restaurants are and where are tours start. We quickly unpacked a little bit and went to the main building for a quick lunch. Then the four of us were picked up at 2:30 for our Fly Denali glacier landing flight ($359.25 pp).

Mt. McKinley (Denali) from the air

We had about 100 minutes of flying time and Snookums was in the cockpit seat. None of the passengers, including Snookums, had much room and Filbert seemed to be really squeezed in his seat. Snookums was not allowed to move her feet since there were pedals down there. Anyway, the pilot flew us directly towards Mt. McKinley and it scared Snookums since it seemed like we were so close. We also flew over the great gorge of the Ruth Glacier. After seeing that spectacular scenery, we landed on Pika Glacier for about 20 minutes. It was pretty neat. Too soon it was time to bundle back into the plane. We saw Mt. McKinley on the way back, too. Many times people that visit Denali don’t get to see McKinley due to cloud cover so the fact that we got to fly right up to it and see it was pretty cool.

On the Glacier

At 7:15 the four of us went to “Cabin Nite” dinner theater for dinner and a show. We knew it would be corny but Snookums had a “buy one, get one free” coupon so dinner for the two of us was $63 which is a bargain in Denali. The food was pretty good and it was served family style and the show was okay. It was over at 9:30 PM and our long, but good day finally ended.

The 2013 Alaska HAL CruiseTour, Part 3

The 19-Day Holland America Line Alaska CruiseTour, Holland America ms Statendam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Three

(Remember to click “read more” if you’re looking at this from the main page to get the whole article!)

July 27 (Saturday, Day 8, Motor Coach to Dawson City, Canada) –

The Bus

Our luggage had to be outside our hotel room door by 6:30 and the bus departed at 7:45. We saw a fox within the first hour of the trip and a moose, too. For the next 7 hours, though, we only saw around 10 houses and 20 RVs and cars. The bus stopped every two hours and our first stop was at Braeburn’s. This little store, with Cinnamon Roll Airstrip across the road, sold $10 cinnamon rolls the size of a paper plate and 4 inches tall. Snookums was in line to buy one but when she saw it was $10, decided not to. Our lunch stop was at Minto which consisted of a dining hall, a few cabins and a bathroom with showers and laundry facilities. Our bus driver and tour guide served us chili and soup and there was also tossed salad and coleslaw and Nanaimo bars for dessert. Two First Nations people were seen in the kitchen, but they stayed mostly behind the scenes. Our next stop was at Moose Creek Lodge which is owned by a German woman. It was a tiny store, several cabins and a toilet house. Snookums bought one of her tiny strawberry rhubarb tarts. It was pretty good. Filbert bought one of her sausage rolls and enjoyed it. He also bought a book called “Klondike” by Dawson City author Pierre Berton. (Jack London and Robert Service also lived in Dawson City.) When John saw Filbert’s book, John ran back into the tiny store and bought a copy. They are both book lovers and history buffs.

John exiting Moose Creek Lodge

After Moose Lodge our next stop was at a scenic overlook that also had long drops (outhouses). It was a very clear day and the scenery was beautiful. Our guide said that the other times she had been to this overlook it had always been foggy.

We finally pulled up to our Dawson City hotel. Dawson City is 8 hours from Whitehorse and has a population of 1,800. There is nothing between the two cities (other than Braeburn’s and Moose Lodge) and we didn’t see much all day other than maybe 10 houses and 20 RVs/cars! When we were at Whitehorse we were at the edge of nowhere and now that we are in Dawson City, we are in the middle of nowhere!! In 1898 at the height of the gold rush, Dawson City had a population of 30,000.

As soon as we got to our Dawson City Westmark room, which was MUCH nicer than the Whitehorse Westmark, Snookums found two empty washers and did laundry. After the clothes were dried, we went to the Drunken Goat for Greek food. We each had a $16.95 gyro with Greek salad and it was fantastic. Filbert also had two pints of draught beer at $4 each since there was a special. We had been warned that food in Dawson City was very expensive and we did see some exorbitant prices at the grocery store, but for the most part prices seemed to be around 30% more expensive.

After dinner we wandered to the Downtown Hotel since Filbert wanted to join the sourtoe cocktail club. (Sourtoe is a takeoff of sourdough and you can read more about it at the Downtown Hotel web site). Laura had said she wanted to become a member, too, after they watched the $10 show at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall. When we got to the bar, we saw a notice saying that Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush series was being filmed. Since we are not on any country’s wanted list, that didn’t stop us and we walked in and saved seats. Sure enough, the cast of Gold Rush: Alaska was there since Parker Schnable turned 19 on Monday and was celebrating tonight since Canada’s drinking age is 19. He was going to three bars in Dawson City with the Downtown Hotel being one of the three. (Gerties was another bar and we don’t know the third.) Parker drank his sourtoe cocktail and then it was Filbert’s turn, while the cameras were still rolling.

Do you really want to keep reading?

For those of you that aren’t interested in going to the link to read about a sourtoe cocktail, suffice it to say that some man lost a toe many, many years ago to gangrene and saved it under the porch of his house since that is where you put valuables back in the day. The man that found the saved toe under the porch of his newly purchased house then made money by drinking drinks that had this toe in it. Now the preserved, black toe is offered to visitors to “enjoy”.

The Toe

First you pay $5 for a shot of Yukon Jack (a sweet whiskey) and then you pay $5 to Captain Dick (a grizzled old man) to put the amputated toe in your drink. He reads the proclamation and fills out the official certificate and wipes the toe off with Lysol wipes between drinkers. After the ceremony is done, it is time for the drinker to drink the alcohol while making sure that the toe touches the lips or else it doesn’t count.

Filbert with Captain Dick
He didn’t!

When Filbert turned his glass upside down to get it to touch his lips, the entire toe fell in his mouth and he then proudly swished it around before spitting it in his glass. And, to make it more dramatic, he spit something out afterwards. (Snookums thought he was just being dramatic but Filbert said that there was definitely a piece of something in his mouth that he spit out!) After he was filmed and he signed his waiver, he realized that he didn’t have to pay the $5 to Captain Dick since Discovery Channel took care of it. What a deal!! The episode is scheduled to show in January 2014. Next it was Laura’s turn and the fact that she wanted to do it at all absolutely stunned her husband, John.

Laura with Captain Dick
She didn’t!

Filbert is definitely a bad influence on her. Up until two years ago non-drinkers could participate by putting the toe in a glass of water and then drinking that but the health department stopped that. As a non-drinker, Snookums was crushed to hear that. (Yeah, right!) Our tour guide, Kim Booher, also enjoyed a sourtoe cocktail, her fifth over the years!After all that excitement, the group called it a night and went back to the Westmark for bed. Filbert kept saying he wanted to use about two gallons of Listerine, but he managed to survive by thoroughly brushing his teeth.

July 28 (Sunday, Day 9, Dawson City, Canada) –

Dawson City

After a very good late breakfast at Belinda’s Restaurant in the Westmark we walked around Dawson City. Dawson City has only one paved road and the others are gravel. There are boardwalks for sidewalks and several of the buildings are intact from 1898. However, the builders back then didn’t know how to deal with permafrost and the buildings are buckled and not square. Some of them have been made safe while still looking rickety while others have been condemned.

Old buildings

It was dusty and surprisingly, many of the places were closed since it was Sunday. Given that it’s such a small town and gets 99.9% of its tourists in the summer, Snookums expected that the businesses would have been open while tour groups were in town. It was soon time for our included Klondike Spirit paddlewheel ride along the Yukon River so we did that. It was hot inside the boat where the chairs were so everyone was standing along the rails during the 1.5 hour ride and there wasn’t that much to see. The guide that had the microphone was no good, either, and no one was sure why Holland America decided to add this to everyone’s package.

On the Yukon

After we got off the boat, we were going to have dinner at a restaurant but it was closed on Sundays so we ate at Belinda’s again. We were surprised to be served an amuse bouche prior to dinner and our meals were very tasty. We turned in early since there wasn’t anything else to do in Dawson City.

The 2013 Alaska HAL CruiseTour, Part 2

The 19-Day Holland America Line Alaska CruiseTour, Holland America ms Statendam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Two

July 24 (Wednesday, Day 5, Vancouver, Canada) –

Stanley Park Geese

After last night’s late night, we woke up and made it to the Regency Club before breakfast stopped being served. We were just hanging out on the balcony when John and Laura showed up around 10:35. We watched a film being filmed on the top of a building down the street and then decided to walk to Stanley Park together. After they ate a quick breakfast at Tim Horton’s, we met in the lobby at 11:15 and walked to Stanley Park in order to walk along the seawall. We took a path through the park to get to the seawall and saw a raccoon. We also saw ducks, geese, swans, birds and squirrels. We saw low tide at 1:34 PM and found out that the water temperature was 67º. There were lots of people enjoying the nice beaches, the park, the walking/biking paths and the swimming pool. It looked more like a weekend than a Wednesday afternoon, but it must be the laid back West Coast culture. It was a beautiful day.

We started walking back to the Hyatt and stopped at Vera’s Burger Shack for lunch. Snookums really enjoyed her fried salami with sautéed onions and mustard and Filbert liked his bunless double bacon cheeseburger. It was a nice rest after a couple of hours of solid walking and we finally made it back to the Hyatt at 3 PM. For the first time during this stay, we had time to visit the Regency Club in the afternoon and picked up some cookies, trail mix, wrapped granola bars and nuts.

The four of us met in the Hyatt lobby at 4 PM and shared a cab to the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. After a quick check-in, Filbert enjoyed watching the planes from our upgraded room with its runway view. The four of us ate dinner in the Fairmont bar and made an early night of it. Sunset was around 9 PM.

July 25 (Thursday, Day 6, Fly to Whitehorse, Canada) –

Whitehorse Community Market

Snookums realized that there was a lounge near Air North that she had (expired) access to so she and Filbert managed to get in and enjoyed free scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon. Snookums also had a Nanaimo bar which is an unbaked chocolate and custard bar cookie that supposedly originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. We also loaded up with free cans of Coke Zero. It was a nice way to start the travel day. Our Air North flight was great and included a good sandwich and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. We even had an empty seat between us.

After tagging our luggage at the Whitehorse airport, 44 of us loaded on the tour bus and after 10 minutes arrived at the Whitehorse Westmark and we quickly got our hotel room key and luggage. Whitehorse has around 25,000 people in it and is the capital of the Yukon Territory. The entire population of Yukon Territory is 33,000! There was a welcome dinner at 6:30 and since it was free, we definitely wanted to attend. For 2 ½ hours prior to dinner, we walked around Whitehorse and went to the Fireweed Community Market that occurs each Thursday. It was a small farmer’s market and Snookums bought a large bag of kettle corn and Filbert bought a cup of coffee. It was overcast and raining, but we were prepared so it didn’t deter us. We walked along the Yukon River which is a beautiful shade of greenish blue and only saw a few mosquitoes. We went to a local sporting goods store and bought mosquito jackets and Filbert also bought mosquito pants and regular zip-on/zip-off pants. The mosquito garments are made of fine see-through mesh that are worn over clothes to keep the mosquitoes away. Filbert also bought three Yukon and Alaska Rand McNally maps at the local independent bookstore (open until midnight during the summer!).

Flowers along the Yukon

Dinner was uneventful and afterwards, we called it quits and enjoyed a quiet night in our (rather dingy) hotel room. Sunset was at 10:50 PM.

July 26 (Friday, Day 7, Whitehorse, Canada) –

Rain on Grey Mountain

We had a nice breakfast at Burnt Toast Café and had plenty of time to get organized for our 10 AM “Day in the Mountains” hike with Boréale Explorers. It was lightly misting when we got picked up and were driven to the cell phone towers on the side of Grey Mountain. We got out of the van and quickly realized we needed to put on our mosquito netting. Our guide didn’t think the mosquitoes were bad, but they were buzzing all around. We’ve seen them worse when we were in Anchorage two years ago, but since we had the netting, we used it!

Mosquito Netting

We hiked up the mountain and there wasn’t much to see since it was so cloudy. We did notice that the vegetation changed as we got higher and the trees were non-existent. The 360º view from the top was nothing for us since everything was clouded over. We did see two chipmunks and some bear scat. We turned around and made our way down to the van and our guide said that we got farther than any of his other trips and that made us feel good. Our legs were feeling the climb up and down, but we did it just fine. After we got in the van he took us to Miles Canyon which is another part of the Yukon River that is very pretty and we walked across the suspension bridge and did another little hike. (And it was little! He was going to take a Holland America tour group on this little hike tomorrow.) He was then going to take us to the free paddlewheeler that is now a museum, but we were just too tired and wanted to go back. We got to our room at 3:30 and changed shoes and then went to dinner.

Eagles in the nest

We ate at Klondike Rib & Salmon, which was next to the hotel. The restaurant is housed in the two oldest buildings still in use in Whitehorse. The dining room started as a bakery around 1900. We ordered the grilled vegetables ($16.95) and the salmon and rib dinner ($32.95) and it was a lot of food, but we managed to eat all of it except for the huge bed of rice pilaf the salmon and ribs were sitting on. John and Laura walked in after we placed our order and sat with us and after they were done eating, Snookums and John split a piece of bumbleberry pie (rhubarb, apple, blueberry, blackberry) with vanilla ice cream. It was great!

After a few minutes to let dinner settle, it was time to get with John and Laura for our 6 to 10 PM 4×4 tour. We piled into the jeep and our guide drove us up to the top of Mt. McIntyre which is the ridge between Fish Lake and Whitehorse. When we finally got to the top we had a spectacular view of Whitehorse and Grey Mountain that we had climbed earlier in the day. We saw several ground squirrels and caribou tracks, but that was all. The ride up to the top was very interesting since it was off road and our driver had to dodge boulders, potholes, deep puddles and all sorts of bad terrain. But, the driver is the owner of the jeep and maintains the “roads”. He said he came out in mid-May to get rid of three feet of snow in order to take his first tourists of the season! It was an adventure and during our stops prior to getting to the top, the mosquitoes were out and about. At the top, however, it was very windy and cold and there were no mosquitoes (and no trees, either). Snookums only managed to get bit by one mosquito today and it got her on the back of her hand.

On Mt. McIntyre

Although the sun was up until 10:50 PM, we all slept well!

The 2013 Alaska HAL CruiseTour, Part 1

The 19-Day Holland America Line Alaska CruiseTour, Holland America ms Statendam



Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert


Part One



July 20 (Saturday, Day 1, Fly to Vancouver, Canada) –

Our first travel day was very uneventful. We left our house at 2:25 PM and everything was smooth sailing. We had an almost two hour (scheduled) layover in Seattle which gave us plenty of time for a sit-down dinner.











Mount Rainier

Soon after, it was time for the 42-minute flight to Vancouver. (Yep, 42 minutes!) We landed in Vancouver on time at 9 PM and then managed to pass through Immigration, get our luggage, clear Customs, hail a cab, check in to the Hyatt Regency Vancouver and get to our room by 9:58 PM!! We even had time for a quick visit to the Regency Club before it closed at 10 PM but all that was available were sodas, water and fruit. We stocked up, returned to our room and sat on our nice 23rd floor balcony while enjoying the refreshments. After awhile we decided we needed to unpack a bit and go to bed. What an incredible totally relaxed travel day!

July 21 (Sunday, Day 2, Vancouver, Canada; $1CAD = $0.97, $1 = $1.03CAD) –










Prospect Point, Stanley Park

After a leisurely Regency Club breakfast, it was time for the day to commence. We went to the back of the Hyatt to catch the Gray Line Hop-On/Hop-Off bus, but when it pulled up it was full. We decided to walk to the main office in Gastown about a mile away. Snookums purchased a half-price Groupon a week ago for around $20 per person, so it was a good deal. We got seats in the open-air back of the bus and enjoyed the first hour or so of the city tour. When the bus arrived in Stanley Park, we decided to get off and wait for the Stanley Park Loop bus for the in-depth Stanley Park tour. It took about 45 minutes to arrive, but it was worth the wait.

Stanley Park is a 1000-acre urban park bordering downtown Vancouver that is a natural West Coast rainforest. It was opened in 1888 in the name of Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada. The Stanley Cup, given to the NHL champion, is also named after Lord Stanley. Stanley Park has scenic views of water, mountains, sky and majestic trees along a famous seawall. There are trails, beaches, wildlife (mostly raccoons), restaurants, natural, cultural and historical landmarks. It seemed like all of Vancouver was enjoying the beautiful day at the park along with us. Among other things, we saw the 9 O’Clock Gun that has been shot every night since 1894 at 9 PM to allow chronometers of ships in port to be set.

After the Stanley Park tour, we had to wait for the normal Hop-On/Hop-Off bus to arrive to continue. Then we saw some more of Vancouver before getting off at Granville Island, a peninsula and shopping district which includes a spectacular fresh food market. We ate Thai for lunch and our lips were happily tingling from the spices. Snookums followed lunch with an apple sticky bun that looked great, but really wasn’t that special. While walking around we were fortunate to see three river otters in the water. They had long tails and definite legs/feet which was why we decided they were river otters and not sea lions or seals. They were much larger than the river otters in the Kansas City zoo and we were very pleased with our first wildlife sighting of this vacation.After walking around Granville Island we decided to get back on the bus and ride it all the way to the Hyatt stop since we were tired and just wanted to relax. Unfortunately, it was so late that we had to transfer to another bus at one of the stops but ultimately we made it back. We were pooped and immediately went to the Regency Club for a delicious dinner of beef skewers, seared ahi tuna, mushroom bites, roasted vegetables, raw vegetables, feta cheese and olives. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony and had it all to ourselves. The raspberry cheesecake and pastry swans were served at 8 PM. We left a little after 9 PM and realized that the boom we heard at 9 PM was the 9 O’Clock Gun. It was a full day.

July 22 (Monday, Day 3, Vancouver, Canada) –

While eating breakfast on the balcony of the Regency Club, we were greeted by our friends, John and Laura. They booked this Alaska cruisetour first and we decided to join them. Their flight was three hours late last night so we didn’t get to see them until this morning. Snookums booked their Hyatt room for them so they get to enjoy the Diamond perks including Regency Club access and free WiFi. Snookums also had an expiring suite upgrade certificate to use and they really like the huge, well-designed suite. We enjoyed a long breakfast re-living “old” times from the 75-day HAL 2012 Grand Asia and Australia cruise before doing our own thing for a few hours. At noon we were picked up by Sharie, another friend from the 75-day cruise that lives in a suburb of Vancouver, and we commenced our day of touring. (John, Sharie’s husband, isn’t big into touring and since their car only seats five, he decided to stay home. Luckily we’ll see him Tuesday night at their house since it wouldn’t be the same without seeing him!)

Our first stop was the Tap & Barrel for lunch and to meet Sharie and John’s two sons. It happened to be Liam’s 32nd birthday so that was fun. The Tap & Barrel is a pub that serves a large selection of local craft beer and “gourmet” comfort food. It is located next to the former Athlete’s Village of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was nice putting faces to two people we heard so much about during the 75-day cruise. Snookums really enjoyed her tavern cheeseburger, served with a deep fried pickle and sautéed onions, while Filbert continued on his quest to lose a few more pounds and ate a Cobb salad without any dressing. Filbert didn’t even order any beer while Liam and Reaon ordered the Howe Sound Blueberry Wit beer which looked like foamy blueberry juice! They’ve had it before and really enjoy it.

After lunch Sharie drove us to Vancouver Lookout for a bird’s-eye view of Vancouver. After taking the 40-second elevator ride up 550 feet, Sharie did a great job of telling us about all of Vancouver and its surroundings. We all marveled at her knowledge and she simply said that she knows about the city where she lives!










Vancouver skyline from the Lookout

Then we drove by the Point Grey beaches on our way to the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Greenheart Canopy Walkway. The garden was founded in 1916 and not a lot of items were blooming, but the trees and greenery were very impressive. We made our way to the canopy walkway and had fun walking on seven or eight aerial trails through the coastal rainforest. The bouncing suspended walkways were a lot of fun.










Rain forest!

On our way to Steveston, we drove along SW Marine Drive which is known for its huge mansions. Most homes in Vancouver have huge boxwood hedges in front of them that provide a lot of privacy and this was the case on this road, too. The hedges are all so nice and trimmed and Sharie says they need trimming about once a year. There are other varieties of hedges, too, and some really don’t need much trimming. Nothing like having your own natural four to ten foot fence in front of your house!

We soon found ourselves in Steveston village which is an historic salmon canning center in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. It was originally inhabited by mostly Japanese Canadians and some of the architecture reflects this. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery was at one time the largest plant in British Columbia. While walking along the water’s edge, we found a bunch of wild blackberry bushes. While on the 75-day cruise, John regaled us with stories of picking blackberries and then eating blackberry pie. Most of them weren’t quite ripe, but we managed to find a few that were and enjoyed them. We continued our walk and Sharie took us to the RBC branch office (Royal Bank of Canada) that she managed in the early 1970s. It was full of good memories for her. We ate fish and chips on the dock at Pajos and although none of us thought it was that good, it was a lot of fun and the atmosphere was great. By the way, the weather all day was sunny and in the mid-70s – perfect!

It was after 7:30 PM when we left Steveston for Queen Elizabeth Park. On the way there, we drove by Sharie’s blueberry farm in Richmond that she sold about eight months ago. She picked blueberries for 12 hours a day during the blueberry season until she was 15 when she lied about her age to get a “real” job! (You had to be 16.) Her parents had other full-time jobs, but owned and worked the blueberry farm, too. She did NOT enjoy picking blueberries back then, but doesn’t mind it now that it is no longer forced upon her.

We arrived at Queen Elizabeth Park right before sunset. Queen Elizabeth Park is a municipal park in Vancouver on Little Mountain (550 feet above sea level). Its surface was scarred at the turn of the twentieth century when it was quarried for its rock, which served to build Vancouver’s first roadways. It is Vancouver’s horticultural jewel and is a major draw for floral display enthusiasts and view-seekers. It is the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore. We walked amidst the many beautiful flowers and landscaped areas and enjoyed the spectacular views of Vancouver. We all decided it was the perfect ending to a great day.










Queen Elizabeth Park

Sharie drove us back to the Hyatt around 9:30 PM and we all agreed to meet again at 11 the next morning for more touring.

July 23 (Tuesday, Day 4, Vancouver, Canada) –

We took the SkyTrain to the stop where Sharie wanted to meet us. It was kind of funny since we bought our tickets at our outbound station and realized that all of the gates said “No Entry” even though there weren’t any barriers at the gates. We finally decided to just walk through and made our way to the correct platform. When we got off the SkyTrain and saw that Sharie wasn’t yet there, Snookums talked to a SkyTrain employee to find out why there wasn’t anywhere to swipe the tickets in order to gain entry (or to exit the SkyTrain station). The employee said that it is still on the honor system and by January 2014, the gates will actually be working and will have barriers that are closed until a passenger swipes a valid fare card. We all had a good laugh since after buying our fare cards we just kept looking around and couldn’t figure out what to do and finally just walked through. Well, that was the right thing to do!

Sharie arrived at 11:15 and drove us by her childhood home in East Vancouver and then her and her husband’s first home that they purchased for $25,000 and sold for much more later. We made it to the Lynn Canyon Park suspension bridge and enjoyed walking across the swaying bridge 160 feet above the canyon’s floor. After crossing the bridge, we hiked through the woods to the 30-Foot pool. We opted to not get in the water, but we could see many people playing in it. The outside temperature was around 75º but the water was much colder. After spending a few minutes balancing on the rocks, we hiked back to the suspension bridge only to find a large husky pulling its owner away from the bridge. The dog was scared to death to cross back over it, but that was the only way out. After awhile the owner picked up the dog and carried it. Halfway across the suspension bridge, the owner put the dog down and it took off like a shot to the other side. When it made it off the bridge, the dog patiently waited for its owner and in a few seconds was happily wagging its tail. We waited until the dog was completely off the bridge since we didn’t want to have to deal with some kind of crazed dog on the bridge. There was a table with various berries and cherries for sale and Sharie bought 10 pounds of blueberries for $22 for the quinoa salad she wanted for our dinner.










Suspension Bridge










The Vancouver Expedition Members

Next we drove to Burnaby Mountain which is 1,214 feet above sea level. We had spectacular views of Indian Arm fjord, downtown Vancouver, the North Shore Mountains and the ocean. There were many beautiful landscaped flowerbeds and a large (25 feet tall?) ivy sculpture of two herons. We also saw a collection of Ainu totem pole-like carvings which commemorate the goodwill between Burnaby and its sister city, Kushiro, Japan.










Flag over Burnaby Mountain










Dancing Herons











We made a small detour to go to Sharie’s house to drop off the blueberries as well as to say a quick “hi” to her husband, John, who was also on the 75-day cruise with us. When we left their beautiful house, we stopped on the side of the street so that Laura could take a picture of Mt. Baker. She and her husband drove to Vancouver from Seattle for a day trip a few years ago and on their drive back to Seattle they kept seeing a beautiful mountain in the distance that slowly got closer and closer. They never knew what it was until now – Mt. Baker.

We were starved and on our way to Fort Langley so we had lunch at Beatniks where Filbert enjoyed his wings and chicken skewers and Snookums enjoyed her grilled chicken baguette. Then we drove another three blocks to Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada. Fort Langley is where, a century and a half ago, a huge fur trade organization called the Hudson’s Bay Company established a small post to trade with the First Nations of the West Coast. The enterprise grew, evolved, and influenced history, leading to the creation of the colony of British Columbia. Today it is made up of reconstructed buildings and interactive displays and it was interesting (and hot!) to explore.










Inside Fort Langley

We piled back into Sharie’s Hyundai Santa Fe (which does hold five adults, but there isn’t a lot of wiggle room!) and went to Rocky Point Park which is situated along Burrard Inlet in Port Moody. It is almost 10 acres and has a swimming pool, skateboard park, free splash park, boat launch, hiking trails and wildlife viewing. One again we were all amazed at how beautiful and plentiful the parks are. There is a bandshell that is used every Sunday and the donations that are given for the music are given to the hospice that Sharie and John support.

Sharie had told John that we would be home for dinner around 6 and we pulled up at their house at 6:15. After making several delicious salads, the six of us enjoyed a great grilled dinner outside on the patio and it felt just like we were back on Holland America’s ms Amsterdam! Sharie’s apple streusel pie was a definite hit as was the four kinds of grilled protein, salads, baked beans and corn on the cob. We stuffed ourselves and finally decided we needed to call it a night around 10:30. Sharie drove us to the nearest SkyTrain station, about 15 minutes away, and 35 minutes after that the four of us were back in our Hyatt rooms. It was another great day with friends.