Sled Dogs, Whales, Glaciers & Oprah

It’s 4:31am and I’m wide awake. Quietly I get out of bed and find some workout clothes in the dark. As my family sleeps, I’m going to explore the ship.

We are on our way from Seattle to Juneau with my family, 12 of us, in tow. The ship is quiet and I’m hoping to find a track around the perimeter to get in a run. I head up the stairs until the sign for the tenth floor entices me to head outside.

A crisp, salty breeze greets me and I’m blown away by the view. The sky is beautiful and all I see is water. No one else is up and out here. On a ship with a few thousand people, I really take the time to savor this moment alone.

I decide to walk around until I see some stairs where I stop to meditate. Never have I relaxed during a session like I did this special morning. The quiet that enveloped me was a what I imagine monks feel as they pursue enlightenment. And when I opened my eyes, I saw this:

The sheer beauty is seared in my memory. The feeling of being the only one on the deck witnessing this instant, amazing.

Soon the crew started to bustle and I explored the other levels, never finding the track, which was disappointing but I would not have changed this start of the trip.

Heading down to breakfast, I expected to read a little and relax before the family decided to get up.  Soon after I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down, the first pod of whales showed up and a half-dozen early risers were in awe.

No matter what happened from here, I would cherish and protect this morning forever. And it only got better because the special moments to come were shared with family.

In Juneau, my daughter, Lily, was in heaven. She studied the Iditarod in school and has loved sled dogs. Now, she met these special animals and we were all pulled around a track by them. We all had a great time but maybe none more than my beautiful daughter.

Then a couple of things happened to make the day even more spectacular. First, the tour group driver took a detour for us to glimpse a glacier. I was 20 miles away and still awe-inspiring. Even the kids were floored. (It’s wayyy back there, I swear!)

While we were enjoying the view, my dad got a message asking, “Do you want to go to the Oprah dinner?” Did I mention Oprah (and Gayle) were on the cruise? Well after the cruise was booked, Holland America made a deal with O, the Magazine, and we would see Oprah. Not life changing, but it isn’t often you get a picture with a billionaire.

There was an entire restaurant full of people and it was just a picture. The best moment is when Oprah tried to hold our two-year-old, Michaela, and she said, “No Oprah.” Kids are darn funny.

The next day we were in Glacier Bay, a national park that is more pristine than I could have imagined. The silence broken only by the gunshot-like cracking of a glacier was spectacular. Even more special, all 12 of us witnessed this together in my parent’s suite. We couldn’t have asked for more.

From there, we went to hear a talk by Oprah. I didn’t have big expectations for this part of the trip but was pleasantly surprised. Oprah is dynamic, insightful, and genuinely caring. One of her best point was to “listen to the whispers.” You know, those times there is something telling you to do or not do something. Listen to them before they become pebbles. But most of us don’t listen until the whispers become bricks and we are getting hit full-on with reality. Oprah found a way to listen to the whispers and it has worked out ok for her.

Better yet that night was what I saw when I peeked through the door into the kids’ adjoining room. My three and their cousin, Claire, all together on a twin bed. The love and joy they exuded was something I soon won’t forget.

Then on to Sitka where all 12 of us did a wildlife tour. We saw everything – eagles, otters, whales, and even a momma bear with three cubs. That just doesn’t happen. The pictures here cannot do the day justice, so below is when I told Michaela there were no more otters to see, so funny!

Our final stop in Alaska was in Ketchikan and this was the first time we split up as a family for excursions. I went with Gretchen and Daniel to check out the Aleutian Ballad, a boat that was caught up in a big storm in season two of Deadliest Catch.

The stories and getting to learn about crab fishing were unforgettable. We were told we would not have a crab feast at the end, so Gretchen considered taking matters into her own hands.

The big surprise involved eagles. We saw a couple dozen of them.  Click the “Eagles” link below for one video in slow motion that gives you a good glimpse of what was happening.

Eagles

Next, we went to Victoria, Canada. Victoria is stunning and I was excited to possibly meet up with a couple of people from the Sub-30 Club. Well, best intentions don’t always work out but I’ll be back and we’ll meet up then.

In the meantime, we toured the beautiful city and got to stop at Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s), so that was great!

Finally, we motored back to Seattle to end our whirlwind week at sea. I skipped the beginning of the trip in Seattle, which was great. I ran twice there and really enjoyed it. I only ran once more on the trip while in Ketchikan and that was only a mile before rain took over. Given that the parts of Alaska we were in are situated in a rain forest, I expected to get a little wet and at least I got to run while in Alaska.

The trip was everything we hoped for. Personally, I let myself go as far as health leading up to the trip and ate anything I could while on the ship. The evil goodness got me. No use fretting that, so I have concentrated on fixing it in the two weeks since our return and things are on track.

We want to thank my mom and dad for putting this trip together and taking the entire family. Spending time together outshines even the most beautiful places we experienced in Alaska. Watching the kids bond, sharing meals, witnessing animals in the wild together, these are the things I’ll remember most.

But that first morning on the ship captures my personal quest. My goal is to find that place of tranquility in everyday life. While I can’t do it in the middle of the ocean, I can find in our own little oasis surrounded by those that love me.

 

4 thoughts on “Sled Dogs, Whales, Glaciers & Oprah”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights and adventure. I really enjoyed it and at times felt what you were describing.

  2. Wow! Thank you for sharing your trip and mostly your experience. Since our move, I have been looking for my oasis and you have reminded me of how to find it. My personal quest is improving. Thank you!

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