Virtual Travel – Alaska

Our virtual travels take us north to Alaska. Being so large, and so remote there are few roads. As a result the Alaska road maps feature far more facts about the outdoors than the other states.

My collection of Alaska maps is small, but our memories of the state are huge. The oldest in the collection is from 1973. This map pre-dates the famed Alaska Pipeline by a couple of years, and features a Native American Totem Pole Owl.

One unusual note on most of the Alaska maps is they were published by Rand McNally, and not the state government.

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In 1973 Alaska is still a remote frontier, reached by land only via the Alaska Highway through the Yukon in Canada. This closeup of the map shows Yukon on the right in yellow, and Alaska in white on the left. Note that the Alaska Highway in the Yukon was still gravel (indicated by the alternate white and red line).

The 1500 mile long Alaska Highway was build during World War II to connect the contiguous U.S. to Alaska. It was legendary for years as being a rough, challenging multi-day drive. The drive itself goes from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks.

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The back of most Alaska maps have features of the vast array of wildlife found in the state.

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The follow year’s map features a boat! While this might not make much sense for a road map, it does in Alaska. In addition to the Alaska Highway the other surface route to reach the state is via the Alaska Marine Highway – an 1850 mile route of waterways from Seattle to Alaska. You can rent a cabin on the boat, or as many do – pitch a tent on the deck.

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For 1977 a dogsled huskie make an appearance on the cover, along with the state flag.

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As we jump ahead to 2002 the theme continues with wildlife and natural scenery being the focus.

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The final two maps in the collection have the same theme, campers in the wilderness, along a lonely highway. These maps dare from 2006 and 2007.

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As with most Alaska maps there is also the view from the Marine Highway Ferry.

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The inside of the map shows the development over the past 40 years, but still nothing like the lower 48 states. The entire route of the Alaska Highway has been paved, but is still a real adventure to drive the distance.

Also note the road going due north from Fairbanks – the Dalton Highway. Built in the 1970s as a supply road for the pipeline, the 414 mile road is still an adventure, punctuated by the couple hundred trucks blasting along. There are only two tiny towns the entire route.

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Our one and only visit so far to Alaska was a very memorable one. We flew from Seattle to Juneau to start a 1 week ‘small boat’ cruise (30 cabins and 50 people).

The landing alone was amazing, coming through the clouds to see the water, trees and the Mendenhall Glacier!

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As soon as we got our rental car we headed out to the glacier.

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The waterfall next to it was equally impressive.

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The next day we set off on our 7 day sail, seeing an amazing collection of natural scenery and wildlife.

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Upon our return to Juneau we had a chance to explore the mountains above town waiting for our night flights back to Seattle, Chicago and Columbus.

We look forward to returning to Alaska some day and exploring the interior of the state.

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Galveston, Texas – May 2019 – Beach and Bay

Galveston is located on an island, just off the Texas coast. While there is a major freeway crossing the bay onto the island, we chose the more interesting route by taking the ferry from the Bolivar Peninsula.




The Gulf of Mexico was angry this day, with a very rough surf, and red flag warnings for all to stay out of the water.



One the ocean side of Galveston there are the typical beach town activities such as an amusement pier.





One of the fishing piers shows how rough the surf was.




A monument to the victims of the 1900 storm is on the beach.




The bay side of Galveston is all business. An off shore oil rig construction company is located on the mainland side.




The Houston Ship Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the country.



The tall ship Elissa is located in Galveston. Built in 1877 it sailed under Norwegian and Swedish flags before being located in Galveston and after extensive restoration, is used for tourist and training of young would be sailors.




Another view of Galveston Harbor.



Like Morgan City, Louisiana, Galveston has a historic offshore oil rig. Unlike Galveston, this one has much corporate sponsorship. We passed since we had seen the ‘real thing’ a couple of days earlier.



One harbor was filled with shrimp boats.







Galveston has always been a point of origination for cruise ships, as was evidenced as one was in port ready for departure.







Biloxi, Mississippi – May 2019 – No Blues In Biloxi

Welcome to Biloxi, Mississippi.



Biloxi has to be the only town in America that built their freeway exit ramp over the beach and slightly into the ocean.



Nearby is the rebuilt Biloxi pier, replacing the one destroyed by Hurricane Katrina



Being on the Gulf Coast, Biloxi has palm trees on the beach giving it that tropical feel.



In some perspectives it feels like a beach town.



One of the more impressive buildings in town is the Frank Gehry designed art museum.



Biloxi has had a long history of gambling, and from the 1990s on large casinos were built directly on the beach.



Biloxi is one of the larger gambling meccas in the country outside of Las Vegas.



The tall hotel/casinos dwarf their small motels across the main boulevard along the beach.



But there is more to Biloxi than the casinos. The town is only a couple of hours away from New Orelans, giving the town itself a similar look and feel.

The Half Shell Oyster House not only is a great looking building, but the food was fantastic.



Nearby is MGM Park, a minor league baseball stadium for the Biloxi Shuckers – a middle tier farm team for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The name celebrates Biloxi’s heritage in the seafood and oyster industries.



The crowd was sparse for this Thursday evening game.



Their mascot is a giant seagull named Schooner.






Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 20 Rainbow Trees and An Abrupt Stop

Our second morning at the Kauai Inn started after sunrise, which gave us a chance to see how beautiful the grounds and background was.

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As we left to go out for the day we found a new city have moved in down the street.

To quote a line from the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ – “I’m bettin’ he’s gonna swerve first”

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Our day had us headed to some waterfalls – first was Wailua Falls. I was expecting to drive into a park and go for a hike to the falls, but we ended up driving up and getting a glimpse of them from the overlook in the fog.

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Still the double falls was impressive.

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We then headed to the nearby Opaeka’a Falls. While more distance, you did get a better view – but still no hiking.

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The Wailua River Valley is historically a Native Hawaiian settlement area.

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We continued up the road as far as it could go until we got to the Keahua Arboretum.

Not a traditional arboretum, but more of a ‘woods’, it nonetheless has some amazing trees. These are known as Rainbow Eucalyptus trees.

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As Wikipedia states: “The unique multi-hued bark is the most distinctive feature of the tree. Patches of outer bark are shed annually at different times, showing a bright green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones. The previous season’s bark peels off in strips to reveal a brightly colored new bark below. The peeling process results in vertical streaks of red, orange, green, blue, and gray.”

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Easily some of the coolest trees I have ever seen.

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With that we headed back down the mountain, passing some houses with great views.

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We stopped by Poliahu Park.

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Where the remains of a Heiau (temple) remains from ancient Hawaiian times. People have left lei’s as an offering.

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Our plans were to continue north to a wildlife preserve and lighthouse when we ran into a bit of a problem – literally. An elderly man missed seeing us coming down the road and pulled directly in front of us – BAM.

Airbags are an exciting event – scared the #$%^ out of me.

Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt, and after getting a replacement car from Avis (who get’s a shout out about how well they handled this situation), we got checked out and were on our way.

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We decided to skip the lighthouse and instead went to the Spouting Horn Park, where we met some of the local sea birds.

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Spouting Horn was nice, but with the much smaller waves it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the ones in Maui.

With that our eventful day came to an end.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 19 Kauai and the Grand Canyon of Hawaii

We flew from Maui through Honolulu to Kauai on a Tuesday evening. Using google maps we made our way to our hotel, which took us past the shipping docks to who knows where.

The following morning we were up and on our way before sunrise. After about an hour and a half, and a quick breakfast in Waimea, we made our way up to Waimea Canyon.

We were greeted by the official bird of Hawaii – the rooster.

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We made our way through the park until we reached the famed Kalalau Overlook. If it looks familiar, it should, it was used in Jurassic Park.

We are about 4000′ above the ocean at this point.

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Look closely you will see the helicopter well below in the valley.

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The other highlight of the area is Waimea Canyon.

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Waipo’o Falls cascades into the canyon.

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From a distance you can see why it has the nickname Grand Canyon of Hawaii.

It is immense, especially given how small the island is overall. This area of Kauai is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and well worth the trip.

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We made our way back down to the coast, and found this dirt road that continued in the direction of the bluffs we had just been on.

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Eventually we reached the end of the road and found this amazing secluded beach with a view of Ni’Hau.

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The waves, while not as impressive as what was in Maui, still made a great ‘Hawaii Five O’ look.

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But it was the view of the cliffs that made the dusty ride worthwhile.

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On our return trip to Lihue we stopped by the site of a Russian Fort, which was near the town of Waimea. Just down the hill from this fort a river ran into the ocean making some great sand dunes.

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Further along the coast we found Salt Pond Park and Beach. Nearby pools produce the famed Hawaiian sea salt, but the beach was more picturesque.

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Our final stop of the day was at Kauai Coffee. Very touristy, but amusing.

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They claim to have 4 million coffee trees, and near the visitor center you can take a walk amongst them.

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They also had some displays on how the beans are dried. These are for show, as this is a large commercial processing facility (that does not offer real tours of the plant).

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Remember that drive in the dark – it was much better in the sun!

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An amazing view at the Menehune Fishpond, literally a mile from our little hotel. The moral of this view is don’t always trust first impressions, the hotel and the views were spectacular – you just have to go through the cargo shipping area when you come from the airport.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 17 The Road To Hana (and Beyond)

The Road to Hana is a famed Maui attraction. Winding for 52 miles from Kahului, it passes over 46 one lane bridges, and has over 600 curves.

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It basically runs up and down the gulches throughout east Maui, with many of the gulches featuring waterfalls.

It was raining fairly hard as we made our way down this early morning, so some of the falls were more impressive than normal. The good news was our early start meant we missed most of the very slow tourist traffic on the way down.

Unfortunately unless you had a 4WD high clearance vehicle you had to come back the same way, which we did later that afternoon.

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Eventually we reached Hana, and continued on to the portion of Haleakala National Park that is on the ocean. As we passed into the park grounds we were met with another great waterfall.

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Our main destination for the day was the Pipiwai Trail.

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This trail takes you up the mountain past the Seven Sacred Pools.

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Through an amazing bamboo forest.

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After clearing the bamboo forest you are presented with the highlight – the 400′ high Waimoku Waterfalls.

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After returning back down the trail we started backtracking up Hana Highway. Just beyond Hana is the Wai’anapanapa State Park.

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The seas were angry that day, and the waves were high and frequent.

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The blowhole at the park was more impressive than any of the others we saw elsewhere.

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Even the birds seemed excited.

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As we continued our journey back to Kahului we passed an area where numerous cars were parked along the road. Following the others we made our way down to an overlook where everyone was checking out the waves.

They were reported to be 20-30′ high here, which brought out locals as well as the tourists.

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The only surfboards we saw that day were lining the parking lot of the shops.

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As we made our way back to the hotel for the night we passed this architecturally interesting temple. We were fortunate that despite quite a bit of rain we remained dry for our couple hours of hiking, as well as the visit to the state park.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 16 From Maui to the Moon

Early on a Sunday morning we took off and headed up the tallest mountain on Maui.

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Up we went until we were at the same level as the clouds.

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And the road kept going – we could see Molokai in the distance, and we kept going.

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we were looking down on the 5000′ high West Maui Mountains and the clouds now. Where could we be going?

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The moon!

No not really, it is Haleakala Mountain (and National Park). The buildings are an observatory.

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But if you could visit the moon in shorts this is the place (to be fair it was in the upper 50s but it is Hawaii so I am wearing shorts).

Haleakala is a volcano, and the top is the crater with numerous cauldrons. They like to point out that while it is officially 10,023′ above sea level, there is another 19, 680′ below sea level, so it is taller than Everest (but shorter overall than nearby Mauna Kea).

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There are numerous cauldrons in the crater, which is a deceptive 2600′ deep.

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While barren of vegetation, the crater floor is full of color, as this series of photos will show. These are some of my favorite photos of all time, all from the same place!

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We went down the path into the cauldron for about 45 minutes – resulting in a 2 hour hike back up. For me this was one of the tougher hikes, it is 10,000′ in elevation, it is continuous, without shade (and I likely only went down 700-800 vertical feet)

It is an incredible place, and we were fortunate that it was a very sunny day the day we visited, as the clouds often obscure the mountain (at least parts), and later in the day and for the rest of our time in Maui, it was at least partially obscured.

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We returned to Maui (aka sea level) and went for a drive to Kahakuloa. While most people drive the famed road to Hana (we did – later), this road was far more impressive and challenging. It was mostly a lane and a half, often clinging to the cliffs to the ocean, with minimal guard rails.

It was great!

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Great unexpected views would just pop up without warning.

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The road passes through a couple of little towns.

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Eventually you make it back to a road with state highway maintenance (aka – two lanes), but the views continue.

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We stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole.

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Another north shore coastline (note the road running along the top of the hill).

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Maui’s north shore is known for the surfing. We watched a number of them catch waves before calling it a day.

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