Saturday, August 11, 2007

Will It Never End?

No, this update will NEVER end, partly because it’s so stinking long and I keep having to stop and cater to the completely unreasonable demands of my family for food and clean laundry and what-not. Partly because as long as I’m typing about Alaska, I can re-live the magic in my mind -- the magic of beautiful scenery and cool temperatures and sweat pants and jackets, which considering the heat index here yesterday was 115, is a good memory to have. And partly because as long as I’m typing about our vacation, I don’t have to think of anything else to blog about, which considering how normal and boring my life is lately, is also a good thing. So let’s see how much longer I can drag this out.

Our final morning on the cruise ship, they wouldn’t serve us room service (meanies!) so we headed back down to the buffet one last time, dragging our carry-on luggage with us. The rest of the luggage had been taken away the night before, to be held in some nameless, faceless luggage-land, and we just had to hope we would be reunited with it once again at some point. The vast majority of the people leaving the ship were headed either to Anchorage to the airport, or for a land portion of their trip which would take them to Denali Park. As such, they had trains and buses to catch, and Princess had a very organized, structured system as to what time each person could get off the cruise ship, based on what time they had to catch their connection.

Since we were traveling independently after the cruise, we were allowed to pretty much do our own thing and leave the ship at our leisure, which was nice. We relaxed for our last meal, chatting with the two of our group who were leaving to fly back home, then about 8:30am, me, Blaine, Keith and Renee’ took off. There was no line waiting to get off, and our luggage was right where they said it would be. It was so painless that I felt silly for worrying about the process.

We had the guys wait with the luggage and Renee’ and I walked into the harbor area at Whittier, to the Avis rental location, to pick up our car. If you’re ever planning to travel independently through Alaska, and need to rent a car in Whittier, my only suggestion to you is make your reservation plenty far in advance. We had no trouble, but the couple in line behind us were turned away, despite having a reservation. She had made the reservation only the night before, through a 1-800 Avis number, and the guy working the counter pretty much laughed in her face, stating "every car he had, had been reserved months ago by exiting cruise ship passengers, and whatever Avis representative in Tulsa, OK, or wherever, gave her that reservation the night before obviously had no clue about the size and scope (very, very limited) of his rental fleet."

I felt bad for that couple (and wonder if they’re still wandering aimlessly around Whittier) until we were taken to our own rental, and realized I had inadvertently rented a mid-size SUV, and not a full-size. We had four adults and eleven suitcases, and I desperately wanted to ask if we could trade up for a bigger car, but with his speech to that other girl still ringing in my ears, assumed that would be fruitless. So, Renee’ and I did what any two normal, problem-solving, take charge females would do ….. drove the car straight to Blaine and Keith, and expected them to fit all those suitcases in it, which thankfully they did, even if they were piled up so high that Keith and Renee’ couldn’t even see each other the whole time we were driving thanks to the mountain of bags on the seat between them.

We took off out of Whittier, and although it was no great skill or planning on our part, happened to get in line for the one-way tunnel that runs in and out of town at just the right time. We only had to wait about ten minutes before it opened up in our direction, and off we went, Seward bound.

Although there are quite a few tiny towns around Whittier, with occasional RV parking and a few cabins and bed and breakfasts scattered around, we were headed for the great metropolis of Seward, located about an hour and half southwest. We had reservations at the Seward Military Resort, and two days of sightseeing and activities planned before heading back to Anchorage to fly home.

There are several hotels in Seward, but the military resort fit our needs perfectly. Neat, clean, reasonably priced … and with their own fish house which would come in handy the next day. Plus, silly as it might sound, there is simply a comraderie and comfort level for military people, being around other military people. Maybe not everyone feels that way, but I do.

Our first day, we headed straight for the local Safeway to stock up on life’s essentials that we’d been missing the past seven days, mainly Diet Dr. Pepper and Oreos. Ahhhh, cruise ship food is excellent, but sometimes you need to pass on the soufflé and éclairs and enjoy yourself some good ole’ packaged, processed dessert.

After stocking up, we made the ten minute scenic drive to Exit Glacier to take a hike and try to get some pictures. We parked in the lot and headed to the Visitors Center, purchased a few bottled waters (I know, I was so busy salivating over the DDP at Safeway I completely forgot bottled water) and while looking around, we noticed this:

Can you read that? It’s a listing of the recent bear sightings in the area, including one in a picnic area, and including one THAT VERY DAY ON THE TRAIL.

Suddenly, I had a lot more respect for Keith and his fear of bears. I mean, sure. I’d heard Exit Glacier was pretty and I’d like to see it, but I wasn't willing to risk being bear-food just for some pretty photos ….. only to have Keith decide today was the day for him to confront his inner bear-fearing self and decide he was willing to walk the trails with us. What!??! The days I thought he was being silly, he didn't go. The day we had proof, right in our faces, that bears were in the area, bears who would like nothing better than to RIP MY FACE OFF, he decides to join us. Despite the fact I would have gladly turned around and left without making the hike --- partly because of the bears and yeah, I admit, partly because I’m lazy -- if Keith was willing to go, I couldn’t very well back out now, could I? So off we went, and I’m glad we did because it was a nice walk, with great views, and I enjoyed it, even if it was a bit more uphill than I anticipated in spots and I had to keep stopping and pretending to enjoy the view when really I was catching my breath, and secretly looking out for bears:

In all honesty, it was great weather again that day, sunny and warm, and we got some nice views of the glacier and surrounding areas.

Including the view we had of the teenage boy who kept picking up rocks and throwing them at the glacier, trying to chip off a piece of ice. Here’s what I don’t understand … ice caps melting, and global warming, and blah blah. No matter your opinion of Al Gore, no one can deny that these glaciers are receding. All the way up the trailhead they had date markers, showing where the glacier had extended at certain years, and you could see for yourself that it had already shrunk miles and miles, and is continuing to do so. The entire week we heard comments from park rangers and naturalists about how much smaller the glaciers are, and how ultimately wildlife and the eco-system will suffer, and the polar ice caps are melting and all such natural calamities, and while I’m not a ecologist or biologist, or someone who has one second’s clue what we are supposed to be doing to rectify this phenomenon, I *am* pretty sure that throwing rocks and chipping away tiny pieces of a glacier IS NOT WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Where the heck were this kid’s parents, and why was he throwing rocks? I am so very non-confrontational that I didn’t say anything, but found myself getting very annoyed with him. Then I remembered those boys who MUST have been his cousins, the rock climbing boys on the Mendenhall Glacier … I guess ignorance runs in families, is all I can say. That, or it’s a lot of inbreeding.

After our hike we went back to the harbor area and ate dinner at a local restaurant, then back to the hotel to rest up for the evening.

The next day dawned overcast and cooler, but thankfully not raining. We had a fishing excursion planned through the military resort (another advantage to staying there) and were driven from the resort to the harbor, where we were paired up with another small group and led to our boat. A third group had not shown up, for which we were extremely grateful. As it was, the nine of us, plus the boat’s captain and two deck hands, filled the boat pretty full. I’m glad we didn’t have another four people on board with us, for sure.

As we were heading out to sea, the captain came down and asked everyone what they were hoping for that day. I guess based on people’s responses, he would have a better idea of what areas we should try and fish. Halibut, salmon, ling cod, people’s answers varied. Then he came to me … “pretty pictures” was my reply. And you know what? He totally did his very best to point out all the beautiful views, harbor, glaciers, wildlife, etc:

Oh, yeah, then we had some serious fishing to do:

These guys didn’t look too excited about their role in the days events, did they?

Now, Blaine fishes quite often, but its lake fishing. Keith was the only one of our group who had been deep-sea fishing, but we all got the hang of it.

Except for me, who was definitely the weakest link on our team, because I had no idea, but reeling in those big fish, especially after they’ve put huge weights on your line to make it sink, is hard work! Each person’s limit was two salmon ….. I got mine right in a row, and although I should probably be embarrassed to tell you this, when I was done reeling them both in, I was sweating and my forearms were shaking and I was breathing hard. And it’s not like I was reeling in hundred pound record breakers… no, just normal sized salmon (which, are now filling my deep freeze in little plastic bags and does anyone have ANY idea what I’m supposed to do with them? My family thinks fine seafood are the breaded popcorn shrimp you get from the Louis Kemp Co, and I have never cooked salmon in my life, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears like Mickey.)

Anyway, the day wore on and we caught more and more and more. At one point, with the ship stopped over what must have been a frenzy of black sea bass, I was catching them so fast that the deckhands (who were fabulous) couldn’t even be bothered to put more bait on my line. I was just tossing the hook over the side and reeling them up …. I caught four in a row! Quite a lot of fun for a suburbs-gal like myself.

At long last, the ship headed back to the harbor and we got everything unloaded to the fish house. Here we are with our total catch for the day, although obviously I handed my camera to someone else to take a picture of the four of us and he didn’t even get all our fish in the picture. We worked damn hard for those fish, and when you figure in the cost of the excursion, fishing licenses, tips for the workers, and the cost to ship the fish home, those fish in that picture right there cost approximately $84764397.28 a pound. He at *least* could have gotten them all in the picture (grumble, grumble.)

We weren’t done with the cleaning and filleting and vacuum-sealing (notice I say “we”, when all I did was fetch beer and offer moral support) until almost 8 o’clock that evening. We grabbed a quick bite at the resort grill, then went straight to bed, as we had one final excursion lined up the next day … an excursion which will be forever remembered in my mind as Puke Fest ’07.

{See? Egads, the update is still not over. I am the longest-winded person in the history of the universe, is all. Um, is that a BAD thing?}


Connie F-G said...

I don't like salmon! We've had it in Alaska and Iceland so it was terrific quality but I don't like it! Grandma makes it for our daughter who loves it and eats it almost every time we go out and it's on the menu. But, to avoid fish smell in the house, grill it! Can't give you recipes or anything like that but my vote is for it to be grilled, outside, preferably on a grill belonging to someone else!

Now, I LOVE halibut!


cakeburnette said...

Hah, hah...Mark cooks the best salmon in the world. So, bring some of your little packets over and let us cook for you and we'll watch the Cowboys! Oh, and return Brayden's hat that we've embarrassingly had for almost and entire year--nevermind the 2 weeks Austin saw her every day and the several other times we've seen you besides. Sorry.

Sarah said...

Hey Kristie
Salmon is awesome when you get the renyolds foil cooking packets and grill it. We put fish in the packet with some onions and zuchhini and squash. Then before we close it we cover the fish in vidalia onion dressing ! By doing that my kids eat it as well it makes it taste not as fishy for little kids

Kristen said...

this is my favorite salmon recipe- it's seriously fantastic. And I personally, really, really hate salmon.

Asian Grilled Salmon Copyright, 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All Rights Reserved
See this recipe on air Monday Sep. 03 at 12:00 PM ET/PT.

Show: Barefoot Contessa
Episode: Fast and Elegant Supper

1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Light charcoal briquettes in a grill and brush the grilling rack with oil to keep the salmon from sticking.

While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.

Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Amy said...

I LOVE salmon!! When I make salmon everyone cleans their plates. I make a marinade and let it sit for a couple hours, then it can be baked, broiled or grilled.
Olive oil
soy sauce (I use the lower sodium one)
ground ginger
lemon (I use the little plastic bottled stuff)
I never measure so I'm not sure how much, but you can tweek it to your taste.
I usually make rice to go with it. I use the boil in bags rice and add veggies and soy sauce to it.

Buffy said...

Just so you know...I'm a Newbie...who hasn't got past much else on your blog...but have LOVED reading your Alaska updates.

Jamie said...

Cedar Plank Salmon! My three and six year old boys ask for it and actually eat it - I'm always amazed!,1977,FOOD_9936_28850,00.html

I've enjoyed living vicariously through your Alaskan vacation. And the Hallelujah Chorus, of course!

Anonymous said...

We grill salmon wrapped in foil with butter, lemon, onion slices, salt and pepper on top. We've also used margarita mix by itself...yum! This is what my son requested for his graduation dinner!

Gayle in AL

scanmom said...

I just have one question. How do you get salmon home from Alaska to Georgia????


Anonymous said...

We love salmon here - my daughter calls it "pink chicken". Try this recipe:

Tangy Thyme Salmon

1)Thaw if frozen, rinse and pat dry.
2)In a 10 inch skillet combine 1 cup chicken broth (I use canned), 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme. Bring to boiling.
3)Place fish in skillet, tucking under any thin edges so fish cooks evenly. Return to simmering. Cover and simmer until fish flakes.
4)Remove skin and serve.

We like it with rice and green beans.

Julie in Madison, WI

Anonymous said...

Dear Kristie,
There are a lot of interesting looking salmon recipes there! I love salmon, we had some a couple of days ago, Scottish salmon. I don't like the smell it makes when it cooks, so I cut into serving size pieces, wrap in greaseproof paper, sprinkle with dill weed first, then put it in the steamer. I cook Basmati rice also in the steamer but you can do it in a pan. If you have a smoker (or a Hibatchi or other covered barbeque)then first soak a boned side of salmon in a sea salt/water (brine) solution, not too strong, for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile get the coals really hot on each side of the barbeque leaving the centre of the barbeque without coals. Put a foil container underneath to catch the drips and put a boned side of salmon in the grill and close the lid, you could put some smoking wood in there to give the salmon a smoked flavour and leave it to hot smoke with the indirect heat for a while, it is delicious. Nice with a few salad leaves too or spinach in winter. My children always liked salmon, I hope yours will too otherwise you'll have to to eat it all by yourselves! It is delicious as well as being healthy, one of those 'good fat' fish that is good for your cholesterol! Bon appetit! Whatever you do with it, don't keep it too long in the freezer, it doesn't taste good if kept too long in there.
Your photo's as usual are fantastic, how wonderful that holiday sounded!
Take care,
Love Angela

Anonymous said...

hhhmmm, I just read some of those salmon recipes, they sound so good, I especially like the sound of the Margarita mix one, must try that! Just off to watch the shooting stars, it's almost 01.00am here in France and a lovely clear sky!
Take care, love Angela

Anonymous said...

All that lucky duck! I love some of these recipes. Let us know which ones you tried.

Dixie in CA

WhisFamMom said...

Hi, My names Kelli, first time poster. I felt the need to comment today because I went to Exit Glacier when I was about 17 (I'm 31 now) and we saw a mama bear and her cubs BUT they were far away (we were up high and they were down low) but I was 17 and didn't have much fear then. But it was awesome. My dad worked in Seward for a time and we were visiting. Great place. Love reading your updates and seeing the pics.

lizinsumner said...

Ah, non-west coasters and non-Pacific north-westerners!!! Salmon is my FAVORITE seafood, next to lobster (which I can't afford because they live in Maine and Australia, not here!!), here goes:

Just spray a baking dish with Pam, place the salmon in the pan, sprinkle it with Johnny's Seafood seasoning, and bake it for 1/2 hour in a 350 degree oven. Or, if you're so inclinced, wrap the salmon in tin-foil, perhaps with some fresh onion and lemon slices atop it, season it, and cook it on the BBQ grill (but I'm not sure for how long - you'll have to wing it on that one!!). Serve with tartar sauce and/or seafood cocktail sauce and viole!!!! A PERFECT meal! Nods to all of the posted recipes, but I personally prefer my salmon unglazed and un-marinated, etc., etc., because I am a salmon snob and purist, I guess. Or maybe you just have to be born and raised in Washington, I dunno. Anyway, I'm sure my "recipe" WON'T make The Pioneed Woman Cooks! but it's how a lot of Northwest natives eat their salmon.

Oh - and tell Keith I said WAY TO GO! He has now entirely redeemed his manly self in my eyes (like he'll give a rats butt, but there it is, anyway....).

Anonymous said...

Here is a very EASY recipe and a crowd pleaser:

Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Place the salmon filet in the pan and cook medium (covered) for about 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook other side the same. While salmon is cooking, mix 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup honey and zap in microwave for about a minute (to melt the honey) and then mix with a spoon.

Remove salmon from heat, pour sauce in pan, let sit uncovered for about a minute and viola - Salmon in honey/soy glaze!


kim said...

I just had to let you know how much I am loving your Alaska posts and pix and I, for one, don't want to see it end! I am traveling vicariously through you, because I have always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise and know it won't be happening anytime soon. Can I come to your house and see all the pictures? Really! I LOVE other people's vacation pictures; well, I really like any other people's pictures, even if I don't know anyone in them! That's because I have a pathetic little life...HA! Salmon is okay; I like it mostly because it's supposed to be so good for you. Halibut is great, and I love it because it's great. Alaskan King Crab Legs? Ahhh, now there's the real prize! Wonderful!

I don't want "Alaska" to end!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big salmon lover but my family likes it so I've been trying to make it more. I made it the other day with a mixture of pecans, olive oil, and honey and they thought it was okay. Then, last night I put it on a piece of tin foil, put pats of butter on the top and sprinkled salt and pepper on it and cooked it on the grill (without turning it over). My family loved it - thought it was the best yet. And, I admit that I even enjoyed it. Let us know what way your family likes it.

Lisa C. in CT

Karen said...

Here is a link to 1,541 salmon recipes :D

Good luck with all that fish!

Kim said...

OMG, puke fest '07.

My sympathetic gag reflex is already starting to wretch.

I hope it wasnt anything to awful, your trip sounds idyllic so far, I'd hate for there to have been a damper on it.

Michaela said...

Okay, I know I'm like a month late posting this, but can ANYONE tell me what that orange fish with the huge fins is in that picture? I've been Googling it all evening!