Welcome family and friends!

We just returned from our honeymoon, trip-of-a-lifetime adventure to Alaska. Since many of you have heard us talk about this trip for over a year, we wanted to share some of the highlights with you. 

Thanks to everyone for all your support during our wedding last year and for making it possible for us to have such a Fantastic trip.


Kristin and Joan

P.S. Joan will be posting more photos on her Wallner Photography page on Facebook and in the Gallery and Online Store on this website. Most of those photos are NOT on this page, so follow or check back when you get a chance to see what's new!

Fairbanks "Sunrise" and Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park

Early morning "sunrise" view from our hotel room in Fairbanks.Wait, maybe this was the midnight photo taken when we arrived. Oh well, we weren't here for very long...

We're all ready to board the "A" car on the Alaskan Railroad headed to Denali National Park. Joan actually gave her camera to someone to take this photo... I think Joan was super nervous.
Hey look! They have special "Gold Star" passenger seating just for us! And, it's on the top of the train! What luck!
The "A" car + "Gold Star" seating = riding on the top of the first car after the engines!
A quick healthy meal on the train and we're off to our next adventure... the top of Denali (Mt. McKinley) the highest mountain in North America...
Kristin enjoying the open air section of the train where you can hang your head out the side... Almost like Joan's Jeep, but not quite.
Flying to Ruth Glacier on Denali (Mt. McKinley)
On our 2009 trip to Alaska, we never saw Denali the entire two-week visit. You'd think since it's the highest mountain in North American that it'd be easy to see, but only 30% of the people who visit Denali are lucky enough to see it. Something about the mountain having its own weather pattern... We wanted to make sure we saw it on this trip, so on our second day in Alaska, we boarded a small plane with skis and headed to Ruth Glacier on the south side of Denali.

Our first glimpse of Denali!!
On the way to Ruth Glacier, the pilot flew what looked amazingly close to the rock cliffs and it was close to this point, where we about "lost" Kristin. When we were in Hawaii last year, we discovered she has issues with altitudes above like 14,000 (really not sure the exact height, but it might be wise for us to find out...). She looked a little pale for a few minutes, but recovered relatively quickly once the pilot lowered the plane. She said it was NOT from flying too close to the cliffs or from being in her first small plane. Hm, I suppose we'll find out for sure in a few days...

Check out how close we were to the cliffs. Look closely at the windows as they are beginning to frost up on us.
Flying close to cliffs
Here is another ski plane landing and the top peak in this photo is the south side of Denali.

Our landing on Ruth Glacier. The people you see standing outside their plane was the other plane that flew with us from Denali.
Landing on Ruth Glacier
Here we are wearing our "glacier boots" in front of our plane (left) and in front of Denali (right). Such an amazing experience, especially since only 5% of the people fly to Ruth Glacier get to see Denali.

Joan could hardly see anything since she forgot to bring her sunglasses as you'll see in the videos since she kept bumping into to me and getting super close. And we both got a little sun burnt while we were there...

Here are some more videos.

Flying to Denali
- you'll see how small the plane was. We were in the last seats.
Watching another plane taking off from Ruth Glacier
Kristin eating glacier - I think the high altitude made Kristin super thirsty... she kept eating glacier.
And, to be trendy, here's our Denali selfie...
Denali (Almost a Rainout)
We then went into Denali National Park where the only way to get into the park is by bus. We were staying at the North Face Lodge, 90 miles into the park. That makes for a very long bus ride. In the photo below, you can see another bus on the road and at the bottom is a river gushing with water, perhaps a little foreshadowing... Well, those clouds don't look very promising either, I'm just saying.

Meet the canine rangers of Denali National Park - Very Fun!
Here's a photo of Kristin hiking on our first day in the park. If there were no clouds, the north face of Denali would have been on the horizon.
For the next two days, it rained so much that part of the road out of the park washed out.
On the right in this photos is Wonder Lake. In the background is some road equipment the park rangers put there, which we hoped was put there to fix the road so we could get out Friday morning to head to our next adventure. Here's a video.
We heard helicopters that evening and whisperings from our lodge staff (guess they wanted to keep us calm) that the Backcountry Lodge flooded out and they were airlifting tourists out. This is the creek, now a raging river, that flooded the Backcountry Lodge.
By the time Friday morning arrived, the road was fixed and we were on our way out of the park to catch the Alaskan Railroad to Anchorage. Here is a link to an online article about the flooding online and the front page of the Anchorage Daily Newspaper. We think they could have used our photos and video.
On the bus on the way out of Denali, we saw a silver fox on the road and a small herd of caribou (they still were quite a distance away).
Day Drive from Anchorage to Seward
Stopping along the road on Turnagain Arm to watch and photograph Dahl Sheep.(Joan will be posting more pics here soon!) Watch our short Dahl sheep video.
Next we drove to Alyeska for a hike up the North Face trail. We could have taken the tram up, but not us! It was 2.2 miles with a somewhat leisurely hike to the top, until the trail became steep and there was a chain attached to rock to steady our footing.

We stopped taking pictures or talking to one another until we reached the top. Mostly because we needed to breathe (which also implies Kristin was a little over the hike).

We had lunch and beers at the top, which made both of us happy, and we took the tram down...
Are there any animals on this tour? Yes there are!

Next up, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (moose, baby moose, lynx, elk)! This is where they rehabilitate wild animals in hopes of putting them back into the wild. But if not, the center becomes their home.

The center also let us get close to the animals, which is a good thing when neither of us have much fear when it comes to getting close to wild animals. (Joan will be posting more pics here soon!)
Here's a video of two baby moose, who both lost their moms so now are at the center.
While there the elk started bugling. Watch this very fun video!
Our last stop for the day was to the Alaska Sealife Center. They also rehabilitate wild animals in hopes of putting them back into the wild. And, their bird exhibit is second to none when it comes to getting close-up photos. We saw a harbor seal, puffin and a king eider! (Joan will be posting more pics here soon!)
After a long day, we checked into our cabin on the seashore in Seward. In the left photo below, our cabin is in the lower left.

And in the right photo below, dinner on the grill - chicken for Kristin (who doesn't eat fish) and salmon with a cheese topping for Joan (who knew she could eat salmon 6 days in a row!).
Kristin was perfecting her panoramic photos. Here is what we saw outside of our cabin in Seward.
Boat Tour through Kenai Fjords National Park
The day started out bright until we rode into a fog cloud that lasted almost all day. We had a great time and still saw wildlife - check out that sea lion with a fish!!, orca, puffin birds (and lots of other birds), humpback whale and glaciers.

At least we brought along our hats and gloves for this icy boat tour. Fantastic trip all around.
Katmai National Park - Grizzly Galore!
Since our trip Alaska trip in 2009 when we heard someone talking about Katmai National Park and how you can walk among grizzly bears, we both knew our next Alaska trip would include a visit to this park.

It's now our FAVORITE national park ever!

Below is the baggage handler loading the luggage onto two small planes, all the passengers boarding... No TSA check here, but we did have to step on the scale along with our luggage.

In the photo at right, Kristin is ready for take off, as am I! This will be her first time in a float plane! And, she didn't get sick, so she does get sick from high altitudes and not from being in small planes... whew!

Here's a video of the float plane take off. Check out the pilot's shoes.

The beach where all the pilots park their planes is often a hang out for grizzly bears.
Upon arrival, they herded us all into the Katmai National Park visitor center for... you guessed it... Grizzly Bear training! Here's Kristin just before entering the visitor center from the beach where the planes are tied up.
After the grizzly training video, short "do's and don'ts" ranger talk and an official grizzly bear pinning showing we were trained, we were on our own to hike among grizzlies. And, our first encounter is one both of us will remember for years... many years to come!!

We met this very nice couple (Mitch and Marv) from Illinois on our flight out to the park. We all checked into our cabins and then ventured on our own. We decided to hike the 1.5 miles out to the famous Brooks waterfalls to see if the grizzlies fishing for salmon. On the way there, who do we meet, Mitch and Marv, walking toward us fast! "There's a momma bear with a cub coming down the trail," Mitch says. "We're not running, we're just walking fast." And, where is Mitch's wife, Marv? Behind him a few steps walking just as fast and is just as excited as Mitch about the momma grizzly and cub behind them.

Hm, do we join them in turning around? Heck NO! We both grab our cameras and start taking photos!
Once we have taken some photos, we follow quickly behind Mitch and Marv to the trailhead where there is an outhouse with two bathroom doors - a men's and women's. There are three people outside the bathroom talking. Mitch begins telling them there is a momma bear with a cub coming down the path, but they don't speak English. We can hear the momma bear coming down the path and Mitch is quite excited and concerned that she might come after us because she has a cub in tow. Instead of going into the vacant men's room (someone left the door wide open), he opens the women's door, which is occupied. He tells the woman (who also doesn't speak English) that there is a momma bear coming down the path with a cub and that if she gets closer, we're all coming in. He keeps talking to her (probably still trying to make her understand the serious situation we're all in) while she pulls herself together while the rest of us are busy taking photos of momma and her cub. He just kept talking to her with the door open. We had dinner with them a few night's later and Joan brought up the event in passing. She smiled and laughed about what Mitch did. We're certain Marv will never let him forget that grizzly momma and cub encounter! Here's a quick video Kristin was able to get of the momma and cub as they walked by us.
The famous waterfalls where many of the bears gather to fish for salmon.

Left, Joan taking photos shows how close the viewing platform is to the bears.

Grizzly territorial dispute at the waterfalls
Grizzlies playing or courting
Jumping salmon
Chasing salmon
Two grizzlies greet each other
Grizzly fight next to the bridge. In the background is Brooks Camp, where grizzlies would often walk through, while rangers herded people back from them.
Every day while at Katmai, we saw this mom with a spring cub fishing near the mouth of the river which is close to Brooks Camp. They definitely attracted a crowd and lots of oohs and aahs! Here's a video of them.
This yearling grizzly got separated from its mom and tree'd itself in the middle of Brooks Camp. This is a photo of the little grizzly from our cabin. The little grizzly stayed in the tree most of the day and finally when it came down was able to reunite with its mom.

Two little grizzlies.
Leaving Katmai National Park, we ended up being the only two on the flight with all the luggage. So fun!

Joan in the front with the pilot and Kristin back with the luggage. I knew how much it meant for Joan to sit in the copilot seat.

Video of our float plane landing.
The END, haha!

Thanks for viewing photos and videos from our trip. Hope you enjoyed them!

And, don't forget, Joan will be posting more photos on her Wallner Photography page on Facebook and in the Gallery and Online Store on this website. Many of those photos are NOT on this page, so follow or check back when you get a chance to see what's new!