Alaska: Gulf of Alaska

Day 3 of our Alaska excursion was spent sailing east in the Gulf of Alaska from Seward to Yakutat. It is an air distance of about 400 miles that by car would take an incredible 41 hours of circuitous driving over 1,200 miles via AK-1 and took the better part of 2 days by boat.

Why so far to drive? Most of the land between Seward and Yakutat is mountainous National Park and Preserve land with few roads. From our vantage point, 5 - 10 miles out to sea, it was one dramatic mountain range after another.

The first evening of our journey east the captain told us to expect a change in weather from relatively balmy in Anchorage and Seward to stormy and cold in the Gulf of Alaska. It didn't take long for the weather to change and the seas to rise.

We had a fine dining experience down at wave level (video above) as the seas built and the ship began to rock and heave. Somehow all the dinnerware stayed on the tables.

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As we sailed into the storm it started raining and got much colder, and I had the top two decks pretty much to myself for the next day. Rain and cold don't bother me.

I enjoyed watching all the water slosh out of the swimming pool as the ship heaved back and forth. It is light until about midnight in the Alaskan summer and then it is only dark about 4 hours, so I had plenty of time to roam the upper decks watching for whales and otters and other ships and admiring the splendid mountains.

It was some of the most remarkable cruising I've ever experienced. . .

and that was before we got close to Disenchantment Bay and the dazzling Hubbard Glacier which flows into the sea from Canada's Yukon through Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve forms the largest area managed by the National Park Service in the United States by area with a total of 13,175,799 acres (20,587 mi²; 53,320 km²), an expanse that could encapsulate a total of six Yellowstone National Parks. The park includes a large portion of the Saint Elias Mountains, which include most of the highest peaks in the United States and Canada, yet are within 10 miles (16 km) of tidewater, one of the highest reliefs in the world. Wrangell–St. Elias borders Canada's Kluane National Park and Reserve to the east and approaches the U.S. Glacier Bay National Park to the south. The chief distinction between park and preserve lands is that sport hunting is prohibited in the park and permitted in the preserve. In addition, 9,078,675 acres (3,674,009 ha) of the park are designated as the largest single wilderness in the United States.

How big is Wrangell-St. Elias? Its the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and SWITZERLAND combined! It contains some the the largest volcanoes in North America, some of the most impressive wildlife, and breath-taking mountains that rise as high as 18,000+ feet right at the edge of the sea.

Huge cruise ships look like toy boats next to Wrangell-St.Elias' mountains (above). Can you see the 50,000 ton, 90 foot tall cruise ship?

Aboard the ship mountains rise in every direction. There is sensory distortion because it appears one is very close to the mountains when in fact I don't think the ship ever got within 5 miles of the shoreline. That's how dramatic the relief of these mountains is (as seen in these photos).

Next stop: Hubbard Glacier and Disenchantment Bay



All 6 Spider-Man Movies, ranked from best to worst

Now that Spider-Man is swinging into theaters for the sixth time, it’s time to ask where this new franchise, now under the watchful gaze of Marvel Studios in addition to Sony, ranks among the rest. You don’t have this current era of superhero movies without Spider-Man leading the way at the box office, but that doesn’t mean those films got it right every time.

Here is the ranking of all six Spider-Man movies by The Washington Post's David Betancourt:

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

“Spider-Man 2″ may not be able to hold the top spot for long with more movies from this promising new franchise on the way, but for now, it’s still our top Spidey-flick. Taking its cue from the “Spider-Man No More” storyline of 1967’s “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 50, Tobey Maguire plays a frustrated Peter Parker who decides he’s no longer going to allow Spider-Man to get in the way of the things most important to him, mainly his love for Mary Jane Watson. Harry Osborn discovers that his best friend Peter is secretly Spider-Man and, convinced Peter killed his father, Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, Harry goes down the dark path of becoming a Goblin of his own. Alfred Molina gives a compelling performance as classic Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus, and composer Danny Elfman, with an assist from superstar comic artist Alex Ross in the opening credits and some fun-to-watch skyscraper web-swinging at the movie’s end, gives us one of the greatest superhero movie scores ever. “Spider-Man 2,” despite now having a lot more competition, can still be considered one of the best superhero movies ever.


2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man is finally home where he belongs: Marvel Studios. Once the cinematic road to the Avengers was created, it never seemed right that Spider-Man’s deal with Sony made it so he couldn’t fight alongside Iron Man and company. “Homecoming” isn’t just a declaration of Avenger-hood, however — it almost magically feels like a brand new Spider-Man movie, despite being the sixth one. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker leads an actually-young cast of high school supporting players. Michael Keaton gives an all-time Spider-villain performance as the Vulture (we shouldn’t be surprised, the guy is Batman) and Spider-Man has never looked better, with a suit that’s a nod to the Spider-Man art of the ’60s and ’70s up top with its webbed wings, mixed with some high-tech, Iron Man-like magic. “Homecoming” takes Spider-Man out of the previous movies’ dark shadows and shows it can be fun to be Spidey.


3. “Spider-Man” (2002)

If you have superhero movie fatigue, you can thank the first “Spider-Man” film, the first movie to debut with a $100 million opening weekend. “X-Men” hit theaters in 2000, but Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” was the first superhero movie since 1989’s “Batman” to feel like a worldwide pop-culture event. Perhaps this movie’s only flaw was a silly Green Goblin suit — Willem Dafoe was actually much more menacing outside of it as he went to war with Maguire’s Spider-Man while slowly going insane. A classic upside-down kiss with Mary Jane might be this film’s most memorable moment, and the web swinging in New York, when seen for the first time, had a Christopher Reeve/Superman flying for the first time feel to it. “Spider-Man” feels a little dated now in this new era of superhero movies, but it is still an undeniable classic.


4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Back in darker times, when we were all convinced Spider-Man would never be a part of Marvel Studios, this was the best we thought we would get from a Spider-Man film post-Sam Raimi. Andrew Garfield was a pretty good Spider-Man and an even better Peter Parker, if for no other reason than he looked like he was drawn by classic Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley. We get a well-put-together Spider-Man suit that takes influence from the big-eyed comic-book versions of the ’90s, which makes up for how bad all the villains look. Hipster Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) works well as a friend from Peter’s past but not as the next Green Goblin. Jamie Foxx’s Electro takes on a nerdy, Jim Carrey/Riddler personality that feels too comic book-ish even for a superhero film, and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino isn’t even worth mentioning. So heavy is the shadow of Marvel Studios at this point that not even the strong chemistry of Garfield and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy could save the franchise that ended with this installment. This movie gave us a beautifully-executed Stacy death scene, one of the most powerful moments in the history of Spider-Man comics, and it wasn’t enough. At this point, Sony knew they needed the Marvel Studios touch.

Spider-Man Andrew Garfield

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Making a movie when you’ve got a great idea is one thing. Making a movie because you don’t want to lose the rights to one of the most popular superheroes ever is another. Raimi and Maguire walking away from “Spider-Man 4″ gave birth to “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a good movie that exists because Sony thought it had to, not because fans were clamoring for it. Garfield shows some decent Spidey-potential, as a New York-accented, joke-cracking version who’s likable but working with a not-so-great Spidey suit (it got better in the sequel, see above) and perhaps the least thrilling Spider-Man movie villain ever, Rhys Ifan’s Lizard.

Spider-Man 3

6. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The “Spider-Man” movie that must not be named. Raimi got a villain and a plot line that he was rumored to have wanted no part of (Venom and his black, alien suit that takes over Spider-Man for a bit), and we got a Spidey-movie that looks like something no one wanted to make. Once Maguire starts dancing, we know this is not going to be one of the all-time-great Spidey-films. The love story of Peter and Mary Jane seems to all but disappear amid drama. Venom, perhaps the most intense, imposing Spider-Man villain of all, is played by someone from That 70s Show, and even Aunt May looks like she realizes this was all a bad idea. They couldn’t even get black-suit Spider-Man right, giving him a regular Spidey-suit painted black instead of the classic all-black, no webbing version in the comics. The best part of this movie: Thomas Haden Church’s sympathetic Sandman.

Read more:

How the new ‘Spider-Man’ is really a John Hughes movie

Spider-Man doesn’t swing from a Manhattan skyscraper in his new movie. Here’s why.