Our Great Alaska Adventure
Adventures begin with an ember of thought, sparked by a picture or painted on our mind by a friend sharing their experience. That ember smolders for a while as we fan it with research and questions and then it becomes a crackling fire when the longing becomes too strong for us to placate our yearning. Once acted upon that fire warms our heart for a lifetime as we share our wondrous adventure with others and light that ember within them. In this way we all become adventurers.
For me, the allure of Alaska began many years ago within the pages of an internationally known periodical. Pictures and stories allowed the animals to leap from, breach and glide over the pages. Mountains rose from them and glaciers, blue and pristine, calved before my eyes and the wonderment of Alaska stirred my imaginings. They were stoked by stories from friends who had gone, television and more, until no excuse could hold me.
My wife, Janie, and I jetted into Fairbanks the first of September, arriving just after midnight. After check-in we were greeted by the green, shape-shifting Northern Lights; it was a sign that my long awaited adventure had truly begun.
Over the next ten days we enjoyed the beauty of Alaska from Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska’s playground. We experienced the vast expanse of Denali National Park with vistas that take ones breath away. We shared the excitement of a dog sled team as they pulled against their tethers, eager to get out on the trail. In Talkeetna the clouds parted as if by the hand of God and Mt. McKinley, called Denali by Alaskans, loomed majestically in the distance, covered in snow and glaciers; truly magnificent.
The blaze of adventure warmed us at every turn as we made our way to the Kenai. It was here that we marveled from a car, a train, our feet or a boat at the glaciers hung in the high mountain valleys like paintings on canvas, or crumbled into a river or fjord. The marvels of nature greeted us at every turn. Playful otter floated on their backs without a care in the world, seals “oinked” on shore, Orca plied the sound or eagles stood watch over it all from their perch atop a pine tree or soared overhead. We even observed mountain goats perched precariously on sheer cliffs as if they had been deposited there with no apparent means of es
cape. The wonders never ceased.
It was from the Kenai Peninsula that we boarded our cruise ship to continue our trek for seven more glorious days. After crossing the Gulf of Alaska on day two we entered Glacier Bay National Park where glaciers twice as tall as our cruise ship loomed over us. Even from a half mile away they were awe inspiring. Portions peeled off with a crackling-boom before exploding into the sea. I never tire of seeing them.
Our adventure turned from glacier ice to steely rail in Skagway where the White Pass Train wound its way from coast to mountain pass on the border with Canada. The vistas were as beautiful as any we enjoyed as glaciers hung in mountain valleys and streams ran cold along the trail taken by seekers of gold in a by-gone era. Upon our return to the city we walked the streets of Skagway enjoying an ice cream and taking in the flavor of Alaska.
Next stop, Juneau, where we opted to search for whale in the sound aboard a catamaran, guaranteed to satisfy our desire to see the large mammals that feed and nurse in the plankton rich waters. Within thirty minutes we were treated to a close up view of a Humpback cow nursing her calf in a shallow bay. It was a remarkable experience with the baby whipping its tail to keep his/her place at the ‘table’ while the mother simply floated in place, bringing its spout up occasionally for fresh breath. They were so close we could hear her every breath. Other Humpbacks entertained us, as did seals and eagles, before our hosts brought us back to our ship waiting to whisk us to our next port of call – Ketchikan.
Ketchikan holds two distinctions in Alaska; it is the oldest city and also records the most rain in the state. It did not disappoint as the refreshing rains pelted our faces – lucky for us we had an umbrella. It was here that we chose to check out the totems and take a stroll along the city center and creek – a quaint shopping district with a sprinkling of eateries. We boarded the ship an hour before departure and enjoyed the multitude of eagles flying over our balcony and watching the sea planes take off and land on the bay.
The next day at sea we enjoyed the narrow passages between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia on our way to port in Vancouver. Tiny lodges sprinkled the sea shore and we kept a sharp lookout on the off chance we might get one last glimpse of a Killer Whale or Humpback. One last night of restful sleep and we were forced to disembark for the return flight home.
With our adventure complete, we were well stocked with memories to fire the imagination of kith and kin. I wonder where the spark of adventure will take us next? Where will it take you?