I grew up thinking of Alaska being a dark mysterious country of its own and a place I didn’t think I wanted to visit. However, as I grew older, tales of the old frontier and American wilderness became increasingly more interesting. There were actually places in Alaska where real people lived in houses, not igloos. Sound familiar? Of course it does! Eskimos, igloos, and sub zero temperatures are the thoughts that most likely came to mind for most of us. Before the internet, I had seen beautiful pictures of the magnificent mountains, beautiful bays, glorious glaciers and the wild wilderness.
Alaska’s beauty can be seen and enjoyed across the state, but the summer daylight is experienced
Ketchikan is the fifth largest city in Alaska and is known as the rainiest town in southeast Alaska. It is also known as the “Salmon Capital of the World”.
Hoonah is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska and a very close knit community. Our tour bus driver boasted of his heritage and the many rituals and superstitions still practiced by many on this small island. About 70% of the 850 residents are of Alaskan native heritage. The zip line tour was the “talk of the day” and we watched and listened as the zip-liners made the 90 second trip down the cable. It takes 45 minutes to make it to the top of the zip line by bus.
Juneau had its charm, but seemed a bit more sophisticated and worldly-wise than the other towns we visited. Being the capital of Alaska, it does bring more tourism than the other towns, however there are still no roads that lead to Juneau. The only way in or out is by sea or air.
Skagway – the gateway to the Klondike established in the great gold rush days. This was my favorite little town and had been restored with seven blocks of touristy shopping, eateries and even a Starbucks. The 3 hour round trip train ride to the top of the White Pass is an adventure to remember and the best opportunity for lovely photography. The White Pass and Yukon Railroad was built at the turn of the century to connect Skagway with Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Prior to the completion of the railroad, prospectors had to climb the White Pass Trail from Skagway up into the Yukon’s promising gold fields.
Seward is a little resort town on Resurrection Bay surrounded by majestic and towering mountains. It is abounded by eagles, mountain goats, bears, seabirds and moose, all inhabiting the surrounding forests. The lazy little downtown area had a couple of wonderful local restaurants. I would recommend the Greek Restaurant for the best pizza ever and Nellie’s Roadhouse for more variety. Kim's Forest B&B is a little hide-away with awesome beds, a full breakfast and just a short walk to Bear's Lake.
Driving down the Seward Highway down Turnagain Arm is one of the most scenic drives in the world. You’ll see dramatic views of mountain scenery and the inlet. There’s possibility of seeing dall sheep, beluga whales or the tide coming in. Turnagain Arm’s bore tide is the second highest in North America, second only to the tide in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. While I can not personally attest to this, I have read that this drive ranks right up there with Italy’s Amalfi Drive and the highway along the Rhine, south of Coblenz. I hope to make that comparison some day.
My dark, mysterious thoughts of the Alaskan wilderness truly exploded into one of the most enjoyable trips of a lifetime and one we will never forget.
For more information on Alaska, visit www.amazon.com. You might find these recommended books of interest and enjoyment while planning your trip: Alaska, Saga of a Bold Land, by Walter R. Borneman or the beautiful photography in Alaska, A Photographic Excursion.