The Last Frontier, Seward’s Folly, Eskimos can’t be wrong, Share the Wonder, 2.3 times the size of Texas, Land of the Midnight Sun, Plane Crazy, freeze your butt off…so many things people said to us before vacation 2016.
I requested a vacation of warm sunshine, lapping waves and pina coladas! But I married a man who wanted snow, ice, cold, dog sledding, eagles, whales and bears! (and he’s a Florida native!) So we did it! We booked an Alaskan land and ship cruise. OMG! We have run out of words and now join the millions who have extolled the marvels of what is no folly-but indeed, a pristine, crisp, vast realm that, thank goodness, is #49 of the United States!
We are now part of the 30% Club who have seen Denali, worn only layer number one of clothes because it was warm and sunny for two weeks, seen more wild animals in a day than in our whole lives and have thousands of digital pictures!
We arrived a day late into Fairbanks (Delta’s systems crashed the day of our take off). We stepped off the plane, rented a car and headed for a twilight walk at a Reindeer Ranch! (Who’da thought?) We walked, hugged, petted and learned about Santa’s sled drivers! Having still had no sleep, the day is young (17 hours of it), we took a plane ride above the Arctic Circle and visited Wiseman, AK (Pop. 12). This was the rugged, alone and open spaces we had heard of. I for one, was delighted it was not cold enough for layers or coats, and worry for those 12 people and others who abide 17 hours of dark eight months a year!
Continuing in Fairbanks we learned about the Athabasan culture, saw Susan Butcher’s dogs and motored into Denali National Park. We stamped our Park Passport and delight of delights, could see Denali (formerly McKinley) in the distance! I even sat on Santa’s lap at the North Pole (pictures upon request!) Still the trip was young.
John cajoled and begged enough to get me to get on a K2 Aviation plane that would land on a glacier at Denali.I bit every finger nail and said every prayer on the way up and back, but it was the trip of a lifetime. We were so close to God and country and actually landed, walked, took pictures and lived to tell about this ASTOUNDING, AMAZING, AWESOME experience. (Thank you John!)
We could have gone home happy after this, but more to come….several train rides, lots of countryside, lots of food, hippe Talkeetna, friendly people, small city Anchorage, lots of wildlife (eagles, whales, sea lions, salmon and more!) Then we boarded the gorgeous RADIANCE OF THE SEAS and entered a much more occupied and busy world than the broad scapes of Alaska until now.
On board we enjoyed a week of fancy dinners, hotel luxury, and daily excursions. Way to go Radiance of the Seas staff! Probably the most jaw dropping was up close and personal to the Hubbard Glacier while standing on the ship! The ship Captain asked us to yell as loud as we could to make the ice calve. It did but not because of us!
The Juneau Mendenhall Glacier had nothing on Hubbard, but walking right up to a piece of 400 year old ice, broken off in frigid shoreline waters was pretty cool!
I had waited almost two weeks to finally see sled dog puppies. In Skagway we met a 17 year musher and Itidarod finisher Matt Hayashida. He was delightful, showed off his loud and eager to run dogs and then let us hold the puppies. They did check our bags to make sure we did not take one home with us!!
This was followed by more train rides, crossing into Canada, seeing the Yukon Pass that claimed many lives on the way to look for Yukon gold and lots of rugged and steep countryside.
Our last port of call, Ketchikan with totem poles and Tlingit culture was upon us.We had a fun day touring even more gift shops (Ulu knives galore!), making some purchases and sharing our glee of the wonder of it all before the long plane ride back to the east coast. This ‘country’ should be on every bucket list. While we cannot promise the perfect weather, amazing animals or fabulous service, you cannot go wrong with the choice! Thank you for Tammy Brimer’s planning and John’s insistence, it was one never to forget!!
As John Muir said “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.”