The Alaska Experience

As the famous John Muir once said, "To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the word." And he is absolutely correct. My experiences in Alaska is almost too great for words, and now I understand why people who have trekked the pristine lands before me have never forgotten the experience.

My trip was first by cruise then by land tour. On our sea days, we visited many ports of call in Alaska. The first was Keitchikan, and we saw lots of wildlife there including eagles, black bears, salmon, and seals. We also visited the largest collection of authentic totem poles in the world!

Next we hit Juneau, the capital of Keitchikan. My favourite part of the region was the Mendenhall Glaciers and Nugget Falls. Of course, I also enjoyed watching the spawning sockeye salmon swimming in the glacial waters. It's amazing how fast the glaciers are retreating, since the falls were covered by the glaciers only 15 years ago!

Skagway was the third and final destination for the ports of call. We decided to take the scenic railway along cliffs and glaciers. I will never forget this experience for as long as I live. Despite the cold, I stood outside on the small train deck for almost the entire ride. In the end, the conductor liked me so much that he gave me an antique rail spike as a gift. He said that I really seemed to appreciate the land, and I did! Alaska was so beautiful, with the craggy cliff peaks full of tall pines, the soft flowers growing, and the mist that cast everything in a mysterious shadow. On the way back, I was the end car so we could see everything perfectly!

Finally, after the cruise, we went for a land tour up to Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. The first day, we stayed at a lodge where we had a fantastic view of the entire mountain range. Apparently we're the 1% of people who get a view this clearly of the entire range, usually clouds cover the mountains.

On our final few days, we headed to Denali National Park, right up to Mount McKinley. We took the 8 hour shuttle that took us 66 miles into the park and back. On the way, we saw 4 grizzly bears, 3 moose, a heard of caribou, the state bird, and marmots. What a joy it is to see animals in their natural habitats!

Our last stop was in Fairbanks where we took a river boat tour of a husky race team, saw how salmon was dried and visited a native village. Fairbanks, with a population of 30 000 is the second largest city in Alaska. With great sadness, and anticipation at going back to the University of Waterloo, I left the beautiful state of Alaska on August 30th, but I'm sure I'll be back to visit one day in the future!


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