Captain James Cook explored the coast of Alaska in 1778, yet Captain James Carroll brought the first large steamboat to Alaska in the 1870s from the Pacific Northwest.
Alaska is an amazing place and I don’t know why it took me so long to visit our 49th state. In August, I made my first trip to Alaska, a place that surpasses description and serves as an inspiration for experiencing nature and observing animals both large and small.
There were so many firsts on this trip. I was finally able to witness firsthand salmon swimming upstream to spawn. What I did not expect to see were the large numbers of dead ones, both in the water and on the shore, who could not survive the upstream currents. On the banks of a river in Ketchikan lay the vertebrae of a dead salmon, having been picked clean by birds or other animals.
Some of the highlights of visiting Alaska are the food (!), the scenery, the creatures and the experiences. We took a three hour round-trip hike to view the Mendenhall Glacier, a mystic experience in the light rain. I became overheated in Alaska’s temperate rainforest climate and had to remove layers for this climb (at times climbing steep stairs while holding onto a rope).
You really need to dress for all kinds of weather in Alaska. One minute you’re hot while hiking, and the next day is biting cold as we cruised closer to glaciers. I was glad I had my wool hat and gloves while standing on the outer deck of the ship to take in the scenery. It was freezing.
An interesting lesson in climate change was seeing the creation of the Mendenhall Lake, formed by the glacial melt, which now sits in front of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Our guide mentioned that the Forest Service is considering moving the visitor center closer to the retreating glacier. Hmmm.
During a park ranger talk they asked us to think about one word that comes up from this experience. My word is exploration! I wanted to explore the vastness of Alaska, to kayak, trek, fly and take in the immensity of this state. It is intoxicating.
I found people in Alaska to be relaxed, friendly and proud to live in such a beautiful place and I hope to return soon.
See my 360 view: http://bit.ly/AlaskaGlacier