Alaska – via land — Wasilla, Palmer, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Healy, Fairbanks, Denali
My Alaskan adventure began in Wasilla and Palmer, Alaska. During 1930s, Great Depression, at a time when people had few sources of income, the Government invited Americans to settle in Alaska and do farming. After strict screening of applicants, 203 families were selected. Each family was allotted several thousand acres in Alaska and was given $3000 as starting incentive. They settled near Palmer. Today Palmer is a little town with a small but vibrant downtown with a little museum that celebrates the original inhabitants and their descendants. While I waited for my friend to arrive, I had a beautiful day visiting the shops and learning some history from chatty shop owners.
We stayed the night in Anchorage and began the 250 mile drive towards Healy. We were greeted by most amazing vistas with rolling snow capped mountains, glaciers and rivers interspersed with forests. In Alaska, you get all the nature your heart desires and it is teeming with wild life. We saw a hare, a black bear and a couple of hyenas. On the way we stopped at the beautiful town of Talkeetna and enjoyed its quaint shops, had fireweed ice cream and birch candy and then came across what we thought was a routine vista point. That was Mount Denali South viewpoint and the view was just breathtaking.
Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, with elevation of over 20,000 feet is the highest mountain in North America. It was a clear day and we could see the gorgeous mountain, in all its majestic beauty.
From Healy we went to town of Denali and then visited Cheena hot springs in Fairbanks. Besides being known for its sulphuric hot springs, Cheena is known for viewing of Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately, we did not get to see Aurora, except in a documentary, in a museum. But we thoroughly and absolutely enjoyed soaking in the hot springs. Very reluctantly, I emerged out the relaxing waters. We drove back to Anchorage enjoyed the day in Anchorage touring the downtown area, visited a little street fair and market and then proceeded on the beautiful drive South to the port of Seward. The drive was lovely. Seward is also a lovely little town and we enjoyed the walk through in the town before boarding the cruise at Holland America.
After we boarded the cruise……
Haines, AK – Absolute awesomeness of natural beauty in Alaska will make your soul sing happy tunes. A small five mile inlet called Glacier Bay exposes travelers to perhaps world’s most majestic wilderness area. It covers over 3.2 million acres of forest, inlet and shore with mountain peaks rising over 15,000 feet, towers of ice and many glaciers. Tidewater glaciers are rivers of ice that flow to the sea and from time to time large chunks of ice break free and flow into the ocean. There are seven such glaciers here.
Margerie Glacier – Margerie glacier is truly Alaska’s spectacular gem of a glacier. The views were so amazing that on a sunny day, a boat load of people were watching on the deck, in stunned silence. And after rumbling sound followed by thunderous cracks, when large chunks of ice began to break off, the people erupted in oohs and aahs…
Juneau, Alaska & Mendenhall Glacier – This land keeps revealing more and more beauty and each new sight competes with the previous one for top spot. Mendenhall Glacier is about 13 miles long, located in Mendenhall Valley it is about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. The glacier terminates in Mendenhall lake where the views are stunning. We gazed upon the blue hues emanating from this spectacular glacier, then walked up to the visitor center and gawked upon more spectacular views from the top. Mendenhall Glacier is overflowing with beauty, with nature and wild life. While we didn’t see the bear, we saw a porcupine very up close. Here’s a little joke we heard on the way. Why are Alaska state employees not allowed to look out of the window in the morning? So they could look out of the window in the afternoon. Actually life moves in a slow lane here and many residents take up to 4 month break and go away to the “lower 48” during winter, to work as a contractor or visit family. Small request: Regardless of your political affiliation, please take care of these gorgeous glaciers. Gunalcheesh (thank you) in Tinglits lingo. We also took Mount Roberts Tramway from right near the cruise ship dock for a short ride up 1,800 feet up the mountain. From there we got to see spectacular views of the city of Juneau and Gastineau Channel and did some shopping of gifts for friends.
Kachikan, Alaska – Kachikan is a lovely city facing the Inside Passage and is known for its Native American totem poles. We did not get to visit Misty Fjords, a glacier carved wilderness with snow capped mountains and waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. Kachikan has a vibrant wild life with black bears, wolves and bald eagles. We visited Tongass National Forest which also has a salmon spawning stream. We were incredibly fortunate to see a bald eagle fly fairly up close with its completely majestic display of wings spread out. I could not get to my camera in time to capture the incredible flight but I will forever savor the sight. We also visited a bald eagles sanctuary. Injured or old eagles who cannot survive in the wild, are cared for there and they also work doing little shows for visitors. We visited Totem Pole museum and then visited Creek Street, the former red-light district that is now turned into an arts and craft and museum area.
Our Alaska journey ended in Vancouver, Canada but the incredible expansive beauty of Alaska is seared forever in our memory. Alaska is truly the last most glamorous frontier that is easily accessible and offers spectacular awesomeoness in all its majestic glory for everyone to enjoy. It is up to each one of us, to do little some thing that we can do to preserve and protect this incredible and gorgeous land.