Below is an article written by one of my co-workers. Though her trip was many years ago, I find the information to still be accurate and very interesting! Alaska was one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my travels. I hope everyone gets the chance to visit!
SUMMER IN ALASKA-MAGNIFICENT
BY SHARON CHANDLER
This is the ultimate getaway from the daily grind of civilization. Whether leaving from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, cruising the breathtaking fjords of the Inner Passage brings tranquility to the soul. From May through September the waters are calm & teaming with life. You can see the ospreys & eagles circling overhead, view the seals basking on the ice floes, & admire the snowcapped mountains that provide majestic vistas. As you sit on your balcony or on the open decks of your cruise ship, all is quiet & serene. The only sounds you might hear is the calving of the glaciers as the chunks of ice break off and gently drift down the waterways.
My friend Gail & I were in awe, for it is a land of staggering beauty with virgin forests blanketing the hills. There are minimal roads, & we learned that there are more pilot licenses then driver’s licenses in Alaska. For a different vacation, Alaskan excursions offer kayaking, helicopter rides, dog sledding on a glacier, fishing, glacier views, Totem tours, whale watching discoveries, the White Pass Railway, wildlife tours, Denali Park, the Yukon & more.
The ports of call are all small villages, maybe five blocks long. We strolled along the sidewalks of Skagway, an authentic gold rush town with a railroad depot & stores for shopping. The next day we rode a horse drawn trolley through Ketchikan, the “salmon “capital of the world. It is also renowned as having the largest collection of totem poles. The Totem Historical Park offers a fabulous insight into the traditions of the Native Indians as it contains a clan house from the 1930’s, an amazing gathering place.
We also experienced a “salmon bake” where it took two men, one on each side of the grill to turn the two recently caught salmon. One was 50 pounds, the other 75 pounds. A major chunk of fresh salmon from the icy waters was served to us along with garlic bread, corn, & hot apple cider. Yummm! We also had the opportunity to visit a brothel, where the girls greet the visitors as they did years ago, dressed scantily in the cool weather, but there was no longer any hanky-panky going on. At the time of the gold rush, when the girl signed on for this profession the only concession was that the madam would allow her to pick out the wallpaper for her 5 x 7 foot room. Madam’s room however, was considerably larger and had various furs displayed on hooks and draped over her bed.
In Sitka, we learned about the Tlingit Indian traditions and totem poles. We also learned that Sitka is noted for being where Russia transferred ownership of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Although we did not choose to do it, one can hike along Mendenhall Glacier on the outskirts of Juneau, the state capital.
In Juneau, the best view of the lovely capital is from the Mount Roberts Tramway which takes an exhilarating steep route. I held my breathe the entire time. If I remember correctly, there is also a Joe’s Crab Shack located close to where you disembark the ship. He serves Alaskan King Crab legs with melted butter from the window of the shack, and you eat outdoors on wooden benches covered in newspaper. The crabs were so large that the legs extended over a plate that was larger than a turkey platter. Even after stuffing my face for over an hour, there was plenty of food left over to feed another two people. (A note from Stacey- check out the Red Dog Saloon while you are in Juneau. You are transported back to the gold rush era and the menu is awesome!)
In the town of Wrangell, the bears can often be seen feasting on pink salmon along nearby Anan Creek. In addition, close by in Wrangell, dozens of petroglyphs of animals & geometric shapes have been carved into the rocks on the beach. It was very interesting.
The highlight of our trip, however, was taking a helicopter ride over five mountain ridges, and landing on a glacier where we were met by three Iditarod sleds & drivers. Each sled had a sling as a seat, the drivers stood behind us, and 9 dogs pulled each sled. On this beautiful sunny day, we traversed the pristine glacier for approximately an hour. When we returned, the driver let the dogs cool down, & we were able to play with them until the helicopter returned to pick us up. We learned that none of the dogs were pure-bred, but were mated based on strength, intelligence & responsiveness to the driver’s commands. This was by far one of my three most memorable vacations.