Far North A Summer in Alaska

Have you ever fantasized about traveling to an exotic place? I have and that dream was realized this past summer in the road trip of a lifetime.

Alaska puts everything in perspective. While we spend so much time and energy in our lives worrying and stressing about things, the scale of the surrounding landscape makes it all seem insignificant. The mountains and rivers have been there for sometimes millions of years. We spend, what, about eighty or so years trying to make a living?? Okay, it's not all that bad but, as we whizzed down the bumpy roads of Alaska, I sure felt small...in a good way.

This spoke to me deeply while visiting Alaska.

I couldn't help feeling like the whole sensory experience had some kind of spiritual presence. I'm not religious but I certainly sensed some kind of higher power.

Aurora Ice Museum

Made from over one thousand tons of snow and ice, the Aurora Ice Museum is open year-round. Parkas are required for the tour but the ice sculptures inside are masterful.

Aurora Ice Bar

You can order a martini at the bar in a glass made of ice! I didn't indulge but it was fun to watch others trying to hold the glass :)

Ice Martini Glass

A unique part of the museum visit. Otherwise known as the glass that couldn't be stolen.

Ice Sculpture

The amazing pieces found in the museum were created by 16-time world champion ice carver Steve Brice and his wife Heather, a 7-time champ!

Because it generates its own weather system and the weather itself is so unpredictable in Alaska, it was a miracle we got to see Denali at all. Some friends of ours spent time in the park and saw nothing but clouds. Seeing it for the first time as the park bus wound its way through the Polychrome Pass was like seeing an IMAX screen times one hundred. It is massive!! For the three or four times I took the bus through the park, I had the same reaction each time.

A rustic camground at Wonder Lake in Denali National Park.
Facing The Great One.

Quintessential Alaska

Nothing says Alaska like bald eagles and snow-covered mountains. Here, an adult and adolescent eagle wait by the harbor in Haines for discarded fish guts to emerge from fishing boats.

On the Wing

There are few things more graceful than a bald eagle in flight. There is an abundance of these amazing raptors all along the Seward waterfront.

Black Bears

This was shot in British Columbia. Strangely enough, we saw few bears in Alaska itself. This was a serendipitous photograph. I was out driving around looking for photo opps and was about to turn around when I saw what I thought was a dog running across the road but it was a young black bear!

Willow Ptarmigan

This fascinating bird has a brown plumage during the summer months but that changes to a pure white in winter. This effectively makes the Ptarmigan all but disappear in the snow, helping to perpetuate its survival.

Alaska SeaLife Center

This center is the only facility in Alaska that combines a public aquarium with marine research and education.

I've never been to an area that has such an amazing variety of landscapes. It's like a wish come true for any photographer.

Dawn in Seward.
One of the many cruise liners docked in Seward.
Early morning on the Seward waterfront.
Sunset at Deep Creek.
Near Glennallen.
The hills are alive on the outskirts of Valdez.
Bear Glacier.

Many people who visit this great state want to fish for halibut, of course. My wife Linda really wanted to do it but I was less enthusiastic. I get horrible sea sickness out on the waves. I did it anyway because that's just the kind of guy I am :)

Actually, I spent the entire trip out to sea puking my guts up. Still, we managed to catch some nice big halibut (read: Linda caught everything). It was worth it, though, because now we have a freezer full of delicious fish!

Rock fish and Halibut in Valdez.
Street signs in downtown Valdez.
Kayaking in Valdez.

We love to support local businesses and there are some really interesting breweries and distilleries in Alaska. We particularly liked the people and their products in the little fishing town of Haines.

Breweries and distilleries in Haines.
My friend Bill strikes a heroic pose.

Reflections

Although not located in Alaska, this is a shot of Muncho Lake in British Columbia on the way north. I was stricken by the mirror-like surface in the middle of the day! A rarity, in my experience.

Two Distinct Worlds

Logic tells us that there is only one reality. That may be true but I can't help thinking that the world inside a reflection is equally as real.

We were lucky to have traversed the rocky and gravelly roads of Alaska relatively unscathed. Huge ice heaves can cause significant damage to a vehicle. Our secret was to drive S-L-O-W.

Alaska is such a singular and unique adventure that it's tough to find anything like it in the Lower 48. We hope to return at some point but probably not in our 40-foot motorhome. Next time we'll be a little more nimble.

The road less traveled fast.

If you would like to keep up with my meanderings, click here to subscribe to my blog. Peace.

Created By
Steven Dempsey
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