Alaska is the most fascinating place I have visited in the country, and I would not hesitate to go again if an opportunity presents itself. However, one may wonder, why Alaska? The state has bad weather and a rugged landscape, not to mention several other misconceptions many people have about the place, such as the area bustling with wild bears. While it is unquestionable that Alaska’s temperatures can dip significantly during the long winters, the state warms during the summer. During this period, I got to experience the state’s rugged but beautiful sceneries and nature, such as waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, and forests that stretch hundreds of miles, and participate in dog sledding.
Alaska is one of the most exciting places to visit, and I am so lucky to have had the chance to go twice. My husband is a captain of a private yacht, and in 2011, he spent his entire summer in Alaska. Luckily, my daughter and I could also spend the summer with him. Alaska is unique for those who enjoy nature, like my family and me. Most importantly, it has so many amazing places to see, especially if there is an opportunity to go by boat. We went kayaking by a beautiful waterfall and saw brown bears catching Salmon. Also, we saw one of the most impressive and exciting sights you can see while whale watching: humpback whales’ bubble net feed. We also fished almost daily and caught various marine animals such as Halibut, Salmon, Dungeness Crab, and much more.
Another spectacular sight in Alaska is the glaciers; they are intense, and icebergs are everywhere. Besides the large stretches of ice sheets, my family and I saw several glaciers carved into the mountains, giving them a beautiful, breathtaking color. To the best of my knowledge, these glaciers are not only a sight to see or recreational opportunities for tourists; they also nourish the ecosystems, such as plants and animals, when they melt during the summer. This aspect was evident from the few glacial rivers we spotted down the mountain. According to the few residents we met during the visit, there are thousands of glacial rivers across Alaska, many of which have flowed for thousands of years. These rivers were unique, telling a beautiful story about Alaska’s weather and unmatched landscape. The visit to the glaciers was unforgettable because of the beautiful scenery and the first-hand experience of Alaska’s valuable treasure that serves the ecosystem.
In 2014, we had the opportunity to go back for another incredible summer in Alaska. I had my second child, Aiden; he was only two months old this time. We did so many things, but one of the fantastic adventures was when we went on a helicopter to see the Sawyer Glacier from above. The approximately 30 miles long glacier was a beauty and a hidden gem in a remote but undisturbed and spectacular location. Most notably, it was an other-worldly experience to see parts of the glaciers that had not been set foot upon. We also saw a few animals, such as seals lounging on the ice sheets and a few mountain goats on the slopes of the fjords. The approximately one-and-a-half-hour tour soaring over the glacier was incredible because it allowed us to cover a significant part of Sawyer glacier, which was not navigable by foot or ship cruise. Besides, visiting the glacier during the summer allowed us to view the specular South Sawyer glacier, which sometimes is challenging to access during bad weather.
After that beautiful sight, we landed on the glacier and went dog-sledding. While a new experience for my family and me, dog-sledding is part of Alaska’s tradition and a sport celebrated yearly through a sled dog race. Dog sledding has been a practice since time immemorial; dogs have been used in transportation through the harsh weather, which eventually inspired the 1,150-mile Iditarod Sled dog race celebrated in March each year. We had the opportunity to experience the activity’s thrill in the summer, and it was incredible to see how powerful and well-trained the dogs were in navigating the ice.
We also went hiking and saw a black bear with her two baby cubs on top of a tree. We were amazed at how effectively these wild beasts could survive years living off the land and in Alaska’s cold weather, which characterized the state for a significant part of the years. We also saw an eagle catch and eat a fish right before us; it was so special to see all that and something I will never forget. Hiking across the glaciers was also an unforgettable experience. While viewing the glaciers from the helicopter was amazing, it was more wholesome to walk across the glaciers, which were surprisingly navigable by people of different ages, including the elderly and kids.
Apart from the glaciers, waterfalls, dog sledding, and glacial rivers, we visited some state and national forests stretching hundreds of miles. My family loves nature, and visiting the woods and taking nature trails was one of the best adventures in Alaska. Our visit to Chugach National Forest was mind-blowing; we saw one of the most extensive national forests in the United States and some of its tree varieties. Looking over the forests, we could see trees such as Spruce, western hemlock, mountain hemlock, and Alaska yellow-cedar. The forest is also a habitat for several animal species; however, during our visit, we saw birds flying over the trees, a few moose, and a deer from a distance. The forest also had beautiful trails that allowed us to explore the forest’s wonders. One of the fascinating things about the excursion was the easily navigable and accessible trails that allowed people of different ages and abilities to hike the forest.
Finally, we went to many different towns, but for the most part, we stayed in Juneau and Sitka. Juneau, one of the largest municipalities in the country, is the capital of Alaska and is very popular for cruise ships. Many tourists visit Juneau every year. Juneau also has a gold mine museum that people love to visit for its unique, exciting history. The town is also well-known for its arts scene and cultural history, attracting thousands of tourists yearly. After Juneau, we went to Sitka, a unique small town with very friendly people. This town is famous for commercial and recreational fishing from its fresh and saltwater bodies and many tourists. Despite being a small town, Sitka produces abundant seafood such as Salmon, trout, grayling, and Char, some of which we tried during our visit. Once, we played golf in the town, and an eagle stole our ball! That was very funny. A fascinating aspect of the two towns was the cultural diversity expressed in art and other historical sites, all of which we experienced first-hand during our stay. Besides, the locals were amiable, which made the stay comfortable and unforgettable for my family.
Overall, Alaska is a very rugged but beautiful place for many reasons; it has many things to see and do. Alaska, also known as “the Last Frontier,” is where we can enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenes nature can provide. The state is also home to diverse cultures and traditions one could never have imagined. I recommend that anyone drop any misconceptions they may have and take a trip to Alaska because it is incredible.