The first thing I will always remember about Alaska.. will be the pearl grey waters of the Knik Arm reflecting the light of the sun.. and the view from the plane window .. it was breathtaking.. it was the 10 PM August sun that shone over the Anchorage coastline. The way it cast its mystical spell over the still ocean waters, I knew this was going to be different from any other place I had been to. And it truly was.. As soon as the plane touched down, there was a light drizzle and when then I saw it.. a lovely arch just outside the plane window.. yes, the rainbow said it all.. this would be a lovely trip.. Alaska made me feel at home that day with that rainbow and I know I will always want to go back.
Anchorage is a nice quiet town, it has the downtown area, the corporate buildings, the sam's club and the costco's of the world, it has Great Clips, and Toy's r us.. but beneath all that.. there is a starkness, a striking loneliness in the place that attracted me immensely. The vegetation is green, but not lush, there are flowers all over the place, colors one would expect in the tropics, but it seemed like for the little summer sun they received they had to bloom in all their glory and splendor.. lest the snow and ice would make visitors forget the lovely hue they brought to the landscape.. Local people were so nice, the food is great, lovely places to shop, the museum is filled with some really neat artifacts, about the Alaskan Pipeline, the Shamin Spirits, the topography of the Tundra, the life of the eskimos etc.
The train ride from Anchorage to Seward was beyond words.. one had heard of the Alaskan cruises, but few people know of the beauty of the Alaskan railroad as it traverses through the mountains from Anchorage to Seward. It trails the coastline, overlooks deep gorges and ravines, winds its ways through hundreds of waterfalls, and comes really close to glaciers... the landscape is green, filled with various types of evergreens and the path is riddled with wayside wild flowers. Fireweed is the most common wild flower one sees, these long magenta blossoms that just seem to peep out of every nook and cranny... and fill the mountains with colorful patches.
The stillness and the quiet of the mountains, the total wilderness in these areas is so calming.. the mind just turns inwards and you find yourself saying a prayer for all that you have been blessed for and for this opportunity to view nature in her glory and splendor. The camera cannot and will not do justice to the stark and lonesome beauty of this place, but one can only try to bring back as many memories as one can in little rolls of film or on your digicam memory cards.
The cruise along the fjords of Seward was quite the experience, even with the rain squall and the tumultuous ocean, it was not enuf to dampen the fun of viewing jellyfish, puffins diving for fish, sea lions, mountain goats along the cliffs, salmon jumping on the water, some really interesting seaweed, rocks covered with white sea gulls. .. the list is endless..
Then there was Denali, one had read about it, seen documentaries on it, but seeing it in person was a dream come true for me. Although the actual Mount McKinley Summit is covered with clouds, but the National Preserve is just huge.. there is only a fraction that we saw in a day.. I know I have to go back for a week to really get a feel of the place..
The trail along the Savage River is not a paved one unlike most national parks I have visited and that is what made it so much fun, it felt like you were making your own trail through the wilderness as you hiked along small furry animals, different types of birds, and you really heard the sound of nature, the rippling river, the chatter of little squirrels, the distant sound of rain, and somewhere along you saw a moose or a caribou... have to go back to see a bear though...
All the time in Denali, I really didn't know how to fathom the wilderness, what to make of the quiet... I have been to wide open spaces, whether it was the Grand Canyon or Zions, the pacific coast in Oregan or Highway 1 along California, whether it was the Swiss alps or the English Channel.. I have always known what the place made me feel.. but Denali left me speechless... and then I saw this quote at the Visitor Center... " the Wilderness at Denali answers many questions for man, questions that man has not yet learned to ask" ... that summed it up for me...
As my eyes scanned the August night sky for a faint glimpse of the northern lights before the Delta flight took off for Salt Lake City, I knew somewhere deep inside, Alaska had touched my soul... and I knew I had to come back for more….