I was only in Alaska for seven days but in that week I have found a second home.
I know, it isn't really a home in the technical sense but a part of my heart was left in that vast land after I boarded the plane in Canada. Isn't that the true meaning of a home, where the heart and soul is? I live in Los Angeles, an urban jungle but I have always felt more at home in nature, away from the people and Alaska is nature at it's most raw form. I saw a moose on the drive from the hotel to the ship. I've seen vast glaciers taking up the whole horizon and I've seen these glaciers give birth to brand new icebergs. I've seen harbor seals resting on these new icebergs and I have seen puffins leaping from their cliff top roosts to hunt for fish. I have seen humpbacks breaching, their majestic forms honoring me with their presence. I have seen the powerful orca leaping from the water, full of grace and beauty. I was truly humbled by Alaska, it went beyond my biggest expectations.
I visited Glacier Bay National Park and sat on the top deck with many others. We were frozen but it was worth it to experience the powerful glaciers, one of nature's paintbrushes. It was close to 0 degrees and I couldn't wear my mittens because of all my cameras, but it was worth it to take these pictures.
I visted three lovely Alaskan cities (four if you count Anchorage before the cruise). Anchorage is one of the largest cities there but it has a small city feel to it. Take San Francisco, Seattle, and Eugene (Oregon) and you have Anchorage. The water was the best I have ever tasted, I later found out it was pure glacial runoff. The people are friendly and as far as Alaska winters are concerned, I heard that Anchorage has a mild winter.
I visited Skagway, a city born because of the goldrush. Such a small and simple city and yet so pure. I visited the Yukon Territory in Canada on that same day. The beauty there took my breath away, the lichen and the forests was rich in colols; green, red, yellow, and much more.
I spent the day in Juneau, the state's capital. I learned that there are no roads out of the city, you have to fly or take a boat out. Some find it clausterphobic and some think of it as a sense of freedom, I am not sure which side of the fense I would be on. I went whale watching in Juneau and saw humpbacks. We went to one area off an island where there isn't a single ripple in the water and you could hear the whales breathing from where they were. It was amazing.
I went to ketchikan, Alaska's most southern city. A city of hills and creeks. I stood on Creek Street, looking down and seeing salmon struggling against the current to get to their spawning ground, I think I also spotted a black bear in the trees. Sadly I didn't get all I wanted from my cameras because of the speed of the birds (and the bear) but it was imprinted in my memory. I went on a tour of the Misty Fjords, a beautiful and quiet place. You could see the evidence of ancient glaciers everywhere and the water was amazingly still. I saw otters, loons, seals, and eagles..so many eagles. We were close to the islands so I saw the eagle's eyes, I felt small.
It was on the last day of the cruise where I saw the whales breach. We were in Canadian waters, in the Inside Passage. I was part of a group discussion with the ship's naturalist, a very nice Canadian man. We were talking about nature and it's beauty when the Captain mentioned humpbacks. We rushed to the starboard side and sure enough, there was the mist from a spout in the distance. I thought that would be all I would see but I was honored by the whales. A very large whale breached the water followed closely by a smaller whale. I will assume it was a mother teaching her calf to breach and I truly felt honored to witness such a beautiful display. I sat there for over a hour watching these whales play.
Later in the day, we were further south, and I was again lucky enough to see whales (well...dolphins). I saw the orcas breaching and playing. I saw a male orca leap clear from the water, probably to impress the ladies. I was very emotional by the end of that day, to see my favorite whale and my favorite dolphin, I was crying at times.
I love California, I always will. Californians have the luck of having many types of nature. From the deserts to the temeperate rainforests. The oceans to alpine lakes, we are lucky. I can see myself happily living in California the rest of my life but I would love to live in Alaska for a bit. It is a possibility though, one I will have to research. An employee on the tour of the Fjords is from Seattle, a student studying Humanities. She was in Alaska for the summer, she just decided she wanted to live in Alaska that summer and has two jobs. I asked her how she did it and she gave me tips. So maybe next summer or the one following I can pack up some of what I need and spend the summer in that great land. It will be difficult but I am going to try.
I hope to start posting photos from my trip tonight, there are many :)