An Alaskan Adventure
My adventure in Alaska is memorable for all the right reasons. It was exciting, fun and fest of wildlife. Out at sea whales surrounded our boat, sleeping sea otters floated past us and punk puffins delighted us with their brightly coloured head plumage. I remember the excitement of seeing our first bald-headed eagle. We circled the totem pole he was sitting on and took photos from all angles. By the end of the tour we had seen so many of them – on the ground, in the air, skimming the sea, stealing fish from the bears – that we barely glanced in their direction.
Every day we went somewhere different but before we left we always had a hearty breakfast. This was often at the local café. After devouring a generous helping of ham, fried eggs, buttered pancakes and maple syrup I had to decline the offer of a ‘to go’ box full of the pastries I had not been able to eat.
We spent a lot of time on water. Crazy Todd, who drove our jet boat on the rivers, would nudge the ice bergs until they rolled over so we could appreciate the startling blue colour inside them. Occasionally we went too close to glaciers that were calving. The large chunks of ice that were crashing into the water could have created huge waves that would have washed us downstream in an instant. But Todd always knew when to retreat. He also had a habit of washing his boat under the waterfalls that cascaded into the glacier lakes – his boat was not the only thing that got wet!
While Todd was doing his boy racer act down a shallow narrow creek we surprised a brown bear and her 2 cubs. They ran into the water and swam across the creek in front of us. It was magical.
A visit to the Anan Wildlife Observatory https://www.recreation.gov/permits/Anan_Wildlife_Observatory_Permits/r/wildernessAreaDetails.do?page=detail&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=74986 was the highlight of the trip. After speeding across a lake in our jet boat we disembarked and walked through the trees following in single file behind Todd who was carrying a large rifle. The water that lapped the bank beside us was black it was so full of trout trying to get upstream. When we gained the safely of the observation centre we watched the black bears scooping salmon out of the water. Bald-headed eagles swooped in to gather up discarded fish. Two of us had a close encounter with a black bear when we left the enclosure to go to the toilet which, bizarrely, was situated a short walk from the enclosure. We stood rigid with fear as a huge bear lumbered up the bank and loped across the path in front of us. But he barely glanced in our direction.
Our day in the Yukon was a fascinating dip into the history of Alaska. We travelled on the White Pass Yukon railway https://wpyr.com/history/ that was built during the gold rush in the 1890’s. An excellent commentary traced the journey of the participants in the gold rush and the hardships they endured on the way.
There is one memory that still makes me laugh. When we were delayed at Ketchikan airport the public address system could only be heard clearly in the ladies’ toilet. As soon as it crackled into life all the women raced into the toilet. I know English women have a reputation for going to the toilet in pairs but six at once? I still wonder what the locals made of that.
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by Valery Collins www.experiencedtraveller.co.uk