Two years ago, my family and I embarked on a seven-day cruise to Alaska, in which we visited Skagway, Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan. This was the first cruise any of us ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Our cabin was one of the inside cabins, all 150 square feet of it. Sure, we were crammed into it, and we didn’t have a balcony, or even a window, but we didn’t care. We were going to Alaska!
Within the first day of the cruise, we saw many wild animals, including majestic bald eagles and other rare birds, porpoises, and even a few whales. While the shows and entertainment on the cruise were great, my favorite pastime was to walk the track with my dad late at night, trying to spot some whales, or just enjoying the beautiful Alaskan scenery, something few people ever have the delight of experiencing. Out there, on the back of the cruise ship, late at night, was the most peaceful place I have ever known. Almost nobody is out on the track, and if you went to the back of the ship, you could hear the very slight sound of the engines delicately pushing the ship through the waters of the inside passage. The brilliant light beaming down from the moon allowed us to see the peace and calm of the passage, in between the mountains full of lush vegetation, blanketed with a light sheet of snow at the top. And if you listened very closely, you could hear the soft ‘puff’ of the whales releasing air and inhaling as they just barely expose themselves with their dorsal fin, before diving deep into the dark blue Alaskan water. Pure serenity — pure nature.
The little towns of Alaska are just like one would expect: a place where everyone knows everyone, where nobody seems to have a care in the world — a place where their complete seclusion is the very thing that fuels your desire to explore the land, and hopefully find yourself along the way. A place where you have the urge to throw your cell phone, PDA, and PSP into the water, and never get back on that ship. I wanted to experience complete serenity and seclusion, to fulfill every desire that coursed through my body of exploration, to be that guy that everyone else in the office or the classroom wishes they could be — free of any responsibility, one with nature, one with themselves. That feeling stayed with all of us as we departed one city, and entered the next.
In Skagway, my family and I went panning in a river that seemed to be the most absolute pure form of life itself. Frigid glacial melt-off numbed our legs and hands as we repeatedly dug our pans into the rock and sediment, hoping to find even one speck of gold.
On the sixth day, while we were in Ketchikan, I remember thinking to myself, “how can it possibly get any better than this?” By that point in the cruise, I had so many memories that will remain with me for the rest of my life, in the most vivid colors and feeling. However, that night, as we were departing from Ketchikan, something happened that I, to this day, can remember more vividly than any other memory in my 17 years of existence; it was about ten-o-clock at night, and my mom, my dad, my brother, and I were in one of the covered hot tubs. We were the only people on the deck, and it was snowing. The snow made everything so quiet and peaceful, as the horn from the ship sounded off twice into the Alaskan night, signaling our departure from the city. As we slowly left the town, we were positioned, facing the little city, watching the few city lights become more and more dim, as the snow continued to fall in the dark Alaskan night. All we could hear was the familiar soothing breathing of the whales, combined with the soft chugging of the engine as we pulled away from the most beautiful place in the world. Alaska.
Our trip to Alaska was not only the best trip we have had to date, but it also gave us a chance to really connect as a family. I had never seen my family that united and happy, and we owe it all to the beautiful state of Alaska, and the cruise of a lifetime.
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