Many picture the typical vacation as a family road trip, a cross country drive to the the Grand Canyon. Where the family reaches their destination and spends hours in gift shops, and tourist tepees. Then a thirty minute ‘hike’ down the Blue Angel Trail, and the purchase of the “I Hiked Down the Grand Canyon” t-shirt. While these vacations prove to be a staple in Americana tradition, as well as great time for all, they often lack a true sense of adventure, and deprive the travelers of the spirit of the American Frontier. My vacation or rather adventure through out Alaska in June 2008, truly allowed me to experience the Last Frontier, rather than just see it.
The great adventure began with an exciting, yet long nine hour flight from DFW to Anchorage. I shall never forget looking out the window over the vast expanse of British Columbia, and being amazed by the fact that the sun never set. The twenty four hour a day sun light truly set the mood for a unique and different world. The first night I learned that man is truly a creature affected by the environment around him, as I was unable to get to sleep until well after one in the morning.
The next morning allowed me to experience the vastness of Alaska. My Aunt and I drove up to Talkeetna. The drive itself was impressive as we were followed the elevation up from the Taiga swamps around Anchorage to the forests of the interior. We arrived in Talkeetna, and had the biggest and best breakfast of my life. At a true family style diner, I enjoyed a plate of Caribou sausage and the best wild berry scone. Talkeetna is a must see, but a little too touristy. Therefore we stopped on the way back to Anchorage at Montana Creek for some salmon fishing local style. After a scenic, but unproductive fishing attempt, we headed back to Anchorage.
That evening we were invited by an old family friend for dinner. That happened to be June 21st, summer solstice. A locale tradition, many Alaskans enjoy the peak of summer by embarking on a midnight hike. I went with the family friend’s son and a group of teenagers on a hike up Mile High Mountain, just outside of Anchorage. The hike was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I get to enjoy the grander of the great Alaskan mountains, but I ‘luckily’ saw some amazing wildlife: a eight hundred pound grizzly bear. The hardened Alaskans I was hiking with spotted the bear about three hundred yards behind us, on the very trail we just traversed! My urban Texas raising did not properly prepare me for this dose of mother nature. However terrifying the situation was, I have never felt more alive and part of nature then I did at that moment. I have gained an immense respect for the unfortunate rarity and grace that these large mammals posses. Luckily bears tend to only be aggressive if surprised and the large group quickly frightened the bear away.
The next day we boarded a plane bound for Barrow, AK., the northern most city in the world! Deplaning it felt like we stepped back into a different time. I could picture the frontier come to life, with a sense of adventure in every breath we took the primitive bus to our hotel, the “Top of the World”. We took several tours around the area, and I even walked onto the Chuckchi sea ice flows.
I have seen Alaska, and lived it; through travel.
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