This summer I went on a two week trip with National Geographic Student Expeditions to Alaska. I set off on my expedition by meeting up with my group on July fifteenth at the Minneapolis Airport. As we flew to Anchorage, I got to know this hodgepodge of students from around the world. The first two nights we stayed in Anchorage at the Alaska Backpackers Inn. During our first two days of orientation we visited Earthquake Park and the Alaska Native Heritage center.
On July seventeenth we trekked towards Denali National park and stayed at Denali Mountain Morning Hostel for the next five days. The day after we arrived our group went rafting down the Nenana River with the Denali Outdoor Center. After finishing our river trip where we survived class four rapids and freezing cold glacier water we enjoyed hot chocolate at their shop. On July nineteenth we woke up at four a.m. for the six a.m. shuttle bus tour to the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali Nation Park. On the way back towards the park entrance we hopped off the shuttle for a day hike in the beautiful Polychrome Pass. As we hiked down into the valley we saw a mother bear and the first two cubs of the season. The next day we drove to the Crazy Dog Kennel where they take in unwanted sled dogs. At the kennel we saw all the dogs and had an introduction to the Iditarod and Yukon races from a professional Dog Musher. While heading back towards the hostel we stopped for numerous photo opportunities. On Thursday we drove back into Denali National Park to the Savage River to relax for the rest of the day.
July twenty-second our group traveled south to the coastal town Seward. On our way south we took a day trip to the town of Talkeetna. While in Talkeetna the ranger station preformed a mock presentation as if we were preparing to summit Mount McKinley. That night we arrived at the Moby Dick Hostel. The day after we arrived in Seward, the group went with Exit Glacier Guides on an Ice Hike up Exit Glacier. The day after the Ice Hike we spent a relaxing day in Seward browsing the souvenir shops. Another four a.m. morning came our way on Monday as we loaded a Water Taxi at Miller’s Landing. The destination of the Water Taxi was Kayakers Cove. At Kayakers Cove we took a hike up to the top of a mountain pass. The next day we took the kayaks out, where we saw Humpback Whales breaching from the water a mile away. After Kayaking all morning we took the Water Taxi back into Seward. The twenty-seventh we went to the Alaska Sea life center and spent our last few hours together as friends relaxing at a local coffee shop. We then traveled back up to Anchorage and spent the night again at the Alaska Backpackers Inn. Our final day of July twenty-eighth we flew back to each of our homes from the Anchorage Airport.
This trip has inspired in me a passion to be a lifetime traveler and not a simply a tourist. During the evenings when we were digging into our meals I started to grow on my fellow travelers, and felt I could gratefully call them my friends. My favorite moment was on the long van ride to Seward when we got stuck in a traffic jam. While we were stuck we shared our true life stories. It was at this time that I felt I was truly connected to my new friends.
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