There’s Something About Alaska

Originally Posted: May 9, 2007

Having spent most of my cruising time in the Caribbean, with a brief jaunt to Europe, I have to say it’s good to be back in Alaska. There are a number of factors that play into this. First, it’s nice to touch Canadian soil in our homeport. Still almost 4500km from home, but the stores and the colourful money are the ones I grew up with. I can sit in Tim Horton’s with a National Post in absolute familiarity.

The weather’s nice too. No more of the sometimes stifling heat of the Caribbean. I’ve always figured it’s easier to bundle up than strip (at least in public), so cool days are a welcome change. I even like the rain.

Best of all, of course, is the scenery. Today we were sailing through the Inside Passage. The waterfront is covered with old-growth forests and massive snow tipped mountains tower behind. Sea Lions beckon as whales lead the way. How can sunshine, swimming and cheap drinks possibly compete?

The only downfall is that sometimes it just seems too easy. As I stand on the top level of a cruise ship and look over the tops of giant trees, I don’t see the struggle of life in the wilderness. I miss the bald eagle and even the grizzly on shore completely. The occasional log lost from a log drive looks like a twig from here.

The guest beside me exclaiming, “you know, I always thought sea lions were bigger. These ones are tiny!” doesn’t help. I want to explain that these creatures are actually much bigger than she ever imagined, that without a man-overboard, for instance, to add perspective the view is shamefully deceptive. I can’t think of a polite way to correct an overheard remark ‘though, so I just smile as I pass.

I’m reminded of the last time I was here, two years ago, cruising through the beautiful winding Tracey Arm Fjord and passing some campers who had likely kayaked for days to get out there. They watched us pass with the startled look one would expect to see on the face of early man watching a jet-plane land between him and his prey. I felt an apology was in order. As I turned away, a guest stopped me to ask why his cell phone wasn’t picking up a signal. I glanced at the mountains towering around us in this untouched wilderness, and explained gently that no one had put cell phone towers out here yet. He went off in a bit of a huff, clearly unimpressed with this under-developed part of the world.

Still, whether we see it by ship or by kayak, there’s a magic to this land. If we can settle the voices of today’s world, the whispers of the past come through loud and clear. The wilderness is still wild and glaciers are still huge. My Auzzie friend came back from at trip by float plane today to see the best of this world, away from the giant ship and the alternate world it carries with it. She loved the scenery, the experience and even swooned when describing the manly men. Perhaps the “manly men” are on to something.

Yup. There’s something about Alaska.

Almost Downtown

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