November 24th 2017

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The Breath-taking Beauty of Alaska The Breath-taking Beauty of Alaska The Breath-taking Beauty of Alaska The Breath-taking Beauty of Alaska

 

Continent: North America. Country: United States. City: Alaska.

The Breath-taking Beauty of Alaska

By Helen Granville

There are few places in the world with the grandeur and breath-taking beauty of Alaska.

The 49th state of the USA, Alaska is an ‘out-of-the-way’ destination, it takes a week on the road to reach from the rest of the USA, two to three days on a ferry, or an expensive airline ticket, BUT it is easily accessed from a cruise ship where you’ll marvel at this amazing diverse land.

This state, on its own, has more coastline to hug than the United States in it’s entirety. It is the largest state of America and double the size of Texas. A lot of it is uninhabited, but a 7 day cruise from Vancouver return, or a 10 day cruise from San Francisco back to Vancouver will enable you to see the finest sites this bountiful state has to offer albeit a minor fraction of the whole state.

A large brown bear catching a leaping salmon in its jaws is a common apparition as you cruise the Inside Passage, a coastal route for oceangoing vessels, also known as the Panhandle. The scenery is stunning as you cruise into Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, 3 of the major ports of call and must see towns. Humpback whales are also often seen as you venture into the Gulf of Alaska.

A 5-mile-wide glacier shedding chunks of ice the size of small cars is another unique Alaskan sight; for this quiet thrill, venture down to Juneau, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, or to Prince William Sound, boasting the largest collection of tidewater glaciers. All of the major cruise ships will venture into Glacier Bay to get as close as they can so that you can experience the famous calving whilst enjoying a hot chocolate or hot toddy! As the captain of the ship dares to get as close as he can you will watch the huge masses of ice dip and twist as you pass. Then the ship will just sit and wait as it is anchored in position, until you hear that roar like thunder when the ice breaks away falling like an avalanche into the sea, creating waves that will finally make their way to the ship.

In Ketchikan you can visit a restored cannery and see how it became the ‘Canned Salmon Capital of the World’ or take in an old-fashioned logging competition. Along the banks of Ketchikan Creek, after which the town is named, you’ll find a former “house of ill repute” that takes you back to the Creek’s days as a red light district where the “ladies of negotiable affection” entertained the miners, fishermen, handloggers, and other frisky frontiersmen. But the highlight of this coastal town is that it is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, including some of the oldest ones still in existence. This by far is my favourite town in Alaska. I love the wooden boarded pier and the view of the colourful houses with their peaked rooves on the waterfront, with the sea planes coming into land. I’ve enjoyed some fabulous meals in Ketchikan….my first tastes of steamed clams and sourdough bread.

Juneau is the capital city of Alaska and at the base of Mount Juneau, just across the water from Douglas Island. Here you can visit the Alaskan Brewery Company, the Salmon Hatchery or take the ‘trolley’….but definitely take a pit-stop at the Red Dog Saloon where you’ll learn about the characters who made Juneau the number 1 mining town in the world and put Alaska on the map. One of those characters being Wyatt Earp who left his pistol behind before boarding a ship, allegedly.

The crowning point of any tour of this city is Juneau’s natural treasure, the Mendenhall Glacier. It is one of 38 glaciers flowing from the massive 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice field. Nugget Creek Falls and Photo Point Trail wind along Mendenhall Lake to an unobstructed view of the glacier’s face. Visit  Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center for an elevated view of the glacier as well as take in interactive geological exhibits explaining glacier formation……or you can always do it in style by taking a helicopter ride and land ON the glacier. I am not ashamed to report that a group of 7 of us took the helicopter journey and we sang “That’s Amore” at the top of our voices whist keeping our feet steady stood ontop of this awesome glacier.

Skagway  is a town full of history and you most certainly step back in time as you walk along it’s main street, a complete change to Juneau and Ketchikan.  Originally Skagway was inhabited by Tlingit people who fished and hunted in the waters and forests of the area and had become prosperous by trading with other groups of people on the coast and in the interior.  The Klondike gold rush changed everything for Skagway.  In 1896, gold was found in the Klondike region of Canada's Yukon Territory. And in July 1897, a steamer docked at Moore's Wharf in Skagway with the first boat load of prospectors. More ships brought thousands of hopeful miners into the new town and prepared for the 500-mile journey to the gold fields in Canada. The population of the general area increased enormously during this time and reached 30,000. The prospectors' journey began for many when they climbed the mountains over the White Pass above Skagway. Later a group of investors soon  saw an opportunity for a railroad over that route and it has become a tour you can still take from your cruise ship.

A unique part of taking an Alaskan cruise is that you can combine a week on the ocean waves with a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. This is a luxurious train journey that travels during the day through the wild beauty of Canada's West and is most definitely the best way to experience the stunning Canadian Rockies.

Alaska is a place where you can take in nature that you will never see anywhere else in the world, learn about a past that is unique to this faraway land and enjoy food cooked better than any European gourmet restaurant. It’s my one in a million destination.

 

Keywords: Alaska