Why People Rave About Alaska
28.08.2015 - 31.08.2015 14 °C
One of the things that has been really impressive about our time in Alaska has been the care and concern that Alaskans have for protecting their pure and unadulterated parks, wildlife and resources. It is so obvious how much respect, both the residents and the Athabascan Indians, have for their precious untouched land. It’s clearly been a hard-fought battle but the foresight shown by people as far back as the 1920s in protecting their beautiful asset is a credit to many people. So much is done on a daily, and practically automatic basis, to care for this pristine wilderness, and is a lesson for so many of us. If I say any more I might get political, but suffice to say, there is a lot to be learned from their efforts!
And wonder of wonders, no-one I’ve come across in Alaska is a “climate sceptic”! They’re all far too convinced by the data in front of their eyes to even discuss it! Funny about that!!
But let’s move on.
From Denali Princess Lodge and the National Park, we moved on to Mt McKinley Princess Lodge (also just outside the National Park) arriving on Sunday 30th August.
This was an auspicious day because, as of Aug 30, Mt McKinley will now be called Denali which is what the Athabascan Indians have always called it and means “the High One”. That is entirely appropriate as Denali (Mt McKinley up unto Aug 29 2015) is the highest mountain in North America and the 3rd highest in the world. Apparently Pres McKinley only got a look-in because some bloke was schmoozing him. McKinley never set foot in Alaska, nor did he do anything for Alaska. It could have been changed federally years ago, but the Ohio senator (Ohio being McKinley’s home state) kept blocking the legislation. Clearly he wasn’t voted in to act for his country!! But now it’s done.
We started our Mt Denali (or The Mountain) experience with a bus ride in clear sunny weather! An amazing change from the 2” deep snow and freezing conditions we left at Denali Lodge. It is said only about 30% of people get to see the Mountain in all its glory and we got lucky that day, and the next, with clear and gob-smacking sightings of this sleeping giant under sparkling sun!
OMG I never thought I would get excited about mountains like I have here!
And then when we checked in, we’d somehow lucked into a two-room suite for our room for the night. Comfy, spacious and with lovely views of surrounding mountains we took to it like ducks to water.
And speaking of water, we had booked an excursion to do a walk around Lake Byers with another naturalist. The newly-fitter Chrissy was a bit worried that this might be above and beyond her capacity, but I even surprised myself!
Again we were met by a young woman with a passion for ecology, biology, and natural history. The lake was serene and still and the walk was a soothing and fascinating journey into a woodland dense with beauty and learning! Our friend Steve (the awe-inspiring naturalist from Denali national park) had taught us well. This girl built on that, and so the walk was like peeking under the covers of an ecosystem we had seen from above as we bus-toured with Steve. It was also mild, sunny, and delightful.
Our wildlife count went up a bit further with the discovery of some spruce grouse and plenty of fresh fox droppings to suggest he was just ahead of us. Sadly though, our friend the fox remained unseen. And no bears either!!
The next day saw us moving on again as we finally made tracks for the sea at Whittier (60 miles south of Anchorage) where our cruise ship would await us. To do that we were coached (sigh!) to the Railway Deepoh. That was, in fact, an area of gravelled ground beside the railway line where we were lined up (herded) according to our carriage number. There was no Deepoh building in sight! Very upmarket! I told you, it’s like the Wild West out here!
Then we discovered that we had been allocated to a table where 2 couples would face each other for the FIVE-HOUR journey to the ship’s dock! As we approached the steps onto the train, my brain ran wild with thoughts of what a nightmare was presenting itself. 5 bloody hours forced into the company of 2 strangers. Yes I’m a bitch, but my gut was churning at the thought!
As we approached our table a staff member asked if we were the Owens. OMG! What now? How much worse could this all get? Turned out a couple wanted to swap places with us, so they could sit with their friends.
Then along came the other couple seated at our new table. Praise the Lord! It was a pair of ex-pat Americans who have chosen to live in NZ for the last 15 years and whom we’d already met and found delightful. Americans with a world-view, rather than the sometimes narrow and skewed view that we’d bumped into already during our travels. The five hours flew by with lots of laughter and common ground at the table. Should have trusted, shouldn’t I?
More to come soon. Maybe tomorrow even seeing I have over-walked my knee into inflammation. Think I will probably stay on board for tomorrow’s port visit. It’s supposed to rain so I’m not that distressed!