Alaska Inside Passage - Juneau Round-Trip
Spirit of Discovery
Note: This expedition now operates aboard the Safari Explorer.
Because I live in the Pacific Northwest, I always thought Alaska would offer me just a wilder, bigger version of where I already live. Not true! Alaska turned out to be one of the most breathtakingly majestic places I've ever been (and that means it's on the short list with Antarctica!)
Traveling the Inside Passage, I was gloriously surprised to find jewel-like colors gracing ice, mountains, sea and sky, plus fantastic numbers of one of my all-time favorite animals on the planet: humpback whales. Now that I've been to Alaska, I'd go back again in heartbeat and am thrilled to be able to help my clients find their way to experiencing the vastness and scope of this rugged, magical place.
My journey began in Juneau where I stayed at the Goldbelt Hotel to prepare for boarding my ship. My trip would include a lot of amazing blue glaciers, yet I have to say that Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is one of my favorites. Blue and white bergs float like glass sculptures in front of the massive ice. Wildflowers and plants like lupin and skunk cabbage fill the forests of the Juneau area. Juneau itself is a bustling shop-filled town. I was excited to get underway as we headed out into the wilds of the Inside Passage.
I was very moved by the Native culture in this area, the Tlingit, and how every day objects and crafts became sacred, needing to be cared for and passed down to later generations, and indeed how relationships and traditions have become sacred over so many hundreds of years. European cultures don't value the individual or the community nearly as much as these people do, and I have to say that I felt somewhat culturally bankrupt in comparison, as did a lot of my fellow travelers. This experience had a profound affect on me that I wasn't expecting.
The Tlingit's relationship to this place really helped me to feel closer to the landscape I was viewing. Instead of just ice, the massive glaciers became a living wall that first took away life from the local people and then restored it again as the glaciers retreated. The animals also, like the bear, moose, giant ravens and eagles we saw, took on new meaning as I explored stories of interactions with these creatures and how their presence and qualities, or "personalities" if you will, influenced the lives and choices of these people.
As my journey continued, I kept uncovering more and more surprises and wonders. When we visited Pelican, a tiny village of a couple hundred people with only a single wooden boardwalk to call Main Street, I met artists and pioneer types who liked living in this extremely remote location, even a musician who made a CD to sell so he could fix the hole in his yurt! What a lifestyle! With nothing but trees in summer and snow in winter, these people really know how to make it on their own.
Incredible wilderness, bustling frontier towns like Sitka and Juneau, fantastic towering and calving glaciers, animals I never thought I'd see in the wild, like moose and bear, plus most spectacularly, hordes and hordes of glistening, singing, leaping and spiraling humpback whales all combined to make this an experience I will absolutely never forget.
If you are wondering if a trip to Alaska could be as exotic as other destinations you're considering, I have to reply with a resounding, "Oh definitely, yes!" I hope you'll visit Alaska, and if you open yourself up to the place, I know it will affect you deeply as it has affected me.