The kids are back in school. I now have three children on a full day school schedule! This is a true milestone for a parent. In celebration I have been doing things I haven’t done in ages. These things include reading the newspaper in the middle of the day, riding my bike to the supermarket, blogging, riding rollercoasters, and journeying to far away places…
I went to Alaska. To be specific, I flew to Anchorage and enjoyed the surrounding area for four days. As you may be aware, Alaska is massive. To go to one small area of its 570,865 square miles and dilly around for a weekend is not to become an expert on the state. That being said, I did learn a lot.
Let’s begin with what I knew about Alaska before my trip. It’s really far north. In the summertime the sun sets well after my bedtime. It’s full of big mountains, rugged terrain, and grizzly bears that love the taste of suburban moms.
(I didn’t know squat.)
Thanks to my blank slate, the pleasant surprises were in abundance. The coffee in Alaska was delicious; the best I’ve ever had. In particular, the oat milk cappuccino is top notch. (I’ve had coffee from Bali, to New York, to France. I’ve got a Swiss-made coffee machine in my house. I take coffee drinking seriously.) In each region I’ve traveled, the culture of drinking coffee is centered around lifestyle. I can only assume that, due to the abundance of darkness, an Alaskan is often in need of a pick-me-up. Based on this need, the Alaskans have perfected the brewing of this magnificent beverage. There is a miniature drive-up coffee hut about every 20 feet. They are adorable and convenient. Unless you make a concerted effort not to be, it’s impossible to be uncaffeinated in AK.
The colors of the waterways in Alaska are gorgeous. We fished in the Knik River, hiked in the Talkeetna Mountains, and toured the glaciers of Prince William Sound. Depending on how these waters are fed, they were a beautiful turquoise, perfectly crystal, or a light smoky teal. More to do with its mineral composition, than the sky it’s reflecting; a beach landscape in AK could rival that of any in the Caribbean.
I stayed in the town of Wasilla. There was a nice hike near our house; a trail up the Talkeetna Mountains to the Reed Lakes. At the start of this trail, before you gain any elevation, there is (what I’d have to call) a forest of blueberry bushes. I’m from southern New Jersey. I’m familiar with wild blueberry bushes, but the blueberries here go on for what seems to be miles! We were there on a Saturday. It was amazing to see all the people out with their large containers, scattered about the surrounding area, foraging until their bucket’s content.
There are rainforests in Alaska! I took a boat tour of the glaciers found in Blackstone Bay, of the Prince William Sound. The land around the bay is the Chugash National Forest. The Chugash is a boreal rainforest; the northernmost rainforest in the world. There are no pythons or monkeys in this rainforest, but they do have plenty of mosquitos and a sufficient supply of dangerous animals.
My hike in Alaska seemed to have magic in the air. It may have just been the anticipation of finding a bear around the next turn, but I think it was more than that. The air smells quite different than on the dusty, piney trails I am used to. The mountains feel majestic because they rise from sea level. Low hanging clouds mixed with light fog don’t give you much chance for orienting yourself with the sun. Your feet are on the ground, but you feel like you could be floating. As I clambered over big boulders and small stones I could see (and hear) water cascading all around, including under me. Moss and other types of bright green vegetation grow everywhere. It makes for a delicacy to the ruggedness of the experience.
The mushrooms in Alaska are adorable! I may, or may not, have identified this particular mushroom correctly. I am no mycologist. Due to the abundance of moisture, mushrooms have a field day in Alaska.
And you can’t do a travel post without talking about food. My glacier cruise took off from Whittier, AK. The drive between Wasilla and Whittier is beautiful. It includes a 2.5 mile long, single lane tunnel. It also includes a journey along the gorgeous southeast coast, and if the tide is right you can see Beluga whales. (They don’t have those in Jersey!) Best of all, you can stop halfway through the drive in Girdwood, which is a quaint little town at the foot of the Alyeska ski resort. The mountain that the resort is built around is actually a crater, so the topography is quite interesting. If you remember, the amount of sunlight one receives during an Alaskan winter is pretty short, so visitors to Alyeska spend a decent part of the day skiing under lights. (If you’re from the east coast, like me, you know all about night skiing.) (OK. Last plug about where I’m from. I promise.)
The restaurant where we dined was called Spoonline. It is named for the shape of the line you make when you carve a fresh track on a snow covered mountain with a snowboard. The food was fresh, creative, and delicious. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the region, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan. (I gave up on meat a couple of years ago.) When you are traveling in Alaska it can be tough to find a meatless option that isn’t pizza or salad. The appearance and atmosphere in the restaurant are exactly what you would expect from a low-key ski town in summer.
Traveling is hard work. It takes effort, patience, and a willingness to go beyond your comfort zone. It’s a sacrifice to put all of the normal responsibilities on hold, and return to (what feels like) double-duty for a while. The bonus is the enrichment it has on who you are as a person. It’s rejuvenating. It give you the feeling of a fresh start upon your return home, and maybe a different perspective on life.
Have you been anywhere interesting recently? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know about it!
Thanks for reading!