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2012/02/08

Alaska


I have a side of me that craves excitement and adventure.  Now as my Bucket list has not been completed but I have done a lot of the things on it.   Going to Alaska is one of my most memorable, observing Grizzly Bears in the wild, hiking the Valley of Ten Thousand  smokes, seeing a  glacier calving and riding the wave caused by it and to feel a big Grey Whale swim under the boat you’re in and splash you with his tale as he comes out under the other side.  So at the ripe old age of 50 I trekked off to Alaska. My trip started by taking the train from Anchorage to Denali to climb
Mt. McKinley.  This part of the trip was not to go to the top but hike as far as I could in 4 hours and come back. I never made it to Mt, McKinley as they had a snow storm and we could not get to the Mountain.  Half of Denali was closed so we were turned back.  I did enjoy the breath taking beauty of the area and spent the day hiking around the outskirts of Denali Park,  where I witnessed the horrifying act of survival in the wild.  A mother Moose and her calf where attacked by a Grizzly The Mom did try to fend off the Grizzly but then ran for the river with baby in tow.  They both made it to the river where mom got out far enough to be safe but the calf did not make it.  The Grizzly took it down on the shore of the river and dragged it into the brush. I took this opportunity to get my butt out of dodge.  I have to admit that this was not something I wanted to see nor have the trip of my lifetime start out this way. The scene of carnage did cause many sleepless nights but I have since dealt with this and moved on from it.  It did make the rest of the trip nerve racking as I was always on hightened alert of every little thing around me.  I think it made my trip better as nothing got by me even when I was being awed by the beauty of the landscape.  I spent the next two days hiking the area without incident. I then took the train back to Anchorage which in miles is not far but the train travels at 10 mile per hour so it does take 8 hours to get there.  I laid over there for the night then took the train South to Seward, AK  where I chartered a boat to take me to Holgate Glacier and all points in between.  Whale watching was amazing, seeing a large pod of Killer Whales hunting seals, I was worried I would witness another act of survival  in the wild, but I was spared this and was able to enjoy seeing these amazing creatures, Not long after the Grey Whale surfaced and it seem to be intrigued with the boat and hung around for quite awhile where it swam around us, under us and at one point I thought he was going to capsize the boat. But he did not and splashed the hell out of me.  He surfaced right next to us and then his tail came up almost on the boat and smacked the water and soaked us. Now that in itself was great but the after effect sucked as now I am frozen, literally my jacket was frozen. I had to spend most of time on the bridge next to a small heater to stay warm.  The captain was nice and let me take the wheel for a few minutes.  My coat never dried before we got to the glacier so I froze up again while taking pictures.  Then after a while the glacier started to crack and moan as it began calving. The sound is so ominous and haunting, and the more it cracks the more adrenalin starts to flow and my stomach was doing flip flops as the thought of how much was breaking off and then the water displacement, holy cow, tsunami. The line from Jaws came to mind.  We’re going to need  bigger boat. We were back far enough to be safe but as that ice fell in the water and the wave started to come at us, I sure did hope this guy knew what he was doing, because at one point the wave was taller than the boat, or at least in my mind it was.

This was definitely a crap my pants moment.  I only remember grabbing the  railing and holding on for dear life.  Now the captain did get a good laugh at my expense not knowing he just blew his tip. But it was an exhilarating experience that I would do again. 


The wild life at sea was just fascinating, the little Puffins, the sleepy Walruses piled on a small out cropping of rocks, reminded me of a pile of Cresteds on my lap. Eagles perched high in the trees along the cliff walls watching for their next meal to swim by and a huge pod of dolphins that swam all the way back with us to the inlet.  The wild life there was incredible on land and in the sea. 

  stay tuned for part two.

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