"You just can't describe Alaska. You're gonna love it."
The parting words from my dad before MJ and I left for our cruise to Alaska seemed to follow me for our entire trip. Granted, as a semi-jaded wannabe-journalist, I doubted very seriously that this place, or any place for that matter, could be "indescribable." But as the week wore on, and as the photo gallery of stunning panoramas in my brain continued to grow, I realized that the old man was right...
There aren't adequate available words to truly describe Alaska, but boy did I love it.
We were far from the only ones that shared this opinion. As one often does on a cruise, I found myself talking to random strangers at every corner, and across the ship the people I encountered all seemed to repeat the same refrain: "The pictures just don't do it justice."
|Our hike along the Skagway River to Laughton Glacier|
So if words can't describe it and pictures don't do it justice, how on earth do I tell the story of our 49th state? Well, like its breathtaking vistas and reserves of oil, the range of emotions that Alaska invoked upon me were in no short supply - some that I can only recall feeling once or twice in my life. And so it seems, that shall be the story of Alaska.
|Another glacier in the Tracy Arm fjord.|
First and foremost, Alaska made me feel small. As a Floridian that's largely unaccustomed to the term "topography" the soaring snow capped mountains were inspiring to say the least. Peaks that appeared to be only a few hundred yards away, were in actuality several miles - a distortion of distance thanks to their looming size. It wasn't until I learned that our ship only covered roughly 3% of the entire state that the vastness of Alaska truly started to set in.
|The huge waterfall at Mendenhall.|
Somewhat unexpectedly, Alaska made me feel challenged. Always one to prefer the comforts of a luxury hotel lobby to the great outdoors, our treks through trails of Mendenhall Glacier and across the lunar-esque landscape leading to the Laughton Glacier, put previously unused skills to the test in a very big way. Almost to my surprise, I wasn't eaten by a bear, nor did I break an ankle, yet I did come feeling a little winded, but very accomplished.
|Worth every step.|
Alaska made me feel conflicted. The first and only sighting of Orcas on the trip made me question their captivity in a way that no documentary ever could. The idea of removing these beautiful creatures from both their families and this equally beautiful environment is one that I may never be able to justify in the name of "education" again. Likewise, from the base of Alaska's massive glaciers, one can clearly see that they are shrinking. Whether this is caused by the influence of man is a debate that I'm not here to enter, but the question of why is one that we should all try to answer before it is too late.
|One of probably 100+ humpbacks we saw during the week.|
In total contrast to the last 500 words, Alaska made me feel nothing. Well, not "nothing" so much as "nothingness." Perhaps the hardest thing for me to do anymore is unplug both my devices and mind while on vacation. I'm sure you can relate. In Alaska, this just came naturally. From the sight of the first breach by a humpback whale on day two, my mind was in a fairly consistent state of mush. Between our view of Puget Sound in Seattle and our week on the Rhapsody of the Seas, MJ and I probably spent a collective total of 45 hours in a chair, with a beverage, simply staring at our surroundings. It was magnificent.
|Not a bad view for breakfast.|
Finally, Alaska made me feel proud. It is easy to forget in this giant concrete jungle that so many of us live in that our world is an incredible place. Words can't describe it, and pictures can't do it justice, but if there's one thing that I managed to take away from Alaska, it's a sense of pride that places of such mind numbing beauty still exist in our world.
Enjoy Your Stay