A trip to Alaska is never long enough (as long as you go in the summer!). You want to hike every trail there is as you never know what mystery awaits you around the corner. You want to capture the view from every angle of every beautiful landscape. Alaska seems to fill you with infinite energy to keep going up every mountain and paddle that extra mile. It is a place full of authentic all-natural organic inspiration.
B and I went to Alaska at a perfect time of year. The blueberries are in full bloom, the salmon are running, the whales are very active, and the wild flowers are everywhere. The weather is cool but warm by Alaskan standards with highs in the 60s. We had 6 full non-travel days to see as much as we could.
So Friday morning we got up at 4 am to make our first excursion into the wild. We hopped on a boat and started on a 3 hr trip to Tracy Arm Fjord north of Juneau where we were staying. This trip is a excellent way to blow your mind right from the start. As we work our way up the arm, the walls get closer and higher. Breathtaking waterfalls cascade down from 8000-ft peaks. Chunks of ice become more frequent with some still holding on to an ancient mystical blue like you’ve never seen before. A cruise ship has been following us for an hour now and continues to get closer. We are on a whaling boat that my friends work on and until now we have had this boat to ourselves. Now this massive floating city has pulled so close that we reach out and touch its hull. Our large boat looks like a speck next to it. We proceed to take on passengers right in the middle of this icy ocean.
The energy now escalates as people from all over the world crowd the vessel. We started our move into the smallest part of the arm towards the finale of the Sawyer glacier. If you’ve never seen a glacier in person, then you won’t understand why I will not even try to describe it. The best I can do is to say that it is alive, moving and looming in its stillness- you can feel it touching you. A part of the glacier cavs off into the water and the sound overrides your senses. It is a powerful experience. On our way back, to add some sprinkles to the cake, a rare humpback breaches from the water while still in the arm. The whale is rare because there are not many fish in this brackish water and whales are not usually spotted here especially in such an active state.
Saturday, my friends were off work and we decided to go kayaking in the Mendanhal glacier lake. This would be fortuitous as we would need this skill later on in our trip. We basically circumnavigated the entire lake taking our time and enjoying the sites. We parked half way around and watched the salmon running. We spotted a young black bear just learning how to get the fish into his belly. The people tend to crowd around in this area and so we headed back to the boats and set off for the glacier. There were more icebergs in the lake than usual and it made for beautiful pictures and playful navigation. We got too close to the glacier magnetized by its beauty, but escaped unharmed. Continuing around we parked and picked up the walking trail to the glacier climbing rocky embankments and traversing small streams. Ice caves form underneath the glacier and we dared to walk underneath where it is always raining from the melting ice. This day was made more amazing as we had forgot our packed lunches and did all of this hard work on an empty stomach. We feasted off the beauty of this landscape and felt no lack of energy or enthusiasm. Of course dinner was that much sweeter when we finally made it home.
Sunday brought us to another glacier in place called out the road. It was accessed by an almost 2 hr hike into what seemed like the land of Narnia. Or maybe it felt more like the Shire from lord of the rings. Either way it was other-worldly. We had our friend’s dog with us to keep us company and scare off the bears. She proved to be an excellent trail dog. We hiked beside a glacial river that runs gray from the silt. As we neared the glacier the river opened wide and a massive flatlands sprawled out before us. It appeared we could approach the glacier that way but the river was slightly too deep to cross. We continued on through the thicket unable to make the glacier as it was still an hour away and time called us back. On the way back we noticed much bear poop that was not there on the way in. They are every where but tend to stay away from people.
We had been whale watching that Sunday morning and had come across a lighthouse that had sparked B’s interest. We inquired about it and found out that you could rent it for a mere $50 a night. Of course you have to find a way to get there. We were excited and determined and we made it happen. Charting boats and helicopters are the typical way of getting there but expensive. And since you need at least one crazy scary adventure while in Alaska, we decided to kayak. It was about 2 miles away and only 2 hours at the most, but over the ocean’s colder deeper water.
So Monday we set out in John’s truck that runs great except for a slightly dangerous gas leak. (Everything it seems is a little dangerous in Alaska.) Avoiding stray cigarette butts, we load up the kayak and head to the spot. We stop at a most beautiful shrine/chapel to pray for our safety and walk through a love labyrinth to meditate. The hardest part of our journey proves to be moving the kayak from car to water. We struggle with it’s heaviness over slippery rocks having to pause every few feet to rest and re-grip. It’s a relief to finally be buoyant. I will admit that I was nervous on the way out. The waves were a little choppy and running parallel to where we wanted to go which made it hard to hit them head on as you should. In the distance by the island we’re headed to, whale plumes spew from the surface keeping our excitement at a peak.
We arrive at the island at low tide and circumnavigate it twice looking for a good spot to dock. I was expecting valet service or at least a bit of sand to pull up on. Nothing but rocks covered in mussel shells and slippery vegetation. As we come around the island the first time the sea lions follow us a bit to check us out and make sure we’re worthy. Thankfully they leave us alone as they can be known to play with small boats and tip them over. We finally wrench our boat up 5 feet of rock in a small inlet and carry it above what we believe to be the high tide mark. Little did we know. We step into a fantasy paradise. Adam and Eve all alone surrounded by the beauty and wonder of nature, water on all sides. We find the trail and tromp our supplies to the lighthouse. We were to discover the history of the place later and to hear of its haunted reputation. Our quarters are rustic and minimal with no running water or electricity or heat. Perfect. The beds are wooden planks. On the wall are pictures of the place when it was first settled. A family lived here in a house that no longer stands. One picture shows a huge boat perched on top of the rocks that surround this island. We later learned of this wreck where hundreds of people died as the tide came in and sank the boat.
We wake the next morning to collect blueberries for breakfast and check on the boat. It was not where we left it. We are the luckiest people ever if you consider lucky being able to leave. The boat was 20 ft higher and laid perfectly parallel to the shore in between two big rocks. I would have swore that somebody moved our boat for us. Tides apparently can fluctuate much higher than the lines suggest. A miracle that our boat was unharmed and present. Later we hiked the perimeter with a whale following us from a distance. This walk provided a wealth of buried treasures hidden in the nooks and crannies; people’s pasts washed up on shore. We sat to rest and meditate on a flatter rock and as if to reward our decision or maybe say hi, our whale surfaced not 25 ft in front of us with a great plume of prana. This happened on my first trip to Alaska while meditating. It seems to prove the adage that if you wait and get still, life will come to you. It was a very special moment.
We explored and lived free and stayed an extra night for free. It was a reality that blinked and yet lasted forever. We pondered what it would have been like to live in another time like this where life was more struggle and so much less stress. A time where simplicity was the standard. How could we take this home with us to the everyday malay of city life? Maybe it will come with time and practice but it seems now that this fantasy has proven to much. The intensity of the dream has fractured the reality; it has split it right down the middle.
I will leave you with a small wisdom gained from my time there. In Alaska, clean is a relative state of mind, wet is absolute reality.
peace love & lighthouses
smf @ tyc