I’ve never dreamed of living in Alaska, or even visiting the state as a tourist. Then in February my daughter moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Eagle River, just north of Anchorage. In February. I thought that was very brave.
Seasoned travelers who heard this news asked if I would be visiting her there. You have to see Alaska. It’s beautiful. So I did. And they were right.
I like being outdoors, but no one would call me the outdoorsy type. I’m also not a fan of cold weather. Thanks to Raynaud’s Disease, my toes and fingers don’t really warm up until temperatures reach about 75 degrees. And of course we all know that Alaska is cold. There are even songs to reinforce its reputation, like “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s 40 Below),” a 1959 success for country singer Johnny Horton.
Guidebooks say that summer highs in Anchorage average in the mid-60s. During my trip—the last week of July through the first week of August—temperatures climbed to the mid-70s a couple of days, with plenty of sun, “too hot” according to the locals. For me, the warmth made a good vacation even better.
I also lucked out with the mosquitoes. Despite spending lots of time outside in the evening, I never saw the giant ones I had been warned about. Sunset occurred around 11:30 pm; it didn’t get completely dark for another 2 hours.
After visiting Alaska, I will now be one of those people who say, If you have the chance, go. It’s a place of stunning natural beauty.
The first excursion, to test my mettle, was a hike to the top of Mt. Baldy in the Chugach National Forest, the perfect spot for a view over the town of Eagle River:
Next came a camping trip, and salmon fishing in the confluence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers (I’m the one in the middle):
I didn’t catch anything except rocks, but the next day I watched this bear snap up a salmon with ease. Standing on the shore, I spotted him just across the river. The distance between us was about the width of a 4-lane highway:
In Denali National Park, the night before another challenging hike, I stayed up late enough to see the northern lights:
A 5-hour glacier tour by boat offered incredible views, but landing on a glacier in a small plane was a little more exciting. This looked like a movie set to me:
Thanks to Jessa and Tom Sharkey for sharing these photos. And a big, heartfelt thank you to Jessa and Alex, whose generous hospitality made visiting Alaska such an enjoyable and memorable experience. Couldn’t have done it without them!
Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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