If it had been a game of hide and seek against the moose, we lost. On the other hand, grizzly bears, caribou, dall sheep, dall porpoises, sea lions, seals, otters, puffins, eagles, and whales – both humpback and orcas, truly made up for the elusive moose.
To be honest, we saw two moose cows – one from a distance on our first day and I dismissed it. “We’ll see lots of others,” I said. We saw another, so camouflaged by the brush it was eating that I almost missed it. But otherwise, no Bullwinkle in sight.
I am home now from my dream trip to the last frontier on a tour that covered the Kenai peninsula and the towns of Homer and Seward, then north to Denali. In addition, we did Anchorage and a day trip to Whittier on our own prior to the tour.
Instead of rebooking a cruise that was canceled in 2020, Kathy and I opted for a National Geographic land tour – just 12 of us plus the driver in a sprinter van. Our friend, D, joined us. Best decision ever to travel in a small group. And at last, I’d made it to Alaska.
What surprised me most on this trip?
The glaciers. Lots of glaciers we saw on two cruises, one in Prince William Sound and the other in Kenai Fjord National Park, as well as other stops along the way.
Seward is located in the largest temperate rainforest (vs tropical) in the world.
Most of the mountains we saw were remarkably lush and green. I just expected more granite or snow.
Alaska, especially the Kenai peninsula has a large Russian influence, with numerous Russian Orthodox churches. Also included are four communities of “old Believers” near Homer – people who relocated to the area beginning in 1968, and whose beliefs pre-date the Russian Orthodox Church.
More than 50% of Alaska’s population live in the Bush, which is defined as having no direct access to either roads or water highways. They rely on ATV’s, snow machines, and bush planes.
Only 30% of visitors see part of Denali. A much smaller percent see the entire mountain. We were part of the 30%.
Anchorage is one of the most diverse cities in the US. We had Uber drivers from Puerto Rico, India, Mexico, Somalia, Ukraine and American Samoa. Who would ever think that the city is home to a large Polynesian population, as well as the others?
Anyway, that’s all part of traveling, isn’t it? Having your eyes opened and your assumptions challenged. The vastness and remoteness of the state is shocking to witness. When we took a small plane back from Seldovia, it had to first be unloaded of its cargo and there was a steady stream of people there to pick up their packages from Amazon, Office Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, to name a few. This is normal life for them.
Wherever we went, we were met with folks who have tons of passion for their state. On different occasions at Denali, we met two professional women, who moved to the state out of college, and never left. They both married men they met there, and they’ve each made the remote, no-indoor plumbing area their home, one for 24 years, the other, 28 years. I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast they were to Perley (previous post), yet their love for the state was the same.
Someday, I might make it back. There is so much to see and do, and besides, I still need to find a bull moose!