Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I always imagined Alaska would be a natural paradise. To my delight, my first visit to Alaska—a voyage from Juneau to Sitka aboard the MV Liseron—proved my imagination true.
Blessed with beautiful sunshine and joyful company, Southeast Alaska was everything I had hoped and anticipated—and more—as it continually exceeded my expectations in the grandest of fashions.
While I always expected Alaska to leave me uttering adjectives such as breathtaking, gorgeous and awe inspiring, my experiences over the course of the week's voyage up fjords, over pristine waterways, and across the Tongass National Forest added three completely unexpected words to my new Alaska vocabulary—transcendent, magical and admiration.
Among the many moments, there were three in particular that truly resonated and left a lasting impression.
Glacier day completely took my breath away. After steaming up Endicott Arm, we loaded into skiffs, complete with hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows, to motor the last stretch up to North Dawes Glacier. I expected to encounter a massive ice wall upon reaching the glacier edge, but what I didn’t expect was the beauty of the ride up the fjord, or the sheer power of the ice formation as it moaned, creaked and calved in its effort to shift and push forward.
The steep, towering mountains on each side of us formed a deep valley of magnificent blue water through which we carefully navigated. Icebergs, of such clarity they could have been floating, hand-carved ice sculptures, surrounded us, bobbing gently, always subtly threatening to rotate and show us their fresh underside.
Harbor seals with their thick white and black spotted coats lounged on the flatter and more easily accessible icebergs, occasionally taking a dip in the frosty water. Mothers patiently nursed their young pups.
As we sipped our cocoa, explored waterfalls cascading off the mountainside and chatted amongst ourselves on board the skiff, our patience paid off. The glacier calved, releasing enormous slabs of ice splashing thunderously into the water, and in exquisite fashion reminded us all of the sheer beauty and power of nature.
I cannot think of a word more fitting to what felt like an indescribable event than that of transcendence.
While not much can compare to that calving glacier, the thrill of catching your first halibut or the beauty of kayaking up a secluded, tidal lagoon, our trip to Brother’s Island was an excursion invoking another surprise descriptor—magical.
As the skiff unloaded us onto the beach, the delight of entering the other side of the trees was far from predictable.
Crossing through the tree line, the forest world was immediately transformed into a magical, green and spongy wonderland. The many layers of deep, vibrant, green moss had grown on, around and over every possible surface creating what can only be described as a pillowy, mushy layer of green clouds making for a bouncy walk!
The next two hours were spent blazing our own trail to the other side of the island searching for signs of deer life and viewing peculiar, yet alluring mushrooms, lichen and algae. The closest cinematic comparison was best stated by our guide who reminded us of the children’s classic, Fern Gully. Similar to the forest in the movie, Brother’s Island proved to be a truly magical place.
Lake Eva Hike
Lastly, it was our remarkable sighting of a brown bear feeding in the wild that really rounded out and concluded my Alaskan experience. On our return from hiking to Lake Eva, our guide spotted a brown bear in the meadow of the valley below us. Hiking further down the ridge, traversing quietly along, we were able to get a closer look.
The bear was now just across the stream from us, aware of us no doubt by our human scent, but still calm enough with our presence to continue munching. While this was not our first or largest bear sighting, it was the one that left me with a true feeling of admiration for these magnificent animals.
This close encounter (well as close as you want to get!) left me with a lasting respect for the sheer size and power of these magnificent omnivores, and concern that bears remain threatened due to habitat encroachment. My interest in bears and conservation was rekindled.
The ongoing connection with nature over the course of the week proved to be a peaceful, yet transformative journey, returning me to my Pacific Northwestern roots.
I couldn’t imagine traveling through Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage in any other fashion and I certainly hope that everyone has a transformative opportunity to connect with nature and the outdoors through their own future adventures.
For more details on this adventure, see our trip: The Wild North