Alaska, My Dream Vacation
by Pat Quintenz
© 1997 Pat Quintenz
Donning layers of clothes, gloves and raingear, I ruggedly viewed the ever-changing snow-capped mountains from a lounge chair on the deck of the Star Princess Cruise ship. Clutching binoculars and a Bailey's Irish Cream in hot chocolate (with rum) to ward off the cold, I watched calving glaciers, nesting black legged kittiwakes, puffins, floating sea otters and humpback whales. Seven glorious days on board!
Stopping in Ketchikan where they enjoy 155 inches of rain a year and milk is $4.10 a gallon, we saw quite a few eagles awaiting the incoming fishermen for a share of their catch. Ravens and gulls were the only other noticeable birds.
Our next stop was Juneau, the state capitol, accessible only by plane or boat. No problem--one out of five Alaskans owns a boat; one out of twenty, a plane. A wildlife cruise in a small boat got us out beyond the rain and gave us more sightings of whale, eagles, sea lion and harbor seals.
In Skagway we followed the route of the early gold miners via a narrow gauge train. Five small dots on the mountainside were alleged to be mountain goats. Saw no birds. Disembarking at Seward we enjoyed a scenic ride to Anchorage for the night. It's a lovely, very clean, flower-filled city where the average age of the population is 30 and almost every corner has an espresso coffee shop. Raspberry beer was advertised in one pub (nasty!). Hard to believe that there are so many yuppies in Alaska. Saw rock doves.
Left next day at 8:45 a.m. on the Midnight Sun Express Railroad for Denali. Gorgeous sunny day and we had several really good views of Mt. McKinley. At 1:30 we derailed in a narrow valley with wildflowers on one side and, on the other, a fast-moving stream with salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn. After a few hours this failed to intrigue. Over 800 of us were finally moved via the few cars still on the tracks to Hurricane, a crossing about 20 miles away, to buses that were brought from Anchorage--9-1/2 hours later!
We arrived at Denali around midnight, supperless and tired. Did see a mama and baby moose enroute in the continual daylight. A ride next morning into the park was way too short. Mew gulls, female harlequin duck with babies and a distant caribou were the only wildlife to be seen late in the morning. At 5:30 p.m. we bused to Fairbanks where we had another glimpse of Mt. McKinley just before entering the city. Relaxing on the deck of our lovely hotel beside the Cheena River we shared a drink and anticipation of the river cruise and meeting the Iditarod lady the next morning, and a gold mine and panning in the afternoon.
But for me, it was not to be. My bionic knee chose to go out. I was ambulanced to the hospital, drugged and pulled like a wishbone back into place, put in a brace and crutches and dismissed. I rested the next day, and the following morning, with the aid of wheelchair, good pushers and crutches I boarded the plane home.
Who wants to go with me on my next trip? I'm a jinx!
copyright 1997 Pat Quintenz, all rights reserved