Sunday, September 15, 2013
ALASKA - the Land, the People and the Critters!
The land is remarkable, beautiful, harsh and unforgiving. Only the strong survive! We trekked over mountains, mud, springs, perma-frost, gravel and a little snow. The temperature has been recorded to below 90 degrees on places in the higher elevation. The lowest we experienced was 38. Fall begins and ends in September. Winter follows close behind. The natives watched the mountain tips carefully, monitoring how far the snow has "come down" from day to day. It moves quickly. (Even though it was the first of September, I realized I was wearing two shirts, long underwear, three pairs of socks, a stocking hat and a winter jacket.)
We took snapshots of grizzlies, caribou, moose, eagles, and ground squirrels referred to as "bear burritos." Their home in Denali National Park is well protected from too many visitors, no cars are allowed on the 92 mile road to the BackCountry Lodge without a very hard-to-come-by permit! A limited number of ex-prison-buses haul the tourists down the gravel road that is lined with surprises. Visitor centers provide necessary bathroom breaks.
Kodiak Bear Pizza was yummy, salmon/potato soup and salmon burgers a delicacy.
We rode planes, trains, buses and automobiles during this adventure, sometimes all in the course of a few hours. We rented a car in Fairbanks and drove the 13 miles to the NORTH POLE! Santa was on a vacation until November but we sat in his chair and shopped in his store. The reindeer were the only animals we saw that were fenced, but they were doing fine.
It was in Fairbanks that we learned we'd forgotten to tell the hotel staff to wake us up if the Aurora Borealis appeared during the wee morning hours. It did! The entire hotel was evacuated to the back property and were stunned at the other-worldly sight, as we slept on! (Can you believe it?)
Part of such a trip is meeting interesting people as well. We learned that young folks from all over the world apply for "resort" jobs online and proceed to spend their summers working in Alaska. Some are so enthralled by the experience they decide to stay, even if it means living in a tent, going to the creek for water every day and somehow withstanding the cold. We met some fascinating tourists, one elderly PA couple told of their work establishing schools for the Masi children in Kenya! We visited with retired airplane executives, school teachers, authors, and photographers from all over the GLOBE. One young couple from New Zealand told their stories as we shared a dining car on the train, complaining that their country was becoming a "nanny state" as we just smiled in sympathy.
It was there we met Windsong! She never stopped talking. She'd retired from the corporate world a while back, made her way to Alaska and evidently had not seen anyone to talk to since! She had words, STORED UP! We enjoyed that delightful, sweet woman.
We met Dorothy, a widow woman that lives in a one room log cabin above the Artic Circle, no running water, or heat other than wood. We met a young man that raises 25 sled dogs. We visited Wiseman, population 13, where an outdoor expert, his wife, and his sister lead all educational talks and demonstrations for those that DO venture that far north. We met a couple that run a restaurant on the Yukon, their building was broken into last winter by 3 bears that wrecked the place and stayed the winter.
Yes, most places are boarded up tight about Sept. 15 and revisited again the following June after winter.
We learned that during the winter months, the Anchorage airport has a DAILY non-stop flight to HAWAII! Smart folks!
Would we return to the Artic Circle? Probably not. It's one of those once in a life-time adventures for two very spoiled city slickers like us. But, WOW! What great memories and pictures forever imprinted on our minds. Too many to list! It is a remarkably beautiful place. The folks of Alaska are truly unique, brave, and kind. Stocking hats OFF to them!