Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Great Land

My one and only prior time in Alaska, in June, 2005, it was about 54 degrees F and pouring rain. At age 53 and as a 3 year cancer survivor, I did my first marathon in Anchorage that day, crossing the finish line 26.2 miles from the start with a smile that might have covered most of this huge state. It was maybe the proudest day of my life. But I was only there for two days and saw little beyond the marathon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010 we stepped off the plane in Anchorage. It was 54 degrees F and pouring rain. “Nothing has changed in five years,” I jokingly said to my wife, Mary.

So the last two weeks were spent in Alaska, “The Great Land.” I have so many photos to download and organize, so many memories and adventures to get my mind around and write about, that it will be several weeks before I get it all into my blog. But that is what is coming here in “Oh to be hiking” in the next few weeks.

We did some hiking, kayaking, a float trip, a trail ride, an all day boat ride in Kenai Fjords, explored a ghost copper mill town, watched sled dogs train, and did some touring by rental car and tourist buses. We went into three national parks. We reached the Arctic Circle. And we had a great time. And got home yesterday, totally worn out after coming in on the “redeye.”

Alaska is a huge and scenic state. It is bigger than the next three biggest states (Texas, California, and Montana) combined. If its eastern-most part touched the Atlantic in Florida, its western-most part would dip into the Pacific in California. It is closer to two other countries, Russia and Canada, than to the rest of the United States. In two weeks, we could see but a fraction of it – but we sure tried to see as much as possible. And around every bend, it seemed that there was another jaw-dropping vista that was more incredible than the last one!

For starters, here are the wildlife species we saw (in the wild) on the trip (* means first time ever seen by us). I may have missed a few, and may update this later when I cross-check my notes

Bald eagle
Sea otter*
Horned puffin*
Tufted puffin*
Dall’s porpoise*
Steller’s Sea Lion*
Fin whale*
Hump backed whale*
Gray wolf
Dall sheep*
Grizzly bear
Arctic ground squirrel*
Canada lynx*
Willow ptarmigan*
Silver salmon
Coho salmon*
Trumpeter swan
Some type of arctic loon*
Snowshoe hare
Various gull species
Red squirrel
Some type of cormorant
Northern harrier


  1. Sounds incredible!!!! Can't wait to see the photos!

  2. WOW, what a fantastic vacation that must have been. I certainly look forward to hearing more about it and seeing all the photos!!

  3. Thanks Anne and Karen - yep, it was fantastic. I caught a cold one the way home, probably during the redeye flight where there was so much sneezing and coughing going on, but it was worth it. Beyond incredible. Art