NOTE: This story is written in alphabetical form, giving highlights of a recent 15-day land, rail and cruise trip taken by Debbie and David Sebastian.
A: Alaska, our 49th state, and home of the following:
B: Bears - black, grizzly/brown, polar. Although we saw none in the wild, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage provided a chance to see a grizzly, two brown bears and juvenile and adult black bears where they have found a home after being rescued. The center is dedicated to educating visitors about Alaska’s wildlife. Moose, reindeer, wolves, lynx, wood bison, a porcupine and elk are also found at the center.
C: Cruise ships - the Star Princess was her name and our home for seven days. She carries 3,100 passengers and a crew of 1,205.
D: Denali - the highest North American peak at 20,310 feet and we were able to see her on two days joining the 33% club, the percentage of those who are able to get a glimpse of “The Great One” when the weather permits. Daylight - we arrived in Anchorage just two days after the summer solstice marveling at 19 hours and 20 minutes of daylight.
E: Eagles - bald and golden, seen everywhere even riding along on the tip of an iceberg.
F: Fjords - Kenai Fjords just north of Seward where a 1.2-mile trail takes you to Exit Glacier views.
G: Glacier Bay National Park - the calving Margerie Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier where harbor seals pup and rest on icebergs.
H: Humpback whales - seen from the Lido deck of the ship. Halibut - the best seafood ever and eaten as many of the 15 days of the trip as I could manage, halibut and chips, crusted halibut, yum.
I: Iditarod - a race for sled dogs (now part husky and greyhound) and their mushers, so a visit to four-time champion Jeff King’s Husky Homestead was on the agenda. A sled dog puppy is thrust into your arms as you disembark the tour bus. King spent about six months in North Fork as a baby and a family heirloom Indian cradle basket hangs on the wall of his visitor center.
J: Juneau - reachable only by boat or seaplane and the only state capital bordered by another country, Canada.
K: Ketchikan - stroll down the historic Creek Street and marvel at the totem artwork by Native Americans at Totem Bight State Historical Park.
L: Lynn Canal - about 90 miles long, the deepest and longest fjord in North America, and the cruise ship entry passageway for historic Skagway which grew to a population of 10,000 during the gold rush and is now home to just 900 permanent residents. From Skagway, prospectors climbed White Pass which led to the Yukon River and Klondike goldfields. As they entered Canada, border guards required them to carry 2,000 pounds of supplies to ensure they had enough provisions to last a year as they searched for gold. This meant a 33-mile trip turned into a 1,000-mile trip as they carried some of the provisions up the mountain and sledded down to get more.
M: Mountain goats - their special hooves allow them to access steep mountain perches or race down a ravine next to the Seward Highway.
N: Nome - but we did not visit there.
O: Off-the-grid. Our bus driver and guide inside Denali National Park and Preserve shared stories about her lifestyle including use of an incinerating toilet to dispose of solid waste. Hmm.
P: Porpoises - bow riding next to the ship. Puffins - traveling in pairs, quickly disappearing below the water’s surface as they dive for small fish.
Q: Qiviut - soft yarn from the undercoat of the musk ox. These furry mammals can also be seen at The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
R: Railroad - a nine-hour rail ride from Denali National Park and Preserve to Whittier where we met our cruise ship. The Princess Rail has dome and dining cars and an open air platform for wildlife and back country viewing only accessible by rail.
S: State flower - Forget-me-nots, a diminutive blue flower chosen by the largest state. Surf Scoters flying in a straight line, skimming the ocean’s surface. The males have a brightly colored orange, white and black bill.
T: Turnagain Arm - south of Anchorage, the Seward Highway follows its shoreline and its flats are sometimes four miles wide when the tide is out. Trumpeter Swans found in pairs in forest wetlands and marshes.
V: Vancouver, B.C. - I know, this is not in Alaska. But this is where our Alaska adventure ended and where we spent the 150th birthday of Canada, on Canada Day at Canada Place, with 600,000 other revelers watching the fireworks over Coal Harbour. There were strawberries from Watsonville at the Urban Fare Market and Restaurant where two can find breakfast for under $20.
W: Willow Ptarmigan - the Alaska state bird. One was camouflaged next to the dirt road in Denali National Park and Preserve. Wyatt Earp’s gun - supposedly checked at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, never claimed and on display there to this day.
Y: Yakutat Bay - our second day at sea took us into this bay where we visited the Hubbard Glacier. Yakadillas found at the 49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage and the Denali Salmon Bake where buffalo chili is also on the menu.
Did you know?
See an image of the $7.2 million canceled check written in 1867 by the United States to Russia for the purchase of Alaska at: www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=41.