Sunday, July 18, 2010

Northern Exposure

When a customer canceled a week engagement, I decided to take a trip that would be the furthest I could get from home, while still staying in the US. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t end up in Hawaii, but in Alaska.

Getting there was not easy – with a layover in Phoenix, I still got there at 1am local time. Luckily, the sun was still out. A rather strange flight where you get to see the sun set and rise (sorta) within the span of 5 hours.

I stayed at the Anchorage Hilton and spent one day touring Anchorage itself. It’s quite small and walk-able. And restaurants are still full at midnight (again, due to the long light hours, people tend to compensate themselves for the long, dark winters, by staying out late).

Click here to see some pictures of Anchorage

On the second day I took a Glacier Cruise. 26 Glaciers cruise takes you by bus from Anchorage to Whittier – a town so remote and desolate people used to wear t-shirts saying POW (Prisoner of Whittier), and is only accessible by a train tunnel and by sea. Along the way, the courteous driver stops at interesting vista points, explains about the view and the state and even offers to take your picture. At Whittier you board a catamaran and sail Prince Edward Sound to see… well, 26 glaciers.

Click here to see more pictures from the tour

It was a fun experience. We saw otters, ice, seals, ice, glaciers, glaciers, ice… you get the picture. The food served on board was great, and they even gave us binoculars. The crew fishes some ice blocks that you can use in a drink, if you want to sample a pure 100 year old ice. And the vie is breathtaking. All in all, a great value for a $170, even though it gets a bit old after the 10th glacier. Take into account that with the round trip to Whittier, this is a full day trip. Oh, and dress warm!

The next day I took the Alaska Railroad to Seward. This is a special train, with limited trips. It goes through some of the nature reserves, so you get to see more than you see from the road. I saw some moose, though no bears. And many waterfalls and icebergs (again). The train has a car with a transparent roof for the whole 360o experience. The trip takes 4 hours each way, so plan accordingly if you intend to return on the same day.

Click here for more pictures from Seward, the cruise and the train

At Seward, I took a cruise of Resurrection Bay. Less ice, but much more wildlife. I saw plenty of bald eagles, porpoises, seals, otters, puffins and 2 Humpback whales that just swam at us, and below the ship. We ate a great lunch on Fox island and took the long way back to Seward. From there, another long train ride brings you back to Anchorage. And even though it’s past 10pm, it was still bright and all the shops and restaurants open.

My flight back left at 1:40am – the latest (earliest?) flight I ever took in the US.

Alaska was a refreshing surprise. I was taken by the beauty, nature, and wide, open spaces. And it allowed me to clear my head and prepare for the rest of June, which turned out to be quite busy.
I highly recommend this trip. Next time I hope to visit Denali National Park and Mount McKinley.

PS: I was testing my new Nokia X6 GPS+camera on this trip. Here are some more geo-encoded images from the trip:

1 comment:

avi said...