Travel Stories in Alaska

Today on the blog we talk about a trip to Alaska, one of those places that I would love so much to visit again to get lost in the endless landscapes to say the least, and to confront a bit with myself and my limits. Anchorage in hindsight still has a little charm, with its beautiful open-air market, its green parks and rivers full of salmon.

After a few kilometers, the view repays all over the long hours sitting on the plane and even of thousands of mites that I breathed in the hostel. When people ask me how is Alaska, my first response is always wide with breathtaking views as far as the eye goes, both to the south on the peninsula of Homer and north through the huge park of Denali with McKinley that look down.

And then, of course, the animals! I can say I have seen them all, from the imposing Grizzly to calm moose, coyotes, foxes, puffins, sea otters , beavers, American eagles, and that species of goat and of course the Alaskan Husky and then, to the south, sea lions and whales.

One of my many dreams was to go to Alaska. Perhaps for the tranquility that the nature gives me and the silence that hangs between the mountains and the lakes. Alaska is located in the northwestern end of the North American continent, bordered to the east by the Canada, to the north by the Arctic Ocean and to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean. Not all of Alaska is inhabited because of its very low temperatures. About half of the total population live in the city of Anchorage.

Alaska is an important journey from all points of view. This means that nothing is conventional in this portion of the world, even the fauna. You will go for days, therefore, hunting for the rare and wonderful bears and moose beyond the breathtaking scenery. These are certainly the most impressive animals but no less interesting is the caribou, elk, mountain sheep and snow goats.

The wildlife in Alaska is mainly active in the evening and if you have hired, for example, a motor home, peeking through the small window quite often you will notice the bright little eyes. They could be those of a lynx, while during the day you will have to give way in the street maybe a moose distracted. Although unlikely to pass almost unnoticed, they are not less important than the furry creatures like martens, mink, ermine, beavers and foxes.

The Northern Lights, often called aurora borealis is an optical phenomenon of Earth's atmosphere, mainly characterized by bright bands of a wide range of rapidly changing forms and colors in time and space, typically the color red-green-blue called auroral arcs.

It may seem trivial but in Alaska in the summer also is quite chilly. In some places lack of running water and electricity will make you forget the shower and even a toilet with all the comfort, let alone the ability to load phone and camera.

Alaska is must for those who love nature, who does not fear the stiff climate and who never get tired of the green surroundings of Taiga and Tundra. Given the trite cliché that has carried me there I also recommend it to anyone who needs to find himself and is also wonderful for fans of photography, for those who love extreme sports, from climbing on glaciers to the dizzying in rubber dinghies on the rivers or the calmer kayaking.

I do not miss on the trip:

Anchorage is the classic American city, with streets and avenues. Even neon tubes invite us to enter every shop.

Katmai National Park, the bear sanctuary is the most spectacular Alaskan park. Any photo or movie you saw on grizzlies or salmon fishing is from here. The viewpoints dedicated to the bears were two from the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary north of the park and the Brooks Camp in the west. Access to both was complicated. McNeil for even one had to submit to an improbable lottery. For Brooks it was simpler, but the transfer from King Salmon where we landed coming from Anchorage was done on small seaplanes. This too was an experience.

After losing the lottery for McNeil, we were forced to go to the Brook and I must say it was a happy choice, although obliged. Brooks is certainly the best than McNeill. Four days in the middle of (literal) bears with even a close encounter of the third kind. We were subjected to a course of coexistence with bears and learned how to behave in their midst, even in the case of an attack. Then there was a single motor vehicle in the park. And we took advantage to visit the Valley of the Thousand smokes.

At the beginning of 1900 the volcano Novarupta, one of many in the park, erupted enough ash to fill a long river valley more than fifty kilometers. A century in rains, ice and water have eroded the sea of ash, creating a fantasy world made of light gray spiers, caves and canyons of all sizes. For the rest of the time we spent on the platform installed next to Brooks Falls. Everything here is called Brooks from a lake, waterfalls and the lodge.

We could see bears at all hours fishing salmon, using each one a different technique. The first was the classic, recognizable in photographs and movies. They placed side by side on the edge of the waterfall, facing the valley, and they waited for the salmon leaping upward to the fly. I must say that the number of salmons that managed to ride out of the barrier was higher than I would have expected.

The second technique used by many bears was to walk through the rapids with his head under water and then bite the salmon. The third seemed the least credible, put into practice by younger, perhaps because it's easier than others. It appeared to me, in fact, more like a game than a fight. In places where the water was low enough to allow the race, the bears chased the visible salmon, trying to block them with their paws. After long observations, it seemed to me that the second technique of underwater hunting was the most profitable.

Whatever the technique used to capture them, the Bears reserved a terrible fate for the salmon. Under a superabundance of food, it could choose and then take the fish out of the water and block the ground with a paw and then with surgical precision grasp the skin with his teeth and with one tug him alive. Finally, to my surprise, only they ate the skin, the fattest part, leaving the fillets to the seagulls reminding me of the scenes from The Discovery Channel.

Kenai Fjords National Park. We do not miss the cruise among the fjords on a sunny day. We set off from the port of Seward and immediately came to meet otters despite the destruction caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster. Sea cruises are common in the park along the fjords of Kenai Peninsula where several glaciers fall. We we went up to Pederson Glacier, dodging the ice blocks and small icebergs that fell off from its forehead. Another great step was the circumnavigation of the Chiswell Islands, a cluster of rocks on which we admired fur seals, guillemots and puffins. I can't finally forget the close sighting of a whale and 6 orcas.

Gold in Independence Mine! The magic word that caught the imagination of thousands of prospectors in the early 1900 after the Klondike Gold Rush (Canada) also came here, and the most obvious traces can be found at Independence Mine. There are still cabins and buildings around the mine in ruins that preserve some of the original machinery. Some rail surfaces even among the scaffolding of the galleries. All this makes the idea of inhuman toil endured by miners.

Valdez is a border town located in a pin position. It is the southern terminal of Alaska Pipeline. Many earthquakes have felled in the area as Alaska is one of the most seismic region of the world and a vast wooded area sunk in the sea for several meters. The water was up to half of the trunk of dead trees. Valdez is the most convenient starting point for cruise ships visiting the Prince William Sound and its glaciers, especially the most spectacular, the Columbia Glacier. Two days of heavy fog prevented us from its visit.

Alaska Pipeline is certainly a masterpiece of human engineering and its zig-zag line represents an original attempt to stem the damage of an earthquake. But the risks run by the environment are enormous, because the pipeline runs the oil that comes from the Arctic Ocean through the whole of Alaska. We met her going on the Valdez to Fairbanks and north of Fairbanks, along the Dalton highway. It seems that one of the little-known collateral damage caused by the pipeline is that in the north this infinite and unknown pipe hinders the periodic migration of herds of caribou.

Dalton Highway is the more fascinating and secluded street of the village. Despite being a highway it was almost completely unpaved. It leads to Prudhoe Bay, to more than six hundred kilometers to the north to the Arctic Ocean. Dalton was irresistible, but also dangerous for the almost total isolation of the trail and the lack of assistance in case of need. Also the guide was risky, because the rain made sides of the roadway slippery, already pending outward because of its humpback shape. It can be a fun experience, but only in good weather. Transit was subjected to regulation and special permits. We decided to go to only part to the Arctic Polar Circle.

At about 150 miles north of Fairbanks and the Dalton highway crosses the Arctic Circle. Apart from the landscape, forests as far as the eye goes and the almost constant companionship of Alaska Pipeline, the Arctic Circle emanated us an irresistible charm.

Denali National Park is the most famous park in Alaska, but also the most difficult, because it is crossed by a single road of about 150 km and only on that one can move through with your own transportation. Then there are buses that run back and forth and from these you can get on and off, on request, at any point of the route. You have to be equipped and experienced, especially to not end up in conflict with bears, and have special permits.

There were animals like bears, caribou, moose, to name only the most important, but they were scattered and to see them from the street you need a little luck. But usually we could. By road instead you certainly would see Mount McKinley, the highest in North America if it was not at least in August almost always covered by clouds.

The sighting of McKinley was a kind of treasure hunt that we won partially. The park is also famous for having been the place where Christopher McCandless died. During his stay in the park he voices the film Into the Wild - the wild lands written and directed by Sean Penn.

Eklutna Cemetery in about 40 km north of the capital is in one of the last villages in Athabasca country, inhabited continuously since 1650. The Tanaina people met white men in the late 1800 following the explorations of Vitus Bering and James Cook. Here the Russian Orthodox missionaries arrived in 1840 and due to fusion between the Orthodox Christianity and the practices of the natives, we were able to admire the colored houses of the spirits erected over the graves in the small cemetery of the village. Often families use specific colors for their houses of spirits in order to recognize the graves of members of their clan.

A trip to Alaska is a true return to nature really in the last frontier.