The travel bug has bitten me. I have been blessed to travel to several extraordinary places in my 50 years, but I yearn for more experiences. Early on in my 20s, a friend sent me plane tickets to Alaska not once but twice! Exploring Alaska is unlike anything you will ever experience in life. It is a must-see!
I remember it just like it was yesterday. Shirley, the little naive girl from the South, ventured out on the journey with nobody else accompanying her as she rode on the airplane for the very first time. Imagine the thrill and terror all rolled into one as I stepped foot on the airplane. Upon take-off, the strong force pushed my head back against the seat as I gripped the armrest. I prayed the entire time we were taxiing down the runway before the wheels left the ground!
Atlanta, Georgia was the next stop to change planes. My friend, Tara, met me at the airport. This was during the times when visitors could actually be inside the terminal before 911 happened and security was increased everywhere. It was so pleasant walking with Tara, as she made sure to get me to the right concourse so I didn’t miss my next flight. Man, those were the days!! I say that because at the next stop, my friend, Chris, met me with her family in Salt Lake City, Utah on my layover! We sat around talking and laughing as the time passed way too quickly. We snapped some pictures (I wouldn’t be who I am without documenting the occasion with a picture, of course!), and then Chris hugged me before she and her family waved goodbye as I disappeared into the airplane to find my seat.
Arriving in Alaska was surreal. My friend picked me up at the airport and whisked me away to begin my Alaskan adventure. The time difference was only four hours, so it wasn’t that brutal, but it did take 14 hours of traveling to reach my destination. We rested, and then the next day, we set out to explore.
(The pictures are definitely “dated” with the grainy look from the film back then, but I’m thankful to have these sweet memories despite the quality. There were no pocket cell phones with the ability to take crystal clear photographs in those days! ~gasps~ It was almost 23 years ago!)
The morning fog covered the mountains at first, but by mid-morning, the clouds rolled back to reveal the most beautiful, breathtaking, monstrous mountains my eyes had ever seen!! My family and I would vacation in the “mountains” of North Carolina, and I thought they were amazing. Well, the mountains of Alaska made the mountains of North Carolina look like ant hills!
We hiked to the baby blue glaciers, took pictures in front of a waterfall coming off the side of a mountain, and rode four wheelers on a frozen lake! It was unbelievable!
“Don’t go off somewhere else, we have yet to fish for King Salmon!”
Oh, that was an adventure!
I distinctly remember stepping in waders all the way up to my hips and laughing. What a sight I was, for sure! But, they were needed if we were going to stand in the creeks as the salmon swam upstream. My pal, Cal, the most beautiful Black and Tan German Shepherd thought it would be cool to “fish” also. The only problem was the current was so swift, it swept him off of his four feet faster than we could reach him in the creek. We scrambled to get a rope to hold on to as my friend ventured deeper into the creek after Cal. Within minutes – that seemed more like hours – Cal was back on solid ground, shaking his thick coat and looking at us like he was ready for another adventure. Shortly thereafter, a King Salmon almost as big as me hit my line. I definitely needed backup to pull him in as he twisted, turned, flapped, and struggled against the current and my rod trying his darnedest to get away! Ah, but with reinforcement with what turned into a team effort, we wrangled the King Salmon and made him ours!!
I visited Alaska in the summer, which was like a dream being in the Land of the Midnight Sun! We rode motorcycles at midnight, where it was just as bright at that hour as if it were midday, noon. They truly do have 24 hour daylight in the summer months, and you need heavy blankets or room darkening shades to sleep when it’s like that! Then, in the winter, it gets dark so early – really around 4 p.m. – that depression is very real for many residents during that time. I enjoyed seeing both seasons, but if I had to do it over again, I would only visit in the summer. The air was so cold in the winter that it was like razerblades cutting into my face when I ventured outdoors without full face coverings or ski masks. Even still, I appreciated the generosity and the experience to travel from one end of the United States to the other – twice – to see God’s Country in Alaska! I’m certainly no world traveler, as there is lots more for me to see, but I am thankful and completely grateful to have seen The Last Frontier!