It was hard to imagine how we could top the first part of our Alaskan cruise filled with kayaking, fishing and taking in all the open space of the 49th state, but then we got to Skagway.
The name alone doesn't elicit much excitement, but Skagway is not land locked, and in fact, you can get in a car and drive for about 4 days straight, and eventually you'd hit Interstate 5. That's comforting for some. We did meet some Angelenos who moved there to quit the rat race and enjoy life. I asked one young gal who was taking a year off to experience Alaska how she was enjoying the town, population 860, and she said, winter was pretty rough, and no surprise, it gets a little boring, but she was happy the sun was out when we were there.
My family took the most amazing helicopter ride out of Skagway where we could get a great bird's eye view of the area.
Not only that, but the chopper dropped us on a glacier where we got to hang for a few hours and take it all in.
Like other parts of Alaska, they bring a whole world to this one spot for 4 months. The only difference is that this spot is on top of a glacier, in 10 tents, and includes 240 Alaskan huskies.
16 people live on the glacier from May to September. These people are from all over, but are definitely dog people, and many are Iditarod racers. The huskies all have different coloring, but are the same breed, and were oh so excited to see us. I thought they wouldn't like to haul people around, but I was very wrong. They couldn't wait to get out and go for a run. While we greeted the chosen dogs for our ride, the others were barking with abandon becuse they wanted to go too. The noise was deafening. Click on the video below to hear their cries of joy.
It was amazing to see nothing but white at times. Sitting right behind the dogs, bits of snow and ice fly up at you, but the view was spectacular.
It was also fun to steer from the back. The key is to keep your knees bent for bumps and turns.
When it comes to racing, the dogs can actually run for 10 hours straight without stopping, and that means no restroom breaks. They're like horses who can keep going about their business while they're doing their business. The only problem with this scenario is that the driver can't go 10 hours without a break, so they stop for the captain, but not the crew.
We were also fortunate enough to be up there to see weeks old puppies who will be living the glacier life.
It was really a spectacular experience, and yet again another glimpse into a different way of life. Living on a glacier? I think I'll just visit when the puppies are born.
We were at sea all day the next day, but part of this travel day included seeing Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier. We were all up early to try and catch a glimpse, but the captain came on and said the fog has rolled in and visibility was so low that we weren't likely going to be able to get close. No problemo. While we were on a large ship, glaciers are also really large, and they have lots of ice of varying sizes coming off of them, and in the event of no visibility, I was fine not risking driving through, on, and over ice.
Fear not, less than an hour later, the fog miraculously lifted for us, and we got to see the enormous glacier. Hubbard measures 76 miles long by 7 miles wide and is about 650 feet tall. Of that 650 feet, about 250 is underwater.
The ice we saw was over 450 years old. Over the last 100 years, Hubbard starting advancing which is pretty rare since most are retreating like Mendelson that we saw a few days earlier.
It was crazy to see the ice floating everywhere, and yes, a bit worrisome since you never know how much is underwater, but I trusted the captain (and wasn't up for swimming), and we made it safely through.
The cruise ended in Seward, where a 4 - 1/2 hour train ride awaited us to Anchorage.
We weren't looking forward to this, and the 6am start time, but then the train ride turned into yet another amazing tour and farewell to the beautiful Alaskan scenery.
The landscape was breathtaking.
We saw very few people or houses on our journey, though at one point, our train guide told us about a couple who had been living in a small house off the tracks for decades and sometimes they stand on their lawn when the train goes by and wave.
Sure enough, they were there bright and early and gave us a big wave as we went by. I suppose if that was the only action and people you saw every day, you'd do it too.
We saw lakes, waterfalls, low tides, eagles (ho hum), but we also got our first moose sighting. I wasn't fast enough for a picture, so you're just going to have to take my word for it. That's a large animal.
I loved Alaska. I hadn't seen that much open space since...ever.
I'm always interested to know the paths people take in life, and while I think living in Alaska would be difficult at times, it seems like the rewards would be endless.