Thanks to COVID, my 2020 North American adventure to the great state of Alaska finally came in 2022. With rain forecasted for the entire trip, I admit I boarded the plane with mixed emotions. It was a hard spring and summer for me personally, so I left the 96-degree weather of Tennessee packed with sweaters, boots, and a hope that this trip would be a reset button.
Well, Alaska it did not disappoint.
First stop was Ketchikan. With only a light jacket and very sunny weather, the morning we arrived, I sat off to explore on foot. The New York Café/Coffee House on Creek Street was my first stop for a morning cappuccino. I wanted to make sure I visited this stop of true American pride and history. With a strong cup of the local Ravens Nest brew, I enjoyed conversation with a few locals to learn more about the town. Ketchikan is a very close-knit town. The New York Café’ was once owned by a Japanese family. Lots to unpack here (and you can certainly look up the story), but let’s just say the citizens of this town take care of those they love. And then there’s Dolly. Oh, the infamous Dolly. Yep, look her up, too. She basically built that town –certainly Creek Street – doing what Ketchikan was really best known for – and, no, it wasn’t the goldmining. Just look it up after you put the kids to bed.
The next stop was Juneau. Sunny weather made the trip to Endicott Fjord Glacier something spectacular. I was able to capture a bald eagle perched on the tip of an iceberg (cover photo to article) seeming nodding his head in arrogant pride to his onlookers. As we gently navigated the icy chunks in the water, the massive glacier formation stood breathtakingly beautiful just yards away. Carefully we coasted closer, listening to every detail from our guide of how this beautiful sight came to be. Just as we were turning to make the return trip to the boat, the ominous sound of a glacier cracking and the gasps from the boat compelled me to quickly grab the phone and hit “record” just as the ice began to fall from this majestic formation. The force of the crashing made the boat shake. And just like that, Mother Nature was on full display.
The return trip on the ferry-style boat at first seemed long and uneventful. Then a quick jolt of the boat and a hard right turn awakened us sleepy onlookers as a rare sighting of an orca whale appeared in front of the vessel. The full day of honoring the beauty of the glorious state was one of the most powerful, moving experiences in my years of travel.
Our next stop was Skagway. Quite the quaint town, this isolated mile long town was full of history. The Skagway Streetcar Bus with its delightful guide, Valerie Jensen, carried us back in time as we explored street by street the history of what is known as the world’s most famous wind tunnel. With only a population of around 400 in the winter and 1000 in the summer, it was quite interesting to learn how this town survives on tourism. If you ever find your way to this tiny town, I highly suggest you try the king crab legs at Skagway Fish House. They will forever change your life.
Finally, the last stop of the journey was Victoria, British Columbia. Night whale watching was on the ticket for me. (Yes, I am addicted.) But as I traveled the short journey off the cruise ship to the ferry boat, I couldn’t help but notice the absolute stunning visuals of this town. Glorious gardens in full bloom and the architecture itself is worth a return visit to explore more of this Western Canadian wonder.
To sum up my week, I would say this trip made my top three travels of best places to go in the world. Celebrity Solstice was our vessel – which I highly recommend. For a thirteen-year-old boat (and after being down for over a year with the pandemic), the Solstice was exceptional in every way. The staff was incredible. The highlighted cuisine from all over the world was one of my personal highlights as well as my nightly trip to the martini bar with the cast of characters who not only made incredibly drinks, but also entertained us with their acrobatic pours of crafted martini flights. As far as my worry of forecasted rain? Well, it never rained a drop and the last day on the boat, I was back in my shorts enjoying an amazing cup of mocha cappuccino in the oversized lounge chairs strategically located in the beautiful solarium.
Whales, eagles and glaciers, oh my. If you get a chance and nature is calling, you must go. Alaska might be called “The Last Frontier”, but for me it was certainly first on my list of adventure fun and it certainly met the need of a “reset” button for my life.
Another tip…try anything and everything made with wild huckleberries. It will bring a smile, I promise.