After a wonderful week in Alaska, followed by a busy week of settling back into normal life and overcoming land sickness (have you ever heard of such a thing?!), I’m going to attempt to describe some of our beautiful trip!
Note: all pictures were taken by the lovely Mariah Uttz. We didn’t even unpack our camera the entire trip (typical), so we’re eternally grateful to her for capturing these memories!
Two weeks ago today, the entire McLaughlin family (minus my sister, Mariah’s, husband whose work duties kept him home) gathered in Seattle, Washington from all over the country for a pretty remarkable trip.
My parents wanted to take all of their children and grandchildren on an Alaskan cruise for years, and this proved to be the year it could actually happen. We’re so grateful for such incredible memories with people we love that we’ll keep for a lifetime.
We set sail (or whatever it’s called) from Seattle on Friday and arrived at Tracy Arm on Sunday. That had to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Tracy Arm Fjords are encompassed by an inlet unreachable during much of the year because of snow, fog, and icebergs.
I really can’t describe the beauty, magnitude, and reverence in that place. We received lessons in fjords, icebergs, glaciers, and Alaskan wildlife over the loud speaker while took in the beauty. There were also moments of silence to respect the wildlife when we could hear the “white thunder” of glaciers cracking and breaking. Incredible!
The boat scarcely looked as if it would fit through the winding passageways until at last, we came to an opening where we saw the majestic Sawyer Glacier. From here, we eeked around a small island and retraced our steps back out.
As we crossed this island, we noticed the tent without a boat or plane in sight. Not sure how they got there, but I’m sure it was an experience of a lifetime for them!
I spent a lot of time that day thinking about such beautiful, hidden places in this vast expanse of an earth that God created. I couldn’t help but think, Why? Seen by so few, it must please him to create for himself. Certainly, it glorifies him when we see beauty and turn to give him praise, but places like this must bring him glory just by him seeing and feeling satisfied with what he has made.
The next day, we docked at Juneau, Alaska’s capital. It’s a tiny town, and largely touristy. It actually reminded me somewhat of Gatlinburg, TN in that way. We spent the morning, taking a bus down to hike around Mendenhall Glacier: another exquisite site to behold.
Jonathan, and Liam on his back, were part of the group that hiked down to the waterfall near the glacier while I stayed back at the visitor center to help watch kids in strollers.
When we went back into town, some of us rode a tramway with amazing views of the city of Juneau.
On Tuesday of that week, we docked at Sitka. A beautiful little port town that reminded me a lot of parts of New England. Sitka didn’t have a port where we could dock, so we took smaller boats over.
We took a bus tour and hiked around at Totem park. Sitka happens to be the first city in Alaska that the United States owned, bought from Russia in the late 1800s.
There were some extended times on the ship, where there was plenty to do including eating, more eating, cooking classes, mixology classes, dance classes, swimming, a piano bar, karaoke, a workout room, evening shows, and much more.
We unfortunately encountered some rough waters Tuesday night as we headed to our next stop: Ketchikan. This town is much dingier than Sitka, but had tons of character! It was built on boardwalks with houses practically built layer upon layer above. This is a picture of Creek Street, which was originally part of the town’s red light district.
Finally, on Thursday evening, we made port in Victoria, British Columbia. My parents graciously watched all the little ones on the boat so that all the “kids” could go out into town together. We took a limo tour that included the tallest totem pole, the Govenor’s gardens, and a lovely castle (where the X-Men movies were filmed).
Things I learned about Alaska:
This is not a cruise for those prone to sea-sickness. This includes me 😦 I had never been a cruise before, but from what I’m told the waters are a bit choppier and we had longer periods in the open sea between destinations.
The towns feel timeless. Alaska is so different from so many other places, partly because of its remoteness and difficulty importing or expanding. The towns are all small, and each day we docked, you really couldn’t tell which decade you were even in. You can lose your sense of time in a place like this.
Bald eagles abound. It was incredible how many bald eagles we saw. Like, it was no big deal. I learned that half of the population of bald eagles reside in the inside passage of Alaska.
The towns are still flourishing with Native American influence. It’s no surprise, I’m sure, that all of these places began as Native American tribes that were pushed out by the Russians (and Americans, depending). But the areas are still rich with the heritage. The towns were listed in English and along with an indigenous language, and many of the people are of Native American decent.
Alaskans don’t bother with exterior decorating. Because the land is so harsh for much of the year, you will rarely see a manicured lawn with landscaping. And all of the houses are built out of wood (which is less durable, but cheaper to import).
The thing I loved the most about our time in the inside passage is that it felt so different from everywhere else in the world I’ve been. The scenery, the wildlife, the towns were all so uniquely Alaskan.
It. was. awesome.