Alaska has a special place in my heart and so I was thrilled to head off on a little adventure last week with my younger brother, visiting family in the Seward area, packing in as much activity as possible in just a few days.
The first morning we were out early to catch the sun rising over the mountains. I always forget until I return how absolutely stunning this place is... and repeatedly encountered frustration when what I captured on film in no way conveyed the majesty of what stood in front of me!
At every turn there is something amazing to see; bald eagles in the sky and evidence of recent visitors in the sand.
These bear tracks dwarfed my cute pink Nike's.
And the tracks were everywhere, even trailing alongside the road. Head's up, be alert!
The first new snow of the season had just fallen on the higher peaks, and paired with the changing colors of fall it didn't matter that the skies were grey.
My last visit to Alaska was to a much different terrain, Nome in the north to see my nephew Travis cross the finish line of his first Iditarod last March. This is truly one of the intriguing aspects of Alaska, it's amazing variety of regions.
Bitter cold on the frozen Bering Sea off the shore of Nome
Travis and his fiancee Sarah run their kennel, Turning Heads Kennel, out of Seward and my brother and I came up to help out with various projects around the property as they prepare for the upcoming race season. Between the hikes, exploring and visits were sessions of painting, wood chopping, organizing and storing away of food for the dogs.
Their property is in a stunning location, with cabins...
... and views of the surrounding mountains.
Of course no trip to Seward would be complete for me without a run past the Seward Fisheries, where I labored away for seven summers earning cash to put myself through school. I don't think there is any way to convey the conditions of this type of work: it stinks, it's cold, it's wet, you're in slimy rain gear from head to toe and you're required to work seven days a week, 16 hours a day... for the entire summer. A physical, emotional and mental endurance race. I am very happy my appearance here this time was simply to remind myself of how fortunate I am that those days are gone and snap a quick picture!
One of the highlights of the trip was a hike to Exit Glacier on another day.
It was raining slightly, the skies were overcast and the Park Ranger encountered as we headed in said he wouldn't turn us away, but the park was closed (due to the government shutdown) and should we encounter trouble - a fall, bears - we would be on our own. All in all not the best start to an afternoon of hiking but we decided to proceed on, after taking particular note of the below.
And for good reason, this park is known to be full of bear.
And we saw evidence.
But it was worth the anxiety. A spectacular hike to a spectacular destination.
Though I have to say moving through the trees caused me to feel very very nervous, and I made sure to make a hell of a lot of noise!
Once up on the mountain, the stress was worth it, behind us the valley of turning colors...
... doll sheep on the hills to the side...
... and the glacier ahead.
The crazy thing is I can remember when this glacier extended much further down into the valley. It is receding and it surprised me to see how much the glacier has melted since my last visit, even though that was nearly 30 years ago. It causes one to pause and think.
Then there was fun taking selfies at the glacier's edge. My brother has the best adventurous nature, and I adore heading out with him knowing I'll be challenged to keep up. It's good for my soul.
And leaving by a different path, to thankfully avoid the forested area.
Beside the exploring and work at the kennel, it was great to see family I don't meet up with often, here a game of red light green light lead by my youngest nephew followed by a bonfire.
And the stars. Oh my goodness, if only I could share a photo, so bright flooding every inch of the
sky, they nearly didn't look real.
Another special sighting were bull moose alongside the highway, fighting, locking their racks in a contest over a female moose. Okay, I've never ever seen anything like this and I probably never will again. Hence I feel very sad I only had my iPhone with me and not my fabulous Nikon so I could get some decent shots!
Okay, I'll admit it, there is just something about Alaska that brings out my inner badass - I just want to embrace it all. So when my older brother said we should go off-road exploring on the ATV's, I was all in.
Moose and wolf tracks...
... and a trail of amazingly large bear tracks. I did note after this encounter how alert my brother was, continuing through the afternoon - scanning left, scanning right.
All the trekking was worth it, taking us to one side of Bear Lake...
... and another.
Finally it was time to head back home to my family and my comparably tame suburban life. I can't wait to return next summer with my kids and husband, I think they need a dose of this as well.