After a year of travel delay, the Rowan Travelers were finally able to resume their travel adventures and visit Alaska. Alaska had been on the group’s bucket list for some time, and the group was eager to finally travel. Fifteen Rowan Travelers embarked on a long flight, joining 27 others for a guided tour.
Alaska is a state closer to Japan than to North Carolina. There are few scheduled flights to this state so the flight schedules were unusual, especially on our return flight. It is about a 9 hour flight, to Alaska to arrive at a rather busy airport.
The weather was one of the most interesting aspects as we had to pack as we thought it was late fall. With temperatures in the 40s at night and 60s during the day, it was kind of a heat shock. The weather during our visit seemed to be constantly cloudy with rainfall most days. However, the mild rains never hampered our trips as it was still clear and sunny at 2pm. The clouds were light but low – very low. At one point, our hotel in Anchorage was blocked by low cloud. The constant sunlight and cool humid weather are perfect for flower plantings all over the city and their plantings were spectacular. The city of Anchorage spends $ 45,000 each summer on hanging baskets and annual flowers, and it shows.
Our trip was a mix of land, train and boat trips. We only had the privilege of a small part of Alaska because it is the largest state in the United States, bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined, or as I was told a native of Alaska: “It would take 11 North Carolinas to make Alaska. A short drive for Alaskans is 3 to 4 hours. The mountains were breathtaking, as you would expect with lots of snow and ice. Unfortunately, the clouds blocked our view of Denali, the third tallest mountain in the world, but the mountain view was beautiful and exciting. Our bus tour covered miles and miles of mountains and valleys dotted with lean little pines. Most of the landscapes reminded me of vast plantations of dwarf Christmas trees. Tall, skinny pines are dwarf because of permafrost, frozen ground a few feet below the top layer of soil. During our travels, we were always within a few miles of a lake, stream, graceful waterfalls, and the famous Alaska Pipeline. Alaska has over three million lakes, so our viewpoints were supplied with water by beautiful forests and wildlife. Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world’s largest seaplane airport-lake with over 750 resident aircraft. There are nearly 8,000 private pilots in Alaska. Small planes constantly flew over Anchorage – about 200 flights a day.
Each tour featured daily highlights, ranging from searching for gold nuggets, watching whales on a boat cruise, to visiting an authentic native Alaskan village. We had the chance to see Alaska’s famous pipeline and experience glaciers on our boat rides which also included seeing seals, sea lions, whales, puffins and bald eagles . On an outing, we learned that sled dogs were watching them pretend to be dragging snow. Visiting Denali National Park gave us a panoramic view of the high snow capped peaks with grizzly bears, caribou and moose along the way. Some group travelers have chosen parallel excursions by plane and helicopter, exploring the frozen glaciers. There are 616 named glaciers in Alaska as well as 100,000 unnamed ones. My wife, Gerrie and I went on a float tour on a frigid river with 34 degree freezing water and chunks of ice splashing around us.
This scenic Alaska tour was as wonderful as our previous adventures. Our travel confidante, Debbie Faggart, helped provide impeccable logistics and relevant detailed information. Special thanks for their tireless efforts with Salisbury Motor Company to provide our airport shuttle service. As always, the Rowan Travelers were just plain fun as travel adventure companions.
Darrell Blacksoudeur is a retired horticultural officer and director of the North Carolina Co-operative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at [email protected]