We finally boarded our delayed Delta flight after midnight and began our long flight home. I took this and the pictures below out of the plane window as we said goodbye to Alaska and all of the new friends that we made there over the two weeks. We left as we had arrived: enthralled by the immense beauty and wildness of this place. We want to come back as soon as possible. There is no place on Earth like Alaska and Alaskans are some of the most unique and interesting people that you will ever hope to meet. We packed a huge amount into these two weeks and only scratched the surface of things to do in Alaska.
Our greatest find was Judy White of RaftDenali who became our Alaskan fairy godmother and guided us throughout our trip. RaftDenali is an awesome operation that will take you whitewater rafting and even has cabins to put you up just outside of the park. Judy White for me will remain the face of Alaska: incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, and generous.
I also highly recommend Chugach Outdoor Center for serious whitewater rafting on the Six Mile river. These are class 4 and class 5 rapids that are thrilling. Like RaftDenali, you are in the hands of some of the most experienced rafting guides in the country. It is an amazing experience.
I am often reluctant to recommend really pricey trips but, if you can swing the roughly $375 per person, for the kayaking trip with Alaska Sea Kayakers, it is worth every penny. Pete the owner is also a wonderful resource for information and suggestions. He is a great personality with a huge amount of experience in the area. For all of these trips, be sure to tip your guides. These young people generally work summers in Alaska and, while I am not sure how much they are paid, they deserve tips for all that they do for you (not the least of which is keeping you alive). We also recommend a trip (and possible overnight stay) at Whittier, a place like no other.
It was a bit daunting to have sunlight virtually all day. It can be highly deceptive for those of us in the lower 48. You find yourself going to midnight without realizing the time. The natives tend to eat later as well. It was great for hiking since you are guaranteed light on any long hikes. On the flight home, you can see how light it still was at 1 am from the plane. We then kicked over to the rising sun as we made the lower 48 for our connector in Minnesota. We did not sleep for 24 hours but the views out the plane window were compensation for the loss of shuteye.
To say the least, we fell in love with all that is Alaska: the mountains, the wildlife, and particularly the people. If you have not gone, please go. Alaska is one of our greatest national treasures. It is something to be seen and experienced. Even if you are not a hiker, there are a wide variety of things to do. Alaskans love the outdoors and they will help you see it from trails to buses to boats to helicopters to planes.
So farewell Alaska . . . until next time.