Alaska is one of those places where people go to seek adventure. Its fierce beauty, overwhelming silence and lack of luxury hotels makes it a natural spectacle. Once you get off the main roads and into the wilderness, a whole new world opens up: raw, magnificent and still. But most places in Alaska are not even accessible by car, so I decided to make my first trip there by taking a cruise.
As a child I knew that Russia had sold Alaska to America back in 1867 for a mere $7 million. But it wasn’t until I saw Alaska that I felt how foolish the Russians were.
Alaska is massive. Its coastline is more than double the length of the entire U.S. coast, and it’s a fifth of the size of the United States. But with population of only 686,293 people, it is pretty much deserted.
Cruising is probably the best way to see Alaska for the first time. As our cruise ship, Crystal Harmony, was slowly gliding through Glacier Bay, passengers gathered on every inch of deck in silence, like in an amphitheater before a symphony was about to start, granite peaks surrounding the ship, echoing sounds from the wild as we passed.
Paddling across a mile-deep lake in a kayak, driving 4-wheelers through the wilderness, and stopping to understand totem pole messages were just some of the Alaska experiences we’ll never forget. My kids especially loved catching salmon, and when a huge sockeye they later named ‘Bob’ chomped onto their line, carefully reeling him in was one of the most exciting moments of their lives.
We didn’t see bears, and our plans for dog mushing got canceled because of warmer-than-expected weather, but that only makes me want to head back into the wild to experience the roughness and beauty of Alaska once again.
Elina Fuhrman is an intrepid traveler based in Los Angeles. She grew up in Russia but knew before she was 10 years old that she would spend her life exploring the world. She is now a contributing editor to Travelgirl and JEZEBEL magazines. Her work has appeared on CNN, in The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Conde Nast Traveler, InStyle and other publications. Fuhrman’s photos often accompany her stories. To see more, visit her website www.elinafuhrman.com.