Yet another inexpensive trip for me. I used my free round trip airline ticket from Southwest airlines from here to Seattle. From Seattle to Anchorage round trip with Alaska Airlines was less than $500.
This World is full of Immense Beauty. How can I be so lucky that I got to visit Alaska? I spent two weeks in Alaska punctuating the journey on my birthday.
Alaska has a population of 698,473 in 2009. It is a state of superlatives; the largest state with 584,000 sq miles, larger than the second largest state doubled. It has the longest shorelines than all the other states’ shorelines combined, the farthest state from the mainland, the coldest, has the most volcanoes and most expensive (with a gallon of gas almost $9 in some places). It is also the state with the most enchanting and awelike spaces where the heavens meet the earth with trees, clouds, mountains, glaciers and water in between. It is a state to explore and appreciate; no, not by cruise ships but by foot and backpacks.
I was advised to prepare myself with cold and rain gear in the midst of summer. So I packed raingear, rubber boots, hiking shoes, wool headband (no hats for me), gloves, heat packs, back pack and of course my yoga mat. I was warned that weather can change from sunshine to cloudy to rain to sunshine within minutes so I better be well prepared.
The Local Scenery:
Homer is a 40 minute flight out of Anchorage. It is the home of about 6,000 Americans/ Alaskans (both natives and transports). It has a state of the art library and a little harbor with quaint and dainty souvenir shops and of course fish cleaning facilities. Traces of lupine flowers are just but a few left. Other flowers blooming are yarrows, fireweed, wild geraniums, wild roses and poppies. There were chamomile, watermelon berries and yes, I picked wild blueberries for breakfast. You can also spot migrating birds in V formation, a sign of summer end.
The Journey and Adventure:
I spent my first night in Homer waking up overlooking a panoramic 180 degrees of the east end of Kachemack Bay. It is a dead end so there are no vessel activities, just a view of glacier tips, clouds, water and trees (spruce and birch). I practiced my morning yoga on the balcony saluting the waking sun in the most pristine scenery. It was a true earth connection, grounded, rooted. That afternoon, I spent an hour at the sauna “detoxing” myself from traces of immediate city life. There is no indoor plumbing. Outhouse was nearby but be quick to shoo away mosquitoes larger than flies before they can land on your butt cheek.
The next day was a backpacking trip to the foothills of Neptune Bay where it is only accessible by boat across the harbor (20 minute ride) and trekking with rubber boots into water channels overflowing from Wosnesenski river. I spent a few days there in retreat like cabins disconnected from civilization walking on the beach, watching (with my binoculars) the free flying eagles soar above me, the sunset. As I looked up, the eagle gave me a present, its feather. I learned later that in the American Indian tradition, it is good luck to have an eagle feather. Neat! I was hoping to spot other wildlife.There were none except fresh tracks of coyote, moose and baby bear. Three sterling blue jays on the trees were waiting to be fed. They took turns landing on my palm, picked the peanut and flew away. They came back for more, over and over. I have never seen a sunset like this one. Oh and yes, the sun set at 10:45 pm where most people in the mainland are probably already in deep slumber.
On my way back to town, while trekking the water channels, the rain poured with zero warning. I laid my backpack on a rock and pulled the raingear from the pockets. I slipped on my rainpants slipping off my rubber boots while balancing on one foot (yep, the yoga practice comes in handy in moments like this). I also brought an umbrella and kept the rain away from my face. It poured pretty hard and by the time the water taxi arrived, the rain stopped and the sky was clear.
Fishing is an industry here as most of you know. Tourists come and charter a boat to fish. One guy caught a 135 lbs halibut (the largest) and several other smaller ones. The city provides a place to fillet the fish yourself or hire locals. It was so clean and no fishy smell. I felt a pang in my stomach peeking through the carcass bin feeling the blades into the fishes.
Then there was sailing. I sailed for two days. I saw very cute sea otters, puffin, thousands of birds but no whales. I also saw Saint Augustine volcano (it is an island) on the horizon and the two inactive volcanoes Mt. Iliana and Mt. Douglas. Again, the weather was nice and sunny. The first day was uneventful and brief. The second sail did me good. We encircled the two islands of Cohen and Yukon and the Gall Rock (bird sanctuary). The wind was very choppy. At first, there was much wind that the boat was tilting to one side with a six inch clearance to the cabin lip and we cut right through the waters. Then the wind stopped. We ended up “bopping” and encircling which made me seasick. Sadly, I ate prior and imagine what happened next. It zapped my energy the rest of the afternoon.
The Woz Adventure, the Highlight:
There are private pilots who fly their small planes and took people to the bottom of the glaciers to camp and/or raft down the river. They can only take 4 people at a time on a tiny plane. That I did. At first I was nervous. I talked to myself to leave my fate in the hands of the experts. I camped overnight at the bottom of the glacier and rafted down. The rafting was five hours down. I slept on rocks and snow beneath me. This was something I used to do during college days in Idaho years ago (no glaciers, just mountains full of snow). I gave in and wore a wool hat, wore gloves and occasional heat packs. Needless to say, I broke my yoga mala. Yeah, I can’t imagine doing a sun salute with or without my yoga mat, doing downward dog, planks, kneeling down (I was bundled up) and kissing the earth with my forehead. Yoga mala (mala means garland) is practicing twelve sets of classical sun salutes brahmamuhurta (before sunrise) for 108 straight days with no break. I have achieved this twice and I was on my fifth day of my third feat. I guess I have to start over.
Discover Alaska; not by cruise but by foot. It is in our backyard.