I fell in love.
Maybe it is because she is so vast, pristine and serene. Maybe it is because she, for what I can see, has been spared destruction from human hands.
Yes, Wi-Fi does exist there.
Yes, due to tall mountains and zero cell towers in the ocean (duh), Internet service along her southwest coast is, shall we say, challenging.
No, it does not appear to be challenging for her residents. They have found a different way to pass the time or entertain themselves. They draw the drapes, open a window and watch nature do its thing.
No need for streaming. Nor apps. Nor X, formerly known as Twitter. Just two eyes and an open mind will suffice when you visit this beautiful region.
Never ever has my jaw hung for 72 hours straight. Until I visited “North to the Future.”
“The Last Frontier.”
You know, the most beautiful state in the Union.
I saw a mama black bear and her cubs. From a distance of about 15 feet. Not at the zoo. It was somewhere in a Ketchikan rainforest on Day 3 of my seven-day Alaskan cruise.
Most folks know being in the vicinity of a female bear and her cubs is a huge red flag and potentially deadly situation.
Terrified at first, I threw all trust at my high school-aged guide (honestly, did I have a choice?) and watched in awe as mama taught her cubs how to survive.
At one point, cub number 1 climbed a very tall tree. Cub number 2 ventured out on a limb that was hanging over a rushing river. He was scared. He wanted to jump in the river and join his watching-and-waiting mama. Instead, he hesitated, made a couple of mock attempts at leaving the branch and then cried. Mama just glared at him. The cub finally got the message and leaped into the river.
Moral of the story?
Let your kids experience life’s ups and downs. Give them survival skills. Do not do things for them even if they cry for your help. Let them learn from their mistakes as you watch and lead by example from a distance.
Observing bears in their natural habitat—despite our little expedition group having no weapons to protect ourselves—was an incredible experience. I was just smiling the entire time—OK, I admit, almost the entire time. The first five minutes after we spotted mama and her cubs, as previously noted, were scary. But I was hooked on Alaska thereafter.
Watching bears in an Alaskan rainforest was a bucket list item.
Was this real?
Yes, yes it was. It got more real.
A bald eagle swooped down to snatch some fish from the ocean. Right in front of me while I lounged in a chaise on my balcony reading the latest James Patterson novel. The next day a bald eagle was perched on a stoplight along Juneau’s Veterans Memorial Highway. Just hanging out, looking magnificently patriotic ‘n all.
Yeah, the tour guides left this out of their “must see or do” lists.
My advice? Just keep looking up, down or out. Perhaps you will witness a life-affirming moment. Like North America’s only indigenous eagle—our national bird—perched high above the tree line or swooping silently low, readying itself for raptor things.
Looking like a total badass.
Bald eagles can invoke a sense of pride when you see them in the wild. They represent America, after all. Regal, resilient and purposeful.
Their six-to-eight foot wingspans are incredulous. That bald eagles can see marine prey from atop a 40-50 foot coastal pine tree, dive bomb into the ocean from 500 feet away and then grab a quick meal… well, it is really amazing to witness.
Watching a bald eagle scoop-and-score was a bucket list item.
I heard a lone wolf howling near midnight as we cruised by the coastline. I also went to a Salmon Bake where I had a delicious barbeque dinner that included freshly caught and grilled salmon. While we were dining, salmon were spawning right behind our table.
That was not on my bucket list. But it should have been.
Alaskan irony: eating salmon while watching salmon spawn and then die.
After breakfast one morning, I went out to my balcony and just stared out at the water. It is one of my favorite things to do on a cruise. Out of nowhere, a pod of whales appeared. Now, most of us would normally grab our phones and take a picture, right?
I did not.
I was so moved by the whales’ graceful moves in the calm ocean, I became memorized. I took in the moment. I did not try to commercialize it on social media. Not until the pod was a good distance away did I come out of my hypnosis and yell to my friend, “Shannon… whales!”
She came rushing out—as well as some cruisers in the next balcony over—and we heard them. The whales were singing. Their lyrics echoed over those still waters.
How do you capture that with a camera?
Let me repeat myself.
HOW DO YOU CAPTURE THAT?
You do not.
You just remember God’s handiwork for the rest of your life.
Seeing whales was a bucket list item.
I saw Mendenhall Glacier. And despite all the hype and glorious pictures of this wonder, you still aren’t prepared for your first glimpse. I mean, my goodness, it is incredibly massive. And blue. And did I mention massive?
A seven-mile trek to see that glacier (and Nugget Falls!) up close was painful on a blown knee—surgery is on August 30th so be prepared for drug-induced Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, posts. But to experience that with a dear friend, my brother and his wife, well…. that was unforgettable.
Seeing Mendenhall Glacier was a bucket list item.
And all the memories?
Alaska taught me to unplug, put “the machine” away and just take in everything she had to offer. In respectful awe and silence. At times, all I could hear was my own breathing, even though Ovation of the Seas was cruising at 25 knots per hour.
I literally stopped… and smelled the roses.
Upon reflection, I realized that there are places on this rock that desperately need our attention. Not because they need to be fixed.
But because they will fix you.
I have been down lately. The first anniversary of my husband’s passing happened during this cruise. Between that and all the newscasts showing homelessness, poverty, litter, election madness and lawlessness, well… it had become overwhelming.
But Alaska fixed me, dammit. I found so much joy. I got my feistiness and mojo back. Prepare yourselves.
I am not a nature girl—more a Caribbean beach girl I’d say— but now I love the outdoors.
From a respectable distance, of course.
Alaska taught me to get reacquainted with nature and marinate in it. To appreciate everything this wonderland has to offer and leave it as pristine as when she first courted me.
You know what else?
Alaska is God’s country.
Even if you are not a person of faith, this state will change you.
The same way seeing your first born child changes you. Or when a loved one dies.
Alaska shows off her beauty in so many different ways. And I’ve only just begun to open her precious gifts.
She has changed me. In all the right ways.
I urge all of you to unplug and visit our largest state. Number 49 out of 50 in statehood, Number 1 in looks. Book an Alaskan cruise—it is not cheap, but if you sock away $200 a month for a year or so, you can do it.
Just do it.
I am going back next year. I’ll add a week in Denali National Park because what’s life without whimsy? And orcas? And grizzly bears?
Alaska spoke to me.
At first a whisper, now it is deafening.
I need her. I need more tweaking.
Americans need her.
She is what everything good about our country, is.
Now go get yourself fixed.
Note: I took many pictures. I did not post any. I want you to visualize what Alaska is all about and experience her for yourself.