Patsy and I are exhausted, as are our friends Steve and Sandy Skinner. We just returned from two weeks of old-fashioned tourist travel in Alaska. We began at Fairbanks and made our way down to Denali Park where we saw grizzlies, moose, sheep, caribou, porcupines, and lots of birds and small mammals. It was my second time to the park and the most productive in terms of spotting critters. Then we went south by train through the wilderness to Denali State Park where we finally experienced clear weather and a great view of Mt. McKinley — best view I have ever managed of that big rock. When I think of my friend, Marianne Skeen, I am filled with admiration that she has climbed it twice. Just looking at it wears me out.
Then, we took a train to Whittier and hopped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship for a week down the inside passage with stops at Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. We saw more grizzly, oodles of whales and the best look at glaciers I’ve ever had. We also treated ourselves to a float plane trip back into Misty Fiords National Monument — good grief, what a sight! Nobody needed a barf bag.
What strikes me about luxury travel is that I love it. The food, entertainment, cushy excursions and overall pampered lifestyle caters to every whim of modern man (and woman). But I still think the best way to see the wilderness is with a pack on your back — away from cars, planes, stereos, smartphones, deadlines, bosses, and annoying corporate culture. Oddly, I saw more wildlife on the Alaska trip than I managed while backpacking in Nepal and Maine earlier this year. But I still love those deep-woods boondocks. I have to confess, though, that having beer and ice cream on demand while sitting in a deck chair and watching whales has much to recommend it.
THRU is making progress, and I will report on it soon. Meanwhile — stay vertical and walk.