Not the Ice Road Truckers: The Wilds of Alaska Luxury or Adventure

 Not the Ice Road Truckers: The Wilds of Alaska Luxury or Adventure

Travels With
Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Seniors Travel Editors

The Rockaway peninsula has some impressive wildlife as far as New York goes. This time of year, it is especially true of the mosquitos. They have been known to grow to the size of hummingbirds. But they pale in comparison to the pesky bloodsuckers in the Alaska wilds.

From the modern city of Fairbanks, where they are of little consequence to the roads to the Arctic Circle, they own the wilderness.

Not so many years ago, the only ways to reach Alaska were either to fly in or try to navigate the often muddy and impassable Alcan Highway. The choice of the road was somewhat akin to the cable television show “Ice Road Truckers.”

Alaska was a foreboding place with great settings for adventure writers and movies but not a place most people had high on their bucket lists for luxury vacations.

You can sit back in luxury or get out and enjoy what Alaska has to offer for the more adventurous.

Cruise lines offer a wide variety of shore excursions that range from sitting in a tour bus and watching as sights pass by (but by doing this, you’ll never get the flavor of our biggest state) or in several of the cruise ports, there are some of the more adventurous options. A motorcycle ride 25 miles into the depths of Alaska, flights onto a glacier and dogsledding on the rivers of ice are some popular ones. But for now, let’s focus on a wilderness motorcycle ride… The roads aren’t fully paved, and the forest is dense. Take your eyes off the trail and, if you’re lucky, you might just see wolves, moose, eagles and the odd, occasional grizzly bear.

The excursion runs no matter the weather. If you haven’t brought foul weather gear, the operator will be happy to lend you a set.

Another Ketchikan option is a flight into the Misty Fjords. A float plane takes you aloft and offers some of the most spectacular views on earth. All too soon it lands at a wooden float in the middle of nowhere and you are transferred to what has to be one of the world’s fastest speed boats. This could have been a PT boat zipping through the Alaskan waters, it moved so fast. The sights along the way on the trip back to Ketchikan are amazing. Seals give you a quizzical glance as you zip by. If you are truly lucky, you might get to see an Orca.

In Juneau, passengers can once again opt for a soft excursion or hop into a helicopter for a ride to the Mendenhall Glacier for a dog sled adventure or hiking on rugged ice formations which have taken literally thousands of years to get to the point on which you stand. Even though it may be mid-summer, make sure you bring a sweater or jacket because you’ll be standing on what could pass for a freezer. A nice souvenir to bring home (no, not ice because that’ll melt) is a rock that has been carried along on the ice flow as it carved its way through rocky formations.

It’s still a fact of life in Alaska that many of its cities are unreachable by road simply because…there are no roads. Places such as Ketchikan are reached either by air or sea. Cruising up the Inside Passage, waterfront cabins that dot the waterway almost all have both a boat and floatplane moored by the front entrance.

Most lines cruise the Inside Passage, providing terrific views and calmer waters. Announcements indicate that we are approaching the Hubbard Glacier and there is a sudden rush of passengers heading out to retrieve their cameras. Within minutes, the railing is lined with budding photographers waiting for “that shot.”

We are fortunate to have been invited by the captain to view the glacier from the bridge. The location in the upper reaches of the Celebrity Infinity ship affords an excellent vantage point for images of one of nature’s wonders; and we are rewarded as huge chunks of the glacier explode from the main mass, falling into the sea in a form known as “calving.” That’s how icebergs are formed.

Celebrity is not the only line making this journey and these offerings. Check out Holland America and others. This could be the trip of a lifetime.

Photos courtesy of Flickr.

Rockaway Stuff

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