Alaska – Don’t Miss the Boat
More people contact me through my website, www.sherylkayne.com, for assistance planning trips to Alaska than any other location. I particularly love those calls since living in Alaska for a summer and working as an oral interpreter in Denali National Park was a major highlight of my life.
I loved living and working there. It was the culmination of a lifetime dream that began when I was in seventh grade and set my goal to drive to Alaska, on my own, which is exactly what I did. I worked five days a week and flipped my work days so that I had four day weekends to travel around. I have two all-time favorite activities not to be missed: The Inside Passage and Kenai Fjords National Park.
Whenever I hear someone planning to fly in and out of Alaska and “skip the boat trip, I’m not into cruises” I cringe a bit. The Inside Passage is a not-to-be-missed experience. It is the coastal route for ships and boats along a network of passages weaving through islands along the Pacific Northwest between the United States and Canada. It was carved out by glaciers and a smorgasbord of giant Sitka spruce; clear, clean water; snow-capped mountains; glaciers; fjords and wildlife. Yes, there are commercial boats to choose from, but you can also travel like a local on the Alaskan Ferry, which is what I did.
I drove from Weston, Connecticut, across Canada to Prince Rupert Island to catch the Ferry where rooms are quite inexpensive, interesting people are plentiful, and you can load up your car and have all of your own supplies. I stayed on the boat two nights to reach Haines, Alaska and then drove the Alcan Highway back into Canada and up into Denali.
Here’s yet another boat trip! Be sure to plan a full one-day boat excursion in the Kenai Fjords National Park. There you’ll see abundant wildlife, spectacular fjords, glaciers, whales, sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, and an occasional black bear. People of all ages gasp and giggle at the puffins floating by. Their antics are charming, lovely and epitomize the Alaskan experience, particularly when they seem to be waving at a bald eagle overhead or an osprey passing by. The Kenai Fjords is a highlight of any Alaska trip and perfect for visitors of all languages and nationalities.
Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska Heritage Tours Reservations, 509 W. 4th Ave., Anchorage, AK; 1-877-777-2805; 907-265-4501; fax 907-777-2888; http://www.kenaifjords.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 6-hour tours include lunch, onboard wildlife guide, and free parking, $129–$139 for adults; $64.50–$69.50 for children).
If you’d like to stay a bit closer to home, another opportunity to visit with my favorite Puffins, consider volunteering with the Audubon Puffin project. There is the Seabird Restoration Program that works to protect birds and other wildlife, and their habitats. The National Audubon Society (NAS) began Project Puffin in 1973 to learn how to restore puffins to nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. Since that time, work has expanded to restoration and management of other seabird species, including terns, murres, and petrels.
Restoring seabird colonies takes years of work. Depending on the time of year, volunteers participate in banding, band reading, burrow monitoring, feeding, and productivity studies. Where will you go next and what will you do when you get there?