Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife’
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When one thinks of a vacation paradise, the mind tends to conjure up images of a beach in Aruba or a sunset in Hawaii. A real paradise is something that doesn’t exist in the tangible world; rather it is a meaning that humans give to something that brings peace, tranquility, serenity and beauty to their lives. Alaska is, by that definition, the quintessential paradise of the highest extremes. By winter, the cold and ice and landscape combine to create images that can’t be described in words alone. By summer, the adventures, wildlife and seasonal brevity lure people in for 3 months to catch a glimpse of its majesty.
Alaska as a destination is an adventure of the mind, body and soul. Each season in Alaska is an unusual, profound, memorable and unpredictable experience in its own right. There is no wrong time to visit Alaska. Just ask a native. Just ask yours truly who has been there in the summer, spring and yes, even the winter. Just ask anyone with a true sense of adventure who has chosen to go where so few have gone…when so few have gone.
Alaska is a blessed place and one where you need go…..and go again, if you’ve already been. If you haven’t been, go. Go this summer! (Come with Amazing Journeys!! http://amazingjourneys.net/trip/cruise-alaska-2013) If you have been, you really do need to go again; you’ve only seen “the tip of the iceberg” and there’s SO much more to see and do. There are many many bucket list experiences that you can indulge in – white water rafting down a glacial river, bear watching along a fishing stream, hiking on a glacier via helicopter, biking an a national forest….and so much more. And that’s in the summer! In the winter you can go snowshoeing in a national park, dogsledding in the wilderness, Auroroa Borealis (Northern Lights) gazing in all its glory, party with the locals during the Iditarod festivities….and you get to meet some of the most interesting people in all the world.
Above all else, the experiences and memories that an Alaskan journey leaves behind is a place on the planet that touches your soul. Between the bucket list checklist and the unpredictable wildlife and deeply rooted culture and the vast uncharted landscape…..you know that you have been in a paradise of unparallelled proportions. Alaska is Mother Nature’s Showcase. Come! or…Come back again!
It’s easy to get energized from the mountains. Enjoying the smell of the mountain air, feeling the cool breeze that comes directly off the glaciers, the chance of an animal sighting – whether a bear, moose, elk, mountain goat or cougar. Imagine combining the enjoyment of hiking in the majestic Canadian Rockies with a twist – taking a helicopter to the tops of mountains and glaciers, where you are surrounded by lakes and streams, meadows and rock formations. It’s called heli-hiking and it takes hiking to a whole new level.
The liveliness that comes from this type of experience is unmatched anywhere. We arrived at the lodge after a two- hour drive from Banff in Alberta, where we drove into British Columbia. We arrived at the heli-pad where we were wisked away to our lodge, embedded deep into the hillside with nothing around but glaciers, mountains, meadows and trees.
Once we arrived at the lodge, we were shown to our rooms and fitted with hiking boots, backpacks and outerwear. You can show up at the lodge with little more than a few items of clothing, and outfitted with the rest once you’ve arrived. After meeting out guides, getting a briefing on helicopter safety and having a hot lunch, we were off for our first hike. We were placed into several groups, depending on your level of fitness the kind of hiking you wanted to do. Our helicopter swooped down to pick us up, and deposited us on top of a mountain peak. From here, we walked along the ridge and down the side of the mountain. Through snow covered peaks and wooded mountainsides, we worked out way down until we again met up with our helicopter, three hours later.
Once back at the lodge, we enjoyed our surroundings and walked around the property and adjacent area…a lake, a stream, a cabin and a glacier.
Our 28-room lodge is equipped with family style dining (with great food!), a bar, a living room where guests gather to socialize and relax, a hot tub, Jacuzzi, steam room, exercise room, an indoor rock climbing wall, a laundry and even wifi!
Anyone interested in a heli-hiking amazing journey?
Our Amazing Journeyers arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday after flying over the international date line. On the first day of our adventure, we enjoyed kangaroos and koalas on a guided ecotour. We took an easy walk through the gum trees of the You Yangs Park looking for koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and birds in their natural settings and found them! The cute koalas in the tree tops were just as we imagined! Next, we traveled to the Serendip Open Range Sanctuary, developed by the Victorian government to provide refuge for a large variety of Australian fauna. With our guide, we discovered water birds and dry land birds along with the exclusive viewing of wallabies, kangaroos, emus and other Australian wildlife. This is what we came to Australia to see! After our “outback lunch”, we took a short walk through the forest alongside a quiet stream. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to explore Melbourne on a city tour, and in the evening, many of us got together with local singles.
Today we fly to Ayers Rock in the heart of the Australian Outback. The huge monolith called Ayers Rock and the sandstone domes of the Olgas were created through the process of upheaval and erosion. We’ll tour the Olgas and around the base of “the Rock” and have some free time to relax or hike around the Olgas.
Tonight, we’ll partake in a Shabbat service with the base of Ayres Rock as the backdrop. Here we will be surrounded by a carpet of bright red ground beneath our feet and only the sounds of our voices to fill the night sky. We’ll then have an experience like no other during the “Sounds of Silence” dinner under millions of stars. We’ll sip on a glass of champagne with the sound of a lone didgeridoo filling the air as the sun slowly sets over the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Ayers Rock (Uluru). We’ll dine on a gourmet BBQ of Australian delicacies and then sit back and take in the mystery of the desert at night as an astronomer takes us on a tour of the clear Southern night skies.
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As a professional tour leader for 18 years, the experiences and memories I’ve garnered while traveling the world is a book with so many different chapters than I would have ever imagined when I first entered the work force in my given profession as a teacher. As I sit here at my desk feeling a little melancholy having just returned home from my favorite of all destinations, I am also feeling somewhat reflective. I love travel. I love travel to all places around the globe and literally yearn for the next adventurous pursuit. But, no place on earth effects me as does that place from where I just returned…and the place that is causing my current feelings of reflection; Alaska.
If you know me, you know I love Alaska. If you’ve traveled with Amazing Journeys to Alaska, you probably share my love and attachment to that great land. Alaska comes with many lores and lures. The lores speak of the old Gold Rush, the handing over of land from Russia in 1867 for a mere $7million, the symbolism of the land, the call of the wild, and unique verbiage like “permafrost”, “Iditarod“, “pipeline”, “Aurora Borealis” and “Permanent Fund” (a dividend paid to each resident annually). The lures include unending adventure, the vast uncharted and ever-changing landscape, the tallest mountain in North America, mesmerizing wildlife, the midnight sun, monstrous glaciers, a culture that stands apart from the lower 48, and a lifestyle that befits Alaska’s wilderness more than it does the few-and-far-between urban acreage.
As testimony to Alaska’s unique and special meaning, here are a few interesting tidbits:
- Alaska contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the US
- Mt. McKinley (known simply as “Denali” to the local folk) is actually the tallest mountain in the world. Not the “highest”–that’s Everest which reaches higher into the sky because its base is at a higher elevation. But, from base to summit, McKinley is actually a “taller” mountain
- Juneau, the capital, has no road access to the rest of the state.
- More than 1/2 of the world’s glaciers are found in Alaska
- Alaska is as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined. You could also fit 22 of the smaller US states within Alaska. Alaska is actually about 1/2 the size of the entire rest of the continental US.
- In the dead of winter in Fairbanks, you could walk outside with a cup of steaming coffee…toss it in the air, and it will float away as ice crystals.
- Parking meters have electrical outlets incorporated into each pole. Cars have electrical cords and 3-pronged plugs connected to their engine block so that they can “plug” their car in outdoors during the winter and keep the engine from freezing over.
- More people than I’m comfortable with will ask what rate the of exchange is with the US dollar to Alaskan currency.
There is so much to share about Alaska, but the true meaning of this great land is to experience it yourself. Imagine for a moment holding an iceberg that was part of a glacier for over 1000 years, or watching a mama bear and her 2 cubs munching on berries, or watching an iceberg that’s as tall as a skyscraper come crashing down to earth…..or meeting Mary Shields, the first woman ever to have completed the 1000 mile Iditarod sled dog race, and her dogs.
Alaska is a wondrous place. Take it from someone who’s been to 7 continents, its the greatest show on earth. If you’ve never been, make plans to do so. Its a place that will give you perspective, enjoyment and meaning. If you have been to Alaska, go again! Having been there 11 times now, I can honestly say that it only gets better. Going once is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ (pun intended!), but going again will strengthen your bond, open your mind and show you things still that you never thought imaginable. I have feelings each and every summer when I go…and I yearn for them the minute I get home, each and every time.