Retreats, Trains, and the Last Frontier
September 28, 2018
Heat. Wildfires. Smoke. You’ve slayed the fire-breathing beast of Summer in the West and earned a reprieve—majestic mountains, icy blue glaciers calving into pristine fjords, quaint Gold Rush towns, eagles soaring free, and dancing Northern Lights. In the dead of winter, paradise may be bikinis and palm trees. But summer’s end calls for a pine-tree paradise, so we recently treated 17 of our top clients and their guests on a seven night adventure to the Last Frontier—Alaska.
Jumping-Off Point: Seattle, Washington—The Emerald City
Adventure Vessel: Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas
Ports of Call: Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier, and Victoria, British Columbia.
Let’s start with the ports of call and work our way back.
Juneau the best place to see in Juneau?
Mendenhall Glacier. Some of us headed to the visitors center to get up-close to this enormous glacial wonder. We hiked an easy trail to incredible Nugget Falls which tumbles from the cliffside and runs into the fjord right next to Mendenhall Glacier. Others leveled up and took a helicopter ride for an eagle-eye view of the glacier, landing right on it to see it as only bears and the intrepid dare.
Later we explored more of Juneau and did a little fishing, snagging some huge silver and sockeye salmon from the shore. We finished off the day eating some of the unbelievably amazing crab at Tracy’s Crab Shack. This isn’t a suggestion. Missing out on these king crab legs will leave a hole the size of Alaska in your soul.
Which Way? Skagway!
All aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway! Mountains, glaciers, tunnels, waterfalls, and trestles slipped past our vintage train windows in a stunning panorama as we climbed to the summit of White Pass. Experiencing Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, and Dead Horse Gulch, so named for the estimated 3,000 pack animals who died along this trail, we couldn’t help but admire the grit of the prospectors who risked it all to find gold in them thar hills…er, massive mountains…during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.
Changing gears and vessels, we opted to spend the afternoon exploring the ocean on a Zodiac high-speed raft. Incredible! Spectacular waterfalls. Enticing timbered vistas. Bald eagles wheeling overhead, humpback whales surfacing for air, curious seals playing in the sea. Now this is quintessential Alaska! Though the guides were prepared with gear to keep us comfortable in any weather, mid 70’s and sunny skies made all that unnecessary. No matter which way you see it, by train or by sea, Skagway is breathtaking!
The Fjord Awakens
Sailing into Tracy Arm Fjord, a narrow, deep channel lined at times with 3,000ft tall cliffs, affords some of the most spectacular scenery of the entire trip. Waterfalls plunge from rocky, evergreen heights, deep blue icebergs bob on calm waters, and ahead lie the incredible twin Sawyer Glaciers. There is nothing like standing on deck and feeling the rumble as sections of glacial ice calve into the fjord. But don’t let the glacier capture all your attention or you just might miss brown bears ambling along the shoreline, seal pups resting on ice floes, or a whale’s tail rising from the sea. This is the fjord you’re looking for.