More Than We Could Have Hoped For

March 22, 2017

Originally posted July 17, 2012

CooksInlet2CooksInlet2 Cindy and I are back from the Alaskan trip first mentioned here last February, and it was a truly special experience.

No, we didn’t do a cruise or a tour. We put the trip together from scratch in order to see and do exactly what we wanted, and it worked out just that way. For me, the highlight was photographing bears, especially the second day when we flew with a bush pilot south out of Anchorage to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, in Lake Clark National Park, landed on the beach and shot some 3,000 frames of coastal brown bears on the west shore of the Cook Inlet. For Cindy, it was a gray wolf which appeared at the roadside suddenly and was gone just as suddenly on our mid-week back country tour of Denali National Park. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the wolf, but in the days ahead I expect to put up several bear pictures on this site, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Two things impressed me most about Alaska. For one thing, it is absolutely immense. It’s beautiful in the same sense that the front range of the Colorado Rockies is beautiful, but that beauty resides in such a much larger scale. Where in Colorado, you might look two or three miles across a mountain park or valley to distant peaks, in Alaska, that view can easily encompass thirty or forty miles. And of course, the state itself is huge, taking up a territory equal in size to about a third of the continental U.S. while populated by only 600,000 folks. You can fly over or ride the Alaska Railroad through a large chunk of the state and not see anyone at all residing or even being there.

The other thing that simply wowed me, as an airplane driver, is the extent of aviation in Alaska. I guess I knew about that, but still was not prepared to actually engage with it. Anchorage, for example, is served by four airports: Anchorage International, Lake Hood seaplane base, Merril Field for private aviation, and Elmendorf Air Force Base. In the area where the three civil airports practically adjoin each other, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of single-engine small planes parked here, there and everywhere. One in sixty Alaskans is a licensed pilot – which compares with one in two or three hundred in the lower 48 – and there is also one airplane for every 60 persons. In our first two days there, Cindy and I flew in five different light aircraft and with some truly skilled pilots. And don’t think I wasn’t lovin’ it. lightaircraftlightaircraft

Of course, at the end of our eight days there, it was the people…not the animals or airplanes…we encountered who made the experience special for us. So here’s a shout-out and sincere thanks to Terry, Jerry, Mark, Scott, Sage, Dave, and all the others who seemed genuinely glad to have us visit and to share their magnificent state with us. We won’t forget you or the place where you live.

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