Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Switch Off Your Cell Phone

I've been absconding from the blogging world for the past 10 days or so. It may not seem like a long gap, but I feel like I'm back from being transported to a whole different world! Last 10 day were some of the most adventurous yet tranquil, exciting yet peaceful, getting away yet coming to myself days of my life. A complete wilderness experience exploring the great land of Alaska! I don't have enough adjectives in my repertoire to describe the enormity of this place and how insignificant of a being I felt in the presence of nature at its purest. Imposing mountains, roaring and rumbling glaciers, winding rivers, swelling ocean, towering trees, magnificent animals, stretches of colorful wild flowers and the disorienting midnight sun make you lose sense of time, distance or direction almost making you one with the nature.

In this time and age, we can seldom afford the luxury of completely switching off our cell-phones, e-mails and other forms of communication. While the world is coming closer with technology, we are getting farther from ourselves. In the hustle and bustle of our fast paced lives, there's no room for taking a pause and meditating. I'm not talking about leaving worldly pleasures and sitting in the Himalayas. But where's the time to enjoy peace, savor nothingness, or just be! Getting 10 days of quality time with husband in a peaceful natural setting made me realize how much we need the occasional replenishment. We spent most of the time just being in awe of the spectacular views and the serenity than talking to each other. Yet, I felt much closer to him and myself being in what seemed like paradise! The entire trip was almost a spiritual experience as I completely shut off from the civilization and soaked in the beauty - relaxing, reflecting and rejuvenating.

As I realize, words really do fall short when trying to describe something as prestine. Some things should be experienced and I won't attempt to create a picture that won't come close to reality. After deliberating for a long time, typing and deleting, staring at the screen for a while, I've decided to share just a few highlights of the trip.

1. Meeting some of the fuzziest, furriest, softest animals ever:

We landed in Anchorage with the idea of spending a couple of days there. The city had little charm or character to its merit and we knew there was much more to Alaska than highways and supermarkets. We took the opportunity to explore some hidden lakes and valleys off the highway and visited a couple of animal farms working to preserve the wild life of Alaska. Say hello to Safety, the adorable baby muskox, Santa's favorite kind of deer and furry nose moose! Hubby was so in love with the muskox, he decided he wanted it for a pet!

Bottom right - Eagle river trail
2. Drive to Denali:

Like everything else, the weather in Alaska is quite unpredictable. The rains dampened our trip to Denali hiding Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain peak in North America, behind clouds. Yet, close encounters with moose, caribou and momma grizzly with baby saved the trip. The disappointment didn't last long though. The next morning in Talkeetna, where we took a hault on the way back, the skies cleared up casting a beautiful glow on Mt. McKinley. We were struck by awe looking at the majesty of it. Capturing as much as we could with eyes and cameras, we left the town to visit yet another beautiful place.

3. See what's in my backyard!

They ain't kidding about the 'wildlife in backyard' thing in Alaska. Just as we were getting ready to take a walk outside the beautiful wooden B&B in Girdwood, another guest rushed towards the yard saying, "There's a bear!". Sure enough, a black bear and her two cubs were taking a stroll in the yard about 50ft away from us! I guess the bear heard the clamor and rushed away before we got our camera out. We skipped the idea of a walk at that point not wanting to mess with a fierce mother bear. Apart from the excitemet of seeing a bear, the stay in Girdwood turned out great going on top of Mt. Alyeska. A tram with a steep rope carried us on top of the mountain having a beautiful view of the town surrounded by mountains and the ocean. After spending some time on the mountain peak and having lunch, we visited the wild life center and took off to Whittier.

Top Left - the yard where we saw black bears!
4. Ginormous glaciers:

I've visited Switzerland and lived in Utah for 3 years. Moutains with snow is not new sight to me. But everything is big in Alaska! We spent a day on a small cruise ship witnessing a part of the planet change right in front of our eyes. The ever changing glaciers formed thousands of years back crackling and calving into the ocean causing big waves and exposing new lands in the process were a sight to behold! The lack of any small object in the perspective plays ticks on your eyes making the glaciers seem much smaller than they really are. Wait till a 14ft wave rocks your boat and you'll know what a huge chunck of ice fell into the ocean! The 26 glacier cruise from Whittier was fantastic, and some playful porpoises jumping in front of our boat just added to the experience! 

Bottom Left - glacier calving
5. Wilderness lodge:

Saving the best for the last, we ended our trip in Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. How would you like to wake up in a cozy wooden cabin to a view of a beautiful lagoon at the foot of a glacier?! No roads - only a 3 hour boat ride and a 15 minute gravel road walk to get to this beautiful lodge set in Kenai Fjords National Park, overlooking Pedersen glacier. The adventure started right when we boarded the small boat carrying 11 passengers. As if riding along a humpback whale wasn't thrilling enough, we experienced the largest calving of Holgate glacier our boat captain had witnessed in 11 years of daily trips there!! The calving caused a HUGE wave making our boat rise and dip a great height while icebergs smashed against it. Within seconds, the radio went off and captains in the nearby area were eager to hear all about it. That, my friends, was historic!! 
The lodge was beautiful with some of the warmest staff members I've ever met! Absolutely gorgeous views all around, traces of bears every step of the way and forest exposed barely 50 years from a glacial activity made our stay quite special. We thoroughly enjoyed canoeing in the lagoon, hiking up the Pedersen glacier, kayaking in Aialik bay and coming back to hot, delicious meals shared with some incredible people with incredible stories! Aialik bay was extremely calm compared to my last kayaking experience - and so was I :). I felt so worry-free and totally disconnected from the rest of the world for those 3 days there. The pictures can give you a faint idea of what it was like, but they are completely devoid of any feelings or emotions. It was the best finish to our trip and I felt thoroughly satisfied at the end of it! The cherry on top - seeing dozens of orcas all around our boat on the way back =).

One look at my Outlook inbox yesterday, and I was shaken back to reality pretty hard. I've realized thought, that switching completely off from the craziness of daily life restocks your energy to tackle it all over again!


Deeps said...

Truly speechless! The photos are amazing..want to see more. :)
Looks like you guys had a great time! Definitely marking Alaska as a must-go destination!

Priyanka said...

Superb! Simply superb post! The write-up is awesome. Makes me want to go to Alaska!! Loved the pictures. The one who clicked it, surely has an eye for photography!n you did sea kayaking!! Way to go girl!!

stringOfPearls said...

Beautiful pictures. As always...

moowiesqrd said...

Your pictures are amazing! I've always wanted to visit Denali... that's on the list. And I agree... once you're fully relaxed, getting back into the swing of things is jarring, but there's energy to it.

Snehal said...

Thanks everyone! Pictures taken by husband of course. I had a hard time picking these few from the hundreds we clicked!

Alaska is definitely a place to add to your bucket list.


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