ALASKA: TTOAL (THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME)We just got home from an Alaskan cruise and landtour, which was my cousin Tom's idea. Our group included 4 cousins and their spouses, an aunt, someone's sister, and 2 other couples who were Tom's friends. It was an incredible experience.
As John Muir said on his visit there, "Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description."
The first week was a "cruisetour" that took us up to Denali and back. Here's one of our memorable stories:
At Talkeetna, we stayed in a luxurious hotel on top of a hill. It had a spacious viewing area behind it, so we could look at the mountains and perhaps even see Mount McKinley (in Alaska it is called Denali, the Great One). Being the highest mountain peak in North America, it makes its own weather, so people rarely get to see it because of the fog and clouds.
The hotel will give you a wake-up call in the middle of the night if it becomes visible.
The first thing we all did was to go to the viewing area with our binoculars to see. There was the mountain range all spread out before us, and we spent some time looking and looking, trying to figure out which one it might be--until someone told us that no, Denali wasn't visible right now. Oh well.
Eventually my husband and I ended up in our room, which also had a view. And my husband told me he thought he was seeing the mountain. But it wasn't where we had been looking, in the mountain range; it was ABOVE THE CLOUDS, sticking up in the sky like some fantastical island! All covered in snow, you could hardly tell, but the binoculars made it quite clear that it was a mountain. Amazing.
I quickly called Tom to tell him.
"I can't see the mountains right now; we're hiking the trail down below the lodge and the trees are in the way."
"No, no!" I said. "Look UP--up in the sky!!"
He appeared later at the viewing area with some other cousins and we were all looking and exclaiming. Eventually I suspected that Tom didn't get it. "Don't look at the mountains; look up in the sky!" I told him again.
And when he realized what I meant, and he really saw it for himself....he was stricken with awe. It was like a religious conversion, seeing that mountain was such an amazing thing. He couldn't believe it!
Along would come another cousin. Tom would explain it to them and it would start all over again. Religious conversion, falling right down on the sidewalk with amazement. It was so fun.
Meanwhile, cousin Adele had been taking a lot of photos. We all sat on benches for a long while, watching the mountain come out more and more, enjoying the evening. I told her I didn't think I could get so excited over a mountain, but with the top part of it just sticking out of the clouds like that, well....
She pretty much agreed.
Eventually I got tired and decided to see what the hotel had in the gift shop. I wasn't gone long, but when I returned: oh, everyone was in an uproar!
"Gaye, you missed it, you missed it!"
"What did I miss??"
"Adele DIDN'T KNOW!!!"
All this time, she hadn't been looking at the right place. And when she finally figured it out, her reaction was really something to see. Thunderstruck, I imagine. It was very very funny.
She had to take photos all over again.
Can you find it here? You can see the regular mountain range in dark blue just above the tree line. Don't scroll down till you're ready to see the answer.
And we saw it even better the next day, with Mt Foraker on the left (mother) and Mt Hunter in the center (child). Denali is on the right.