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Big Beauty

Alaska's beauty rivals its vastness, a remarkable comparison in itself.

Have you ever perused through a National Geographic magazine and thought to yourself, “Wow, how amazing would it be to see that in person.”? If so, then Alaska is the destination for you. Its breathtaking landscapes, from towering glaciers to vast wilderness, offer incredible opportunities for exploration and adventure. Alaska truly embodies the awe-inspiring scenes captured in some of our favorite iconic magazines.

Alaska is often referred to as the Last Frontier, and among its many jewels are the picturesque towns of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, nestled in the heart of the state's southeastern region. These charming cities serve as gateways to some of Alaska's most remarkable sights, including majestic glaciers, diverse wildlife, and the exquisite beauty of the Inside Passage.

Alaska's beauty left me in awe—the vastness of everything, the serene expanse of the ocean, and the distinctive purity of the air. Witnessing the Northern Lights, which I literally dreamt about for months, was the pinnacle. I turned to my husband and said, “Ok, I can go home now.”

Juneau: Gateway to Glaciers and Wildlife

I clearly missed a geography lesson back in school. I am not ashamed to admit that I did not know there are no roads leading to Juneau, Alaska’s capital. To reach Juneau, you must journey by air or water. Although road access is nonexistent, the countless opportunities to experience what lies between Juneau’s towering mountains and the pristine Gastineau Channel more than makes up for it.

One of Juneau's most visited attractions is the Mendenhall Glacier, a stunning river of ice that flows from the Juneau ice field into the Mendenhall Valley. Visitors marvel at the glacier's icy blue hues, take a guided hike along its rugged terrain, or embark on a thrilling kayak adventure to get close to its ice walls. Some tourists venture to take a helicopter ride and land directly on the glacier. Next time!

In addition to its glaciers, Juneau is home to an array of wildlife including sea lions, black bears, and humpback whales. Being up close and personal with a black bear is indescribable for this city gal. The waters of the Inside Passage teem with life, making it an ideal destination for whale watching and wildlife cruises. During our whale watching excursion, my husband told fellow passengers, “I knew we’d see some good tail.” He’s always good for a laugh. Whales breach, seals play, and bald eagles swoop against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and lush forests.

Skagway: Step Back in Time

Nestled at the northern end of the Inside Passage, Skagway is a quaint town steeped in history. Once a bustling gold rush town, Skagway retains much of its frontier charm, with colorful storefronts, wooden boardwalks, and historic buildings transporting visitors back to the days of the Klondike Gold Rush.

While in Skagway, visitors can journey aboard the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which winds through scenic mountain landscapes and past cascading waterfalls. Outdoor enthusiasts can find ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking. During my time in Skagway, I delved into the history of the Iditarod race, learning about its past and present significance. Additionally, I had the pleasure of experiencing a thrilling sled ride, led by a team of 16 magnificent Siberian-mixed beauties.

Ketchikan: The Salmon Capital of the World

Located on the shores of the Tongass Narrows, Ketchikan is renowned for its rich Native American heritage, vibrant arts scene, and abundant wildlife. As the self-proclaimed Salmon Capital of the World, Ketchikan offers ample opportunities for fishing enthusiasts to reel in the catch of a lifetime. My mouth is watering as I recall feasting on some of the freshest seafood anyone could imagine.

In addition to its fishing opportunities, Ketchikan is also home to the iconic Totem Heritage Center, where visitors can learn about the rich cultural traditions of Alaska's Native American tribes through an impressive collection of intricately carved totem poles.

I enjoyed unseasonably warm weather during the entire trip, and on the last day of my vacation, I stood in awe of the Hubbard Glacier. It stretches an impressive and expansive 76 miles, and its ice walls that reach heights of over 300 feet, command attention. They certainly had mine. As one of the longest tidewater glaciers in North America, its termination point, spanning about 6 miles in width, offers a striking display as massive ice chunks calve into the sea. I was left amazed by the glacier's striking blue hues and the resounding echoes of calving events, solidifying Hubbard Glacier as the cherry atop a truly memorable experience.

Alaska truly embodies the awe-inspiring scenes captured in some of our favorite iconic magazines.