In my family's week-long vacation cruise of southeast Alaska's Inside Passage, we were lucky enough to see all manner and form of wildlife (bald-eagles, bears, orca, etc); many gracious glaciers and nicely-splicing icebergs; snow-capped mountains, ice rivers, isolated coves, and totem poles.
The thing is, touring by cruise is definitely not the manner of travel to which I am accustomed; there were plenty of times when-- surrounded by mind-numblingly beautiful scenery that was completely inaccessible to me as we skipped by it on a floating hotel-- I felt itchy-booted and restless. But this was a family vacation, replete with generations upon generations of our clan, and so I accepted the time in Alaska for what it was meant to be: not an adventure in the woods, but rather time spent with a family I love dearly, set against the most stunning backdrops America has to offer.
And so for seven days we followed a blissfully lethargic routine of: wake up, eat breakfast, take a nap, watch for whales, eat lunch, take a nap, play bridge, eat a snack, watch for otters, eat dinner, play scrabble, watch a movie, go to sleep.
On one or two occasions, the boat put in at a port long enough for me to go out on a decent hike; I took one jaunt with my uncle into an incredible state forest near Sitka (it is one of the only natural non-tropical rain-forests in the world) and another longer and more rewarding 9-mile trek into Glacier Bay National Park, where I made it to an isolated mountain lake that I shared with no one but the bears. Very cool stuff.
Apart from the boat and the brief hikes, I was struck also by the nature of Juneau, the only capital city in America that is accessible only by boat and plane. That's right: no roads lead into this isolated port city. Everything in the whole city-- from tourist T-shirts to Coca Colas to the cuff-links worn by state Senators-- must be shipped in by sea and air.
What is remarkable is how untouched and accessible this has left the surrounding landscape. With no "sprawl" to speak of, one can walk from downtown Juneau and, in a matter of minutes, be on a gorgeous hiking trail that leads up and around mountains and across the most incredible snowscapes imaginable. A 3-4 hour hike from the Juneau town square will provide better views of snow-covered mountains than one is likely to find in the average issue of National Geographic. Just stunning.
Alright, that's all I got. Enjoy the photos-- I've got to go pack for China.