Finding balance in life is essential. I have always said that to be a good family physician, one must take good care of themselves and their family. This includes physically and emotionally. That is why for our 25th anniversary last year, we chose to take a trip to Alaska. I had heard many stories of trips to Alaska from other people. Never have I heard any negatives of travel there. You can add our family trip to the positive stories of trips to Alaska.
We arrived in Vancouver on Canadian Independence Day. This occurs on the 1st of July, which is their equivalent to our 4th of July. Vancouver is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to start or end your trip. We boarded our ship, the Norwegian Sun, the next afternoon. This was a nice-sized boat, large enough to be comfortable yet small enough to not be overwhelming with too many people. Our cruise was a land and sea trip that included 7 days on the boat and 3 days on land. I would suggest traveling in the early summer, as the weather was very comfortable and of course the days are long. We traveled the first 11 days of July. There are less-expensive times to travel. May and September are less expensive, particularly if you have some flexibility.
The first days were spent cruising up the coast of Alaska along the inner passage. This is a wonderfully scenic calm passage that leads to several small towns along the coast. Our first stop was Ketchikan. Here we spent the day on an excursion in our own Zodiac boat. We donned our rain gear, boots, hats, and gloves and were treated to views of bald eagles, whales, and seals.
Our next day was spent in Juneau, which is the capital of Alaska. Here we visited the Mendenhall Glacier and had a salmon bake. We even panned for gold. Next up was Skagway, a small town with only 800 residents but a surprising 10 jewelry stores. Apparently, the cruise lines own most of the jewelry stores on shore as well as many of the souvenir shops. They also push jewelry on the ship; however, it was not difficult to resist the temptation. Here we took a walk on the Chilkoot Trail for a couple of miles. This was the same trail that was used during the Klondike gold rush in the 1860s to get to the Yukon Territory. To this day, there are even some items on the trail that were left behind by prospectors due to the need to lighten their load.
Next up was a trip to Glacier Bay for an up-close look at some glaciers. It was truly an awesome experience. From there, we spent a day at the Bay of Alaska, a much more open body of water that was rougher than the rest. We stopped at Whittier, a remarkably small town with giant docks for the cruise ships. We traveled to Anchorage by bus, then on to Denali Park for a few days. The park was amazing, although we could have used an extra few days here to explore. We chose to see the “Husky Homestead” of Jeff King, an Iditarod champion. Here we learned about sled racing and the fascinating dogs. Our last excursion was a white water rafting experience that was fantastic. We wore dry suits and even swam in the glacier water.
We completed our trip with a train ride on the Alaska Railroad back to Anchorage. On this ride you can see Mount McKinley on a clear day and plenty of wildlife. From Anchorage, we flew back to the East Coast, completing a trip we will never forget.
A couple of suggestions. I would, if possible, opt up for a room that has a balcony. Get trip insurance, just in case. On the ships, the smaller restaurants seemed to have better food and were easier to navigate and more relaxing. The next time we go back, we will also probably spend more time up in Denali Park. There are also some small boat cruises; however, they tend to be significantly pricier.