Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

Friday, June 17, 2011

“God at Work…in Alaska – a Beautiful Journey”

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him."    -Daniel 2:20, 22
When our children were very young, Mike and I made a commitment to take each of them on a special getaway just for them. Four years ago, Lauren and I made our mother-daughter trip through the Panama Canal, and in another few years Tyler will have his special trip with dad. But, this was Hayley’s year. Our mother-daughter excursion found us on a journey to beautiful Alaska!

Our trip began on Saturday, May 28th, 2011 as we flew from Akron, Ohio to Seattle, Washington where we stayed for the night. On Sunday, May 29th, Hayley and I boarded a cruise ship bound for the Inside Passage along the gulf of southeast Alaska. All of Sunday and Monday was spent at sea, learning our way around the boat, relaxing, and enjoying one another’s company, and of course, sampling all the food! 

Tuesday, May 31st, we enjoyed the city of Ketchikan, Alaska.  Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” because it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north. Located on an island, Ketchikan began life as an Indian fishing camp. The name comes from a Tlingit Indian phrase that means, “eagle with spread-out wings”. In the early 1900’s, when gold was Alaska’s claim to fame, fishing and timber industries were established helping to make it the fourth-largest city. Visitors are intrigued by Ketchikan’s rich Indian heritage, which includes the world’s oldest collection of totem poles.

For our first excursion in Ketchikan, we took a floatplane ride into Misty Fjords National Monument. Many years ago, the area was covered in ice. Massive glacier action carved out its present landscape. Donning our own set of head phones in this 7 passenger plane, we were amazed at the views from above – land untouched by humans, only accessible by floatplane or boat from Ketchikan. We soared to the tops of majestic mountains shrouded in mists, was inspired by the beauty of free-flowing water falls caused by melting ice, an endless view of evergreen forests, and cliffs that soar as high as 3,000 feet into the air.


We searched for roaming wildlife while our pilot narrated the tour. The peak of our plane ride came when we landed on a remote lake. Here we were able to get out and enjoy even more amazing landscape before heading back to Ketchikan.

When we returned from the plane ride, we hopped on a bus headed to the rainforest canopy where we would gear up to soar once more. This time, we were ziplining through the treetops of the Alaskan rainforest surrounded by mountains. Our hearts pounded as we stepped off that first platform, but after a total of eight ziplines and three swinging bridges, we were flying without fear! The most challenging (and fun) zip was 135 feet off the ground and 750 feet long! Upon mastering our zipline course, we headed back to the ship, excited for the next day’s destination - Juneau. In being true to its name, we sighted many bald eagles which are numerous in Alaska.


Wednesday, June 1st, our ship made its way through Tracy Arm Fjord. The wind was crisp on deck, but the views were splendid as the ship navigated through the narrow opening. Sights such as steep fjord walls, hanging valleys, waterfalls, glacially polished rocks, distant snow-capped mountains, and free-floating blocks of ice all contributed to our experience.                                                    

Upon our arrival in Juneau, we toured the city with a private tour guide. Our first stop was Gold Creek, also known as “Last Chance Basin”, where  Joe Juneau and Richard Harris struck gold in 1880. The creek is city- owned, allowing anyone to roam its banks in search of their own treasure of gold. Hayley and I each tried our hand at gold panning. No nuggets are found there anymore, but we were able to capture some gold dust and Hayley pocketed a souvenir stone from the creek. 

From there we ventured on to the famous Mendenhall Glacier, a glacier which spans a length of 12 miles located in the Mendenhall Valley and is a part of the Tongass National Forest. We entered the park and hiked to a closer view of the glacier, as well as an amazing waterfall nearby. Then our guide drove us to two other points where we could view the glacier at different angles. From there, we drove past the University of Southeast Alaska to a very old, small log chapel on the lake. In Juneau, we also took a ride through town seeing many other places of interest, such as the capital building, airport, and parks, and then did a little shopping before re-boarding the ship in route to the next port of call.

Thursday, June 2nd we arrived in Skagway. Known to thousands of hopeful gold-rushers as the gateway to the gold fields. It may have been the shortest route to the Klondike, but definitely not the easiest. Thousands of stampeders lost their lives on the White Pass and Chilkoot Trails. The White Pass Railroad is one of the most popular attractions in Skagway, but we opted to take in the scenery on horseback instead. A bus took us to a horse ranch where we would embark on a trail ride through the Alaskan and Canadian wilderness. Hayley's horse’s name was Doc and I saddled up on Spirit. Our 2 hours on horseback took us through the brush and to the tops of mountains, along ridges  with indescribable landscapes. The horses were spirited, yet gentle, and the ride was amazing. It was almost difficult to take it all in. 

On this excursion we spotted a black bear, a grizzly bear, and a moose. At the conclusion of the trail ride, our tour guide made several stops for us to enjoy the pristine views of Alaska including the Klondike, Yukon and White Pass. We spotted a black bear and a grizzly from the bus and a moose and another black bear while on the horses. Prior to the excursion, we enjoyed the old-time sites of the gold rush town of Skagway while doing some shopping.

We relaxed during another day at sea on Friday and most of the day Saturday, until the ship pulled in to our final port – Victoria, British Colombia, a picture-perfect city exuding old-world charm. Here we were amazed at the grandeur of the Empress Hotel and a shrub cutting of Killer Whales. Our time was short here, so we proceeded to window shop until we re-boarded to head for Seattle where we disembarked Sunday morning and made our way to the airport for our flights home. We were amazed at the beautiful weather we experienced our entire trip, with temperatures in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s, and no rain (which is quite uncommon especially in Ketchikan).

I was so in awe of the true beauty of Alaska – the mountains, glaciers, waters, and wildlife, as creation sang out its’ praises to Him! It felt so good to breathe in the crisp, clean air! I could not help but praise God for His marvelous creation and power – proof that He IS at work – everywhere. It reminds me of the passage in Romans 1, 

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”   

God is visible through His handiwork and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to share in that reminder with my daughter Hayley. These are memories that will last a lifetime and a bonding experience like no other!

If you are interested in viewing 
our entire Alaska photo album, 
you can do so by looking me up 
on FaceBook!

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