01 Sep Staggering Beauty of Alaska’s Inside Passage
Author: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos by: Joe Hilbers
5310 Dubois Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Staggering beauty of Alaska’s Inside Passage
By: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos: Joe Hilbers
From the grandeur of its glaciers to the majesty of its mountains, breathtaking and foreboding landscapes beckon you on a journey of intriguing discovery through the southerly stretch of Alaska’s 1,000 mile Panhandle, known as the Inside Passage. The protected blue-green waterway, sculpted during the last ice age, weaves along coves, placid lakes, flowing rivers, and towering cascading waterfalls. Awesome stark panoramas of majestic fjords, snowfields and icefields dramatically unfold, as calving crystalline glaciers, deep and slick from ethereal ice-blue water, mold around entire mountains. The majesty of lush green rain forests complete the timeless natural beauty of this vast wilderness.
Nature in all her untamed glory is the heart of Southeast Alaska’s beautiful rugged frontier, interwoven with glimpses of moose, deer, bears and mountain goats. Where life and land have remained unspoiled through the ages, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, sea otters, humpback and killer whales thread their way through waterways, islets and keys. Millions of salmon navigate the furling rivers as hawks and seagulls screech, and bald eagles soar high above/
Ketchikan- Nestled in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan that grew with the Yukon gold rush, has a rich fishing and timber history. Hillsides with steep wooden stairways lead up to clusters of weatherworn hill-hanging houses with gable rooftops. Creek Street stands as the once infamous location of the Red Light District in this bawdy town of the early 1900’s with “Dolly’s House” offering a glimpse into the area’s frontier times. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” three harbors teem with fishing boats, barges and floatplanes.
Sites include: Misty Fjords a masterpiece of nature that has been sculpted by massive glacial action over the centuries. In this ice-rimmed wilderness, soaring 4,000-foot sheer granite cliffs are shrouded by a veil of gossamer mist. Its terrain has filtered waterfalls plunging 3,000 feet, thousands of alpine lakes; remote bays, twisting long fjords, lava flows, and dense forests. Totem Heritage Center’s authentic cedar monuments retrieved from abandoned native village sites are beautifully preserved, and artfully relate to the legends and lore of Alaska’s indigenous people. The Lumberjack Show with master woodsmen demonstrating logrolling, sawing pole climbing gives a fascinating insight into how the lumberjacks overcame the rugged hazardous Tongass Forest and coastal wilderness Juneau Alaska’s capital city and the stunning gateway to the glaciers, clings to the base of two 3,500-foot mountains, surrounded by true wilderness. In 1889 a Tlingit guide led prospectors Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris to gold in the mountains. They staked a 160-acre town site and a boomtown was born. Alaska’s capital city since 1906, Juneau is a mix of modern hotels, shopping areas and odd narrow winding streets. The Red Dog Saloon among the restored 1880’s buildings captures the flavor and lust of the gold rush days that still lingers here.
Sites include: Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau’s most popular attraction. The glacier begins high above Juneau, and flows12 miles down the mountains from the Juneau Icefields. Though there are many options to explore the glaciers, the ultimate experience is on a spectacular helicopter tour with breathtaking views over alpine ridges and jagged ice spires. Glacier Bay National Park has incredible tidewater glaciers and 3 million acres of wilderness. The waterways provide access to 16 of these glaciers, 12 of which actively calf icebergs into the bay. The Park and Preserve is the result of a glacial retreat. Take the Mount Roberts Tramway, a breathtaking spectacle up to the top of Mount Roberts, towering 4,000 feet directly above sea level and downtown Juneau. At the top enjoy a visit to the Observatory and Nature Center. Take time for a visit to St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church; and the Angoon Tlingit island village to see North America’s largest bald eagle nesting area.
Skagway – In 1896 the cry of “gold “made the spirit of adventure and discovery come alive in Skagway. It became the departure point of 20,000 fortune seekers who braved the hazardous and harrowing, Chilkoot and White Pass trails, on their way to the Yukon gold fields. Once a lawless boomtown, get the feel of what life was like in the historic district’s bustling 6-block strip. Gold-rush era buildings that once housed saloons, gambling houses and dance halls, are sprinkled across boardwalk lined streets.
Sites include: The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, a spectacular narrow-gauge railway that came to be during the mad gold rush to the Klondike in 1898. A 21-mile rail journey from Skagway to White Pass Summit and back follows the route used by gold rush prospectors into Yukon Territory. A narrated trip takes you on a journey through time, into the perilous canyons and breathtaking terrain, up rugged mountain peaks, across mountain lakes, along Brackett Wagon Road, past Pitchfork Falls and Dead Horse Gulch. The restored and replica coaches pulled by vintage steam locomotives, wind through dark tunnels, sky-high trestles, crawl narrow bridges and snake alongside the old Klondike trail. The Skagway Alaska Street Car Tour takes you on a nostalgic journey onboard a vintage 1920’s streetcar, with guides dressed to reflect the era. Tour historical gold mining sites and head out to the Gold Rush Cemetery to hear a dramatic version of the area’s lawless past. Read the history of this brawlin’ town on the tombstones of the notorious Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, other assorted villains, and hero, Frank Reid.
Sitka the picturesque town nestled on the West side of Baranof Island is flanked on the East by majestic snow-capped mountains, and on the West by the Pacific Ocean. A walk around this charming seaside community reflects its strong Russian heritage. Native artifacts can be found at the Sheldon Jackson Museum and National Historic Park.