Frolicking across Alaska’s national parks to collect junior ranger badges is one of my favorite childhood memories. Back then, we took a very long bus ride around the state to visit all the different parks. I remember looking out the window and seeing a black bear only three feet away. I saw so many animals along the trip that I became used to them walking along the road next to us.
The second time I visited Alaska, I took a one-week cruise with my family. This was perfect because we were traveling with two of my little cousins.
Seattle was the starting point of the cruise. As we left the harbor, we watched the entire Seattle skyline come into view. On the way to the first top we traveled through Alaska's Inside Passage, a scenic route through untouched land. It was particularly special because we were the only boat there, so there was a sense of isolation.
Our first port stop was Juneau. Though we had little planned when we arrived, we found a lot to do within the city. After exploring some shops and cafes, we went to see Mendenhall Glacier. It was a beautiful glacier, but the lasting impact was learning about how global warming has affected it. Through the course of several years, the glacier has receded by more than half, and the center focused on visualizing this to the visitors.
After, we reached Skagway. Surrounded by less nature, we focused on exploring the different parts of the cozy town. For the afternoon, we watched a live lumberjack competition. Each competitor completed a set of scary challenges, which was quite fun to watch.
The last city that we visited was Ketchikan, where we took a train ride through the forest and atop the mountains. We looped along the mountain sides and through different tunnels. It was interesting to explore these small communities tucked away from city life.
On the way back, our cruise ship went into a little passage to see another glacier at the crack of dawn. We got so close to it we saw it from our room. The light was still soft, and it made for an incredible view of the water and ice. There were also many other small tourist boats that gathered around to enjoy the incredible view.