I saw a card at the state museum store downtown. It had a quote that read, “There is one word of advice and caution to be given those intending to visit Alaska … If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, and it is not wise to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first.” — Henry Gannett.
I’ve been thinking again. This time it’s about where to live. I’ve done some traveling to amazing nature areas: Hawaii (where I got bit by a sea turtle), British Columbia, Ireland, the Swiss Alps, Tokyo, Spain, Oregon Coast, Zion in Utah, and Joshua Tree and Mount Whitney in the Sierra’s of California. Those were great trips in amazing landscapes; each totally unique. But nothing fills your lungs, your eyes and your soul like Alaska.
As I enter this next stage of my life after graduating school I have to make a decision on where to spend it. The trouble is there is so much to see in this tremendous world but I can’t imagine any of it comparing to what I grew up with in Juneau. Or is it that I’ve “dulled my capacity for enjoyment” by being raised here since I was 11? In the meantime, I will make the best of every moment here in Juneau.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to take the Taku Inlet flight tour. It’s not so much an exertion objective, but rather a viewing and appreciation of nature. Katie McCaffrey and I took the Taku Glacier Lodge Flight with Wings Airways Alaska. (We’re not sponsored by these guys. We had to pay. If anyone wants to finance my adventures, hit me up). There were seven other people loaded into the deHavilland Twin Otter seaplane with us, including the pilot. We boarded on the dock in front of the Flight Deck restaurant. We put on headsets for noise protection that also serve as speakers that allow the pilot to talk to their passengers. There was a pre-recorded soundtrack featuring some wilderness dude narrating the rich history of Juneau. I am not usually impressed by tourist marketing tools but I found this one to be really good! The flight was 25 minutes, starting from downtown Juneau to the Taku Lodge.
The flight took us over stretches of the Tongass National Forest spanning the coastlines of mainland Juneau and Douglas Island that surround Gastineau Channel. We turned left just over Annex Lake (which provides 5 percent of Juneau electricity, according to AEL&P) and directed north from downtown as we entered Taku Inlet. Five glaciers flow from the Juneau Icefield to the Inlet; the Norris Glacier, the massive five-mile wide Taku Glacier, the branch of the Taku called the Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier (which is in view from the lodge), and West and East Glaciers.
Seeing the magnitude of the ice from the air is incredible. Do it!
It might take me awhile to make a decision on where to live … or if I leave at all. I just know, it will be hard to compare to Alaska.
• California-born and Alaska-bred, Gabe Donohoe has taken photos daily for the past five years. He is currently a student of the University of Alaska Southeast’s Outdoor Studies program. His photo archives can be seen on www.gabedonohoe.com. “Rainforest Photos” photo blog publishes every other Friday in the Empire’s Outdoors section.