Summer in Alaska is so short and full of light. Literally. In mid-July, it never really gets dark. There’s a seaside path in Anchorage where I went for a walk at eleven pm and there was a huge crowd of people walking, running, biking, skateboarding, enjoying the beautiful weather, the sun high in the sky. I guess when you live in a place that’s totally dark for three months, you want to spend as much time in the light as you can when you have it.
There are flowers everywhere. Juneau, surrounded with dramatic mountains rising straight up, has wooden flower boxes all over the city, planted with bright colorful annuals. Hot pink Fireweed grows wild and makes a wonderful contrast to the nearby glaciers, so broad and white.
We take a float plane to Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, to see brown bears. There they are in the river snapping up fish just like in a National Geographic movie. And there are so many eagles, talons entwined, flying upside down, in their unique mating dance.
We travel the Alaska Marine Highway from Juneau to Haines and on to Skagway. It is hot and sunny. I have not brought shorts because I expected it to be cold and rainy. I sit on the deck of the boat mesmerized by the snow-covered mountains that are everywhere I look. On the way to Sitka I see what passes for sunrise at four in the morning, the sky a brilliant red.
In Glacier Bay, we see pods of killer whales blowing, surfacing, breaching; icebergs with seals playfully jumping on and off. On the shoreline, there are mother bears supervising their cubs; in the treetops, eagles perched majestically on high seeming to survey their kingdom (we are told to look for golfballs in the trees).
And then to Denali National Park. We stay at a Bed and Breakfast that keeps sled dogs. There are lots of them. Each has his or her own dog-house to which it is tied. Most of them lie on the roofs. Several times each night as though in a symphony orchestra, the dogs begin howling in perfect unison and then stop on the same note, as if led by a conductor.
We take a bus sixteen miles into the Park. There are grizzly bears with their golden coats and caribou with their imposing antlers. Most fascinating, we see a lone wolf stalking a moose. It is early August and already the ground-cover on the tundra is telegraphing the coming autumn. I see red and orange and yellow foliage. There is a chill in the air. The glorious Alaskan summer is quickly coming to an end.