I first fell in love with Alaska two years ago during a visit there while performing on a cruise ship. It was June of 2016 and although I realized that being there in the summer would be less “wintry and white” than Alaska is normally known for, I was still anticipating being impressed by the scenery. I was wrong. I wasn’t impressed at all.
I was stunned.
Every town we visited on that cruise had new sights, sounds, and smells to explore with the common denominator of each stop being the picturesque mountains and greenery surrounding it. I don’t consider myself an “outdoorsy” type of person. I mean I appreciate the outdoors and the pristine sights that nature has to offer in places like Yosemite or the redwoods, and I have had enjoyable experiences camping in the past. Plus, considering that camping requires an assault on your personal hygiene and an unspoken, yet willingly accepted risk of being devoured in your sleep by any carnivore that happens to stumble upon your campground, I can confidentially say that I will most likely go on another camping trip or two before I die. But Alaska deeply affected me for unexplainable reasons and stopped short of causing me to grow a long, shaggy beard, don a shabby hat, and stroll off into the emerald mountains with the help of a large, gnarled walking stick never to be heard from again. Therefore, you can imagine how thrilled I was to be able to return this month because of a booking on another cruise ship.
The lovely port of Sitka, Alaska
The landscape was just as lush and inviting as I remembered it being, and I was able to explore some of the same ports with a little more familiarity this time around while still discovering some surprises along the way.
One of those was the zip lining excursion that I took part in in Skagway. I had never before experienced zip lining, and, to be perfectly honest, the thought of it simultaneously thrilled and concerned me. I wouldn’t say I was full-on petrified. Not really even scared. Unnerved would be closer to the mark. I was mulling it over in my mind the day before we were to hit Skagway, and so I decided to consult the only expert on this subject that I knew–my youngest daughter, Peri.
Peri had zip lined on a few occasions in a variety of different locations. Granted these were all during camping trips and retreats that she had attended and she by no means was a professional at it, nor possessed any authoritative knowledge on the sport, but in my mind those few occasions were qualification enough for me to seek out her wisdom.
Here is our texted conversation…
ME: Today is my zip lining trip.
PERI: It was always so much fun. Always my favorite.
ME: This, I think, is going to be over trees and stuff. Don’t know how high. Wish me luck.
PERI: What time are you going?
ME: I meet at the end of the pier in about 30 minutes to be bussed to wherever we’re zip lining. So, I’ll probably be actually zip lining in about 90 minutes from now.
PERI: Cool! Do you have a show tonight, too?
ME: No. My last show for this cruise is tomorrow night. Will I be sore from this?
PERI: I don’t think so…maybe shaky from the adrenaline and sad because you want to do it again.
Peri has always been the more adventurous member of my family, so her carefree attitude about being suspended hundreds of feet above the ground by just a single cable attached to wheeled mechanisms affixed to your chest, while somewhat reassuring, did not completely erase my trepidation.
The intrepid zip liner prepares for the task ahead…
I needn’t have worried. It ended up being a great experience! And while I will say that, even after the first few successful zip runs from platform to platform high above the evergreens, I never really got over my nervousness. I expect the reason for that would be that it just goes against every fiber of common sense in your body to step out into open air while standing 400 – 500 feet above the ground. Yes, I know that I’m attached securely with double mechanisms that will do nothing but keep you safe. Yes, I know that I am traveling on a cable that is thick enough to support many more times my weight (I forget the actual figure they told us, but it was a ridiculous amount of weight) and that there is no chance of it ever snapping because they regularly replace them even before the cables show any signs of wear. But Peri was definitely right–the adrenaline was certainly pumping through my veins with each launch off a platform that began my rapid gliding to the next landing platform.
On our last zip platform, one that was not necessarily the highest but certainly the fastest, the attendants helping our group tried to encourage us to go off the platform backward. That is, turning our backs to the view of the platform we would be zipping down to, extending both arms out from our sides, and falling backward to begin our descent down to the final landing platform.
Yeah…no way in Hell that was going to happen…
The larger perspective here is that, whether you’re dangling precariously above a wooded chasm or you are on the ground watching idiots dangle precariously above the trees, the communing with nature in Alaska is glorious.
Alaska’s beauty is almost irresistible. It’s grasp is imperceivable yet able to lead you with some knowing, spectral wisdom that you–a mere mortal–are not privy to, but will, in the end cleanse your soul. Alaska should definitely
be on your list of places to see before you shuffle off this mortal coil. It is amazing what breathing fresh air, watching the majestic flight of bald eagles (which are a constant sight there), seeing whales break the surface of the ocean, and being humbled by the sheer size and beauty of glaciers will do for your inner being.
The sunsets in Alaska (when the sun finally does go down) are spectacular! This was shot at approximately 10:15 pm off the aft deck of the ship.