Solo cruising epic Alaska

Solo cruising epic Alaska

Around 152 years ago, Russia sold the territory of Alaska to the United States for the sum of $7.2 million. However, it is only when I cruise the majestic wilderness kingdom, I come to realise that it was quite a bargain for a place so pristine and phenomenal.

I had been wanting to visit Alaska – USA’s 49th state – ever since I came across naturalist John Muir’s line from his 1879 book Travels in Alaska: “To the lover of pure wildness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” Rather than toying with the idea of cruising on my own, I boarded the Norwegian Jewel in Vancouver and set sail for Juneau, Alaska’s capital city and the very first stop on the cruise trip.

Solo cruising epic Alaska

Imagine stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and immersive outdoor adventures, and absorbing it all in solitude. Not having to keep conversing with travel companions or plan the schedule keeping in mind the interests of others allows me to experience the meditative aspect of my pursuits, something that can be achieved only when one is travelling alone. The crisp air, pure silence, natural stillness and awe-inspiring terrain of one of the remotest parts of the world takes me on a journey of self reflection.

Being introduced to Alaska in Juneau

Solo cruising epic Alaska

As the ship arrives in the scenic capital city, I am greeted by mountains covered in old-growth Sitka spruce trees; a cluster of hillside homes, apartment buildings, and condominiums scattered around their base. Taking a deep breath, I hop off the cruise to delve deeper into the magic and mystery that southeast Alaska has to offer. A cultural jewel, natural wonder, and wildlife hotspot, Juneau is rich in history, art, music and Native heritage. When here, I saunter around Downtown Juneau that still retains much of its former elegance. A remarkable hiking trail in the Tongass National Forest treats me to some gorgeous glacier views and magical moments in the wild. While the glistening Mendenhall Glacier seems unbelievably beautiful, bear sightings make for a pleasant surprise.

Solo cruising epic Alaska

WiFi is sparse when sailing this remote destination – a great excuse to entirely disconnect and bond with self and my new cruise pals. On sailing days, I spend quality time relishing a meal, reading a book, shaking a leg at a dance session or simply sitting in the balcony and staring at the stellar passing landscapes. I sense pure joy and magic in fully engaging and immersing myself in whatever I choose to do, minus any distractions.


Stepping back in time in Skagway

Solo cruising epic Alaska

By now, it is time for docking in Skagway. A charming town in the Inside Passage, Skagway is home to around 1,000 people and real gold-rush history. Boasting handsome false-fronted buildings, Skagway’s historic district is colorful and certainly worth a stroll. Although a bit touristy, the three-hour ride on the scenic White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad takes me past rugged scenery made of glacial rivers, cascading waterfalls, trestles, tunnels and gorges. An engineering marvel, the narrow-gauge line was built across White Pass between 1898 and 1900, despite harsh weather and challenging geography faced by thousands of railroad construction workers. The journey in old-fashioned carriages is absolutely delightful, with Glacier and Gorge, Dead Horse Gulch and Bridal Veil Falls being the highlights. It is more like stepping back in time, when ambitious men and women crossed the treacherous Yukon, hoping to find gold and build their fortunes.

Solo cruising epic Alaska

One of the days at sea, I am lucky to have an opportunity to get up-close with the magnificent Dawes Glacier. From Stephens Passage, the ship turns into the glacially carved fjord of Endicott Arm, the southern sister fjord to Tracy. However, Endicott is special as it’s the fjord less travelled, with deep azure blue Dawes Glacier at its head. The 31-mile journey to the end of the fjord treats me to several waterfalls gushing down steep cliffs and spruce and hemlock trees clinging to the vertical sides of the mist-covered Tongass National Forest. I am asked to keep an eye out for wildlife including brown bears, bald eagles, sea ducks, humpback whales, black bears, wolves, mountain goats, deer, moose, Arctic terns, pigeon guillemots and orcas. Endicott Arm is also one of the largest breeding grounds for harbor seals in the world. Finally, it’s time for the very first view of the glacier, a wall of ice roughly 600-feet in height, and a half-mile in width. I am completely dumbfounded! An active tidewater glacier, Dawes recedes daily causing calving, where huge chunks of ice plunge into the sea. One of the top highlights of my cruising experience, this glacier is the definition of all things “pristine”. Floating chunks of glacial ice, some looking more like sculptures, with adorable seals resting on top simply melt my heart.


The sweet end in Ketchikan

Solo cruising epic Alaska

Our last and final stop is rainy, cloudy Ketchikan – Alaska’s fourth-largest city squeezed onto a narrow strip of coast on Revillagigedo Island. The largest collection of brightly-painted, hand-carved totem poles created by Tlingit and Haida Indians, a trip to Misty Fjords National Monument and an action packed and a thrilling display of woodmen skills by burly lumberjacks are some of the striking offerings in Ketchikan. However, I chose to skip the tourist trap and enjoy the tranquil setting of the Tongass with a kayaking adventure in protected, crystal-clear waters of the Clover Pass. This gorgeous arm of the Pacific Ocean is rich in a variety of marine life like seals, Pacific porpoises, and humpback and orca whales, apart from Sitka deer.

While sailing the Alaskan waters is unlike any other experience in the world, sailing solo is what makes the rewards truly immeasurable. It’s a recipe to an enriching adventure that’s both explorative and educational, peppered with genuinely meaningful and authentic moments. Moreover, I not only end up finding like-minded camaraderie and life-long friends on the cruise but also return with a priceless feeling that comes with mastering the art of loving one’s own company.

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