The coast of Alaska in Summer is a visual feast for weary urban eyes. Whether you get there by air, by auto, or by water, the meeting of land and sea is as rich a biota as can be found anywhere on earth. You won’t have to search long before your gaze falls on the spectacular.
From the biggest Humpback whale, breaching in a mile-deep fjord, to the smallest bird, perched precariously on a surf-washed rock, myriad creatures great and small thrive here. Harbor seals and sea otters bask on ice-floes, impervious to their icy beds. Steller’s sea lions argue incessantly while jockeying for position on the rocky haul-outs they’ve used for millennia. Puffins swim by, carrying small fish back to hungry nestlings. A tern hovers over its downy chick, carrying another tiny morsel for the insatiable offspring. A noisy Oystercatcher protects its own chicks from the morning chill, gently perching over them so that only their tiny, stilt-like legs can be seen.
The landscape itself on the Alaska coast is ever-changing. Glaciers still relentlessly scour the land, and if they reach the ocean they become Tidewater glaciers where they crumble into the ocean. Calving walls of ice like these make booming sounds and send massive plumes of frigid water rolling across the bays and coves. Most visitors choose to witness the glacial spectacle from the safety of a cruise ship or a tour boat, but more adventurous souls carefully navigate the ice bergs and waves by kayak, thereby getting a more intimate look at the living walls of ice. If you wish to feel small, go see one of these rivers of ice where it joins the sea.The landscape itself is ever-changing. Glaciers still relentlessly scour the land... ...If you wish to feel small, go see one of these rivers of ice where it joins the sea.
Each morning, from ports all along the coast, fishing boats head out into the open ocean, searching for salmon and halibut. Alaskan waters are famous for this bounty. Men, women, and children come from around the world to experience some of the best fishing anywhere. You’ll see people fishing from all manner of watercraft, from the biggest commercial boat, to paddleboards and inflatable dinghies.
Lack of a boat, however, is no real hindrance to anglers searching for salmon. Shore anglers have just as much success as the boaters when the runs begin. The salmon come in waves all summer long; first the kings, then sockeye and pinks, finally silver salmon arrive as early autumn grabs hold of the coastline.
If you don’t fish there are always other recreational options on the Alaskan coast. Alaskans are a resourceful bunch. So, why not try surfing? Yes, surfing the bore tide on Cook Inlet just south of Anchorage is a real thing, and there are people their who’ll teach you how!
And finally, a word about the weather: Things here can change in an instant and experienced visitors bring layers to choose from – and raingear – always rain gear. If you spend any time at all on the Alaskan coast, it will rain. It can snow any month of the year, too, yet in summer you might see temperatures in the 80sF. But the reward for the weather are views like no other, abundant sea life, abundant wildlife, and fishing opportunities to rival any in the world. Oh, and the sunsets…
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Keith Crowley, www.crowleyimages.com
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