There’s a question that I hear way too often: "I’ve already been on an Alaska cruise- why should I go back?” Yes, I always explain that there is plenty to experience in a state that stretches over 663,268 square miles. And it's very hard to experience a lot that the state has to offer from a cruise ship, but the real way to answer the question is to share some of the adventures you will find only in Alaska. Whether it's surviving a whale breaching right beside your boat, crossing a stream where hundreds of salmon are bouncing off each other, dog sledding in the thick powdery snow of the winter season, or hiking across an icy blue glacier, there are some bragging-rights you will only have if you spend a bit of time exploring the Great Land. There are few roads in Alaska, but the National Scenic Byway stretches for 3500 miles along the southern Alaska coastline all the way down to the Aleutian Chain. You can take a single or multi-day route for a variety of adventures in the towns served by this road. Take a visit to Valdez for a day of salmon and halibut fishing. Spend time in Yakutat and see Alaska in its purest form. This small town doesn't have the infrastructure for large cruise ships, so it is mostly untouched by tourism. It happens to be the home to Hubbard Glacier, North America's longest tidewater glacier. Its a great spot for hiking, kayaking, camping on the beach, and even bear watching. Skagway is a popular cruise ship port, but just one day doesn't give you nearly enough time in this rustic 1800s gold rush town. Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park is a must when you visit. The beauty of this area is amazing and it's considered the most scenic stretch of highway in North America. You can explore alpine glaciers, wild flowerfilled meadows, and cascading creeks. Ketchikan is another town worthy of a visit. There are plenty of hotels and lodges and downtown is walking friendly and full of the area's frontier history and culture. Some of the area's activities include sport-fishing, visiting the totem pole museums, and observing the wildlife, including black bears, bald eagles, and wolves. If you've cruised to Alaska, I highly recommend a trip back to explore in a new and unique way. A simple drive along this one of a kind American highway will give you a feeling of being all on your own in the Great Land, an opportunity that is priceless.
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Ann Jones, CTC, MCC