Marty and I are now official members of the "30% club"--the percentage of people who actually SEE Denali (the great one, also known by the name it carried for most of the 20th century, Mt. McKinley). Denali is the highest mountain in North America, and since it sits on a lower plane, it actually has a higher vertical rise than Everest, at just over 20,300 feet. After spending a week cruising the Inside Passage of Alaska, we arrived at Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge on Monday afternoon, and the mountain was out virtually the entire time until we left on Wednesday morning. We were able to get several shots of it at various times of the day, as well as simply enjoy its silent majesty.
Alaska is awesome for its sheer natural beauty and wilderness, not to mention pure and clean air. You can mostly ignore the tourist kitch in the three stops made by the cruise ships--Ketchikan, where it rains nearly every day, Juneau, the capital, and Skagway, another small town with not much except tourist places. Despite this, we found some bargains--heavy coats for $19.95, a beautiful handmade sweater imported from South America, and a few other finds. The William Spear gallery in Juneau, where you can buy enameled zipper pulls and other jewelry at very reasonable prices, was a nice one.
The real pleasure of the cruise ship, though, is the trip down the fjords to see massive glaciers up close. Some of the glaciers are retreating and others are advancing. The massive Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau is in serious retreat---we were there 5 years ago and could see the 1500 feet or so that the glacier has retreated in that time.
This time of year, it never really gets dark in Alaska, especially as you go further north (Fairbanks, a little north of the center of the state, was as far as we went). The sun set around 11 p.m., but there was a twilight kind of shadow, until the sun began to rise around 3:30 or so. We found this hard to get used to, as the normal rhythms (it's dark, so I must be tired) don't apply.