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18th July 2018

Emma's Alaskan diary

Alaska specialist Emma shares her diary from her recent trip to America’s wilderness state.

Emma at the Copper Center on Copper River

Kennicott Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

6th June

I woke up and looked out of my window this morning to incredible mountain scenery. I’d spent the night in a restored mining lodge in the remote town of Kennicott, and now I was eager to explore the Kennicott Glacier and the rest of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is the second-largest national park in the world.

After breakfast, my group met Robin, our guide for the day. We started out with an easy walk toward the glacier, passing through the ‘ghost town’ of Kennicott and the old mining mill. Then, we entered the forested hills, from where I could see the shadowy figures of the mountains in the distance.

We reached the foothills of the glacier and put on our crampons. Robin explained the hiking techniques we were about to use, to make sure we were all comfortable before we started our glacier hike.

Exploring the Kennicott Glacier

Over the next few hours, we hiked the mammoth glacier hills and discovered its hideaways of small glacier lakes and falls, all the while learning about the glacier process. Robin was in his element from start to finish. He regaled us with his knowledge of the glacier as well as the local nature and history, and he kept us safe and comfortable during the whole day.

Coming back to the lodge with refreshed spirits, I decided to join the old mining mill tour with Robin the same afternoon, and I’m happy I did. It was a struggle to imagine how successful the copper mining mill had been in the early 19th century, considering the complicated mining process we heard about on the tour. Harder still to appreciate was how the year-around inhabitants had endured the harsh winters. Back at the lodge, after dinner, my fellow hikers and I continued our tales of this historic and remote part of Alaska.

Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park

8th June

Sunny weather is a real treat to Alaskans, even in the peak of the summer, and in Seward it’s no exception. Yet, I woke up to clear blue skies and the sun high in the sky.

I was heading out on the water for the day to experience Kenai Fjords National Park, in search of the abundant marine wildlife.

Fishermen, Seward

As we slowly departed the harbour, our commentator began telling us of all the possible sightings for the day when she suddenly broke off — humpback whales were lunge feeding in Resurrection Bay. I stood speechless, watching them diving, their tails breaking the surface and their mouths wide open to take in massive amounts of fish. Low-swooping birds quickly grabbed any free leftovers.

The remainder of the day followed suit. There were seemingly endless glaciers, and I saw more humpback whales, along with minke whales, otters, orcas and endangered sea lions.

Katmai National Park 

12th June

My vessel, the Cessna, landed on the beach strip of the northern coastline in Katmai National park, from our starting point in Homer. Wearing rubber wellies and protected by plenty of mosquito repellent, I had no idea what to expect of today. 

Our pilot guides, Zac and Josh, had already briefed us very carefully, so that we could safely set out on our expedition in search of Alaskan coastal grizzly bears. 

I felt like I was part of a wildlife quest, together with my five companions. The first scenic impressions led me to believe that if the bears would want to live anywhere in Alaska, they’d want to live here.

Grizzlies, Katmai National Park

We began our search and walked across the shallow bay to reach the opposite beach, which was partly covered with a massive piece of rock. Zac, with his experienced eyes, had already spotted a mum with two cubs from the air, as they cuddled together on the beach in the morning sun.

We closed in slowly, tight together as a group to get as close as possible. The family had most likely caught our smell miles away, although mum must have felt comfortable enough as she only lifted her head to check we were no threat, while we sat down a short distance away.

The next 30 minutes felt like they were played out from my wildlife dreams. The mum continued to cuddle her two cubs before nursing them right in front of us. I sat in awe as our guides pointed out how rare it was for a mum to do this in front of humans.

Alaskan coastal grizzly bears

Toward the end of the day, I’d lost count of my bear sightings. I asked Zac and Josh questions throughout the day, and one answer stuck with me. Zac told me that he and Josh succeeded in what they did by having a good sense of the bears’ natural behaviour and being able to keep calm in possible stressful situations, while also keeping utmost respect for the bears in their habitats.

Emma is a Canada specialist at Audley. We’re currently recruiting Travel Sales Specialists for a number of regions including Canada, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Japan. Visit our careers website to find out more.

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