Narratives North America Photo Essays

Alaska: Wild and Wonderful

Story by Amelia Langan, Personal TripPhoto by Amelia Langan

Being immersed in nature is both a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that allows us to understand our place in this vast world. Last July, I traveled to Alaska with my family for two weeks on what would transcend an ordinary vacation. Boarding the flight to Anchorage, it felt too good to be true. Ironically, our flight got canceled as we prepared to take off, so it was too good to be true. Nevertheless, we made the chaotic journey the following day from my home state of New Jersey to the Last Frontier, and the real adventure began. Coming from the fast-paced lifestyle the East Coast cultivates, it felt as if time ceased to exist in Alaska. We especially lost our grasp of time with the fact that the sun didn’t set until after 11 p.m. and rose around 3 a.m.; this gave us an abundance of hours in the day to explore the backcountry. Our trip commenced with a six-hour bus ride through Denali National Park: 6.2 million acres of untouched wildlife and wilderness. In a world where our impact as humans is so pervasive (and often invasive), Denali is where nature remains in its truest, rawest form. 

Everything about Alaska was so surreal in retrospect, but in the weirdest sense, it all felt normal while we were there. We flew in a six-passenger bush plane to a remote peninsula Katmai National Park where we didn’t even question being only hundreds of feet from wild brown bears. Oddly enough, the normalcy of everything we experienced made me realize how incredible the experience was. One of my most memorable adventures on the trip was spending eight hours on a boat traveling through Kenai Fjords National Park, along the southern coast of Alaska. Ordinarily, I would’ve been hesitant to disconnect from the virtual world for that long, but the combination of nature and no service ultimately culminated into a day of fascination and self-discovery. The interior of the park is inaccessible by car, so boaters and kayakers are among the lucky few who can view the park’s notorious glaciers. Being surrounded by glaciers felt as if we were thrown back in time to the Ice Age; though they were incredibly beautiful, it was bittersweet to view the rapidly receding glaciers and wonder how much longer they’d remain. Nevertheless, the day was topped off with a variety of animal sightings: sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, puffins and orcas. The mountainous landscapes always in our view never moved, yet they appeared so dynamic. Alaska’s contrast between tranquility and intensity paralleled the calm and chaotic aspects of my life, further deepening my connection to the nature around me.

Nature ignites the spark of adventure that burns within us, and Alaska transformed metamorphosed my spark into a bonfire. From whitewater rafting through canyons to riding an ATV through the Chugach National Rainforest to hiking alongside glaciers, the opportunities for adventure were endless. I found my place within nature while in Alaska, and I realized how, in the universe’s eye, I am a speck in the world; I, like everyone else, am expendable. While this may seem like a dark revelation, it instead brought me peace. Being in the mountains for two weeks made me realize how small each of us is in this vast world, which was quite a humbling and awesome experience. Aside from the beautiful pictures I brought home, the greatest takeaway from my adventures in Alaska is that we are nothing to nature.
a wolf at the alaskan wildlife conservation center

A wolf at the alaskan wildlife conservation center