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Ever-Changing Alaska


By Sarah Sinn-White, expedition guide, Wilderness Discoverer

Alaska, as a state, tends towards the superlatives when one is describing the surrounding landscapes. Highest peaks, rockiest shores, and greenest valleys. This can usually be said as well for the experiences that one collects while traveling through. Biggest animals, tallest forests, and coldest polar plunge. The fact that Alaska contains some of the most dramatic scenery the United States has to offer only adds to the superlatives. Dramatic Coastal Range Mountains, snow-capped Baranof Island horizons, Glacier Bay National Park with more glaciers than names, and 14,000 miles of shoreline to enjoy. This truly is “a great land where the sea breaks its back.”

Alaska Coastline

Charismatic mega-fauna like the breaching, lunge feeding, migratory great whales, such as humpbacks, travel through this area breathing life into the landscapes. And emerging, omnivorous, fuzzy bears of the coast and interior gives this state the unending frontier personality that so many of us seek when looking for a respite from our daily lives while on vacation. Eagles souring overhead provide many of us with the pictures and bragging rights we take home as souvenirs. Microcosms hidden beneath the surface of our tide pools remind us how truly large we are, while the towering Sitka Spruce and Western Cedars bring us back to Earth to tell us how truly small and fleeting we are. "Ever-changing" has always described Alaska--it has been shaped by glacial ice flowing like a frozen river over the landscape, smoothing over cracks and mountains alike. Crashing plate tectonics has left its obvious mark of accreted terrains smashed together in a jumble. While the state's ongoing volcanic history can be watched today as new islands shape and form along the Aleutian archipelago.

Alaska cruising

All of these factors added together remind us that we are simply a part of a larger system that we are only beginning to understand our own role within. As caretakers of the landscape we have been given a privilege that should be both serious and joyous, and with all great privilege, comes great responsibility. As stewards of the land we must realize our influence within this dynamic landscape. Never before has the time been right to come to Alaska to truly appreciate this spectacular landscape. Bringing guests out on the Wilderness Discoverer allows us, as guides, to share this ever-changing, ever-magnificent landscape with others. It allows us to share our love and responsibility for the land with people who can carry on that message of care, and in turn share it around with those they love as well.

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