Vacation in the USA: Have the adventure of a lifetime in Alaska, home to glaciers and wonderful wildlife

Aboard a high-speed catamaran along an Alaskan fjord, the captain asked, “See that glacier in front of you? How far do you think it is?

A dozen of us on a boat trip were traveling under a cloudless blue dome of a massive sky with icicles hitting the hull and waterfalls tumbling down the hills on either side. An eagle flew overhead, sea otters huddled together in near still water.

Our catamaran was in College Fjord, where the glaciers are named after famous American universities. The one in front was Harvard and its crevices and edges were so clearly defined that it seemed close. Two thousand, I thought, but that was obviously a trick question so I said five.

Wonderwall: Humphrey visits the massive Harvard Glacier (pictured) in Alaska’s College Fjord, where glaciers are named after famous US universities

“We are 20 miles from our destination,” revealed the captain. This is roughly the distance between England and France.

This served as an indication of the vastness of this place – and if you fancy stunning scenery and outdoor adventure, as well as food to die for and a quirky vacation destination that will have the head of your friends and family, Alaska awaits.

You’ll get a sense of the coolness and excitement of this far northern American state as soon as you enter the airport in the main city of Anchorage and come face to face with a bear. giant plush fleece. Nearby, an equally giant halibut is on display.

'You feel the freshness and excitement of [Alaska] as soon as you enter the airport in the main city of Anchorage [above]', writes James.  The town is at the end of Cook Inlet, named after the English explorer James Cook, who arrived in 1778

‘You feel the freshness and excitement of [Alaska] as soon as you enter the airport in the main city of Anchorage [above]’, writes James. The town is at the end of Cook Inlet, named after the English explorer James Cook, who arrived in 1778

Humphrey passes

Humphrey is having the ‘most fantastic afternoon’ in the Chugach Mountain Range, pictured, with hiking guide Matt Worden

Outside is the largest seaplane harbor in the world, with planes of all colors, shapes and sizes floating on the water. So many places are on lakes and creeks with no connecting roads that flying is the only way to get there – and there’s a lot of distance to travel: Alaska is seven times bigger than the United Kingdom but has only 750,000 inhabitants.

The town sits at the end of Cook Inlet, named after English explorer James Cook who arrived in 1778, and at the foot of the Chugach mountain range where hiking guide Matt Worden took me to spend the afternoon on more fantastic. The former military aircraft engineer owns Go Hike Alaska and offers a range of excursions, including helicopter rides to explore glaciers and guided hikes through the wilderness.

We tackled Mount Baldy, a 1,000 foot climb on a well marked trail, and when we emerged at the top into an absorbing and tranquil expanse, we hiked the ridge with mountains on one side and scenic views on the Eagle River on the other.

Fit travelers should try tackling Rainbow Peak, pictured, a 3,500ft climb that Humphrey's guide describes as

Fit travelers should try tackling Rainbow Peak, pictured, a 3,500ft climb that Humphrey’s guide describes as “a scramble”. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

It's an easy hike to the spectacular 60ft waterfall at Barbara Falls (pictured)

It’s an easy hike to the spectacular 60ft waterfall at Barbara Falls (pictured)

Our six mile hike was rated as moderate. For an easier-to-access sight, Matt recommended the spectacular 60-foot waterfall at Barbara Falls. For the fit traveler, his pick was Rainbow Peak, a 3,500-foot climb he described as a scramble.

Back in Anchorage, the dining is world class. Head to Simon and Seaforts Restaurant, right on Cook Inlet, which is decorated with hunting and fishing trophies. Signature dishes include seared halibut cheeks and grilled sockeye salmon with fennel relish.

You can even try to catch your own salmon in a body of water that runs through the city center. All you need to do is rent a rod, tackle and waders and head to Ship Creek on the Eagle River when the salmon swim upstream.

<a class=Skiing at the Alyeska Resort (pictured) in Girdwood is less than an hour’s drive from Anchorage, Humphrey reveals” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Skiing at the Alyeska Resort (pictured) in Girdwood is less than an hour’s drive from Anchorage, Humphrey reveals

From biking to seaplane rides, Anchorage has it all on its doorstep winter or summer.

Skiing at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is less than an hour away.

You can learn to ride a dog sled under the Northern Lights or, in March, watch the start of the grueling annual 1,600-mile Iditarod sled race between Anchorage and the western city of Nome. the gold Rush.

Humphrey recommends taking the Alaska Railroad, pictured above, for a scenic ride across the country

Humphrey recommends taking the Alaska Railroad, pictured above, for a scenic ride across the country

Watch the start of the grueling annual 1,000-mile Iditarod sled race between Anchorage and the western gold rush town of Nome (pictured)

Watch the start of the grueling annual 1,000-mile Iditarod sled race between Anchorage and the western gold rush town of Nome (pictured)

Alaskan dogs pulling a sled in the Iditarod sled race

Alaskan dogs pulling a sled in the Iditarod sled race

Even in bad weather, there is plenty to stimulate. The cleverly curated Anchorage Museum blends art gallery with history and culture. The nearby Alaska Veterans Museum tells the little-known story of the World War II battle against Japan in the Aleutian Islands, the only US territory ever occupied by a foreign force. Just outside of town, immerse yourself in the Alaska Native Heritage Center with life-size exhibits of settlements, dance performances and storytelling.

Or take the Alaska Railroad for a scenic waterside ride to the coastal town of Whittier, where our glacier catamaran cruise departs.

We reached the glacier in time to see vast chunks falling into the water like collapsing cliffs, a reminder of the power of nature. As if on cue, a humpback whale launched out of the water before crashing again, and a pod of sleek and graceful porpoises swam alongside us on our final stretch to port.

Humphrey sets off on his glacier catamaran cruise from the picturesque coastal town of Whittier (above)

Humphrey sets off on his glacier catamaran cruise from the picturesque coastal town of Whittier (above)

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Humphrey Hawksley flew to Anchorage with British Airways and Alaska Airlines, with return flights from £1,045. He stayed at the Captain Cook Hotel (captaincook.com), where a deluxe room with creek or mountain views costs £142 a night. He toured with Phillips Cruises and Tours, from £125 pp (phillipscruises.com) and Go Hike Alaska, from £75 pp (gohikealaska.com). More information at Visit Anchorage Alaska (anchorage.net). Humphrey Hawksley’s latest thriller, Man On Fire, is based in Alaska.

About George Dailey

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