As to Alaska, All I Can Say is “Wow!” (with a sprinkling of other “W” words)

The other day we rented a car from Enterprise in Anchorage, Alaska, to drive south of the state a ways. Up to then the only words we had to describe what little we had already seen in the state they call the “Last Frontier” was: “Wow!”

And it had barely begun. Believe me. Those mudflats and sparkling waters, near where we hiked the day before, along with a stop on a mountain called Flat top, where cold winds gave life to our aging bones – all that was, indeed, “Wowful” but when I steered our midsized Kia onto the highway to Homer it was like rolling along a highway in the Twilight Zone, watching a world open up to us unlike any we had ever seen or dreamed of.

Hallucinatory-like snow capped brown and green and orangeish mountains, releasing waterfalls and rivers and lakes and streams and lagoons ranging from emerald to turquoise to indigo blue to icy gray to various mixtures of each of these hues. A glacier wearing the colors white and blue put on quite a calving show as it let go of  ice that is melting rapidly in the warming of the globe, setting off waves that rocked our boat. I mean, “Wow, Jim!”

“Wow” also known as “Whoa!” and “Whee!” and “Whoo!” became the only word our minds could entertain, other than a few other “W” words that segued into each other like music transitioning from one section or theme into another. There’s was nothing about the trip that didn’t include a “W” word.

Like welcoming. Welcoming people who loved to talk about their ways of living, hunting and fishing and sailing and camping and skiing and dog sledding and zip lining and flying and picking up hitchhikers and going “Sarah who?”

Like wonderful. Wonderful breathtaking displays of wild flowers and weeds, stretched across plains and hillsides and mountainsides and forests and hiking trails like the one I walked alone, along the Nenana River which rushed by my side, in the incredibly expansive Denali National Park and Preserve, like a tormented soul racing itself to the Pacific Ocean. Wow!

Like wild. We only saw three mooses, two bald eagles, a herd of caribou preparing for winter which was just days away although it’s early August, a bunch of kickass mosquitos, some sea otters and seals, a kickback mellow dog I’d like to steal named Chale Tamale. But we knew there were Grizzlies nearby and we were told that if we encountered one we were not to run – because the bear would see this as fear and the bear would be right and he can run 40 miles an hour for a short distance and you can’t, making you but a short distance away – but stand tall, face the bear and appear bigger than you are and talk like Barry White:

“Hey, baby, I ain’t going to hurt you” as if a Grizzly would need to be told that – “I just want to show you some love.” I couldn’t help but wonder what Mini-Me standing taller than he really is, at his sweet talking best, would look like to a killer bear. An appetizer, perhaps.

The word out on a moose, is he don’t play that looking him in the eye stuff, singing torch songs; you’re best to run zig-zag fashion and duck behind trees and don’t all of a sudden think you’re LaDanian Thomas and break out into the open field for the moose, too, can run about 40 miles an hour and is an All-Pro linebacker by nature.

And those white goats, walking high on a rocky ledge as our train slowly passed by – that’s a sight that had never crossed my eye. Wow!

Like whimsical. Alaska is so playful and quaint and ruggedly powerful and cruel at the same time, a place where some birds fly freely along cliffs and feed on fish as though they have not a worry in the world and other animals face a world of struggle and adaptation where hardship is a fact of life, where survival of the fittest truly is a reality.

Like whiskey sours. Our days in this land of wonder with its tapestry of colors and textures that seem magical would often end at the 11 pm sunsets, with us sipping from a shared glass of this lemon cherry flavored drink, recollecting and laughing about something funny from the day, appreciating how good it felt being together in such an exotic setting, in such a carefree way. We felt so thankful. So alive.

We called the trip a part of a trial run, a getting to know each other better. And I’d say experiencing beauty as far as the eye can see in a world so wild and vast with someone like that woman next to me was a journey I can only describe with: “Wow!”

Photo courtesy of Maria Nieto Senour

More photos of an Alaskan Adventure here.


Ernie McCray

I was raised in a loving and alive home, in a black neighborhood filled with colorful characters in Tucson, Arizona. Such an environment gave me a hint that life has to be grabbed by the tail as tight as a pimple on a mosquito's butt. With no BS and a whole lot of love. So, from those days to now I get up every morning set on making the world a better place. On my good foot*, and I hope my writing reflects that. *an old black expression

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  1. avatar says

    Wow is right! Ernie is one of my favorite writers (and people) and it looks like we both went to Alaska for the first time this year. Allright! And speaking like Barry White to a bear never crossed my mind, until now.

    • avatarErnie McCray says

      It would be just my luck that when I confront the bear that I would have laryngitis and sound like Tiny Tim and really freak the bear out and then I’d have to run 45 miles per hour.

  2. avatar says

    WOWderful description of the fullness of mother nature from which we have W@andered so far aWay.

    Thanks for the feeling and the Wanderful photos Maria and to the 2 of you for gracing our livingroom last weekend.


  3. avatarKatherine says

    here’s another “w” word – wish!! wish i could go and see for myself all the beauty and splendor. don’t need to see a bear AT ALL. you see a san diegan was just killed in the denali ntl forrest! heard the people were welcoming and pioneer-type strong people. sarah who????
    did you ever read the kate shugat mystery series? kate in 1/2 innuit and 1/2 russian and a great heroine. dana stabenow writes the books and she is one of my favorites.
    again, wish i could go and visit alask and eat fresh salmon and spend time with the man i love. but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, right?
    glad you guys had such a great time and sorry it took so long to write.

    • avatarErnie McCray says

      it’s never too late to write about Alaska as the beauty and splendor will still be there – with bears (smile).