My father served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954 during the Korean conflict. While the majority of his platoon was sent overseas, he and a few others in his company were deployed to the Alaskan Territory (Alaska did not become a state until 1959) to guard Elmendorf Air Force Base, outside of Anchorage.
The United States, and the then Soviet Union, were in the height of the Cold War. Only 90 miles separated the territory from the Soviets so he was involved in several maneuvers that took his company to some of the most extreme conditions the region had to offer.
If we ever asked as kids to go camping, my father would refuse saying that he had done enough camping to last a lifetime. “I have spent my last night looking at the inside of a tent,” he would say. Who could blame him? I would shiver at the sight of the pictures he shared.
Quite an experience for my dad. One he never forgot and one he never let us forget.
More than 60 years later, there are no shortage of cruise ships that make their way through Alaska’s Inside Passage, docking at some of the southern ports. Shelley said we’re going on an Alaskan cruise, so we met up with the kids in Seattle and off we went.
Times do change. We sailed in the comfort of a cruise ship and not the hold of a military transport. We kayaked, hiked and rock climbed, but not while wearing parkas and carrying packs. We slept in freshly made beds, and not on cots in Quonset huts and heavy canvas tents heated by propane stoves.
The scenery was nothing less than spectacular. The 7-day journey took us from the Port of Seattle with stops in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia.
Added to the amazement were sightings of bald eagles, sea lions, seals and whales. The passage through Glacier Bay National Park helped us all to experience and visualize first-hand, the speedy decline of the glaciers and the effects of global warming. I’m not a scientist, but I saw it and it’s real.
So real, that it brought tears to my naturalist daughter’s eyes. She listened intently to the park ranger’s presentation and then witnessed for herself, the enormous scope of the glaciers’ steady decline.
Sorry to bum everyone out, but let’s all consider driving less, or not at all, and really think about what we’re consuming and how much. I don’t know if the trend can be reversed, but at least we can try to slow it down. That’s a whole other blog.
My dad passed away a number of years ago, but I thought of him quite a bit on our trip. While we didn’t fly into Nome on a frozen runway, we probably did pass through some of the same, vast areas and see some of the same things.
Looking at maps that showed the sizes of the glaciers in years past, he no doubt saw much more of them that we did over 60 years later.
And, as I mentioned earlier, our accommodations were a bit nicer and the excursions we experienced were a little less physically taxing than his maneuvers.
I can hear my dad now... “You actually PAID to climb on rocks and paddle a boat in freezing waters? What are you, nuts?”
It was all about the experience, dad. A little bit different than yours though, I’m sure.
By the way, thank you for your service.