When our guide told us we should expect to see black bears, I was equally excited and nervous. We were on our first trip to Alaska, and our journey took us over to the village of Haines, just across the Lynn Canal from Skagway. Haines is known as Alaska's adventure capital, and we set out to go kayaking in Chilkoot Lake (pictured above).
About those bears. We spotted a couple cozying up to anglers casting in the river. The fishermen were completely unaffected by the presence of these creatures. We were told that as long as they don't feel threatened, the bears will go about their own business.
As we walked along the wilderness around the lake, we also were warned to be on the lookout for bears, and to stand our ground and be calm if we saw any. This sounds so much easier said than done. How in the world do you not just turn and run. Gulp!
I'm not sure that I was thankful or regretful that I didn't see a bear up close. But we certainly weren't bored -- with so much other wilderness on display during our indescribably beautiful day kayaking around the serene lake. Haines is a quaint town filled with a relaxed vibe and home to native Alaskans and transplants from the lower 48 and elsewhere who are seeking to enjoy a peaceful bond with nature.
If you love adventure and nature, check out Haines. You know Alaska offers infinite possibilities for the active traveler to enjoy, so you could spend a lifetime exploring all over the state.
I've got a packing list here of items you'll want to consider for your cruise to Alaska. This list is for items that are uniquely suited for Alaska and does not include items you would take with you no matter where you were going. (I'm not the one to tell you that you need to pack enough underwear, OK?)
Think layers -- Average temperatures range between 55 and 65 degrees (F), but you might see 80-degree days, too. So, you want to be ready to add on or strip off. Pack lightweight and comfy athletic shirts (wicking material works best), T-shirts and polos and lightweight waterproof jackets make the best outerwear this time of year. Also, consider versatile khaki-style pants that you are comfortable hiking, with pockets and that can be easily converted to shorts (zippers, Velcro releases).
Sturdy waterproof hiking shoes/boots -- You will be walking a lot and on varying terrains and possibly through a bit of water or mud. Have the right socks, too. Avoid cotton and carry an extra pair or two in your backpack. Also, bring skidproof shoes to wear onboard your ship. Rains and general moisture in the air can make outdoor deck areas extremely slippery and hazardous.
Backpack -- Always valuable for time ashore, a backpack is needed to carry all your extras, such as snacks (almonds and protein bars for energy, perhaps), rain gear, sunscreen, bug sprays, hats and other essentials -- especially on hikes.
Tripod/good camera -- Always be alert. Wildlife might be spotted at every turn. We saw a large group of fur seals gathered on a rocky beach during our trip. But they were too far away to just point and shoot with our digital camera. You want a steady shot to capture your best pictures to show off to your friends and family. You might see whales, sea lions, bears, bald eagles and so much more. Don't come back with great memories but only blurry images.
Binoculars -- Whether ashore, on your ship's top deck or balcony or on a ferry boat or kayak ride, you can spy many natural wonders when gazing at the horizon.
Rain gear -- It rains often in summer in southeast Alaska. Pack collapsible umbrellas, rain ponchos and large plastic zip-top bags to separate wet and dry clothes in case you need to change when ashore for your excursions.
Enjoy your time in this amazing frontier.
Travel fit. Travel happy.