Alaska

Debbie and Robert Breedlove, Natalie Watson, Allan Breedlove & Maya Breedlove in Juneau’s cold Auke Bay with their halibut catches of the day.

It had all the ingredients for a fabulous adventure.

It exceeded all our wildest expectations!

My bride, Debbie, and I recently returned from a much-anticipated trip to our 49th state, Alaska.

My sweet lady had been wanting to make this particular trip for a quarter century or more, and we finally were able to pull it off.

Even though it was the eighth time we had ventured to this area of planet Earth, this was absolutely our Alaska trip with the cherry-on-top.

Since our oldest son. Allan, 43, and his small family, spouse, Natalie, and child, Maya, 9, moved to Juneau 3 years ago, it made our decision to visit them in “The Greatland” absolutely a no-brainer!

I begin planning this outing several months before our departure. One afternoon in my Our Town office, I was telling my dear friend, Rollo, about my proposed upcoming trek to Alaska. Rollo listened intently, then after I was done with my trip summary, he asked me who planned this sojourn,which was full of intricate details? When I told him I had done it all myself, he looked at me with utter disbelief! Yes, we were able to successfully accomplish the mission, with lots of travel luck on our side.

Our memorable excursion began with an Alaska Airlines non-stop jet flight, Oklahoma City to Seattle, a brief layover, then a second Alaska Airlines jet flight non-stop to Alaska’s small capital city, Juneau. We were met at the Juneau airport by Mr. Allan, and our only grandchild, Maya. They drove us to our motel, not far from the airport, and immediate relaxation from our lengthy travel day .

The following three days, the five of us had a wonderful family-bonding experience, intermingled with seeing lots of Juneau once again. All seven previous visits to Alaska, we had enjoyed Juneau, too, a land-locked town only reachable via air or water. Because of the huge mountains on the eastern side of Juneau, there are virtually no east/west highways to connect it with anywhere else. It is such an isolated place, located in the wilderness of beautiful southeast Alaska.

Our first full day, we drove out to the famous Mendenhall Glacier, the so-called drive-in glacier that is easily accessible to anyone that wants to see this massive work of Mother Nature. We went into their informative visitor center, and, also, hiked around a few of their paved trails, scattered around the gigantic ice structure. Several other times, we drove to Juneau’s historic downtown area, shopping, eating, and people-watching, as one day there were 8 cruise ships in port, to add to the regular town population of 31,000 residents. Personally, I absolutely LOVE people-watching, whenever I am vacationing! Another afternoon, we visited the crowded, local salmon hatchery on the near north side of town. Here visitors are educated on the life cycle of the 5 types of Pacific salmon. All sizes of the incredible fish are on full display in the various pools within the compact structure.

By far, the biggest thrill we experienced was on an afternoon when all 5 of us went deep-sea fishing and whale-watching off the coast in Auke Bay. We chartered a small fishing boat, staffed with a 2-man crew, and traveled several miles out, in order to fish on the bottom (300’ down) of the ocean floor. We had such a great several hours together, and each of us caught our legal limit of delicious halibut. We enjoy halibut so much, we had our recent haul flash-frozen, and shipped back to Our Town after we returned home. To add to our excitement, we ended this special afternoon, by going farther out to sea on our charter vessel, to join several other boats, in watching many humpback whales performing their magic in the cold Gastineau Channel. Several of these gentle giants came close to our vessel, so we were able to capture some excellent photographs and videos! 

After our brief Juneau stay, seeing family and sights, my bride and I “borrowed” Maya, and flew an Alaska Airlines jet 1 1/2 hours northwest to Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, In this large city that contains half of the entire state population in its metro area (state, 800,000, metro Anchorage, 400,000), we spent a leisurely afternoon, visiting the Alaska Zoo. Zoos have always been a favorite of our family activities, as we enjoy their educational missions, displays, and overall atmosphere. 

Now, the stage was set for our first visit to mystical King Salmon, legendary Katmai National Park, and their incredible salmon-fishing brown bears in the cold Brooks River and Falls. Please, sit tight, audience, and I’ll bring you Part 2 of this saga in the next Sunday edition.

Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at dermrefmd@aol.com.

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