Imagine a land of 20,000-foot mountain peaks and more than 10,000 glaciers, a place where wild animals roam freely, as they have for eons. Visualize traveling through a landscape so vast it's virtually free of human beings.
You don't know what "into the wild" means until you've camped in the backwoods of Alaska. For this trip, we drove a 2004 Ford F-250 Crew Cab equipped with a self-contained Fleetwood camper. The Great White North includes 150 million acres of national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other wilderness preserves--ample territory for four-wheel-drive exploration. America's Last Frontier contains 38 mountain ranges, 3000 rivers, and three million lakes, all in climatic zones ranging from temperate rainforest to arid tundra. Imagination turns to reality when you step off of the plane in Anchorage, outfit the camper, and head off into the bush.
We drove south to the Kenai Peninsula. Views of the Turnagain Arm rival any on the planet. As we approached the turnoff to Portage Glacier, we really didn't know what to expect. After all, we decided to come to Alaska from our home base in Kona, Hawaii, to take a break from the tropical heat and embark on a camping adventure. We drove to Black Bear Campground and settled in for the evening.
The following morning, we hiked 30 minutes to the face of the massive glacier. Five minutes into the hike, we noticed a sow grizzly and her cub on the side of the trail. We passed them carefully, leaving our pepper spray unused, and returned to camp after the half-day excursion.
Leaving Portage Glacier, we headed south on the Seward Highway toward our unplanned destination at Miller's Landing, a campground two miles south of the seaside fishing village of Seward. We met a local innkeeper, Trudy Lively, who greeted us warmly and helped us plan our itinerary for the next day. Trudy told us that she lives in Honolulu in the winter and comes to Seward in the summers to hang out with the halibut fishermen and listen to their tales of unlimited catch. We learned that Trudy is typical of people in Alaska; most of them are there looking for adventure.