Alaska is gigantic and beyond beautiful. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have 10 days exploring Alaska with 3 of my best friends. With no real plan, all we knew was we had to be back at the airport by our departure date. Here are some things I learned from that trip.
1) Your camera sucks.
Alaska is so insanely beautiful that it is almost impossible to capture it on a camera. Sure, you can get a good frame and it will be rad but it is only a small portion of what is in front of you. I love photography but this trip taught me that sometimes, it's best to just soak in the beauty and not worry about the shot.
2) Bears don't exist.
Don't call me an idiot just yet, I know there is 100% proof bears are real BUT we didn't see one bear at all. Not one. That's definitely a good thing but after everything we read, locals we talked to, all the bear mace we bought... we were ready! Instead, I accidentally bear-maced my friends as we got in our tents one night. I learned to laugh the unexpected off and my friends didn't kill me.
3) You're never really in control.
The weather in Alaska is a totally different beast than anywhere I've traveled to. We experienced rain, snow, sun, cloudy, and clear skies in one day. It would have been easy to get bummed out because Denali was socked in when we got to Denali National Park. It would have been easy to get bummed about canceling our backcountry plans due to the rain but we were all so stoked and thankful to be in Alaska that it didn't even matter. Life is what you make of the bad parts.
4) Coffee will always be my pick-me-up.
After living in Seattle for a few years, I'll admit I fell in the trap of being a coffee fiend. I've always enjoyed coffee; excellent artisanal coffee or crappy gas station coffee.. I'll drink it. Man, after some rough nights of sleep, a morning cup of coffee fresh from the JetBoil is heaven in liquid form. I would sip on that for so long, savoring each drink. There's just something about drinking coffee after waking up in your tent with a panorama of mountains in front of you. Enjoy it.
5) You can roam freely in Denali National Park.
I didn't do my research and I know most people know this but it was a shock to me. Living in Washington, I've always explored with the rule of "Don't go off trail, leave nature wild". When we got to Denali we asked the Ranger if he could recommend any good trails. He kind of just smiled at us (I knew he thought "More noob tourists") and said, "There's not really trails here, you're free to go explore wherever you guys want". It's amazing that you can go wherever you want in the park and tell your shuttle driver when you'd like to get off. It's comforting to know that these types of places still exist. Roam freely, friends.
6) Alaska saves the best for last.
The entire trip was mind-blowing, from Anchorage to Fairbanks to Seward. We explored glaciers, lakes, rivers, and mountains. All of us wanted to see the Northern Lights but every night the clouds would roll in or the Aurora wasn't happening in the area. Our last night, the skies opened up and the sun decided to be nice earlier and spew out some solar flares. We were shown an amazing view of the Northern Lights over the Chugach Mountains. We stayed out in the cold until 3AM freezing but in awe. I'll never forget that night and how Alaska was kind enough to show us the Aurora Borealis.
7) It makes the best of friends.
I've travelled with the guys before to some pretty cool places but bonds will always grow stronger when you suffer through hikes, rain, restless nights, and many freeze dried meals. The best thing was that all of us would roll with the punches and adapt to changing plans, weather, and situations. After traveling to so many places, this is probably the one thing I always leave with; appreciate the people around you when you're away from home. Enjoy the good times and laugh away the bad times.