Many contenders for best moment of Alaska tour
ABOVE: PADDLING UP THE VALDEZ ARM
When asked what the best moment of the Alaska 2016 trip was, I faced an unexpected and rather difficult problem. To my friends’ disapproval, ‘all of it’ was not a sufficient answer.
So I began to think over my fondest memories of the trip. I was unable to decide which of our two most surreal animal sightings should take the top spot. Perhaps it was observing a humpback whale as it followed and played with us throughout our entire 2.30am paddle through the Valdez Arm. Or maybe watching black bears graze through green, grassy plains as they cautiously analysed the scents that drifted through the air before catching ours and hastily heading in the opposite direction.
It led me down the difficult path of explaining that there was no single highlight, but rather many different moments which came together to constitute an amazing trip. After all, the more I reflect, the more highlight contenders began to surface: taking turns plunging into the freezing glacial waters; posing atop pearlescent icebergs for camera shots at Shoup Glacier; or perhaps paddling among hundred foot glaciers of a myriad of colours in Colombia Bay. Even the supposedly simple challenge of having to erect our own shelters, the quality of which we would have to deal with for that evening was (when done well) one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever had to conquer.
The real question to ask was what were the negatives? And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think there were any. For me, the challenges of paddling long days and getting wet and cold were all simply experiences, contrasts, moments which made the trip more special.
Such an explanation is usually followed by a question along the lines of ‘How come you guys are so tanned?’, at which point I continue my stories about the other aspects of the trip: exploring the streets of Valdez and wandering through the busy fishing port; lounging and playing volleyball on the warm idyllic sands of Santa Monica beach. Our group was blessed to have wonderfully sunny weather for the vast majority of the trip, as we witnessed some of the most picturesque landscapes on the planet while exploring our way through the US.
Along with some incredible photos came some incredible stories, which those participating in the tour will recall, including the fable of Rory’s cardboard box hat and sunken Go Pro, and the epic journey that constituted Campbell’s daredevil harbour jump. For myself, it was the cautionary tale of being woken in the single room which was Valdez airport and being told I had missed my flight, as my ‘friends’ laughed in the distance.
Alaska 2016 was a trip like no other. I am extremely glad that I was able to take part in such an amazing experience and most thankful to all who contributed to its success.
JAMES HART — YEAR 10
WHITE WATER RAFTING DOWN THE KEYSTONE CANYON
INFRONT OF THE SHOUP GLACIER
ICEBERG FROM COLUMBIA GLACIER