Alaska is perhaps my favorite place, a rare place where you can still witness nature fully at its work, and preserved in its wild ways. I wanted to share Alaska with my partner Andrea and spend the summer really immersing ourselves in both the landscape and culture. There is a unique dynamic in Alaska: the community is very welcoming and excited to share, the people are deeply connected to their environment. Everything is larger, the extremes are more pronounced, and the remoteness of many places contributes to this sense of closeness. Mountains tower up out of the ocean, glaciers carve across the landscape, the weather is unpredictable, and roads are few — and often unkempt.
Photography & Author: Alex Strohlhuckberry.com
As it turned out, summer never really came. It was wet and cold throughout the Kenai Peninsula. It raining most days and cleared up infrequently. The beginning of our trip seemed like a disappointment, but as time wore on we realized we were getting a truer taste of Alaskan life. Surrounded by the mountains, next to the north Pacific and never far from some of North America’s most pronounced glaciers, this wasn’t a landscape that was supposed to be sunny and warm. It was carved by the extremes, and thrives on the very same wet and cold that we were bristling against. We released our expectations and gave in to the notion that our summer would be as it should be this far north — we were experiencing the real Alaska.
Life on the road is defined by freedom: finding swimming holes off the road, scouting camp spots in the hills, choosing whenever you want to make a pitstop. None of us on the trip had driven the entirety of the Alaska highway, and most of us hadn’t ever made it as north as the Yukon until now. Carving through Northern British Colombia, south-western Yukon and the heart of West Alaska was fascinating. Watching the ever changing landscape shift over the long and impossibly diverse highway was something that you can only experience in a car. Having the Land Rover to test rugged backroads was an instant bonus.
The Knik River Lodge was one of our first tastes of true Alaskan hospitality. If you want to get around you’ll often need more than just a car, it takes boats, helicopters and float planes to find the local secrets and hidden gems. At the lodge, the owner Peter mentioned he owned a helicopter and offered to tour us around the glacier. From above we saw this incredible blue lake that had formed atop the glacial ice and we immediately wondered if it was possible to get our kayaks up there.
Peter told us that if we could get the Kayaks to the mouth of the glacier in our car, he could probably sling load the kayaks up to the lake and land somewhere nearby. Kayaking through crevasses and staring through the clear water into the heart of the glacier is something I’ll never forget.
If you want to find a gem hidden in the Alaskan landscape, you’d better find someone who knows. Down in Homer, tucked into the fjords, you’re probably also going to need someone with a boat.
For us, it was Brad.
We had spent the day before out on his boat, tracing the coastline, looking for a spot to camp. Eventually we found an island tucked down a nearby peninsula; an island we had no chance of finding, much less accessing without the help of someone who grew up on these waters and called this coastline home.