The Perfect Alaskan Day I Didn’t Want

Alaskan Cruise, Day 6 – Wilderness Exploration

Today we went on a “breathtaking tour in which renowned naturalists, magnificent wildlife and an exploration of six ecosystems – ocean, estuary, river, lake, muskeg and rainforest – await in this town aptly nicknamed the ‘Valley of the Eagles.’”

That’s how the brochure described it. It could also be called “Four hours on a bus hanging out with Stacie and Terra.”

The brochure was accurate in every respect. Two young women who know more about wildlife than everyone in my hometown put together took us to all six of those ecosystems and showed us animals. Yet the tour wasn’t how I’d imagined it would be. I had imagined we’d be pushing through the brush like mountain men, spying on bears down by the stream as they knocked back a few jumping salmon. I don’t care that watching wild bears eat is about the stupidest thing you can do. It’s what I expected.

Stacie and Terra gave us something infinitely cooler than my expectation, which would have ended with my entrails flying around like streamers on New Year’s Eve. They showed us a few birds as we drove past, and they told us about the dozens of God’s creatures that God decided not to let us see today. They also spent a lot of time telling us about life as an Alaskan tour guide, living in a tent and recycling everything but toilet paper.

The whole experience was like a laid-back party after a day at the renaissance fair, but without the drum jam.

Terra also took advantage of the beautiful, warm weather by leading us on a short walk through a muskeg, which is another name for a bog. She didn’t explain why they don’t just call it a bog and stop screwing with us stupid people. She then led us on a short walk through the temperate Alaskan rainforest, which looked a lot like the muskeg to me, except that the ground didn’t try to suck off our feet.

Here’s the muskeg/rainforest:

This is a temperate rainforest. It's seems to be a bog as well, since we got back on the bus with two fewer kids than when we got off.
This is a temperate rainforest. It’s seems to be a bog as well, since we got back on the bus with two fewer kids than when we got off.

Stacie and Terra delivered even more than the brochure promised by visiting two additional ecosystems:

First, we visited the “side garden ecosystem” of a nice lady who let us watch wildlife through telescopes beside her house as long as we didn’t disturb her goats. That was fantastic because bald eagles were nesting across the river. With the naked eye, their heads looked like tiny white blobs. Through the telescope, their heads looked like slightly bigger white blobs.

I swear this could have been a burrito wrapper stuck in the tree and I'd have never known the difference.
I swear this could have been a burrito wrapper stuck in the tree and I’d have never known the difference.

The day’s final ecosystem was “Haines City Park.” The community of Haines is the town nicknamed “the Valley of the Eagles.” In the park we ate grilled chicken Cesar wraps, Sun Chips, and oatmeal cookies. The brochure had been entirely mute on the subject of cookies, so we had Stacie and Terra to thank for this flourish.

Eating cookies with our new friends Iman, Isam, and the children they have remaining after the muskeg.
Eating cookies with our new friends Iman, Isam, and the children they have remaining after the muskeg.

If you’re ever in the Valley of the Eagles, I recommend that you visit Stacie and Terra. In fact, I advise it with immense gravity. Their tour fulfills the only criteria that matter when seeking a successful and enjoyable life experience.

You don’t die, and you get a cookie.

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