THERE IS A CERTAIN subspecies of the human race known to Alaskans as Homo Sapiens hospesdomus exhades, perhaps more familiar to you as the Houseguest from Hell. These people show up as early as March and eat all your food and drink all your beer and run your car out of gas and marvel at the fact that you have cable and that you can spend American money in Alaska, and they never, ever go away, or they don’t until the temperature drops below freezing, sometime in September and maybe October.
After a while you’ll do anything to get them out of the house. “There’s this great trip to Denali,” you’ll say, and put them on the Alaska Railroad forthwith. Or “You really should walk inside the mouth of a glacier once while you’re here,” and you bundle them into a car and point them toward Eklutna. Or “The view of Turnagain Arm from the tram is incredible,” and you put them on a bus for Girdwood.
But when you mention the Kenai Fjords tour of Resurrection Bay, you say, “WE’LL go tomorrow.” I’ve taken this cruise four times, and every time I think, “Well, they’ll never do anything to top that,” and the next time, they do, showing me things I’ve never seen before.
Like the Grotto, a circular island in the Chiswells, walls of rock rising straight into the air for a hundred feet, on whose very narrow, steep ledges lounge immense, blubbery Steller sea lions.
Like the resident pod of killer whales meeting up with the transient pod of killer whales at the mouth of Resurrection Bay. One pod circled to the east, the other pod circled to the west, they never so much as slapped fins in passing. The residents live in Resurrection Bay, the transients cruise Prince William Sound, and never the twain shall meet, according to Captain Mark Bartholomew. “The residents eat fish. The transients eat sea mammals, like sea otters and sea lions. The two pods don’t speak each other’s language, and they don’t interbreed.”
Like a glacier calving in your face as your boat sits dead in the water opposite, chunks of previous ice falls knocking against the hull.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.