Catch the cold in Alaska

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - KATE OS­BORNE TOWNSVILLE, QUEENS­LAND Su­san Kurosawa (02) 9288 2464 Sharon Fowler (02) 9288 2419 Chris­tine McCabe Ju­dith Elen Stan­ley Stewart, Vi­jay Vergh­ese Penny Hunter, Mark South­cott Bob Rickey (02) 9288 3659; bob.rickey@news.com.au

The packed snow crunches under my feet on the drive­way. It’s Fe­bru­ary, the tail end of the north­ern win­ter, and my part­ner and I have just ar­rived in Ke­nai, Alaska, to spend a week tour­ing around with an old friend.

Ear­lier, as we fly up the Cana­dian coast to­ward An­chor­age, I stare out at a frozen planet. Pass­ing end­less ex­panses of jagged, snow-cov­ered moun­tains I won­der if I have made a huge mis­take vis­it­ing Alaska in the low, cold sea­son.

Dur­ing our first few days we ex­plore Ke­nai. At a sum­mer swim­ming spot we walk on the shore among head­high blocks of sea ice. Later, to catch the sun­set, we hike on a lake where in­stead of kayak­ers we find ice fish­ers.

At times it is so bit­terly cold that only short sharp ad­ven­tures are fea­si­ble fol­lowed by warm­ing brews and for­ti­fy­ing spir­its. There are some great deals with lowsea­son prices but also the in­evitable “closed” signs on some restau­rants, gal­leries and lo­cal at­trac­tions.

That is OK be­cause there are enough places open to sam­ple lo­cal cui­sine. We en­joy the quiet and find many lo­cals have time and op­por­tu­nity to chat. In Alaska, big na­ture is king and it’s there year-round. We head for Homer, a fish­ing port and sum­mer tourist mecca. At the end of a nar­row cause­way, known as Land’s End, we set­tle into our ho­tel room over­look­ing Katchemak Bay.

The spout of a hump­back whale throws a misty spray across the deep-blue windswept har­bour flanked by glaciers and moun­tain peaks. Seals and ot­ters pa­trol the shore­line among flocks of seabirds while bald ea­gles perch on drift­wood on the beach. A cosy din­ner and glimpses of the North­ern Lights are the fi­nal touches for a won­der­ful stay that has rekin­dled a great friend­ship.

On our fi­nal evening in Ke­nai I sit in a spa with a glass of wine, as snowflakes set­tle and melt on my shoul­ders. I wouldn’t swap my win­ter week in Alaska for any­thing.

I do want to go back. I feel the sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment that comes with the ap­proach of spring. I want to see the salmon run, watch a bear catch a fish and lie on the grass under the mid­night sun. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists will re­ceive a Braven 405 Blue­tooth speaker with a light­weight, durable and wa­ter­proof cas­ing, 15m wire­less range and 24 hours of play time; $129.95. More: braven.com.au.

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