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When showing visitors the sights of Alaska, it’s OK to be wowed yourself

  • Author: Alli Harvey
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published July 13, 2017

Hikers take a break and photograph the scenery at the top of the Bird Ridge hike. Ridges of Chugach Mountains are in the background. (Anne Raup / Alaska Dispatch News archive)

I've lived plenty of places other than Alaska in my short life, but nowhere have I had so many visitors. During summer, my calendar fills up fast with houseguests and people to show around. I understand, and I enjoy it. If I lived somewhere else, I would want to visit Alaska too. I love sharing this incredible place with family and friends.

All visitors to Alaska want to experience the outdoors in some way, and boy have I offered the spectrum of experiences. Like all things in life, I've learned my fair share of lessons along the way.

My bar is set higher

Sometimes I have to remind myself to gawk at the stunning scenery that's seemingly everywhere. This is incredible, I sternly tell myself. Few people can see such beauty out their window.

But even though I try to keep my sense of awe, it does take more to impress me these days. Terrible, I know. The fact is that if I can go for a mountain bike ride right outside my backdoor, I get kind of tired of that same ride. I want to go farther into the woods, explore from another trailhead, try another bike.

Seeing a glacier on the daily commute is fine, but it's even better when I can get right up close.

See? Who even says that? When it comes to appreciating the outdoors, Alaska standards are absurd.

On the other hand, the Seward Highway drive is reliably jaw-dropping for any visitor. Add a quick hike from McHugh or up even part of Bird Ridge, and the awe factor quickly multiplies.

Seward Highway hard to beat

I remind myself of this when visitors rely on me to plan what we'll do. I've been guilty more than once of running my dear friends and family ragged. I'm not actually all that hardcore, but the opportunities up here are so plentiful, I always want to show my guests something special.

But incredibly, it's only when people from Outside arrive that I realize how much Alaska's glory has already dulled.

What it takes to inspire me is a pretty high bar. Never doubt the ability of the Seward Highway to inspire and delight from the car window or the McHugh pullout.

But don't forget that visitors will always forget something, including what seems obvious and commonplace to Alaskans — like rain gear. Be ready to share rain boots, sneakers, sleeping pads, etc.

Where to go? At Alyeska Ski Resort, there's the old hike up/tram down trick. Never fails to impress.

Remember, too, that nearby Byron Glacier can be viewed via the world's quickest, flattest hike. That's something old Aunt Sally and other relatives can walk to. For them, I can let go of the lack of adventure — but retain my sense of pride over how much beauty is close at hand.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays throughout Southcentral Alaska.