Alaska: Riding in the Last Frontier

By Diane Oliver

After eight days of eating sumptuous foods and not visiting the cruise ship's gym, we were ready for some outdoor fun- horseback riding in one of the last great frontiers, Alaska. We were coming to the end of a wonderful vacation cruising the Alaskan coastline and inland to the sights of majestic Mt. McKinley, a rugged area with spectacular views that are best reached on horseback.

The coast becomes more rocky and breathtaking the further you go along the inside passage. After stops in Ketchikan, Alaska's capital Juneau and Skagway, the Gateway to the Yukon, we cruised the Prince William Sound for two days. The scenery was gorgeous with glaciers and mountains, which come right down to the water's edge. The week's cruise ended in Whittier, where we got off of the cruise ship and headed inland and northward to the wonders of Denali National Park.

We took a nine hour train ride on a dome-style train with large windows which extend overhead. There were great views of the countryside and wildlife as we chugged along through tunnels and rickety bridges, including Moose, Dall Sheep, Caribou and a bear fishing in one of the rivers as we passed over.

Mt. McKinley or Denali, as it was named by the Alaskan natives, means the Great One. It is one of the most intriguing sights that I have ever seen. As the clouds moved away, I just couldn't believe the size and the mystery of the majestic peak. No wonder it is such a dream for a mountain climber to attempt the climb!

We arranged for a trail ride through our Princess Lodge which would take us on a five mile trek through the mountains of Denali Park. The cowboys came to pick up us up and take us to the stables. There were ten of us ready to explore the wilderness by horseback. The Cowboys paired us up with horses based on our riding ability and size. My horse was a surefooted Dun Quarter horse named Cash. We got along just fine.

We started our adventure on the trails of Denali Park at a brisk walk. This was the end of the season and there had been a lot of rain so the trails were a little muddy. The horses had to be surefooted and agile, which they were. The trails wound through the lush forest. The leaves had all changed color to a vibrant yellow with a mixture of dark green. Every once in while we would ride through a nice clearing and see breathtaking views of the snow peaked mountains. The horses were equipped with feedbags on their heads. This was to keep them from nibbling as we rode, but also to keep them from eating any of the poisonous berries or shrubs that we passed along the trail.

At the peak of our trek we stopped at a gorgeous clearing with views of the mountains, which was a perfect spot for photo ops. Then we made the ride back down the mountain to the stables. What a wonderful crisp morning riding in Alaska