KidTripster Teen: Why this Alaskan island may be better visited as a grown-up, if at all.
My family and I flew to Wrangell, Alaska, for a summer vacation. The island of Wrangell, nestled in the southeastern region of Alaska, is five miles wide and 11 miles in length and only can be accessed by plane or boat charter. After arriving at the island’s airport, we were shuttled into town, where I was able to get a good look at the village itself. The town consisted of what one would expect to find on an island of its size: a high school, a middle school, two grocery stores, a cultural museum, and a few gift shops. My favorite was the one with the painted bear outside; these bears were scattered across town, presumably the result of a charity event that had taken place earlier. But by and large, the streets were mostly empty, and the silence only broken by the occasional honk of a commercial fishing boat; there were a lot of those this time of year.
While the island itself was fairly scenic, there wasn’t much wildlife to speak of. There were a few hiking trails, most notably a short hike up Mt. Dewey, for those looking to stay active. The museum and cultural center are also worth exploring, as both are overall kid-friendly and delve into the native history of the island.
Still, unless fishing is your forte, after a few days, you’re more than a little likely to go stir crazy. Leaving the island is your best bet when it comes to viewing what Alaska has to offer. However, leaving Wrangell poses the same challenges as getting there, meaning that chartering a tour boat is the best course of action. Some of the highlights from our experiences on the water were navigating the crystalline, blue, ice floes dotted with lounging sea sausages (that is, seals), and watching the LeConte Glacier calve every few minutes, causing monumental splashes with chunks of ice the size of office buildings. On a separate occasion, my family made the trip up to the Anan Bear Observatory, where we did exactly that: observe bears, albeit from a distance. When we weren’t fixated on two grizzly bears wrestling on a faraway beach, we caught glimpses of bald eagles, herons, and even a run of salmon making the seemingly impossible journey upriver. Various viewing platforms allow visitors to observe the reserve’s many bear residents. I was lucky enough to witness a young black bear on the hunt for fish and eventually succeed in catching one. Still, out of the entire visit, this sighting was really the only one of any note.
Maybe years of postcards portraying Alaska as a see-wildlife-everywhere paradise have warped my expectations. Maybe I still haven’t grown out of my itch for activity and lack the ability to just settle in for a few days. There was a quote I found during my visit to the museum - something along the lines of, “If you are a seasoned traveler, Wrangell is the place to be. If you’re still in your youth, then wait: you wouldn’t want all your travels to pale in comparison.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the quote’s overarching message, I can surmise that Wrangell possesses some form of magic that I have yet to understand. Though a lonely island like Wrangell can be a breath of fresh air for some, there is such thing as too much peace and quiet, especially when you’re a kid.
Emmersen Cohn is a senior from Portland, Oregon. When she's not traveling with her family and friends, Emmersen participates in her school’s theater productions, volunteers at the Oregon Zoo, and writes original stories, including Dungeons and Dragons campaigns for a club that she founded. Her favorite things include obscure references, palindromes, and her cat compadre, Plum.