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People are always surprised to hear that I’ve been to Alaska five times. It is a place that seems so vast, so wild, so far. People want to make the trip once, and then cross it off their bucket list. But for an outdoorsman like me, there’s no better place to have an adventure: I’ve skied peaks in the Tordrillo Mountains reachable only by helicopter, and I’ve taken float planes to pristine streams in search of steelhead trout.
Now, however, my travel style has shifted. I’m married with a toddler, and it isn’t practical for us to tour Alaska by helicopter, float plane or snowboard. But I still want bears and glaciers—plus a bit of comfort, and maybe a babysitter. Once I’d dreamed up this hypothetical vacation, I realized that it already exists. And it floats.
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There’s a reason why most people visit Alaska by cruise ship (nearly 60 percent of visitors in 2011): It’s the simplest way to see the broadest swath of the state. But, to help ease my transition from gonzo adventurer to family man, I booked us three days in a wilderness lodge first.