Hooked on Alaska

Where kids can catch a faceful of the wild

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If you'd asked what I thought of humpback whales when I was eight, I probably would have told you they have bad breath. On a family salmon fishing trip out of Juneau, we came upon a group of feeding humpbacks who breached the surface and smashed their huge bodies on the gray water. One whale came up right in front of me and gave me a spray of salty blow-hole breath in the face.

In Alaska, such intimate encounters with wild things are quite common, and children can learn firsthand about animals and places they otherwise might see only on television or in zoos.

Now I travel the state with my children, Robin, five, and Julia, two. They point out with wonder many things I overlook. We once sat on a dock for hours, watching a mother sea otter play with her pups, thanks to RobinĂ˜s persistent fascination. And who would have guessed there could be so many ways to have fun in a Forest Service campsite?.

Following are four Alaska itineraries recommended for active families with children of various ages. Each includes unspoiled wilderness and wildlife viewing that you can get to without the expense of chartering a bush plane or a boat.

Family Vacations, Summer 1997

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