Hiking the Un-Cruise Way: Meet the “Bushwhack”

A line of happy Un-Cruise Adventures bushwhackers in Neka Bay, Alaska. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Straight out of Merriam-Webster: 

    live or travel in wild or uncultivated country.
    Un-Cruise Adventures does a pretty good job of describing their adventurous style of cruising. Small ships, tiny coves, and a loose itinerary that makes allowances for weather, wildlife, or whims. And it’s those whims of Alaska’s wild outdoors I often defer to when the options for a day’s activities are discussed. 

My favorite kind of Un-Cruise whim? The bushwhack, a sort-of-plotted yet carefully-executed trek through some of Southeast Alaska’s revered rainforest terrain. It’s become somewhat of a signature activity for the company, a rite of passage for many first-time passengers unfamiliar with its origin and purpose. 

Unlike many traditional shore experiences with “typical” Alaska cruise lines, Un-Cruise thrives on a mission to immerse guests in the sensory explosions of the panhandle section of Southeast, and, of course, the best way to do this is by getting everyone’s boots on the ground (or in the mud, depending upon the place). 

Transported from ship to shore in small inflatible skiffs that often splash the chilly, briny sea upon their faces, guests often arrive at the drop-off point with a look of confusion evident on their faces. 

“But where’s the trail?” more than one has asked, making his or her way up a rocky beach lined with wild beach grass and shrubby alders. People are often surprised at the answer of “There isn’t one.” 

Plugging coordinates into a GPS, Un-Cruise guides lead the way (choosing similar routes over the course of a summer, thus knowing in general the locations of pick-up and drop-off sites), armed with bear spray, wilderness first-aid training and an enthusiasm for leading a bunch of anxious but excited passengers into the forest. A few shouts of “Heyyyyyy, bear!” and the straggling line of humans plunges into the underbrush, devil’s club be damned. 

Bushwhacking with Un-Cruise means no trails, but a dry creekbed is always nice. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Hiking without a trail both empowers and humbles the ego. New bushwhackers wiggle over logs and stumble through swamps while straining to catch the ongoing chatter of interpretive lingo taught by guides who seem to know everything about muskegs and moss, bears and bumblebees. They emerge from the experience like gold-medal winners; strengthened and grinning ear to ear. Seasoned hikers are often in for a surprise — they may be able to charge uphill on a maintained trail, but crouching through a willow thicket or teetering on top of a slippery rock in six inches of cold creek water? This is new, and not always easy.

Bushwhacking, for lack of a better description, reminds me of childhood summers spent crawling around in the dirt and undergrowth of our Washington forest backyard, returning home only for meals and causing my mom to pull out the garden hose for a prewash before letting me back in the house. 

It’s that kind of cool. 

Bushwhacking is freeing; it’s about discovering the tastes and textures of Alaska. It’s about us and it, and how we relate to each other in this civilized dance of 21st century existence. 

That’s unconventional in today’s cruise market. And I, for one, find it unquestionably perfect. 


Rain or shine, it’s bushwhack time with Un-Cruise Adventures. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Know your Un-Cruise bushwhack 

  • Kids under the age of 8 or 9 may find a bushwhack adventure very challenging. Ask your guide before signing up. 
  • Dress for weather and mud with rubber boots, rain pants, rain jacket, and a hat.
  • Bring gloves for scrambling around. 
  • Bring water. 

For more information about Un-Cruise Adventures and their other activities in Alaska, go HERE

Posted in Big Adventures, cruising alaska and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. What a great post. I want our family to come up there and Buskwack! Sounds awesome. And I totally hate Devils club. I one time fell down a hill and was grabbing on whatever I could to keep from sliding into a creek. I spent the evening pulling their needles out of my hand haha.

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