Alaska - Travel and Photo Blog
Choosing a right destination for vacation is such a fun task and very important too. I really enjoy doing it, looking at various brochures, doing online research, reading reviews, talking to people, it is amazing. So back in 2013, we narrowed it down to Alaska or Hawaii. Tough choice, but we decided Alaska-The Land of Midnight Sun, it is. Best second decision ever, first one was to marry this guy in the pictures with me below.
Did someone ask why? Well because where else can we see glaciers, not only see, but hike on them and fly on to them, kayak in an open sea with Porpoises around us, watch Whales, Sea Lions, Otters, Bears, Moose and cute Puffins in their natural habitat and the scenic beauty was breathtaking and so peaceful. It took me one month to plan the itinerary and finalize bookings. It went way beyond our budget, the whole trip was costing us 10,000$ for 15 days for 2 people. I remember for a B&B in Fairbanks, I had to mail out a check and I got back written confirmation back in the mail, seems so old school but cute. Brace yourself, this blog will be pretty long.
On day 1, we took a flight out to Chicago from New York and then a connecting flight to Anchorage, Alaska. It is a 7 hour long flight and you get to see some nice snow covered peaks.
We picked up our rental car and that night we stayed in Anchorage. After dinner we were just walking in the streets around 11:30 PM and we noticed it was not getting any darker, wow it really is Land of Midnight Sun.
On day 2, we drove to Seward. Fun fact, GPS does not work in most of the parts of Alaska. Fun fun fun, you have to read maps like mile by mile. Better buy Milepost, it has all the maps and description of every mile. It is a beautiful scenic drive and if you are lucky you might see Beluga whales as well. I think I spotted one, but my husband does not believe me.
We explored the Seward that evening, it is a cute little scenic city. In summers it is bustling with tourists and youngsters who take up summer jobs there as tourist guides.
Guess who came by to say hello next morning around our cabin, mommy Moose with her calf. Just a tip, they are wild animals so better maintain your distance.
On Day 3 we took a half day kayaking trip in Resurrection Bay. I will take the full credit of rowing our kayak because every time I looked back, my husband was relaxing and enjoying the view. There were these curious Porpoises following us, not very close, but close enough that we can see them. We had a wonderful time, the sea was also calm.
In the evening, we decided to hike up the Mt. Marathon, boy it was super steep, I could barely walk straight, but the view from up there was totally worth it.
My legs were so sore from hiking, but another interesting day was in front of us. On Day 4, we took a cruise out to Kenai Fjords National Park. We saw some stunning marine wildlife and glaciers calving. Couple of Humpback Whales, lots of Sea Lions, Puffins, huge Jelly Fishes floating around and 2 Black Bears as well. The thundering noise that glacier calving makes, it is stunning and scary at the same time. We saw whales doing full breach, fluke and blow. Just imagine so much going on around you, such majestic creatures, views, so much to take in, you feel so belittled in front of mother nature. What an amazing day.
Morning of day 5 brought another exciting day, today we were going hiking again, but this time with crampons and poles. First we hiked to get to the Exit Glacier and then on it. First few steps on to glacier were really scary because you are supposed to climb a steep ice slope and our guide was like “go go go”, I looked at him thinking, “I will slip and reach the mouth of the glacier in a million pieces and then my husband will live happily ever after you idiot”. But magically, crampons stuck to the ice and we were able to climb up. Actually, it was bit scary when you are on it as well, you might fall into crevasses and water falls, but it is so thrilling, you are on like a few hundred years old and hundreds of feet deep ice. Overall amazingly crazy thing to do.
Our next stop was Denali National Park. We drove from Seward to Anchorage on day 6 and Anchorage to Denali on day 7, stopping at various picturesque stops and exploring local areas. We took the aerial tram from The Hotel Alyeska to the top of Mt. Alyeska and hiked back down the hill at Girdwood.
On arriving at Denali National Park, we drove to Mile 15, past that private vehicles are not allowed to preserve ecological balance and not to disturb wildlife. We did a small hike there, got some info on the park and rested in our wooden cabin.
On day 8, we took a Denali Bus Tour to Wonder lake because that is the only way to explore the park apart from hiking or by bicycling. Denali National Park is splendid and full of wildlife specially Grizzly Bears. It is a tundra area so not much of the trees, just small shrubs and cushion plants. We saw lots of Grizzly Bears and their cubs, Caribou, Dal Sheep and Moose. We even watched Grizzly hunting for a squirrel.
Again, it was an amazing experience to see wildlife in their natural habitat. We were so close to them, they are so used to of having green buses around that they don’t feel disturbed by them besides there are limited buses. This place is so raw and so big to explore. I wish we had more time here. So one guy from our bus decided to hike down the hill and got down from the bus and later we saw a Grizzly right in his path. We just prayed that he made it alright.
On day 9, we drove to Fairbanks, there we went to visit this wonderful lady Mary Shields, she is a dog sledder, dog musher and first lady to complete Iditarod (dog sled race). She told us such great stories about her dog sledding adventures and we got to spend some time with her sled dogs (hybrid of Husky). It reminded me of the movie Eight Below.
In the evening we visited Fountainhead museum, it showcased automobile development history in the US prior to WW II.
Fairbanks is famous for Gold Panning, so on day 10, we decided to try our luck at it. I wish we panned enough gold to pay for our trip but we just had enough to pay for our lunch.
In the evening we took a Riverboat Discovery tour, learned a bit about Alaskan life. Do you know in Alaska, people might not have car, but almost everyone owns a floatplane and they learn to fly it very young. And some Alaska native communities get whale quota for hunting whales based on their nutritional and cultural needs.
On day 11, we drove to Cheena Hot springs, spent a relaxing day in hot springs. It is a great place to watch aurora borealis in winters.
In the evening we visited North Pole City, not an actual North Pole, though I really wanted to. but that would have taken 2–3 days and lots of money. North Pole City is a year round open Christmas store with great decoration stuff and Santa Claus.
On day 12, we drove to Talkeetna from Fairbanks, made some stops and tried to get a clear view of majestic Mt. McKinley.
They say only 25% of people are lucky enough to get a clear day to see this shy Mt. McKinley, but we will be flying up to it, how about that. On day 13, we booked an air taxi and we flew over Alaskan ranges.We got a closer look at Mt. McKinley and views around us were just incredible.
But the highlight of the tour was glacier landing. Yes, we landed on the glacier between all those mountains. I have no words to explain how thrilled we were, completely mesmerized.
On our way back, I got to be the co-pilot. :)
On our drive back to Anchorage, we decided to explore the Hatcher Pass. It was a rugged drive, but with beautiful views.
Our trip was coming to an end now, but before we leave, we had to have a last view of the sea. On day 13, we drove down to Whittier and took a cruise to Prince William Sound. Another amazing experience and breathtaking views. This time we were very close to the glacier. We saw a couple of waterfalls originating from glacier and some marine wildlife.
We concluded our trip by visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Centre, Anchorage. By now we have already learned a lot about Alaska people, their culture, their beliefs, how they survive in harsh conditions.
On day 15, we did some souvenir and Alaskan craft shopping in Anchorage. In the evening we took flight back to New York with lots of lifelong memories to cherish.
In this whole trip we stayed at some lovely cabins, B&Bs and hostels, not a single night in any hotel.
Wow, I am writing about this trip almost after 3 years and everything seems so fresh in my mind. This trip is so close to my heart, I am emotionally attached to this trip, there was so much of romance between us, between us and mother nature. Every time I think or talk about it, I get goosebumps. Alaska, you are my favorite place on this earth.