We have arrived back in the Midwest from an adventure in “The Last Frontier” aka Alaska! Farmer J and I got away for our delayed honeymoon and spent a week way up north. Here is the recap!
We made the long flight from the Midwest into Anchorage and set-up a bit of a base camp at one of my “old friend’s” homes (perk of knowing people in the military . . . they live cool places). From Anchorage, we ventured north to Denali National Park, via an overnight stop in a little hippie resort called Talkeetna. We took our time and stopped for birch syrup and fire weed ice cream, local brews from the Denali Brewing Co., and views of Mt. McKinley (known simply as Denali in Alsaska).
The next day was our big Denali bus tour. If you have never been to this national park, (or heard of it for that matter . . . which I hadn’t), it’s a bit different than many of the most popular parks. Personal vehicles are only allowed into the park up until mile 15 of the 92 mile road that runs through the park . . . the only road in a park the size of Massachusetts. To get past that point, you must take a bus ride (think school bus ride). We opted for the longest bus ride possible, which is 11 hours round-trip (the “when in Rome” theory at its best). I was terrified of this day simply because it was long, our food was limited to granola bars, fruit snacks, and beef jerky, and it was LONG. In the end, it was really fun and I didn’t get bored with the scenery and wildlife (I did get tired of rude tourists). The park is so huge that around every bend the landscape is changing and you might just run into a brown bear. We got an extra special treat because Denali was in full view on our particular visit for a good 2-3 hours. We learned that typically only 30% of visitors into the park actually see the mountain (it usually hides behind clouds). In August the visibility was even lower, at just 12%. Lucky us!
After our Denali adventure, we headed back to Anchorage for a delicious seafood dinner with our lovely hostess at Simon and Seaforts. It was our splurge meal where we ate like royalty (we even got dessert). Our rule on the trip was no beef, because it’s usually what’s for dinner, and it was not a hard rule to follow with the abundance of seafood available. We ate halibut on that particular night (Farmer J got halibut cheeks and I got crab stuffed halibut). A note to those who plan to travel to Alaska in the future, even meals where you don’t eat like royalty will be expensive. Get ready to pay almost double what you do in the mainland.
We then headed south down the Kenai Peninsula towards Seward and the ocean! The interior area around Denali is a completely different experience than the more coastal areas, and it was fun to see both areas in one trip. Again, we took our time traveling to Seward (which is about 3 hours away from Anchorage proper), and hiked among mountains filled with glaciers, stopped to see salmon spawning in a creek, had a perfect lunch of prawns and seafood chowder in a tiny town called Hope, and hiked to yet another glacier with a park ranger in Kenai Fjords National Park.
With our remaining time on the peninsula, we took a six-hour Kenai Fjord cruise to see the beautiful and gigantic Aialik glacier. It was a monster that falls into the ocean and is deep blue. Gorgeous. We also saw sea lions, puffins, and a humpback whale! The following day, I won some sort of “wife of the year” award when I agreed to fly fish for rainbow trout for 8 hours on the Kenai River. It was actually super fun (and easy since we had a guide). The only downers were letting the biggest fish I have ever seen (estimates say a 12lb trout) get off my line, and how sore my arm was after eight hours of fly fishing!
The weather was starting to turn even colder and rainy as we left the state, which means we timed it perfectly. We made stops at two weddings on our return trip and then thankfully made our way back to the farm. Traveling always makes me appreciate home (although I would have appreciated not having to pick up branches from a gigantic windstorm that hit when we were away)!
Overall, the tiny part of Alaska we saw was wonderful and I recommend it for people who love nature and adventure. It’s a perfect place for both. I will say that it is rural . . . way more rural than even I am use to. When you see a gas station, fill up, because you never know when the next is coming! The state is so massive that there is a lot left for us to see, so perhaps we will be back someday!