Alaska Adventure

Our Alaska vacation started with a little jolt from some wind-shear upon landing in Anchorage. About 200 ft off the deck we had a great side look at the runway as the wing flipped what seemed like 45⁰. After that, we met our friend Steve for a much-needed drink at the Crow’s Nest Bar at the Captain Cook Hotel for great views of Anchorage. The next day we were off on the Alaskan Rail Road to Talkeetna, a funky little town at the confluence of the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna Rivers. We saw a few animals from the train, but they were very far away. Our planned flyover of Denali was cancelled due to weather. The ceiling was about 7,000 ft and Denali is 20,000 ft, so the flight was re-scheduled up the Ruth Glacier climbing approach to the mountain. That evening at the very nice McKinley Lodge the summit of Denali did reveal itself.
The next morning was another rainy train ride to Denali National Park. We did see moose, and black bear on the way. The fourth day we scheduled a bus excursion 66 miles up into Denali National Park. It was raining again, and the bad weather prevented us from viewing the spectacular scenery. We did see Dall sheep (but they weren’t just white specks on a mountain), a grizzly with Cubs, and a golden eagle. Most tours used school buses and there were so many that we’re sure all school buses from the lower 48 go to Alaska to retire. And when they retire from touring they become homes in the wilderness.
There was time the next morning for a little hike around Horseshoe Lake. It had a very large beaver dam. We did get within 25 yds of a moose with 2 calves near the visitor’s center and some guy asked the ranger why she wouldn’t let him get closer for better pictures. Duh. In the afternoon we went for river raft trip down the Nenana River. Finally, we got a sunny afternoon and it was a pretty float. We were ready for some good weather.
The last day in Denali started a verrry looong train ride back to Anchorage. It included an extra hour sitting on the siding track waiting on other trains. At the end of the day we did discover a great Alaskan beer – 49th State Brewing Company lager. Tasty. The next day we got our rental car and started the drive to Homer. Along the Turnagain Arm we discovered the Indian Gold Mine. It was a funky little place run by Irene who left Arizona when she was a teen and kayaked into the Yukon to live off the grid. They featured gold panning and sold buckets of dirt to pan for $20, $50, and $100, guaranteeing gold in each bucket. Somehow, I don’t think it was a good investment. Dorie has a knack for spotting turkeys when we are in their territories and true to form she saw one with chicks at the mine. We also stopped at an animal conservation center and saw moose, bison, musk ox, wolves, porcupine and reindeer. At Cooper Landing we picked up a lunch and had a great picnic beside Kenai Lake, the most colorful blue-green lake we ever saw. Even I could tell the colors. On the way we stopped on the old Russian town of Ninilchik. It had a great old Russian Orthodox Church. There were lots of old Russian town names reminding us that Alaska once belonged to them. We were really ready to get to Homer and out of the car but there was an accident stopping all traffic both ways for over an hour. So, when we did get to Homer we found the Salty Dawg Saloon with $6.00 martinis. The only bargain we found in Alaska.
The next day proved the highlight of the trip. We flew across Cook’s Inlet to Lake Clark National Park to see the bears. We saw a total of 9 bears, getting to within 25-30 feet of a mama and her 2 cubs. One of the females seems so unconcerned with us, she allowed her 2 cubs to nurse. We were close enough to hear them slurping and purring. After lunch in the meadow with the bears, a big male bear showed up to graze. Then a bigger male followed and started chasing the first male across the meadow to where we were. It got a little exciting when we ended up between the 2 old boars, but the vanquished boar was more interested in avoiding the 800 lb monster chasing him than he was in us. It made the viewing a little more of an adventure. On the flight back to Homer we flew over 2 of the 3 active volcanoes in the Aleutian Range, Iliamna and Redoubt Volcanoes.
Next up was Seward, the other side of the Kenai peninsula. We stopped at the town of Kenai and Volcano Point View to see the 11,000 ft Iliamna, Redoubt and Spurr Volcanoes. We detoured 18 miles around Skilak Lake to view a hot spot for wildlife, but none were out., We had time in the afternoon to hike up to Exit Glacier.

Our last adventure day was on the water. I took a kayak trip with the ice bergs in Bear Glacier Bay. A fast boat ride took me out to the bay and I got to kayak among some huge ice bergs (defined as anything bigger than a house). Smaller bergs are called berg bits, and any suitcase sized or smaller are called growlers. We were not allowed close to the glacier to see it calve, but we did see one split and it was like a clap of thunder when it did. Dorie took a milder cruise in the Kenai fjords and got to see whales, otters, seals as well as the glacier calve. My kayak tour finished a couple of hours before hers, so I got to snag Marathon Mountain in Seward. (3,900 ft in 2.5 miles – woof)
The one other thing Dorie was keen on seeing was a salmon run. Only the silver salmon were running so on the way back to Anchorage we stopped at Bird Creek and watched the fishermen haul them in. Most were over 2 ft long. The last adventure before heading home was to hike Mount Alyeska in Girdwood. It was only a 2.5-mile hike but nice and steep. From the top we had a great lasting view of the Turnagain Arm.
Alaska was beautiful and could only have been made better by better weather, not in our control. Alaska also has tons of gift shops. I think it is an Alaskan law that tourists are never more than a mile from a gift shop.

3 thoughts on “Alaska Adventure

  1. Wow! Great report Jack and very cool that you got to see so much wildlife so close. That one shot of the big male bear is impressive, shows him off in a very real and menacing way. Would be quite the fright to run into him in the woods. Glad you and Dorie has such a nice trip :).

  2. That’s a lot of cool stuff you were able to fit into this trip. Wild life, great views and all those different modes of transportation.

  3. Glad you guys had a wonderful time up there. We will be going on the cruise ship up there in a couple weeks so will be somewhat limited on our time to visit locations outside the tourist traps. Just getting out of this heat will be a big relief.

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