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Trip Report 4 Weeks in Alaska Trip Report

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We arrived in Anchorage on 12 July at 10.00pm in the evening and checked into our hostel, Alaska Backpackers Inn, which was very central and at US$60 a double, good value. Our room was clean, but we did find the hostel noisy, mainly because our room was next door to a bathroom. We also found it difficult to sleep as we were not used to only 3 hours of darkness at night and our room only had a white venetian blind on the window.

On our first day in Anchorage we ate breakfast at Snow City Cafe, which we can thoroughly recommend, walked around downtown Anchorage and visited the Tourist Information Centre for maps and information. We also walked the Tony Knowles trail from Downtown to Earthquake Park, hoping to see Moose, but no luck. Dinner that night was at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse where we ate good pub food.

The next day we picked up our car, visited a supermarket to purchase suplies for our trip North and then drove down the Seward Highway to Beluga Point to wait for the Bore Tide. We did see the Bore Tide wave, but is was quite a bit smaller than we expected, but the scenery looking across Turnagain Arm to the Kenai Peninsular and the mountains beyond, was spectactular.

Most of our drive to Denali the next day was in heavy rain with most of the beautiful mountain scenery covered in mist. We called into Wasilla and visited a small museum and saw an exhibition of the gold mining days. We had booked a private room in Denali Mountain Morning Lodge at Carlo Creek, which was an excellent hostel, very well run, with great staff. We were booked on the 7.30am shuttle to Eielson Visitors Centre and had a wonderful day on the bus. We saw lots of grizzly bears and cubs, moose, caribou, dall sheep and 2 wolves( which were a long way away). We had a beautiful sunny day and the scenery was amazing. The next day we drove our car to Savage River, hiked the walking trail and ate our lunch while taking in the beautiful scenery. We can recommend the Panorama Pizza Pub at Carlo Creek for a few drinks and a pizza.

Our next stop was Fairbanks where we stayed at Billies Backpackers Hostel. The family who own it were very nice, but there were renovations happening while we were there and the rooms didnt have locks which we found a bit disconcerting. Unless you have plenty time (as we did) or intend going into the Interior, I wouldnt recommend visiting Fairbanks. There isn't a lot to see or do.

We drove the 364 mile drive down The Richardson Highway to Glennallen, once again loving the scenery, and visiting North Pole for a visit to Santa Clause House. We took our time stopping at scenic spots for photos, including a beaver lodge which had created a small lake. We overnighted at Glennallen to break our journey to Valdez, and stayed at the only accommodation in town, The Caribou Hotel. We had booked a room in the Annex (US$79 double). The Annex was once used as workers accommodation when the Arctic to Valdez pipeline was being build and I dont think it has had any work done on it since!! Very basic and very dusty. However the bed was comfy and clean and we slept well.

We again took our time driving to Valdez as this section of The Richardson Highway had the most spectacular scenery. It rained off and on for most of the way and the mountains appeared and disappeared through the changing mist. We stopped at the Klutina River, drove through the Thompson Pass and Blueberry Lake Recreation Area. Keystone Canyon was impressive with Bridal Veil and Horsetrail Falls, part of the Canyon. The Lowe River was our stop for lunch before driving on to Valdez.

Our accommodation in Valdez was Head Hunters B & B (US$110 including breakfast). Our room was very nice and having our own bathroom for the first time on the trip, a luxury. While in Valdez we took the Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise, departing at 9.00am and returning at 8.00pm that evening. We had another beautiful sunny day and Prince William Sound was spectactular. I would certainly recommend this cruise, which included a hot lunch and hot soup served late in the afternoon. We saw lots of wildlife, including several groups of humpback whales, fur seals, sea lions, sea otters, fufted puffins,bald eagles and the endangered pigeon guillemot. The boat also visited the Columbia and Mears Glaciers which were worth seeing.

While in Valdez we visited the Solomon Gulf Fish Hatchery where the salmon were running. We were told that mother bear and her cub were regularly seen there, but unfortunately, despite driving out there several times, we didnt see them.

We drove our car onto the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry for the trip from Valdez to Whittier. It was a very wet, cold day and the ferry covered a lot of the same areas of Prince William Sound that we had covered on our cruise, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the 5 1/2 hour trip without venturing out onto the deck. We didnt stay at Whittier, but drove through the tunnel to the Portage Glacier and then down the Seward Highway in pouring rain to overnight at Hope. Our accommodation at Hope was at Bowmans Bear Creek Lodge, where we had our own small cabin built on a small pond. It was a lovely place to stay and the restaurant on site was very good. Hope itself is very quaint little town with great views across Turnagain Arm and surrounded by snow capped mountains. We loved Hope and would have enjoyed hiking some of the trails in the area, if the weather wasnt so bad.

After checking out of our cute little cabin we visited Tito's Discovery Cafe in Hope for a great breakfast. The day was once again rainy and misty which was a shame as this section of The Seward Highway is the most scenic. Our accommodation in Seward was Ballaine House B & B. Our room was large and comfortable with a view of the water. Everything about our stay here was great. Very highly recommended. While in Seward we took a Ranger led tour to the face of Exit Glacer, visited the Alaskan Sealife Centre, hiked the trail to the Harding Ice Field (beautiful scenery and well worth the up hill climb), took a cruise out into Resurrection Bay and once again had a beautiful day and saw lots of wild life. Dinner one night at Salmon Bake Restaurant was good and we can recommend the Yukon Bar for a few drinks. In all we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Seward.

Leaving Seward we drove back up the Seward Highway in glorious weather. this was great as we were able to see all the amazing mountain scenery we missed on our trip down to Seward because of the rain and mist. A bonus was sighting a moose and her 2 calves eating at a pond at the side of the road. We turned onto the Sterling Highway and continued our journey to Homer. Again we took our time and passed through Tern Lake Junction, Cooper Landing, Serling, Soldotna and Kenai, where we watched fishermen trying their luck in Cook Inlet. We visited the beach at Clam Gulf and ate a late lunch by the side of the road, arriving at Homer late in the afternoon, in the rain once more.

We were booked into Ocean Shores Motel, which was quite pleasant and our room had a balcony overlooking Katchemak Bay. While staying here, the view from our balcony changed all the time. Sometimes it was very clear and we could see the snow capped mountains and the Grewingk Glacier across the bay, and other times a heavy mist came down and we couldnt even see the water.

I have to say the highlight of our trip to Alaska was our Bear Flight out of Homer. We booked with Bald Mountain Air (many thanks to all you Fodorites who recommended them), and had the best day ever. We flew in a 10 seater float plane, over the Cook Inlet to Katmai National Park & Preserve and landed at Mirror Lake. We then walked about a mile through the tundra to the river where the salmon were running and the bears were fishing. Here we sat on the bank of the river and watched the many bears coming and going and fishing below. (Including mother bears and cubs). A couple of bears climbed up the bank very close to us with their fish, checked us out, and then just continued to eat, not bothering about us at all. We were very close to the bears and we always felt safe. We sat there for hours, only moving to another spot further along the river bank. On the way back we ran into a large porcupine who wasnt bothered about us at all. He walked right up to us, checked us out and then scuttled about his business. During the flight home we saw 5 humpback whales in Cook Inlet. Our pilot flew down low and tipped the plane first one way, then the other so that we could get a good view of them. This trip was pretty expensive to do (US$635 each), but money well spent. To see the bears in their natural environment and get so close to them, was something we will never forget. It was all we had hoped for.

Also while in Homer, we took the 'Danny J' to Halibut Cove where we enjoyed a great lunch at The Saltry Restaurant and visited the galleries, had a few drinks at the Salty Dawg Saloon, visited Nikolaevski Russian Village, visited the Pratt Museum, checked out The Spit, and drove up to Skyline Drive for spectactular views of The Spit and Katchemak Bay. We also ate at some great restaurants, the Mermaid, the 2 Cups Restaurant and of course habibut and chips on the Spit.

We had about 187 miles to drive from Homer to our next destination, Girdwood. We were doubling back on roads already travelled, so we didnt do much sight seeing and made good time to Portage Glacier. We had called in to Portage Glacier before, when we drove through the Whittier Tunnel, but that day the weather was so bad we didnt see much. This time the weather was OK, so we took some good photos and ate our lunch there. It was then only a short trip to Girdwood.

We had booked a condo at Ayleska Accommodation which was very good value at $185 for 2 nights. We took the chair lift up the mountain from Alyeska Resort. Again the weather was rainy and cloudy, but we hiked up a steep path to the snow fields. There was a terrific view of Turnagain Arm from the mountain top.We can recommend Chair 5 Bar for a few drinks and dinner and also the Bake Shop for great breakfasts, lunches, coffee & cake. Before leaving Girdwood we spent the morning catching up on our washing and then drove back to Anchorage for our last 3 nights in Alaska.

In Anchorage we checked into Alaska Backpackers Inn again and spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Anchorage doing some shopping, The next day we drove to Eagle River Native Centre and hiked the 3 mile Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park. The trail was in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and we saw a beaver dam and lodge in the river. Dinner that night was King Crab and Snow Crab which was very enjoyable, but very messy!!! Our last dinner in Alaska was at the Glacier Brewhouse where we had King Salmon and Halibut - another great meal.

Our holiday in Alaska was everything we expected it to be. Despite the weather we thoroughly enjoyed our travels there. The scenery is spectactular and the people very friendly and helpful. Lets face it, wherever you are you cant let the weather spoil your holiday. You just have to put on your rain gear and do the things you want to do.

I took a lot of time planning our holiday, where we would visit and what we would do and see. I found the Fodors site was a great help. I hope this trip report will assist anyone planning to travel there in the near future. If you have any questions I am happy to help.

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