United States Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

View all United States activity »
  1. 1 Driving conditions from Denver to Winter Park
  2. 2 Hawaii and...where?
  3. 3 Christmas in Colorado
  4. 4 Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde
  5. 5 Driving from FLL to Key West
  6. 6 usa roadtrip
  7. 7 3-day beach weekend in FL Nov for 2 adults
  8. 8 Fall vacation in Beavers Bend State Park
  9. 9 Broken Bow, Oklahoma in the Fall
  10. 10 Babysitting on the North Shore, Oahu
  11. 11 Marfa/Big Bend
  12. 12 DC Restaurants
  13. 13 Williamsburg, VA reunion for 80 year olds
  14. 14 Visiting San Antonio early November
  15. 15 Where to stay in Little Rock AR
  16. 16 JFK to Washington
  17. 17 Phoenix for the weekend
  18. 18 LA Cali for 3 days alone, What To Do?
  19. 19 Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur to reopen at 5pm Friday October 13th
  20. 20 Route from Denver to SteamboatSprings
  21. 21 Mardi Gras - avoid or embrace?
  22. 22 Trip Report TR Animal Kingdom Florida - WDW
  23. 23 Trip Report Gatlinburg/Smokies trip report, with photos and captions
  24. 24 Los Angeles for Christmas
  25. 25 PNW & its grudge against the bumbershoot
View next 25 » Back to the top

JC98, waiting on your detailed Alaska trip report!

Jump to last reply

Hey, JC98! I have been thinking a lot about your trip and all the others on Alaska vacations--especially after seeing the gorgeous weather you were having from the Alaska weathercams. You really need to post a travel report for us. We want to hear all about your activities, lodging, experiences, etc. Did you do any kayaking? I remember you had lots of questions, so anxious to hear your opinions and what plan you finally stuck with.

I would say that I hope you had a great trip, but there's no other kind when traveling in Alaska! ;-)

  • Report Abuse

    Hi BayouGal, thanks for thinking of us while we're in Alaska! The weather indeed was gorgeous. We only had one day of incessant rain in Ketchikan, but everywhere else was partly cloudy or sunny blue sky. I just looked through my photos and the sky was so intensely blue--it looked almost like a photoshop fake! The air in Alaska must be really clean.

    Well, I've never written a trip report before, but I'm afraid of boring people, as I'm sure most people probably have a similar itinerary when going to those places I went to in AK. Maybe I'll post some photos, and answer any questions people have.

    I have to thank you, BayouGal, and BudgetQueen, jg (those are the names that stuck most as you all provided the most help) and many many others on this forum for answering my myriad questions and for helping me construct our itinerary. I think our itinerary was the best possible for our first trip and the amount of time we had.

    We were overwhelmed by the beautiful, pristine landscapes, the abundant wildlife, and vastness of the land. We definitely want to go back to Alaska some day.

  • Report Abuse

    JC98, can you share the itinerary you finally followed? Might be a great start for me as I plan my first alaska trip.

    This forum is one of the best I have come across! Thanks in advance!

  • Report Abuse

    longrides, we're more the independent travelers type, where we want to go off on our own, while minding our budget, safety and comfort.

    We took the 7 days cruise from Vancouver to Seward with Holland America with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway and sailseeing in Glacier National Park and College Fjord.

    We spent the day in Seward and took the evening train to Anchorage. Rented a car the next morning and drove to Denali. Stayed outside Denali NP for 2 night in the cutest log cabin! Last day when driving back to Anchorage, we stopped by Talkeetna briefly. Spent time in Anchorage before our flight departed at 12:30 a.m.

    We picked the cruise because we got it for very cheap for the inside room, but to our delight we were assigned a nice outside cabin on a convenient deck where we could go outside easily.

    I compared the price of our cruise with the Alaska Marine Highway and the latter turned out to be a lot more expensive w/o giving us lodging or food! For our first trip, we're happy with the cruise itinerary and maybe on our next one we may want to explore places not stopped at by bigger ships.

    We did all the shore excursions on our own. Hiked a lot. Sea kayaked. Talked to local people. Ate lots of good fishes.

    That's such a sketch of our itinerary. Let me know if you have specific questions.

    It may be useful to get a general guidebook by Fodor's, Frommer's, Lonely Planet to get an idea of where things are in Alaska and what you can do there.

  • Report Abuse

    JC98, it looks like I'm not the only one begging for a trip report! ;-) You actually are doing a great job, now just add in particulars--lodging, restaurants, hikes, tours, etc., for the land portions of your vacation, and you've given a trip report. We can all learn from each others travels, and it sounds like you had a great vacation cruising and touring Alaska!

    Again, glad you had great weather! BTW, did you get to see Denali? Alaska can be quite addictive, huh?! :)

  • Report Abuse

    BayouGal, thanks for the pep talk. I'll try to write more about my trip, perhaps by topics.

    First topic: Hiking. This is to answer travelor's question about where we hiked and our favorite hikes. We enjoyed all our hikes, and the most strenuous one we did was hiking up (yes, up) Mount Roberts in Juneau. We heard most people take the tram up and the tram down. Some take the tram up and hike down. We hiked up and took the tram down. Two gungho European guys we saw hiked up and hiked down.

    We started the hike around 5 p.m., after a long day of sea kayaking and hiking about in Mendenhall Glacier. The head of the trail is at the north end of 6th Street, a bit of a walk from the downtown area. This was our first time on a trail in Alaska without anyone else around, so we were a bit fearful about bears. We tied bear bells to our backpacks, and around trail bends we talked loudly. When we got tired of hollering, we played the MP3 songs on our cell phone.

    The trail was steep and wet and muddy in places. It's like walking through a really wet Pacific Northwest rainforest. There were beautiful views of lush green steep mountains behind us veiled at the top in mist and milky waterfalls trailing down their faces.

    We eventually ran into some people hiking down, and curiously enough whenever we asked people how long they'd been hiking they said about 45 minutes, even if we had been hiking up all along. There were no signs on the trail, so we had no idea how long it would take to get to the tram station. We barely stopped and had to rush along, because we didn't know when the tram would stop running and whether we could buy tickets to get down at all. We were preparing for the worst--hiking down too!

    My legs were all wobbly when we finally reached the tram station after about 1 hour of hiking. We rested a while, and looked about. Nice views of Juneau, Douglas Island, the Gastineau Channel from up there.

    It turned out that you could buy a tram ticket down for only $5 (vs. $26 up), or it's free if you buy $5 worth of stuff from their store. I bought an art book by Rie Munoz, a woman artist living in Juneau, who painted really colorful and whimsical, cute pictures depicting life in different parts of Alaska. She was a transplant from LA, and decided to stay in Alaska after her cruise there! Anyway, the cost of the book was more than enough to cover both of our tram fares down. The tram ride was rather short though.

    That night, my left leg was all cramped up and was limping about, maybe because I didn't stretch properly or rested enough during the hike. But after popping a tylenol and getting a good night's sleep, I was all better the next day.

    Oh no, I've been rambling on for too long for just one hike! More about my trip next time and I'll try to be briefer!

  • Report Abuse

    tuckerdc, based on your question, I think it's probably more useful to describe to people what I did in each destination rather than organizing the report by topics.

    Let me finish Juneau since I started with the hiking part already in the previous post.

    JUNEAU Activities:

    1) We took the 8 a.m. Glacier View Sea Kayaking tour with Alaska Adventure Travel. I got their # from Frommer's Alaska book. I called them after 7 a.m. when our ship came to Juneau, and I was told to go to a vendor near the Mt Roberts tram to buy tickets. It was $85 per person including taxes, which is about $20 cheaper than the exact same tour offered by the cruise with the exact same tour company, but HAL's tour started at 1 p.m.

    They bussed us (4 others from elsewhere) to North Doughlas Island, and we got a double kayak w/ a skirt to prevent splashing. The water was very calm and slick like oil. The area was wild with a few houses on a distant shore. We had a distant view of Mendenhall Glacier. Also saw seals and bald eagles.

    We paddled for about 1 1/2 hours, and the 3 kayaks were pretty much going off on their own, so the guide didn't really narrate anything to us. We got some snacks and got back to downtown.

    Although it was a good paddling trip, we thought it was too short and too tame for us. Later when we went to Mendenhall Glacier, we wished we had rented our own kayak and do it in Mendenhall Glacier, so we could have gotten closer to the glacier and the waterfall and have more time on the water.

    2) We next took the shuttle bus to Mendenhall Glacier ($12 pp roundtrip). Spent like almost 4+ hours there hiking everywhere, even clambering over boulders to get next to the waterfall. Felt great to have icy glacier water splashing on your face.

    3) We climbed up Mt. Roberts to the tram station as I described in the previous post and took the tram down.

    4) Walked around Juneau downtown a bit. Stopped by the Red Dog Saloon.

    Our bus driver told us the South Douglas island is a very ritzy area, with houses owned by outside celebrities, including Mel Gibson whose house can be accessed by helicopter.

    We thought Juneau was one of the prettiest towns we've seen in Alaska. Dramatic steep mountain backdrop with milking white waterfalls trailing down its face and the top veiled in mist.

  • Report Abuse


    Our cruise stop here is short--only til 3 p.m. Rainy all day.

    1) Walked to Totem Heritage Center. There's also a furnicular that takes you up the hill for like $2 I think if you don't want to walk up the hill. We took a longer route but it's good to see how people lived there--bright colorful tulips in the yard, etc. The center had several old totem poles w/ most of the colors faded. Small museum.

    2) Salmon Hatchery & Eagle Preserve. We bought a combo ticket for this along w/ the Totem Heritage Center. Combo tix is $12 pp (hatchery is $9 w/o). This place is very small and doesn't provide much for the admission price. This so-called eagle "preserve" had only 2 disabled bald eagles captured for 20 years--imagine all the money they've racked back on these 2 birds. But it's a good place to see the bald eagles up close. The salmon hatchery was a few tanks. They provided a guide to take you through, which only lasted like 10 minutes. The guide was quite incompetent, trying to regurgitate her memorized speech and she couldn't answer any simple questions from the group. You could see salmon hatchery for free elsewhere.

    3) Saxman Village. We tried to walk to the Saxman Village because the locals told us it should be just 35 minutes walk. In the heavy rain it seemed longer. When we stopped to ask a young delivery truck driver directions, he told us to hop in and he dropped us off right in front of the village. Such nice people Alaska has, and we encountered many on this trip! That young truck driver told us he can't wait to get out of Ketchikan and move to Vegas. He had enough of the rain! :)

    There were no signs or information provided at the Saxman village for independent travelers. $3 admission. Several colorful totem poles outside, and we found the side door to the empty main hall open. We went in to sheltered ourselves from the rain until the public bus arrived. Some daylight came through the roofs illuminating the totem poles and colorful decorations inside. It was very peaceful and nice inside.

    Took the public bus back to town ($2 pp).

    4) Creek Street. Walked on the boardwalk along Creek Street. Very photogenic place and surprisingly empty even though several cruiseships were in town. I guess the rain deterred a lot of people. Didn't see any salmons at this time of the year.

    We went to an art gallery featuring arts by an Alaskan native (forgot which clan he was). The artist was lying on a reclining chair in his shop covered in a real grizzly bear blanket. We asked the artist and his assistants about the art and about them, and funny enough they were very interested in us too--where we're from and what we do for a living.

  • Report Abuse

    BayouGal is right, your report is very informative. After many trips to Alaska I feel that thank to you I need to include more places to visit in our upcoming itinerary in 2007 or/and 2008 or 2009.

  • Report Abuse

    BayouGal and Pat2003, thanks for your feedback. Glad to see someone is reading my report! :) Actually, it's good for me to write it down too, so it could help me remember the trip in details later.

  • Report Abuse


    1) Downtown. The whole Skagway "downtown" is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. It's one short main street with colorful buildings from the 1800's, and amusingly enough one of those choice corner buildings is occupied by who else but Starbucks!

    Skagway was cute and kinda made me happy when I first saw it--you felt like you had stepped into a frontier town, or more likely it evoked some pleasant childhood memory of a trip to Disneyland. :) But all the buildings here are the real thing but most are now occupied by tourist shops. Didn't see actors in period costumes walking about though--maybe we got there too early when the main street was still empty of tourists. If you want to check out the town, do it early, because by the time we came back to town after our drive into the Yukon (~5 p.m.) everything was shutting down and the place looked like a ghost town again.

    2) Sourdough Car Rental. Because Avis ran out of cars, we rented it from Sourdough Rental ($80 a day) for our drive into the Yukon. Search for my post about our somewhat unpleasant experience with this small car rental company on another thread (Skagway: Train Ride or Drive). (BTW, how do you link to another thread?)

    3) White Pass. We took Hwy 2 (or the South Klondike Hwy) going north. Skagway was sunny, but when we climbed the steep White Pass that cut through the Coast Mountains, it got foggy and we could see snow covering the sides of the road. It was like driving into the clouds in some sections, a bit eery but beautiful. In some places we could see the popular White Pass/Yukon train hugging the side of the steep mountain far below us. I could see how the train ride could be very scenic too.

    Jumping ahead. When we drove back to the White Pass in the afternoon, the sun had broken out, clearing away the fog and a totally different landscape opened up to us --- expansive snow covered mountain range and icy river that started to melt contrasted so well against the dark evergreen trees and an intensely blue sky. It's great that we got to see 2 totally different sides of this famous White Pass.

    Also, the highway was almost devoid of cars! We could just stop the car and run out in the middle of the highway to take pictures. And we couldn't take enough pictures!

    Near the train depot where the tourist train would normally turn back to Skagway, you have to check in with Canadian Customs if you were driving into Canada. No one else was there, and the guys manning the station were almost thrilled to be put to work. :) They quickly checked our passports and when I asked for a Canadian customs stamp to put in my travel journal, they brought out a whole tray of all kind of stamps to fill a page of my notebook.

    4) Carcross. We stopped by this ghost town in Canada. One general store and one restaurant named Restaurant both in historical buildings, one small white steeple church, two smaller gift shops. Nice, greenish river with dilapidated homes on the opposite shore. For a place this tiny, the Canadian government had put in a huge, well-staffed, well-stocked visitor center!

    5) Carcross Desert. They called themselves the smallest desert in the world, and it must be the most unusual landscape we had ever seen! It was a dried up glacial lake that turned into a sandy desert dotted with pine trees! We took off our hiking boots and socks, rolled up our pants and ran up the sand dunes. We happily plopped ourselves on the sand, as if we were on the nicest and cleanest beach in the world. Great place to roll down the sand dunes too. We had the whole desert to ourselves!

    We kept on going to the top to see what's there. From the top, you could see the sandy desert in the foreground dotted with pines, followed by a forest of green trees, then a sparkling lake beyond that backed up by snow-capped mountains! How weirder can geology get!

    By then, our camera batteries had died out, and we regretted it so bad not to have any pictures of this scenery. When we walked halfway down the sand dune, my husband decided to go back to the car to get our other camera. And we climbed all the way back up again to savor the amazing view once again and to capture it.

    6) Emerald Lake. Small greenish lake that you could see from a pulloff from the highway. We turned around at this point to go back to Skagway. We almost wanted to go all the way to Whitehorse--probably another 2 hours--but good thing some people we met told us it's just a bigger city and the road wasn't as scenic. Plus, it turned out our car had a flat when we got back to town! We're so lucky that we were safe on this whole drive trip!

    Yet another verbose report. BayouGal, don't encourage me too much, else we might end up with another "War and Peace". :)

  • Report Abuse

    4) Carcross. We stopped by this ghost town in Canada. One general store and one restaurant named Restaurant both in historical buildings, one small white steeple church, two smaller gift shops. Nice, greenish river with dilapidated homes on the opposite shore. For a place this tiny, the Canadian government had put in a huge, well-staffed, well-stocked visitor center!

    I don't think the residents of Carcross would like being referred to as a Ghost Town. :) Certainly is not a ghost town with all their full time residents. I'll assume you are talking about Dyea??

    You do NOT reference using Murray Lundberg's EXCELLENT South Klondike Highway log. Who by the way is a resident of Carcross. Just a fantastic reference that is a must take with anyone driving this road. Really enhances your trip. http://explorenorth.com/library/roads/sklondike-photos1.html

  • Report Abuse

    Hey, keep up the good work, JC98. You've gone from first time travel reporter to old pro.

    Wow! Thanks BQ for adding to JC98's trip report. Too bad we couldn't just make one big trip report on each spot or area of interest where we each add our own experiences.

    Then again, I guess that's what we are all doing on this forum, huh? :)

  • Report Abuse

    Oops! My apologies if I'd offended any Carcross residents by calling it a ghost town. The main drag was very small though, but to be fair there are houses on the opposite bank of the river, so people do live here.

    Some photos of Carcross that we took:

    And, yes, we did bring with us a copy of that highway log referred to by BQ. Thanks to her and others for pointing that out to me before our trip!

    BayouGal, you're making me :">

  • Report Abuse

    When in Carcross, Murray is frequently around, sometimes with his dogs and also fills in at the Watson store. So if of interest, to tell him how much you enjoyed his excellent log, consider looking him up.

  • Report Abuse


    1) Sailing in. We had a marvelous day sailing into Glacier Bay National Park. It was bright and clear, calm and warm, but not too sunny either that it would diminish the blueness of the glaciers. As the captain said, we couldn't have picked a more perfect day for glacier viewing.

    With the morning this glorious, my DH and I decided to have a leisurely breakfast on the deck right outside the Lido dining room, to watch the surrounding sceneries since our ship wouldn't get to the first glacier stop until 9 a.m. The previous 3 days we had ports of call, so our breakfasts were a rather hurried affair--rushing through our in-room ordered breakfasts while getting ready to get off the ship. (One of these days, we have to learn how to slow down on vacation--it's like bootcamp sometimes!) Anyhow, we practically had the whole back deck to ourselves--where were the rest of 1200 people? The only time we saw a high concentration of people were at dinner time and evening shows. Quite baffling.

    Wow, talk about breakfast with a view! Glaciers (Reid and Lamplugh), ice floes, towering mountains, spruce forests, little islands slowly floating by on both sides of the ship. And to add excitement to this magnificent scenery, two whales (not sure which type?) were continuously spurting from their blowholes in a distance! I spotted them while getting my breakfast from the Lido buffet, and it seemed no one else saw them. My DH and I dropped our trays, and ran outside to track them until the ship got too far away to see.

    This was the second time we saw whales from our ship, and a lot more to come later! The first time was also at breakfast; we spotted 2 orcas (Shamu)--their fins and parts of their black and white bodies--on our second day of sailing in the Inside Passage. It was right outside the window of where we sat, also in the Lido dining room, and no one else seemed to have noticed them. My DH commended my talent for spotting whales, and funny enough it's always in this particular dining room!

    2) Margerie Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier. We sailed into Tarr Inlet and could see the Grand Pacific Glacier but the ship stopped right in front of Margerie. The glacier was bluish and still looked massive, given how big our ship was and how far away we were. Gulls were flocking about the ship, and bald eagles and white gulls with reddish feet were standing on ice floes in the distance. The HAL onboard naturalist pointed out a smaller boat and a kayak way out there--that really put the glacier in proper scale! They were tiny dots, and I had to zoom in 12x on my camera to take a decent picture. It must be awesome to be right on the water with a mountain of ice towering over you like that.

    Then the calving happened. And it calved again and again. Loud rumbling thunders, followed by white rolling waves. It must have been truly awesome to be on that smaller boat or kayak! Then, for some forgotten reason, I had to make a quick dash back to our cabin to get something, as the captain was turning the ship around, so people on their room balconies on the other side the ship could see the glacier too. (We were standing on the main deck at the bow of the ship with views of both sides.) When I came back, my DH told me I missed the mother of all calvings. Two massive chunks of ice crashed in succession and you could even see tidal waves. Oh man! I regretted it so bad! In all, there were at least 6 or 7 calving incidents at this glacier. The National Park ranger (who came on our ship when we entered Glacier Bay) said Margerie had a fantastic performance that day. And the captain said it's the best he's seen in a while.

    We next went to John Hopkins glacier, but we couldn't get too close to it, because some seals just had their pups on the ice floes. I couldn't see the seals, but others with better binoculars could. Too far away to see any calving here.

    Then it took us several more hours to sail back out of the bay. HAL's naturalist pointed out bears on the shore, but we couldn't see any. About 4:30 p.m. the ship was entering Icy Strait, which supposed to have a lot of whales. We were back out on the bow with the onboard naturalist, and we saw many whales in the distance--spurting through their blow holes and flapping their tails. But nothing too close or amazing as the next evening. Stay tuned... After 2+ hours, we got all cold and tired, asthe sky had turned greyish and the wind picked up speed.

    After a day like this, taking a dip in a heated pool as warm as bath water was such a welcome relief. It was so refreshing and relaxing to swim laps and just float on our backs in a practically deserted pool. I guess everyone was busy preparing for the formal night, and we still had enough time before our late dining time.

  • Report Abuse

    If I remember correctly, I specifically told you to take lots of batteries, film and memory cards!!! Sounds like you had great time, and shows you can see and do a lot without spending big bucks for every tour. When will we see the rest of the photos or did you already tell us where? JQ

  • Report Abuse

    It seems like people are eager for me to get off the cruise and talk about the land portion. :) Let me rush along. Last day on the cruise:


    Another gorgeous day as we sailed into Prince William Sound. It was sunny and warm enough for us to wear just a long sleeve shirt and no Extreme Squall jacket and head hood and gloves, etc. Since we wouldn't get to College Fjord until 4 p.m., we had a whole day just hanging out and bumping about on the ship. We napped a bit on the lounge chairs on the back deck, and I did a bit of sketching in my travel journal. Beautiful snowcapped mountains and calm reflecting water surrounded us.

    We also spent some time in the ship's brand new library, sponsored by the New York Times. It's my favorite indoor space on the ship--spacious library with comfy leather arm chairs and sofas with a wall of windows looking out the to ocean. The collection included 3000+ titles--all brand new books--on a variety of subject areas, audio books and music CD's and DVD's for in-room watching. Everyday, they put out a new sudoku and NY Times cross word puzzle for you to do. While my husband worked on his sudoku puzzle, I researched a bit on what to do in Seward as we hadn't booked anything there yet!

    OK, cut to the chase. About 4 p.m. we got into College Fjord, and I liked it a lot. Boom--a dozen plus glaciers all surrounded you in this inlet. Talk about bang for the buck (or the equivalent for glaciers)! Each was named after an ivy league / east coast college that sponsored the Harriman expedition in the late 1800's. You could see each one was unique, and of course the biggest of glaciers were named Harvard and Yale. We were in the area for about 3 hours. As we were sailing out, we could spot lots of sea otters floating by on their backs. Some mothers had their babies on their tummies. Very cute.

    At dinner time, we had the best show of all. A sudden uproar broke out on the starboard side of the Main dining room, and dinner was disrupted as everyone rushed to that side of the room to look out the window. It felt like the ship was going to keel over. :) A big humpback whale was breaching the water and slapping its tail vigorously like right next to our ship (ok, very close)! It kept on slapping its tail like 50 times, as if it's waving goodbye. We all clapped and cheered, lots of picture snapping. And of all days, we didn't have our camera with us! Otherwise, we could have gotten pretty decent pictures because it was so close! Later we talked to someone who was out on the deck who followed the whale for a much longer duration, and they commented it was almost as good as whale watching in Juneau! The whale surely stole the farewell show put up by the dining staff that night. We still don't understand why the whale behaved like that? Was it just playing or it was in distress trying to tell us something? Anybody knows?

  • Report Abuse

    jq, thanks to you, we ended up buying a 12x zoom camera, which made a huge difference in our picture taking experience. I haven't sorted thru our photos. I may post a few later if people are interested.

    birder, thanks for your feedback. I also read your report, and it sounded like you had a great trip in AK too! I'll get to Denali soon enough. Bear with me. Unintentional pun! But we did see 10 grizzlies in Denali. :)

  • Report Abuse


    Our ship arrived at Seward (final destination) early in the morning, and we had nothing booked and no concrete plans! The only must-do on our list was Exit Glacier, and we were open to kayaking (as recommended by BayouGal) or the Kenai Fjord boat tour (highly recommended by BudgetQueen). Unfortunately, Seward was extremely, extremely windy that day (must have been a windstorm), so we didn't feel like doing any water activities.

    1) Hertz Car Rental. We wanted to rent a car to go to Exit Glacier and get to Anchorage early. We'd checked with Hertz before we left for Alaska, but thought the $280 a day with dropoff at Anchorage was too exorbitant. Now we were willing to pay any price as we thought (wrongly) that there wasn't much else to do in Seward. We called Hertz but nothing was available, and they told us to check back later. They were gracious enough to let us leave our luggage in their back office the whole day! BTW, Seward seemed to be populated by genuinely nice folks!

    2) Exit Glacier Tour. We found out about Exit Glacier Tour that provided roundtrip transport by van to Exit Glacier for $9 pp. Great deal compared to taxi ($50). They're located in a trailer opposite of the train depot. No time limit on the glacier; you just tell them when to come back to pick you up. Great service! They also offered a guided glacier trek on the Harding Ice Field, which we almost went for but chickened out when we learned that our tour companions were 9 navy guys who just came to town. We were afraid it might turn out to be a real bootcamp trying to keep pace with these navy dudes, even though the guys leading the tour tried to convince us that we should be able to handle it. I don't think we would have enough time for anything else if we had gone. Besides, the long hike up to the Harding Field (7 miles roundtrip) was mostly through trees, and we'd rather spend time right next to the glacier. For anyone interested, the tour was $125 pp for 5 hours, including 1+ hour trekking on ice, and all equipment provided.

    3) Exit Glacier. We loved Exit Glacier, despite having been to Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. We were still not glaciered out! We went all over the area, except for the Harding Ice Field trail, and spent a total of 3 hours there, not counting transportation time. And despite the warning signs about not getting close to the glacier, we did (a sheepish confession here). I know I'd read about how a few foolish people got eliminated from the gene pool by doing so, but the temptation of touching the glacier was too great. Up close, you could see bluish hollows in the glacier and could feel its icy "breath". I think we set a bad example as others followed us up a slippery climb on gravel deposits right next to the glacier.

    4) Restaurants. We ate at Chinooks Waterfront Restaurant and loved it. It's contemporary looking with volume ceiling and large windows looking out to the harbor. We got a great window table. Had excellent grilled halibut there--expertly grilled, a bit crispy on the outside and still juicy inside. Possibly one of the best grilled fish I had in a long time! Good service too. The waiter was honest about their salmons being frozen (not salmon season yet), so we opted for halibut. The price we thought was very reasonable, even cheap for a restaurant like this!

    Also ate at a taco shop (forgot the name). It's also on the main street. It has a huge mural on a wall depicting the Alaska train running through the Southwest desert--pretty surreal. Nice, contemporary take on Mexican food. We again went for halibut--grilled halibut tacos--it's so tasty! Freshly prepared and accompanied by excellent freshly made salsa (several interesting varieties to choose from). The border towns in the lower 48 can learn a thing or two about salsa making from this Alaskan place! We loved it so much that we actually went back there again for another round of grilled halibut tacos right before we left Seward!

    5) Halibut. We killed some time at the little harbor--fascinated by all the halibut activities there. Saw several halibuts hauled in that day, one weighing 90 lbs! Watched halibuts being filleted -- rather sparsely and still with a lot of meat left on it! Large portions of the fish were dumped into a long trough under the deck, which was to be recycled back into the ocean later. I know savvy cooks would have loved make soup stock out of these extremely fresh fish heads and bones (with lots of meat still on it). With all that fresh fish, no wonder we had such excellent halibuts in Seward!

    6) Train to Anchorage. $64 pp taxes included. By 5 p.m. we gave up any hope of renting a car, so we bought train tickets to Anchorage. I know BQ highly recommended the train ride, so we had no qualms about it. We had checked with them in the day (plenty seats available), so the people at the train station were really happy that we finally decided to take it. Such nice folks! When I asked for a train souvenir stamp to put in my travel notebook, three guys behind the ticket counter fumbled about and came up with a bunch of souvenirs for me--vintage postcards, a nice poster showing the rail map and descriptions of notable points, bookmarks, even tattoo stickers! And these items were not put outside for anyone to take. Man, I was overwhelmed and didn't expect this at all.

    Train ride was wow, wow, wow. The train itself was very lovely--you could walk around to any cars and there's a glass dome car on the 2nd floor. It's equipped with a dining room and a cafeteria with volume ceiling and huge windows. The sceneries were stunning outside. We saw a black bear happily and obliviously eating some bush right next to the track. Saw a moose close by too. Unfortunately didn't see any beluga whales at Turnagain Arm as the tide was extremely low, but the scenery was magnificent regardless.

    A couple of young high school boys worked on the train, giving commentaries, etc. They were well-groomed and almost old-fashionedly polite--I felt like I was in "Leave it too Beaver" or something. They even shared albums of their life in Alaska .

    7) Sheraton Anchorage. After 4 hours, we got into Anchorage. The Sheraton where we're staying provided free shuttle service between the train depot (or anywhere in downtown) and the hotel. We only learned about this when we called them as we're approaching Anchorage. That wasn't the answer when we called them back home! Very inconsistent service here.

    We got a nice room on the 14th floor looking out to the Cook Inlet. It felt like 7 p.m. or something, and I thought we should hit down to grab something to eat and my DH reminded me it's almost midnight! Got to witness a beautiful midnight sunset over the Cook Inlet from our room!

    About the Sheraton. We stayed here because we could use our SPG points, but in hindsight it was kinda a waste, as it cost more than double the number of points as other Sheratons and we stayed there for barely 10 hours or so. Also, the room was so noisy early in the morning--not sure what it was but it sounded like showers running in the room next to us. And to top it off, the fire alarm went off at 7 a.m. jerking us from our sleep. We panicked and had to think quickly the most essential things to take with us--in that haze we thought of shoes, jacket, wallet, passports, camera, But good thing the alarm was turned off before we had to evacuate the building in our pj's.

    OMG, I just rambled on and on! Sorry if I bored anyone. This is for my own record as well.

  • Report Abuse

    Don't worry, you are not boring anyone! I read your latest installment with rapt attention!

    We also ate at Chinooks and loved it. Apparently some local people have said bad things about it. I don't know why ... the food was fantastic, the prices were good, and the view is out of this world. Plus, they don't allow smoking, which is a rarity in Alaska! So maybe that's why ...

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing about Denali when you get a chance!

  • Report Abuse

    JC98, I am loving your trip report installments! If you will remember, lots of us told you there'd be plenty to do in and around Seward (I just had to be an "I told you so" for once!LoL) Seriously, it sounds like you really had such a great vacation, even if you didn't have a lot of time to travel after your cruise. No one can really prepare you for Alaska . . .it has to be seen and experienced to be believed. Didn't you just fall in love with the beauty and the people?! Alaska reminds me of the lower 48 when I was a girl (MANY moons ago! ;-) )

    Now get back to your trip . . . we want MORE, MORE!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks, BayouGal and birder, for following (and putting up with) my long trip report! It's encouraging to see someone is reading it! ;)

    I'll get to Denali soon enough. Been tied up with things here.

  • Report Abuse


    1) Taxi from Anchorage downtown to Airport -- $25. We checked out early from the Sheraton to head out to Denali. Our taxi driver was a very talkative man in his late 50's or early 60's, a transplant from the lower 48 and had been living in Alaska for 40 years. Said he worked on the Alaska Pipeline and made really good money -- $200K a year (in 1970's??). Not sure he got his # right, but supposedly some people on the project got paid more than the Vice President of the United States, according to an exhibit in the Anchorage Museum of History and Art that we went to later. This was his second time coming out of retirement because he was bored with so much free time on hand, and he'd always wanted to drive a taxi.

    Anyhow, the ride from downtown to the airport seemed rather short. If we had more time, I wouldn't mind trying to take the public bus instead. The central bus depot is right in downtown.

    2) Payless Car Rental -- $147 for 3 days, taxes included. My husband booked this through American Express website. The original price was only $32/day but with taxes and surcharge for the airport location, it came out to be almost $50/day. After our unpleasant experience with Sourdough Car Rental in Skagway, I was nervous about renting with a small company. But it turned out good. They gave us an AWD Subaru Legacy station wagon with less than 30K miles on it (compared to 140K miles on Sourdough's!).

    They also gave us directions to Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart to stock up water and some snacks for our Denali trip. We also stopped by some small cafe along the way to grab breakfast/lunch. Reindeer sausage mixed with scrambled eggs and cheese--somehow not a very good combo and we couldn't eat much of it. I guess we shouldn't try to push our Alaskan experience too far. :) And an OK grilled wild salmon sandwich. Interestingly enough, the cafe served freshly brewed Kona coffee--my DH's favorite since our Big Island trip last year.

    3) Denali State Park. Free. Best place to see Denali's South Peak (the highest in North America at over 20K ft) and almost the entire Alaska Range. (BTW, the full South Peak is not visible within the National Park, only the slightly lower North Peak at 19K ft). The viewpoint was at one of the several pullout areas belonging to the State Park (btw, the state park seemed to be spread out everywhere along the highway with few signs to tell you what's going on. Quiteconfusing.).

    We had a gloriously clear and sunny day. Slightly hot too--off with all my multiple layers and jacket and hat and gloves. The whole long Alaska Range was all visible, and Denali in glaring snow-white was out in full view against the intensely blue sky. The other peaks had interesting features, but only Denali's North Peak was the most prominent--symmetrical and majestic. Indeed the "Great One". You right away know it had to be Denali without consulting any map. What a magnificent sight to behold. We didn't realize how lucky we were, with supposedly only 30% chance of seeing this. On the third day when we drove back to Anchorage, we stopped by this viewpoint again, but it was a cloudy day and Denali completely disappeared from the Alaska Range! Completely! As if there was a big gap in the long stretch of mountains.

    We then really wanted to do flightseeing. We called a flightseeing company in Talkeetna and of course all flights were booked solid that day. The lady said on a day as good as this people would drive all the way from Anchorage just to take the flight. Really too bad! I could imagine it to be one of the most unforgettable experiences of a lifetime to be face to face with this behemoth mountain.

    Anyhow, it was here that we heard from others about the two women mountain climbers who were missing on Foraker, a very difficult peak to climb, more technically challenging than Denali. It was a big news item out there, and their story was constantly on the front page of the Anchorage paper. And everywhere we went, we heard people talked about it. Pretty sad. They were among the top female alpinists in the world, and that attempt was supposed to be the first all-female ascent on Foraker.

    4) Denali National Park. We got into the park pretty late in the day, and the visitor center had closed already but the bookstore next to it was still open. We then hiked on the Horseshoe Lake trail (very easy). Nice calm lake in the shape of a horseshoe surrounded by evergreen trees. And boom it was a shock to see on one side of the lake, gigantic hotels and lodges sprouted all over a hill. Those from the Glitter Gulch it looks like. (BTW, I'm so glad we didn't stay in the Glitter Gulch--a bit of a mess there with a splatter of shops and lodges right outside the park entrance.) Anyway, at the end of trail you could see a big beaver dam, stopping the flow of the lake into a trickle. Pretty big logs they cut! And we got all excited to see two beavers running along the shore and plopping into the lake and swimming about. Some mosquitos here, so we pulled our mosquito head nets for the first time in Alaska.

    5) Dinner at McKinley Creek Lodge. Our lodge manager recommended this. Had their grilled halibut tacos. Pretty decent but the halibut wasn't as good as in Seward. The fish was chopped in small pieces.

    6) Carlo Creek Lodge. $80/night including taxes for 2 nights. 12 miles south of Denali NP entrance or about 15 minutes drive. This was a great find! It felt remote (but not really) and authentically Alaskan. I was a bit scared about staying here because it wasn't reviewed by major guidebooks,and it seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere-- "nestled on 32 wooded acres" of homestead land, according to their website. But I really wanted to stay in an Alaskan log cabin, instead of a generic motel. Once we saw the place, all my fears dissipated and we fell in love with it!

    We had a standalone log cabin with shared outside baths It was one of the 4 shared bath cabins recently built in 2004--new and clean. These log cabins were really adorable--made out of blonde roughly hewn logs with big burl wood posts on the front porch and real moose antlers as door handles. Each cabin looked different as they were built from real logs, not manufactured ones. The front porch had a small table and 2 stools made from tree stumps where we ate our breakfast. Inside was rather spacious with a queen and a twin bed, night stands, a chair, and enough room to put our luggage and move about. Nice little decorative touches too, like a rustic B&B.

    The shared baths, actually 4 individual full bathrooms (enough for the 4 cabins) all clustered together, were just steps away. I was also a bit scared about not having a private bath (you know, bumping into a bear in the middle of the night. My overactive imagination gone wild.), but the baths were so close by and it never got dark and the whole area felt safe. When we were checking in, I asked the young guy at the front desk whether there were any bears on the premise, and he said if there were any they'd end up like that, pointing to a huge grizzly skin rug, head attached, sprawling on a wall of the front office. Other decoration items were heads of various local animals (moose, caribou) and lots of moose antlers.

    Anyway, back to the bathrooms. They were quite new and spacious with high ceiling, each with its own toilet, sink, and shower stalls. One had 2 shower stalls. Good showers. Airy and heated when you turn on the light switch. And it was spotless! I'm very particular about cleanliness, and I couldn't find any faults with this place. Towels and small soaps were provided. Bring your own shampoo.

    The premise had a few other older cabins with private baths and one with a kitchen I think. And lots of nice campsites and RV sites in the back, but all empty when we were there. There was a drinking well (we didn't try--afraid of getting tummy ache), an outdoor kitchen area with a bbq grill and sink. We didn't use these facilities.

    Sleeping was very pleasant--comfy bed and we were lulled to sleep by the sound of rushing water. It turned out there's a creek running very close by on the property and I think the Nenana River too (but we didn't go look for this one). The only thing was it never got dark at this time of the year, so we had to add extra drapery to the window using my big scarf.

    Their website: http://www.carlocreek.com/index.htm. Believe me, it looks more charming than here. The people running the place were very friendly.

    OK, I still haven't gotten too much into Denali! More next time... I really need a merciless editor here to cut out all my sidetracking rambling!

  • Report Abuse



    OK, I'm taking a break from writing my trip report. And I'm sure you are probably sick of reading it too.

    See some photos in the link above. You shouldn't need to login.

    BTW, I don't see many people sharing their trip photos. It might be interesting to see what you all see, esp. of places I haven't been to.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi JC98,

    I've been enjoying reading your trip reports, and now looking at your pictures. They are amazing!

    We're leaving for two weeks in Alaska in just a few days. Flying into Anchorage--then doing some trips out of Whittier and Seward, also going into Denali for a few days. Then out to Homer.

    I have two questions for you:

    I'm wondering how big of a lens you had on your camera? You have some truly wonderful photos. You have a very "good eye".

    Also--where did you get your best wildlife pictures in Denali? It doesn't look as though you took them out of a bus window. Did you get off the bus and hike around? We'll be staying at the Denali Backcountry Lodge for a couple of nights, so we'll hike around there. But, I don't think we'll be free to spend time along the road in between.

    Thanks so much for your reports. The info you've given has been such a help!

  • Report Abuse

    First, JC98, we could NEVER get bored of your riveting, chock-full-of-details trip reports! :)

    However, I am awfully glad you posted your photos because they are SIMPLY STUNNING. Please do tell us the camera you use, although the beauty comes from the photographer's touch!

    It's so weird to see Denali in different colors, we went last August and it looked much much greener. I will try to post a link to my photos as well.

  • Report Abuse

    OMG, you two (Birder and JC98), such great photos! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Stunning photos, JC98!!! I feel as though you saw an Alaska that I didn't. We were there at the same time last year, but there was more snow when you were there.

    Birder, yours are excellent, too. Although you went in August, that's more what it looked like when we were there in May/June 2005. Must have been a drier year in 2005.

    Now I want details from each of you . . . camera, lens, can we go with you next time, etc.????? Seriously, wonderful photos!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks ... actually, my husband took almost all the photos -- except for the ones of him fishing & the ones around Vagt Lake ... yes, all the mushroom photos are mine! :) I actually don't know what kind of camera, he's away on travel, when he gets back, I will ask.

    Personally, I think JC98's are phenomenal. There's so much contrast ... especially the one of the mountains black & white. WOW

  • Report Abuse


    Your photos are gorgeous, too. I, too, would like to know what kind of camera and zoom you used.

    I want so badly to go to Alaska, but the hard part is choosing what to leave out. I want to see all that you and Birder saw!

  • Report Abuse

    Lyntom, you need to click on JC98's screen name and read all his threads. I think his land tour was only 3 or 4 days, if I remember correctly. Heck of a trip for that short a time, huh? And, wow, what incredible photos! :)

  • Report Abuse

    FYI, if you want to see the very long & detailed trip report that goes along with my photos, just click on my name. I recently topped it - it's creatively titled, "Alaska Trip Report, August 05." :) My trip report is not as detailed as JC98's, but it is longish and has lots of details!

  • Report Abuse

    Birder, I saw your thread topped and reread it. I almost posted to ask you to start a new thread so your photos might be noticed more easily. Then I saw JC's topped, so I was glad to see your photo link posted here, too. Good job!:)

  • Report Abuse

    I second BayouGal's OMG and her request for info on equipment used. I bought a Fujifilm digital for my August trip - it has a 10x optical zoom. I'm keeping my fingers crossed to hear what you both used! I can only hope we have as much luck as you two had on your trips - brown bears and moose galore - just the kind of stuff that makes for a perfect trip! It's after midnight here so I'm down to 36 days til departure...I can hardly stand the wait!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for your photo comments. I'm sure a lot of fodorites have taken good pictures of AK too. Maybe we should start a new thread asking folks to post their AK photos. I'd definitely like to see what others had experienced--to plan for our next trip! Hopefully! It should be a thread for folks to share their Alaksa experience, not a photo contest. Anyone wants to start this new thread?

    OK, to answer your questions:

    1) Camera. We had 2 cameras on the trip--a Cannon and a Panasonic with 12x optical zoom each. They're just compact digital camera. Not a fancy digital SLR at all. But we had to do some manual metering for some shots, but most were just point-and-shoot.

    We were lucky that the lighting was so outstanding and the air was so clean and clear. The best we've ever seen in any places that we've been to.

    Credits should go to my DH too. We decided to have 2 cameras on this trip, to avoid having a dispute afterward about who took which picture when something turned out especially good. But we didn't stick with this rule very well and many times shared a camera. :)

    2) Caligirl56, experiences will vary. But we took most of our wildlife shots from the shuttle bus. If you looked closely, you could see the glare from the reflecting glass window or some photos might be a bit fuzzier through the windows. Also due to the vibration of the bus too. We had more shots of wildlife not posted here because they were a bit too blurry. We tried to take the photos with the window down or through the big front window of the bus.

    We spent 12 hours in Denali on the day we took the shuttle, and hopped on and off 4 different shuttle buses (to get off and hike). The shuttle only ran to Fish Creek when we went early in the season--wish we could have gone all the way to Wonder Lake. BTW, lucky of you to get to stay in the interior of the park!

    Birder, the Denali you saw was totally different from ours. Very lush green--even mossy! Where was that? And lots of moose! We weren't able to capture any decent one. Loved those psychedlic mushrooms! At first, I wasn't sure they were real.

  • Report Abuse

    I should also add that we were lucky that the wildlife came down on the road, or close to it, on the day we took the shuttle bus. So extensive zoom wasn't necessary. The photos of the mama grizzly and 2 cubs were taken with digital zoom, as they were on a high ridge and far from us. Try to avoid using digital zoom, as the picture will turn out very flat and artificial.

    Also, use the highest megapixel setting you can get. Bring more memory cards! I regret that we used a pretty low setting (1 to 3 Mpix) only when our camera can go up to 5, because I was afraid we might run out of memory.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for the camera details. You certainly give me hope that taking pictures out of a bus window works--because yours have turned out great!

    I really do think that the main reason for your success comes from the way you see things. You get the most out of every subject by the way you set up the picture, frame it, etc. That's a real talent!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks, caligirl56 and all others, for your generous judgments! I'm flattered. :)

    To those who are going soon on your Alaska trips, have a great time and looking forward to your trip reports when you return!

  • Report Abuse

    DENALI NATIONAL PARK (finally!!)

    1) PROVISIONS. For the day we took the shuttle bus into the park, we packed in the following food items:
    * 3 foot-long subs from Subway
    * almost 2 gallons worth of bottled water
    * 1 lb of trail mix
    * crackers
    * chocolate
    * several oranges and apples

    What the heck were we thinking?? Trying to survive in the wilderness for a week or something? (You know, worst case scenario: Got lost hiking in Denali or missed the last bus out and had to fend for ourselves until rescue arrived. Yeah, that happens all the time.)

    Besides food, we also carried a swiss army knife, a compass, mosquito head nets, gloves, knitted headhoods, hats, Extreme Squall jackets, 2 cameras, a cell phone with a built-in MP3 player loaded with loud songs to chase away bears. (But forgot to bring binoculars. Duh!) Our backpacks were loaded! We cracked up realizing how over-paranoid we were when we saw how casual our fellow bus passengers were. Some wore just t-shirts and shorts (not recommended--very cold and windy out in the open tundra in early June!), and had only a small bottle of water and some light snack (maybe ok if you don't plan to get off the bus, but don't bring as much stuff as we did!)

    To lighten our load, we ended up dumping some water and throwing away most of the subs. They got soggy after some time. But frankly we just got so sick of them. No more Subway's Special Tuscan Chicken sandwiches for me ever! If you pack sandwiches in, pack cold sandwiches. The hot sandwiches get soggy fast. BTW, Subway is in Glitter Gulch, right outside the park entrance. We phoned in our order that morning for pickup to avoid their long lines.

    2) SHUTTLE BUS. We took the 8:30 a.m. bus to Fish Creek. No runs to Wonder Lake in early June (we were there on 6/6/06! Oh, oh...) We hopped on and off 4 different buses--going back and forth to various points to hike. Spent a total of 12 hours in the park that day. Really wish we could have gone all the way to Wonder Lake though.

    At first we were afraid these converted school buses might be a torture to spend 8 hours on, but they're not too bad. Seats were comfy enough, and time went by really fast since everyone was busy looking for wildlife. We usually got the first row of the bus. Convenient for shooting pictures through the big front window, and easier for bus driver to hear your questions. But less leg room for the one sitting next to the window.

    Despite conventional wisdom about how you need to catch the earliest morning bus to increase your chance of seeing the most wildlife, people on the later buses (after 11 a.m.) saw the most wildlife that day, based on our (unscientific) polling of folks on the 4 buses we took and elsewhere. Some folks who took the 7:30 a.m. bus said they saw not too many wildlife and mostly from afar, but those on the 11 a.m. saw all of the big 5 and many (including grizzlies) right on the road. That 11 a.m. woman driver was a fun riot. She kept on backing up the bus on a narrow winding road because someone said they saw a moose (the last of the big 5 they hadn't seen that day). Indeed it was a moose in the thicket. Everyone cheered.

    In general, all the bus drivers we had were very good--enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and had a keen eye for spotting wildlife. If we had driven in ourselves, I don't think we could have spotted so much wildlife with our untrained eyes (unless the animals just present themselves right in front of us!). Other bus passengers were also very helpful in spotting wildlife.

    3) WILDLIFE. We saw most of the wildlife from the shuttle bus. We were lucky that at least a representative of each species came down on the road or close enough to present themselves and for us to take pictures of them. ;) (See my posted photos.) In one day, we saw 10 grizzlies, many caribous, many Dall sheep, one moose, one marmot, many snowshoe hares, two golden eagles fighting in the air, and one ptarmigan (Alaska state bird with feathered feet) taking its time "crossing the street" (trail) right in front of us during our hike at Savage River. But not the elusive wolves. :(

    The first time we saw a grizzly a bit close up, it was a big thrill. I gasped and so did everyone else, but the bus driver reminded us to keep quiet with the windows down, so the animals wouldn't get used to human voices. I like the fact she kept on reminding us to keep Denali wild. It's not a zoo.

    We only saw 2 grizzlies really close up (right on the road in front of the bus) at the very end of the day--like 8 p.m. At first we were mildly disappointed not to have seen any grizzlies really close up. But had heard from others about 2 grizzlies hanging out near Savage River--close to the park entrance. We took the 3rd bus to Savage River, got off, and asked the Park Ranger where the grizzlies were. They pointed to the brushes on the other side and advised us not to hike there.

    After hiking the Savage River trail, we got on the 4th bus around 8 p.m. to get out of the park. Disappointment still hung over us. This was it! Our last day in Denali. We then decided to get off the bus one more time to see if we could see the grizzlies. Just as we were ready to get off, one teenage grizzly (about 4 yr old) came out on the road, followed by another. (They must be siblings or two bears on a date? ;)) They ambled about(sometimes synchronously) and seemingly oblivious to the bus and another stopped car, as if we were rocks and parts of the landscape. Wow, this was real wild wildlife. They don't think cars and humans are food reservoirs!

    4) HIKES. You can get off the shuttle bus anywhere inside the park and hike anywhere you want. No trails, no signs, no maps. Nothing. (I like it that manmade objects were very unobtrusive within the park. Even the winding narrow roads have no guard rails and are paved with gravels, not black tar, in most places.)

    The first time we got off the bus, it was a frightening experience because no one else got off. It felt like you had left your human community behind and now you're all alone in the wilderness. The tundra opens before you and all you hear is the lonely sound of the whipping wind. You know that the place is teeming with wildlife, many much bigger and more powerful than you, and your eyes are not used to picking them out. It was exhilarating but terrifying at the same time. After 15 minutes out there alone, we jumped back on the next bus.

    But eventually we got used to getting off and hiking about. And ended up hopping on and off 4 different buses that day. The place where you could see Denali's North Peak and the Alaska Range was our favorite got off point. All buses stopped here. The Toklat visitor center was also a good place to get off to hike about. You could see many Dall sheep on a nearby mountain, and you're not too far from civilization as there's a bookstore/small visitor center there. Savage River was a good trail running by a river. And various other points we got off but I don't know where exactly they were. Whatever looked beautiful or interesting to you along the shuttle ride, just get off the bus and step into the wild!

    5) 229 PARKS RESTAURANT. After a long day in the park subsisted on lousy food, we decided to splurge a bit on this recently opened restaurant we'd read about. It's run by some local celebrity chef who was apprenticed at the acclaimed Marx Bros. restaurant in Anchorage. The restaurant featured contemporary takes on Alaska cuisine using fresh, organic and local ingredients. A bit weird to see a restaurant this sophisticated in the middle of nowhere. It's on Milepost 229 (its namesake) south of Denali NP and close to where we stayed.

    We had king crab cakes with an interesting spicy cilantro sauce. And fresh wild king salmons from Copper River, but with a very strange but interesting Southern twist--the grilled salmon was smothered in a thick, very yummy bbq sauce and served with young French beans and the most delicious cornbread I'd ever eaten. I was a bit disappointed not able to taste the fish too well with so much sauce on it though. And the King crab cakes I thought were a bit salty but my DH liked it. We also had some Alaskan beer on tap. The portions were huge and we couldn't go for dessert. Their waitress claimed the homemade ice cream supposed to be very good.

    BTW, we had wild salmons many times on this trip, starting in Vancouver, but they didn't live up to our expectations. They were a bit tough and not buttery or flavorful as Atlantic or farmed salmons. Is this how they're supposed to be or we were not in the right season (late May/early June)?

    6) WINDSTORM. That night a horrific windstorm kicked up. It sounded like a hurricane was raging outside our cabin. Oh, oh, 6/6/06 acting up! :) I was even scared of going to the bathroom outside. Afraid a tree might fall on me or I get blown away by the wind. Two days after we left Alaska, a wildfire broke out near Denali burning 15,000 acres.

    OK, enough of my rambling... I better sign off.

  • Report Abuse

    ''BTW, we had wild salmons many times on this trip, starting in Vancouver, but they didn't live up to our expectations. They were a bit tough and not buttery or flavorful as Atlantic or farmed salmons. Is this how they're supposed to be''

    I'd only say it probably wasn't the fish but the cook. That's a real shame. I bet you didn't have the blackened sockeye at the Double Musky ...

    There's a chance you might have been getting old frozen fish early in the season, but I suspect you were getting overcooked fish. Where in AK did eat?

    There's no comparison between that mealy Atlantic farmed salmon and fresh wild.
    Atlantic farmed is usually dyed pink or oranged through the ground meal that these fish are served. The oil content is lower.

    Wild salmon eat a richer diet of small crusteceans.

    There's a reason why top chefs everywhere prefer using Alaska wild when it's in season.

    There's also a decent environment issue. An Alaska netter recently caught what appears to be an escapee Atlantic salmon from a Canadien fish farm. Not a good thing.

    For more on the subject:

  • Report Abuse

    repete, I've read about how bad farmed and "Atlantic" salmons are for the environment and for your health. But in terms of taste, our experience with wild salmons didn't fare better. We must have had last year's frozen salmons then, because it wasn't because of the chef. We also ate some wild sockeye raw (sashimi) in a very reputable restaurant in Vancouver, and it didn't taste too good either.

    Next time I go to Alaska, I make sure I'll go in the thick of summer to eat fresh wild salmons. :)

  • Report Abuse

    Just for future info -- it isn't really necessary to google. The advance search function works very well. Using your screen name and "Alaska trip report" it took me 2 seconds to find this thread.

    And once you find it, instead of topping, you can e-mail it to yourself (see the 'share w/ a friend' button) or save it to your favorites (see the yellow star)

  • Report Abuse

    Sorry, ziggypop, I just noticed this old thread was resurrected and saw your question.

    We loved the Chamberlin Inn. If you check on TA, mine is the first comment. I talked the owners into getting listed on TA. There are many, many great recs on TA for this hotel now. The owners gave us a discount for the heads up about TA. Sweet!

    We really liked Cody and have been back since our 06 trip. I hope you get to spend some time in the museum, breakfast at the Irma was good plus it's nice to get to look around, and drive the Chief Joseph highway if you can manage it...and don't forget the Beartooth Hwy. A must if you're in the area.

56 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.