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Trip Report Kenai Peninsula, Denali, Anchorage, Aug 07-16, 2011 Trip Report

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Alaska Trip Report, Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula, Denali
Aug 2011

Evening of arrival in Anchorage:
Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Anchorage. This was actually an error as my husband thought this was where he stayed on business and he really like it, however he was mistaken. This hotel is very basic and there are better hotels to be had for the same price. I would chose elsewhere and we did on other nights in Anchorage.

Day One:
Took Glacier Discovery Train to Grandview and then departed train in Whittier. Husband took the Spencer Glacier hike with Ranger Rick and learned many interesting facts/details- I would like to have gone too but chose to stay on the train to Grandview. It was a drizzly day but saw bald eagles, a moose and a badger. Incredible views, nice railroad staff. Highly recommend.
In Whittier, picked up Avis rental car which was an experience as the man at the store was not really an Avis employee so this took quite some time as he had to call the actual Avis employee and have her walk him through the process- quite painful for us as we were tired by then as bodies were on East coast time. Ate at Swiftwater Seafood Café, which is a tiny restaurant offering mostly fried seafood- had fried halibut and French fries for $17.95- first sticker shock at price of food! Staff was pleasant and food was fine. We then spent the night at the Whittier Inn which is an interesting place (not to the positive as Whittier is just a strange little town). Our room had a fantastic view, however, it was rainy and foggy. Everytime your neighbor walks or makes any noise, it is audible in your room. Also we had to wait at least 10 minutes for hot water in the morning to take a shower. Accommodations were clean and staff nice. Feel it is very over priced but there is not much else to offer in Whittier. Should have heeded the advice of other Fodorites and skipped Whittier.

Day Two:
Weather still drizzly, mostly cloudy. Drive through Whittier tunnel which is not so bad. I am claustrophobic but found it not to be as bad as some people made it out to be in the forums. Headed to Hope which is a charming community and watched people fishing and catching salmon in Resurrection Creek. Then headed on to Seward. Stayed two nights then at the Best Western Edgewater in Seward. Ate lunch at the Railway Cantina, which was the biggest rip-off of our trip. Extremely small amount of food and cost of lunch for two was $37.00. My salad was smaller than the palm of a woman’s hand and had 4 quarter sized pieces of blackened halibut, one tablespoon of rice and about 2 tablespoons of black beans- I wish I had taken a picture of it- we were both stunned. My husband had a quesadilla which was edible but nothing more. Do not recommend! Then went to Exit Glacier and took the hike to the edge of the glacier. Super experience, beautiful and educational about global warming! Enjoyed this very much! Dinner was at The Salmon Bake- very good food, good service, nice atmosphere, fun! Wish we had chosen their lodging next door as it appeared to be very clean and nice.
Best Western Edgewater was as others have described in forum. Nice rooms, no issues except there is one very small sink in the room and the door to the bathroom is very awkward as cumbersome. Poor design overall. But we had a small balcony with a partial view of the water. Our hotel choices were limited as most were already full when I booked.
Also visited the Sea Life Center which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Day Three:
It is sunny! Off to the Small Boat Wildlife and Whale Watching with the Alaska Saltwater Lodge- had a great day on a 43 foot boat with approximately 9 other people. Tanya was our competent captain and Kendra very friendly First Mate. Had a wonderful day seeing whales, sea lions, otters, seals, bald eagles, puffins,
many birds and Holgate Glacier. Lunch was provided on board. Tanya was great as she quickly spots the wildlife and then hovers at a safe distance for viewing. This was one of the best trips we have ever done and highly recommend it!
Ate at the Salmon Bake again- do not miss the Spinach salad or homemade root beer float- yummy!

Day Four:
We head leisurely to Homer and drive down the Skilack Road and take a hike on one of the trails. Beautiful views, nice drive. Stopped at the Russian Orthodox Church and many places along the highway. Lots of fisherman as silver salmon are running. Ate lunch at Suzie’s Café, near Sterling, which turned out to be a nice little restaurant. Great staff, good service and good sandwiches. Then on to Homer where we toured Homer Spit and had a super meal at Fat Olives- wow, what a find! Really good food! Get there early or there is a big wait. Accommodations were at Homer Day Spa and Inn. Had a fairly large room and no complaints, slept well, had a nice balcony and beautiful view. We did not really care for Homer but I am glad we went there as the drive there is beautiful. I live in Asheville NC and was told by someone that Homer was similar to Asheville but I did not see the similarities.

Day Five:
Breakfast at McDonald’s in Homer- did not know McDonald’s could be so awful but it was. Tried to to go to the Sourdough Café but the cook did not show up that morning. Drove again on the Skilack Road in the hopes of seeing wildlife with no luck. Ended day in Anchorage and stayed at the SpringHill Suites University and had a fantastic room- how nice after the variety of experiences so far. Hotel sent us to Sea Galley restaurant which I did not like- funny odor in restaurant, food fair. Would not recommend.

Day Six:
On to Denali. We stop often and take pictures, after all, Alaska is one picture postcard view after another. Happened to stop for lunch at McKinley’s Creek Café outside of Denali and what a find! Creative specials/menu, great food, nice people- this was a common theme in Alaska, nice people! Spent two nights at Denali Crow’s Nest which I would not recommend- parking is very limited and challenging, rusty water out of the sink faucet, extremely basic accommodations, had to wait a long time for hot water in the shower with little water pressure and then very difficult to regulate- either scalding or freezing. The entire facility had one hair dryer which you had to go to the office and sign out and then return immediately after using it – inconvenient. Feel there are better places to stay for the same price in the area. Ate dinner at Subway as we wanted to drive through the park a little, we were so excited to be there.

Day Seven:
Take Wonder Lake Bus through Denali National Park, Weather is drizzly to raining to partly cloudy but we still see a mama grizzly and triplets, and about 7 other bears, plus caribou, moose, artic hare, and birds. We are amazed at the beauty of the park and it is 37 degrees at the Eilson visitor center when we arrive. I was surprised to see that they put radio collars on some of the bears and wolves and tracking devices on some of the animals. To me this takes the wilderness out of it and I am not sure if I am in agreement with this process. Plus there is a large number of vehicles entering the park daily- as one friend said-“we sometimes love our national parks to death”. Weather cleared for a partial view of Mt McKinley and a beautiful setting at Wonder Lake. Berries were ripe. Denali is a very special place and I would like to return and do hiking there- not into the airplane rides and such, more into the nature.

Day Eight:
So sad to leave Denali and head to Anchorage-so we delay and visit the sled dogs and leisurely drive and visit Takleetna- adorable village so glad we went. Spent night at SpringHill Suites in Anchorage again but this time room is not as nice but still adequate and better value than most of our rooms have been. Go to dinner at Bombay Deluxe Indian Restaurant, food is very good, however the restaurant could use a good scrubbing.

Day Nine:
Tonight we depart back for the East coast (at 9pm) so we spend the day visiting Kincaid Park- this is incredible, has cross country ski trails, wonderful hiking trails, fishing, all kinds of sports. Met some nice local people there and hiked some. Then decided to go down to Turnagain Arm and Potter’s Marsh as it is so beautiful. Ate lunch at Sack’s Café which is excellent!!!!
We drove approximately 1300 miles and had a great time! Next time we would definitely go back to Seward and Denali will be a must but will spend a longer amount of time and maybe RV it. We think that would be better for us. Also would like to explore other areas. Am very glad we were on our own though as we had the time to explore and stop whene

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