Alaska Trip Report- Part I

Old Sep 6th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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Alaska Trip Report- Part I

First of all I want to thank everyone on this forum for the excellent tips and advice that is provided here, it is invaluable in planning a trip. We were traveling with our 3 kids ages 4,9, and 11 and had a great trip. We did not know if we were being too adventurous renting a car and driving around to see Alaska rather than taking a cruise ship, but we really enjoyed it and saw a lot more than we would have on a cruise. In fact the constant change of scenery and the fact that we stayed in B&Bs was really enjoyable for the kids. Since we had laundry facilities at all B&B’s, we really needed only about 3 pairs of clothes, a rain jacket with a hood and a sweater for when we were on water for each person. We did just fine with tennis shoes. I had my digital Nikon CoolPix 4500 for all my pics and really enjoyed it. I ended up taking close to 500 pictures.

Secondly, there was a lot of concern about the weather but Alaska is so beautiful that it looks great it any type of weather. In fact some of my pictures in cloudy weather were better than my pictures in the sun because the clouds seem to give a mystical effect to the mountains; also the glacier blue is really highlighted on cloudy days. Heavy rain does dampen some specific activities like hiking, fishing, flight seeing, etc, but in Alaska it is usually light rain with exceptions on some days when it does rain heavy all day. Just rub the billiken's belly and that should do the trick!

Our itinerary:

Aug 17th -Anchorage, Aug 18th – Whittier, Aug 19th – Seward, Aug 20th – Seward, Aug 21st – Homer, Aug 22nd – Homer, Aug 23rd – Homer, Aug 24th - Valdez
Aug 25th – MatSu Valley, Aug 26th – Wasilla, Aug 27th – Wasilla, Aug 28th - Talkeetna
Aug 29th – Palmer, Aug 30th - Flight out of Anchorage

Aug 17th : Anchorage: Flew into Anchorage. Got a Rental from USave on Spenard Ave off the airport. Cab fare was $12 to get to the rental location. Spent around $ 750 on a 12 day rental for a full size car. Spent the night at Alaskan Suites on Spenard Ave booked via proceline. Got a room with 1 King and Queen pull out with breakfast included for all five for $130 fro the night.

Aug 18th: Seward: Started driving down the Seward Highway . Stopped at various overlooks; it was light rain and the mountains looked beautiful. Took the detour to Girdwood (Alyeska Tram using Toursaver) and Whittier (Portage Glacier). Alyeska Tram was awesome. We went above the cloud cover when we reached the top and could see the Alyeska Prince Hotel below thru the clouds. Had lunch at the café on top. Portage Lake was windy and raining. When we reached the glacier, it stopped raining for a bit and we got some nice views. This is a really pretty area with the lake surrounded by mountains. Stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Safari to see moose, reindeer, bears and musk ox since there was no rain. Reached Moose Pass around 5pm and it starts raining heavily so we drove on to Seward. We stayed at the White Swan Inn B@B, just 5 minutes from down town Seward. Very nice host, private cottage for B@B guests with washer, dryer, bedroom, full kitchen and living room for $ 120 a night.

Aug 19th: Seward: Rainy day. Took the Renown Tours Toursaver boat trip and captain said that there was a 10% chance that we would make it to the glaciers. 15 mins out of the harbor, the sun came out. We saw some stellar sea lions and since the weather was good out here, the captain said he was going for the full run to Aialik Glacier. The Glacier was beautiful and it was highlighted with some beautiful colors since the sun was playing hide and seek. We witnessed several calvings. On the way back, we saw an eagle’s nest and some mountain goats. Then the captain got a radio report of a humpback whale sighting in one of the coves and we rushed there just in time to see him. We spent about 15 mins in the area and saw him come up several times. The boat trip took all day and the kids were a little tired, so we headed back to the B&B.

Aug 20th: Seward: Lots of rain in the morning, so we went to the Sea Life Center. It was OK, saw puffins, seals and stellar sea lions and got a good understanding of sea life in the area. It stopped raining in the afternoon, so we headed to Exit Glacier which is about 20 mins from downtown Seward. Worth the trip as you can get up close to the Glacier if you take the longer trail. You can go up and touch it although it is at your own risk. In the evening, we went to Mitch Seavey’s Iditarod Kennels, which was a great experience. Learnt about mushing from folks that actually take part in the big race and saw about 100 dogs that pull the sleds. Also interacted with small puppies and took a 2 mile ride on a modified sled pulled by about 15 dogs over some rough terrain. Kids loved it.

Aug 21th: Homer: Sunny, beautiful day. Started driving onwards from Seward to Homer. Seward to Homer is not as pretty a drive. Stopped at Clam Gulch and drove down to the beach area to great beautiful views of the volcanoes, Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt. It was something to see snow clad volcanoes and the beach itself was kind of eerie with only us on it. Next stop was at Ninilchik to see the Russian church. Very picturesque. Drove into Homer around 6pm and the view of Homer from the lookout as you enter Homer was amazing. Went up Skyline Drive to see a birds eye view of the spit and the mountains behind it. Stayed at a B@B called “ Home Away From Home”. Great place in a private house about 100 yards from where they live with 2 bedrooms, full kitchen and bath. Paid $110 per night.

Aug 22nd: Homer: Cloudy, Spent the morning browsing the shops on the Strip. Saw at least 4 eagles on the banks and lamp posts in the area. Went on a halibut fishing trip in the afternoon. There were 19 of us on the boat and we caught only 4 fish out of a possible 38 ( 2 per person limit) which was very unusual as in Kachemak Bay, you usually max out. It was the first time for us and the kids got to know how to use a fishing pole but it was a little disappointing; more so to the others who seemed avid fishing enthusiasts.

Aug 23nd: Homer: Clear, nice day. Had to resist the temptation to go on a bear watching trip, as it was kinda pricey. Decided to skip and went to the local museum and spent more time on the Spit itself and generally taking it easy. Had diner at a brick over pizza place that was excellent. ( can’t remember the name but it is a couple of miles from the Spit area.) All in all, one should not miss going to Homer if you are going to Seward anyway as it is an awesome place.

Aug 24th Valdez: Rain and lots of it, but we did not mind as this was the day we were mostly going to be driving to get to Whitter for the ferry. We left at 6.30 am in the morning and made it to Whittier by about 11.30 a.m. The drive thru the tunnel was an interesting experience. We got on the M.S Aurora for a 5 hour trip on the ferry to Valdez. It was very cloudy and when we reached Valdez around 8.00pm it was almost ethereal as the port loomed up before us. We saw one of the giant tankers that ship all the oil.

Aug 25th: Mat Su Valley: Cloudy. Valdez was soaked in clouds but we could see glimpses of the peaks and I think Valdez is probably the prettiest harbor setting that I have seen so far, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Drove up toward the Worthington Glacier. On the way, we passed KeyStone Canyon and with all the rain they had been having, it was overflowing with waterfalls. This was one of the most amazing areas that we passed thru and the beauty was breathtaking. In retrospect, Worthington Glacier was probably the least impressive of the glaciers we had seen. Thompson Pass area was gorgeous. We reached the Matanuska Glacier area around 4 pm and decided to trek down to the glacier for which there is a $10 or so fee per person. This road is not well marked and you really have to watch for it. You can drive up to a point after which it is a 15-20 minute light trek to the glacier. Once you get to the glacier, you are free to climb on it and explore deeper if you wish. This is one of the only places where you can get up close and personal with a glacier and we loved it. Even our 4 year old was game and trekked all the way to the glacier. I was amazed at his tenacity and interest in all this. On our way back we heard some splashing and were lucky to see a moose just 100 yards away drinking water off a stream. We spent about 2 hours at the Glacier and spent the night at a cabin in the valley area.

PART II .. to be continued.. I also hope to upload a link to our photos there..
bokill is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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Oh, this is so good, bokill! Can hardly wait for the next installment. Alaska is coming to life in my minds' eye as I read your great report! Thanks!
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 02:20 AM
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Great report! For all the people who are worried about rain, you provide a helpful report that it can still be a great trip. Looking forward to the part 2!
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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wow. thanks for the meaty report.
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 10:03 AM
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bokill,
* very true about the drive from Seward to Homer.. from around Clam Gulch south, you begin to see the inlet and mountains/volcanoes across the way, then you ooh and ahh.. before that, lots of Spruce trees and hills..

**when you finally round the curve and reach the Baycrest overlook, especially on a clear day, it's almost a religious experience spotting glaciers, clear blue water and the first view of the Spit.
I believe you had dinner at Starvin' Marvins, which is up for sale now..
Olives, in town, has delicious pizza and Italian too for future travels

sounds like you had a nice visit.. again, we did have more rain that previous summers and as residents, were as disappointed as some who may have been unhappy about it, but for photo ops and keeping wildfires at bay, it was probably good.

Plus, all the trained moose like to appear by the road and chow down when it rains

very good details, something I need to relearn!.. J.
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Bokill, we haven't taken the car ferry yet from Seward to Valdez. Would you please tell more about that trip? Could you see anything (scenery) from the ferry, or did the weather prevent that? Any wildlife? Is the newer high speed ferry running now (it wasn't last year). Was it hard to time your entry into the tunnel to make the ferry? We thought that tunnel was cool too.

Thanks!
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 01:01 PM
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Jetset1:
The restaurant we ate in Homer was Fat Olives.. Thanks for jogging my memory.

BayouGal:

We had constant rain that day on our trip from Whittier to Valdez. Here is some information on the ferries:

1-800-526-6731 for Alaska Marine Highway
Aurora: 2:45 pm – 8.30 pm
Chaniga: 12.45 pm to 3.30 pm

Reach Whittier about 2 hrs early. The tunnel opens at the half hour on the Whittier side. We really liked the drive thru the tunnel, it was neat. Also, it is very pretty as you drive up to the tunnel area on the Portage Glacier side.

The fast ferry, I believe is the MS Chaniga. It was cancelled on that day, we dont know why, so we ended up going on the MS Aurora.

It was totally cloudy and light rain, so visibility was almost zero for us. I did see a group of sea lions or maybe it was seals sitting on a rocky out crop and could see some of the surrounding mountains at times. The family ended up wathching 2 movies that they show in the lounge area.

Our B@B host did mention that you get to see a lot more on a clear day. In fact the ferry makes some stops on the way at scenic points and near some seal colonies. I dont know if you see Glaciers too.

Hope this helps
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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bokill~ funny moment, I have read about the Vegas "Olives" so much that I forgot the Fat part for Homer's Olives.. dawgs, there ain't no skinny anorexic olives in Homer, only phat ones.

loved your report. J.
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 01:07 PM
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Chenega.. just to make your booking easier.. cheers, J.
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