Another Plea for Help with Itinerary

Feb 21st, 2010, 12:34 PM
  #1  
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Another Plea for Help with Itinerary

We have a fun group of 8 ready to see and experience Alaska for 7-8 days in June - July. Our want list: 1) see Mt Kinley and Flightsee onto Kahiltna Glacier 2) Kayak with the whales 3) watching bears feed on salmon 4) Glaciers 5) Fly fishing (not experienced). Because of our large group, we have opted to lease 2 cars and drive. After reading all the other message we are totally confused. Trying to keep it simple by only going to 3 areas but not sure about what to do in each area or how long to stay in each. So this is what we've come up with:
June 26 Sat .. Travel Day - ANC arrive pm .. spend the night there
June 27 Sun ...Drive to Denali – possibly stop at Talkeetna to Flightsee onto Kahiltna Glacier where summit teams gather
June 28 Mon ... Denali – 12 hr bus ride Tundra Wilderness Tour
June 29 Tue ... Drive from Denali to Girdwood – Mt. Alyeska area Tram to top of Mt. for lunch Hike The Winner Creek Trail. Crossing the creek in a hand pulled cable car.
Maybe Dog sledding.
June 30 Wed ... Whittier – not sure what to do here
July 01 Thur ... Drive Girdwood to Seward – Exit Glacier
July 02 Fri ... Seward – All day Kayak trip
July 03 Sat ...SewardJuly 04 Sun ... Seward to ANC – Home 8pm fight. Any suggestions would be appreciated with this as well as where to stay.
Woff_group is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 02:50 PM
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You most likely won't get to do "3) watching bears feed on salmon" at any of these places.

You'll probably see a grizz at Denali (harder to see mid-summer though) but there are no salmon in Denali. Would have to fly out from Anchorage to Katmai or Lake Clark. Maybe a day trip to Brooks in Katmai? Early July is usually peak for bears gathering at the falls catching salmon mid-air. http://www.katmailand.com/bear-viewi...s.html#daytrip
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 05:17 PM
  #3  
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I was hoping that we didn't have to travel to Brooks to see the bears catching salmon. What should we consider dropping and taking to trip to Brooks?
Woff_group is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 05:52 PM
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What should we consider dropping and taking to trip to Brooks?

Maybe go Brooks instead of to Whittier? The Denali, Talkeetna and Seward legs look fine for the objectives you mentioned, if a bit rushed. Probably skip the fly fishing this trip as well?

I'm not certain of the seasons but Wolverine Creek is another option for bears from Anchorage. You can also fish at Wolverine.
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 06:09 PM
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We went at this exact time a couple of years ago and did a lot of what you are doing minus the Denali portion. On July 3 -you will want to watch the annual race up the mountain in Seward(i think this is the date). It is one of the oldest races in the US. You will see people bleeding and falling as they come back down. It is something to see.

I like the sound of your first four days. On day 4, if you do the dogsled, do it first. You can always hike later that evening- as it will still be daylight.

We did Girdwood, then drove to Soldotna. We did a fly out fishing/bearviewing. This way you can watch bears and catch fish at the same time. It is almost 100% certain you will do both, but they don't guarantee it. Landing in the water is pretty exciting. This probably isn't as good of a trip as other bearviewing, but is far less expensive and doesn't take as long. We saw grizzlies from a distance and 20+ black bears up close. close being 15-20 feet. you are in a boat and they are in the creek and really don't pay any attention to you. We saw many bald eagles as well. This was with www.highadventureair.com.

We did do the dogsledding at Girdwoods and it is something we will never forget.

In Seward we did a 4 hour kayak tour just around the bay area, then an all day tour to Kenai Fjords. We turned our car in there (hertz is the only car rental in town) and took the train back to Anchorage. Train was very scenic.

Two things I would probably do different looking back now. I don't really think the Glacier Hike at the top of the tram in Alyeska was thay great-just ok. I would go all out and do a kayak trip of Kenai Fjords by the glacier,not just around Resurrection Bay. This way you can see the wildlife and have the glaciers to yourself in a kayak. Something about being on a larger boat(200 people or so) really annoyed me around the glaciers. I was fine with it while we were viewing the humpback whales, but would have prefered far fewer folks by the glacier.

I say skip Whittier. Stay at Alyeska while in Girdwood. It's the only place we stayed at that we actually slept well. They have nice blinds. You will have 22 hours of sunlight and the other 2 hours are just kinda dusky dark-still a little light.

You will get great advice from Bill on wildlife(Denali, Katmai) especially timing. Budget Queen offers overall great advice on everything Alaska.

photos of our trip(for some reason my train photos don't exist anymore)
http://www.photoworks.com/slideshow/...7?source=pw980

If it is possible to fly out of Anchorage instead of driving to Soldotna, you might consider doing it from there to save some time. Our photos are of Wolverine Creek which is
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 06:10 PM
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which is at the edge of Lake Clark
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 06:59 PM
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I didn't read Bill's second post. You will be there at the perfect time for Wolverine. We fished there on June 30. You might have grizzlies there or might be black bears, but probably not both at the same time. At least thats whay they told us. Guide said only a couple of days in the season the fishing might be bad and might not see any bears. Your gonna see the bears and your gonna catch fish. Don't do just the bearviewing, go ahead and fish while there. cost is about the same. I don't think $350pp is that bad for a scenic float plane trip, all the salmon you can imagine, not to mention the bears. You will have to pay for the salmon to be shipped back. We caught 135lbs. The limit was 3 fish each, which we all did easily. If you fish the Kenai River, there was some law there that didn't allow the guides to work on Mondays. I guess that is the day the all the locals fish or something. I am not sure if the same law is applicable to wolverine creek.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 12:07 PM
  #8  
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You guys are awesome. With all your help, I changed the Ininery: see if this looks better (did I allow enough time)!!!!! Thanks again.
June 26 Sat .. Travel Day - ANC arrive pm
June 27 Sun ... Drive to Denali
June 28 Mon ... Denali – 12 hr Tundra Wilderness Tour.
June 29 Tue ... Drive from Denali to Girdwood Dog sledding. Hike The Winner Creek Trail
June 30 Wed ... Drive from Girdwood to Soldotna. Bear viewing and fishing
July 01 Thur ... Drive Soldotna to Seward
July 02 Fri ... Seward – All day Kayak trip to Ailik Glacier
July 03 Sat ... Seward – Hike Exit Glacier
July 04 Sun ... Seward to ANC – Race ……. Fights Home.
... now to look into the rooms and tours.
Woff_group is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 01:39 PM
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I think this will let you do the activities you mentioned in the first post, good choice. Doing the Wolverine Creek bear/fishing trip from Soldotna will probably be the highlight.

Couple of suggestions about the Denali leg ...

June 27 Sun ... Drive to Denali

This takes about 4 hrs, maybe a bit more ... I would detour to Talkeetna on the way up for a short visit. At Denali you can drive the first 15 miles inside the park, we've seen moose, wolves, grizzlies (near the end on the Savage River) and mountain sheep on this road, especially later in the day, so worth a drive.

June 28 Mon ... Denali – 12 hr Tundra Wilderness Tour.

Maybe you already know this, but there are two kinds of busses operating. I think you are really meaning the "Kantishna Experience" trip if it's 12 hours ... this is with the private company.

There's another company running the green shuttle busses. You can take a 12 hour trip with them to Wonder Lake (first 90 miles are the same as Kantishna trip, then there's a fork in the road).

I would personally rather take the green shuttle busses since you can get off and hike or whatever. Often they are not full mid-day, while the Tundra Tour busses always look jam packed with cruise line passengers. Also the green shuttle busses are a LOT cheaper. The other busses do provide a meal and a naturalist, but the shuttle drivers typically do the naturalist spiel anyway so you aren't missing much there.

To give you an idea of the added costs, one site lists the Tundra Tour (to mile 53, Toklat River) as $85 while the shuttle bus cost for the same distance is $19. Not sure what the Kantishna 12 hour cost is but the 12 hour shuttle trip to Wonder Lake was $33 not long ago.

You can read more about these options at these sites:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g2...our.Buses.html

http://www.reservedenali.com/park/faq.cfm
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 02:00 PM
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Most of the bear viewing/fishing in Soldotna leaves pretty early(like 6:00AM). They might have some afternoon depart??

I think i used Alpine air for the dogsled. I would guess you would want to get a room ASAP on the 3rd, as that would be a major event for Seward. Be bear aware around Exit Glacier, pretty good chance you will see one there. The drive on July 1, won't take that long, so you'll have some time on that day. Maybe do the Sealife Center at Seward or Hike Exit Glacier. It doesn't take all day to hike it, unless you really are doing some major hiking. I don't have a clue as to the hiking around it, but the hike to it isn't long.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 02:12 PM
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we used www.kayakak.com right in Seward. very good for our 4 hour trip, I so wish I'd done the full day or even an overnight. and since your name is woff, the name of our guide was Wolfy. The overnight is more expensive, but it might be pretty cool. Hate to tell you to skip Exit, but might be worth it to do a multi-day kayak. Tough decision. you would save $$ on lodging this way. You'd probably need to be in pretty darn good shape though. Kayaking is kinda tough.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 02:21 PM
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One more thing, the weather can be iffy- so flying isn't always an absolute. It can be foggy one minute and clear the next. So, have a plan B, just in case the dog sled or fishing doesn't happen. It most likely will be fine, just wanted to warn you though. Since your group is large, be sure and ask for any discounts on your flying. The fishing, dogsledding, all day kayak will be $300-$400pp for each item. I can't say I enjoyed any more than the other, they were all very good. The fishing is the most bang for your buck though. Just in case anyone in your group want to do more at Alyeska/Girdwood- there is a ton there. Maybe paraglide off the top. Double Musky is good place to eat in Girdwood. Top of the tram has nice restaurant and we also ate in Alyeska Resort at the Japanese Hibachi place that was pretty good. You can eat lunch at the ski cafe at the top at a much more reasonable rate. Fish chowder was very good for lunch.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 07:17 AM
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With your bear viewing priority, you just about HAVE to allow at least one extra day. These flights occasionally cancel from Homer. So rethink, your single day with no leeway.

I definately do no agree with the 4 hour timeframe Anchorage/Denali par- If that is what the time is referring to?? Especially a first timer, is going to want to at least make a few stops along the way. It is 240 miles, and it definately is NOT going to be freeway driving. I always recommend 6 hours. You also should consider a grocery stop, by Wasilla, there are no groceries past there, and Denali park, is best with your own food source.

Denali Park, I do not recommend Kantishna as a day trip. Essentially you are paying a VERY high price for a lunch. The day trips have none of the activities or advantages of the overnight guests. I can see no good reason for the triple cost price you are paying, comparing to the SHUTTLE buses to Wonder Lake. I suggest you think about what you want out of this visit? You are going PRIME bug time, severe, and the necessity of being WELL prepared, meaning full Deet and bug attire if you are going to Kantishna or Wonder Lake. If you aren't up to it, then the shuttle bus to Eielson is an excellent option to consider.

There is not going to be any kayaking with "whales", I would also caution you about Seward. The town and Seward Highway become a stand still, extremely cogested. So if you have to make an Anchorage flight, I would head out probably 6++++ hours ahead.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 07:44 AM
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I definately do no agree with the 4 hour timeframe Anchorage/Denali par- If that is what the time is referring to?? ... I always recommend 6 hours

Queen, we have now driven this route 14 times, twice in late June and 12 times in late Aug or early Sept. Even with a quick stop at the Wal-Mart in Wasilla and maybe a quick look at the Denali view overlook it took us under 4 hours on 13 of the 14 trips. The 14th was returning on Labor Day afternoon when we hit heavy traffic from Wasilla to Anchorage and it took 4:15.

I just checked on MapQuest, they are typically a bit conservative and also say under four hours (probably didn't include the Wal-Mart stop).

Six hours seems ridiculously long to me unless you get lost or detour to Talkeetna.
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 08:11 AM
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BudgetQueen, you usually give such excellent advice but I think you were a tad harsh today.

We did the Kantishna experience and thought it was worth it. The box lunch is quite good for a box lunch (and certainly plenty of food). Our driver narrated for most of the trip. The bus stopped to watch wildlife as often as the passengers wanted. We didn't have to make "scheduled" stops like the regular shuttle buses. We had a couple of extended stops to let people get off and stretch their legs and a walk around a bit. By having our own bus, we knew we could get back on a bus. On our return trip, we saw plenty of tourists waiting for the shuttle get passed by because the shuttles were full at the end of the day. While you can get off a shuttle and back on another one, how many times can you get off the shuttles if you want to go to the end of the road and back in a day? As for bugs, for those of us living in the southeastern portion of the lower 48, Alaska's bugs are not a big deal. Alaska's bugs were the only unimpressive wildlife we saw in the Great State.
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Feb 23rd, 2010, 01:37 PM
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It will be buggy in places, but just spray some repellent and make the best of it. I don't know how a mosquito adapts to glacier, but they were even on the glaciers that we walked on. I think they are mainly at the edge of the glacier. I would imagine if you got in the middle of a big glacier, you wouldn't find them there. I don't remember them being an issue while dogsledding- just fleas. No- just kidding, no fleas. I assume that BQ means Seward can become a congested with the Race Traffic. I don't think you'll have a problem with your flight since it departs at 8:00pm. The race starts in the morning and doesn't take that long. I would position myself at either the start of the race, a viewpoint as they come down the mountain, or the finish line. While you won't be kayaking with whales, you certainly might see one on the shuttle boat that takes you out to the glacier. You will be kayaking a short distance from the glaciers. You don't want to be too close when they calve or it will turn your kayak over. I think 400 yard or something like that. That sounds like along way off, but the glaciers are a lot bigger than what I imagined. If you look at my photos, there is a boat next to the glacier and the boat looks tiny.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 06:42 PM
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Thanks for all this feedback. I think you are right we will need more than 1 night in Soldotna. Can you guys give any help on places to stay. Cabins, hotels .. etc.? That's a tough week. Might have to stay in ANC and then do a day trip to Girdwood. This is hard .. I'm glad you all don't mind help people. Thanks
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Feb 24th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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For clarification, the shuttle buses in Denali Park do NOT make "scheduled" stops. I will speculate the above poster has not been on a shuttle bus? You can easily stay with the same bus, but certainly you can make numerous stops all day long and still get back out the park the same day.

There are just various points to certainly consider. No, I do not see the worth of paying over $100+++ for a Kantishna bus tour on a day trip. vs the Wonder Lake shuttle bus- at about $45

So Bill, so you go 240 miles in 4 hours. My point is not for the min. time to make this trip. I'm sure you realize that you will get people lashed on to this recommendation- and think they can cut it shorter. I do give a basic timeframe- ane as I note- with stops.

I am not unfamiliar with Alaska travel either. My trip this May will be number 27, which includes two winter trips.
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Feb 24th, 2010, 11:51 AM
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I found lodging @ Alyeska on June 29. There are B&B's around Soldotna.

I am wondering if you wouldn't be better off to delete either the North portion or South portion. You really need another day or two at each of these.
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Feb 24th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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With 8 people I assume you would have more than 1 car? Why do you need to backtrack. If you do have just 1 car, why not let them ride the train.
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