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JC98, waiting on your detailed Alaska trip report!

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Jun 9th, 2006, 08:07 AM
  #1
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JC98, waiting on your detailed Alaska trip report!

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! ;-)
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Jun 10th, 2006, 11:30 AM
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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.

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Jun 11th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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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!
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Jun 11th, 2006, 03:54 PM
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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.

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Jun 11th, 2006, 04:10 PM
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JC98,
Glad to hear you had beautiful weather... what hikes did you do and which was your favorite?
Thanks
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Jun 11th, 2006, 05:09 PM
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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?!
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Jun 11th, 2006, 10:44 PM
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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!
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Jun 12th, 2006, 06:10 AM
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We'll be making stops in K'kan, Juneau and Skagway on our cruise next month - would be very interested to hear what day tripping you did on your own. Thanks!
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Jun 12th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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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.
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Jun 16th, 2006, 08:11 PM
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KETCHIKAN

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.
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Jun 17th, 2006, 03:55 AM
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JC98, you are really getting this trip report stuff down! ;-) Very interesting and informative. Thanks, and keep going. You are doing us all a very valuable service!
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Jun 17th, 2006, 04:55 AM
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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.
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Jun 17th, 2006, 02:41 PM
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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.
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Jun 17th, 2006, 03:50 PM
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SKAGWAY

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".
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Jun 17th, 2006, 03:53 PM
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=D>

Hey, it's a classic! ;-)
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Jun 18th, 2006, 04:50 AM
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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/road...e-photos1.html
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Jun 18th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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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?
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Jun 18th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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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:
http://community.webshots.com/album/551478663YxQxzN

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 quot;>
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Jun 18th, 2006, 05:59 PM
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JC98, I'm also reading (and loving) your trip report! I anxiously await your discussion of Denali and Seward!
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Jun 19th, 2006, 04:06 AM
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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.
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