Need help with Alaska Trip July 2011

Feb 14th, 2010, 11:37 AM
  #1  
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Need help with Alaska Trip July 2011

My husband & I will be heading to Alaska July 2011 and we are starting to book those places that you have to have reservations for 12-18 months in advance. So far this is our trip:
July 20th fly from Texas for Anchorage
July 21 - explore around Anchorage
July 22-25 - Brooks Falls (reservation made-out of Anchorage)
July 26-28 - ??
July 29-Aug 1 - Hallo Bay (reservation made-out of Homer)
Aug 2 - 4 - ??
Aug 5- 8 - Denali – North Face Lodge (Can’t make reservations until April)
Aug 9-10 - ??
Aug 11th – fly back to Texas or we could add on a few extra days in the beginning and fly back to Texas right after coming back from Denali.

We know we want to go to Seward and take the Kenai Fjords Tour all day cruise.
Any other suggestions on what to see or do? We love wildlife/landscapes and photography. Also, we are thinking of not renting a car until we come back from Brooks Falls and then keeping the car for the rest of the time.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 11:59 AM
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Since you are already on the Kenai Peninsula for your trip to Hallo Bay, you might want to look at other places around there, such as Seward. Or you could go to Seward from Anchorage after Brooks Falls---that might work better for you.

You'll need to be at Denali by noon on August 5 to meet the shuttle to North Face Lodge, so you might want to drive up the night before and spend the night along the way but close to the park entrance. That would leave you August 2 and 3 to spend along the way from HOmer---maybe Girdwood/Mt. Alyska?
enzian is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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Sounds like a great trip, I've been to Brooks and North Face several times and once to Hallo Bay and I envy your choices. Maybe a bit late for the best bear action at the falls at Brooks and a bit early for best scenery and wildlife at Denali, but still good dates.

July 26-28 - ?? Aug 2 - 4 - ??

Since you are going to Homer for the flight to Hallo Bay I'd suggest a night or two in Seward (two nights if you want to do a boat tour, which I would suggest), then into Homer. Or you could stop by Seward for a night on the return leg (Aug 2-4).

Aug 9-10 - ??

Maybe a night in Talkeetna on the way from Denali to Anchorage? Or one extra night at the entrance to Denali, though after spending time on the Kantishna side at North Face the entrance will seem like a circus. I would pick Talkeetna.

we are thinking of not renting a car until we come back from Brooks Falls and then keeping the car for the rest of the time.

Good plan ...
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 12:13 PM
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I'm looking into July 2011 also and was thinking of very late July and the air services told me that I should really try to get to Brooks by the 20th, after that it really can slow down. They said until the 20th it's pretty guaranteed great bear watching. After that depending on the Salmon run they could go to another area instead of Brooks for the best bear watching. Something to consider.
Lorenky1 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 02:03 PM
  #5  
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When I called to make our reservations at Brooks Falls the 22nd was the only date in June/July that I could get a 3 night stay. Their reservations at the Lodge fill up really fast. Hopefully the salmon will still be running and there will still be some bears. Between Brooks Falls and Hallo Bay hopefully we will see plenty of bear.
I think we may try heading to Seward right after Brooks Falls and then heading to Homer for the flight out to Hallo Bay. We can then take our time heading back up north and staying a night at Talkeetna sounds good before heading to Denali.
Any other suggestions for places to go that would fit in with our schedule would be appreciated.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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Might consider taking the train to Seward. We liked the Alyeska/Girdwood area(between Anchorage and Seward). Hike Winner Creek Trail there. Very different way to cross the stream-in a hand pulled basket. We also did the dogsledding/glaicer landing/helicopter there. Double Musky is good place to eat, and the lodge has a great place at the top of the tram and a good hibachi type place at the bottom. We kayaked in Seward and did the Kenai Fjords Tour. Very nice. Sealife Center there is worth 1-2 hours of your time. Exit Glacier is easy to get to, just outside of town. Lots to see on the Turnagin Arm from Anchorage to Seward. We drove one way and took the train back. Train was more scenic.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 15th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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PHayden, if you are not locked into those dates (as I mentioned you are a bit late for 'bears catching salmon at the Brooks falls', a bit early for Denali's peak) then I would suggest going to Denali the last week in August or very early in Sept, then on to Brooks and then to Hallo Bay (but you are now getting late for Hallo Bay).

At Brooks the bears wander off most of August, chasing salmon spawning in the small feeder streams, but once the fish are spawned out and are washing back into the lake the bears are back in big numbers in late August and September. They are heavier by 50-100 lbs than in July and look better because they are growing the thick winter fur by now. Also the crowds at Brooks are smaller. So early July is the best time for Brooks but late August - mid-Sept is the 2nd best time for bear viewing there.

Denali is peak for tundra colors the last week in August (earlier the vegetation is green, green, green), with reds, oranges and golds. Also the antlered animals (moose and caribou) are shedding velvet from their antlers and starting to spar and gather herds for the rut. And the bears are easier to see as they graze on blueberries near the road.

Here are a few pics from one of our fall trips ... the first two are from Hallo Bay when these two bears walked up behind us as we kneeled by a creek and wrestled, the rest from Denali in a year of really nice color (in dry summers the colors aren't as vivid) ... http://www.hiltonphotography.net/alaska-2008/ ... I've been in Denali mid-summer and you just don't see these colors or these animal behaviors.

Just saying, if you can change your dates there are better times to visit Brooks and Denali ...
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 07:15 AM
  #8  
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Bill_H, your photos were great. Although we may not see as many bears going to Brooks on July 22nd as we would going earlier in July, and we will miss the fall colors in Denali we are set with our reservations and dates. We are going to extend our trip to 3 1/2 weeks and still need some help with plans:
July 20 arrive in Anchorage.

July 20-22 - sightseeing in Anchorage
We won't have a car for this part of our trip, where would you recommend staying? Are we better off near the airport since we are flying in and will be flying out to Brooks, or staying downtown so we can walk around to sight see? We like B&Bs. We will have several 1 and 2 night stays in Anchorage as we use it for our home base. Sometimes we will have a rental car and sometimes we will not. What sights should we see in Anchorage that we can do with and without a car? We love outdoors and wildlife. Is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail worth spending time either walking or biking?

July 22-25 Brooks Falls -Is there someplace we can store luggage that we don't want to take to Brooks Falls? Does the airport have lockers?

July 25 we will spend the night back in Anchorage and have a rental car. Do we stay at the same place or book another reservation someplace else?

July 26-28 We need to get to Homer on July 28th to check in for our flight on the 29th to Hallo Bay. Do we drive from Anchorage to Homer in one day or do we split this into a 2 day drive? If splitting the drive, where would you suggest we spend the first night? What are some top sights that we shouldn't miss along the way? We will have more time on the way back from Homer to sight see also.

July 28th- Homer for 1 night -Where do we stay?

July 29-Aug 1 - Hallo Bay - Do you park the rental car at the airport while you are gone and is it safe to store extra luggage in the car while you are gone?

Aug 1 - Back in Homer for 1 night. Stay at the same place?

Aug 2-7 - We have 6 days to travel from Homer back to Anchorage. We want to see sights in Seward including an all day boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska SealIfe Center and Exit Glacier. Stop at Girwood on the way back to Anchorage and take the tram. What else should we stop and see. Do we drive from Homer to Seward in one day or stop between the two for one night? Any recommendations for lodging in Seward?

Aug 7th back in Anchorage, drop of the rental car and spend the night at the same B&B or a different one.

Aug 8th - take bus to Denali & transfer to the North Face Lodge bus. What bus line do you recommend, the Motorcoach Service? Is there somewhere at the entrance to Denali that we can store extra luggage or do we need to find someplace in Anchorage to store it? If storing it in Anchorage, where is the best place since we will be taking a bus to Denali and then a train back to Anchorage?

Aug 8-12 Denali North Face Lodge & possibly a flight tour of Mt McKinley with Kantishna Air Taxi.

Aug 12 - Take train from Denali to Anchorage & spend the night in Anchorage B&B?

Aug 13 - fly back to Texas

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions so far.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 07:48 AM
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"July 28th- Homer for 1 night -Where do we stay?"

Victorian Heights is an AAA 3-diamond rated B&B, located in the hills above Homer with a wonderful view of Kachemak Bay. The rooms are spacious and the breakfasts are very good. It was a very good value all around. http://www.victorianheightsbedandbreakfast.com

_______________________________________________
Vic's travels: http://my.flightmemory.com/vogilvie
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 07:56 AM
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Instead of storing extra luggage, I suggest you pare down what you are packing. You only need casual clothes for Alaska(I suggest clothes that can be layered- nights and early mornings can be cool). We went to Alaska for 2.5 weeks and each of us took just one duffel bag and a small day pack.
padams421 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 09:07 AM
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Re: storing luggage, I'd be more concerned with planning for lots of memory if you are shooting digital photos. Alaska is a photographers dream! You can get by without a lot of clothing changes in Alaska if you pack layers as suggested.

"What sights should we see in Anchorage that we can do with and without a car? We love outdoors and wildlife. Is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail worth spending time either walking or biking?"

Anchorage has a good museum in town but you will also want to take the trip out to the Native Heritage Center. It's an excellent introduction to native arts, crafts, history and culture with daily demonstrations of dance, music, and art by native Alaskans. There is a free shuttle from the Visitor's Center log cabin in Anchorage.

Less well known is the Alaska Native Medical Center auxiliary gift shop which has good prices on guaranteed authentic native art. I believe it is on the bus route.

The coastal trail is a Fodor's pick for Anchorage. You can read about it in the Anchorage pages on this site.

Have a great trip!
saige is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 10:23 AM
  #12  
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Thanks padams421 and saige for your recommendations. OK, we'll just have to fit in whatever we take into duffle bags and go very light on clothing. Each of us has a Nikon D90 with several lens and a bunch of memory. I was planning on taking my laptop to download pics so I know I wouldn't run out of memory but probably won't have space for it. Instead I may have to break down and get one of the photo storage portable hard drives instead.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Orlando_Vic, thanks for the B&B in Homer. This place looks perfect for us.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 12:56 PM
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July 20-22 - sightseeing in Anchorage
We won't have a car for this part of our trip, where would you recommend staying?


We usually stay in one of the hotels on Spenard, which is very close to the airport. But we are usually there just one night coming and one night going.

This is close to the Katmailand building where (I assume) you will be flying into Brooks from. Hotel shuttles will take you there for free.

July 22-25 Brooks Falls -Is there someplace we can store luggage that we don't want to take to Brooks Falls?

Every hotel I've ever stayed at in Anchorage would store your luggage for free while you went into the bush. Not a problem. They do it for hunters, fishermen, campers, bear-viewers ... everyone.

July 25 we will spend the night back in Anchorage and have a rental car. Do we stay at the same place or book another reservation someplace else?

Staying at the same place makes it easier to pick up the luggage, but it's not a necessity.

Do we drive from Anchorage to Homer in one day

Four hour drive, maybe a bit more ... you can break it up but we just go straight down, stopping for lunch at the Princess near Cooper River or someplace in Soldotna.

July 28th- Homer for 1 night -Where do we stay?

Sounds like Vic's B&B suggestion is what you are after, but here is an inexpensive hotel we like with encrypted high-speed internet that's close to everything ... http://www.oceanshoresalaska.com/

Do we drive from Homer to Seward in one day or stop between the two for one night? Any recommendations for lodging in Seward?

Would drive it in a day. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, with a room on the harbor side (instead of the parking lot side). Nice place with free breakfast.

Aug 8th - take bus to Denali & transfer to the North Face Lodge bus. What bus line do you recommend, the Motorcoach Service?

We usually just drive, but the one time we took a shuttle (we were staying 11 days at North Face, too expensive for a car that long) we used the Park Connection. They leave Anchorage early and you get to Denali in plenty of time to catch the North Face bus. http://www.alaskacoach.com/ Cheaper and faster than the train, which would require an overnight in the overpriced lodging near the entrance.

Is there somewhere at the entrance to Denali that we can store extra luggage or do we need to find someplace in Anchorage to store it?

Hotel in ANC will keep it for you, or you can take it with you to North Face, which is what we do. There is no limit on what you can take to NF, except possibly the shuttle service you use from ANC to Denali will hassle you if you have TOO much and the bus is full. The one time we used the shuttle we had a ton of gear but the driver said it was fine, no extra charge.

Aug 8-12 Denali North Face Lodge & possibly a flight tour of Mt McKinley with Kantishna Air Taxi.

This works well ... if it's clear they will sign you up for an after-dinner flight. The airstrip is a few miles from the lodge. We did this once at sunset, it was great.
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Thanks again Bill_H. We will look at the hotels on Spinard as it would be great to be able to store extra luggage with them. I wasn't sure if there was any luggage limit for North Face or not. We won't have a ton of luggage but might have more than what we can take on the small plane to Brooks and Hallo Bay. The Park Connection sounds great for the trip to Denali.
Did you have a car when you were in Homer and going to Hallo Bay? Can you safely leave a car at the airport for the several days you are at Hallo Bay?
PHayden is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 01:37 PM
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Bill_H, do you mind if I ask what kind of camera equipment you have? What size lenses you used in Brooks/Hallo Bay and Denali. Your photos are great.
PHayden is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 02:33 PM
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Bill_H photos are great- I think the most spectacular one is one of the Cheetah in the jeep with them(well the cheetah is on top of an open air jeep and his tail and feet are in the vehicle). I can't access it on the site anymore.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 03:16 PM
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might have more (luggage) than what we can take on the small plane to Brooks and Hallo Bay.

I think at Brooks (using Katmailand Air) you were allowed 75 lbs plus body weight and then they would charge extra for more weight, with the caveat that heavy loads might not arrive the same day, depending on when they had space available. Easier to get out of Brooks with heavy gear than in because they flew in food etc and the flights out had less cargo. Didn't have a problem with the weight limit while staying at the lodge but was overweight when I camped and had camping gear and food plus camera stuff.

IIRC at Hallo Bay you were in theory allowed 250 lbs per person, which included body weight. So if it's a husband-wife team you can usually make that if you have a skinny wife. Two fat guys, forget it! I think we were overweight here a bit, maybe 40 lbs (heavy camera gear and clothes for a week) but they let us slide.

Did you have a car when you were in Homer and going to Hallo Bay?

Yes we did, came in handy the first few days as we drove to the airstrip, then got weathered out and drove back to the hotel, etc etc (lots of bad weather and long delays before we could fly in). One guy didn't have a car and was able to hitch rides or get a cab. He only got one night at HB instead of the four he had reserved, due to weather.

Can you safely leave a car at the airport for the several days you are at Hallo Bay?

When we did this (2008) they used Smokey Bay Air, which was based on the other side of the runway from the main Homer terminal. There was a free lot across the street which most people used, or you could pay $10 and leave your car inside a locked, fenced compound. Smokey said they rarely had break-ins in the free lot but because we had a lot of gear in the trunk we just paid the $10 for the locked lot. No problems.

Bill_H, do you mind if I ask what kind of camera equipment you have? What size lenses you used in Brooks/Hallo Bay and Denali.

We mostly used a Canon 500 f/4 lens with IS (stabilizer), often with a 1.4x converter. The wider angled shots were with a 70-200. Cameras were either full-frame or 1.3x crop, so if you have a 1.5x camera you'll have extra reach. At Denali we had a seat on the photo bus to ourselves so could rig up a tripod and shoot out the window, and of course at HB and Brooks we just carried a tripod around.

I see you have a Nikon ... the 200-400 f/4 VR is the perfect lens for Hallo Bay because of the high quality optics and the nice zoom range. You'll have some very close opportunities and the zoom is handy for framing correctly. The longer the lens the better at Denali, if you can support it properly. Usually the critters are much further away, though we had those two moose fighting right beside the road for 3 days.

If the 200-400 is too expensive or too heavy then something like a 75-300 or the slower 80-400 VR would still do the trick, but it will help a lot for the wildlife shots if you have at least 300 mm.
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 06:11 PM
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Bill_H photos are great- I think the most spectacular one is one of the Cheetah in the jeep with them (well the cheetah is on top of an open air jeep and his tail and feet are in the vehicle). I can't access it on the site anymore.

Spiro, thanks for the compliments! I had yanked most of the html files because I wanted to re-work those web pages but I am very slow to get around to it. I just put the old html back up for you plus the other Africa trips; the cheetah-on-the-roof is here: http://www.hiltonphotography.net/afr...ia/cheetah.htm

Also, speaking of cheetahs, you might like this set, which features a cheetah mom with 6 cubs killing a gazelle, another cheetah mom with three very tiny cubs killing a gazelle and fighting off a honey badger that threatened the cubs, plus some other nice stuff from a great migration season trip:

http://www.hiltonphotography.net/africa/08_02_tz/

And for PHayden, here are some shots from Brooks and earlier trips to Denali (plus Pribilof Islands and Homer eagles) ... I'm still behind a couple of years worth of updating and the non-Alaska and Africa links aren't back up, and the mailto address is invalid (I shut down that email address due to spamming).
http://www.hiltonphotography.net/alaska/

Enjoy!
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 06:40 PM
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Thanks!! enjoyed looking at everything else as well. Now Phayden you have all the now to take pictures like this, so the pressure is on. His photos just make me want to go go go.
spirobulldog is offline  

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