Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (https://www.fodors.com/community/)
-   United States (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/)
-   -   Solo Senior in Alaska NOT on a cruise ship (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/solo-senior-in-alaska-not-on-a-cruise-ship-1669148/)

MyBaggage Jul 7th, 2019 04:23 AM

Solo Senior in Alaska NOT on a cruise ship
 
Hi, I am a solo woman in her 70s. I am planning Alaska for sometime in 2020. Timetable and budget are flexible. Looking for landscape, wildlife - bears, whales, caribou, all of it - some history, local culture, art. I don't usually enjoy cities other than hitting the must see sights. I thrilled to glaciers and icebergs in Patagonia and in Antarctica, so unless Alaska is notably different in that regard, that is not a high priority. Small group tour is OK but if I see a bus with 40 people they will see me running the other way. After research, this is a draft of an itinerary that appeals and I am comfortable doing it on my own. (It is usually hard to find a tour with an itinerary that matches my wishlist.)

Fly to Sitka - 2 nights, day tours and wandering
Ferry to Juneau - "my" Inside Passage cruise
Juneau - 2 nights. day tours and wandering
Fly to Anchorage - 1 night in the Camp Denali hotel in ANC
Train to Denali
Camp Denali - 3 nights in park, (package include 1 night at each end in their Anc hotel
Train or bus(?) back to ANC
Anchorage - 1-2 nights, see a couple of museums, maybe Potter Marsh for some birds
Get a car and drive the Kenai Peninsula
Seward - 2 nights, Day cruises, tours
Homer - 2 nights, Day cruises, tours
Back to Anc/Girdwood for 1-2 nights at the Alyeska Hotel (I like a little lux at the end of a trip)

I am interested in a flightseeing trip somewhere in here. plus a bear viewing excursion with a small group.
I was considering Nome as well, but decided I would be doing "too much".
Is a dog sled trip touristy, or, maybe, cruel??
All suggestions for changes, sequence, suppliers, etc. are welcome. I always get good advice here.

MyBaggage Jul 7th, 2019 06:03 AM

I neglected to begin with "I am looking for advice and suggestions on this itinerary!"

dwooddon Jul 7th, 2019 09:01 AM

I've been to all these places multiple times except Sitka and I've been there once. I also seem to share your interests in places and experiences. If it were me, I'd leave the Sitka and Juneau stops for another trip and add the time to either Denali or the Kenai peninsula. I know at our ages, we can't be guaranteed another trip but, at 77, I'm headed back to Alaska for my 15th time at the end of this month and each time, I've concentrated on a different area. Enjoy your trip.

dfrostnh Jul 8th, 2019 02:49 AM

You might have to double check dog sled/cart rides because Alaska is having a record heat wave. Alaskan huskies might be less susceptible to the heat but friends with Siberian huskies didn't run them if the temperature was over 50 or 60. There was one unusually warm day one February when a sled dog race had to wait for vet okay due to high temperatures. It has recently been 90 in the Anchorage area.
I liked the Kenai Fjords tour out of Seward much better than the nature cruise out of Homer. One of my favorite events was the Forest Fair in Girdwood held around July 4. It was a nice mix of all ranges of arts and crafts plus music and food. Vendors had time to talk. It seemed to be mostly a local event although very popular. I know you said no crowds but this was a different sort of crowd. A lot of locals having a good time and one brief incident with a bear attracted by food smells.
The ferry is also an interesting mostly local experience. We went from Bellingham WA to Skagway. The best part was eavesdropping plus listening to the daily lectures. The scenery was great but you'll have more wildlife experience with the day cruise out of Seward.
We have had fun watching salmon runs and fishermen. If you get out to some different spots when you explore you might luck out. We visited a beach near Kenai where two guys were net fishing and planning to take back a lot of salmon. They enjoyed chatting and it was interesting to watch one haul in a net, gut a fish, toss innards to gulls, etc. He gave us a cleaned fish to cook that night. The two guys worked on the slope so went hunting and fishing during their alternate weeks off.
Start reading the local newspapers even if you have to pay for a subscription. A highlight of my first trip was going on a garden tour of an Anchorage neighborhood. Mostly people were delighted to have a tourist visit. The gardens were modest but the last one was an old log cabin and the owner had a keg for refreshments. Only time I've seen that on a garden tour. The newspaper stories were sometimes very interesting like the young kids club that was fundraising by trapping and selling furs. I liked visiting the farmers markets. The one in Homer had fresh oysters. We went to a local restaurant either Kenai or Soldotna that was having a dinner and show. It was great fun and I think we were about the only tourists in the room.
One of the most interesting non-fiction books I read was Tisha, the story of a young teacher who traveled to Alaska to teach in 1927. You can probably find other books to give you some background on culture and history. There are a lot of books about the Iditarod.

MyBaggage Jul 8th, 2019 03:17 AM

Thanks, dwood, I originally started with Sitka and Juneau using the ferry and calling that my Inside Passage Cruise. I had advice that Sitka was the prettiest city in Alaska. Arrive, overnight, day of sightseeing, overnight, get on the ferry to Juneau. I have already added another day to Denali and a couple of days to the Kenai. I have friends who did the cruise and keep telling me there is “nothing” in Seward! Yes, but what about the drive to Seward and what about all the sights and activities around Seward?! My itinerary has evolved to be primarily Denali and the Kenai. I will keep your advice in mind about Sitka/Juneau. But yes, with so many places to see, I wonder whether I will be able to return. Decisions, decisions.

MyBaggage Jul 8th, 2019 04:46 AM

Dogsleds and newspapers
 
Hi dfrostnh, do you, perchance, live in NH? I moved from there last year to a warmer clime. I couldn't take the long winters anymore. But I did love it there - Portsmouth.

Anyway, your detailed reply is excellent, thank you. Since I am going summer 2020, I don't know about the weather at that time. I asked about the dog sled tour because it is something new. But sometimes these things can be a little touristy. I found one helicopter tour that lands on a glacier, followed by a dog sled tour. Now the helicopter part, based on other travels, seems very touristy. However, seeing Alaska from the air is a must do, I think. So I can excuse it this time.

(I don't like the way navigation works on the Fodor's forums. I hit return and post when I am not finished! .)

I like your idea about the newspaper. The local garden tour and a local dinner show where I am the only tourist sounds very good. So many of my "memory souvenirs" are interactions with the local people.

I may do the 26 Glaciers tour out of Whittier, as I begin my drive from Anchorage to Seward. Then take my time on the Kenai, with a tour out of Homer, to see lots of bears. The Kenai days are still "unplanned".

The ferry from Sitka to Juneau is about 9 hours - and that gives me a flavor of the Inside Passage without devoting much time to a "cruise". I am more interested in Denali and in the Kenai Peninsula.

And thank you for the book suggestion. Always part of my travel prep.

"One brief incident with a bear"?! Who won?

dwooddon Jul 8th, 2019 07:24 AM


Originally Posted by MyBaggage (Post 16949754)
but what about the drive to Seward and what about all the sights and activities around Seward?!

Sorry, I was remiss in not mentioning the drive. Seward Highway between the outskirts of Anchorage and the Sterling Highway cutoff is one of, if not the very best, scenic drives in the US. I also prefer the boar ride out of Seward to any I have done in Homer but I did have a very scenic and photographically fruitful boat tour for wildlife in Homer. I also prefer Homer to Seward generally but I still enjoy my visits to Seward. Some of my photography is on a web site on flickr. If you'd like to take a look, they are at https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/. The Alaska photos are interspersed with photos from other trips.

Patty Jul 8th, 2019 02:26 PM

Dog sledding is a blast especially if you get to drive the sled. I haven't done it in Alaska though. I did it in Montana in winter. It's one of the most fun things I've ever done.

dfrostnh Jul 9th, 2019 01:27 AM


Originally Posted by MyBaggage (Post 16949796)
Hi dfrostnh, do you, perchance, live in NH? I moved from there last year to a warmer clime. I couldn't take the long winters anymore. But I did love it there - Portsmouth.

Anyway, your detailed reply is excellent, thank you. Since I am going summer 2020, I don't know about the weather at that time. I asked about the dog sled tour because it is something new. But sometimes these things can be a little touristy. I found one helicopter tour that lands on a glacier, followed by a dog sled tour. Now the helicopter part, based on other travels, seems very touristy. However, seeing Alaska from the air is a must do, I think. So I can excuse it this time.

(I don't like the way navigation works on the Fodor's forums. I hit return and post when I am not finished! .)

I like your idea about the newspaper. The local garden tour and a local dinner show where I am the only tourist sounds very good. So many of my "memory souvenirs" are interactions with the local people.

I may do the 26 Glaciers tour out of Whittier, as I begin my drive from Anchorage to Seward. Then take my time on the Kenai, with a tour out of Homer, to see lots of bears. The Kenai days are still "unplanned".

The ferry from Sitka to Juneau is about 9 hours - and that gives me a flavor of the Inside Passage without devoting much time to a "cruise". I am more interested in Denali and in the Kenai Peninsula.

And thank you for the book suggestion. Always part of my travel prep.

"One brief incident with a bear"?! Who won?

Yes, I live in NH. Love Portsmouth area, an easy day trip.
Nothing in Seward?!! We liked the Sea Life Center. There's camping right on the waterfront and you can watch sea otters. One shop had sled dog puppies to visit. We did not care for Whittier which used to be a secret military base. My husband had to go thru the tunnel to get there so pay attention to when it is open for one way traffic going in the direction you want. Our friends visited back when you couldn't drive to Whittier but had to load your car on the train. We stayed one night and were first in line to leave the next morning. But that visit was in 2004 so a lot may have changed now that it's a cruise ship port. There are tall ugly concrete buildings from the military days. We stayed at a b&b in the officers barracks section of a wood framed building. The day trips are popular but you'll have to be careful about timing your visit due to the tunnel.
Each town seems to have its own personality. I thought Homer was very artsy as well as a popular fishing port. Read about the Eagle Lady of Homer. Kenai and Soldotna seem like "suburban" types of towns with good size supermarkets and different stores. This side of the Kenai peninsula is flatter and marshier than the Seward side. We saw most moose in Kenai, one and a calf used to graze at a house next door to where we were staying. Don't miss the visitors center near Portage Glacier. You can listen to recordings of people's reactions to the big quake.
Maybe instead of a sled or cart ride you could find mushers who have a b&b to learn more about living with dogs and mushing. Maybe follow next winter's Iditarod to learn more. We had friends from NH move to AK, supposedly for a couple of years. They never left!

dfrostnh Jul 9th, 2019 01:30 AM

ps the fair people "swept" the area every morning to scare off any bears. I didn't actually see the bear, just the bushes moving when people started hollering that there was a bear. The craft fair was a great place to pick up souvenirs. Since I like to cook I also got a handmade ulu knife and chopping block which I use almost daily. Really great for chopping herbs.

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:26 PM

I have dropped Juneau and added a day to Sitka and to the Kenai and to Denali. The trip is now about three weeks, a comfortable time period. Thanks for your help. I appreciate your time with the details.

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:28 PM

I am interested in riding the sled and learning how it all works. Once I see it, however, I will probably want to drive the sled. My kids live in Montana. I gave my granddaughter a dogsled ride for her birthday one year!

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:34 PM

What a great idea about a B&B living with and learning about the sled dogs. I have no interest in a cart ride - seems too touristy. But a real ride on real snow might be good.
My friend who said "nothing in Seward" was on a cruise ship that stopped for a few hours. I know that those passengers do not venture far from the ship and look at shops, restaurants. i simply smiled and said I had plans for the areas around Seward. You have reinforced my plan to add a couple of days to the Kenai portion. is a total of 6 nights too much?

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:36 PM

i dropped the ferry portion. Have learned that current budget problems make the scheduling for next year rather iffy. (Horrible news for the locals who rely on the ferry) So I will fly into Sitka for a few days - day trips, cruises - then fly on to Anchorage.

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:39 PM

Forgot to add, the only reason for the stop in Whittier is to do the 26 Glacier Cruise. It came highly recommended. Then I will continue on to Seward.

dfrostnh Jul 10th, 2019 02:11 AM

We didn't do the Whittier cruise. We did the one out of Seward. The glacier didn't calve but the boat was stopped with engines turned off so we could hear the groaning as ice moved. There was also the chunks of ice hitting against the boat. I think watching orcas dive in unison as the fed was incredible. We also got close enough to a humpback whale that we got to smell whale breath.
At a quilt shop in Skagway I learned that people would use the ferry to come for a quilting class and spend the weekend. Then go back on the ferry. It's definitely a necessity for getting around that part of Alaska. You can only get to Juneau, the state capital, by boat or plane.
It's really tough saying whether 6 days is too long. When we based in Kenai, going to Seward for a day cruise required an overnight at a B&B in Seward since we had to be on the boat by 9am or earlier. It's about a 2 hour drive between the two towns. So there's 2 days. Plus if you go from Anchorage to Seward it's about 3 hours straight driving but you'll want to stop for photo ops. I think you also mentioned Potter Marsh. (Figure a time when birds will be busy.) One trip early August the salmon were running in Bird Creek so we stopped to watch the fishing. In late June salmon will start running in the Russian River which we stopped to watch. Plus along the Seward Highway you have Girdwood/Alyeska, the wildlife center, the Portage Glacier area. You could easily spend all day driving from Anchorage to Seward. And maybe you want to detour to Hope. I loved the Pratt Museum in Homer. We did an overnight to Seldovia across the bay but that didn't leave us much time in Homer so we had to go back. We wandered into one store selling canvas bags with an interesting history https://nomaralaska.com/pages/about-us
Here's a good website about things you can do Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Spots
I don't see many people mentioning Independence Mine which is north of Anchorage. We liked the buildings and artifacts on display and imagining what the mining town used to be like.
There was either a library or visitors center in Kenai but maybe Soldotna that had a very interesting display of artifacts like a raincoat made from seal gut. I think there's a lot of things cruise ship passengers miss.
We completely missed out on riding or driving a sled here in NH but enjoyed volunteering on trail crew for a race that used to be held in Sandwich NH. Thanks to friends, I have been dragged twice and stopped trying to help lead a team to the starting line. It takes several people even with a 6 dog team because the dogs are so anxious to go. If you trip, you just have to roll out of the way. It's much easier to hold a clip board to check teams at checkpoints or stop traffic where teams have to cross a road.

If you check events in the different towns you might find something you would like to attend.

MyBaggage Jul 10th, 2019 01:19 PM

Thanks, defrost, more very helpful suggestions. I am printing a lot of these so I can highlight and organize better. Tour suggestions are good. Yes, I can tell from my reading that it could take me all day to get to Seward. Not a bad day at all.

MyBaggage Jul 11th, 2019 10:05 AM

Simplifying my itinerary, I omitted the glacier cruise in Whittier. Will I still see glaciers on the Seward daytrips? I saw lots of huge glaciers in Antarctica, but want to see them in Alaska as well. I want a full day to drive Anchorage to Seward. The link you gave me offered more good stuff for the Kenai.

Gardyloo Jul 11th, 2019 11:13 AM

I don't want to be a broken record, and I'm mindful of the "conversation" already taking place on the TA forum but since you still have plenty of time to refine and/or modify your plan, I'm just going to throw out some thoughts.

Homer or no Homer, bears. I like Homer, and Kachemak Bay is very beautiful. The villages of Seldovia and Halibut Cove on the far side of the bay are very nice. HOWEVER, with the trip as you're now describing it, I find myself wondering how much of similar scenery you need to see? It's totally a judgement call of course, but with such amazing diversity, but spread out over such great distances, Alaska is a place where you can be in totally different environments in the space of an hour or so - on a plane. So what if you dropped Homer and the southern part of the Kenai and substituted somewhere off the road system? I've mentioned Nome, which I still feel would be a terrific destination given your preferences, but there are other places too. For example, what about Kodiak? Round trip air from Anchorage is around $275-300, hotels and rental cars are considerably cheaper than on the mainland, and bear tours are easy and tend to be cheaper than those from Homer or Anchorage. Plus, flying around Kodiak Island is a gobsmacking experience. For example... Kodiak Bear Viewing Tours Alaska Kingfisher Aviation . Kodiak itself is a very interesting town, relatively untouched by big tourism.


Dogsled tours. Mitch Sevey's "Ididaride" tours are pretty much the gold standard; you could extend your stay in Seward and do a glacier sled excursion. I would definitely want to ride on snow rather than wheels; but of course both are quite touristy. But the combination of a glacier landing and some time mushing might be well worth the money. https://ididaride.com/

So just wondering, what if you swapped the Homer days for Nome or Kodiak? In my view the drive from Seward down to Homer is okay but not earth-shattering, and of course you'd have to retrace your route to get back to Anchorage. By flying out to Nome or to Kodiak you wouldn't need a car for those days, you'd be less surrounded by other visitors, and you'd see a side of Alaska most visitors don't experience. Maybe worth some thought, eh?

mlgb Jul 11th, 2019 11:42 AM


Originally Posted by MyBaggage (Post 16951547)
Simplifying my itinerary, I omitted the glacier cruise in Whittier. Will I still see glaciers on the Seward daytrips? I saw lots of huge glaciers in Antarctica, but want to see them in Alaska as well. I want a full day to drive Anchorage to Seward. The link you gave me offered more good stuff for the Kenai.

Yes, you can see glaciers on the Kenai Fjords cruises out of Seward, if you book the appropriate tour. If you're a Senior or AAA member, try calling Major Marine direct and they may offer up a small discount.

https://majormarine.com/all-cruises/

https://www.alaskacollection.com/day...s-tours/tours/


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:57 AM.