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Trip Report Trip Report: Alaska by Land

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Below is a report from my trip to Alaska in August of 2008. My husband and I (late 30s) spent 10 days driving (and flying) throughout Alaska, with stops in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, Fairbanks, Barrow, Copper River, McCarthy/Kennicott, Homer, Seward, Whittier, and Girdwood. Activities included an ice falls trek, Mt. McKinley flightseeing/glacier landing, trip above the Arctic Circle to Barrow, historic mine tour, brown bear safari, glacier kayaking, and glacier dogsledding. The popular Inside Passage cruise was NOT part of our itinerary, but we would like to return to Alaska someday to see that area of the state. Regarding lodging, even though we felt we stayed in the best hotels possible in each location, the accomodations were 3 star at best (the Alyeska Resort was the exception). We were disappointed with the food; we expected to have lots of fresh seafood, and it just didn’t seem to be available (most seafood was breaded/deep-fried, despite eating in what we felt were “better” restaurants). We had fairly decent weather, despite it being one of the rainiest summers in Alaskan history. We had an equal number of sunny, cloudy, and rainy days. Fortunately, two of our rainy days happened when we had long drives planned, but one did happen on the day we went glacier kayaking, making the day less enjoyable than it could have been. With all that said, Alaska is beautiful, the people are friendly, it’s easy to navigate/drive, and the opportunities for unique activites are endless. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

August 6: Newark to Eagle River (Anchorage)

Flight: Newark to Anchorage (with a stop in Seattle) on Continental

Hotel: Eagle River Microtel: This was a fine hotel for one night, located about 20 minutes from the Anchorage Airport and the downtown area.Since we were on our way to Talkeetna the next day (by way of Matanuska Glacier), it made sense for us. The hotel was as expected, maybe a bit worn around the edges (for example, it was difficult to close our bathroom door without performing some gymnastics). Plenty of towels, soap, and shampoo provided. We had booked a standard (queen) room, but were upgraded to a suite (but I use that term loosely). We arrived later in the evening (after 10:00 pm, and the hotel was sold out). The room had a window seat, ceiling fan (but no air-conditioning), and the window opened. Bedding was fine, with the newer bedscarf-over-duvet setup rather than an old-fashioned bedspread. We also had a pull-out sofa bed and coffee table, along with a wet bar and a small refrigerator. The sink area was within the bathroom, making it challenging for more than one person to get ready at a time. Continental breakfast was provided, including hot and cold beverages, bagels and other breads/muffins, and oatmeal. I didn't see any fruit or really healthy options, though. Check-in and check-out were easy. Parking was no problem. The hotel has a small sundries/snack shop right in the lobby. The location is good, right in "downtown" Eagle River, near a few restaurants (Haute Quarter Grill, Jalapenos) and a large grocery store (I think it's called Carrs). There's a liquor store nearby, as well as a movie theater, and several strip malls. I would stay here again during transit to/from the airport. Rates were reasonable when booked ahead--about $98 for the AAA rate on the standard room.

August 7: Eagle River (Anchorage) to Talkeetna, Including an Ice Falls Trek

Activity: MICA Guides Ice Falls Trek on the Matanuska Glacier: We chose the 3-hour tour, which may have been a bit too long/repetitive, but the alternate 1.5 hour tour would have been too short, I think. We paid $70 per person, plus a $15 per person glacier access fee (all paid right to MICA using a credit card). They outfitted us with helmets and crampons, which were easy to use and not at all clumsy. (There were times later in my trip that I wish I still had them with me.) The trek was very easy; nothing too taxing physically. Although we began at ground level and ended up a good deal above sea level, I never felt as though we were climbing at any significant rate. We saw lots of ice formations and crevasses that were very interesting. Our guide, Andreas, took lots of photos of us. We had some light rain/drizzle, but I wore a "Deadliest Catch" Red Ledge rain suit that worked tremendously. Sun glasses would be a must on a bright day because of the glare. I would recommend at least the 1.5 hour tour for an interesting peek at the glacier.

Hotel: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge (Alaska Heritage Tours Group): This lodge is located quite near downtown Talkeetna, but it would still be a 10-minute downhill walk (but we had a rental car). The lodge is nice, but the view on a clear day is spectacular. There's a great outdoor viewing deck where you can relax and have meals and drinks. There are two restaurants: the casual one with both indoor and deck seating, and a more formal restaurant. The lobby has a nice public seating area with a dual-sided fireplace. We had a booked a standard main-lodge room, but were given a mountain-view room at check-in, which was an upgrade since it included a sofabed, coffee table, and small refrigerator. There was also a desk and chair, easy chair, and bench seat (which we used for our luggage). It was wonderful to be able to watch the sunset (although that was 10:00 pm) right from our room. We were on the ground floor of a three floor building; the top floor would be ideal, but we were able to remove the screen from our window and hop out to take photos, which wouldn't have been possible (or maybe necessary) from the top floor. The sink area was outside the bathroom, which I always find helpful when more than one person occupies the room. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion were provided, as well as a hairdryer, lots of towels, and comfortable bedding.

Restaurant: West Rib Cafe (Talkeetna): While I probably wouldn’t choose to eat inside, on a beautiful afternoon, the outdoor patio is a great place for a quick bite. We had salads, which were fine, but we talked to others who were disappointed with their higher-end steak dinners. This restaurant is connected inside to the “general store”, where a stubby-tailed cat reigns supreme. Definitely check out the store, even if you don’t eat here.

August 8: Talkeetna to Fairbanks, Including a Glacier Landing Flight and a Drive Through Denali

Activity: Talkeetna Aero Taxi/Fly Denali: We chose the Circle Denali tour with a glacier landing. We used a five seater plane, so there were four passengers and the pilot sitting in a 2, 2, 1 configuration. We wore headsets to speak to each other while flying. The sightseeing was amazing, and the landing on Pica Glacier was a great experience. We had a perfectly sunny day, so we caught that rare glimpse of Denali along with many other surrounding mountains. I would highly recommend this tour.

Talkeetna Airport Info: Each airline seems to have its own building.

Restaurant: Nenana Grill (at the McKinley Chalet Resort near Denali): There is no outdoor dining at this smallish hotel bar/restaurant, but it is surrounded on two sides by wall-to-wall windows, so on a clear day, the view is nice (but I don’t think you can see Denali itself). The food was good, and we felt this was the best option just outside Denali, and certainly at this hotel (the other option was cafeteria-style and seemed to be favored by the bus tours). We shared a pizza and a sandwich, which were both good.

Hotel: Princess Fairbanks: We spent two nights here, using Fairbanks as our base to travel to/from Barrow on a day trip. The hotel is quite close to the airport, probably only a 5-minute drive. It rained on both our nights here, which was a shame because one of the restaurants had an outdoor deck along the banks of the Chena River that we were unable to enjoy. I think there were three stories to this hotel in two different wings (one newer than the other). The lobby area was pleasant, with comfy couches, a nice fireplace, and game tables (there was another game/TV room on the second floor lobby). The rooms were standard chain hotel rooms. We had a king room that had a small table/chairs, chair/ottoman, sink area outside the actual bathroom, some minor toiletries provided, hair dryer, clock. Rates were low, so I would stay here again, particularly if flying into/out of Fairbanks (I think it was a bit far from the downtown area, though). There were two restaurants, as well as a bar/restaurant (Trackers, where we ate one night; good comfort food next to a roaring fire). The hotel gift shop is one of the nicest that I’ve seen, with a good selection of quality items, and also with a little deli/cafe bar and outdoor seating.

August 9 Fairbanks to Barrow to Fairbanks: Traveling Above the Arctic Circle

Activity: Barrow Trip: We used Northern Alaska Tour Company to arrange our trip. It was less expensive than going directly through Alaska Air. We still flew on Alaska Air, and ended up on the same Tundra Tour that their guests booked. Our flight left Fairbanks around 7:30, arriving in Barrow around 10:15 (we had a 1-hour stop in Prudhoe Bay, but could not deplane). We were met at the Barrow Airport by Eli from Tundra Tours. He drove our group around in a big, white school bus (which was more comfortable than it first seemed that it would be). Our tour included stops at the Will Rogers/Wiley Post Memorial, where there’s also a directional signpost with mileage to other US/world cities (good for photos). There’s also a large circular Welcome to Barrow sign for additional photos, along with a (really) small welcome center with excellent photographs (available online). We stopped at the Inupiat sign with the snowy owl and looked out on the cliffs where the original sod houses were built. We had a few stops to see the Arctic Ocean and whaling boats. We visited the Inupiat Heritage Center, which is much more expansive than I had seen online. There is a great whaling exhibit and other artifacts, a stuffed bird display, and the main attraction, the live cultural presentation, where native people sing, dance, and do the blanket toss. We visited Point Barrow, a large supermarket, the whalebone arch, and the Top of the World sign. The last stop was the Polar Bear Club swim, where to be certified, you actually have to completely immerse yourself in the water. Even though we were there on what I felt to be a beautiful “summer” day, there’s no way you could have paid me to take that icy dip! Lunch was not included, but choices were Osaka Japanese (where we ate), Pepe’s North of the Border, and Arctic Pizza. Note that if you want the promised “I crossed the Arctic Circle” certificate, you MUST eat at Pepe’s. This was not specified in the tour description; it sounded as if everyone who went on the tour automatically got the certificate, but that’s not true. You had to buy something food-wise from Pepe’s to get the certificate. If you bought an entire meal, the certificate was nicer than if you just bought a dessert or something “to go”. That was the only real rip-off of the whole tour. While not an inexpensive trip, I would recommend it and am glad we decided to go. I’m also glad that we did not choose the overnight option: there would have been nothing additional to do or anywhere else to eat other than what we saw during the day.) We returned to Fairbanks at approximately 9:20 pm. (The plane originated and continued to Anchorage for people taking the trip from there.)

Fairbanks Airport Info: Smallish but well-appointed. At least two shops, bar, coffee shop, restaurant. Parking is reasonable. Some flights are boarded without jetways, and it may be necessary to descend/climb steps to get to the tarmac.

Barrow Airport Info: Very small and basic; no bar, restaurant, or shop. There is a soda machine and a snack machine. Some seating. You go through security right before boarding, not after checking in or before the waiting area. No jetways.

Restaurant: Osaka Restaurant (Barrow): Very tiny! Maybe a total of 6 tables, very close quarters. It was pricey, but then we were in a really remote location. While it wasn’t the best Japanese food I’ve ever had, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice in Barrow. Service was spotty. There is a sushi chef, and they have a few Bento box options.

Restaurant: Trackers Lounge (Fairbanks Princess): We ate in the more informal lounge than casual restaurant, which was cozy because of the fireplace. There were booths and tables in addition to bar seating. I had a great “comfort food” entree of meatloaf, and my husband had reindeer lasagna. The lounge was open late, serving food until 11:00 pm.

Hotel: Fairbanks Princess again (one of our few 2-night stays)

August 10 Fairbanks to McCarthy/Kennicott (Driving Day)

Activity: Flew Wrangell Mountain Air from Chitina to McCarthy/Kennicott

Chitina Airport Info: No facilities whatsoever. There is a building which serves as a ticket office, but it wasn’t open when we flew to/from there. We just waited in our car until we saw our plane land. No security check-in.

McCarthy/Kennicott Airport Info: Outhouse/restrooms, and on a positive note, they were decently maintained. No building in which to wait. No security check-in.
Hotel: Kennicott Glacier Lodge: The only place to stay in Kennicott-McCarthy, in my opinion. And the new South Wing with the private baths is the only place to stay at the Lodge. The South rooms were large, with two double beds but still lots of space. Furnishings were sparse but not uncomfortable. No hairdryers in the rooms, but they have some at the front desk to borrow. Also no TV, A/C, clock, or radio; or telephone, for that matter. While I don’t need all of those, at least a phone or clock would be nice. There was NO way to get a wake up call. (I’ve stayed at other remote places without any of the above, but there has always been a wake-up coffee service/personal wake-up call instead.) We did not eat at the Lodge. We only spent one night here, and we brought some sandwiches with us because we’re not fans of the communal table dining experience. We ate lunch in McCarthy at the Glacier View Grill, which is really just a campground but has a great outdoor cafe: great for McCarthy; anywhere else, you’d pass right by, but the food was grilled in front of our eyes (on a gas grill just like you’d use at home), and the view was fabulous on a gorgeous day. One of the best $15 hamburgers ever (and it wasn’t because the food was that good; but the view was unbeatable and the weather perfect. (Plus, they took Visa--completely surprising if you’ve seen the place.) We took the St. Elias Guides $25 mill tour, which is the only way to get inside the 14-story building (which you don’t want to miss). The mining town restoration is really lovely. I debated about making the trek (I mean the flight--we flew with Wrangell Air instead of driving): would it be worth the time, effort, and money? And it was in the end. McCarthy is really cute (even smaller than Talkeetna), but has a nice museum, general store, Potato restaurant, Ma Johnson Hotel, and a bar/restaurant across the street. And the glacier’s not bad, either!

Restaurant: Glacier View Grill (McCarthy): see review above

August 11 McCarthy/Kennicott to Copper River

Activity: Kennicott Mine Tour with St. Elias Guides: RECOMMENDED, see review above

Hotel: Copper River Princess: The only option in Copper River, as far as I’m concerned. We saw the Copper River Lodge, and while I definitely would have eaten there, it seemed to small and rustic a place to stay. (The “town” of Copper Center is adorable, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it. It’s smaller than Talkeetna, and also smaller than McCarthy or Kennicott.) This hotel has a lovely 2-story lobby with great views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a nice deck to sit outside, watching, eating, and drinking on a nice day. The flowers, particularly the window boxes, were the most beautiful and colorful that I saw in all of Alaska. Rooms were nice, sort of chain-hotel like but with a bit better decor. Plenty of free parking. There is free wireless access on the second floor landing, along with two computers for guest use. Two restaurants: one more formal and one more casual (bar-like), plus outdoor dining. The gift shop is small but well-stocked. Would stay here again, for sure. Rates are really reasonable. I don’t think it’s a great location for activities, though. It worked perfectly for our trip from Chitina to McCarthy, but I don’t know what else you would do from here (it’s too far from Denali, but maybe you could use it as a base to see the Matanuska Glacier or a place to stay on the way to Valdez).

Restaurant: Whistle Stop Bar and Grill (Copper River Princess): We ate here twice on two different days: once for lunch en route to McCarthy/Kennicott, and the other for dinner when we were staying at the hotel. Both were good. There is outdoor seating, which is nice on a beautiful day. This is the more casual dining option at the hotel, and it serves as the Dragonfly Coffee Bar in the mornings. There’s a TV and a fireplace, with table, booth, and bar seating. Very crowded and popular both times we were there. The garden salad is good and interesting (wrapped with a cucumber slice, which sort of makes its own bowl). I had a scallop entree for lunch that was tasty; for dinner I had some kind of a chop that was the special that day. No problems; would eat here again. The other options in Copper River are slim: there’s the Copper River Lodge (which would be my second choice), a deli-type place, and a bar serving food that’s only open at night.

August 12 Copper River to Homer via Anchorage (Driving Day)

Restaurant: Orso (Anchorage): We ate lunch here while passing through Anchorage. The atmosphere was chic and the restaurant seemed trendy; it would have been at home in New York or Philadelphia. Prices were reasonable (as compared to those cities just mentioned) and there was a unique twist to all the dishes (different ingredients, etc.). Would definitely recommend and eat here again.

Hotel: Land’s End (Homer): This was my least-favorite hotel of the trip, yet still the best option in Homer, so I would have to recommend it for that reason alone. I had problems with them from the beginning with making my reservation. I never received a confirmation, yet my credit card was charged with the deposit. We first booked the cheapest room (which was about $135 per night), but after reading the bad reviews and descriptions, we upgraded to the 2-story loft suite (which was about $200 per night). If that was the best room in the hotel, I’m glad that we didn’t stay in the “worst” as originally planned. The room was clean, but the decor was just odd. The lower part of the room had the bathroom (with the sink outside the room with the toilet/shower), sofa bed and TV, and then upstairs was the bedroom, an additional TV, and a balcony (but the view was of a rooftop next to the water; yes, it was technically a water view, but not really). The hot tubs (one indoor and one outdoor) were sketchy-looking to me, but others seemed to enjoy them, so who am I to judge? Parking was free, but space seemed limited (I think people staying at the Land’s Inn Lodge “condos” next door were parked in the hotel lot as well). The hotel is located at the very end of the Spit, so technically, it’s surrounded by water on three sides. We were close enough to walk to the shops and restaurants on the Spit, but didn’t because it was rainy while we were there. The hotel has a restaurant (where we didn’t eat) and a spa (prices were phenomenal to me, and I live near NY and Philadelphia). As I said, the best option in Homer, but nothing to write home about.

Restaurant: Captain Pattie’s Fish House (Homer): We had one of our better dinners here. Great salads, great sourdough bread. We had an artichoke/crab bruscetta appetizer, which was excellent. The main courses left something to be desired, though--nearly ALL fried food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like fried fish and chips, but I think that breading scallops, shrimp, and quality fish (like tuna and salmon) is just a mistake! Service was good, and the place was really crowded (we probably waited about 20 minutes for a table, and that was close to 9:00 pm). It’s a tight fit within the restaurant--lots of tables and people in a small space, but the main room has a high ceiling and lots of windows and white walls, so that’s the preferred spot. (There’s no bar area in which to wait.) I would recommend this restaurant overall, and would go again.

August 13 Homer to Seward, Including Bear Watching

Homer Airport Info: While we did not depart from the actual airport (but instead, a building on the opposite side of the runway), we did stop in to see it. There are tons of pamphlets/brochures on Homer, and counters for Era and Grant and car rentals. No bar, restaurant, or shop. No visible security to enter the building, so you must go through right before boarding.

Activity: Bear Viewing with Smokey Bay Air to the Alaska Homestead Lodge (AHL): The best excursion of our trip! (Not to mention the most expensive at nearly $600 per person for a full day). We left from a building opposite the Homer Airport around 8:00 am and returned at approximately 5:00 pm (times vary based on the tides, since you are landing on the beach in Lake Clark National Park). It was about a 30-40 minute flight each way (we took the long way there due to weather, but the short way back). We were in a “puddle-jumper” plane with just 5 people on the way out, and 6 people on the way back. We saw bears IMMEDIATELY upon landing at Lake Clark, and continued to see them for the next few hours. We chose Smokey Bay Air because they partnered with the Alaska Homestead Lodge, where we knew we could return for lunch and restroom breaks, etc. rather than being stranded with just the woods with what we brought with us (as the other more popular/more famous companies do). Our guide from AHL picked us up on the beach with an ATV pulling a wagon. While we were told that we could be with as many as 20 people on the ground, it was just my husband and I and one other couple (and 4 people would be the max to fit in the wagon, so even if there are 20 people, you would be in 5 wagons with 5 guides, I guess). Our guide was really sweet and knowledgeable, a young guy from Montana working his first summer in Alaska (but with bear experience from back home). We spotted lots of sows and cubs (so cute!) and had many opportunities to get out of the wagon and walk close to the bears to take photos, etc. (The bears are NOT scared by the sound of the ATVs, nor do they seem to be scared of people, as I had initially feared.) The bear viewing rivalled our East African safari experience last summer: not nearly the variety of animals, but we did see lots of bears, and I felt that we got even closer in the ATV and on foot than we did in the open Land Rovers in Africa. AHL is a nice place; they have a separate “game room” building where there’s a big-screen TV, dining table and kitchen where you are served lunch (or out on the deck in nice weather), two bathrooms (one with a shower), computer, gift cabinet, stuffed/mounted animals. This bear-viewing option really worked for us, and was well-worth the money.

Restaurant: Trail Lake Lodge Restaurant (Moose Pass between Anchorage and Seward): We ended up eating dinner here unexpectedly en route from Homer to Seward. Just 5 miles outside of Seward, we encountered a terrible car accident, and were told the road would be closed for two hours. Rather than wait in traffic, we turned back and made the (?) 20-mile drive back to Moose Pass. This was the ONLY option along the road between the Portage area and Seward. Unfortunately, we arrived just after the normal closing time (the bar/restaurant normally closes at 9:00 pm, which seems really early!), but they agreed to stay open because so many other “stranded” travellers were looking for a way to pass the time and a place to get a bite to eat. The only options for food at that hour were of the fried variety, but “any port in a storm”; this motel/bar/restaurant ended up saving our night. It would have been a good choice even if we weren’t stranded. While I didn’t see the motel rooms, the building itself seemed clean and well-maintained, and it was perched on the edge of a lake with seaplanes.

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express (Seward): As expected: a chain hotel with the usual amenities. Hot breakfast (biscuits, sausage, cinnamon rolls, bananas, cereal, juices). While we didn’t have any issues with parking, I can imagine that you might at peak operation (although the hotel WAS sold out when we were there because of the salmon derby). The pool wasn’t a bad size (but we didn’t use it). The hotel is in a great location; right on the harbor and near some shops and restaurants (but most of the shops were for booking activities/excursions). Some rooms have balconies, but we weren’t lucky, nor were we given a king-bedded room as requested. It wasn’t possible to make our own reservation here during the days we stayed. The hotel showed “sold out” when trying to make a reservation. Apparently, local travel agents block rooms during the busy times, so we had to book through an agent for this stay. As a result, we weren’t able to get Priority Club points for our stay, nor were we given any of the associated perks or even granted our room request. This is still the best option in Seward, and I’m not sorry that we stayed here. No restaurant onsite (other than the breakfast area), but there are several shops (one deli, one convenience, the visitor’s bureau, and a gift/novelty store) on the first floor. The only disappointment I can recall is that the hotel promised freshly-baked cookies as 8:00 pm each night, but they were never available as advertised.

August 14 Seward and Whittier

Activity: We were supposed to kayak today, but the trip was postponed until tomorrow due to rough seas. So we switched our plans for August 14 and 15, and drove to Whittier instead. Whittier was disappointing, and we felt it was a waste of our time. There’s not much to do/see in Seward, either, in my opinion. It’s a cute town, but it’s not a must-see. It is a convenient place to take a wildlife cruise or kayaking tour, though, so if that interests, you, then add Seward (or Whittier) to your itinerary. The Whittier tunnel is a snooze.

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Seward again (one of our few 2-night stays)

Restaurant: Inn at Whittier (Whittier): We ate here in the bar area of the restaurant. We did not stay here, but it is the ONLY place to stay in Whittier (I don’t mean that literally; just that the other lodging that we saw was horrible). I can’t say the food was great, but again, it seemed to be the only option in Whittier. We debated upon staying in Whittier rather than just visiting, which would have been a mistake. Not much to see or do here, other than to take a day cruise. Parking in Whittier was difficult, and we were there on a rainy day when it wasn’t very busy. Not a pretty city at all. I would skip this city altogether, if at all possible, but the Inn itself looked fairly nice.

Restaurant: Ray’s Waterfront (Seward): We had a good dinner here in Seward. It is located quite near the Holiday Inn Express, so it was a quick walk to/from our hotel. Food was good and plentiful. Get a table near the windows overlooking the water. We were entertained by a playful sea otter while eating.

August 15 Seward to Anchorage, Including Glacier Kayaking

Activity: Glacier Kayaking with Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking Company: RECOMMENDED. We were scheduled to do this on the previous (full) day in Seward, but the trip was postponed due to bad weather. The day we did go was very rainy and cold, and the weather was just plain nasty. We saw a little wildlife, but not as much as we had hoped or expected. We enjoyed the kayaking, but the weather was a real downer. Would love to do this again under sunny skies. I chose Sunny Cove because they had a boat with a head (restroom), unlike lots of other companies, and it seemed like too long a day not to have a bathroom break. It was a fairly comfortable ride in the cabin, a little crowded, though, because no one could be out on the deck because of the rain.

Hotel: Alyeska Resort (Girdwood, outside Anchorage): My favorite hotel of my 10-night stay in Alaska! Definitely the most high-end property where we stayed, with valet parking, room service, on-site spa, lovely indoor pool, outdoor gardens, several dining options (although we ate elsewhere), several shops, game room, fish pond, aerial tram access to the top of the mountain. I wish that we had spent more than one night here--the mattress/bedding was fantastic and the room layout was clever. We were upgraded to a renovated room/floor, and the bedroom/sitting area could be closed off with louvered doors from the sink/bathroom area. (My husband didn't even hear me wake up and get ready as a result.) Rooms had everything imaginable (hairdryer, luxurious toiletries, safe, minibar, game unit, heated towel rack, robes/slippers, doorbell, ice service) for a comfortable stay. Several restaurants are nearby, within a very short drive (but probably not a quick walk): Jack Sprat (highly recommended) and the well-known Doubly Musky (but we weren't feeling Cajun/Creole that night). Would absolutely stay here again--this hotel would be at home in any metropolitan US city.

Restaurant: Jack Sprat (Girdwood): Our best meal in Alaska. Some natural/vegetarian options along with more standard fare. Nice presentation for the food, and unique ingredients used. The restaurant is in an A-frame building, which was unique. Service was good. Would probably make a reservation; it was crowded on the night we were there.

August 16 Anchorage to Newark (with a stop in Seattle) on Continental, including Glacier Dog Sledding

Activity: Chugach Express Dog Sledding with Alpine Air Alaska Helicopters (Girdwood): RECOMMENDED. This company was more expensive than some others, but we dogsledded on actual ice/snow with an Iditarod team at their "summer camp", rather than on sand/ground. We traveled to the camp by helicopter. Appropriate attire was provided. We were the only participants, so we got a really private tour of the camp, spent time with the dogs (there was no litter of puppies, though; I was hoping for that), and then mushed with the dogs. Very exhilarating! We had dogsledded years before in Vermont, and it was nothing like that. Really professional and exciting!

Restaurant: Flying Machine/Fancy Moose (at Millennium Alaskan Hotel near the Anchorage airport): It was great to sit on the deck adjacent to the seaplane landing lake and enjoy some great weather and fresh air before heading to the airport for our evening flight. Food was nothing to rave about, but proximity to the airport and the outdoor seating area were appreciated.