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Yet another Alaska trip - 2+ weeks, August-ish, 2024

Yet another Alaska trip - 2+ weeks, August-ish, 2024

Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 09:06 AM
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Yet another Alaska trip - 2+ weeks, August-ish, 2024

Greetings Alaska experts.

I know there are a lot of Alaska questions and posts out here and I will be looking at them, but everyone's travel plans are slightly different, and AK is intimidating. So here goes.

A significant birthday coming up next August, thinking perhaps my wife and I (semi-active 70's) will finally take a trip to Alaska. We would go for 2-3 weeks. Our ideas of fun are:
- Short walks / hikes
- Wildlife / birds
- Sitting on a bench admiring the scenery
- Small town with some restaurant and grocery options since we are vegetarians (no fine dining required).
- Good coffee shop and brewpub
- Zero interest in fishing

My wife is extremely prone to motion sickness (way beyond most people) so we don't like being in transit. We'd go to two places and stay at each one for a week or so, with a few days padded at the front and back end to get to our airport.

Initial thoughts are fly to/from Anchorage, spend a week in Seward, and a week in Talkeetna. However, seeing St. Elias would be as meaningful for me as seeing Denali, so maybe Glennallen is a good choice?

I looked at a lodge in Seward and at least one is booked up already, so feeling slight pressure to move quickly. I have backup plans in BC or even the US if this doesn't pan out.

Thanks.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 10:07 AM
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I can only speak for Seward, but I think it is a beautiful setting to spend a week. Has your wife tried the Scopolamine patch for motion sickness? Our friend is a fisherman and swears by it. It would be too bad to miss out on the sea and bird life and glaciers best seen by boat.

Last edited by MichelleY; Sep 2nd, 2023 at 10:10 AM.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 11:19 AM
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Forgive any bluntness that follows, but does your wife's motion sickness susceptibility include riding in cars? I'd be concerned about Seward since so many activities in and around Seward include time on the water - Kenai Fjords cruises, etc. August in Seward is VERY busy, with many cruise ships coming and going, and the middle of the month is when the annual Silver Salmon Derby takes place, attracting many fishers, further stressing the town's visitor infrastructure. It's a great place, but you'd need to determine if it's best for you and your spouse.

Wrangell-St. Elias NP is primarily a wilderness park, with the main visitor destination being McCarthy and Kennicott, which are accessed either by light plane or via a twisty, bumpy and unpaved road on which most national rental firms won't allow their vehicles. How would she do with those options? Staying in Glennallen wouldn't help IMO.

My own view of a week in Talkeetna is that it's six or seven days too many, but of course others may (and will) disagree. Assuming that flightseeing over Denali is off the table, I honestly don't see much point in spending that much time there, if any. As you may know, the internal road within Denali National Park is currently closed beyond roughly the halfway point and isn't likely to reopen fully until 2026, maybe later at this pace.

I'm sort of racking my brain to come up with some destinations that would fit your wish list, and one that comes to mind, with one minor caveat, is the town of Haines in Southeast Alaska. Haines is one of two towns in SE Alaska with road connections to the rest of the world, the other being Skagway. The two towns are very close to each other and connected by a ferry that takes around 45 - 90 minutes (depending on the boat) to get from one to the other. However, if you want to drive, the trip is around 350 miles and goes through Canada. https://goo.gl/maps/axTqmpbdrkQiGxkn6

The easiest way to get to Haines, aside from driving, is by either a short (and wonderfully scenic) plane ride or an (equally scenic) ferry from Juneau. The trip is on sheltered "Inside Passage" waters which typically are very smooth, but I'm assuming your wife would need to have some motion sickness meds or nostrums (candied ginger being the most popular) at her disposal just in case.

The reason Haines comes to mind is that it touches several of your priorities. It's a small and friendly town, with a brewpub, adequate accommodations and places to eat (no idea about vegetarian diets but there's a small supermarket.) It's surrounded by scenery that's beyond glorious, and for birders it's worth noting that Haines is regarded as the "bald eagle capital" of the world. At the Chilkat River, a short drive from the town center, you can watch bears fishing for salmon without having to shell out hundreds of dollars to see them in places like Lake Clark NP or Katmai NP. You can rent a car (Avis) in Haines and use it to travel into the Yukon, or to explore the area in more depth.



Two other places come to mind, each with their pros and cons. First is Sitka, by far the prettiest town in SE Alaska (maybe the whole state.) Sitka is served by nonstop Alaska Airlines flights from Seattle, or with a connection in Juneau. Formerly the capital of Russian America, Sitka offers attractions like the Fortress of the Bear, a sanctuary for orphaned or injured bears, and the Alaska Raptor Center, with the same approach (including rehab and release programs) for eagles, owls and other raptors. The town's surroundings are stunning - islands, forests - and the town itself is very civilized with plenty of things to occupy a week's visit.


Finally, you could achieve most of your aims staying just down the road from Anchorage in the town of Girdwood. Girdwood is a big ski resort in winter, but in summer it's a terrific center for lots of outdoor activities as well as just hanging out. From Girdwood it would be easy to make day trips to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center down the road in Portage, or go on a "26 Glacier" cruise (vey smooth water) from Whittier. You could explore the old gold mining town of Hope, the only settlement on the south shore of Turnagain Arm, or go birding at Potter Marsh, right on the edge of Anchorage. Google the places on this map - https://goo.gl/maps/8zQrVPN8q2bQyRbJ9


I'll keep thinking about other suggestions.




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Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 12:56 PM
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From Seward, the Resurrection Bay trip (e.g.) Major Marine is calm waters. Also in Seward is the Alaska SeaLife Center. We stayed at Northern Nights B*B in Seward, they are on Expedia etc., you might have a look to see if they are available. Assuming you will have a car, the drive from Anchorage to Seward is scenic (as is the train ride) and you can visit places like Exit Glacier and Potter Marsh with a vehicle. Downtown Seward has Seward Brewing Company (which also serves meals).


I would still go to Denali even though the road is closed at the half way point. We stayed at Denali Perch which is on Expedia.

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 2nd, 2023 at 01:00 PM.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 07:42 PM
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Thanks for the replies!

MichelleY, the Scopolamine patch is the only thing that does work for her. At least most of the time, but not always, and she gets all the dryness associated side effects. She also determined that some generic brands work better than others, but none as good as the brand name. She did say she'd wear one a couple times during the trip so we could take boat excursions.

Gardyloo, no worries about bluntness, it's just something we have to strategize around. She does get sick in a car, guaranteed in the back seat, 50/50 in the front, but not if she is driving. Can't explain why, but she drives, I navigate, and it all seems to work out. (We did return the car early in Wales, but that's another story.)

THANKS much for all those detailed options you provided. You may have scared me off Seward unless we go at another time. That may explain why at least one of the lodges is already fully booked. I am intrigued by your other information. The Girdwood area seems particularly interesting because it looks easy to get to. I have not watched the videos yet, but will soon, including the brewery, hah.

(My interest in St. Elias is because I have a few Vittorio Sella books on my shelf, have admired his work for a long time, including on the first ascent with the Duke of Abruzzi. Also a fan of Brad Washburn's photography, hence Denali.)

mlgb, thanks to you too! You say yes to Talkeetna, gardy says no. I value both your opinions so maybe split the difference.

Well, I'll go do some more homework. If Seward is out perhaps I don't have to be in quite a rush.

Thanks again.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 07:25 AM
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Just a wild thought, but I had one alternative that came to mind for a car-based trip that might be a lot of fun. It's way, way off your current thinking, so maybe headed straight for the circular file, but, hey, you have most of a year to plan, so let a hundred flowers bloom and all that.

What if you flew to Whitehorse YT instead of Anchorage, got a car there and did a tour of the central Yukon plus Skagway and Haines? I know, that's bonkers, right? But bear with me for a second.

Airfare to Whitehorse (YXY) is going to be a little more than to Anchorage, depending on where you're coming from, but a quick search suggests accommodation - hotels, Airbnb et al - is likely to be cheaper, thus possibly offsetting the higher plane fare. I would imagine that food and other incidentals will probably be comparable to Alaska - fuel more, but the favo(u)rable exchange rate might help.

You could do a loop from Whitehorse - down to Skagway, ferry to Haines, back to Whitehorse, maybe with a stop in Kluane National Park or at Kluane Lake, with views of basically the same range that you'd see the west slopes of in Wrangell-St. Elias NP In Alaska. https://goo.gl/maps/BdNBUkBwNrHVkUHNA

Or take a day (in each direction) to drive up to Dawson City at the junction of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers and enjoy that incredibly historic and picturesque place. https://goo.gl/maps/UDS58imvLxzGNeQUA

I know, a totally different concept than your original, but one that might be pretty enjoyable.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Sep 3rd, 2023 at 07:33 AM.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 11:33 AM
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Don’t count Seward out. I thought the bay and surroundings were beautiful.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MichelleY
Donít count Seward out. I thought the bay and surroundings were beautiful.
I agree, as well as the town (away from the lodges along the waterfront) is kind of cute. Just check your dates

Since Princess moved most of their cruises to Whittier I would think the cruise issue in Seward is much less than in previous years. You can check who's in port using the CruiseMapper website (cruisemapper.com). A lot of cruisers just stay in Anchorage the night before and take the train or shuttle bus down, spending little time in the port. Usually anxious to get on board for that first included lunch.

Skagway is HEAVILY cruise-impacted since it also gets the cruise ships from Seattle.

If you have extra time in Anchorage the Tony Knowles coastal trail around Fish Creek is popular with birders. You can start at Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park (which has a parking lot) and also look at the west side of Westchester Lagoon.

In Seward there is a famous set of feeders called "Ava's Place" see the eBird hotspot for details. Good spot for Pine Grosbeak coming to feeders.
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3308370

Also drive down to Lowell Point for Marbled Murrelets.

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 3rd, 2023 at 12:51 PM.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by MichelleY
Donít count Seward out. I thought the bay and surroundings were beautiful.
If you want a port on the Kenai Peninsula that is not affected by cruise ship traffic, go to Homer. My wife and I stayed at a B&B on the hill above Homer. One morning while our hosts were serving breakfast, a mom moose and yearling walked by right outside the window. We went from there to Seward and Exit glacier as a day trip.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 06:40 PM
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You might want to look at Alaska.org (the official tourism website) and see if there is actually anything in Homer (or some of these other spots) that interests you, especially if fishing is out.
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Old Sep 4th, 2023, 06:48 AM
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Thanks again for all the input, much appreciated.

gardyloo, your Yukon loop idea is not immediately heading to the circular file, I'm taking a look at it. I have an ex-colleague from work who has twice driven up to Alaska from Colorado, and he has been impressed by the Yukon as much as anything. I've just spent a few minutes following the loop, so thanks for taking the time on that.

Michelle and mlgb, Seward is not counted out. It still has a lot of what we are looking for. I have another ex-colleague who just returned from spending his entire two weeks on the Kenai Peninsula and he was raving about it in an email yesterday.

mlgb, I've not seen the cruisemapper site before so that is now filed away. Looks useful. Also, thanks for the birding locations in Anchorage and Seward. I just looked at the Ava's Place eBird list you linked. Fun to see a lot of our Colorado birds there, but there are plenty of others.

tomfuller, what, no train travel in your recommendations?! In my friend's email he said they loved the goldstar class from Anchorage to Seward.

I have been spending time on the Alaska.org site. My wife found a page there that lists a slew of wilderness lodges. Those have a lot of appeal for us as a place to hang, although there are some pricey ones for sure. But I'm going to investigate those too.

I'm not feeling the urgency I was in my first post, now feeling like I have more time for research. So off to do that. Thanks again!
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Old Sep 4th, 2023, 12:32 PM
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I just returned from a two week July vacation in Alaska. There were three couples and we used VRBO for most of our stays. We stayed in Anchorage the first night, then drove to Seward for a couple of days. We then went to the Cooper’s Creek/Sterling/Soldotna area for a few days. After that we went to Homer for a couple of days. We anted to stop in Girdwood and regret that we didn’t have the time. We went to Willow and did a day trip to Talkeetna for the airplane-glacier landing tour. I agree with Gardyloo. Our afternoon there after the plane ride was enough. Maybe one overnight would be good.

We did a wildlife/glacier tour out of Seward and one of our seasick prone people was very sick even with the patch. The others who wore the patch were fine. There are some curvy roads in Seward and on the hill in Homer but if your wife is fine driving it shouldn’t be a problem.

We also downloaded the ‘All Trails’ app to use for our hikes. It’s an excellent resource for knowing exactly how long, how difficult and what wildlife you may see on each trail. We hiked/walked almost every day and we’re never disappointed.

Good luck researching and I hope you have a great trip.
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Old Sep 4th, 2023, 04:41 PM
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Thank you cgenster for your information and well wishes.

i’ve spent a little time looking at Talkeetna online and I understand why it might not be on everyone’s list. Perhaps a bit of tacky tourism. Still, it is close to Denali… But I’m onboard not too much time there.

As mentioned above, my wife unfortunately found an alaska.org page listing wilderness lodges. There are some up there that have appeal. We need to think about how much $ we are willing to part with. Or make that $$$.

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Old Sep 5th, 2023, 09:45 AM
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Just throwing some ideas out and you can decide if there's too much motion involved! I agree with others that I can't imagine a week in Talkeetna. It is a cute little town and you are more likely to see Denali from there as from Denali. If you wanted to go there for a night on your way to Wrangell/St. Elias, then I would do that. You would back track from Talkeetna to get to the Wrangells. One of our favorite spots in the Wrangell/St Elias park is Kennicott/ McCarthy. If you can get there---could your wife manage a 25 min. small plane flight? It's pretty smooth every time I've gone. You can drive the road and some rental companies will let you do that. The road is better now than in the past. It's just long. About 2 hours. However, there's lots to do in Kennicott. The park service is restoring the mine and the exhibits are great. There's hiking, glacier walk, kayaking in a lake at the terminus of a glacier. McCarthy is an interesting, small little town. I could spend a week hanging out there, but never have had that much time. The other option I would throw out there besides Seward is Homer. If you could manage the driving part (motion sickness-wise) I would suggest a couple of nights in Seward and then drive to Homer for the rest of your time. There's lots of places to amble about and it's so beautiful, you can just sit. Personally, I like Homer much better than Seward, especially since you won't be going on any day cruises out of Seward. I would also suggest on either end of your trip to spend a couple of days in anchorage. The museum is fabulous and the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a must see. There are trails all over Anchorage for biking/walking. And wonderful trails in the Chugach mountains on the east side of Anchorage. And just because you mentioned it, I would not stay in Glenallen. It's just a pit stop. I should say too, that the road from McCarthy to Kennicott is 5 miles and can be bumpy. If you stay at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, their vans are smoother riding than others. Have a great trip.
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Old Sep 5th, 2023, 02:38 PM
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Hi christy, thanks much for you information.

Yes, I've pretty much decided the long Talkeetna town stay was a bad idea, so that's scrapped. Glenallen is scrapped too, I think I got that name from the NPS website.

We are starting to consider two itinerary options, one SE Alaska: Sitka, Juneau, Glacier Bay. The other the Anchorage to Kenai Peninsula route. Both have various pluses and minuses for us. Several days in Anchorage is on that also.

My wife could probably do the 25 min plane ride if she slaps the patch on beforehand, but it's always an uncertainty. Unfortunately, unlike most people it could take her days to recover from a bad vertigo attack. Most likely it would be OK, but it's something we have to factor in that makes travel tough at times. As Bob Seger sang, what to leave in, what to leave out.

I'll report back as we zero in on something, but that will likely be a few weeks. Thanks again!
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Old Sep 5th, 2023, 06:47 PM
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One thing to consider if you are ferry or plane dependent is the weather. The rain can delay or cancel flights. Distances in Alaska are deceiving since one is not driving 60 mph, but much slower due to traffic on 2 lane roads or construction. And as you are finding, Alaska is very expensive, but so worth it!
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Old Sep 7th, 2023, 01:30 PM
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Thanks again Michelle. Yes we are seeing sticker shock with Alaska, but then what was the point of living within our means and saving our entire lives if we don't spend it now?!

This is a rough idea starting to gel. Similar to my original post, with a few tweaks.

- Focus on Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna / Denali as opposed to SE Alaska large due to direct flight to Anchorage from Denver (this is huge) as opposed to more complex routing to Sitka / Juneau.
- Move trip to late August - early September. Possibly less crowded, more lodging options, fewer bugs, early fall colors, slightly elevated aurora sighting possibility.

- Drive Anchorage - Seward, Spend 3+ nights in Seward, then return the car, apparently possible to do with Hertz.
- Go to one of the backcountry lodges on the Kenai that require boat travel. Spend a few nights.
- Travel to Talkeetna, possibly train via overnight Anchorage
- A few nights up there but not right in town, go to one of the nearby lodges.
- Somewhere in all that spend a few nights in Anchorage.

Total time 2 1/2 - 3 weeks. Just thinking out loud here, no doubt it will change.
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Old Sep 7th, 2023, 01:53 PM
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If you wait too long into September you have to consider the possibility of "termination snow" but as you are from Denver it shouldn't be an issue.

BTW, May can also be good weather, if chilly. And it's before school is out.

If you think you might want to take one of the Resurrection Bay cruises, check the Major Marine schedule for the half day cruises. You can call them to make sure they stay inside Resurrection Bay. May is good for Orca sightings (we had them inside the bay in early June one year).
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Old Sep 7th, 2023, 04:54 PM
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Nelson, look at Alaska Wildland Adventures website. they have a lodge on the Kenai River in Cooper Landing and also one across Skilak Lake. they have another lodge out of Seward, but I don't think your wife could handle that trip. It's out in the Gulf and pretty much rough all the time. I wouldn't chance it. and FYI a lot of lodges start closing around Labor Day. Lots of restaurants and shops do too. The fall season for leaf viewing starts around mid-Sept. but it all depends on how wet/dry the summer was. Depending on where you are you might see a hint of the Aurora. the train to Talkeetna is a great idea. Places to stay in Seward are hard to find because there's just not that many of them. You might try Moose Pass if you strike out in Seward. Don't count Homer out. and restaurants/shops etc don't usually close till mid Sept. I agree with whoever said to spend time on the trails in Anchorage and Potter Marsh. and up in the mountains around Anchorage. It's really stunning.
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Old Sep 7th, 2023, 05:40 PM
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We did the 4 hour Resurrection Bay cruise back in 2021 and it was very calm other than some swells when the boat turns to head back to port. The narrator was outstanding and we did see a good amount of wildlife, mostly seals, puffins, eagles, a mountain goat, as well as a whale who swam alongside the boat for a good amount of time.
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