Alaskan Trip

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Alaskan Trip

Postby rokid » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:28 pm

We're in the planning stages of a 2010 Alaskan trip (not Winter!). Initially, I wanted to drive from DC to Fairbanks. However 9K miles might be a strain on our car and marriage.

Recently, we were considering a cruise. However, now we're thinking about flying to Anchorage and renting a car. From Anchorage we could take day cruises and rail excursions to the back country.

Any recommendations? What can't we afford to miss? Hotels? Restaurants? Sites? Should we reconsider the cruise?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.------Jim
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Postby FrugalInvestor » Sun Aug 16, 2009 2:40 pm

Jim,

I lived in Alaska for many years. To give you good suggestions it's important to know what kind of travel you enjoy. For example, in Denali you can take the tour bus back the park road or you can backpack into the back country. You can drive to Homer and enjoy the beautiful scenic drive and setting or you can take a Halibut fishing charter or a boat to a rustic wilderness 'resort.'

Are you looking for rustic Alaska or tourist highlights? Would you like to hike or drive/ride. How long do you have to spend there and what is your budget? A little more information about your desires, interests and experience level will result in much more useful suggestions.
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Postby ruralavalon » Sun Aug 16, 2009 2:48 pm

Don't miss Denali National Park.

Don't miss a ride on the Alaska State Railroad. It runs from Seward to Anchorage, to Denali, to Fairbanks. The highlight of our Alaska trip was the train ride from Anchorage to Denali.

We enjoyed visiting Seward. Anchorage is just another large city, IMO.

Find some time for a glacier tour of some kind.

We did not cruise or visit Southeast Alaska, so I can't comment on that.
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Postby tonythered » Sun Aug 16, 2009 4:54 pm

About 10 years ago, I drove up from Seward to Fairbanks, camping each night while clutching my bear repellant. It was a great trip.

Like the other posters, I can recommend Denali Park. Did some great hiking there, and saw some very neat wildlife.

There are several scenic viewpoints along the main (only) road, Route 1. The views are well worth stopping for. One in particular was situated 120 miles from Denali, which blew my mind, as it dominated the skyline even from that distance.

The Kenai Exit Glacier was absolutely gorgeous, I walked through blue ice caves:
http://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/exit-glacier.htm
Note that you are warned away from walking in the glaciers, as they could collapse at random. I was unsupervised and feeling ballsy.

I enjoyed the Alaska Aquarium (Sea Life Center) but if you've already been to other aquariums, I don't know what this will offer above those:
http://www.alaskasealife.org/index3.php

Seward is famous for its bald eagle nests:
http://www.wildnatureimages.com/BaldEaglePhotos.htm

I can't recommend Alaskaland (now Pioneer Park):
http://fairbanks-alaska.com/alaskaland.htm
Might be more interesting to others, but it didn't do anything for me. I don't know how it's changed in the last decade, though.

I also made very random stops, like checking out the pipeline. The pipeline was.... a very big pipe. As expected. So, probably not worth the stop, unless you're interested in such a thing.

I hope you enjoy your trip! Alaska is a gorgeous state. Take lots of pictures!
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Postby conundrum » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:00 pm

We went last summer.

Loved taking the train to Seward and going salmon and halibut fishing. Denali was okay, would definately get off the bus and hike around.

By far the highlight for us was taking a sidetrip to Brooks Falls to see the brown bears. We left from Anchorage, turbo prop to King Salmon, then float plane to Katmai penisula and Brooks Falls. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Literally dozens of bears, many quite close. We have recommended our friends consider flying to Alaska for this portion of the trip alone. The only downside for us was that after going to Brooks Falls all the other large wildlife paled in comparison.

Have a great trip.

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Postby chaz » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:10 pm

We enjoyed a cruise from Seattle north through the inland passage with stops at Juneau, Ketchikan, etc. A wonderful 7 days.
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Postby atwood » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:32 pm

The Alaska cruises and the land excursion choices they provide are quite exceptional.

As for driving, Alaska is HUGE. That's why those tiny communities want airports--the locals all fly. I did see a nice RV park in Fairbanks.

Denali is specatcular and shouldn't be missed.
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Postby nisiprius » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:43 pm

ruralavalon wrote:Don't miss a ride on the Alaska State Railroad. It runs from Seward to Anchorage, to Denali, to Fairbanks. The highlight of our Alaska trip was the train ride from Anchorage to Denali.
Ditto.
We enjoyed visiting Seward. Anchorage is just another large city, IMO.
We visited Anchorage, Seward, and Denali National Park. Seward was the high point of our trip.

Something we weren't prepared for was that the food everywhere was excellent. Great dinner on the train. Very good dinner on a six-hour boat tour by Major Marine out of Seward, where you had a completely captive audience and I just expected, you know, just-barely-edible school-cafeteria stuff.
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Postby rokid » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:56 pm

FrugalInvestor wrote:Jim,

Are you looking for rustic Alaska or tourist highlights? Would you like to hike or drive/ride. How long do you have to spend there and what is your budget? A little more information about your desires, interests and experience level will result in much more useful suggestions.


I've always wanted to go to Alaska. In 3rd grade (1955), one of my classmates brought in a slide show of his family's Summer trip to to Alaska - from Detroit to Fairbanks via the Alaskan Highway. Alaska was beautiful. I also stopped at Anchorage Airport, for an hour or so, on my way to Thailand in 1970. Again, Alaska was beautiful.

We probably want to see the tourist highlights via drive/ride. Long hikes are out. How long and what budget are still open and flexible. Probably two weeks. Interest-wise, I love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, if that helps. I also like camping. However, my wife, not so much. A rustic resort or B&B would be perfect.:D ----Jim
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Postby ruralavalon » Sun Aug 16, 2009 8:07 pm

If you love the U.P., you will love Alaska. Our only regret was that we had no more than 6 days there.
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AK trip

Postby Dan-Fl » Sun Aug 16, 2009 10:19 pm

About 11 years ago, I drove from NW Florida to Texas to pick up a 17 Casita Travel trailer and than drove via texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana to Ak. I spent 2 1/2 months in AK. It was wonderful. I did Fairbanks, Anchorage, Denali a number of times, Seward, Homer and most of the places along these routes. It is an amazing state and was worth every moment. I would love to do it again, also do the inside passage, and do some of the Aleutian Islands and some of the other islands. For me quick trips are not my style. The drive to Ak from Fl and back was also wonderful.
Just do it, and have a wonderful time.
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Postby yakers » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:06 pm

Lots of ways to go, depends on whether you want to camp, use the ferry, and how much you want off road. We went last year and loved it. We particularly liked Haines, it is not overrun by tourists. You can get to interesting parts of Canada as well.

Our trip blog: http://drivingtothearctic.blogspot.com/
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Postby rokid » Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:52 am

All, thanks for sharing your experiences. They will greatly help our planning.

Yakers, that's an amazing blog. -------Jim :D
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Postby neverknow » Mon Aug 17, 2009 12:05 pm

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Postby FrugalInvestor » Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:29 pm

Jim,

All the recommendations you've received are excellent and worthwhile. Following is my suggestion if you want to see a bit more of the 'genuine' Alaska. You can do this plus take some of the other tours mentioned. If you were to book a lodge out of Homer they will arrange tours for you. It all depends on how much time and money you have to spend. To take the highway loop I've outlined does not take a lot of money and can be done in as little as 7-10 days or as long as you want to spend.

Rent a car in Anchorage and drive north on the Parks Highway to Denali. Stay at one of the hotels and take one of the bus tours into the park and back out. Take your camera...you will likely see wildlife (bears, moose, etc) and may even see the mountain if the weather is good.

Continue north on the Parks toward Fairbanks. If you happen by at dinner time stop in at the Tamarack Inn at milepost 298 just south of Nenana (it's a natural log building...keep your eyes open, it's easy to miss). Stay at a hotel or B&B in Fairbanks. Visit the University of Alaska Museum and stop my the Muskox farm. Have dinner at the Pump House Restaurant. Take a leisurely drive further north to Chatanika. Stop at the pipeline viewing point on the way by and then have lunch at the Chatanika Restaurant on the main road or at the Chatanika Gold Camp on the hill. Walk across from the restaurant onto the tailing piles left from the gold dredges and explore the old Gold Dredge #3 (there's a no trespassing sign but don't worry about it). There is some information about the dredge at the Gold Camp. Drive on up the road about 15 minutes to the Chatanika River campground just to take in the feel of the Alaska "bush."
http://www.uaf.edu/museum/
http://www.uaf.edu/lars/tours_2006.html
http://www.pumphouse.com/
http://www.pbase.com/henkbinnendijk/chatanika

If you want to spend another day take a drive to Circle hot springs, take a swim and/or visit the ice museum. Stay overnight if you like. Have dinner on the way or way back at Two Rivers Lodge.
http://www.chenahotsprings.com/summer-activities/
http://www.tworiverslodge.com/

When you get back to Fairbanks have dinner or a drink (or both) at Ivory Jack's or go to the Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park and take in one of the shows at the Palace Theater and Saloon (yes, it's a tourist trap but it's fun and the Salmon is great).
http://ivoryjacks.alaskansavvy.com/
http://www.akvisit.com/palace.html
http://www.akvisit.com/salmon.html

Now head east on the Richardson Highway toward Delta Junction. Turn south at Delta Junction, staying on the Richardson Highway toward Valdez. Enjoy the scenery!!! Stop at Paxson for a bite to eat if you're hungry (it's nothing fancy but it about the only food around and it is Alaska!). Turn west on the Glen Highway at Glenallen and head toward Palmer...there's a better restaurant there. Enjoy the scenery again and watch for the road to the Matanuska Glacier. This is a private road and access to the glacier where you can view, hike on the glacier, etc.
http://www.paxson-lodge.com/
http://www.matanuskaglacier.com/

After the glacier the next place of an consequence that you will see is Palmer which is about one hour north of Anchorage.

Take a night in Anchorage and then head south to Seward. Take a full-day wildlife and glacier cruise. Drive and take the short hike to the Exit Glacier and visit the Sealife Center.
http://www.kenaifjords.com/kenai-daycruises.html
http://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/exit-glacier.htm
http://www.alaskasealife.org/

Continue on down the road all the way to Homer (at the end of the road - literally). If you're a fisherman you may want to arrange for a guide to fish the Kenai River which is on the way. Otherwise go on to Homer. If you have the time, money and inclination book at one of the wilderness lodges across the bay. Otherwise, just stay in one of the hotels or nice B&B's there and take the ferry to the artsy community of Halibut Cove across the bay. Visit the galleries and have lunch there. Spend a little time viewing the Eagles on the Homer Spit, stop in at the Salty Dog Saloon and have dinner at the Chart House on the end of the spit.
http://www.sadiecove.com/
http://www.alaskawildernesslodge.com/
http://www.victorianheightsbedandbreakfast.com/
http://www.halibutcove.com/
http://endofthespit.com/

Have a fantastic trip and feel free to ask if you have further questions.
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Postby neverknow » Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:52 pm

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Postby rokid » Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:53 pm

Wow! Neverknow and FrugalInvestor,

Thanks for the detailed recommendations. I'll run ideas these by my wife. ------Jim
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Postby DaveS » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:52 pm

I am a former Alaska resident. Most of the good ideas have been presented. If you want help making priorities... 1) Don't, as many do, neglect the Kenai Peninsula - on the road just south of Anchorage. You should at least drive down to Seward for lunch and back. You will see Norwegian like Fjords, a glacier which was much bigger before global warming, and stunning Alpine views. 2) Go to Denali Park, at least take one of the buses deep into the park, if you can qualify for one of the 80 campsites at Wonder Lake, you used to be able to drive in all the way. When I was a kid I would imagine bringing in some circus bears in to ride bicycles along the road for the tourists to admire, but you will see a bear most times. 3) If you want to relax for one to three days, consider the Alaska Marine Ferry. Either the one from Valdez to Whittier which is overnight, or for 3 days from Seattle/Bellingham to Haynes. (Don't even think of going to Skagway which is a tourist trap.) Most people are put off by the limited number of cabins on the ferry. But if you get a ticket you can camp anywhere on the ferry. People pitch tents on deck. My favorite is to roll out a sleeping bag in the exercise room. 4) DO NOT assume that summer vacation seasons are the same in Alaska as where you live 1/4 of the way around the world. August in Alaska is it's rainy season. You want to go in June which is when skies are clear and days are long. Late May is nice if you want to beat the rush, but you should dress for temps in the low 50's high 40's. 5) Do you fish? The Russian River Salmon run is something to be experience. You need to locate and hire a guide. The first run opens Memorial day and they are over Labor day. 6) I agree the best museum is at UAF outside Fairbanks. But if your not a museum person you can skip it. Note I did not fact check to see if all my information is up to date but you can with a search engine. Dave
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Postby brxn » Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:21 pm

Brief input here... if you do consider some type of cruise, I would recommend going with a more intimate small-boat arrangement over a giant cruise ship. In my opinion, much of Alaska's magic is in its wilderness, and you will be missing the spirit of this amazing place if you take a "tourist highlights" type approach.

Also, remember Alaska is absolutely massive -- try not to spread yourself too thin! We throw around a term like "Alaska trip" but really that's kinda like saying you're planning a "West Coast trip" ... there are a variety of different experiences to be had, and many are quite far apart. I would argue that a narrower focus would probably result in a more fulfilling trip in this case!
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Postby rokid » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:52 pm

DaveS and brxn,

Thanks for your ideas. I guess we're going to have to consider a longer trip. It doesn't sound like 2 weeks is adequate.------Jim
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Postby deerhunter » Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:55 pm

We drove to Alaska with another couple. Went from Ohio up through Michigan and across Canada to Alaska. Spent two full weeks in Alaska. Nothing was planned and we went to small local places. One of our favorite places was Haines Alaska. We also liked Palmer Alaska. We played golf, went to Fraternal Order of Eagles lodges and Vets clubs. Took the Denali tour and also went fishing with the bears. That was a fly in and was nice but expensive. I caught two salmon and was fishing 20 yards from both Brown and Black bears. But then went to Haines and all I needed to fish with the bears was a fishing license as fishing on the river in near Haines brought plenty of salmon and lots of bears to see and sometimes grab your fish and run.
One of the best part of the trips was when we rode the ferry from Haines back to Bellingham Washington. We were together with the other couple for six weeks, Very relaxing trip. We are still friends with the other couple and may do it again.
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Postby Bruce » Thu Aug 20, 2009 12:48 pm

When you add the expense of a rental car and hotels you may find a better value, more freedom to manage your own travel and more choices in where to stay by renting a RV.

I have done business with this company and found it to offer a good value.

http://www.greatalaskanholidays.com/

regards
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Postby Bruce » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:12 pm

One more resource that may save you some $ and help with ideas for trip planning to Alaska.

Alaska Travel Coupon Book

http://www.toursaver.com/

"TourSaver is an easy-to-use, travel discount book with 130 buy-one-get-one FREE deals for glacier cruises, train trips, eco-tours, lodging and more"

regards,
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Postby rokid » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:23 pm

Deerhunter/Bruce,

Thanks for the insights.------Jim
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Postby Bruce » Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:59 am

http://www.alaskarailroad.com/arrc1000.html

One more idea to consider.

A pricey but incredible Alaska Railroad "plus" 12 day package to see more of Alaska than most Alaskans and visitors in a car will have ever seen.

regards,
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Halibut Cove, Alaska

Postby Alaska's Ridgewood Lodge » Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:46 pm

Halibut Cove, Alaska is a very unique place you might like to visit. We own Alaska's Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge which is located on the east end of the island.
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Postby FrugalInvestor » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:52 pm

Rokid,

How is the trip planning proceeding?
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Postby rokid » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:09 pm

FrugalInvestor wrote:Rokid,

How is the trip planning proceeding?


Unfortunately, I'm getting a hip replacement this year. Therefore, the Alaskan trip will have to wait until 2011.

However, thanks for all of the great information.-----Jim
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Postby EmergDoc » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:33 pm

I grew up in Alaska. I was a host guide on the Princess cars on the Alaska railroad between Anchorage and Fairbanks for a summer. While it surprises me that was the highlight of someone's trip to Alaska, it was a great summer job.

IMHO, there are several "must-dos" in Alaska. The first is some type of a cruise in Prince William Sound. The second is some type of a trip in Denali where you can see the mountain (plan to stay several days as it hides a lot in the summer). The last is a flight seeing trip in a small plane. Not cheap, but worth it.
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Postby FrugalInvestor » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:34 pm

I'm sorry to hear that. Hope the hip replacement goes well for you. I suspect it will and that you'll be hiking the glaciers in Alaska in 2011!
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Postby FrugalInvestor » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:36 pm

EmergDoc wrote:The second is some type of a trip in Denali where you can see the mountain (plan to stay several days as it hides a lot in the summer).


I always tell people that too. Of course they end up seeing the mountain every day they are there. :roll:
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Postby DaveS » Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:40 pm

If you can pick a date, hearken to this. The best month to go to Alaska is JUNE. Best weather, best daylight. Good fishing. The first King run starts Memorial Day. Dave
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Postby johnjtaylorus » Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:00 pm

Breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. You may need quadruple bypass surgery after, but you won't need lunch.
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Small Boat Alaska cruise

Postby TheBoatCompany » Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:05 pm

If you are searching for a great cruise option in Alaska, The Boat Company offers small boat cruises for crews of 20 to 30 passengers. They are a great option for a more intimate and personalized vacation, and offer a great deal of flexibility. Check them out!
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Postby sailor234 » Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:10 pm

We did Alaska a few years back, booking a combined land and cruise deal from Cruise West. They use small ships, 100 passengers on ours, for a very friendly, community atmosphere. We did the southbound trip, flying to Fairbanks, train to Denali for three days at North Face Lodge, train to Anchorage for two days, then boarded the ship. You can book just the cruise part and do your own thing in a land tour of the state. On one stop during the cruise, we took a helicopter trip up to a dog sled camp, a great visit. North Face Lodge in Denali is excellent - 98 miles inside the park and in direct view of Mt. McKinley, it has sixteen cabins so thirty-two guests at any one time. (There is a more rustic lodging camp a little further into the park.)

Have a great trip!

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Alaska Trip

Postby cruiseamy » Tue May 18, 2010 11:33 pm

Definitely book a cruise. Most everything is all inclusive. You can explore city to city without having to look for room and board each new place you go. Plus all meals are included and that is worth it enough. Sit back and relax and let the crew take care of you. Go to bed and wake up the next day to explore a brand new city. What's better than that?
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Postby joebruin77 » Wed May 19, 2010 1:40 am

chaz wrote:We enjoyed a cruise from Seattle north through the inland passage with stops at Juneau, Ketchikan, etc. A wonderful 7 days.


My wife and I did the Inside Passage cruise on Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Because you are traveling the inside passage, 95% of the time you see land with beautiful scenery (very little time on the open ocean). A friend told us about a great website called "Cruisecritic.com" . People rate not only cruises and ships, but also the various excursions.

One tip - on the last night of the cruise, shower right before you go to bed (as opposed to waiting until the morning). Everyone has to get off the ship very early the last morning of the cruise, so there was no water pressure when I went to take a shower that morning.
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Postby investor » Wed May 19, 2010 2:23 am

We did Alaska a few years back, booking a combined land and cruise deal from Cruise West. They use small ships, 100 passengers on ours, for a very friendly, community atmosphere. ...snip

Have a great trip!

Ray


I second Cruise West. Took an elderhostel trip with Cruise West and it was very very nice. Small boat (165 ft) and 49 passengers (room for 82). Crew of 22 people.

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Postby dratkinson » Wed May 19, 2010 4:06 pm

Interesting topic. I too was thinking about an Alaskan adventure and this is good planning info. I have nothing to add to this topic other than an interesting story I found of another's Alaskan adventure.

For my own adventure, I'm leaning more toward an open itinerary and traveling in a Class-B RV (expensive: Tiger Pro-van, Sportsmobile,...), or using my existing vehicle to pull a small travel trailer (like a teardrop trailer). I was searching for information on the vehicle/small trailer combination when I found the below fun story.

2009 Alaskan Adventure in a 1915 Ford Model-T Speedster and Teardrop Trailer: http://www.jessicaryanphotography.com/D ... TheCar.htm

Bottomline: I will not be touring Alaska in a convertible. :D
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby DireWolf » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:17 pm

I have 2 weeks of vacation from July 20th-August 2nd. Does anyone know if this a good time to visit weather-wise?
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby Bruce » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:28 pm

That is as good as the weather ever gets up here during the late July early August weeks.

Do not confuse it with a lower 48 hot summer day, but the the 24 hour daylight makes up for it.

Enjoy your trip!
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby Peter Foley » Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:57 pm

July 15 through August 1 is the peak of the Sockeye salmon fish run on the Kenai penninsula. If you want to fish for a couple days, your dates are great but it will be crowded.
If you are sightseeing you will have good daylight from about 4:00 am until 11:00 pm or so in the Anchorage area. Because this is the peak for fishing, lodging will be tight and car rentals will be expensive. Book in advance.
Weather is very dependent on where you are going. Juno, Denali, Kenai can all be different at the same time. You are aiming for the warmest period of the summer.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby Firewood42 » Thu Dec 27, 2012 2:05 pm

We may drive to Alaska again this summer. Already have another couple wanting to go with us. This time we will not drive from Ohio through Canada but will go to Montana and drive North through Glacier and some of the great Canadian National Parks. Heard you can play golf on one course on the route in Canada that will have elk on the course with you.

As the last trip, we will go to the small places, see and talk to the real Alaskans, and take the Ferry back to Washington State. Will try to see the places we missed on the last trip. Would be leaving about the 20th of July and come back around the first week of September. Can't wait to fish with the bears in Haines again.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby DireWolf » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:31 pm

After doing some research, it looks like planning a trip to Alaska is totally overwhelming. There are too many places to see and the sheer size of the state is incredible.

I did manage to find the highest rated adventure tour company in Alaska (per National Geographic). It sounds like this particular excursion packs the most amount possible in 2 weeks. Any Alaska gurus want to comment on this itinerary?

Day 1: Today you are free to arrive in Anchorage on your own. You’ll be staying at the Rodeway Inn Voyager Hotel, which is located close to the airport and in the heart of downtown Anchorage. Once you arrive in Anchorage, simply catch the complimentary 24-hour shuttle to the hotel, settle into your room, and explore wonderful downtown Anchorage. Meals on your own.

Day 2: This morning, after enjoying a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, you will meet your guides in the hotel lobby for introductions and a group orientation at 8am. We'll load into our comfortable vans and begin the drive south from Anchorage through Turnagain Pass to Seward. The drive along the Seward Highway has been called one of the most scenic drives in the world. Beluga Whales cruise the waters of Turnagain Arm and glaciers cling to the rugged mountains of the Chugach Range. Once in Seward, we will take an hour to settle into the Harborview Inn - home for the next 2 nights. After settling into our accommodations and briefly getting acquainted with the charming character of this coastal fishing town, we'll head into Kenai Fjords National Park to begin our amazing hike along the astounding Harding Icefield Trail! This strenuous but rewarding hike winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield. That evening your guides prepare a celebratory wild Alaskan salmon bake along the shores of Resurrection Bay. All meals included.

Day 3: After an early breakfast, we'll head down to the harbor to prepare for today's saltwater adventure in the incomparable Kenai Fjords. Those choosing the sportfishing option will check in at the harbor at 6:45 am and will be on the water by 7. And those opting for Kenai Fjords National Park tour will have a bit more time to enjoy their coffee before boarding their vessel for an 8am departure. As you head into the park, be on the lookout for whales, sea lions, eagles, puffins, bears and Mt. Goats as we tour this amazing coastal national park. We will all re-convene at the harbor at 2:30pm and make our way to the Alaska Sea Life Center - Alaska’s only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center. That evening toast the day at one of Seward's many tasty restaurant options. Breakfast & Lunch Included.

Day 4: We begin the day with a drive to Whittier along the Seward Highway. On the way we’ll make a short visit to the Portage Glacier Visitor Center. Upon our arrival in Whittier, we’ll board an Alaska State Ferry for the trip to Valdez. Our crossing of Prince William Sound sails right along the face of the Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America. Tonight, we stay at the Valdez Harbor Inn in downtown Valdez. All meals included.

Day 5: Today we spend the day kayaking in Shoup Bay. Timing the tides, the trip will begin with an orientation by our sea kayaking guides, followed by a 25 minute water taxi ride down the Valdez Arm and into Shoup Bay. After hauling kayaks and gear off of the boat, we’ll load into sea-kayaks and begin paddling into the inner sanctum of the Bay. The highlight will certainly be safely approaching the toe of the ancient tidewater glacier as it cracks, grumbles and calves massive blocks of ice into the bay. Sea kayaking among the floating miniature icebergs makes for a fun obstacle course to test our paddling skills as does riding the swift current of the connecting stream on an outgoing tide. We’ll also paddle past the largest Black Legged Kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound. Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 6: After breakfast at the hotel, we'll begin the scenic drive along the Richardson Highway from Valdez to the tiny town of Chitina. We’ll stop briefly to witness the spectacular Bridalveil Falls in Keystone Canyon and will then break for a short hike and picnic near the Worthington Glacier. The Worthington, a Natural Historic Landmark, is a spectacular glacier that tumbles from the Chugach Mountains. Our brief hike will take us up a sweeping moraine offering stunning views of the blue ice and crevasses of the glacier and magnificent vistas of the mighty Chugach. From Chitina, we’ll make the 40 minute bush flight through the Wrangell Mountains to the historic town of McCarthy. We’ll check into the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, our home for two nights. This lodge has quite possibly the best view in Alaska and its historic charm, great food and warm hospitality make it one of the premier destinations in the state. All meals included.

Day 7: After breakfast, we’ll join St. Elias Alpine guides for an interpretive walk through the historic Kennicott Copper Mill before strapping on a pair of crampons and heading out on to the Root Glacier for a full four hours of glacier hiking. If time allows, we’ll take an afternoon hike to the Jumbo Copper Mine. Our glacier hike is suitable for beginners and children and is an amazing adventure on a real moving glacier. All meals included.

Day 8: We return by bush flight to Chitina by noon and then make our way north and west along the Glenn Highway. Views of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the Wrangell Mountains and the Alaska Range will accompany us along the way. We’ll check into Sheep Mountain Lodge where we’ll sleep in log cabins. Sheep Mountain Lodge, nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains, is a favorite destination for Alaskans and tourists alike. Its views, real Alaskan charm, and amazing food make for an unforgettable stay. Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 9: Today we continue along the Glenn Highway past the mighty Matanuska Glacier and through the fertile Matanuska/Susitna Valley - a region referred to as Alaska's bread basket. We’ll stop along the way for a picnic in Denali State Park. If the weather is kind, we may enjoy our first views of Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the rest of the mighty Alaska Range. That evening, we will check into our hotel along the Nenana River near Denali National Park. All meals included.

Day 10: Today we’ll board the shuttle bus for the 60 mile ride through the heart of Denali National Park to the Eielson Visitor Center. Along the road corridor, keep your eyes peeled for Denali’s famous furry inhabitants carving out their existence amidst the some of the most amazing scenery in North America. Probability is high that you'll see caribou, moose, wolves, grizzlies, and Dall's sheep. And If the weather is kind, numerous chances to view Mt. McKinley – North America’s highest peak at 20,320’ - will greet you at every turn! Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 11: We’ll spend a half-day rafting the mighty Nenana River with the pros at Denali Outdoor Center. The Nenana is an exciting whitewater river and our expert guides will take us through canyons and rapids as we enjoy spectacular views and perhaps of Dall's sheep grazing the peaks of the Alaska Range. Rafting the Nenana is a true classic. The rest of the day can be spent exploring more of the park and its facilities, taking an optional flightseeing trip around Mt. McKinley, or simply relaxing to the sights and sounds of this magnificent place. Your guides will gladly point you in the right direction so that you can maximize your remaining time in Denali National Park. We'll celebrate our final evening enjoying Denali's best pizza dinner. All meals included.

Day 12: After a leisurely morning enjoying the sights of McKinley village, we’ll board the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star for the eight hour rail cruise back to Anchorage. A highlight of the journey, the trip south by rail offers wonderful photographic opportunities and amazing views of this vast wilderness. Please schedule homebound flights for after 10pm. Breakfast & lunch included.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby astrohip » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:46 pm

DireWolf wrote:After doing some research, it looks like planning a trip to Alaska is totally overwhelming. There are too many places to see and the sheer size of the state is incredible.

Agree. We're taking a cruise in a few weeks, up & down the coast. Easy way to get to know Alaska. Several excursions planned.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby EmergDoc » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:22 am

DireWolf wrote:Day 2: This morning, after enjoying a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, you will meet your guides in the hotel lobby for introductions and a group orientation at 8am. We'll load into our comfortable vans and begin the drive south from Anchorage through Turnagain Pass to Seward. The drive along the Seward Highway has been called one of the most scenic drives in the world. Beluga Whales cruise the waters of Turnagain Arm and glaciers cling to the rugged mountains of the Chugach Range. Once in Seward, we will take an hour to settle into the Harborview Inn - home for the next 2 nights. After settling into our accommodations and briefly getting acquainted with the charming character of this coastal fishing town, we'll head into Kenai Fjords National Park to begin our amazing hike along the astounding Harding Icefield Trail! This strenuous but rewarding hike winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield. That evening your guides prepare a celebratory wild Alaskan salmon bake along the shores of Resurrection Bay. All meals included.

Day 3: After an early breakfast, we'll head down to the harbor to prepare for today's saltwater adventure in the incomparable Kenai Fjords. Those choosing the sportfishing option will check in at the harbor at 6:45 am and will be on the water by 7. And those opting for Kenai Fjords National Park tour will have a bit more time to enjoy their coffee before boarding their vessel for an 8am departure. As you head into the park, be on the lookout for whales, sea lions, eagles, puffins, bears and Mt. Goats as we tour this amazing coastal national park. We will all re-convene at the harbor at 2:30pm and make our way to the Alaska Sea Life Center - Alaska’s only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center. That evening toast the day at one of Seward's many tasty restaurant options. Breakfast & Lunch Included.

Day 4: We begin the day with a drive to Whittier along the Seward Highway. On the way we’ll make a short visit to the Portage Glacier Visitor Center. Upon our arrival in Whittier, we’ll board an Alaska State Ferry for the trip to Valdez. Our crossing of Prince William Sound sails right along the face of the Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America. Tonight, we stay at the Valdez Harbor Inn in downtown Valdez. All meals included.

Day 5: Today we spend the day kayaking in Shoup Bay. Timing the tides, the trip will begin with an orientation by our sea kayaking guides, followed by a 25 minute water taxi ride down the Valdez Arm and into Shoup Bay. After hauling kayaks and gear off of the boat, we’ll load into sea-kayaks and begin paddling into the inner sanctum of the Bay. The highlight will certainly be safely approaching the toe of the ancient tidewater glacier as it cracks, grumbles and calves massive blocks of ice into the bay. Sea kayaking among the floating miniature icebergs makes for a fun obstacle course to test our paddling skills as does riding the swift current of the connecting stream on an outgoing tide. We’ll also paddle past the largest Black Legged Kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound. Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 6: After breakfast at the hotel, we'll begin the scenic drive along the Richardson Highway from Valdez to the tiny town of Chitina. We’ll stop briefly to witness the spectacular Bridalveil Falls in Keystone Canyon and will then break for a short hike and picnic near the Worthington Glacier. The Worthington, a Natural Historic Landmark, is a spectacular glacier that tumbles from the Chugach Mountains. Our brief hike will take us up a sweeping moraine offering stunning views of the blue ice and crevasses of the glacier and magnificent vistas of the mighty Chugach. From Chitina, we’ll make the 40 minute bush flight through the Wrangell Mountains to the historic town of McCarthy. We’ll check into the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, our home for two nights. This lodge has quite possibly the best view in Alaska and its historic charm, great food and warm hospitality make it one of the premier destinations in the state. All meals included.

Day 7: After breakfast, we’ll join St. Elias Alpine guides for an interpretive walk through the historic Kennicott Copper Mill before strapping on a pair of crampons and heading out on to the Root Glacier for a full four hours of glacier hiking. If time allows, we’ll take an afternoon hike to the Jumbo Copper Mine. Our glacier hike is suitable for beginners and children and is an amazing adventure on a real moving glacier. All meals included.

Day 8: We return by bush flight to Chitina by noon and then make our way north and west along the Glenn Highway. Views of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the Wrangell Mountains and the Alaska Range will accompany us along the way. We’ll check into Sheep Mountain Lodge where we’ll sleep in log cabins. Sheep Mountain Lodge, nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains, is a favorite destination for Alaskans and tourists alike. Its views, real Alaskan charm, and amazing food make for an unforgettable stay. Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 9: Today we continue along the Glenn Highway past the mighty Matanuska Glacier and through the fertile Matanuska/Susitna Valley - a region referred to as Alaska's bread basket. We’ll stop along the way for a picnic in Denali State Park. If the weather is kind, we may enjoy our first views of Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the rest of the mighty Alaska Range. That evening, we will check into our hotel along the Nenana River near Denali National Park. All meals included.

Day 10: Today we’ll board the shuttle bus for the 60 mile ride through the heart of Denali National Park to the Eielson Visitor Center. Along the road corridor, keep your eyes peeled for Denali’s famous furry inhabitants carving out their existence amidst the some of the most amazing scenery in North America. Probability is high that you'll see caribou, moose, wolves, grizzlies, and Dall's sheep. And If the weather is kind, numerous chances to view Mt. McKinley – North America’s highest peak at 20,320’ - will greet you at every turn! Breakfast & lunch included.

Day 11: We’ll spend a half-day rafting the mighty Nenana River with the pros at Denali Outdoor Center. The Nenana is an exciting whitewater river and our expert guides will take us through canyons and rapids as we enjoy spectacular views and perhaps of Dall's sheep grazing the peaks of the Alaska Range. Rafting the Nenana is a true classic. The rest of the day can be spent exploring more of the park and its facilities, taking an optional flightseeing trip around Mt. McKinley, or simply relaxing to the sights and sounds of this magnificent place. Your guides will gladly point you in the right direction so that you can maximize your remaining time in Denali National Park. We'll celebrate our final evening enjoying Denali's best pizza dinner. All meals included.

Day 12: After a leisurely morning enjoying the sights of McKinley village, we’ll board the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star for the eight hour rail cruise back to Anchorage. A highlight of the journey, the trip south by rail offers wonderful photographic opportunities and amazing views of this vast wilderness. Please schedule homebound flights for after 10pm. Breakfast & lunch included.


That sounds like a lot of fun. I've done a lot of that. You'll wear dry suits on the Nenana. I've been a tour guide on that train. If you have very low expectations of that train ride you won't be disappointed. It gets worse the closer to Anchorage you get. Tip your host guide. Don't count on seeing Denali. I'd give you a 3/7 chance.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby DireWolf » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:42 pm

EmergDoc wrote:That sounds like a lot of fun. I've done a lot of that. You'll wear dry suits on the Nenana. I've been a tour guide on that train. If you have very low expectations of that train ride you won't be disappointed. It gets worse the closer to Anchorage you get. Tip your host guide. Don't count on seeing Denali. I'd give you a 3/7 chance.


What specifically is bad about the Denali Star train?
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby EmergDoc » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:15 pm

You will not see wildlife, you will not see Denali, if you bring carry luggage it will go literally under your feet, the drinks are 3 times as much as they should be, the only place to eat has 5 choices, none of which are cheap, you don't get to choose when you eat, and at least 50% of your ride will be through a forest where you can't see more than 30 feet from the train. Does that cover it? But what do I know, I've only done it something like 100 times. If you'd prefer to believe it is a "rail cruise" and "a highlight" of what otherwise sounds like a great trip, you go right ahead. You have to get back to Anchorage somehow, and the train is as good as a bus, but don't expect it to be a highlight of the trip and you'll probably find it quite pleasant. And check the bag. And tip your host guide. :)
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby DireWolf » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:19 am

EmergDoc wrote:You will not see wildlife, you will not see Denali, if you bring carry luggage it will go literally under your feet, the drinks are 3 times as much as they should be, the only place to eat has 5 choices, none of which are cheap, you don't get to choose when you eat, and at least 50% of your ride will be through a forest where you can't see more than 30 feet from the train. Does that cover it? But what do I know, I've only done it something like 100 times. If you'd prefer to believe it is a "rail cruise" and "a highlight" of what otherwise sounds like a great trip, you go right ahead. You have to get back to Anchorage somehow, and the train is as good as a bus, but don't expect it to be a highlight of the trip and you'll probably find it quite pleasant. And check the bag. And tip your host guide. :)


I don't doubt your opinion at all. I was just asking for more details. Thank you for your insight. If we decide to take this trip, I'll definitely lower my expectations for the train.
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Re: Alaskan Trip

Postby prudent » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:19 am

When we went to Alaska, we built a list of things we wanted to do/see. We didn't want to be in a group tour but wanted to design our own trip (mainly because the group tours had too many activities we didn't care about). When I found it impossible to coordinate all the bookings for activities, travel and lodging (too many things sold out on days I tried to fit them in), I contacted a travel agent in Alaska, gave them the list and a 3 week window when we could go for a 8 or 9 days, and they orchestrated the whole thing beautifully. A highlight was being lucky enough to see Denali (as they say there, "the mountain was out"). We didn't want to do any cruising but spent the entire trip on land.

Actually we loved the train ride on the Alaska RR going first class (their Gold Star service). One leg of the ride was in coach and that obviously wasn't as nice but still enjoyable for us. But we like trains and rarely get to travel that way.
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