When: July, 2008
Companions: JB and Shirin
Accommodations: Caribou B&B
We got to Anchorage around midnight on Saturday night. The first thing to know about Alaska in July is that it is light all the time. Seriously, the sun goes down at 1:00 AM. You leave a bar and feel sleazy for drinking in the afternoon, even when you haven't! So, we get in and it's light out. We grab a cab and head to the Caribou. The Caribou is, well, um, a small building in the middle of a parking lot. Yup, that's what you get for booking online. That being said it was a pretty big room and there were 3 of us, so we were fine.
We didn't have any plans to speak of for Anchorage, so we decided to wing it. We were all excited about our new iPhone apps and so used the yelp app to find us a brunch place. Turns out there was a highly recommended brunch place (Snow City Cafe) about a block away. The food was excellent and it was our first exposure to the fact that every single eatery in Alaska sold their own t-shirt, seriously, WTF? Do they get cold spells and need more clothes before leaving???
So, JB looks through an Alaska guide and finds mention of the Bear Paw festival in Eagle River! Doesn't that sound awesome! We went and it was pretty fun although it was mostly just a little local festival with a bunch of ren-faire folk hittin' each other. But they had old and rusty rides that were more than a little scary.
After that we ran across signs for the "Light Speed Walk" which is essentially a scale model of the solar system that you could walk through as quickly as light travels (you can walk from the sun to the Earth in 8 minutes) and then shows scale models of the sun and planets. We drove (yes, mock away) around to each of these until we discovered that Neptune was only attainable through a 6 mile walk. So, we walked 6 miles to take a picture a Neptune. Worth it? Totally. Afterward we had Dinner at the Glacier Brew House which I considered the 2nd best meal we had in Alaska. After Dinner we had a few drinks, off to bed and on to Seward!
Accommodations: Harborview Inn
Seward is a small town that reminded me heavily of little fishing towns in Cape Cod. As far as I could tell, fishing is their thing.
On the way to Seward we had lunch at a tiny fish and chips place on the way to Dogsledding with Alaska Glacier Tours! Yes, we went to the airport where they flew us in a helicopter around (and frequently almost into) mountains and up to the glacier where we got to have dogs drag us around. Shirin had the good idea to ask those folks where to go for Dinner. They pointed us to Yoly's which was excellent and tasty. Afterward we hung out with the Mushers at a local bar. Drank a wee bit too much and were hurtin' the next morning.
Day 2 in Seward was Kayaking with Kayak Adventure Worldwide! This was a top notch outfit. There was 1 guide for 3 of us. We took a water taxi out to Aialik bay and saw all sort of wildlife on the way (including humpback whales and porpoises that thought it was cool to swim and jump next to the boat). Once there we headed out in the kayaks to the Aialik Glacier which is one of the few tide water glaciers around. This might've been the highlight of the trip. Paddling in Kayaks watching 100 foot sections of Glacier break off and slide into the bay causing 15 foot waves was, well, not something you see every day :) After this we went out for dinner at the Salmon Bake Restaurant. It was tasty but way too much food, I don't even remember what we ate, just that there was too much of it!
Next came fishing! We went with Puffin Charters on an all day Salmon and Halibut excursion. The seas were angry that day. Actually, they weren't really. It was a bit drizzly and chilly but a beautiful day for Fishing! Shirin caught the biggest Halibut (estimated around 60 pounds) while most of us just caught 45 pound "turkeys". The salmon were biting and we caught 12 between the 3 of us. It was an awesome day. At the end we had J Dock filet, vacuum pack, freeze, and ship the fish back to us. Mmm... fish. On our last night we headed to Ray's (which people kept telling us to go to) and it was some good seafood! You'd think I would've been sick of fish by then, but nope, still ate more fish. The seafood chowda was outstanding! That was the end of our time in Seward, now it was off to Denali!
Accommodations: Perch Resort
Seward to Denali was a very pretty 6 hour drive. In fact, it passed so fast that I almost missed it. We stopped on the way at a "Handmade Knives" shop (seriously, handmade knives?!?!?!?) but other than that it was mostly a straight shot. We got there and had Dinner at the Perch Restaurant which was next to our cabins.
Our first full day in Denali we wandered about the trails near the visitors center and then took a plane into the park with Denali Air. It was amazing to see the park from the air. Denali is 60 million acres but only a very small portion has roads, so going in the air you get to see so much more. BTW, if you are curious, Mt McKinley and Denali are 2 names for the same mountain. The US Government seems convinced it should be called Mt McKinley after a Presidential Candidate from Ohio. Everyone else (local, native Alaskans, climbers, state of Alaska) thinks it should be called Denali. You can guess where I fall on the topic :) That night we ate at Panorama Pizza. This place was by far my favorite place on the trip. It's a pizza place by day and bar by night. There is a free Foosball table, wii on a big screen, and an NES (yes, you heard me, NES) on a big screen. The owner is a great guy named Josh, who kicks ass at the Foos. If you are ever near Denali, go here. The only downside is that you'll wish there was a place like this near you :)
Our last day in Denali was spent on a bus. There is a 91 mile road in the park and (with very few exceptions) you can't drive it. This meant that if you want to see more of the park, you gotta take a bus. Don't worry though, the bus ride is only 12 HOURS round trip :) It was actually pretty cool, we saw lots of interesting wildlife, but if you ever get a chance to go to Denali, don't go to the end of the road, it takes a long time and it's hard to say that it's worth it. The one thing we should've done was stayed in the cabins at the end of the road. Those seemed awesome! For our last night in Alaska we went to 229 Parks which we were told was considered the best restaurant in Alaska. I don't know if it is the best place in all of Alaska, but it was the best place we ate. We should've eaten there more :)
That night we went back to Panorama where a band (Paper Scissors) was playing. Good music, awful singer, but it was a fun time anyway. I bet $5 on a Foosball game against one of the local hot shots and I wasn't shut out! It was awesome!!!! :)
If you have actually read this far, you deserve some sort of award. It was a great trip, we packed a lot of activities into a pretty short time period but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.