I have two goals in life. One is to visit every continent in the world and the other is to travel in all fifty states within the United States of America. I have never had a real desire to go to Alaska until my parents brought back some spectacular videotape of their vacation. I knew that this was going to be the next state that I would visit leaving only two more states, Oregon and Washington.
I missed out on an excellent opportunity when a friend from camp moved to Alaska after completing college. Tom always extended an invitation, but there was never enough money or time and then after five years Tom moved on to Taiwan to study his Chinese and teach English. I regretted that I never went to Alaska, but when I realized I would have an entire month free I decided to contact Tom for some travel advice. Even though he was in Taiwan, he said, "Give me a week." When I heard from him in a couple of days...he was right here in Chillicothe! He'd come home for a visit and we were able to sit down and look over some maps and travel brochures and make a rough plan.
They say that 80% of the people who visit Alaska never see Mt. McKinley. Our first day in Alaska it was raining and the flight seeing trip that we'd booked was canceled due to the bad weather. We rescheduled for our return trip from Fairbanks and continued on to Denali Park. By the time we arrived the rain had stopped. We went on a hike with park ranger up Mt. Healy and then settled into our bed and breakfast. The next morning we took the park bus tour but the clouds were still blocking Mt. McKinley. We saw mountain sheep, foxes, a wolf, a few grizzly bears with cubs, moose with their young, bald eagles and ptarmigans (the state bird). In the afternoon we went to see a dog sled demonstration at the park services dog kennel. Leaving Denali we were still disappointed that McKinley was not visible.
In Fairbanks, we visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks museum and saw a presentation on the Northern Lights. We also visited the Alaskan Pipeline and North Pole, Alaska. We also took the riverboat tour which included lots of information about the native Athabascan Indians and the Iditarod dog sled race. We saw a bald eagle along the riverboat tour.
Even before we left Fairbanks, it was a clear day and we could see Mt. McKinley! The anticipation grew as we passed by the national park going south and stopped several times to take a few pictures at scenic overlooks.
Once we arrived at Talkeetna Air Taxi, we boarded a very small plane that only had room for four passengers. The weather was perfect and we had a spectacular flight. Our pilot was a climbing instructor and had been on an expedition to the peak of Mt. McKinley. He pointed out several spots where we could see tents of climbing teams and told us the routes that climbers use to ascend the mountain. The glaciers were beautiful and we could see down into the crevasses and see bright blue pools of water. Having rounded the peak, we landed on the Ruth Glacier near the Sheldon Cabin. We had about 20 minutes to walk around and take pictures before taking off again for the flight back.
Talkeetna Air Taxi plane that took us around Mt. McKinley.
I sat in behind the pilot and Jena sat in the back seat.
Looking down at the glaciers and mountains from the plane.
Landing on the glacier.
Jena and me on the glacier.
We returned to Anchorage and then down the Kenai Peninsula. We picked up Tom at Alaska Wildland Adventures and continued on towards Homer. We drove out the "spit" and booked a ride the following day over to Seldovia. That night we stayed at a bed and breakfast that had a golf course. The next day we took a boat over and then met a taxi to get to the other side of a peninsula.
Sea otters with their young that we saw along the way to Seldovia.
We were surprised when the taxi driver left us with her "taxi" because she needed to go into town on the boat. I drove this Ford Bronco (which reminded me of the surplus vehicles we used to drive around camp) into Seldovia and then we left it at the Mad Fish Restaurant.
I became the taxi driver when the real driver left us with her Bronco.
We spent the afternoon touring around Seldovia and also did a hike.
Seldovia was a small little coastal town on the Kenai Peninsula.
Tom on the beach along the trail at Seldovia.
Our Seldovia travel package included travel by sea, land and now air. We caught a flight back to Homer in another small plane. Then we spent the evening with Tom's distance relatives enjoying a home cooked meal along with smoked salmon and halibut as appetizers.
Flying over the "spit" returning to Homer.
We returned to Alaska Wildland Adventures and spent the afternoon hiking to the Russian Falls to see the Sockeye Salmon jumping in the river. We also spent time after dinner playing a game of frisbee golf on a course designed by the "lizards" or counselors working for the tour company. Jena and I stayed the night and then left the next day for Anchorage.
We toured the Anchorage Art and History Museum and Native Historical Center. We also
Anchorage to Seward
We scheduled a bus transfer from Anchorage to Seward, but when we arrived at the location we were informed that we'd been upgraded to the train. This was an unexpected bonus but the best was still yet to come. We ended up at the end of the rush to get to the train station and therefore were seated in the last passenger car. After the train began to move, we were asked if we'd like to sit in the "VIP" car that was on the end of the train! It was the only car with a glass dome, luxurious seating and had an open deck on the back. The train ride took us past a glacier and lots of wildlife, including more sheep, black bears and moose. One moose was on the train tracks and the train had to creep up an incline until the moose and her calf got off the tracks!
View of the train on the way to Seward.
We boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the "Rhapsody", in Seward for a southbound trip to Vancouver. I have never been on a cruise before, mostly because I love to camp and couldn't see myself on a vacation aboard some luxury/party ship. But I always thought that if I were going to take a cruise, Alaska was the place to do it. This was Jena's second cruise, so she sort of knew the ship's routine which helped. We booked the cruise online and found a bargain price of $600/person. This also meant that we were in an "inside" room, but with the cold of Alaska and the long days...this was a good place to sleep.
The Rhapsody using tenders to transport passengers to a port.
Docked in Juneau, view from the Mount Roberts Tramway.
An eleven story floating hotel
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