The Last Frontier
ANCHORAGE TO FAIRBANKS
Earlier this August we took a trip of a lifetime through Alaska. We, along with Mel's parents, rented a RV in Anchorage and started our journey through the last frontier.
The first day we started off easy, driving only about an hour to Big Bear Campground in Wasilla. The following day we made the drive farther north to Cantwell, right outside of Denali National Park. Cantwell is a fun little area, with a lot of nice little shops. It was raining on and off while we were here, but luck was on our side the following day when we took the 11 hr bus ride from the start of Denali NP to Wonder Lake. They say that there is only a 30% chance of seeing all of Denali, and yet we were lucky enough to see the full mountain not only the day we drove in, but for the entire time we were in the park as well. The following day, we did an ATV tour with Denali ATV Adventures, the staff was wonderful, and even though it was a foggy, rainy day, we had a blast.
The following day we did another long drive farther north to Fairbanks. The shops here weren't as much fun but we had a great time doing the Riverboat Discovery tour, and the Gold Dredge 8 tours on our second day there. The entire time in Fairbanks was misty, and cold but we made the best of it.
FAIRBANKS TO SEWARD
Our drive back down south started out sort of miserable and rainy. However by the time we stopped at our RV park in Talkeetna, the rain had cleared. What a fun little town Talkeetna is, lots of fun shops and restaurants and close enough to our RV park that we were able to walk to and from. Of all the places we stayed, Talkeetna was the biggest surprise, we had such an enjoyable evening there eating pizza, and listening to the live music in the park. Little did we know that we had just gotten out of the line of literal fire just north of Talkeetna that closed the highway for a few days.
Our next drive was back through Anchorage and down farther south to Seward. The closer we got to the town the "foggier" it started to become, however when we were about 45 minutes from town we realized that this was not fog, but smoke. We again had run into more forest fires. When we finally made it to Seward the smoke was so thick that it made it hard to see any of the surrounding landscape, and made it more difficult to breathe. We didn't let this stop us however, though Melissa was still recovering from pneumonia that she had been suffering from for the whole month prior, we decided to do a several mile hike up to Exit Glacier. Even with the smoke we were able to take some of the most interesting and beautiful photos of the glacier. The smoke didn't clear for the entirety of the time we were in Seward, however the glacier tour we did through the Kenai Fjords National Park was almost mystical, with the boat being surrounded by smoke. During the time that we were staying in Seward, we were basically stuck in the area, the highway connecting between Seward and the rest of the peninsula had been closed off due to more forest fires. Luck was again on our side however because the day that we were due to drive to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula the highway opened back up, so at noon when we received the all clear we drove straight from Seward all the way around to Homer.
SEWARD TO HOMER
Seeing the fire on the side of the highway was definitely a surreal feeling, and no sooner did we reach Homer did we hear that the highway had once again been closed. Luckily our stay in Homer was several days, so being "stuck" wasn't as big of a worry. Homer was hands-down a group favorite. We spent hours walking up and down the Spit, enjoying the boardwalk and all of the shops and art galleries in the area. While Mel's parents went on a fishing charter (we aren't really fishing people) we took another glacier/whale watching tour with Rainbow Charters that stopped in Seldovia. It turned out being another misty day, but wow did we have an amazing time. We were able to finally see some humpback whales, it was amazing.
However, none of this compared to one of the grandest parts of our Alaskan adventure. On August 22, Melissa's birthday, we set-off in a Cessna to explore Lake Clark National Park. We had decided that if were going to be exploring Alaska, that we wanted to do it right, and we wanted to see bears. We had booked a bear charter, with Alaska Bear Adventures that left from Homer, and landed just on the outskirts of Lake Clark NP. We hiked along that beach for about 3 miles until we finally saw our first grizzly bear, a sow, who ran within 15 feet of us. At this point, everyone in our party was satisfied that we had seen a bear, and were able to capture some beautiful photos. What we didn't expect was our guide Jamie to not be as satisfied, after hiking another 4 miles on the beach back to the Cessna, we all hopped back in and Jamie flew us to a second location that we had not been expecting. Within 2 minutes of landing and unloading from the plane, we saw our second sow. She was eating fish along the beach, surrounded by seagulls. Our group was instructed to kneel down and form a large mass. After the sow was done with her fish, we were right in her path. She walked right up to us, our guide Jamie, being cool and collected got between our group and the sow, literally talking to her saying "now that's enough bear" and basically steered her out of our direction. It was absolutely surreal to be within that close of a proximity to such an amazing creature. Some of our absolute favorite photos came from this second stop on the tour.
After this experience, and the successful plane ride to-and-from Lake Clark NP, we went back to the RV and realized how absolutely exhausted we all were. Luckily we were in Homer for another two days and were able to relax a little bit before our drive back north to Anchorage. Our original plan when leaving Homer was to stay in Cooper Landing, however because the forest fire, the whole town was basically closed, which forced us to drive even farther north, just an hour south of Anchorage. On our last full day in Alaska, we stopped at the large outdoor market that was being held, where we were able to see tons of local art, and had some interesting and enjoyable conversations with some of the locals.
Leaving Alaska was bittersweet, we had such an amazing experience and would highly recommend anyone toying with the idea of visiting to make the decision to go. It was truly the adventure of a lifetime. We will definitely be back!
Ramble On . M + T