It seems like yesterday that Matthew and I returned home from our fantastic trip to Alaska. Naturally, I have a million photos and experiences to share. To start, I thought I’d give you the condensed version of what we did. I intend to share more in depth details and more photos of some of our favorites. I’m going to spoil the ending a bit though…we didn’t see even a fraction of the wildlife that I thought we’d see (not even one bear!!) AND we tried several times and didn’t even get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley. Luckily, our other experiences made up for the lack of signature Alaskan events.Day 1: Our first full day in Alaska was Thursday, June 24. This was also our longest day and we spent quite a bit of time riding in the truck and on a bus. We rode up to Denali National Park where we took an 8 hour round-trip bus ride through the mountains up to Eielson Visitor Center. Ideally, this is where you’d get the best view of Mt. McKinley. You’d also see a multitude of wildlife as you travel through the park. Didn’t happen. We did see a few caribou, ravens, and lots of ground squirrels. Not one moose or one bear. We also didn’t see Mt. McKinley. The clouds blocked it entirely. Apparently, it had only been seen three or four times so far this summer. I had no idea that it was so tricky to get to see it. Later in the week, I saw photos from someone else’s trip and they’d seen the mountain the entire time they were there. I must say, I was blown away by how large and majestic it was! After seeing the photos, I was slightly disappointed that we were unable to see it. Maybe next time.
Even though we didn’t see as much wildlife as I’d hoped or the mountain, it was still a good experience. After the bus ride, we made the 4 hour trek back to Wasilla where we were staying. If you’re counting, that’s a whopping 16+ hours riding on our first day!
Day 2: On the second day, we made the trek over to Seward, Alaska which is a quaint little fishing town. The drive down Turnagain Arm was one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. We saw 7 swans, eagles galore, and my first moose! (It was the only one I saw with antlers and was too far in the brush for a good photo.) We hiked up to Exit Glacier and I ate my first bit of fresh, grilled fish. This day was one of my favorites!
Day 3: We stayed in Seward the previous night, so we spent a bit of time exploring the town this morning. Matthew and I went to the Alaska SeaLife Center, which was a bit smaller than I thought. I had the best time watching the sea lions though! I think I could have sat there all day watching the sea lions and seals swim. The puffin is a native Alaskan bird and we got the chance to watch them, as well. I even bought a piece of art done by painting the bottom of a puffins feet and letting them walk around on a canvas. Silly, I know. I thought it was cute, though, and I’ll always think of Alaska when I see it. On the way back to Wasilla, we stopped by a local pottery shop. This sounds like it might have been a basic experience. Not quite. We parked at a gas station, walked probably a mile down a private, winding dirt road, and showed up to a quaint little cabin in the forest. We let ourselves in, shopped a ton of handmade pottery, made our selections, and put the appropriate funds into a box. The entire process works solely on the honor system. The potter was not present, and you simply followed the directions on the signs. To me, this was commerce in the simplest form, and I longed for a studio/shop that operated this way. I was truly amazed at the simplicity of it and thankful that Matthew’s grandparent were aware of its existence. The average tourist surely wouldn’t have known about this little gem.Day 4: This was another one of my favorite experiences. We went to Hatcher Pass and climbed to the top at a whopping 4,800 feet! This was my second mountain to climb, (Click here for the first.) and I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the view was. We had a great view from the top to the bottom, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. After the climb, we went around the corner and explored Independence Mine, an old mining town. Hatcher Pass is absolutely one of my favorite experiences from the trip. That scenery will forever be burned into my mind, and I’m certain that I’ll long to return.Day 5: I started my morning with some reading and coffee by the fire. (Yes, a fire in June.) We went to church and then headed to Anchorage for the Anchorage Market. The market wasn’t quite as large as I’d hoped. It was still rather fun though! We ate a reindeer dog (Sorry, Rudolph.) for lunch and spent a bit of time walking around the souvenir shops downtown. I could have bought so many things!
Day 6: On day 6, we climbed to the top of Flattop Mountain. If you’re counting, that’s my third mountain to climb! I didn’t enjoy the sights quite as much at Flattop as I did on Hatcher Pass. However, Flattop brought with it my first attempt at mountain climbing! Literally, there were times where you had to use all four limbs…hands and feet…to get up the rocks. I loved it! I also got the bug to try parasailing, and ate halibut for the first time!Day 7: One day, we made yet another attempt to see Mt. McKinley that was unsuccessful. It’s hard to believe that we went to Alaska and didn’t even get a glimpse of the tallest mountain in North America. We drove up to Talkeetna, which is a quaint little tourist town. We ate on the patio at the Wildflower Café, which was delicious and lovely. The fresh salmon Caesar wrap and their french fries were amazing. After leaving Talkeetna, we drove up to the Matanuska Glacier where we saw three moose! This is where I finally got my close up photo of these furry friends. We enjoyed the Sheep Mountain Lodge for dinner where I had more fresh fish and took my funny photos with the stuffed moose. Unfortunately, these are the only photos of a moose with antlers that I got.Day 8: This was our final day in Alaska. Before heading out, we visited the Moon Stone Farm, which was just behind the campground we stayed at. They grew vegetables, flowers, chickens, and other various items. The owner packages fresh goods that can be purchased through a seasonal subscription. Subscribers pick up boxes of fresh picked goods once they’re ready. As simple as it was, visiting the farm was one of my favorite stops and it made me crave a similar lifestyle. We spent the rest of the morning driving around the valley area and seeing some of the farmland. We also drove by the reindeer and muskox farms. After returning to the campground to get our luggage, we ate delicious BLTs and played a bit of horseshoes.Matthew and I boarded the red eye home around 8:30 pm Alaskan time. We flew all night and made it back to Monroe around 10:30 the following morning. We were certainly exhausted and a bit jet lagged. However, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. I’ve never seen anything quite like the Alaskan landscape and loved the crisp air and the chance to unplug. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it.
If I had to make a list of my top three experiences, I’d have to say it was hiking at Hatcher Pass, the beautiful drive down Turnagain Arm, and visiting the pottery shop. Stopping by Moon Stone Farm would also be a strong contender. I am truly thankful for all of our experiences and for the chance to travel the way we did. We looked forward to this trip for so long, and it did not disappoint.
Where shall we go next??