My original Alaska travel blog was posted on www.realtravel.com, but the company disappeared one day. So gone was my post.
Fast forward to 5 years later now on this snowy winter morning, I tried to journey through my memory lane with the help of pictures to recapture my feelings/observations at the time during the trip.
It was, like my Patagonia trip in South America in early of 2015, a very senses-stirring and gob-struck experience, might be even more intense as it was my first close-up glacier experience.
Honestly, it is very difficult to describe Alaska without overusing superlative adjectives.
It has the lightest summer. The sun does not really set in the summer. There is Civil twilight, even at midnight.
Driving in Alaska is fun and least stressful as the highways are blissfully empty. No criss-cross major highways with countless exits to merge onto one another. Only one main highway connects the main cities. Therefore getting lost due to a misturn into another highway is very unlikely. No matter which direction you drive, you will find scenic views everywhere.
We flew into Ancharage and headed north right away after picking up our rental car. I don't have much impression of Anchorage except our last dinner at its local restaurant for sample tasting various locally brewed beers and some Russian vodka.
We drove in a loop from Achorage north to Fairbanks, south to Valdez and Seward, and back to Anchorage.
Located 2.5hrs north of Anchorage, Talkeetna is a quirky little town.
1) Their mayor is an 18 years old cat called Stubbs.
2) Their hostel management system seems to operate on honest/trust principle, as if in the old days. We arrived at Talkeetna International Hostel rather late at night. The main entrance to the hostel building was not locked. We simply self checked-in and out the next early morning without seeing a receptionist nor other tenants.
Mostly People come here for flightseeing over Denali mountain range. With additional cost, we took the 2-hour Grand Denali Tour which circles Denali as well as landing on glacier. All plane trips are subject to the last minute cancellation depending on its changing weather.
The elusive Denali summit (formely known as Mount Mckinley) was indeed elusive, hidden behind the cloud during our flight. Our landing on the glacier was exciting, as it was my first on glacier. I heard on a sunny day the view would be breathtaking and stunning.
P/S: Do remember to bring a vomit bag and to bundle up as the ride could be bumpy and the wind up there could be brutal .
Denali National Park
Driving another 4.5 hrs up north, we reached Denali National Park. We spent three or four days here.
Denali National Park, consists of six million acres, is a vast wilderness. It is here that I learned the true meaning of vastness. Here, may i say stillness and wilderness reign. To protect the natural resources of the park, private vehicles are not allowed after the 15-mile into tthe park. The park provides tour bus (with fees) to take tourists to traverse the only one 92-mile mostly gravel road bisecting the park.
For thrill, adventure-seekers, time permissible, you may want to consider taking on the established trails, backpacking into the backcountry. I wish we did or I did.
Luckily we did get to see the full view of Mt. Denali at the end of the 6 hrs bus ride at the Wonder Lake. Boy! Never in my life had I seen so many mosquitoes swarming around my face and above my head - quite an unbearable experience. Many Japanese tourists came well-prepared with a head/face net. As magnificent as the view of Mt. Denali was, I could not wait to get into the bus.
I had my first Class 4 whitewater rafting experience here - of course with a dry suit as the cold milky color water of the rivers is from the nearby glaciers.
We stayed at Denali Bluffs Hotel, one of the best in our entire trip.
This website provides a good guide on how to visit Denali as a budget traveller.
Driving north to Fairbanks for two reasons:
1) to experience the famous Chena Hot Spring and visit the indoor ice sculpture museum.
2) to visit North Pole. Real North Pole has no terra fima, but the Santa Clause house, a gift store, in the area does.
Santa Clause house is a store filled with Christmas themed items. Every year prior to Christmas thousands of cards/wishes sent to this place, and equally thousands of people would like the town's postmark on their Christmas greeting cards to their families. I believed I did, but now could not remember whether I ever received one or not.
We stayed at Chena Hot Spring Resort. Every year loads of Japanese visit this place for its hot spring and northern light. We went in August, therefore Aurora viewing is out of question. The hot spring is impresssive, much warmer than the one I had in Santorini. We also visited the Aurora Ice Musuem at the compound. It definitely is pale in comparison to the outdoor ice scupltures in Haerbin International ice and snow sculpture festival.
There are many short trails in this area not far from the resort.
The restaurant at the resort serve organic vegetables from its own garden. I actually quite enjoyed their organic food.
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