Category Archives: Alaska

Alaska Day 15 – 7/3/2011

Alaska Day 15 07/03/2011 Photo Album

Sunday morning after our usual breakfast we packed our belongings in the Ford Escape and began our return trip to Anchorage. We booked lodging for Sunday night at the Lake Hood Inn near the airport. Lake Hood Inn was the same place I slept on my first night after arriving in Anchorage on June 17, two weeks ago.

Since we had a lot of time to make our return trip, we planned to stop in the Kenai Wildlife Area again and do a few more hikes that we’d skipped on the way down the peninsula. On the outskirts of Homer on our way north we spotted a large scenic overlook area and paused for some photographs. There was a range of mountains to our south across Kachemak Bay and then two large snow-covered peaks to the west across Cook Inlet. The southern most peak to the west was Mt. Redoubt, a volcanic peak that erupted in 2010 causing the cancelation of some flights.

Map Showing Location of Peaks

Mt. Redoubt Recently Erupted

As I began driving north a huge peak appeared before us. The two peaks we’d seen at the overlook were to our left so this could only have been one mountain…Mt. McKinley. We had a brief opportunity to view McKinley, and it was in fact huge. Jane saw it as well, and we hoped to find a safe pullout to take photos, but it never happened and by the time we reached Anchorage clouds had once again rolled in and obscured any views to the north.

We pushed on to Soldotna and then east to the Kenai area. The first hike we’d chosen began in a campground so we drove a short distance and found the trailhead. The campground was very nice and appeared to be full for the Fourth of July weekend. We hiked a couple miles to an overlook where we could see a lake, and then we continued on a bit further to another high spot where we could view Skilak Lake. We retraced our steps and drove to the eastern end of the area, and then went back west for three miles to the West Kenai Canyon trailhead. We’d already done the east trail on our way to Soldotna on Thursday. On this trail we actually got quite close to a channel of the river, and it was just as aqua as it was from high above.

Dave with Hidden Lake in the Background

We Hiked in to Kenai Again on Return Trip

By now we were getting quite weary and anxious to get back to Anchorage, AK. We’d had a great time, but thoughts of work and family and Colorado began creeping into our new reality. We found the Lake Hood Inn and were surprised to discover our key was not in an envelope. I called the innkeeper, Bill, and he said to hang tight as the maid was currently getting our room ready. After a brief wait, the maid introduced us to our room which faced the lake. Jane and I sat on the deck listening to the aviator talk while float planes landed continuously on the lake. It was quite a scene.

Jane Listens to Air Traffic Talk at Lake Hood Inn

For dinner we drove back to downtown Anchorage and went to the Snow Goose for a second time as Jane wanted to purchase Snow Goose pint glasses for Dan, Kirk and me. Since we had an early flight, we returned the rental car on Sunday night and then took a cab back to the Lake Hood Inn and arranged for a taxi pickup on Monday morning.

Everything went according to plan on Monday and we arrived back in Denver in time for fireworks displays.

Alaska Day 14 – 7/2/2011

Alaska Day 14 07/02/2011 Photo Album

We woke up Saturday morning to a steady light rain in Homer, AK. After our usual tasty breakfast of giant muffins we set off for the Homer spit. This is a narrow extension of land that extends into Kachemak Bay just south of Homer. It contains beaches and numerous boats and cruise ships as well as restaurants, bars and shops.

Dave on Homer Spit Boardwalk with Wooden Fish

We found a nice convenient parking spot next to a strip of shops and a miniature boardwalk and began browsing the shops in the light rain. We covered nearly every shop and when we returned on the other side of the main street, we saw the Salty Dawg. Taylor and Bill Edrington mentioned this as a must see landmark so I took a photo and then we stepped inside. It was a dark musty bar with a low ceiling and dollar bills pinned to every wall and ceiling with individual’s personal signature on the dollar bill.

Inside Salty Dawg


We continued down the road and then found a place where we could stroll the beach. The beach was quite wide with several tidal pools draining back into the main body of water. We walked the beach a bit and then headed back to the road at a point where there were numerous RV’s and tents ready for the holiday weekend. As the steady rain fell the tent campers looked pretty miserable, and I felt sorry for them.

Jane Shows Surfing Form on Homer Beach

Camping on Spit in the Rain Looked Pretty Dismal

We crossed back to the other side of the road and found a seafood place for lunch. We started chatting with our waitress, Mimi, and discovered she was from Vermont, and graduated from George Washington University with a major in aerospace engineering. She was working in Homer for the summer and had worked at Breckenridge for two winters, but her parents wanted her to find a real job. We gave her Brady Young’s number and suggested she call him to network in the aerospace field.

Our parking time was up so we left the Homer spit and returned to an area near the maritime wildlife museum and took a walk on a trail that led us to Bishop Beach. We were fascinated by the huge difference in the tides in Homer, Alaska. Cars and trucks were allowed to drive on the beach where we were and we saw tire tracks, but no vehicles shared the beach with us on Saturday afternoon. As we walked back to the car we discovered a nice little restored area of Homer with several bars and restaurants and pledged to return later.

Spotlighted Peak in Range on Other Side of Bay

We found another hike in our Homer booklet that was east of town, and it looked like a nice intermediate distance so we drove to the trailhead. This trail was in an evergreen forest for much of the distance we traveled, but also traversed a marshy area. The trail builders had constructed a narrow boardwalk over the wetlands. The mosquitos were horrible and the weather had cleared to the point that the sun came out occasionally. The mosquitoes were really bothering us so we turned around after a mile or so and returned to the car the way we had come.

We decided to return to the area we’d just left and find a place for tea and coffee, and that’s exactly what we did. We discovered a cute little deli, the type with the menu choices etched on a blackboard in artsy writing and cookies displayed in clear cookie jars on the counter begging to be eaten. We responded and purchased tea and cookies and relaxed in the small deli. As we left we walked around the block and found a bookstore with an adjoining restaurant and decided we’d like to eat our dinner there.

We returned to our room and cleaned up and then returned to the Mermaid Bistro. We had not made reservations so decided to arrive early to assure seating and this worked out as planned. We were the first guests there, but the place gradually began to fill as we were eating. After dinner when we returned to our inn and walked down to the sea wall we noticed that the surf was pounding the wall and spray was flying up above it. Earlier in the afternoon there was at least fifty yards of beach visible at this same spot.

Alaska Day 13 – 7/1/2011

Alaska Day 13 07/01/2011 Photo Album

Jane booked us for two nights in Homer, AK, but we were now concerned that we would not find enough to do there for two days since we ruled out charter fishing due to the cost. There seemed to be more we wanted to see along the Kenai River so we decided to spend most of the day along the river and then drive the remaining 100 miles or so to Homer.

I found a rafting service that offered scenic floats on the Kenai out of Cooper Landing, so I called and booked an afternoon float trip. We downed our muffins and tea and coffee and headed out the door. We also read about hiking to the Russian River Falls and decided we’d like to undertake that adventure as well, so that was our first stop.

We found the parking lot and paid $9 and found a parking spot in the overflow lot. It was a nice day by Alaska standards with partly cloudy skies and temperatures that probably approached the mid-60’s. Since we read that bears frequent this area to snag salmon on their upstream migration, we maintained fairly constant chatter, chants and singing.

These Flowers Were Everywhere in Russian River Area

A young couple and their children from Kenai, AK caught up to us and eventually we arrived at the falls simultaneously. There was a large observation deck overlooking the falls, and we immediately noticed the pool at the base of the falls teeming with sockeye salmon. It was quite a sight. The father/husband of the family we’d met was a science teacher and fishing guide, and he told us that this was the end of the first wave of sockeye, and they migrate to the lake above the falls to spawn.

Salmon Stacked Up Above Birds and Log

We hiked down from the platform closer to the river and found a small side channel that was just boiling with salmon. There must have been 15 fish in an area two feet wide and three feet long. We returned to the deck, and I noticed salmon leaping from the pool at the base into the frothy falls and then bouncing back. It appeared to be a rather futule venture. I captured a few of the leaps and bounce backs using the video capability of my camera.

After viewing for 15 minutes or so we began the 2 mile hike back to the parking lot. Along the way the family stopped ahead of us and motioned us to quietly join them as they’d encountered a spruce grouse and her young chicks.

Spruce Grouse and Young

Once we returned to the car we departed the Russian River area and drove east a short distance to the rafting company. The starting point consisted of a bunch of sheds and cabins where the rafts and clothing and life jackets were stored. They served some meager snacks in the form of reindeer sausage and crackers and hot coffee, and then we put on our rubberized pants and life jackets. One of the guides ran through some safety items, although this was not a white water float and the danger was quite low.

Jane and Dave Ready to Raft

In a short amount of time our guide was pushing the inflatable raft into the aqua colored Kenai River, and we were off on our scenic float trip. Among the other raft patrons was a family from Lititz, Pa. including a grandmother, mother and three children. The grandmother was married to a guy who was a linebacker for the Philadelphia Bulldogs, a team in the USFL or some other start-up league that never got off the ground. He then played for the Pottstown Firebirds, and she said there was a movie or TV show made about the Firebirds. Also on our raft was a young lady currently attending the University of Alaska – Anchorage. She was planning to run the Marathon Mountain race on the Fourth of July in Seward, AK and was a high school friend of our guide. Also on our raft were a couple from Oklahoma. Jane named them Debbie and Jim, a couple that are friends of ours in Denver. Their lives, speech and actions all reminded us of Debbie and Jim Eckert.

End of Our Raft Trip

The raft trip was rather uneventful other than seeing at least 15 to 20 eagles perched on the trees surrounding the river. We took out near the Russian River ferry and rode a bus back to our launch point where they had some cookies and tea and coffee. We were glad to get out of our rubberized fireman pants and set off on our trip to Homer, AK.

We traveled back through the Kenai Wildlife Area and Soldotna and headed south along the coast to Homer. This was a pretty drive with numerous views of the mountain range on the western side of Cook Inlet. It was Friday of the Fourth of July weekend and we noticed numerous RV’s and boats particularly as we crossed rivers and streams draining into Cook Inlet.

Behind Our Lodging in Homer

Just before entering Homer there was a pullout and we stopped and snapped a photo or two and then continued on into Homer. The lodge owners provided us with directions, and we found the Ocean View Inn fairly easily. Once again a key was in an envelope on the office door. Our room was on the second floor of a cute building set back a bit from a sea wall overlooking the ocean. We unloaded our suitcases and took a walk down to the sea wall. There was a metal ladder that enabled us to descend to the beach.

Eagle Sharpening Beak Behind Our Homer Lodging

We were hungry and the innkeepers recommended two restaurants in Homer, so we found them, but both were exceedingly busy on the Friday night of the Fourth so we used our own instincts and found a more out of the way place tucked behind a storefront along the main road running east to west through Homer.

When we returned to the Ocean View Inn and walked down to the ocean we spotted an eagle perched on the sea wall. The eagle was using its beak to pull at some loose material on top of the wall which made a noise. Jane was convinced the eagle was sharpening its beak. At any rate I snapped a couple nice close photos of the national bird before it flew off.

Alaska Day 12 – 6/30/2011

Alaska Day 12 06/30/2011 Photo Album

Jane and I woke up early at the Harbor View Inn in Seward. We were eagerly anticipating our day on the Kenai Fjord cruise. We had a quick breakfast of (you guessed it) muffins in our room and headed down to the dock area and parked in the designated cruise parking lot. We were actually a bit early and had time for coffee and tea.

Settled in Aft Quarters for Kenai Fjord Cruise

We knew the speed of the boat over the water would create a breeze and chill, so we both took our warmest clothes and wore many layers. At the designated time we boarded the boat and initially sat in the aft of the upper deck. Almost immediately as we moved out of Resurrection Bay we saw two eagles perched on posts. We continued motoring out of the bay and angled toward the opposite shore which contained many rocky points and ledges. Here the cruise ship caption pointed out the many types of sea birds and sea lions. We focused on some puffins which look like flying penguins. They are difficult to photograph because they come up for air and then dive quickly.

Quite a Cluster of Sea Lions on This Rock

We decided to move to the fore deck; however, that was quite breezy with nothing to block the wind. I alternated between the deck and going back inside the cabin when we were moving and there wasn’t much to see besides the landscape. Of course this turned out to be a mistake because as we moved away from the sea lions and birds the captain announced a whale sighting. The passengers already on the fore deck naturally had the premium views while I scrambled to find a gap to take photos. The first whale spotted was a humpback whale and like the puffins it was difficult to capture more than the back above the water.

The Back of the First Whale Spotted

We left the first whale and moved further along toward our destination which was one of the fjords and the glacier it contained. Once again the captain announced a whale sighting and this time it was an orca, but a rare type of orca. I got a nice photo of the mist and spray coming out of this whale’s blow hole. I was riding up front with Jane and she mentioned that she’d seen someone we knew. Can you guess who? No, not Bob, but Beth the young intern who had graduated from Clemson and was sitting in the seat in front of us on the Denali bus. Her parents were visiting and they were doing the cruise before heading north to Denali. Even though Alaska is a huge place, everyone seems to do the same loop of tourist attractions.

Check Out the Spout

We continued on and entered the fjord and drew closer and closer to the gray-white mass of ice that filled the valley and reached down to the water. As we neared the glacier the captain announced that we needed to be cautious to avoid all the mini-icebergs floating in the bay. Sure enough they were everywhere and occasionally one could hear them clanking against the hull. I noticed some movement ahead and spotted a sea otter swimming past us in the frigid icy water. When we drew within 50 yards the captain cut the motor and we watched the glacier. This may sound boring but we were anxiously anticipating calving.

Right Side Ripe to Fall in the Ocean


Calving occurs when slices of the glacier split off and slide into the ocean. There were some fairly deep fissures on the right side that forecast calving, but a major event never occurred. We did see some minor slides. The other interesting thing about glacier watching is how noisy they are. We constantly heard cracking and creaking sounds so it definitely left the impression of a living moving phenomenon.

Couple in Icy Environment

We turned around and began motoring out of the fjord, and I noticed a pair of sea kayaks along the shore. Where did they come from? The captain said they get dropped off by a larger boat so they don’t paddle the entire distance from Seward. What a neat way to see the glacier. It also seemed like there were scout boats out ahead of us that radioed the captain when they spotted whales.

Sure enough as we headed back toward home, the captain announced that two whales were spotted bubble netting. Bubble netting is a technique used by the whales to confuse the bait fish. The bubbles make it difficult for the small fish to see, and then the whales swoop upward with their huge mouths open and scoop up massive quantities of fish. It’s a heck of an appetizer. They also told us this was a learned behavior as the northern hemisphere whales learned it from their southern hemisphere friends. I got some pretty neat photos and movies of the whales bubble netting by holding my camera up high above the heads and shooting semi-blindly toward the whale spot.

Head and Tail

After the bubble netting episode we chugged at a fairly quick pace back to the harbor. I went to the snack bar for a cup of tea, and one of the cruise ship assistants had one of the icebergs that she’d netted and people were looking at it up close and touching it.

Ice Chunk Netted Near Glacier

Once we landed we returned to the car and stopped for gas and departed Seward. Our scheduled lodging for Thursday night was Soldotna which was across the Kenai along the Kenai River not far from Cook Inlet. We backtracked on the same road we’d traveled on our way to Seward, but before Turnagain Arm, we made a left turn and it wasn’t long before we were in Cooper Landing and then traveling along the Kenai River. As we got closer to Soldotna we saw a small visitor center cabin for the Kenai Wildlife Area so we stopped to see what the area had to offer. We chatted with a sweet young lady who had lived her entire life in the area, and she gave us a brochure and recommended some of the trails in the area and detouring off the main paved road and taking a well maintained dirt road. We did this and stopped fairly early and did a short hike on the East Kenai River trail to an overlook high above the turquoise colored Kenai River. Once again we were on guard for bears as Donna told us there had been quite a few during the first wave of sockeye salmon which had just passed.

Looking Downstream

We hiked back to the car and continued on the side road through the wildlife area and then after approximately 16 miles we merged back on the main road and continued on to Soldotna. We found our Kenai River Lodge just off the main road and positioned next to the Kenai River. We walked behind the hotel and checked out the fish cleaning table and the array of hooks available for hanging your catch.

Where Are My Fish?

After returning to the room we researched our Soldotna book and found a couple restaurant choices. We elected the St. Elias Brew Pub and it turned out to be a good choice. There were two musicians playing guitar and singing and we sampled the brew and had a hearty meal.

Alaska Day 11 – 6/29/2011

Alaska Day 11 06/29/2011 Photo Album

Wednesday was a travel day as Jane reserved lodging in Seward, AK. Seward was on the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage. We slept in a bit longer on Wednesday morning at our nice digs at the Agate Inn. The innkeepers left oatmeal and a few goodies for us, and then I ran into some other guests while taking things to the car. The couple was from Saskatchewan, and they had also driven to Alaska. I mentioned that there were supposed to be reindeer to feed but I hadn’t seen them, and the man told me we needed to go to the other side of the lodge through the lower level.

Jane Feeds Our Friend Grass

Jane and I followed his directions and sure enough there were five reindeer behind a fence on the south side of the house. We fed them some grass and carrots, and I snapped a few photos, and then we were on our way traveling south to Anchorage. We passed through Anchorage again and then traveled along Turnagain Arm on the same path we had driven Sunday night looking for wildlife. Captain Cook named this inlet Turnagain Arm because he mistakenly sailed up the arm only to realize it ended, and he had to “turn again”.

Dave and Jane at Bird Point

As we approached Bird Point we noticed a nice parking area and a walkway to the point that juts into Turnagain Arm, so we stopped and took a brief walk and snapped some photos. Once again we climbed in the car and after passing the end of Turnagain Arm, we passed the turn off that leads south to Homer and continued southeast across the Kenai Peninsula to Seward. This proved to be a very pretty drive with many lakes and evergreen forests and mountains. Finally we reached the picturesque seaside town of Seward, AK.

First we found our hotel and checked in to our room. Next we drove down to the rocky beach and found a park with picnic tables and had our lunch. There was an area right next to the beach for RV’s and tents. After lunch we took a walk along Resurrection Bay and then looped back on the main business district and browsed a few shops. We noticed many tsunami evacuation route signs as Seward suffered fairly extensively from the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. Eventually we returned to our rental car parked near the picnic table where we ate lunch.

Jane Walks the Rocky Beach

The Other Side of Resurrection Bay

Our next adventure was to drive back out of Seward to the road that took us to Exit Glacier. We parked in a fairly crowded parking lot and hiked the half mile or so required to reach the edge of the glacier. The glacier had many small dimples in its surface which made it look soft and slushy, but when I leaned against the thick edge I realized it was as hard as recently frozen ice. The information told us that it was moving approximately one foot a day and scouring the dirt beneath it. We hiked down the trail to the outflow and observed the dark gray water flowing from the melting glacier.

Dave Leans on Dirty Hard Glacier

Dave Next to Dirty Gray Outflow

We returned to Seward and decided to investigate the Kenai Fjord cruise trip for Thursday and also check out the charter fishing boats. The cost of the Kenai Fjord cruise was $180/day, and we could select the cruise ship or the catamaran. The catamaran left later but traveled faster; however, it still returned later in the afternoon. We chose the cruise boat as it left earlier, but returned in early afternoon and reserved space for Thursday. Jane and I both liked the atmosphere of the harbor area and walked down the docks between the moored boats then circled back on the street that runs along the water. By now it was dinner time and we liked the idea of eating in one of the many restaurants located in the waterfront district.

Hundreds of Boats

We had our eyes on a place called Chinooks, so we entered and were seated at a table on the second level overlooking the boats and the fish cleaning tables. Since I was at the Rainbow Point Lodge for our anniversary, we decided to make this our anniversary dinner and splurged on seafood medleys that contained salmon, rock fish, mussels, and crab. Meanwhile we were mesmerized by the activity around the fish cleaning tables and the guides removed fish after fish from the wheelbarrows and threw them up on the tables and filleted them. Jane asked me to time one of the men, and it took him eight minutes to clean a huge halibut.

Guide Was Asked to Kiss the Big Fish...and He Did

After dinner we went downstairs and gazed at the returning fishermen and their guides as they hung their catch on the board of hooks for all to see. We located the booking office for the fish charters and discovered this was a fairly expensive proposition. The Kenai Fjord tour was probably our best choice.

Alaska Day 10 – 6/28/2011

Alaska Day 10 06/28/2011 Photo Album

We eagerly anticipated the shuttle trip through Denali National Park, and Tuesday was our day. We had purchased breakfast and lunch food at a Fred Meyers in Anchorage, and we had our first breakfast of muffins. The muffins became a joke with us as they were huge and laced with sugar and fat. Jane and I both felt like we gained four pounds after our daily diet of muffins.

We needed to be at the Wilderness Access Center before 8AM to catch our reserved bus and we were there early. There were several types of buses running within the park. We reserved a green bus which meant we could get off whenever we wanted and catch a ride on another green bus that came along. The weather was overcast and cloudy but not raining as we set out in the morning. I returned to the car to get something, and somehow forgot to bring along the new binoculars that we purchased in Anchorage for this event.

We're Off on the Denali Shuttle Bus

Our bus driver/tour guide’s name was JB, and he did a nice job of driving, explaining the park, answering questions and pointing out wildlife. We learned that the big five of wildlife were dall sheep, caribou, bears, wolves, and moose. A slam meant seeing all five. JD was also careful to outline the bathroom stops and the distance in between. The first 12 miles covered the same road that Jane and I drove on Monday after we arrived.

Surrounding us in the bus were quite a few personalities. Beth was a cute intern recently graduated from Clemson majoring in soils, and her job was to ride the bus and record information about the quality of the driver, the customer experience, and the location of wildlife sightings. It was nice to have her in front of us as she answered quite a few questions and shared her binoculars. A bit behind us were two gentlemen from Slovakia. I eventually discovered that the taller of the two was a professional hockey player in Europe. Two men and a woman got on at Teklanika River Campground with their bicycles. They were from Port Jervis, NY and had driven across country and up the Alaska Highway.

Not too far beyond the Savage River crossing the driver was pointing out some distant Dall sheep, and as everyone strained to see the small white dots, he announced that a grizzly bear was ambling down the road. Sure enough the bear passed right by the bus on the shoulder and then meandered up the hillside. I got a pretty nice photo, and we checked off one of the big five. Bears typically are one of the more difficult sightings.

A Grizzly Next to the Bus Early on Our Trip

We continued on and Jane and I got out at Polychrome Overlook and the Slovakian’s took our photo. Close to this area the bus stopped as two Dall sheep were perched on the edge of a rocky pedestal. Two of the big five were now seen. A bit further along the road, and we spotted our first moose browsing on some shrubs in a small ravine. I snapped some photos but I could have used more zoom. It’s amazing that these animals can hold up those awkward looking antlers.

Overlook Near Polychrome

Dall Sheep

Nibbling Away

Shortly after watching the moose and not too far from our turnaround destination of Eielson Visitor Center, we spotted more bears. A mother bear and her two cubs were┬ámoving through the tundra. One cub had light fur similar to the mother and the other one had darker coloration. The darker of the two cubs decided to dig up a hole on the side of a small hill. We watched in amusement as it dug deeper and deeper to the point where he or she could fit half its body into the hole. There was much speculation about the motives of the bear, but we’ll never know what its intentions were.

Cub Could Fit Half His Body in Hole When Done

Mother Bear Visible Again on Return Trip

We got off at the visitor center, but the sky had clouded up quite a bit and it began to rain lightly. Jane and I had packed lunches, so we found a table inside and enjoyed our sandwiches and snacks. While seated in the dining area guess who we saw? Remember Bob and Judy from Southern California? Here they were again, and they managed to get on our bus for the return trip.

After looking at Amy and Dan’s slides from their backpacking trip, Jane and I decided we wanted to get off the bus and do a one hour or so hike away from the road. On the western ride we had selected an area that Beth referred to as the Stony area so we grabbed the attention of JD, and he dropped us off by the side of the road. It was a strange feeling as we watched the bus driver disappear and we embarked on a hike with no trail knowing that we’d seen four bears in this wild country. By now it was raining steadily and we both had raincoats and Jane had rain pants but I was wearing only jeans.

We decided to hike south in a small valley and then up over a saddle, down the other side and back on a dry river bed to the road. We anticipated this would be a one hour hike. It pretty much worked out that way. My pants got wet from my ankles to just below my knees from hitting the vegetation and we sang and did the Tulo chant to announce our presence to the bears. We eventually returned to the road and waited 10 minutes or so until a green bus came along and picked us up. We liked the crowd and driver on the first bus better than the second.

Jane Points at Road

We spotted some more Dall sheep and another moose on the return trip, and we’d also seen some caribou from a distance so we sighted four of the big five. We skipped the visitor center and the sled dog demo when we returned to our car as we had booked lodging in Wasilla for Tuesday night and that was three hours away. As we drove south on the Park Highway we stopped at a viewing point where a sign pointed out Mt. McKinley and Mt. Hunter, but the entire top of the mountains were obscured by clouds.

Wasilla was a small town and we passed through to the southern end and then turned left to find the Agate Inn. The owners left an envelope on the door and we punched in a code and then picked up our room key. This was probably our nicest lodging on the entire trip. By this time is was around 9PM so we hustled back out to Wasilla and found a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

Alaska Day 9 – 6/27/2011

Alaska Day 9 06/27/2011 Photo Album

Jane booked two nights at the Arctic Fox Inn in Anchorage, so we stayed there again on Sunday night. The itinerary called for a day of travel to Denali National Park on Monday and lodging was reserved at the Healy Family Cabins 12 miles north of the entrance to the park. Amy and Dan backpacked in Denali two years ago, and after seeing their photos and hearing their stories, we wanted to include this stop on our trip. Jane also reserved seats for us on the Denali National Park shuttle for Tuesday.

Talkeetna Main Street Alive with Tourists from Alaska Railroad

Once again we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Arctic Fox on Monday morning and then set out on our drive. Drive time from Anchorage to the park was estimated to be 4 hours. Once again it was a cool partly cloudy day with temperatures in the mid-60’s. On the way north I read about the town of Talkeetna so we made a slight detour. It is a small town that mountain climbers use as a staging point for attempts to summit Mt. McKinley. Small shops and restaurants lined the two streets, and a bunch of tourists had just arrived via the Alaska Railroad. We went through town and parked and hiked out to the shore of a huge river that flowed by the town. We then met a couple from the Philadelphia area who suggested we hike up to a railroad bridge because four eagles were visible. We did this but couldn’t spot anything other than some seagulls soaring above the river.

We returned to the car and reversed course back to the highway and continued north to Denali. When we reached the park we stopped and confirmed our reservation for Tuesday and then continued on the main road within the park. Passenger cars are allowed to drive the first 15 miles, but then access beyond that point is only by buses. We decided to stop at the Mountain Vista picnic area and eat our lunch. We pretty much had this area to ourselves and then took a short loop hike at Mountain Vista. Jane made friends with a bird by feeding it an orange slice.

Mountain Vista Picnic Site in Denali National Park

After lunch we continued toward Savage River which is the furthest point that can be reached via passenger car. Several cars were stopped on a high turnout overlooking the river, so we stopped and spotted three caribou in the river bed. We then continued a short distance and parked at the trailhead for the Savage River loop. While doing this short 1.5 mile loop we encountered a family of grouse-like birds that we think were ptarmigan. The adults were on the hiking path attempting to nudge all the young ones off the path.

Close Up of Adult

Dave Scans for Dall Sheep by Savage River

Once we completed our hike, we returned to the car and drove back to the main highway and then north and found our cabin. It was a cute little one room cabin with a deck in a neatly landscaped evergreen forest. I read about the restaurants in the area and there appeared to be only one viable option in Healy, a brewpub called the 49th State. We went in search of this establishment and found it along the highway. It was set back from the road and looked like a converted warehouse. Once we entered it was quite rustic with all sorts of backwoods decor on the walls. We both had huge salmonburgers for dinner. They were so large that we wondered where they obtained such giant rolls.

Front View of Our Cute Cabin

Jane Tackles Salmonburger at the 49th State

The menu mentioned that the bus that was lived in by the character in the book and movie Into the Wild was parked outside the restaurant so on the way out we boarded the bus and took some photos. We returned to our cabin and got a good nights rest before our planned day enjoying the shuttle ride in Denali National Park.

Dave Poses in Into the Wild Bus

Alaska Day 8 – 6/26/2011

Alaska Day 8 06/26/2011 Photo Album

Jane and I awoke on Sunday morning in our nice room at the Arctic Fox near downtown Anchorage. Our plan included spending the day in Anchorage. We enjoyed a tasty breakfast at the bed & breakfast which included a lot of fresh fruit and met Bob and Judy from southern California. Bob was a retired school teacher, and they were part of one of the cruise tours.

Dave and Jane Bike Coastal Trail in Anchorage

We’d read about biking in Anchorage, so we used the iPad to go online and found a bike shop in downtown Anchorage within walking distance. It was looking like a nice day by Alaska standards and for the first and only time in two weeks I wore shorts, but also took along a raincoat. Nice days in Alaska while I was there were partly cloudy skies with highs in the mid-60’s. Jane and I found the bicycle rental shop and watched the presentation by the clerk and rented two bikes. The store clerk gave us maps and a couple alternative routes and a suggested place for lunch, and we headed off. We decided to bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, allegedly the most scenic bike trail in the world. That label was debatable, but it was a nice ride along Cook Inlet for part of the way and then through some forests. The coastal trail ended at Kincaid Park, and then we chose an alternate route back that took us through the airport area with numerous float planes and bush planes everywhere.

We stopped at the organic supermarket and had a nice lunch and then returned to downtown. We had more time to bike so we did an out and back along Ship Creek and saw quite a few fishermen near the city. On the return we stopped at the Ulu Factory and purchased an ulu and cutting board.

A Couple Fishes in Ship Creek Near Downtown Anchorage

Jane Practices Mushing at Ulu Factory

After returning the bikes, we walked over to the farmers market we’d spotted and browsed the stands. We spotted a place called The Snow Goose and checked that out as a dinner destination. We went back to our rooms and cleaned up and then in fact drove to The Snow Goose for dinner. We liked the atmosphere of this place, another brew pub, better than the Glacier Brewhouse.

Snow Goose Walls Were Decorated with Quilts

We read about the wildlife viewing south of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm, so given the abundance of daylight we drove the Ford Escape south as far as Alyeska Ski Area and then returned. The scenery was breathtaking and we walked around the ski area a bit at the tramway base. We also stopped at the boardwalk by Potter Marsh on our return trip and walked as far as we could go, but didn’t really see any wildlife. By this time a light rain was falling.

A Returning Tram