Jump to content

ALaska, June 2013


urologysteve

Recommended Posts

urologysteve

This is a trip report for my Alaska trip, June 2013. It is lengthy and I apologize. I will try to add some pictures after I get the report posted.

 

 

We traveled to Alaska for 9 days the first week in June. 4 adults, no kids. Flew into Anchorage and did not do a cruise. I divided the report in to a few of sections. The first section will talk about itinerary and lodging. Reviews left on TA.

 

We flew Nashville, MSP, SEA, to Anchorage. We flew Delta airlines until the last leg where they code share with Alaska airlines. We preferred Delta to Alaska. Nicer first class seats and newer plane. No real issues with the flights. No delays and arrived in ANC about 7:45pm Friday evening. Very quick luggage and car rental. Rented a large SUV for the 4 of us as well as our luggage. Were out of the airport by 8:20.

 

The return trip was simpler, ANC to MSP to Nashville. We didn’t leave until 9:45pm at night on Saturday. Flew overnight, but it never really got dark. A little hard to sleep due to the light. Delta both legs and all was fine. No delays and easy trip. Delta treated us very well and we continue to use them regularly.

 

Our basic itinerary was 3 days Anchorage, 3 days Denali and 3 days Seward. I spent a lot of time on Trip advisor in research. Also used the Milepost (highly recommended) for planning. I planned all the activities, transport and lodging.

 

We spent more time in locations and not as much time traveling and changing locations. So, we only had 3 accommodations. We stayed at the Alaska House of Jade bed and breakfast in ANC. We stayed at the McKinley Chalets in Denali and Exit Glacier Lodge in Seward.

 

The Alaska House of Jade is very highly rated on Trip advisor. We could quickly see why. An excellent place with lovely service. Dee and Yves are extremely hospitable and the rooms are very comfortable. Private rooms, private bathrooms, comfortable bedding, tremendous breakfast. Dee cooks breakfast for you each morning based on your day’s activities and plans. She is a fabulous host and a fabulous cook. I recommend this place for anyone staying in Anchorage.

 

Next was the McKinley Chalets at Denali. This was a little disappointing. It was the most expensive lodging but by far the worst of the 3. You pay for location. It is right at the entrance road to the park. It is in Glitter Gulch with several large lodges owned by the cruise companies. Tons of busses coming to all the resorts right there. Simple rooms and small bathrooms. More focused on location than service and value. Probably as good as any of the other places right there by it, but we were disappointed.

 

Finally was the Exit Glacier Lodge in Seward. This is a charming, small lodge with very personal service. The continental breakfast actually ended up being cook to order by the owner or the manager. Very personal service. The rooms and décor are beautiful and very much put you in the mood for Alaska. Comfortable and very nice. We also loved this and recommend it to anyone staying around Seward.

 

post-25370-0-67082500-1371774368_thumb.jpg

This guy was a few yard down the road from our bed and breakfast in Anchorage.

 

post-25370-0-37815400-1371774444_thumb.jpg

 

This mating pair was only 100 yards from the Exit Glacier lodge. We saw 3 babies in the nest at one point.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

The next section will talk about some of the activities out of Anchorage:

 

One of our big excursions was a trip to Bear Camp with Great Alaska Adventures in Soldotna. We did this all day trip out of Anchorage. We were picked up by our transport and treated to a lovely guide of the Seward highway. Lots of information and facts. Several stops. Moose and Dall sheep viewing. Easy, enjoyable drive to Soldotna and the lodge. We ate lunch at the lodge, located on the Kenai and Moose River. We then did a short transport to the airport and flew to Lake Clark National Park. Small, 6 seat Cesna. 40 minute flight and landed on the beach. Bears were playing on the beach when we landed. Spent 4 hours in bear camp with a snack and some great bear viewing. Saw 14 bears including a close encounter on the beach while walking to a new location. Saw fox as well. Great experience. Was all day (about 9 hours) and not for the faint of heart. The flight is an adventure itself over the Cook Inlet. Great Alaska did a great job.

 

We spent time at Shipp creek, the Ulu factory, the Admiral Cook statue and park and the downtown Anchorage market. This was an enjoyable half-day. The market is worth a visit, but get there early before the busses start dropping off the crowds.

 

Hiking around Anchorage was really great. We spent time out on Campbell airstrip road hiking in Far North Bicentennial park. This is a great area with several hundred miles of trails. We saw moose repeatedly, baby moose, black bear and brown bear. Beautiful park. Easy hikes. Great place. Earthquake park was unique and worth a visit, but not a real “hike.” We did several other local hikes and saw moose repeatedly. There are a ton of hikes within the city. We also went to Flatops in Chugach state park. We enjoyed this park, but not as much wildlife when we were up there. The hike to the top is quite a challenge and not for us. We did a short, flat 1.2 mile hike that involved a great view of Anchorage all the way to the inlet and coast. Well worth the 10 minute trip driving out to the park.

 

The downtown trolley tour is very interesting and reveals a lot of the history of Anchorage and specifically a lot about the earthquake of 1962. The federal building, right across from the trolley tours, has some neat movies. They are free and worth watching. The 2 best were the gold rush and earthquake movie.

 

We enjoyed trying some different places to eat. The best was Simon and Seaforts. Great view and great food. A little preicey, but not for Alaska standards. If you get a chance, eat there.

 

post-25370-0-34572300-1371774784_thumb.jpg

 

This is in Chugach National Park on the way to Soldotna from Anchorage.

 

post-25370-0-87200900-1371774826_thumb.jpg

This pair fought and played. They wandered to within 50 yards of us. We sat on the ground and watched for about 20 minutes.

 

post-25370-0-20895400-1371774912_thumb.jpg

 

Two more bears grazing the grass. We saw 14 different bears this afternoon.

 

post-25370-0-07178500-1371774992_thumb.jpg

 

Bear while hiking in Anchorage

 

post-25370-0-59877900-1371775049_thumb.jpg

 

Moose within 10 yards while hiking in Far Centennial North park

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

Denali:

 

Denali was a disappointment for us. We spent only a few days there, and were glad we did not have more time. Glitter Gulch is a tourist trap and has the glittery tourist stores. Not very impressive to us.

 

The sled dog demonstration at the ranger station is really good. Neat to see the dogs working and doing what they love. You can interact with the dogs and watch a short hook-up and demonstration.

 

Hiking around Denali is lovely, but not much better than other places we hiked. We did 3 hikes and did not see as many animals as other hikes we did. It was nice that it was a little cooler at elevation.

 

While driving into and around Denali, we did see moose, caribou and black bear. We did not see as much as we saw around anchorage, but it was outside of the city. We were not able to see the mountain any day we were there due to clouds. We heard that several of the flightseeing tours were cancelled each day.

 

post-25370-0-39593600-1371775162_thumb.jpg

 

Caribou in Denali

 

post-25370-0-29273900-1371775272_thumb.jpg

 

Mom and baby right outside Denali

 

post-25370-0-13086800-1371775330_thumb.jpg

 

One of the beautiful sled dogs in Denali

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

Our final stop was Seward:

 

We really thought Seward was a pretty fishing town. Nice Marina with as many boats as people in the Town. We did a Kenai Fjords tour (the long one- about 9 hours) and had a great time. We had multiple humpback sightings, a large pod of Orcas. Lots of sea lions and sea otters. We had great interactions with Dall’s porpoise. Birding on this trip was amazing. Too many to mention. Great landscapes and waterfalls. The glaciers were beautiful. We saw calving the size of a house. Easy to get a great view and close enough to hear. Lots of floating ice. We used Alaska Saltwater Lodge as our guide. We had a smaller boat (as opposed to the very large tour ships). I would recommend doing the smaller boats. Only 10 on our boat. 46 foot boat so we could all be on one side easily and move to each side as new things were spotted. Others did not have that luxury. Plus, with the small group, we had personal service, snacks, lunch and lots of time for questions and talking to the guides. This was a great day.

 

We hiked to exit glacier. Not too strenuous and worth the hike. Saw some brown bear in the area and lots of moose close, but none while we were hiking. If you make it to Seward, do this trip.

 

We did the Marine Sea Life center in Seward and had a nice half day visit. They do rescue and education. Don't expect a zoo like experience, but some good education, teaching, conservation and birds.

 

We had lots of eagle sightings, but Seward was the best. Up close, pairs, nests and even babies. We saw bear around town (black) as well as the brown around the drive in and around exit glacier.

 

Our favorite restaurant here was Schinooks. Great seafood restaurant overlooking the marina. Ate there twice it was so good.

 

We really enjoyed our trip and will be planning another when our daughters are older and can go with us. Couple of things we would learned:

 

  1. Spend less time in Denali. It is pretty, but not that different than other areas. Only place we saw Caribou, but the hiking and other animals were the same as elsewhere.
  2. People told us not too spend much time in Anchorage. We were glad we spent several days there and came back the last day to do more. You could hike a different trail everyday for a week and never be more than 10 minutes from anchorage. We saw bear and moose all over the city and in the parks. More to do than we were told.
  3. Spend some time in the Kenai peninsula. We loved Seward and want to try Homer next time. It is a beautiful area. Lots of wildlife.
  4. Go a little earlier in June before all the fly-fisherman and other busy tours starts. Adding another 10-20,000 people to the traffic and parks would not be fun. Glad we went when we did.

post-25370-0-75450200-1371775424_thumb.jpg

 

Another great Seward Eagle

 

post-25370-0-53241500-1371775552_thumb.jpg

 

Humpback in Resurrection bay

 

post-25370-0-38260000-1371775696_thumb.jpg

 

Holgate glacier calving. Happened 15 times during our lunch break here.

 

post-25370-0-79503500-1371775768_thumb.jpg

 

We sat at the bottom of Exit Glacier. Amazed at the amount of retreat over the past few years.

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

post-25370-0-58098400-1371775851_thumb.jpg

 

post-25370-0-40163600-1371775890_thumb.jpg

 

post-25370-0-10296600-1371775904_thumb.jpg

 

post-25370-0-81845500-1371775957_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
twaffle

Places I would love to visit and Seward sounds particularly good. I only hear good things about Homer, but it is usually about the eagle photography which I think is time specific. What is the smiling faced sea creature?

 

How wonderful to spend so much time with so many bears, bliss.

 

Hope Africa gives the goods for you as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites
SafariChick

Wonderful report, @@urologysteve - thank you so much, and terrific pictures! Making me even more excited for my trip! We'll be in Seward too and doing a 6-hour Kenai Fjords tour, we'll also spend a day driving slowly from Seward back to Anchorage and stopping at all the scenic places along the way. I'm a little unsure in reading your report - when you said you saw 14 different bears that day, were any in the Chugach National Forest? Or was that all at Lake Clark?

 

We didn't plan much time in Anchorage itself, sounds like we should have - next time! We're also taking 2 trips flying to places specifically for bear-viewing, Brooks Falls and Lake Clark National Park 2 nights at each. I see you went to Lake Clark too - we're staying 2 nights at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge there. Really looking foward to it. Your puffin shot is amazing - I've read you can't always see them that close on the boat trips! Also the whale, and the eagles - well all the photos! I'm surprised how many bears you saw just around town in Anchorage or Seward - look forward to seeing some moose myself too. We are not going to Denali at all, my husband was there 19 years ago and wasn't as enthused about it as some are so we decided to skip it this trip. Sounds like we'll see plenty of wildlife elsewhere. Thanks again for the report. Thanks for the tip on the restaurant in Seward too - will definitely check it out.

Edited by SafariChick
Link to post
Share on other sites
graceland

Interesting and good photos. Nice to see a report that is not all about the ship excursions. We may want to eventually head that way. Will wait for SC's reportto confirm :)

 

Hope Africa thrills you as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites
madaboutcheetah

Oh WOW - definitely on my list of places to go to!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sangeeta

What a whale shot! Wow!

 

Would love to hear a somewhat more detailed description of your Lake Clark/ bear excursion.

Link to post
Share on other sites
kitefarrago

I've been to Alaska twice and I must say I don't agree with all your assessments. I loved Denali, but to really see what it is about I think you have to stay deep in the park near the end of the road.

 

The first time I went we stayed just outside, did a bus trip into the park, and some activities near the gate. This was a small group tour with Explorer, and it gave me enough of an appetite for Alaska to make me want to `do it properly', so the second time we stayed right in Denali, and we spent a couple of nights at Brooks Falls too.

 

Denali is probably your best chance in Alaska to see wolf (although there are places in the lower 48 where your chances probably are even better), and I've had some very good bear sightings there, apart from caribou (unlikely outside the park unless you go a lot further away from Anchorage), you also get Dall sheep, and probably mountain goat.

 

And then there's the mountain - if she's out she's worth the trip!

 

Attached you'll find some pictures to whet your appetites:

 

First is from a flight-seeing trip in Denali, second is Denali at sunrise, third Denali as a chocolate-box landscape, then a wolf and lastly fall colours with moose. I hope that people might decide after seeing those that maybe Denali is worth seeing, after all.

 

I certainly agree with you that the area around Anchorage is probably under-rated and that Kenai Fjords National Park is very much worth seeing. Then there's Katmai with the bears...

 

Andrea

 

 

post-20026-0-90270500-1371830011_thumb.jpg

post-20026-0-15682000-1371830073_thumb.jpg

post-20026-0-48518900-1371830228_thumb.jpg

post-20026-0-23543000-1371830325_thumb.jpg

post-20026-0-20833700-1371830480_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
SafariChick

I do really want to see wolf and that's one of the reasons I'm regretting we're not going to Denali. We only had 8 nights/9 days to work with and we coudn't do everything! we would have had to cut out either Brooks Falls or Lake Clark to fit in Denali and I couldn't get myself to cut out either! But next time I would do Denali perhaps and it does sound like staying in the park deep in gives you a more wild experience.

 

@@urologysteve based on your strong recommendation, I just changed our lodging to Exit Glacier Lodge in Seward! I wasn't particularly in love with what we had reserved (Murphys Alaskan Inn) except it had a good location downtown - but it sounds like Exit Glacier Lodge isn't far out of town. We had been planning to stay in Anchorage the night before our Kenai Fjords trip after getting back from Brooks Falls at 5 pm but I was nervous about trying to drive down the same morning as an 11 a.m. boat trip anyway, so now I made a reservation for 2 nights at Exit Glacier Lodge (which really wasn't more expensive than the other place we had reserved but sounds nicer and better breakfast) and will cancel the Anchorage the night before Kenai Fjords. We'll just drive down from Anchorage the night before our boat trip and be able to have a leisurely morning in Seward before the cruise.

Link to post
Share on other sites
SafariChick
On 6/21/2013 at 7:51 AM, Sangeeta said:

What a whale shot! Wow!

 

Would love to hear a somewhat more detailed description of your Lake Clark/ bear excursion.

 

You might even say it's a "whale of a shot" ha ha :P @@kitefarrago beautiful pictures! The mountain is gorgeous but they say you have to be lucky to catch it "out" - and that wolf, wow, terrific photo. Where in Denali did you see the wolf?  I know wolves can be seen at Hallo Bay.  I'm hoping I might get really lucky and see a wolf at Brooks Falls - apparently they have learned to fish for salmon there like bears though I don't think they are seen that often http://www.alaskabearsandwolves.com/katmai-alaska/

Edited by SafariChick
Link to post
Share on other sites
graceland

Well, I am proud Alaska is one of our states...its' not been on my radar, but seeing these images changes the image in my head of cruise ships. (I get them in the mail daily).

 

Thanks for posting!

 

SC, youall are going to have a grand adventure. Bears and wolves; moose and mountains -oh yea.

Link to post
Share on other sites
kitefarrago

@@SafariChick thanks for your kind words regarding my pictures. Indeed, the mountain had remained hidden for three days of our stay, although those of us who'd booked the flightseeing got to see her once the plane got above the cloud. The morning we left, though, she was there in all her glory! Seeing Denali as the sun was rising was one of the highlights of the trip.

 

I've now twice done the trip with a bus deep into the park (private vehicles are not allowed beyond about 20km), and each time we had pretty good wildlife views. The first trip netted more than 30 brown bears, and both of them gave us moose, caribou, dall sheep, ptarmigan. Along the road I've also seen merlin, golden eagle, and wolf. We had four wolves, apparently the juvenile members of the local pack, along the road on the way out. I'm not sure where exactly it was (back then i didn't have a camera with a gps locator), but certainly it was further in than one can get to with a private vehicle. Maybe half the way to Polychrome Pass? The drivers are very, very good in terms of spotting wildlife, and the animals are accustomed to the vehicles. The wolves clearly preferred travelling on the road to the brush, which was quite thick at this point. They weren't with us for very long, but it was certainly a magical moment.

 

Andrea

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

@@SafariChick thanks for the kind words. You will enjoy the exit glacier lodge. Very cozy, warm, well decorated and friendly staff. Breakfast is nice. It is only about 1/2 mile out of town and the town is only about 3 miles long, so it won't take long to drive in. When you turn left out of the parking lot it is only a couple hundred yards to the main Seward highway. Directly across the street from the intersection is the eagles' nest I pictures. Above the wooden building. The 14 bears I mentioned was only during the 4 hours at Lake Clark. We saw about 35 during the week. As the summer goes on, the wildlife sightings will get better. The bears will come down to the running salmon and be easier to spot. The moose antlers will grow. But, the babies grow up and the crowds do too. Dall sheep can be spotted all along the Seward highway. Likewise moose, brown bear and black bear. May get lucky and see Belugas in the Turnagain arm.

 

@@Sangeeta the Lake Clark Excursion we did was through Great Alaska Adventures. Thy have a lodge in Soldotna. They picked us up in Anchorage and transported to the lodge for lunch and then the airport for a bush plane trip to Lake Clark. We took a 40 minute private place ride and landed on the gravel beach. They have an exclusive bear camp on the beach. It was part of a homestead from the 1960's. They have 3 full time guides that live on the island during the summer. Some people stay over in camp, others come out for the day. They have an elevated viewing platform and 2 rigged viewing areas about 1/2 mile each direction. WHen we were walking from one spot to the other, we saw bear on the beach and sat and waited for them to move closer. We stopped about 150 yards away. I never felt unsafe. The record in over 200 bear sightings in one day (probably repeats at different times). We saw 14 in 4 hours. Also saw a beautiful fox. Took off from the beach for the 40 minute flight back. The whale shot was one of 5 humpbacks we saw. This young one spent about 20 minutes flopping around the boat with rolls, spins and fins smacking the water repeatedly.

 

@@twaffle the smiling face animal is a stingray at the marine mammal center in Seward. I couldn't resist the posing he was doing.

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

@@kitefarrago nice photos. Thanks for sharing. Love the wolf picture. We may be wrong about Denali, but were surprised how many people told us the same thing we felt. Most the locals in Anchorage told us to "check it off our list." We saw Caribou about 60 miles south of the Denali entrance, so they can be seen outside the park. We saw far more bear in Lake Clark in 4 hours than 2 days in Denali. Same with moose. Tons of Dall sheep along the Seward highway. We quit keeping count over the week. Maybe 50+. I wish we could have seen your wolves, that we missed. We were told by park officials that Denali mountain is only see by about 30% of the visitors that come to Denali park. It is only visible about 20% of the time. We saw it when we were flying out and got a glimpse from the downtown in Anchorage. The clouds and weather just didn't cooperate.

 

We did get a glimpse of a wolverine, but no pictures. It was at exit glacier in Seward. Saw some golden eagle as well in Anchorage and down towards Seward. Lots of Ptarmagin, we saw them around anchorage on the trails quite a bit.

 

I'll admit we were a little put off by having to take a bus into the park and not being able to self drive. Perhaps that skewed our opinion. There is so much to see and do in Alaska, we just didn't feel the 4 hour drive up and 4 hour drive back was worth a repeat of the same animals again. Beautiful landscapes, but everywhere was beautiful. Maybe we didn't give it an adequate chance. Perhaps we should try it again some day.

 

THanks again for the pictures.

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

Interesting and good photos. Nice to see a report that is not all about the ship excursions. We may want to eventually head that way. Will wait for SC's reportto confirm :)

 

Hope Africa thrills you as well.

Thanks. We were not interested in a cruise. So many people do it and love it, but we aren't cruise people. We like to make our own way and own schedule. See the sites we want to see and plan the trip ourselves. You could spend 4 weeks in Alaska and never do a cruise and not touch half the state. So much to see and do.

 

Africa is still my favorite (despite how beautiful Alaska may be). Even with the amazing Alaskan wildlife, it pales compared to Africa. Headed back in 5 days! Lucky I got to do both. :rolleyes:

Link to post
Share on other sites
SafariChick

@@urologysteve thanks for the further info - very excited for our trip!! @@twaffle My 14-year-old daughter claims that what we're seeing on the Stingray's underside that appears to be a smiley face is actually its nostrils and mouth and that its eyes are on the top - she has kind of a photographic memory so she may be right, I'm not sure, but it sure looks like a smiley face to me too!

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

Couple of puffins on the cliffs. Funny to watch them try to land. They are so bad at taking off and landing they have to try it several times to get it right.

post-25370-0-69986800-1371862521_thumb.jpg

 

Another pic of the humpback playing around us

 

post-25370-0-01836800-1371862414_thumb.jpg

 

Rolling on his back

 

post-25370-0-66434000-1371862626_thumb.jpg

 

A Dall's porpoise swimming with the boat.

 

post-25370-0-99843900-1371862486_thumb.jpg

 

This eagle below was in Seward catching a drink.

 

post-25370-0-86391400-1371862665_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

@@SafariChick tell your daughter thanks for the help. She probably knows a lot more about stingrays than most of us.... :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
urologysteve

Don't know what type of bird this is (yet) but thought it is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

 

post-25370-0-38095900-1371862919_thumb.jpg

 

Also, here are a pair of horned puffins.

 

post-25370-0-62841300-1371863016_thumb.jpg

 

He are some sea lions lazing around resurrection bay

 

post-25370-0-91697000-1371863114_thumb.jpg

 

This is one of those "postcard" type landscapes. Three waterfalls as we were leading up the Surprise glacier and Holgate glacier.

 

post-25370-0-41868300-1371863246_thumb.jpg

 

This little guy was eating off his belly while floating around the bay.

post-25370-0-40576200-1371863312_thumb.jpg

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sangeeta

@@urologysteve - thanks for the details!

 

@@SafariChick - 'whale of a shot' indeed :D You said it best. Breaching and fin-slapping whales are high up there on my wish list, but I never manage to see them having as much as everyone else... Looking forward very much to reading your Alaska report. Sounds like a whale of a trip!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sangeeta

Oooh, nice puffins too! And an otter eating while floating on his back... I am seriously jealous.

Edited by Sangeeta
Link to post
Share on other sites
kitefarrago

@urologysteve: Great picture of the Dall's porpoise! I've never seen any of the parts that remain under water, so all I've ever seen is the dorsal fin and a bit of the back. I didn't realize one could get so close to them.

 

Your unknown bird is a male King eider. Very nice find too! And who could resist a sea otter... Your boat trip to Resurrection Bay was very productive. I've done boat trips there twice. We did get orca on the first one, which was nice, but the second one was hampered by a big storm keeping us close to Seward and not allowing as into the bay proper (Kenai Fjords NP was officially closed to all boats).

 

I agree that most places can't really compare to Africa just in terms of the sheer numbers and ever-presence of mammals. But it is nice to see a variety of animals, and these ones live in very different habitats.

 

It occurred to me a bit late that posting pictures into a thread for somebody else's trip report is questionable, so thank you for not taking offence.

Edited by kitefarrago
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy