Visiting Alaska

August 9, 2013

I know many people have Alaska on their bucket list of places to visit. The scenery is like no other and the opportunities are endless.

When you do travel to Alaska, remember that everything is pretty spread out, so chances aren’t you won’t be able to do everything or see everything. When my parents came for 8 days a couple of weeks ago, we went fishing and camping on the Kenai Peninsula and then up to Denali National Park. With just these two items on the agenda, it was a tight schedule but doable.

The first couple of days we spent our time fishing for salmon (reds) on the Kenai River.

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Unfortunately there was only one fish caught between my parents. We missed the salmon run by a week, so all the fish had already come through this area. (Typically, the run occurs in the middle of July, but it was a little earlier this year.) It was still fun being out on the water and enjoying the scenery.

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One day we ventured into the “metropolis” of Kenai and grabbed some coffee at Veronica’s. Veronica’s is a great place to grab lunch and/or coffee in its rustic setting on a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Kenai River.

If you are craving a burger, there’s always the Burger Bus in Kenai. Literally burgers sold out of an old bus.DSC_0018

After three days on the Kenai Peninsula, we traveled north to Denali National Park and Preserve. This was my second time to Denali. The first time was two summers ago when my aunt was here to visit. DSC_0024

Surprisingly life-long Alaskans don’t often travel to Denali that often either. Craig had only been to Denali once as a kid and had little recollection of the trip. And, actually, I think 50% of the people we saw we from a country other than the US.

We spent the first night at a campground right inside the park entrance—Riley Creek Campground.

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Once we got camp set-up, we walked down to the creek to check it out.Β  It was a beautiful night with beautiful scenery. DSC_0045

The next morning we boarded the Camper Bus that would take us all the way out to Wonder Lake, where we would be camping—much closer to the base of Mt. McKinley but still 20 miles away from the base.

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The bus ride took about 5.5 hours. I didn’t think it was that bad, but apparently Craig thought otherwise.

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We made frequent stops, plus animal spottings were enough to distract me from the length of the trip.

We saw a lot of bears!

DSC_0315Including this mama bear and two cubs that walked right behind our bus. (I apologize for the dirty bus window.)

DSC_0346The other cool animal sighting was a moose in the water. First he has his head submerged in the water eating, which we didn’t get a picture of.

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But then he went for a swim in the kettle pond–> the name given to these small pools of water. Very funny looking to see just his antlers above the water’s surface.

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During the bus ride, we also stopped periodically to take pictures of Mt. McKinley (a.k.a. Denali). This was the first sighting of her, but we were still a long ways away. That’s fireweed in the foreground, which is very iconic for Alaska.DSC_0058

Our traveling companions—my parents. Β  DSC_0107

We arrived at Wonder Lake early in the afternoon—85 miles from the entrance of the park.

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After settling in, we took a hike around the lake.

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We had to get around part of the lake in order to take pictures of Mt. McKinley in the background and the lake in the foreground. Unfortunately this picture does not do justice to the actual view. (Click here for some much better pictures.)DSC_0149

At times the mosquitoes were unbearable, so mosquito nets like this one were necessary. DSC_0225As evening drew to a close, the mountain revealed herself in all her majesty. It is not often the mountain is completely clear of clouds. They eventually all cleared by morning. What a beautiful sight.
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Craig, me, my mom, and my dadDSC_0280

After the bus ride out of the park, it was noon and time to grab some lunch. If you are ever in Denali, you must eat at Prospector’s Pizzeria. They have fabulous food. DSC_0358I had a huge salad (I couldn’t even finish it all!) and a slice of Craig’s Hawaiian-inspired pizza.

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A beautiful and sunny afternoon to be outside.

DSC_0359The last couple of days my parents were in town, we did the touristy things around Anchorage. One day went downtown to all the shops on 4th Avenue.

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They even met Star the reindeer who lives downtown. One time I saw his owner taking him for a walk on the Park Strip.

DSC_0381We went to Potter Marsh, which is a great place to see wildlife located on the edge of town.

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No big wildlife (bears, moose, etc.), but there are a ton of birds that live here. It is a bird-watchers paradise. We also saw some salmon that had spawned out.

DSC_0388For the bigger animals (primarily moose), we ventured to Kincaid park. Unfortunately we didn’t see any moose this time around, but whenever someone wants to see a moose, I recommend they go to Kincaid Park in the early morning or later evening since a lot of moose live in the park.

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And that concludes our adventures in The Last Frontier. It was a lot of fun having my parents come to visit and show them the things I often talk about. The time went by too fast before they were on the plane back home.

2 Comments
    1. I spent a lot of time in Denali park, this post makes my heart ache so badly. I’m actually planning a summer return next year (last two have been in Feb) and thinking of some major backcountry trip either in Denali or the Yukon-AK border (Chilkoot Trail).

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