Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

Danali the high mountain

Maybe it was the time of year we went to Alaska – late may to early June, but we were lucky enough to see Denali, “the high one” as it is known in the native Athabascan language, four days straight.

The deck of our lodge was perfect for a double, informative view of Mt. Mckinley

The deck of our lodge was perfect for a double view of Mt. Mckinley, real and on an info board

Denali, which most people know as Mt. McKinley, is 20,320 feet above sea level. At that height, tallest in North America, it could be excused if it did have its head in the clouds.

To put it in some perspective, the world’s highest mountain above sea level, Mt. Everest in the Himalayas, is 29,029. Kilimanjaro, the summit of Africa, is 19,334 ft.

But even if we had not seen the mountain in its sun reflecting glory, just taking a bus tour of Denali National Park would have made the trip to the park worthwhile.

First designated as Mt. McKinely National Park in 1917, the park is a haven for Dall sheep, moose, grizzlies, caribou, birds and plants. Aside from the park life, Mt. Mckinley is part of the 600 mile long Alaska Range which provides plenty of backdrop scenery.

We stayed in two lodges, the first one just outside Denali National Park and the second one inside the park. Both were owned by Princess.

We left the area at Talkeetna to board a train to Anchorage and our return flight home. But Talkeetna is more than a railroad stop. The town, about 100 miles from Denali National Park’s entrance, is home to the Talkeetna Ranger Station. Everyone who plans to climb Mt. McKinley must check in at the ranger station for a permit and orientation.

Our party toasted our Alaskan vacation with Denali as a backdrop

Our party toasted our Alaskan vacation with Denali as a backdrop

We were lucky to see Mt. Mckinley four days without its head in the clouds

We were lucky to see Mt. Mckinley four days without its head in the clouds

Tips

If in Talkeetna, go to the ranger station on B Street even if not mountain climbing. Pinpoints on a map on the wall show where current climbers are. When we stopped in there were several expeditions on their way up or down the mountain judging by all the pinpoints. Rangers at the station are happy to talk about climbing or visiting the park. The town is also a fun place to browse shops and stop for refreshment.

Check out Alaska Railroad as a way to tour the state.

Now it’s all aboard for our trip home.

Coming Next: Travel tips to take some of the hassle out of summer driving trips

All photos (c) toJodie Jacobs (JJ)

Alaska by land

Alaska, land and sea, are two shiny sides of the same valuable coin. If at all possible, try to fit in both. The thought that someday you can go back and do the other portion is almost as good as saying someday I’ll look younger.

After crossing Prince William Sound our land adventure began at the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Copper River.

Again, we chose Princess because the cruise line has lodges in Alaska so we didn’t have to make separate arrangements. However, a traveler can find other accommodations in the area because of its terrific fishing location at the junction of the Copper and Klutina Rivers.

The lodge is also about four miles from Wrangell-St.Elias National Park’s visitor center.  Good mountain photography views abound, just take the bear warning signs seriously if hiking park or lodge trails.

The view from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitors Center

The view from the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park Visitors Center

While boating the rivers in the area we saw bears and eagles competing for salmon. Our salmon dinner was pretty good though we didn’t fish. We just enjoyed the action and scenery.

Bears, eagles and other birds compete for salmon along the Copper River and its tributaries

Bears, eagles and other birds compete for salmon along the Copper River and its tributaries

Fishing setups are a common sight on the Copper and the Klutina tributary

Fishing setups are a common sight on the Copper and the Klutina tributary

Coming Next: Denali

Haines and College Fjord are off the beaten path

Haines

Our ship stopped at Haines, an off-the-beaten-path town that is home to the Chilkat Indians, Fort William H. Seward and down the road from the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

Now a historic site, Fort Seward has shops, restaurants and an Indian crafts center

Now a historic site, Fort Seward has shops, restaurants and an Indian crafts center

Decommissioned in 1947 and named a historic landmark in 1972, Fort Seward now has shops, restaurants, private homes and an Indian heritage center.

Located on the Lynn Canal, the Haines area is known for its forests, fishing and scenic beauty.

More about Haines

College Fjord

You might not expect to find Harvard, Amhurst and Yale this far northwest. But when the 1899 Harriman Expedition came upon a fjord filled with glaciers tucked into the northern part of Prince William Sound, the group decided to name them after Eastern US colleges. Harvard is distinctive for its face about 1.5 miles across.

As a fjord, the area is not as wide a watery expanse as Glacier Bay but its long, narrow confines is home to several glaciers. There are about five each of good-sized valley and tidewater glaciers and about an other six smaller glaciers.  The fjord is perfect for photo-album snaps.

College Fjord is perfect for snapping glaciers for the trip album

College Fjord is perfect for snapping glaciers for the trip album

Several glaciers ring College Fjord at Prince William Sound west of Valdez

Several glaciers ring College Fjord at Prince William Sound west of Valdez

We crossed Prince William Sound to Whittier to start our land adventure.

Tips: Try to book an excursion that includes Sitka. A beautiful town that still maintains its Tlingit Indian and Russian heritages, Sitka is on the western side of Baranof Island.  Our ship stayed to the Inside Passage, thus skipping Sitka.

Coming Next:  Alaska by land

Juneau, gateway to the glaciers

Imagine a short ride up the street from your state’s capital to dead end at a gigantic, year-round block of ice. As Alaska’s capital, Juneau is worth a visit, but if you have never walked or been bussed on the Columbia Ice Fields in Alberta Canada, then do so on the Juneau Icefield.

Oohs & camera clicks sound passing the Mendenhall and other glaciers on our spectacular cruise

Oohs & camera clicks sound, passing the Mendenhall and other glaciers on our spectacular cruise

You can take a “flightseeing” tour of the Icefield that includes landing on it and a lesson in how to hike the ice and information on what you are seeing. You can also get a close-up look of arguably Juneau’s most familiar name: the Mendenhall Glacier. To do a flightseeing tour arrange ahead of time with TEMSCO, a veteran Alaskan flight company.

We have walked the Columbia Ice Fields so our choice was to see Mendenhall through our ship’s tour but arrange for whale watching on our own.

Because we arrived before the main tourist season we were able to walk up to a hut on the pier and book the next boat out from Orca Enterprises with Capt. Larry. Not only did he know where to go to find pods of whales, he also knew the islands and channels where we could see eagles and other wildlife. Plus, the boat was small so we could get up close and were not part of a large group.

You have to be quick to catch whales surfacing.

You have to be quick to catch whales surfacing.

An eagle watches for other eagles who land on the tiny grop of rocks

An eagle watches for other eagles who land on the tiny group of rocks

Sea lions jostle to be king of the hill

Sea lions jostle to be king of the hill

As beautiful as we heard Alaska was, we still were not prepared for so many awesome sights. And we hadn’t yet seen Glacier Bay National Park

For more info
TravelJuneau
whalewatching
TEMSCO flightseeing

Coming Next: Glacier Bay National Park

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