It’s been a dream of mine to visit as many National Parks as possible but I thought Alaska would be a hard one to achieve. I just knocked off another National Park from my list by visiting Denali National Park when we needed to take a trip to visit some of my husband’s clients. Andy’s company services the cruise industry so we were able to visit many of the ports that the cruise ships stop at for excursions for their vacationers.
First Stop – Anchorage, Alaska
We started our trip flying into Anchorage right before the July 4th holiday. We rented a truck so that we could easily explore the area. I had forgotten that in July it’s sunny for about 20 hours a day in Alaska so when we arrived at 10 pm and had a hard time finding a restaurant I realized why. We found a quick bite to eat and then headed off to bed to try and head off the jet lag. Andy had a meeting the next morning so while he was away I researched some trails near our hotel so afterwards we could head out for a hike to experience the beautiful Alaskan mountain range. We hiked the Flattop Sunnyside Trail in Chugach State Park and it was a workout! (Probably not a good idea to hike while experiencing jet lag – it was only a 3.5 mile hike but it was brutal with an elevation gain of 1,650 feet.) The scenery was breathtaking and the temperatures were wonderful. It was a nice break from the sultry summer weather of North Carolina. Later, we explored Anchorage and visited a few breweries and restaurants over the next few days. We caught ourselves so many times saying, “Let’s go have a glass of wine and watch the sunset on that rooftop bar,” only then to laugh and remember we won’t see the sunset!
Next Stop – Talkeetna, Alaska
After Anchorage, we headed up to Talkeetna to begin our journey to Denali National Park staying at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. We opted not to take the highly rated train experience because that would take 8 hours so instead we took an air taxi with Talkeetna Air Taxi. We only had a couple of days there and didn’t want to spend it traveling to get to places. The air taxi experience was unique because we got to see Denali and its other peaks up close and personal while landing on one of its glaciers. We even got to see a basecamp for a group of hikers! We were also blessed to join the 30% club we learned. Our weather was sunny and fantastic and apparently only 30% of those who visit Denali get to see it because of the usual cloud cover that hides the peak. This experience only took two hours out of our day, which allowed us time to grab a pizza afterwards and wander through the small village of Talkeetna. We still needed something to do for the afternoon so we booked an excursion with Sled Dog Tours, aka Dallas Seavey Racing. This was really fun and highly recommended because we actually got to ride in the trainers for the dogs and they pulled us through miles of dirt roads. We learned all about Iditarod dogs, the race itself, how they train and why they are the champions they are. Dallas Seavey is a 5 time Iditarod champion and when you see his dogs and learn about his training and feeding program, you’ll understand why. One of my highlights was holding puppies at the end of the tour with my dusty and dirty face!
Juneau, Alaska – Huge Cruise Destination & Day Trip To Hoonah
Next we traveled to Juneau, the capital of Alaska, for a day trip to Hoonah. At Hoonah, we checked on another customer of Andy’s at a cruise ship port and visited the small village of Icy Strait Point. Andy supplies bollards and fenders to the piers where the ships dock up so it was cool to see his products in action. We also perused many of the historical museums and learned about the Tlingit people. Their totem poles and art are scattered throughout southeastern Alaska but the entire Hoonah village seemed to be a hub for their history. It was captivating to learn how the encroaching glaciers from Glacier Bay forced them to move and settle in Hoonah. The village was small so just one day of touring was adequate for this trip.
Last Stop – Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan was our next port to visit and this was a larger port town than Hoonah. The airport was situated on a tiny island so we actually had to take a ferry off the airport island into the city. We stayed at a quaint inn called the Black Bear Inn. We loved this place because we had an entire one bedroom apartment to ourselves. The view was amazing and there was an outdoor kitchen and patio to watch the cruise ships pass by. One of the best parts was talking with the owners, Jim and Nicole. The stories that Jim shared of his life in Alaska were amazing. He can tell a great story and you’ll hear about his experiences as a DuPont Explosive distributor, float plane pilot, tugboat operator, fisherman and business owner. We were generously cared for by this couple. A friend of mine told me the fishing is amazing in Ketchikan so I hope to get to head back to fish and stay at this inn again.