Author Topic: Alaska?!  (Read 4959 times)

Jaguar Paw

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Alaska?!
« on: May 29, 2017, 08:13:04 PM »
Headed to Alaska this summer and wondering if anyone had some can't miss things they did while up there. We will be in Juneau for 4 days, Homer for 4, Denali for 3 days, and Anchorage for 2. We will also be in Seattle for a few days if you feel like throwing in cool stuff to do there. Note: this trip isn't very mustachian but most of it was at least paid for by Credit Card Churning. Thanks!

crazy jane

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2017, 08:30:13 PM »
Go swimming. Seriously, it's invigorating. Also kayak and bring bear mace if you go hiking.

Sailor Sam

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2017, 09:34:46 PM »
Alaska State Museum in Juneau is really great. Hike up Mt Roberts, and take the tram back down. There's also various levels of hiking at Mendellhall Glacier.

Homer is very oriented towards cruise ship tourist, with lots of shops that are fun to look at. There's also some great art stores. Be sure and go to The Salty Dowg Saloon, out on the spit. Eat some halibut, pretty much anywhere. There are also many amazing hikes around Homer, as well. Or Ask around to see if there's a krill bloom anywhere near, then ask around for someone to take you to see the humpbacks feeding.

The most touristy thing I ever did in AK was a Kodak bear flight to Katmai National Park. It was amazing, and worth every red cent.


jeromedawg

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2017, 09:42:03 PM »
If you can make your way to the Yukon (e.g. Klondike Hwy from Skagway to Emerald Lake), DO IT. And stop off on the side of the road where possible for short hikes to the water/wilderness. We did this as a bus tour (didn't have a car) while in Skagway for a day (off a cruise) and it was the most memorable experience. Well, particularly the part where I convinced the bus driver to show me one of his favorite fishing spots and dropped me off to fly fish for arctic grayling a couple hours - I waded into the river a little bit and it was one of the most peaceful experiences in my entire life. If you like to fish and can fit in any sort of fishing trip (whether it's halibut/cod/rockfish fishing, salmon fishing, saltwater or freshwater), it's definitely a must-do.

Cowardly Toaster

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2017, 10:14:16 AM »
You're going to have a blast. I'd hit Talkeetna if I were you, it is in between Anchorage and Denali.

Lanthiriel

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2017, 05:46:48 PM »
Are you driving? A lot of people like Homer, but I'm a Seward person myself. There are always otters, and sometimes the occasional seal, by the shore and I can watch them for hours. The scenery is gorgeous too with the mountains crashing right into the water. The museum there is ridiculous and tiny, but plays an interesting movie about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1964. The hike up to Exit Glacier is challenging, but worth it, and it's one of the few places you can easily access ice fields. If you really want to play tourist, I've never been disappointed by their scenic wildlife tours. If you go, I suggest doing the 8-hour one out to the big glacier (can't remember the name).

The thing about Alaska is that there isn't a lot "to do" the way there is in typical tourist destinations. You just have to be outside and look at things. Three days in Denali might be rough if you're not doing a pass into the park every day. I would recommend doing the basic on and off pass instead of the fancy tourist bus. It lets you hop on and off all along the road, so you can hike at your leisure. 49th State Brewery in Healy is good food, and has the Into the Wild bus, which is always amusing.

In Anchorage, I would plan to spend one day on Turnagain Arm. The Winner Creek Trail behind Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is one of my favorites, though you might be bored of giant trees after spending time in Southeast. The Double Musky Inn is a must for dinner. I have a bizarre love for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. You'll probably see a lot of Alaska animals out on your adventures, but it's nice to get to see them up close. It's also only 10 minutes from Portage, which has some great glacier viewing.

I just moved away from Anchorage last winter because of Alaska's failing economy, but if you have any questions about your plans for Anchorage/Homer/Denali, I'd be happy to help!

canyonrider

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2017, 10:55:15 AM »
Some Juneau suggestions, based on living there for a couple of summers a decade ago:

- Hiking: Mt. Roberts up/tram down as previously suggested is a great one, regardless of weather. You can even get a beer at the top before heading down. Another beautiful hike right from downtown is the Perseverance Trail, which you can do as an out-and-back of varying lengths. If the weather is clear, and assuming most snow has melted out, it's also worth getting up on one of the ridges above treeline. For example, hike the ridge above the Mt. Roberts tram terminal, or hike up Mt. Juneau and then follow the ridge towards Granite (?) Peak. A great longer (and steep) hike up high near Mendenhall Glacier is Mt. McGinnis.

- Sea kayaking: rentals out of Auke Bay. Paddle from there or drive your boat up to Berner's Bay at the end of the road. Milkshakes at the burger stand at Auke Bay when you're done.

- Tours: you can spend a fortune on all manner of guided adventures by air, land, and water. The one I would recommend as "worth it" is a Tracy Arm boat tour.

- Evenings/Misc.: Picnic and hang out at Eagle Beach. Tide-pooling at the Shrine. Brewery tour/tasting at the Alaskan Brewing Co. Dinner at The Hangar. Live music and cheap beer at the Alaskan Hotel. Late night- Russian dumplings and John Prine records at the little dumpling place in the same building as The Hangar.

Juneau's a great town. Enjoy!

SEAK

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2017, 12:16:37 PM »
We've lived here in Juneau for the past 14 years and the suggestions above are pretty spot on. I'd also add that there are a number of Forest Service and State Cabins that can be reserved in or near town. Access to the cabins are drive-up, hike-in, or float plane/boat access depending on the location. Cheaper options for lodging would be camping at the Mendenhall Glacier or Auk Village Campgrounds.

http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/south

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=78617&actid=101

Camping at what is locally referred to as Boy Scout Beach is pretty much as good as it gets on a sunny day. Access there is hiking, biking, or kayaking.

If you have any more Juneau specific questions let me know.

spokey doke

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2017, 12:59:48 PM »
If you have a chance to get on the water, it is a pretty incredible way to take in a lot of great scenery and wildlife...I'd gladly just spend a day on a ferry gawking at the view

Jaguar Paw

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2017, 12:16:46 PM »
Wow, Thanks for all of the awesome replies! A couple of things: we absolutely love the outdoors, and I feel most at peace when running and hiking in the mountains and other wilderness areas. Coming from Houston, my family will love to sit, drink coffee, look at trees, and hike.We are traveling with my father, who isn't in the best health in the world, so camping is kind of out of the question, or else we would be doing that for sure. We have reserved some moderately priced homes from VRBO  in the towns already described. We are also traveling with our 1 year old, but she is kinda just like a squirmy 25 pound backpack :).

To address all of the awesome things y'all have said:

We will be renting a car for the few days and Juneau, and renting a car to drive between anchorage, homer, denali.

Juneau: We have already planned on doing Mt. Roberts (I can run up and dad can tram it up), the Tracy Arm glacier tour. Is the Mendenhall glacier worth seeing? Any other hike suggestions are awesome too! I didn't even think of food. Russian dumplings? Can't wait. Also...Eagle Beach looks so cool. thank you for that.

Homer: We want to do at least one fishing trip. I love bears, so we'll be flying to one of the bear place, Katmai.

Denali: Can't wait to see the largest mountain in North America. We can stare at wildlife and nature for hours. We will be excited to just play Cribbage and other board games while appreciating good company and nature.

Anchorage: We had more planned on Anchorage as a middle point but if it is worth staying in a bit, we would love to do stuff there too.

Thanks so much for helping with our sweet vacation.

starbuck

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2017, 06:29:29 PM »
On the drive from Anchorage to Denali, I recommend stopping at the Talkeetna Roadhouse for food. Such a wonderful spot. We stopped there on the way there AND back.

Denali is out of this world. A couple FYIs, you're not allowed to drive a personal vehicle very far into the park so you'll need to use the park buses (glorified school buses) to travel farther. You're allowed to get on and off the bus anywhere you'd like and hike anywhere you'd like as long as there are no obvious hazards like a fresh kill. To take the bus all the way in to the last visitor center and back out is something like 12 hours. We camped at one of the campgrounds so never bothered to make it that far in. But the scale of Denali and it's true wilderness is stunning and fabulous, it was my favorite part of the trip.

Compared to the rest of our Alaskan trip, Anchorage was nothing to write home about. I mean, it's got some really tough competition.

When hiking, no joke, watch out for bears. And uh, wolves in Denali.

And when you tell anyone that you're from Texas, they will kindly point out that Alaska is twice as big. Just a heads up. :)

bacchi

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2017, 09:43:28 PM »
Bring DEET and lots of it. Denali, especially at Wonder Lake, has a LOT of mosquitoes. A mosquito hat might be a good idea, too.

Daisy

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2017, 10:09:13 PM »
The drive from Anchorage to Seward is amazingly beautiful! Once in Seward you can take a day boat tour on a relatively small boat that gets you up and close to the glaciers. Then rent a sea kayak and paddle around the glaciers. Then go see Kenai Fjords National Park. The good thing is the sun sets really late in the summer so you can do these things until 11pm!
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 06:58:23 PM by Daisy »

canyonrider

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2017, 11:05:39 AM »


Juneau: We have already planned on doing Mt. Roberts (I can run up and dad can tram it up), the Tracy Arm glacier tour. Is the Mendenhall glacier worth seeing? Any other hike suggestions are awesome too! I didn't even think of food. Russian dumplings? Can't wait. Also...Eagle Beach looks so cool. thank you for that.


Yes, Mendenhall is worth seeing, even if you just do the visitor center/tourist viewpoint. There are a few good hikes in that area, some of which provide better views of the glacier than others. IIRC, East Glacier trail has a few good viewpoints. West Glacier trail on the other side of the lake gets you closer to the ice.

SEAK

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2017, 04:49:00 PM »
Some easy but awesome Juneau activities for dad and the young one... Check out the Arboretum and the Shrine of St. Therese both of which are free and would combine nicely with Eagle Beach.

http://www.juneau.org/parkrec/arboretum-main.php

http://www.shrineofsainttherese.org/holy-grounds

Another free activity would be to walk the docks at Auke Bay to check out the boats and maybe see some sea lions, seals, or a whale. Then stop by Deharts and buy a bundle of wood for a bonfire at one of the first come first serve shelters at Auk Rec. Shelters are on the beach and it's a great place for the little one to dig in the sand. 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recarea/?recid=78753

Another idea since you have your own rental house is to stop by Hooked Seafoods  and buy some fresh King Salmon for the bbq and Dungeness Crab. 

Perseverance Trail for a run is about as good as it gets. Or for a world class hike go up Mt. Juneau then continue along the Juneau Ridge to Granite Creek Basin then back down to the Perseverance Trail (leave the kiddo w/ Grandpa for this one).  Mt. Roberts trail is nice but the place is overrun with cruise ship tourists at the tram. Continue past the tram to Mt. Roberts to get away from the crowds. Mt. Jumbo is also a great hike but not for the entire family.



Juneau: We have already planned on doing Mt. Roberts (I can run up and dad can tram it up), the Tracy Arm glacier tour. Is the Mendenhall glacier worth seeing? Any other hike suggestions are awesome too! I didn't even think of food. Russian dumplings? Can't wait. Also...Eagle Beach looks so cool. thank you for that.


Yes, Mendenhall is worth seeing, even if you just do the visitor center/tourist viewpoint. There are a few good hikes in that area, some of which provide better views of the glacier than others. IIRC, East Glacier trail has a few good viewpoints. West Glacier trail on the other side of the lake gets you closer to the ice.

Eric

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2017, 06:37:30 PM »
Are you driving? A lot of people like Homer, but I'm a Seward person myself. There are always otters, and sometimes the occasional seal, by the shore and I can watch them for hours. The scenery is gorgeous too with the mountains crashing right into the water. The museum there is ridiculous and tiny, but plays an interesting movie about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1964. The hike up to Exit Glacier is challenging, but worth it, and it's one of the few places you can easily access ice fields. If you really want to play tourist, I've never been disappointed by their scenic wildlife tours. If you go, I suggest doing the 8-hour one out to the big glacier (can't remember the name).

That doesn't sound like much of a selling point.  Hopefully you mean the reverse, because otherwise, it's been nice knowing you Jaguar Paw!

Bobberth

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Re: Alaska?!
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2017, 12:52:38 PM »
I visited my aunt and uncle 3 times while they lived in Palmer including one entire summer. Not that I didn't enjoy the rest of the stuff that has been mentioned, but by far the most memorable for me was Matanuska Glacier. You can get out and climb/hike on the glacier and the experience and the views are amazing! Climbing (nothing technical, basically just a hike) over a ridge and seeing a bright blue 'lake' surrounded by blue ice was absolutely stunning. It's the whole experience-you see and touch the amazing beauty up close and personal, you feel the cold and you can hear the roar of the melt coming off the glacier. Denali is amazing but this was a different experience with all of the senses engaged and the adventure of exploring the glacier. If I remember right, it's probably a day trip there and back from Anchorage so with only 2 days, you'll have to balance out what you want to do.

Also, stay up late. The amount of sunlight at night is mind blowing when you're from the south. When I drove the first time, I looked down at the clock and it was 1230am. I didn't actually need to for any safety reasons but I decided to turn my lights on just because it was after midnight.