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Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

Charlottesville...
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Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

Hello!

Here is a long overdue report from our trip in late August – early September. I read this forum for over a year while planning our trip, and appreciate all the information and tips I found. It certainly helped me to plan a fantastic trip! I have linked albums throughout the report. Enjoy!

DAY ONE – Sat, Aug 26 – After 3 long flights from the East Coast, we arrived in ANC around 2:30. We rented a RV from Great Alaskan Holidays and used their shuttle van to get from the airport to GAH. Once there, the orientation process was fairly painless, especially since we watched the videos on the GAH site ahead of time. We have never driven or really been in a RV before, so I was a bit nervous about this part of the trip. We rented a 28 foot RV for the 2 of us (adults in the our mid 30's) and while it was probably bigger than we needed, it was very manageable. Now, I say that as a person who did not drive it, my husband did all the driving and did a fantastic job. While big, it was nice to have extra room for all our luggage/boots/cold weather gear. I researched a lot about whether or not to take the extra CDW insurance and had mixed feelings about it, but in the end we did get it. We had no major problems so I guess it was a waste of money...but it gave me peace of mind during the trip. We also prepaid gas and propane which I knew was losing money but it was just another thing we didn't want to deal with on that last day. We did return it on gas fumes and hardly any propane left so I guess it wasn't too bad....I was just about making things as easy as possible, even if it cost a bit more.

After GAH we headed to Fred Meyer for supplies and then called in an pizza order to Moose's Tooth to pick up on the way out of town. Man, was that delicious! We drove down Turnagain Arm enjoying the beautiful scenery, it was spectacular even in the rainy weather. We camped overnight in Williwaw campground. I was initially worried about staying in a dry campground the first night, as I didn't have a clear picture of how the RV worked as far as hookups, heat, the bathroom, etc. Turns out it was totally fine. The camp restrooms were very nice, and we were able to run the generator during certain hours to keep everything powered up. If you are new to being in a RV, don't think you only have to stick to the full hookup places. Williwaw was very much a natural setting and was the most private campground we stayed in the entire trip. The only bad thing was it was too rainy to enjoy a nice campfire, but overall a great first day.

General Scenery photos from throughout the trip -

https://photos.app.goo.gl/EqrxwXiUPlOdDZbr2

More to follow....

~Jen

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Charlottesville...
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1. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

DAY TWO – Sun, Aug 27 – We started our day by walking the Trail of Blue Ice that is accessible from the Williwaw campground. It was a very level walk, interspersed with wooden walkways and a well maintained trail. I got some really great pictures and it was a great way to start off our first full day. I believe the trail was about 3 miles roundtrip.

After that, we packed up the RV and drove to Alpine Air in Girdwood to do the Glacier Dog Sledding Trip. This was amazing – a 10 min helicopter ride up to a glacier, time to pet/play with the dogs, a brief talk about the Iditarod and how they feed/train the dogs, a 2 mile sled ride, and of course, time to hold puppies! This is one of my favorite experiences of the trip.

We then headed to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center for a Behind the Scenes tour. The tour was given by an intern who did a great job. There were 4 of us in the group and we basically went around to all the different animal enclosures, with him telling us about how they acquired some of their animals and other stories we wouldn't have heard otherwise. We also got to feed some moose and then the highlight – hand feeding Snickers the Porcupine! We really enjoyed the Center and hearing about the great work they do. The “bear boardwalk” is a great design and we got some great pictures there. Overall, a beautiful setting with a variety of interesting, well care for animals – definitely a must see!

Dinner was at the Double Musky Inn – great cocktails/draft beer and pepper steak was an excellent way to end the day.

Dog sledding pics - https://photos.app.goo.gl/XcdZYHoD0F8fF7Ss1

Wildlife Conservation Center - https://photos.app.goo.gl/8fJjnrwLgia1WT2g2

Charlottesville...
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2. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

DAY THREE – Mon, Aug 28 – In our original plan, we had slated some time to do the Alyeska tram, but since we basically rode past it on our helicopter ride yesterday we decided to skip it. After stopping at Alpine Bakery for cinnamon rolls and an apple fritter, we made a trip back to Anchorage because we had a slight RV malfunction – one of the keys that opened the outside compartments (containing our firewood/grill/lawn chairs) had snapped off in the lock. Sigh. So back to GAH we went, to get a new key. It was annoying, especially since our plan for the day had us driving in the opposite direction, but what can you do? After that detour, it was a leisurely drive to Homer. We were lucky enough to see several moose grazing near the road – very cool! Once there, we checked into Heritage RV Park (full hookups), located right on the Spit. While it is just a large gravel parking lot, we had an waterfront site that allowed us to see otters playing in the water from our RV! It was very overcast and rainy for our time in Homer, but it actually made the mountains look really cool with the low laying fog.

Dinner was at the Little Mermaid. Reservations are needed, it is a small place but the food was excellent.

DAY FOUR – Tues, Aug 29 – Woke up and took a taxi to Bald Mountain Air for our bear viewing trip...but first a word about the taxis in Homer. From cars that looked shabby on a good day, no seat belts, and one driver who was finishing up watching some um, “adult” videos on his phone as we got in the car (didn't know this until my husband told me after the trip was over) our taxi experience was always “interesting”and we left (alive and in one piece!) with some good stories.

OK, back to bears. After a 1.5 hour talk with the pilots of Bald Mtn about our bear adventure at Katmai National Park and getting geared up, we took off in our float planes. After getting about 60% of the way there, we unfortunately had to turn back around due to ice building up on the wings of the plane. While disappointing, I trust the pilots and they handled everything very professionally. We were able to reschedule for the next day but this had eaten up a large part of the day. Afterwards, we walked around the Spit some, did some shopping and just generally relaxed until it was time for dinner at Cafe Cups. We both loved this restaurant, even more than Little Mermaid. My husband had steak topped with prosciutto and pancetta that he declared “in his top 5”. We liked the vibe there with all the eclectic art and friendly waitstaff.

Anchorage, Alaska
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3. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

LOving the report. I especially like your decisions to pay a little extra to make your trip more relaxing.

Centerville, Ohio
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4. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

All of your research paid dividends.

Thanks for your Trip Report.

United States
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5. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

Really enjoying the detail in your trip report so far! Sounds like you had an amazing time.

Fremont, California
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6. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

Nice pictures. I am enjoying reading your trip report. Thanks for writing.

Charlottesville...
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7. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

DAY FIVE – Weds, Aug 30 – Reschedule of our bear trip to Katmai National Park/Brooks Falls, this time everything went perfectly! This was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad we did it. My original plan was to do an overnight bear trip at Silver Salmon Lodge, but I had to change my dates and there was no availability. This trip was everything I hoped for, despite the rain. Actually, the rain may have kept some people away as the platform were not crowded at all. In fact, we had the lower platform (the one away from the falls) to ourselves for quite awhile, with a family of bears 20 feet below us! We got some great pictures and we felt so lucky to be able to do this. I highly recommend Bald Mountain Air and our pilot Rick!

After landing we checked out Homer Brewing Company for some excellent beer (this will be a common theme, haha). Our exciting day (and several rounds of beer) left us quite tired so our dinner reservations at AJ's Steakhouse were cancelled in favor of picking up pizza at Finn's (delicious) and eating it in front of our fire overlooking the Spit. Perfection.

Bears at Katmai - https://photos.app.goo.gl/KFUsRji2shoB0P1S2

DAY SIX - Thurs, Aug 31- Today we drove to Seward, we didn't make too many stops as I wanted to get there around noon to snag a waterfront RV space. We managed to get one easily and then walked over to the Alaskan SeaLife Center where we had octopus and puffin encounters scheduled. They were both excellent and getting to “shake hands” with an octopus and hand feed puffins was well worth the cost. It was also neat to see the baby walrus get his bottle feeding. Overall, we really enjoyed the Center and walking along the waterfront. Afterwards we sampled more local beer at the Seward Brewing Company then ate dinner at The Cookery. The food was amazing and for dessert, a dutch baby with cream cheese ice cream....incredible.

Seward pics - https://photos.app.goo.gl/OEQpBkaTjrlVrH1p2

Maryland
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8. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

Wow! awesome bear pictures!

Charlottesville...
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9. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

DAY SEVEN – Fri, Sept 1 – We did the 6 hour Kenai Fjords cruise with Major Marine. A definite “must-do” if in the area, we had a wonderful time and got so many good pictures. It was definitely cold, windy and overcast, with rain on and off. Make sure you dress warmly so you can spend the maximum time out on the decks. While it was nice to have assigned seating, we basically used it just to eat a quick lunch at and leave our stuff. We spent pretty much all our time outside of the heated cabin, which was not bad as long as you were bundled up. The scenery and chance wildlife sightings were just too cool (and sometimes too quick!) to want to sit inside. The ride was rocky at times and several people looked quite green, including my husband. However, I blame that more on his choice to have 2 “extra spicy” Bloody Marys (not the smartest choice).The salmon/prime rib meal was slightly above average (poor hubby was still in horseradish induced intestinal distress and skipped the meal) and the hot chocolate/coffee drinks were quite good, if not cheap. Afterwards we went back to Seward Brewing Co for beer followed by dinner at Thorns. I enjoyed the “bucket of butt” while my husband finally got to enjoy some Prime Rib (side dish of tator tots, haha). Loved the décor and feel of the place, very unlike anywhere else we went.

Kenai Fjords - https://photos.app.goo.gl/lHIclUUBG1erdafq1

DAY EIGHT – Sat, Sept 2 – We left Seward and headed to Palmer. Even though I knew it would be crowded, I had us stopping at the State Fair. If I had to do it all over again I would definitely skip it. The traffic was pretty horrendous, parking the RV a pain, and the fair just plain packed. Maybe if it had been during the week it would have been more enjoyable. Oh well, live and learn. We didn't stay long before heading to our AirBNB (“Bodenburg Butte House, Queen Room”) in Palmer, which I booked as a “break” from the RV. It was a room in a lovely home with a hot tub facing a gorgeous view. A bonus was the 2 friendly cats that lived there. As we no longer have a cat, only dogs, so it was nice to get a kitty fix. The hosts were so nice and we enjoyed getting to know them. Highly recommended!

After settling in, we went to the Reindeer Farm which was just down the street and an easy walk. We enjoyed our time here and would recommend stopping if you are in the area. Afterwards we were in a bit of the bind – we wanted to go out to dinner but didn't want to drive so we could both enjoy some drinks (and parking the RV is a pain). Even though I figured it was a long shot, I checked Lyft....and found a driver! So we took a Lyft to Palmer City Alehouse for a nice low-key dinner (impressive draft selection!) and then used yet ANOTHER Lyft driver to take us back. It worked out great, I wasn't expecting to see Lyft service outside of Anchorage so that was a pleasant surprise.

Reindeer Farm - https://photos.app.goo.gl/VD2k3A58uBrLhyzR2

Charlottesville...
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10. Re: Trip Report, Aug/Sept 2017, RV land tour

DAY NINE – Sun, Sept 3 – We woke up early to head to MICA Guides for an Ice Fall Trek on Matanuska Glacier. The drive there was incredible but a little hair-raising in the RV. Just amazing views with each turn of the road, it was worth white knuckling through some of the sharp turns. The glacier trek was unlike anything we have ever done before and so worth the time and money. It is a surreal, alien-like landscape and to do it justice you need to take a tour with a trained guide. It was scary to see people trying to walk (fall) around in tennis shoes and barely a jacket. Yikes! This was my husband's favorite activity and I enjoyed it as well.

After the trek we braved the beautiful twisty mountain roads again to head to Talkeetna. We got settled in at Talkeetna Camper Park (full amenities, but just a gravel lot with sites very close to one another) and then walked into town for some shopping and food. We purchased a print from Aurora Dora and then enjoyed a beer sampler in the beer garden at Denali Brewing Company (the weather was gorgeous!). After that we had a pricey but good dinner at Wildflower Cafe. They had a large party that took up most of the restaurant so service suffered but the food was great. In the middle of our meal they also asked if 2 people could join our 4 seater table, which I thought was really odd. We are not the most social and were looking for a quiet dinner so we declined...but it was weird. I mean, I'm paying you $35+ an entree.....I don't know, it was just strange. Never experienced anything like that before. We were so taken back, I hoped we didn't come off as rude. Oh well. Back to the Camper Park for some rest.

Matanuska Glacier - https://photos.app.goo.gl/7SMiXhBdRUzFpmJt1

DAY TEN – Mon, Sept 4 (LABOR DAY) – Breakfast at Talkeetna Roadhouse – Now this was a place I was expecting the family style seating and that was fine. We meet some nice people and had some interesting conversations. We loved the food and the vibe here. The Black and Blue hotcakes were out of this world. We took some of those amazing cinnamon rolls to go (the box weighed a ton!).

Then it was off to Denali! We stopped at Riley Creek Mercantile to get our campground info/shuttle tickets/fill RV tanks and then drove to Savage River campground to pick out a site. I had read the drive to/from Savage River is usually a good place to see animals but we were not lucky in that regard. Still, so beautiful and after planning this trip and reading tons about Denali it was surreal to actually be here! The fall colors were really popping and it was just gorgeous. We then drove to Healy to check out 49th State Brewery (can you tell we are all about craft beer?). What a cool place that is! Loved the inside fire pit table, very cool. Enjoyed the beer and a few appetizers. Ended up taking some food to-go (the buffalo meatloaf was especially good).

Kept our eyes peeled for moose (or anything else!) on the way back to Savage River but no luck. We hiked a bit around the campground, made a fire and just relaxed. Great day.

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