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How best to do this!

Santa Barbara...
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How best to do this!

Hi! My husband and I will be visiting Alaska in June/July 2008 and I want to do the following: (we will be flying in and out of Anchorage)

Talkeetna - Homer - Seward - Whittier - Girdwood - McCarthy/Kennicott

I'm debating about Denali, simply because of the crowds and expect I will see lots of wildlife and mountains in other places. But if it is a must see, we can do it.

In Homer we want to go bear watching; in Seward we want to do the Kenai Fjords; in Whittier we want to cruise Prince William Sound. We also will go flightseeing in one or more places.

I was thinking of a trip of about 18-21 days - and we will of course have a car. What would be the best route to take, starting out and ending up in Anchorage? Thanks for your advice!

Merrimack, NH
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1. Re: How best to do this!

Hi 2EMAJIN

I spent 10.5 months in AK in 2005 and strongly recommend that you include Denali in your plans - while you may see moose anywhere, unless you fly to Katmai from Anchorage/Homer, Denali offers you the best chance of seeing grizzlies and caribou. Your concern about Denali crowds is misplaced - you will feel much more 'oppressed' by crowds of tourists in Talkeetna and Homer (e.g. RVs along the entire length of the Spit) in July than in Denali (but Talkeetna and Homer are wonderful places September thru May). The way the NPS Shuttles operate you can get off wherever you want and hike around and then get back on, so you wont feel hemmed in by crowds at all at Denali if you avoid Glitter Gulch. Dedicate a full day to take the NPS Shuttle to Wonder Lake. I assume when you say bear watrching in Homer you mean a flight from there to Katmai - otherwise, seeing bears anywhere in Southcentral AK except Denali is a hit or miss proposition. With three weeks I would devote at least 8 days to the Kenai Peninsula - Seward, Homer, Russian River/Kenai River area. Whittier and Girdwood are both within an hour of Anchorage so can be done anytime - you'll pass by them on your way to/from Kenai Peninsula. No matter how you plan your trip, you'll find yourself passing through Anchorage to get to or from the Kenai to other areas, unless you take a Ferry from Whittier or Seward over to Valdez and then drive up the Richardson to Kennicott/McCarthy spur.

Could offer more suggestions if knew whether you're more into an active (e.g. hiking) or passive (e.g. cultural attractions) type of vacation. So reply with your interests and will try to offer more specific suggestions. But don't write-off Denali - that would be a big mistake.

Alaskan in Exile

Santa Barbara...
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2. Re: How best to do this!

Hi! Thanks so much for your quick reply - I really appreciate your advice! We like to hike and do the outdoor things, more than museums - we also like to eat & drink & people watch! It is our first time to Alaska, so I will definitely reconsider Danali. We also prefer B&Bs and small lodges, so if you have any recommendations for any of those in the areas we'll be visiting, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks again -

PS -sorry for the double posting - I didn't think my first post went through, so sent another one - oops!

Merrimack, NH
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3. Re: How best to do this!

Hi 2EMAJIN,

I always slept in car or tent on weekend excursions out of Anchorage, so never used B&Bs, but if their lodging is anywhere near as good as their restaurant I can recommend Salmon Bake Cabins (see following link) when in Seward.

http://www.sewardalaskacabins.com

While in Seward I strongly recommend that you consider 9-hour Captain's Choice Cruise

http://www.kenaifjords.com/551.cfm

This nine hour trip when my daughter came to visit for a week was a highlight of the year in AK – the small boats associated w/ Captain’s Choice allows you to get much closer to wildlife. I’ve posted a slideshow set to music of that day (Day 2 - last ¾ of Days 1 and 2 show) at the following link if you’re interested:

www.photodex.com/sharing/viewshow.html…

One trail that's definitely worth doing in the central Kenai for scenic views is the eastern portion (first 1-1/2 miles or so) of the Upper Kenai River Trail. You can access the trailhead of Skilak Loop Road a short distance form the Sterling Highway. For an example of some of the vistas this short hike will offer take a look at the last 2/3 of the following album:

sox-pats-fan.smugmug.com/gallery/876469

Also, if in perusing

http://sox-pats-fan.smugmug.com/

there are specific vistas/locations that you’re interested in finding out more about, let me know, as all of the albums are associated with areas that are within a day's drive (one-way) of Anchorage.

Alaskan in Exile

Pittsburgh, PA
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165 posts
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4. Re: How best to do this!

I agree with previous poster - don't pass up Denali - although when we there (two wonderful trips), we did a lot of camping and rented some rustic cabins through the Alaska Parks, we did treat ourselves to a wonderful B & B about 10 minutes outside of Denali in Healy - Denali Lakeview Inn on Otto Lake - comfy rooms and beds, most with their own balconies. We saw moose and were treated to the Northern Lights in early Sept. Check out their website and there are reviews and info on the TA. There's also a nice restaurant nearby - the Black Diamond Grill.

I'd recommend taking the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake when visiting Denali

Definitely take a long wildlife watching cruise when in Seward and check out the Sealife Museum. We also flew in and out of Anchorage, took the train to Seward - you really don't need a car there, everything was within walking distance - stayed at a B & B there, but didn't really care for - hosts seem to hover over us - felt like you were staying at a long-lost relatives' house, but they did pick us up with luggage, as I imagine most places would offer. Train ride was through spectacular scenery, I believe it was 4 hrs. from Anc to Seward. We stayed 2 nites in Seward, returned by train to Anchorage and then rented a car in Anchorage and onwards to

Denali and Fairbanks.

Enjoy planning your trip - there's lots of info on many websites to explore and customize your trip to your likes.

Ward, AR
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878 posts
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5. Re: How best to do this!

definitely go to Denali. getting off the bus and hiking there is a feeling like nothing I've ever experienced anywhere else. you could book one shuttle bus trip to Wonder Lake, then another shorter bus trip so you can get out and hike. this gives you double the chance to see animals in case they're not particularly plentiful the first trip. take binoculars. two hiking books that are really good are: "hiking alaska" by dean littlepage and "Denali national park" by Ike Waits. if you're interested in white water rafting or a scenic trip, check out denalioutdoorcenter.com. hice trekking on Matanuska Glacier with micaguides.com was really fun. the native heritage museum in Anchorage is very interesting. they have films and talks about native ways of living and surviving. the sealife center in Seward is a must if you wish to see animals.

Ward, AR
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878 posts
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6. Re: How best to do this!

oopsie!! meant ice trekking not hice. 3 hour trip was about $75 each.

Noname
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486 posts
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7. Re: How best to do this!

In June I wouldn't recommend going all the way to Wonder Lake if you don't want to be viciously bitten by mosquitoes. They could be a really horrible especially in June and the beginning of July. I never recommend going on the shuttle or camping in Wonder Lake before August. It is your choice and if you decide to go bring a backpack full of mosquito spray and a head net. Do not miss Denali just don't go that far into the park unless you are going to be later in July. You can appreciate Denali more when not bitten by those nasty things.

if you want to stay in Girdwood there is no reason to stay in Whittier too. You can easily get from Girdwood to Whittier for your Prince William Sound cruise.

start with Girdwood, Homer, Seward and then continue to Talkeetna and finally Denali.

Btw, there is no ferry going from Seward to Valdez. There is no more ferry in Seward to anywhere and from anywhere.

Merrimack, NH
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8. Re: How best to do this!

Hi Pat 2003,

Thanks for correcting the bad assumption I made. I was pretty sure that there was AMHS service to Seward when I was there in 2005, but as a result of your post did a little Googling and found out that implementation of AKDOT&PF’s Prince William Sound and Southwest Alaska Transportation Plan resulted in discontinuation of AMHS ferry service to Seward after 2005 in favor of additional service between Homer and Seldovia, Kodiak, and the Aleutians. The plan’s rationale was that service should be concentrated on connecting the road system with communities off the road system, by the most efficient routing. Appreciate your taking the time to provide more current information. Providing ‘bad’ information – just one more of the disadvantages associated with being ‘in Exile’.

Alaskan in Exile

california
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169 posts
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9. Re: How best to do this!

Hi Pat,

Your mention of mosquitoes has made me re-think our travel dates. Originally we were going to spend the last two weeks of May in all of the areas mentioned in this post. Then we read that Wonder Lake would not open until June 8, so we started to move our trip to the first of June. If the mosquitoes are this bad in June at Wonder Lake, are they equally as bad in May? If so, we may just go back to our original plans and forget about Wonder Lake. Your help will be appreciated. Thanks

Noname
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486 posts
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10. Re: How best to do this!

Yes, mosquitoes can be a huge problem and I would never recommend going all the way to Wonder Lake before the end of July and beginning of August. Traveling to Fish Creek at Mile 63 is an all day trip and the most scenic part of the road anyway. Once you get to Fish Creek you may be the lucky one and get a great view of Mt McKinley. The most wildlife visitors usually see is on the way from the entrance to Fish Creek and then on the way back. Do not miss going to Denali NP