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Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Wisconsin
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Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Just returned yesterday from a great 17 day trip to Alaska. Just wanted to add a few comments and a small report on what we did.

Days 1-3 spent time with son in Anchorage. Went to downtown market, had a great dinner at McGinley's and Bear Tooth.

Days 4 & 5 Picked up motorhome from GAH, visited Palmer and Hatcher Pass. Had several great meals in Palmer, Turkey Red, Rusty's and The Colony Inn. Talked to the sisters at the Colony Museum and bought the DVD's about the Colony Farmers. Camped at Mountain View Campground, average campground with great view like the name says, reasonably priced $24.00 if I remember correctly. Spent the 2nd night at Fred Meyer's because we got back late from Hatcher Pass and planned on leaving early. Ok for free camping but I was uncomfortable with the noise in the parking lot, slamming car doors all night and loud talking.

The history of the Colony Farmers was very interesting. Hatcher Pass/ Independent Mine was amazing. We took the tour which was well worth the $6.00 a person.

Days 6-9 Homer. Enjoyed Hobo Jim on Wednesday night and the wonderful view from campground at the Driftwood Inn. Had a beautiful view of the moon over the bay at 2:00 am. Walked Bishops Beach at low tide and was amazed at the razor clam mounds which we didn't dig. Next day moved to Homer Spit Campground to be closer to marina and fishing. Had great meals at Fat Olives, Lands End for breakfast and The Saltery at Halibut Cove. Loved Halibut Cove, great place for pictures and a nice walk on the boardwalk. Great halibut fishing for the rest of the group, I shopped. Came back with 75 lbs. of fish.

Day 10 Headed back toward Anchorage with a stop at Hope and Double Musky for Father's Day Dinner. Got there later than expected so had to wait 1 3/4 hours to be seated. Hope was interesting to see the other side of Turnagain Arm.

Day 11 Headed north out of Anchorage on the Glenn Hwy not knowing where we would end up. I never get tired of the views on the Glenn. We drove as far as Sheep Mountain and spent the night at the Lodge campground. Good food for dinner and breakfast. Cheap camping at $20.00 a night but couldn't justify the $5.00 a person for a shower so used the motorhome shower. The dog kennel ( home of musher Zack Steer) was a hoot listening to the dogs howl every so often. Kinda spooky to wake up too but we didn't mind.

Day 12 changed our minds on going to Valdez so decided to drive the Denali Hwy. Drove as far as mile 95.6 and dry camped at the most beautiful place overlooking a glacier and mountains. The 25 MPH is a good idea driving a rented motorhome. The rocks were hitting the underside of the vehicle sounding like machine gun fire, I don't know how many times I asked hubby to slow down! GAH said we came close for the prize of dirtiest motorhome. (I did keep the inside clean, lol.) Hatches were full of dust and dirt halfway up sides. We stopped at a gas station in Cantwell where I washed the running boards with the broom and water from the coffee pot. Some washboards and potholes but not too bad. Views of the mountains were great, not much wildlife, several swans, 1 caribou, 2 rabbits and a porcupine.

Day 13 finished driving the Denali Hwy and decided to drive to Nenana to visit a friend from our hometown in Wisconsin. Struck up a conversation with a local and she invited us to spend the night in her giftshop parking lot. Had a great steak at Clear Lodge 25 miles to the South but worth the drive.

Day 14 Left Nenana after breakfast at a small diner there then stopped for lunch in Healy at the Black Diamond. Stopped in Glitter Gulch to do the tourist thing, bought some fudge after talking to several people from Wisconsin who liked hubby's Green Bay Packer's Jacket. Great way to meet people!

Day 14-16 arrived in Talkeetna at the Camper Park. Walked into town for dinner at Wildflower, had fresh king salmon. Son met us there the next day. Walked to the end of the town where 3 rivers meet. Got some great pictures of McKinley from there and enjoyed watching the jet boats and skipping stones. Checked out a few shops then found a band playing at a local watering hole. Next day pretty much the same but another band at the same bar. Amazing temperatures in the high 70's, had to turn on the air in the motorhome to sleep. Enjoyed people and dog watching!

Day 17 back to Anchorage with last meal with son at Nino's Italian restaurant. Great food and a lot of it!

Day 18 Caught the red eye for a long trip back home.

This trip was what we hoped for.... relaxing with no real time schedules. If we sound like foodies I guess we are, we love trying new foods in different areas. Repeated some of the spots we have been to already but still enjoyed the stops very much. We met so many interesting people across the state and saw a lot of everyday things like the lady gardening in Palmer or talking to the flag person on the Parks Highway or the guy washing his boat in Homer or Alex at the Native Center in Nenana. Thanks to everyone who answered questions from me and all the posters who are willing to share their stories. We will never get tired of visiting this great state and who knows maybe we will be a resident someday, God willing. Linda in WI

P.S. Hope I didn't ramble too much!

Alyeska Ski Area
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Anchorage, Alaska
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1. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

I love Nino's.

Thanks for the report.

Scott

Fairbanks, Alaska
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2. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Great report come back again sometime.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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3. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Thanks for the report! Glad to hear that you survived that scarey old Glenn Hwy!

Since you enjoyed the Independence Mine, I have to ask ... what is there to see? I've made 2 road trips to Alaska and considered a visit to the mine but didn't go. To be honest, from the photos I've seen it looks like 3 or 4 old wooden buildings that are about to fall down so I've often wondered what's so interesting about the place. Is there equipment to see? or historical markers to read? What's the draw? Thanks. carol

p.s. if you had had more time, would you have gone the entire way on the Denali?

Edited: 30 June 2011, 00:18
Bristol, Connecticut
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4. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Independence Mine has many restored buildings you can go in at least 2 of them, one is the visitor center that is fully restored with historic photographs and stories. There are many interpretive signs and a lot of equipment around some restored some not. I think the entire history of building the mine is quite interesting. There are a few falling down buildings that they plan to restore. There is a mine shaft you can visit as well as trail along the mine tailings. You have views of many of the mine shafts along the mountainside and beautiful views of the surrounding Talkeetna Mountains and The Matanuska Valley. Hatcher Pass State Rec Area is one of my favorite destinations. There are some magnificent hikes to mountain lakes and glaciers as well as some gold panning opportunities. There is also a hike to a glacier where an old bomber crashed.

Edited: 30 June 2011, 01:08
Wisconsin
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5. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Independence mine was very rich in history in the building that still are standing. We took the tour given by 2 very knowledgeable college students who knew their stuff about the place. I don't think you are allowed inside the buildings without the tour and that's where we learned the history of the mine when it was running. There are a few signs to read outside the buildings but I feel you lose a lot if you don't take the tour. The drive there from Palmer was beautiful. We were in a rented motorhome and were not allowed the entire Hatcher Pass Road, we could only go from Palmer to Independence Mine.

We did do the entire Denali Hwy road. We started out in Paxton, spent the night at mile marker 96.5 then continued on to Cantwell the next day. I seem to remember that only 10 miles of the Denali Hwy is paved the rest is gravel.

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6. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

The Glenn is a scary highway. I white knuckled it most of the way hanging on to the handle above the window and would occasionally grab at the dash driving my husband crazy or make gasping sounds much to hubby's dismay. It's a beautiful highway though and widening the road would probably make it less of an adventure.

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7. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

One more thing I got to meet the Mayor of Talkeetna. Actually held him for a while! Good old Mayor Stubbs, kind of has an attitude problem though!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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8. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Glad you had a great time Winny . . . I am surprised by the Glenn Hwy comments as I don't recall it being all that scary. I suppose when we drove it, there was terrible visibility for much of it from Palmer to GlennAllen.

P.S. How many people did it take to catch 75# of halibut to take home?

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Thanks Spacefry and Winny. Your descriptions sound quite interesting. I thought the tours had been cancelled due to budget cuts. I'm sure having a guide would bring the history to life.

I didn't realize you had driven the entire Denali Hwy. When you said that you got as far as Sheep Mtn then decided not to go to Valdez, I thought you turned around and went back to Palmer. Did you think it was a particularly scenic drive in comparison to the Glenn or Richardson? It's on my to-do list for next time. (in a car not RV).

And I was only kidding about the Glenn being scarey. Did you really think so? Like Von I'm surprised by those comments. To me it was just a road like any other.

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10. Re: Just returned from 18 day trip to AK

Von we had 4 fishing both days our son gave us his catch and the captain gave us some of his. Caught a couple of 50 pounders the rest were 30s and high 20s. I'm a very nervous rider so it doesn't take much to scare me. I guess I like to be in control in a vehicle so do most of the driving at home. I wasn't comfortable driving a 31' motorhome. The Denali was worth the trip the skies were cloudy the second day but what we saw day 1 made up for it.