Denali NP

On August 24th, we boarded the train for Denali National Park from Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad and Denali National Park have been intrinsically linked for nearly 50 years, the park served solely by rail. The Parks Highway opened in 1971 making the place accessible by car. The Park was served by rail 50 years longer than by road, and thus we wanted to be a part of the grand history of Alaska’s most famous national park and go by train. The railroad’s flagship Denali Star train runs the scenic 234-mile route, (7 1/2 hours) from Anchorage to Denali Park. We settled into comfortable seats in the GoldStar Dome car and if it was a clear day we would get glimpses of Denali just 30 minutes into the trip, however, our view was cloud covered so we enjoyed different views as we passed through Wasilla and north into the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. We walked through the cars and stopped in at the Wilderness Cafe car for a snack and drink. After reaching Broad Pass, which marks both the highest point on the Alaska Railroad and the lowest pass in the Alaska Range, the train winds through a wide taiga plateau before pulling into Denali Depot. We departed the train and boarded the bus to take us to the Denali Bluffs Hotel, where we are staying for 3 days. We had beautiful vistas of the Denali Canyon and the Alaska Range from the hotel,  located next to Denali National Park on the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain. Click on thumbnail to view image Continue reading

Tutka Bay Lodge and Bear Watching in Katmai NP

We were sad to say farewell to Amory and Winterlake Lodge on August 19th, but we were flying to another sister lodge, Tutka Bay Lodge near Homer, Alaska. It was another beautiful sunny day for our flight over the Alaskan Range and the Tordrillo Mountains, Mount Gerdine, 11,258 ft, and many glaciers, over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. Tutka Bay Lodge sits in private cove in Kachemak Bay accessible from Homer, Alaska. It is one of the richest ocean estuaries in the world. It is open from May 1st through September 30th. We checked into our room with a surprise plate of chocolate covered strawberries for our 50th anniversary by Chef Jackie. We had a fantastic lunch in the main lodge, then went out on a boat ride with Margeaux, our guide, to view wildlife. We were thrilled to see the playful sea otters and their pups frolicking in the water, and on the water surface floating on their backs. Sea otters give birth in the water and the pups stay with their mothers until they’re up to a year old, or until she has another litter. And on the shore we saw a black bear walking along the beach. Back at the Lodge we got ready for dinner in the main building and enjoyed another fabulous 4 course meal. Bob was treated with another vegan birthday cake by Chef Jackie. It was so yummy. Click on thumbnail to view image Continue reading

Winterlake Lodge-First Stop on the Iditarod Trail

The start of our adventure into off-the-grid Alaska began on Monday, August 16th, we flew from Anchorage to Winterlake Lodge, in a Cessna 206, it was a 1 1/2 hour flight into the wilderness northwest of Anchorage. We boarded the Cessna at the Lake Hood Seaplane Base. Lake Hood is the world’s busiest seaplane base, handling an average of 190 flights per day. Winterlake Lodge is nestled at the foot of the Alaskan Range, on the edge of an  ancient valley. This Lodge is located on the Iditarod Trail which runs through the property into the woods and on to Nome. It is open June1st to September 30th for the summer and February 15th to April 1st for the winter season. The only way to get to this lodge is by plane or helicopter. When we arrived at the lodge Amory was there to greet us, she is our guide for the three days that we are staying here. After we settled into our cabin we went for a boat ride on Finger Lake and saw lots of beautiful Common Loons with their chicks, only two months old. Common loons have deep black or dark green heads and necks and dark backs with an intricate pattern of black and white stripes, spots, squares and rectangles. Listening to the sound of the loon as she paddled along was so surreal, such a peaceful setting. The next day we went for a hike on the Red Lake Trail with Amory and on the return we stopped at the kennels to see the dogs. These dogs are trained for the Iditarod Race and are usually up on the glacier training but the weather has been too warm so they are back in their kennels. After lunch I went paddle boarding on the lake, it was so peaceful but I didn’t see any wildlife. For dinner the Chef made Bob a special birthday cake for his 75th birthday, the food here is amazing and every meal is delicious. Click on thumbnail to view image Continue reading

Anchorage and Prince William Sound

We arrived in Anchorage on Friday, August 13th, and went to The Lakefront Anchorage Hotel to check-in. This beautiful wilderness lodge in the heart of the city with sweeping views of float planes on Lake Hood from the deck, Anchorage’s only lakefront hotel. It is one mile from the airport and ten minutes from downtown Anchorage, this Millennium hotel is the perfect place to stay on your Alaskan adventure. We headed to the deck for a drink and appetizers, and had the biggest shrimp, while we soaked up the sunshine. The next day we went to downtown Anchorage and visited the sod-roofed, log cabin Visitor Center and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center run by the National Park Service. We rented bikes in town and rode along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a 11-mile-long trail along the coast of Anchorage, designated for non-motorized use. At first we saw a female moose and her calf in the woods but we couldn’t get very close. Further along the trail we came upon a bull moose very busy eating the berries from the trees. We stayed and watched him for awhile before moving on. We went to the 49th State Brewing Co, a must visit while in Alaska for dinner. They have the best micro beer and the biggest Alaskan King crab legs I have ever seen. Not to forget the wild mountain blueberry pie for dessert, yummy!!! Click on thumbnail to view image Continue reading

Juneau Alaska – State Capitol

Nugget Falls

On Tuesday, August 10th we boarded the ferry in Skagway and went to Juneau to continue our journey north. Juneau is the capital city of the state of Alaska, and is named after a gold prospector from Quebec, Joe Juneau. Juneau is unique in that there are no roads connecting the city to the rest of the state nor North America. The absence of a road network is due to the extremely rugged terrain surrounding the city. Juneau sits at sea level, below steep mountains about 3,00 to 4,000 feet high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Glacier on Mount Juneau, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; one of these is the Mendenhall Glacier. We stayed in a Best Western outside of the city and it was a long taxi ride to get into downtown. The next day we went into town and took a bus to see the Mendenhall Glacier about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. . Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Skagway Alaska- Gateway to the Klondike

In the railroad yard, an old WP&YR engine with the cool Thunderbird logo.

Skagway was originally spelled S-K-A-G-U-A, a Tlinglit word for “windy place”. The first people in this area were Tlinglits from the Chilkoot village in the Haines area. The windy Skagway valley was good for hunting mountain goats and bear, but no one settled here until 1887. After arriving in Skagway we checked into the White House Inn, built in 1902 by gambler Lee Guthrie. It was the finest home in Skagway, and we had a beautiful, large room on the first floor with picture windows. Our first stop in Skagway was to the Red Onion Saloon for pizza and beer. It was built in 1897 during the height of the Gold Rush, the Red Onion Saloon operated as one of the finest Bordellos in town, and you can visit the brothel museum for a link to the past. Racey, old-timey portraits of alluring women still adorn the walls of the Red Onion Saloon and the ghost of Lydia, a former Madame, still haunts the place. Continue reading

Journey to Alaska on the Marine Highway

Enjoying the view of Bellingham as we leave the harbor

On Wednesday, August 4, 2021, we set sail for Alaska to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. We wanted to go somewhere that we have never traveled to together, and Alaska was the perfect destination. Marguerite Shepherd drove us to the Ferry Terminal, in Bellingham’s Fairhaven Village. The Alaska Ferry officially called the Alaska Marine Highway System departs from Bellingham, WA to access America’s remote north through the awe-inspiring Inside Passage. We departed at 6 PM and went to our cabin, not too lavish, but comfortable, with a bunkbed and a private bathroom. Rooms are not required on the ferry, many passengers choose to sleep on the deck, with or without a tent. Our Ferry was the MV Matanuska, launched in 1962, 408 feet long, with one vehicle deck and three passenger decks. We spent the evening on the top deck enjoying the sunset and views of Bellingham and the islands. Continue reading