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12 day Alaska trip; pls review and suggest

12 day Alaska trip; pls review and suggest

Old Mar 5, 11, 4:34 pm
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12 day Alaska trip; pls review and suggest

Visiting Alaska first time in July 8-19th with family of 4 with 14 & 6 yr boys. Our interests are glacier, wildlife, sightseeing w/o lots of hiking and some fishing. Plane tickets, hotel/cruise/car reservations are done. Questions in blue.

July 8th: Fly out of PDX to Barrow and overnight in Airport Inn, see midnight sun.

July 9th: Visit Arctic beach and Inupait Heritage center and fly back to Anchorage with evening flight and overnight in Diamond Center hotel. How can we visit Point Barrow cheap? $60/pp is too much!

July 10th: Rent a car, go to Whittier and take Major Marine, PWS 6 hr cruise. Visit Byron glacier before or after the cruise, and overnight in Dimond center hotel. Fish salmon in Ship Creek if possible. Can we visit Byron Glacier 7-9pm?

July 11th: Buy food supply and drive to Denali and stop at Teelkatna for 1-2 hr. Drive on Denali Hwy on 14 paved miles in PM and overnight in Denali Bluff hotel.

July 12th: Take 8hr Eilseson shuttle bus trip at 9AM and overnight in Denali Bluff.

July 13th: Drive on Richardson Hwy through Delta Junc, and overnight in Sawing Logzz in Copper Center, if time permits, drive to/from Chitna in PM. Can we drive from Denali to Copper Center in 8 hrs?

July 14th: Drive to Worthington Glacier and 2 hr walking and overnight in Best Western in Valdez.

July 15th: Take Stan Stephens 6hr Columbia Glacier Cruise and overnight in Best Westren in Valdez.

July 16th: Drive to Anchorage and overnight in Sheraton Anhorage. If didn't do Byron Glacier on July 10th, visit Byron Glacier and Portage glacier in PM.

July 17th: Drive to Seward and visit Exit Glacier face and Sealife center and overnight in Van Gilder hotel. Go for half day Salmon fishing charter with Millaers Landing at 5PM. Process fish and package at Captain Jacks place.

July 18th: Take Major Marine 7.5hr Kenai Fjords NP tour, overnight in Van Gilder hotel.

July 19th: Pick up our fish box from Captain Jack fish house drive to Anchorage, return rental car, catch 1:30pm flight out of ANC and back to PDX.

Are we going to rush the kids? Please suggest any changes needed. Thanks in advance.
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Old Mar 6, 11, 12:14 am
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I have already commented on Trip Advisor so I will keep this briefer.

$60/person for a trip to Pt. Barrow is actually pretty reasonable for that area I would think. You have to realize you are VERY remote. Bring some of your own food or you will be in for MAJOR sticker shock.

I believe the Stan Stephens Columbia Glacier cruise is 7 hours long and I think you will be disappointed. You won't get to see the glacier, just icebergs. If you want to take a glacier tour from Valdez, taking the Meares/Columbia Glacier tour is a much better choice.

And yes, I think your kids are going to end up getting a negative impression of Alaska with all your driving. Just MHO.
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Old Mar 6, 11, 3:13 pm
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I visited Alaska once (early last summer) so I guess I qualify as sufficiently knowledgeable.

You know your kids and I don't, but I would have to agree with FTI.

When I was there, I found the 19-hours-of-sunlight days very liberating. I didn't arrange hotels in advance, which was part of it, but you still may have the same reaction.

(8 hours Denali to Copper Center via Delta Junction) I was there earlier in the season, and maybe it gets more crowded, but I think you should be able to do that if you only make brief stops at Fairbanks and Delta Junction and maybe one more. How your kids will like being in the car for 8 hours more or less consecutively after a day of 8 hours in a bus more or less consecutively is a different story.

I note July 14 is a rather light day - driving 116 miles from Copper Center to Valdez, and some hiking. Make sure not to just stop at Worthington; the 20 miles or so from there south are pretty and worth getting out of the car for every few miles. You can take the side trip to Chitina although I don't know if it was worthwhile (depending on your car rental you might want to go into the park, which I could not do). Valdez itself is boring; you don't want to arrive there at 2PM with nothing to do. So you might want to take the 13th more leisurely and if need be get a late start on the 14th.
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Old Mar 6, 11, 10:53 pm
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Thanks for your suggestions. I thinking of addding a half day Ice climbing in Worthington glacier with Pangaea from Valdez for me and 14 yr old on 14th, mom and 6 yr stays in Best Western. They have a 2:30pm deperture for half day ice climbing. Also will look for opportunity to do some shore fishing in the evening in Valdez. Are there any good shore fishing spot near Valdez?

Do I really miss a lot if we skip Point Barrow visit?

I am also thinking for changing 7hr Columbia glacier cruise to 9hr Meares cruise from Valdez at an additional cost of $123 for 4 of us. Does this extra 2 hrs cruise really worth extra $123?
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Old Mar 8, 11, 8:58 am
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Originally Posted by Budget_Traveller_OR View Post
Are there any good shore fishing spot near Valdez?
Valdez is not particularly famous for shore fishing, although there are a few areas that turn up in various fishing boards. I believe you'll be there before the Silvers really turn up, so that would leave Pink and Dog (Chum) salmon as the principal species. Pinks can be impressive when they mass at creek mouths, but generally are only catchable by snagging, which I personally don't enjoy much. Not very good eating, either. Probably I'd be looking for some stream fishing for Dolly Varden instead.

Originally Posted by Budget_Traveller_OR View Post
Do I really miss a lot if we skip Point Barrow visit?
I can't answer this as I've only been to Barrow on business and never bothered with the tourist stuff. $60 doesn't seem like a lot of money to get to the tip of the continent, compared to some other things you're doing. You might also get to chat with some local native people one-on-one during the drive, which might be interesting.

Originally Posted by Budget_Traveller_OR View Post
I am also thinking for changing 7hr Columbia glacier cruise to 9hr Meares cruise from Valdez at an additional cost of $123 for 4 of us. Does this extra 2 hrs cruise really worth extra $123?
Same "worth it" question. "Worth it" compared to what?

Given you'll have already seen a lot of tidewater glaciers, if it was me, I'd take the $123 and pay for the car's passage on the state ferry from Valdez to Whittier, and scrub a really long drive back to Anchorage. The ferry is smooth and scenic, and just as fast if not faster than the drive. You could catch Byron/Portage Glacier etc. on the way out of the tunnel if you wanted.

Speaking of accessible glaciers, were you planning to stop at the Matanuska Glacier alongside the Glenn Highway?
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Old Mar 9, 11, 4:41 pm
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You are trying to do way too much and are not leaving yourself opportunity to make choices along the way.

My family would leave me on an ice flow if I did this to them!
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Old Mar 11, 11, 8:47 pm
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Originally Posted by Budget_Traveller_OR View Post
Do I really miss a lot if we skip Point Barrow visit?
I like to explore as much as I can, so it was an easy call for me. I wanted to go as far as possible, so I would have gone whether or not polar bears were around.

I took the Point Barrow excursion in June 2008 and enjoyed it very much, and would do it again. You would not be able to get there on your own. And with the potential of polar bears wandering around, a tourist needs to go on a tour for safety purposes.

You are essentially in a vehicle driving on a beach of shells, and therefore it's extremely rough. I rarely get motion sickness anymore, but I had to quickly take a dramamine due to bouncing up and down so much. Had I taken the trip the day before, I would have seen polar bears, but we were not so fortunate. However, we did get the opportunity to have photos taken at Point Barrow. Then we saw a seal on the way back from the point, and the driver got out his gun to bring a prized seal back home. But the seal disappeared too quickly.

It's really the only excursion of any distance away from Barrow. Otherwise IIRC, you are limited to the one road that only goes about 5 miles toward the Point.
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Old Mar 11, 11, 9:15 pm
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I've taken ambitious trips like this one, and I tend to enjoy it. Though I have not done so with kids!

I really doubt you can make it from Denali to Copper Center in 8 hours, but maybe you can if you do not stop much.

I would be tempted to take the 6 hour cruise based out of Whittier (or maybe eliminate it), then get on the ferry from Whittier to Valdez. The general idea would be Anchorage to Seward, then back to Whittier and ferry over to Valdez, then up to Copper Center and Paxton, over to Denali, then back to Anchorage. Or reverse the circle. That would result in less backtracking and thus slightly less hectic.

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Old Mar 13, 11, 6:09 am
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Originally Posted by Budget_Traveller_OR View Post
Are we going to rush the kids? Please suggest any changes needed. Thanks in advance.
First of all, I commend you for allocating 12 days for this trip. Too many people try to "see Alaska" in eight days, six days, or even three or four days.

Now, on to your question:

Having grown up on road trips like this (every summer doing month-plus-long road trips driving an average of 300 miles per day--yes, that includes stops in cities and things), I can say I would enjoy a trip like you proposed, and slowing down much would have left me feeling like I didn't "see" enough. But you know your kids' personalities and travel preferences better than any of us and would know whether such a "breakneck" pace would leave them unsatisfied.

If you want to shore up your itinerary, here are the things I'd say you could leave out without compromising too much:
  • Barrow: while I haven't been, I've heard it's worth barely a half a day (and that includes the trip to the point). I'm a bit of a geographical extreme point collector, so it would appeal to me, but for most visitors--I'd say skip it.
  • Skip driving to Copper Center via Fairbanks/Delta. Views are meh. Backtrack down to Wasilla/Palmer and come across the Glenn. Backtracking isn't a huge negative: it gives you an extra day to see the mountain if the weather is blah, and it's only a couple of hours until you hit new road. The Glenn is far more scenic than the north end of the Parks (rolling hills) and the north end of the Richardson (rolling hills and some flat areas). Only downside is you'll miss Fairbanks, which most here seem to say isn't worth a visit but I have a soft spot for. I like the older, gold rush/frontier feel of the town, and there are several attractions in the area that are worth stopping at if you have extra time (some of note, like the Museum of the North, and some more kitschy, like the Riverboat Discovery and Pioneer Park). If your schedule is pressed, though, I'd agree to skip Fairbanks.
  • I'd agree with the other posters and say skip the Columbia Glacier tour. Save yourself a day and just get on the ferry from Valdez back to Whittier. You'll have seen enough glaciers on the PWS glacier tour and full-day Resurrection Bay tour anyway. Columbia is impressive but not worth a whole day. (And if you have a good captain, he might take you in the bay far enough to see Columbia, though he won't get as close as the tour boat operators due to political pressure from them.)

Also, to address a couple of other points:
  • Yes, you can visit Byron Glacier late at night. When you're here, the sun won't be setting until 11:30pm, and it barely gets twilighty before the sun starts rising at 4:30am. (BTW, bring eye masks if you think you'll have trouble sleeping when it's light. Note that you will have more energy, though, and will want to sleep less.)
  • Since you have two nights in a row in Denali, be sure to be open to extending your bus trip all the way to Wonder Lake. If the weather is crappy, don't bother, but if the sun is shining (decent chances in July, though certainly not guaranteed), go to the bus expediter at Eielson and ask to upgrade your tickets to Wonder Lake. It'll definitely be worth the extra time if the mountain's out.
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