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Alaska Honeymoon Trip Report

Alaska Honeymoon Trip Report

Old Aug 28, 12, 10:04 pm
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Alaska Honeymoon Trip Report

Finally I am ready to post some of our trip! Thanks again to everyone for all the help!!!!

(Mods I put this here because most of the posts in trip reports are about the travel aspects i.e. flights, hotels, etc. This is mainly about activities, hopefully that is okay.)

On to the report! I have over 1700 photos from this trip, so this is only a very small selection.

Day 1 (August 3rd)
Flew First Class on Alaska Airlines MSP – SEA, SEA – ANC. Dinner was Beef Wellington; good tasting and adequate sized.



We stayed at the Comfort Suites near the airport in Anchorage. Nice rooms for a reasonable price, they even kept the breakfast open a little while longer than the hours posted for us stragglers who didn’t get in until 2am the night before. Great place to stay for just a quick stop, or even if you had to spend 2 or 3 nights.

Day2

We left the hotel and headed out to find some lunch at the Midnight Sun Brewery. Any IPA lovers should seek out their Sockeye Red IPA, one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Their spinach and artichoke dip was also to die for, so delicious!


From there we headed down to Girdwood. We drove to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This place has many of the Alaskan animals in captivity (doesn’t appear to be any wolves or wolverines). Most of them where orphaned, injured, or need to be otherwise rehabbed. Some of them will be released into the wild, others won’t.



After that we went to Alyeska Resort to check-in to our room and ride the mountain tram. We hiked to the top of “Chair #6” and were completely clouded-in. We went back down to the Summit Chalet and poked-around in the Seven Glaciers restaurant. It was a little too expensive for us, but we decided to have a couple duck-farts on top of a mountain.




For Dinner we had food at the well-known Double Musky, it lived up to the hype and then some, what a place! When I first saw the pepper steak, I honestly didnt think I would like it but it was Fantastic! A nice local at the ar heard it was our honeymoon and even bought us desert.

Last edited by Miss0033; Sep 1, 12 at 11:27 pm
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Old Aug 28, 12, 10:04 pm
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Day3

On this day we took the train from Girdwood to Seward with Goldstar Service. On the outdoor viewing deck we saw a black bear and a couple moose. It was really picturesque, and worth the Goldstar upgrade.




Once in Seward we went to the SeaLife Center and checked out the animals. Later that evening we took the late night Bridal Veil Falls kayak adventure. We had a number of issues with the company we went through. But it was still a cool trip. We had Otters swim very close to our kayaks. The trip back we went into the wind, and for awhile it took all our strength just to stay put, let alone make progress. We had a couple waves wash over the kayak too and got pretty wet from the chest down. Eventually there was a point where we were paddling and going backwards due to the wind and waves so we had to be rescued… errr… I mean we braved the elements and fought though it!



We stayed overnight at Hotel Seward. It was a nice place with all the amenities you would need. Very close to everything “downtown” but a bit of a walk to the train depot and boat harbor. But that’s what you have to pick, you can be close to one, but then you wont be to the other (downtown vs. train depot and boat harbor). The room was more than big enough and had the right amenities.


Day4

We took the 7.5 hour Major Marine Kenai Fjords National Park Tour. I think we hit the jackpot! I believe the only animals we didn’t see that we possibly could’ve were dolphins. We saw humpback whales, had an orca breach twice, a pod of 6 orcas swam around the boat, porpoises, stellar sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, lots of other birds, mountain goats, etc. It was unreal. The time flew by and I would recommend them again. I cannot compare them to Kenai Fjords tour as I haven’t taken theirs, but Major Marine did a nice job.




A lot of pictures from the trip sadly didnt turn out with all the rain, but still an awesome trip!


After the boat cruise we immediately hopped on the train back to Girdwood to get our rental car and head up to Talkeetna. The train ride returning we also saw a black bear and moose, but this time the moose were closer and the black bear was father away. It was fairly windy and cooler this time around so I spent less time on the outdoor deck. I enjoyed the dining car and the complementary soda this time. Once we got to Girdwood we grabbed our rental and drove to Talkeetna. There was a considerable amount of construction and the drive took longer than the GPS expected, but thanks to the advice of others before hand we knew what to expect. Even at 11:00pm at night it was still plenty bright out.


We arrived at Denali Fireside around midnight and settled in for the night. They have really nice little cabins. I actually turned on their TV to catch up on news and Olympics before I went to sleep. It was the only time I watched TV the whole trip. The rooms and bathrooms were more than adequate size and priced better than many other options in the area. The owners were friendly and offered excellent advice during our stay.

Last edited by Miss0033; Sep 1, 12 at 11:23 pm
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Old Aug 28, 12, 10:07 pm
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Day5

This morning we found ourselves on the 11am summit tour of Denali with Talkeetna Aero Services. It was about an hour and a half and we circled the mountain several times. After hearing the stories of others, I regret not doing the glacier landing – however, our NL 2-4-1 coupon was the only way we could’ve afforded to do this anyway. The pilot was very informative and knowledgeable, he went out of his way to make sure we got good pictures by dipping the wings and circling back so both sides of the plane could see it. It was very cloudy and hazy that day, so form the ground you could barely even see the base, and in the sky we had to get above 14,000 feet to see it and didn’t see it until we were about 10 minutes away. However once we got close the summit was clear and felt so close that I could touch it. It was hard to put in perspective since everything was cloudy, but a very cool experience none the less. On the way back to the airstrip we flew over Ruth Glacier and another one whose name escapes me right now.





After our flight tour we went “downtown.” My wife was kind enough to let me stop for a couple samplings at Denali Brewing Co. and even pick up a pint glass for my collection. We had lunch at Mountain High Pizza Pie. Another place I would highly recommend; you can go as simple as pepperoni and cheese or get as crazy as you want. They also have a lot of local Alaskan beers on tap and I had the Denali Brewing Co. Twister Creek IPA with my pizza.

Following lunch we went fishing with Phantom Salmon Fishing Charters on the Talkeetna River. Our first fishing spot had a lot of bites, but mostly pink/chum salmon which our guide Doug informed us was not very good eating. After seeing us reel in several chums he took us up to Clear Creek. Here we quickly caught our limit of salmon. My wife and I each (legally) caught and kept 2 Sockeye and 1 Silver, at least that’s what we were told, I cannot tell the difference, haha. I had never fished in that style before and it took some getting used to. My first several bites were illegal fish hooked in the tail, fin, or belly.

Others, guides and locals, were fishing around us and we were the last to leave. I noticed something alarming – a group had started a campfire and let it with flames going and there was fishing garbage everywhere. I grew up leaving a place cleaner than you found it so I spent 15 minutes and picked up probably over 200 yards of kinked, cut up fishing line, several hooks, garbage, etc. and put out the fire. I just had a hard time believing what I saw. Sorry, I will get off my soapbox.

We had the fished processed by the Talkeetna Smokehouse who did an awesome job and the fillets we have cooked so far have been great!

Here is our limit: (biggest was 15 lbs, smallest was 8 we were told)



Day 6

Both being tired, and only having the goal of getting to Denali National Park by 2:00 pm for our shuttle, we slept in a bit. When my wife woke up she opened the window and I didn’t quite understand what she was excited about. Once I could focus my eyes I saw Denali without a cloud in the sky right out our window.



We rushed to get ready and went to check out. There the owners informed us it would be worth our time to head to the end of main street, end of the dirt road, where we could get a full photo of the Alaska Range with the Susitna river in the foreground. Thank you for that advice!!!!


The advice for which Salmon charter to use and what places to eat also came from the Denali Fireside hosts. I would HIGHLY recommend this place.


We visited a few stores in Talkeetna, and then headed south so we could go North… yeah, that’s how it works. We turned off into both wayside view points and got some spectacular photos, although I feel the photos from the viewpoint further south were better (if someone had to pick only one). Both places were packed and many people had camera equipment set up that appeared to cost more than my car. The view from the south turn off was superb!


Looking at that it was hard to believe the other side was completely covered by clouds

At about 1:00 we got to Denali NP and headed to the Wilderness Access Center for our 2:00 bus to Eielson Visitor Center. Let me start by saying Denali NP is incredible, I cannot even describe how vast and beautiful this place is. I wont get into details about the park or how the bus system works and leave that for another thread in the Alaska forum. This place is one of a very small number of fully functioning eco systems in the world. They manage it by doing nothing. You can literally see Mother Nature at work here. The bus rides are long but my face was stuck to the window the whole time!

The 2:00 bus had 4 other people on it, we seat hopped all over the place and saw a ton of wildlife. Not 4 miles into the park we had 3 moose calves cross the road in front of the bus.


As we continued we saw several Caribou and Dall sheep from a distance but nothing too close. I did notice all the clouds in the sky though that were going to damper any hopes of seeing the mountain. It was interesting to see if completely clear on the south side, and completely clouded in on the North side. At least it wasn’t raining!

In case people werent aware, besides wildlife this is part of the reason you go slow:


Around 6:00 pm we arrived at Eielson Vistor Center to fog and clouds. You couldn't even see the top of nearby mount Eielson (5800’ I believe) let alone Denali in the distance (20,320’). You couldn’t even see where the snow started. The park ranger said this was pretty typical for the summer; lots of clouds and rain. We walked around for the 30 minutes of our rest stop and really didn’t see anyone else other than park employees. We boarded back on the bus and headed our 4 hours back to the entrance. Even with the clouds the views of the landscape are incredible:


Our trip back afforded more wildlife viewing as it got later, the animals see to venture out more. We saw dall sheep, a grizzly with 2 young cubs, several caribou, and a cow moose closer to the road.




Back near the WAC we spotted a very large Bull Moose about 50 yards from the road. I tried to inform the bus driver, but in the mirror he told me he was too far behind schedule to stop. I think he saw my disappointed look and said do you need me to? However he hadn’t slowed down and we were well past the moose. Who knows if he would’ve even still been there if I walked back, or if there was even another bus to get us if we had gotten off?

We got back to the entrance around 10pm. We headed out to the Salmon bake and had the fish and chips – Halibut and waffle fries. It was priced appropriately for Alaska and the portions were huge! I was able to find my Sockeye Red IPA on tap and savored every last ounce of it. This is seriously one of the best beers I have ever had!

After dinner we proceed about 12 miles south to check into McKinley Creekside Cabins. This was an affordable room and one of the only in the area that had a fridge, which was important. There is no food or drink in the park, and we also wanted to hike. To be able to fill and chill our camel back, pop and sandwiches for the following day was important. The To-Go meal prices by some of the places near the park are quite expensive, even for Alaska prices. So their café had to-go meals which we could purchase the morning of (with advance notice) or the night before. It was very nice to have that. The room itself was not big and did not have TV. However it had room for our luggage, a bed, a shower, and a toilet. All we needed as every waking moment was spent at or near the park. I turned on the TV once the whole time I was in Alaska...

Last edited by Miss0033; Sep 5, 12 at 11:22 pm Reason: adding photos
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Old Aug 28, 12, 10:08 pm
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Day 7

We woke up to clear blue skies, grabbed our hiking stuff and set out for our 6:15am bus to Wonder Lake (84 miles into the park, 11 hours round trip). The previous day had said mostly clouded chance of rain so we had planned to hike a few trails. The first 30 miles or so went by without wildlife sightings, this was a little shock after how many we had seen the day before. Maybe everyone was distracted by the mountain off in the distance. For a number of miles we could only see the peak, but seeing that bright white, snow capped peak juxtaposed to all the brown and black mountains in the foreground was very cool.

The woman behind me said "That cannot be Denali, look that mountain to the left is taller..." I said "The mountain on the left is MUCH closer, and see all the snow? There isnt even snow on the close mountain and you cannot see where the snow starts on the far one" Her reply... "Thats because all the snow melted on the close one..."


At the Stony Hill Overlook we saw it in all its glory! Denali was out in full view, not a cloud in the sky. We were roughly 40 miles away with nothing between us and the foothills. We could see the mountain base (approx. 2,000ft above sea level) to summit (20,320ft above sea level). It was impressive. My wife and I stood and stared, I don’t think we said anything for a good 5 minutes just looking at it. The tallest vertical rise in the world, it completely dominates the sightlines at that point. I think once my heart settled I took around 100 pictures, just from that spot. My photos no where near come close to doing it justice.




40 minutes later we got to Eielson and 2 clouds had started to form around where the snow starts on the mountain. We quickly ate our lunch and hopped back on the bus to go to Wonder Lake. Between the visitor center and wonder lake we didn’t see much wildlife. Quite are few Willow Ptarmigans and a few ducks. Once we got to Wonder Lake the mountain was quite cloudy, but the peak was still out. We ate some wild blueberries and cranberries in the trails surrounding wonder lake during our 30 minute break. We got back on the bus and headed for the entrance and within 20 minutes the mountain was completely clouded in. So in less than 2 hours it had gone from not a cloud in the sky to completely covered in clouds but no other clouds around.
The famous Wonder Lake:


Back at Eielson we did the Alpine Trail hike – a quarter mile hike up 1010 feet of elevation change, but the views at the top were worth it. This photo shows the visitor center below.


Then we hiked some of the river bar below Eielson. Once we were ready to go home a problem with some busses breaking done had happened and we ended up waiting nearly 3 hours for a bus back to the entrance. This was unfortunate and a very rare occurrence and I won’t get into details here., but we ended up with a 16 hour day inside the park. The ride home was with others who had waited just as long, so it was very quiet and wildlife stops were limited as most people weren’t paying attention and just sleeping.

We did have a couple good shots though:





Day 8

Another early morning bus ride! My wife was ready to call it quits, but I was not; there were still a few animals we hadn’t seen I was hoping to see – Wolf, Lynx, Wolverine, and Beaver. I agreed not to go to Wonder Lake because of the weather, it was overcast with spotty showers. So we decided to do some hiking. A recommendation from a book led me out to polychrome pass, but a mother grizzly and 2 cubs were spotted in the area and bus drivers were not to let people out. So we headed out to the visitor center and hiked the river bar further than we had the day before. The scenery was beautiful, but after about 2 hours we hadn’t seen any wildlife so we went back to the road and flagged a bus to go home.

The ride home was great as we saw most of the animals the park is known for. I finally saw my wolves too. We added some Dall sheep, caribou, and bears. However I was still missing my big bull moose! We did the horseshow lake trail and the mount healy overlook trail near the entrance. With the rain that was coming down we didn’t see ANY animals, but the hikes were still fun.





Day 9

This was a relax day. The only thing we had to do was get up and head to anchorage for our early am flight out the next morning. I, however, wanted my Moose that I missed out on back on day 1 in the park. I was able to convince my wife to let me drive the first 15 miles one last time. About 9 miles in and 60 yards deep in the trees was a great big bull Moose! I pulled over, stopped the car and took some pictures. I got out of the car so I could use the roof as my tripod (it was already packed) but a park ranger scolded me… There were bikers standing on the side of the road taking pictures but I was the problem, the guy with the car between him and the moose… Still don’t understand that one. Too many cars had started to pull off for the rangers liking and he started to shoo people away. So I drove up about 2 more miles and then turned around for a second look. This time he wouldn’t let anyone stop claiming the Moose was too close to the road. Oh well I got 1 pretty good photo and left with that.



This night we stayed at Captain Cook which was a great way to end the Honeymoon; fantastic rooms with great views. It was pretty expensive, but we felt worth it for one last night. We ate at their restaurant the Crow’s Nest. Good food, but definitely overpriced. We both had seafood, no appetizers or desert, and no wine and it was $140 after tip… I should’ve done Simon’s & Seaforts or something else. But the view from our room was awesome:




It was an unbelievable trip! Thanks to those who helped me, especially FTI and Seat 2A! We couldn’t have asked for much better anything during our time there. If you do Denali, do yourself a favor and please go for more than 1 day. Each time we went out was different. The value of our camelback cannot be overstated – people on the bus commented they were jealous we had thought of that.

You do have to pack for all the weather. The waterproof jackets allowed us to still hike in the rain and be the only ones on the deck of the boat in Seward while raining and getting photos others missed out on because of it.

With the help of people in the Alaska forum I think we did the best trip with the time we had based on what we wanted to do. We would’ve liked to add homer or Kodiak island, but that wouldn’t meant cutting something else we really wanted to do and Kodiak is only accessible by air so it would get expensive quickly.

If anybody wants suggestions or further feedback about a place feel free to let me know.

Last edited by Miss0033; Sep 10, 12 at 6:02 pm Reason: Adding Photos
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Old Sep 2, 12, 9:15 pm
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Great report, and I'm looking forward to the next installments!
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Old Sep 5, 12, 1:50 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
Great report, and I'm looking forward to the next installments!
I am too. I've been to Alaska 4 times in the past 6 years and I still can't get enough!
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Old Sep 5, 12, 3:37 pm
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good trip report, have a few friends in the land of the midnight sun
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Old Sep 5, 12, 4:20 pm
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Great report so far!

Originally Posted by SalishSea View Post
I am too. I've been to Alaska 4 times in the past 6 years and I still can't get enough!
I am leaving next week for my fourth trip this year . I definitely can't get enough of it.
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Old Sep 5, 12, 11:21 pm
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I wish I could go back soon. Too bad it will probably be awhile. I hope the trip report is okay, let me know if too many pictures, not enough pictures, too much info... etc. Like I said, I have over 1700 photos that I would love to share, but dont want to bore people, make the website crash, etc.

Thanks guys!

Last edited by Miss0033; Sep 5, 12 at 11:30 pm
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Old Sep 7, 12, 9:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Miss0033 View Post
I wish I could go back soon. Too bad it will probably be awhile. I hope the trip report is okay, let me know if too many pictures, not enough pictures, too much info... etc. Like I said, I have over 1700 photos that I would love to share, but dont want to bore people, make the website crash, etc.

Thanks guys!
Excellent report! I loved the photo with Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter and Mt. McKinley all in the same photo. That is very rare. I saw it from Trapper Creek (near Talkeetna) in late May.
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Old Sep 7, 12, 11:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Miss0033 View Post
I wish I could go back soon. Too bad it will probably be awhile. I hope the trip report is okay, let me know if too many pictures, not enough pictures, too much info... etc. Like I said, I have over 1700 photos that I would love to share, but dont want to bore people, make the website crash, etc.

Thanks guys!
You didnt try to take that picture on the train....

i cant remember which it was .. washington post their annual photo contest and the winner was on that trainride....they took the picture from the other side of the train when it passed a lake or river and then went over a curve in the tracks that thus producing a reflect all along of the train windows.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...052704826.html

There have been a few others in differnt publications or ny times like this.
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Old Sep 9, 12, 10:27 am
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Looks like a wonderful trip! Love your photos!
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Old Sep 10, 12, 6:03 pm
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finally got around to adding the last section. Enjoy!
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Old Sep 10, 12, 7:52 pm
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Amazing capture of our majestic state. Come back soon!
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Old Sep 15, 12, 6:30 pm
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What I enjoyed most about this report was your enthusiasm and sense of adventure throughout. I'm sorry we weren't able to meet up while you were in Denali but it certainly sounds like you had a great time and I do hope you'll be able to make a return visit to The Great Land soon.
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