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Flightseeing in Alaska

Flightseeing in Alaska

Old Feb 27, 20, 7:39 pm
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Flightseeing in Alaska

Flightseeing in Alaska


Previous Reports

Six Days in Iraq
A Trip to Bali and Lombok
A Trip to Qatar, Southern Africa and Singapore Qsuite, SQ J, HO J and UA Polaris
A Weekend in the Canadian Rockies: Banff National Park
A Whirlwind Trip Around SE Asia: Bangkok, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia
Two Days in Guatemala
A Weekend in Austin, Texas
Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Powerplant and Pripyat
A Short Trip to Panama City, Panama
A Week in the Caucasus: Georgia, AzerbaijanandArmenia
A Landscape Photography Trip to Oregon
A Trip to Nigeria
A Trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona
A Trip to the Azores.
One Week in India: Mumbai, Amritsar, Agra/Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Delhi CX and EY J
A Snowstorm in Tokyo and Volcanoes in the Philippines
New Year’s in Seoul, South Korea Delta A350 Suite
Keeping it Domestic: Grand Teton National Park
9 Days in Asia: Taipei, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Shanghai
Two Weeks in South Africa and Namibia: Joburg, Cape Town, Sossusvlei and Kruger
ˇBienvenido a Cuba!

Alaska is another destination that has long been my list of places to visit, especially for the photography opportunities. I've always put it off since I've wanted a week to go into the tundra and explore. For the long Veteran's Day weekend, I was planning on visiting Zion National Park in Utah, but weather issues out west made me cancel that trip. After searching for another viable destination, I stumbled across Anchorage. Sure, it wasn't going to be the week-long trip I was waiting for, but it was a good start. And I mean a really good start.



Day 1



Today's long routing to Anchorage, Alaska.


Boarding the final flight from Seattle to Anchorage.


On final from the west into Anchorage.


Welcome to Anchorage after a long day of travel.


I arrived in Anchorage around 2 PM, which wasn't too long before sunset. I headed straight to the hotel for the night to drop my bags and change clothes.


I didn't really have a plan for this first evening, so at the suggestion of the hotel receptionist, I headed up to Flattop Mountain which was a short drive from the hotel.


Flattop Mountain's observation point (near the parking lot) provided pretty good views of the nearby Chugach State Park.


Views like this are what convince me that Florida is not the place I was born to live in.


Pinecone.


Pinecones.


The city of Anchorage seen from Flattop Mountain. Anchorage has a metro population of almost 400,000 people. Anchorage accounts for nearly half of the state of Alaska's population.


The sunset was around 4:45 PM when I visited in early November.


Clear skies are rare this time of year in Anchorage, but I was lucky to easily be able to see the Alaska Range.


Snowcapped mountains.


The actual Flattop Mountain. If I had time (and the clothes) I would've done this hike as I'm sure the views are quite spectacular from up there.


At the recommendation of some friends online, I stopped by Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria for some reindeer pizza for dinner.




Day 2



One thing I had always wanted to do if I visited Alaska was to go up in a plane in the Alaska Range. I did some calling around a few days prior to the trip and none of the companies that normally do these tours had any bookings since we were now clearly in the slow season. I eventually got ahold of the owner of N2 Alaska who offered to take me up around Mt. Denali for the normal asking price (other companies wanted the 2-person or 3-person pricing) since it had been a while since he had gone up in the plane. At ~$300, it wasn't cheap but I was holding out hopes that it would be a good experience.

The Denali flights typically depart from Talkeetna, about 2-hours north of Anchorage.


The pilot wanted me in Talkeetna around noon, so I left my hotel in Anchorage around 7 AM. I figured I would make some stops along the way and wanted to visit Hatcher Pass for sunrise, even though the pass itself is closed this time of year to car traffic.

The roads in Anchorage were super icy that morning, so my Florida-boy self was trying to navigate to the highway while slowly sliding around.


I had the road up to Hatcher Pass to myself.


I've always heard that rental cars in Anchorage were expensive but the benefit of visiting in the offseason is you can easily get a full size sedan for $15/day.


The sun just starting to show itself on the mountainside.


Mountains in Hatcher Pass.


Alpenglow.


There was certainly a lot more snow up here than in Anchorage.


Mountain.


As I was at the top of Hatcher Pass, a few more cars started arriving for people looking to go snowshoeing and skiing.


Looking out at the valley from Hatcher Pass.


I pushed forward with the drive to Talkeetna, but I couldn't help but stop a few times for some pictures off of the highway.


Heading up Highway 3 towards Talkeetna.


I drove through a thick layer of fog at one point which afforded a nice photograph.


I arrived in the Talkeetna area a little early, around 11 AM, so I decided to check in at my Airbnb before the flight. Hotels were a bit expensive in Talkeetna (and some were even closed for the offseason) so I opted to try something a little different this time; a tiny house. It was a little rough around the edges, though expected given how rural it was. The house was located about 25-minutes off of Highway 3 (all dirt roads) and the driveway was almost 2 miles long (and requires 4wd in the winter).

The road from Highway 3 to my Airbnb.


The tiny house.


The downstairs kitchen/living area.


The upstairs loft/bed area. The bed was actually quite comfortable. I thought it was in air mattress in the pictures, but no, it's a legitimate mattress.


The forward part of the loft.


The view from the front of the house.


Tale has it that only a third of Denali's visitors get to see the mountain in all of its glory. Man, did I luck out. The pilot warned me several times that he may cancel if the weather was bad (which is more often than not in November).


I met the pilot at the Talkeetna Airport and hopped aboard his company's sole aircraft, a 1976 Cessna 185 Skywagon. He told me in the summer he uses floats, but the lakes were partially frozen now in November. Once winter hits, he switches to skis. I visited right in between so I got to witness the rare wheels on this plane.


Onboard N21709, with service to Mt. Denali. During various times of the year, the airplanes are actually able to land on the glaciers around the mountain (which would be amazing I'm sure) but the Alaska Range had received quite a bit of snow recently, so the glaciers wouldn't be a good place to land when I visited.


It was about 15-minutes from takeoff before we made it to Denali.


An unbelievable view of Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 meters).


River.


Glacier in Denali National Park.


Flying alongside some glaciers.


This area near Denali is known as 'Little Switzerland' due to its jagged peaks. I won't label all of the pictures in this series, so just enjoy.







The blue part on the cliff edge is called a serac, they're quite dangerous to mountaineers as they can fall or collapse at any time.


Denali Base Camp is in the valley in the bottom right.


MaxVO, nequine, dc2005b and 5 others like this.
ChiefNWA is offline  
Old Feb 27, 20, 7:41 pm
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Denali's windy peak from the north. The peak can easily reach -40F with wind chills exceeding -75F.






Looking quite windy up there.














A view you can't forget.












Close up view of a serac.








The largest glacier on Denali, Ruth Glacier. It moves at about 1-meter per day.






Once we exited the Denali National Park, it was another 15-minutes or so until we touched back down at Talkeetna Airport. 100% worth every penny and probably one of the best travel experiences I've had thus far.




After the flight, I headed about an hour north to the Denali South Viewpoint for sunset since I just hadn't gotten enough already lol. I stopped for this view on the way.




Denali during a rare clear sky sunset.




Day 3



With sunrise at almost 9 AM, I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it back down to the Anchorage area for sunrise. The plan for the day was to drive the Seward Highway south of Anchorage before heading back to the airport for my 10 PM flight to Minneapolis that evening.



I drove about 90-minutes to Reflections Lake, near Anchorage. It afforded pretty nice views for sunrise.




The sky basically exploded in color.




Good morning Alaska.




Partially frozen Reflections Lake.




A rather chilly 20F morning.




I continued the drive down the Seward Highway to Beluga Point. Below is the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and the city of Seward.




Beluga Point. It was windy, cold and overcast; just as I had imagined Alaska.




Driving the Seward Highway.




Looking across Turnagain Arm, an inlet in the Anchorage area.




Mudflats. They're quite dangerous as they act like quick sand more or less.




Mudflats.




The scenery is still beautiful, even with the rather miserable weather.




I stopped off at this viewpoint of a glacier.




I started off on a short hike to Byron Glacier.




The main trail ended, which meant the next half mile or so was over jagged rocks.




Luckily temps were in the low 40s, so the moist rocks weren't icy.




This was my first time close to an actual glacier.




The Byron Glacier. There were several warning signs saying not to go into the ice cave, probably for good reason.




Another glacier on the mountain nearby.




Another glacier nearby. It was pretty hard to get bored on this hike given the views.




Hiking back through the rocks to the main trail.




Once I was back on the road, I decided to take a quick detour to Whittier, mostly just to drive through this very narrow and long tunnel. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is dual-use (rail and vehicle) and is the second-longest tunnel in North America. It's also only wide enough for one car (or train) at a time.




The Buckner Building, an abandoned former U.S. military building in Whittier.




A lookout point near Whittier.




Trees.

Last edited by ChiefNWA; Feb 28, 20 at 2:19 pm
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Old Feb 27, 20, 7:42 pm
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Alaska Railroad car - Whittier.


A picture to give the tunnel some scale.




I continued the drive towards Seward. The weather was predicted to be rather poor, but I had nothing else to do at this point so I pushed forward.




A panorama of the mountains near Moose Pass, enroute to Seward.




Snowcapped mountain.




I reached Seward, which appeared mostly like a ghost town (I guess November isn't a popular time to visit). Some of these houses looked pretty nice though.




A view of 'sunset' near Seward.




I had a drop-in by a sealion as I was shooting some pictures.




After sunset, I hopped back in the car for the 2.5 hour drive back to Anchorage. Once in the city, I grabbed some dinner before heading back to the airport. I started with some seafood chowder.




Alaskan Salmon for the main of course, even if it was a bit overpriced.



From dinner, it was back to the airport for the redeye flight to Minneapolis then down to Tampa. Overall, I had a great short trip to Alaska and am counting my blessings for having gotten such great weather for the flight around Denali. I'm already planning return trips to Alaska, but this time I think I'm going to head much further north.
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Old Feb 27, 20, 9:26 pm
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Great report and photos as usual. I've never been to Alaska, but this trip makes me want to visit it at sometime. Your Airbnb looks really nice, but how remote! I bet it felt pretty lonely that night you had the place to yourself out there 2 miles from the main road!

Thanks for sharing.
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Old Feb 28, 20, 2:30 am
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Awesome!
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Old Feb 28, 20, 6:17 am
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Without question a great trip
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Old Feb 28, 20, 7:02 am
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Stunning scenery. Hope I can make it up there one day on a cruise.
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Old Feb 28, 20, 1:23 pm
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Man you could not get better weather in Denali if you asked for it. Great photos.
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Old Feb 28, 20, 5:19 pm
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Great photos, thanks for sharing.
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Old Mar 1, 20, 4:50 am
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Some breathtaking scenery and photography, ChiefNWA! Alaska has just moved up a few places on my travel bucket list.
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Old Mar 5, 20, 9:56 am
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Truly beautiful. Thanks for the TR.
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Old Mar 5, 20, 11:35 am
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Fantastic photographs in your TR!

The place you stayed at looked like some of the properties featured in Alaska Railroad!
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Old Mar 9, 20, 9:01 pm
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Excellent photographs! It's the off season but there is still great stuff to see up here in the fall/winter months.
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Old Mar 10, 20, 10:42 am
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Excellent photos and you definitely majorly lucked out on the weather. No way I would've planned a trip that far north in the winter I would be scared of the weather and driving in it. Haven't got much experience driving on icy roads.

On the flip side, I am assuming that bears would be hibernating the time of the year you went (and now as well), so at least one danger is out of the way. Or am I wrong?
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Old Mar 11, 20, 3:36 pm
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Awesome photographs! Yes, there is definitely something about Anchorage, the way the sunsets and early morning light appear. Nothing quite like it!

What type of camera do you use?
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