ALASKA Denali OUTDOORS

BEST OF ALASKA | Top 10 Favorite Destinations, Experiences And Places To Eat

June 17, 2014

Alaska week has finally come to an end! Is everyone as relieved as I am? I’m not sure what is more shocking — the amount of photos I took or that I actually blogged more than two days in a row. Now I realize why I sort of just stopped midway through blogging.

WHEW!

As laborious as it was to go through all my photos it has been fun (at least for me) looking back and remembering our trip to Alaska. All this blogging has reminded me why I keep taking photos and why I post them here: it’s nice to have a space to store our memories because I’m sure I would lose them if I didn’t write them down.

To sum up our Alaska trip, here are our Top 10 favorite destinations, experiences, and places to eat:

10. SCENIC ROADWAYS

We love a good road trip, and spent lots of our time seeing Alaska from our car (or bus). Alaska is massive so there’s a lot of driving to do, but it’s also so beautiful that along the way you will encounter all sorts of amazing vistas just driving from one town to the next. Whether driving along the Kenai Peninsula or up to Denali we were constantly stopping a million times to take pictures of glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and quirky roadside attractions.

9. PICKING WILD BLUEBERRIES

The end of August seems like the best time to visit Alaska — of course I’m partial since that is when we went. Besides there being less mosquitoes it’s also berry season! It took us a couple tries but we eventually found fields of plump ripe blueberries in Denali National Park. Picking wild berries in the shadow of Mt. McKinley = probably the best breakfast anyone could ever ask for.

8. GETTING “LOST”

Alaska is one of those places that is best experienced a bit off the beaten track, but then this is how we like to travel in general. There are lots of tourist buses, cruses, and tours in Alaska, and honestly you could see a lot this way (see item #10). Alaska’s beauty is easily accessible to pretty much anyone, and while I think that is mostly a good thing, it did surprise me how few people we saw whenever we decided to do something a little bit away from the tourist trails. Whether intentional or not we did a good amount of getting lost — and those are probably some of our best memories Get off the bus, hike a trail, explore your surroundings, paddle down a river , take a tiny prop plane somewhere remote — this is what Alaska was made for. Do what you find interesting, not what a guidebook tells you to do.

7. EXPLORING FUNKY SMALL TOWNS

If you liked Northern Exposure then you’ll pretty much love Alaska. I know, I know, Northern Exposure wasn’t even filmed in Alaska, but the tv show did a really good job of capturing the essence of small town Alaska. Even the bigger towns like Sitka and Juneau still felt small and intimate (except when the cruise ships docked and let the heaps of tourists off the boat) and were easily navigable on foot  I love exploring quirky small historic towns and Alaska definitely has plenty of those.

6. GLACIERS

I cannot imagine anyone leaving Alaska without seeing or visiting at least one glacier — they are everywhere! Many, like Mendenhall and Exit Glacier are very easy to hike, while others you can helicopter to/over, dogsled on, explore by kayak or camp beside. To watch glaciers calving — it sounds like two trucks crashing — you typically have to take a boat tour. We toured Glacier Bay and saw all kinds of wildlife – puffins, otters, bears, eagles, moose, and whales — it’s well worth the trip.

5. FRESH ALASKAN KING CRAB FROM A SHACK

We love fresh seafood so Alaska was Heaven to us. The salmon was of course amazing, but the real star was the Alaskan King Crab we ate from a little shack in Juneau. It’s a bit pricey and the line gets a long around lunch time, but it was the best crab we have ever eaten. In my book eating seafood on a picnic bench beside the water in the bitter rainy cold beats a fancy 4-star restaurant any day.

4. SPOTTING ALASKAN WILDLIFE

If you don’t see some sort of Alaskan wildlife you really aren’t looking hard enough. At the very least you’ll see lots of stuffed animals, especially in airports. One of the best things about Alaska is how wild it still feels — the streams are literally filled with salmon and animals of all kinds can be spotted from just about anywhere — a walk, a drive, a boat ride. It’s truly amazing and makes you wonder what the rest of the US (or the world) would have looked like before humans got their grubby little hands on it.

3. PADDLING DOWN THE MOOSE RIVER

It rained a lot when we were in Alaska, but when the weather was beautiful it was eye-poppingly beautiful.  As we have become better at ‘planning’ our trips we have discovered that what works best for us is to plan a few things and leave the rest of the time open for wherever the day takes us. I’m not exactly sure what led us to this part of Alaska — we were driving along the Kenai Peninsula thinking we would just keep driving north as far as we could. But then we woke up one morning and saw how beautiful it was outside and decided that it would be a crime not to spend it outdoors. Which is how we found ourselves paddling down the moose river on waters so clear and quiet that we hardly even noticed the moose until we were practically floating right beside it.

2. CAMPING AT WONDER LAKE IN DENALI NATIONAL PARK

We often ask ourselves why we enjoy camping so much. Who would *choose* to forgo modern conveniences to sleep outside, wrapped in every single article of clothing you own and eat cold food from a pouch? I suppose the real answer to that question is a bit complex but if a picture is worth a thousand words then I think those taken at Wonder Lake in Denali National Park pretty much sum it all up for us.

1. FINDING YOUR OWN ‘PRIVATE’ ISLAND

I think the type of person that really enjoys Alaska is the type that likes to ‘get away from it all’ or at least we are those type of people. It took us two plane rides to get to Gustavus from Anchorage but once there we felt as if we were in a world all our own. We loved hiking to Bartlett Cove, sitting on a sunny rock and watching all the wildlife around us, and never seeing another soul. We took a boat ride through Glacier Bay and saw all kinds of wildlife. We loved the small little town with the vintage gas pumps. We ate one of our most memorable meals ever at the Gustavus Inn (no wonder it was a James Beard award winner…all the way out here!) Gustavus was quiet, remote, filled with wildlife, friendly people and surprisingly good food. I’m not sure if the town would appeal to most people but that’s one of the best parts of traveling — finding a place that you connect with, that feels like a little piece of home even though it’s thousands of miles away.**Notice that getting stuck in an airport for hours is not on this list.**

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