Our 1997 trip to Alaska

Our route is shown in Red:

Map of Alaska

On August 30, 1997 we set our sails north to Alaska for ten days. The plan was to fly to Anchorage, stay in a B & B for two nights and then transfer to a rented Motor Home. Once in the MH we would head north to Denali National Park, look for wild animals, sightsee, then head for the southern Alaska coast of Homer and Seward. We'd then return to Anchorage for the flight home. The trip progressed more or less as planned.

The B & B was "The Ivy Inn" in south Anchorage. It is owned by Sharon Palmisano and she can be reached through: http://www.innsandouts.com/ under Anchorage listings. Sharon is a kayaker so we had things in common. She has a nice place with private entrance.

One of the things that is of interest in Anchorage is the Museum of Natural History. Alaska has grown up alot since I was there in 1960. They have many first class attractions. Most of the state is well supported with oil revenue. Another attraction is the headquarters of the Iditarod dog sled race, located in Wasilla, about 40 miles from Anchorage.

Iditarod sled racesIditarod trail: 1089 miles long.
They have a great display of the race winners and what's involved in running it.

Went to the Independance Mine which is located in the high country above Wasilla. It's a silver/gold mine that was worked up until the 1930's when it finally ran out. What remains is a ghost town that looks much like the California town of Bode. Normally, it would be no big deal in the lower 49 states but Alaska weather makes simple things much more complicated. The weather at this location is terrible in all but about three months of the year. I was told that the animals don't even come up.

So much for our visit around Anchorage. We rented the RV on Monday, September 1st and were on our way north. The road is referred to as the Parks highway and is mostly two lane being the major north south hiway in the state. Everything is big in Alaska, particularly the distances between attractions. Denali is about 240 miles north of anchorage yet it looks like a short distance on the Alaska map. It's a big state! The hiway was paved all the way except for a short construction area. We arrived in Denali and checked in to the visitor center to pick up more information and get a camp site. We camped at Riley Creek which is the most popular CG in the area. They had a good ranger program in the evening and did a good job answering questions. The visitor center is well maintained and has lots of maps, tour and back country information. A big issue is to understand the bears and stay out of their way. For example, if you go hiking, they suggest you wear "bear bells" so they know your coming. Most accidents happen because the bear wants your food or you just surprize them.

Denali Bears

The next day we decided to take a wildlife tour that lasted from 2:00 PM till 9:00 PM. At this latitude, 63 degrees north , the sun was still up till about 9:30 PM. They were loosing about 5 minutes a day of daylight towards the approach of the vernal equinox.

Oh yes, we certainly did see some bears and many other forms of wildlife. The bears were not as close as we'd have liked but they still seemed big. We saw a momma bear with two black cubs. All three had lots of energy. We also saw Carabou, Moose, and many other large animals. Marsha was hoping to see a Wolf but no such luck. She went on a tour of the dog kennel they use to train trail dog's for winter activities. Skidoos are used more and more but most people like the dog's better because the lower noise level and impact on the wild animals. The road into the park is restricted so that you have to be on a tour or take the Shuttle bus. No private autos are allowed beyond a certain point. You can drive about 15 miles into the park but on the shuttle you can go 95 miles. Clearly, this is a place where the wildlife is king and not humans. The weather was nice and sunny but the night time lows were already getting down below freezing.

They were about to close down all the warm season activities for the year. The end of the season is about mid Sept. We were prepared for Mosquitoes, but never had a problem........too late in the season I guess.

Mt. McKinley (Denali) highest point in North America

South Central Alaska

Time was moving on; we had to head south for our visit of Kenai Fjords and maybe do a little Kayaking or fishing at Homer. This part of Alaska is noted for its Halibut fishing and fantastic scenery.

Homer's Kachemak Bay spit.

A popular activity here is Kayaking. The opposite side of the bay is outstanding from a wildlife point of view. Marsha took a kayak trip to Gull Island and saw sea otters and other critters. She was impressed with the number of marine mammals in the area. Of course, eagles were everywhere. While in Homer, we found out that a friend of hers won $25,000 in a fishing derby at Homer and was about to collect his prize the following week. We weren't able to stay. His "big fish" was a Halibut at 327 lbs. It was the largest fish caught during the season of those who had entered the derby. At least one other fish was larger but the person didn't enter the contest. (too bad).

The coves and inlets of Kachemak bay are loaded with small settlements made up of people who love to be independent. Seldovia, on the south coast of the bay has many artists and fishing families yet no roads in or out. I'm told that you can visit Seldovia by day but you have to leave in the late afternoon unless you're a guess of a resident. The town is made up of many Scandanavian people. Most everyone has waterfront access; the marine environment is everything. Alaska interior also has many independent living people. I was impressed by their numbers and the ability to be self supporting.

Otter A rough life!

We spent our final days in Seward. It rained pretty hard for part of the time. This is the jumping off place for the Kenai Fjords. One of the largest ice fields in the world, the Harding, is just outside of town. It has only been in recent years that someone has made it across this field on foot or dog sled. Seward is a well developed with fishing, tourism, and wildlife within easy reach.

Glacier off Harding Ice Field
We camped right on the waterfront. Lots of room to park the RV but other facilities are minimal. Seward is a nice modern town at the end of Resurrection Bay. Fishing is big here, too. Cruise ships drop by because of the Kenai Fjords National Park and great outdoor activities. Few people know it but its the true start of the Iditarod trail when the trail was used to transport medication to Nome.

I would say that 65% of the RV's on the road were rented in places like Anchorage, 20% were Alaskans with their own vehicle and 15% were people from the lower 48 or Canada that drove the ALCAN highway. Our RV rental was from ABC Motorhomes in Anchorage. I researched them for nearly a year before our trip. By asking the question,"what sort of luck have you had with RV rentals in Anchorage" on the USENET, I got enough responses to show where people had consistant results. One benefit is they actually charge less than some of the other rentals. Everything turned out fine and they didn't hastle us when we turned the vehicle back in.

All reservations for this trip occured over the Internet. I used the on-line reservation system for:

Alaska Airlines has a real neat WEB page in that you not only can list the flights available but also see the cost. All of my personal travel is now arranged with the carrier directly, and over the net. I've had better results doing it this way then going through a travel agent. The Internet has been a fantastic source of information about things to see as well as reservations. Denali has many pages on the WEB to describe maps, how to sign up for events, etc.

Overall, the trip was great, we saw lots of wildlife, did some Kayaking and explored some great scenic areas.

Created: 10/97, Updated: 8/01

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