Alaska Road and Camping Trip - Bob and Shirley
July 23 - August 13, 2013
Map of Our Route

Day 1 - July 23, 2013 [Tue]

Flying from Santa Rosa to Anchorage
- Everything went smoothly from leaving Santa Rosa to almost arriving in Anchorage. Scenery out the airplane window of mountains and glaciers for hundreds of miles was unlike anything we had ever seen before. Later we heard an experienced flyer of this route say it was rare to get such clear weather with no clouds obstructing the view.
- At Anchorage, we flew by the airport preparing for the approach. Banked steeply and turned 180 degrees in preparation for landing. Descended towards the runway. Suddenly, the lady behind us, said: "We are coming in too high." Then Shirley said: "That landing gear sounds odd." Then, just as we were over the runway, we accelerated and began to gain altitude while banking around 180 degrees. The guy on the intercom then explained that a small plane was taking longer to land than the control tower had expected, so we had to abort our landing. The next try was successful. Some of the passengers clapped upon landing. It was a fun way to end the flight, in Bob's opinion.
- Renting the car was a minor hassle - told we would be upgraded for free, then told that was not the case, then directed to the wrong car, then found the right car had very minor damage we needed to report, but that became a hassle. In the end, delayed maybe a half hour, not big deal.
- The place we rented for the first two nights was as comfortable and nice as could be. Had the whole second floor with bedroom, living/dining room, shower/bathroom, TV/DVD player plus DVD's (we watched none), plus free WiFi. The home owners were just as pleasant as could be, and their cat was pleased to be picked up by me as we were talking with them.

-Oops. Forgot to mention mosquitoes, "The National Bird of Alaska", as some have told us. No problem with them until we parked in the driveway at our new residence. Then they were all around the car. The owner was wondering why we were not getting out of the car - Shirley was scrambling to find mosquito netting, spray, etc. Owner quickly got a bottle of spray, Shirley got out of car, and we all went inside. Neither the owner nor Bob got attacked. Mosquitoes headed right for Shirley.

Shirley garbed for mosquitoes

Day 2 - July 24, /2013 [Wed]

Visiting Anchorage
- Spent some time in the morning getting supplies, then began sightseeing
- Drove to coast near airport that had collapsed into the bay during a large earthquake. Did not realize just how close we were to end of runway until a jet flew right over our heads.
- Walked down to edge of beach/mudflats, where signs told of dangers, both from walking on the mudflats and wild animals. Shirley had read about one lady who got trapped in the quicksand-like mud and, in spite of efforts by her husband and an emergency crew, drowned as the tide rose. Saw a family with kids out playing in the water and the mudflat.

- Got lost trying to find a park, then went to lunch at Mama O's, which served a nice salmon with brown rice.
- Drove to Potter's Marsh. On the one hand it was very pretty with a backdrop of scenic mountains and a nice boardwalk, with plenty of ducks, geese, ducklings, and small fish. On the other hand it was very near an active rifle range that was quite loud and a busy highway, both of which detracted from the experience.

Here's a video of Potter's Marsh.

- Next stop was the high point of the day - trail head for Flat Top Mountain. A view of all of Anchorage on one side, and a backdrop of peak on the other. We met an articulate, well-spoken young lady about to enter high school who had just finished jogging up to and back from Blueberry Hill - a stop on the way to Flat Top. She was able to tell us quite a bit about hiking possibilities, and then her mother arrived and joined the conversation. We may do a hike on our return to Anchorage in 3 weeks at the end of the trip, based on their advice.

Shirley with Flat Top Mountain behind her, Anchorage Alaska, July 24, 2013

- Rest of day was spent preparing to leave Anchorage tomorrow. Sunset today is around 11 pm.

Day 3 - July 25, /2013 [Thu]

Going from Anchorage to Seward

- Both of us believed this was the prettiest drive we had ever taken. During the first half of the trip on the Seward Highway, it was so beautiful we both laughed when we read on the map that we were not yet at the "Scenic Drive." What could possibly be more scenic? Then we got to the "Scenic Part" - it was even more beautiful.

- Sadly, our arrival at our lodging for the next four days was in sharp contrast to the foregoing scenery and to the pamphlet description we had been given: "This beachfront cottage overlooks Resurrection Bay and includes electricity, a wood stove, and a refrigerator". When we called, we had also been told it is "a beautiful little cottage overlooking Resurrection Bay. One of several cottages." These descriptions neglected to mention the environment captured in the image below, which shows the "cottage", standing alone in a parking lot of RV's next to a store and boat landing ramp. The image in turn fails to capture the true auditory ambiance which this short video illustrates: Millers Landing Cottage Ambience, Seward, Alaska. Oops, forgot to mention that the WiFi at the cottage, which is an additional charge, sucks.

However, all of the staff with whom we have dealt have been as pleasant and accomodating as can be. Really nice people. Also, the view across the Resurrection Bay to the mountains and snow packs is beautiful.

- However, a short walk in the "evening" - full daylight at 9 PM, again brought us to beautiful scenery along the Resurrection Bay beach.

Day 4 - July 26, 2013 [Fri]

Seward: Glaciers and Best Salmon We Have Ever Eaten

- In the morning we went up to Exit Glacier. The drive up Resurrection River through the national forest to the national park was - as usual - just beautiful. It was a fun and easy hike up to the glacier. Shirley wore mosquito netting - the only person to do so that we saw - and received compliment after compliment on her foresight. Everyone else was swatting at the mosquitos. Except for Bob, who had Shirley to attract them.

- That evening, after walking around Seward, we had dinner at The Salmon Bake. We both agreed this was the absolute best salmon either of us had ever eaten. Another superlative for Alaska!

Day 5 - July 27, 2013 [Sat]

Seward: OMG! Spectacular. Awesome. Unbelievable Cruise Boat Tour!

We keep thinking we could not see anything more beautiful than what we have already seen. And Alaska keeps proving us wrong. On this 6 hour tour through Resurrection Bay along the coast of the Kenai Fjords National Park we saw orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, seals, and a sea otter (admittedly, except for the otter, the sea creatures did not come real close). Yet the best of it all was the incredible scenery - mountains rising from the sea in every direction, covered with glaciers, pine forests, meadows, spectacular peaks. We highly, highly recommend Kenai Fjords Tours.

Alaska has got to be the prettiest state in the US.

To top it off, our incredible luck with the weather holds. Blue skies, bright sun, warmth, and calm seas. At points where the maximum swells can be up to 50 feet, we were riding gently over 1 foot swells. Other places it was as smooth as a calm "lake in Minnesota", as the guide said. Everyone has been telling us this weather in unusual for Alaska.

We were fortunate to see many, many humpback whales. Three decided to perform for us by diving. Here are the whale tails (the videos from which these are taken can be seen here and here):

At one point we saw humpback whales spouting in large numbers in a beautiful setting. Here is the video.

Following is a distant shot of an Orca, one of three "Transient" Orcas. The naturalist on board told us these Orcas eat mammals and travel long distances, while other types of orcas eat fish and stay in the area.

One stop on the tour was to see a nesting place for birds which spend their whole life away from land except for the brief period when they must come to shore to lay and hatch their eggs. Here is a brief video from which the next image is taken.

Another stop was at a glacier shown below, with a video here. Note how calm the waters are. At one point in the video you can see ice tumbling off the glacier into the water.

Day 6 - July 28, 2013 [Sun]

Seward: Another warm and sunny day. Visited the Sealife Aquarium, took a walk through woods, did laundry, had to go back for the very best salmon dinner at The Baked Salmon

Day 7 - July 29, 2013 [Mon]

Cooper Landing: Left Seward in the fog, arrived at Cooper Landing for another warm and sunny day.

- Saw Sockeye salmon - lots of them - in a stream. Salmon Run Video

- Saw a bear! Up close and personal while we were walking along the Russan River near Cooper Landing. It was a young brown bear looking for food in the middle of the river and walking along the other shore. Perhaps 30 feet away from us. As he walked down the river, we did also. Lots of photos and videos.

The images below are taken from this video: Bear FeedingVideo

Videos of the bear are also available here, here, here and here.

- Staying at a Bed and Breakfast named Kenai Riverside Campground and B&B, which is really a small motel with a shared shower and a few small rooms right along the highway near the Russian River. Never-the-less, we like it better than Millers Landing. A good shower, free and better WiFi, and quieter.

Day 8 - July 30, 2013 [Tue]

Homer: Drove from Cooper Landing to Homer, where we saw eagles, otters, a moose.

- The drive from Cooper Landing was flat and, relative to the incredible scenery we have seen before, unremarkabe. - Our motel, the Pioneer Inn, is very nice with a good shower, good WiFi, refrig, microwave. Definitely a relief to be there.

- At the visitor center a very helpful young guy told us where to go to see an occupied eagle nest, sea otters, moose, and to have a nice hike through a pretty meadow. He was accurate in every case, making our day.
- Saw the eagle nest, the mother eagle flew in and fed the chick(s?), then flew to a nearby tree. The video is here

- Went down the spit, saw sea otters, sea gulls, and had a salmon dinner at Captain Pattie's which was good, but not nearly as good as the one at The Baked Salmon.
- Drove a long distance looking for a moose. No luck. Stopped at a park and took a very pretty walk through a meadow, looking for moose. Heard a grunting very nearby in deep brush and trees that we both believe was a moose, but saw nothing. Lots of mosquitoes went after Shirley.
- Continued driving. Finally, almost the last of East End Road, before Razdolna, we spot a roadside moose. We are on a steep, very curvy, two lane, double yellow line, no shoulder road. So we stop in the middle of the road, put on our blinkers, hope for the best, and start taking photos and videos. All works out well. Moose just keeps eating roadside plants. Here's a video of the moose.

- Drive to end of paved part of East End Road, short of Razdolna, turn around, coming back the moose is still there. Nearby road on this side gives us a chance to park car safely and take more videos - This one shows the moose reacting to a passing car.. Then we come back to motel for the night.

Day 9 - July 31, 2013 [Wed]

Exploring Homer

- Took mile and a half hike at Carl Wyan Nature Center. Without paths, it would have been impenetrable. Fire weed - beautiful bright flower standing several feet tall - everywhere. Saw no wildlife, but later learned we should have been looking up at old dead trees to possibly see porcupines. Mosquitoes in abundance, went after Shirley. Here's a video from a platform along the path.

- Our host at the motel told us about another nearby eagle nest. Part of the nest had fallen and one of the eaglets now stood on a lower branch. His picture is below. Another eaglet was above, too hidden among branches for a good photo. Bald eagles do not get their white head feathers until about 5 years. Notice below that the beak is two colors and helps blend right into the tree branches.

- Took a walk along the beach next to the bay. Very pleasant, especially with the nice weather. The views to the mountains and glaciers were as always spectacular. At one point ravens or crows began congregating. More and more of them. They just kept flying in. Have no idea what that was about, maybe a convention.

- Drove over to the spit that extends from Homer to walk along the docks. Huge number of boats. We were told in the early morning the sea otters congregate here, but this was in the evening and none were around. There was an area for cleaning fish, with a large container for remains. The seagulls liked that!

- We saw a boat titled Nadine-2. Since our good neighbor is named Nadine, we took a photo and posted to Facebook, to which Nadine replied:
"I had a patient once that said, 'Oh! We love the name Nadine! Our Aunt is named Nadine, so we named our boat Nadine.' This must be their boat!!! LOL"

Whereas Nadine lives on one side of us, on the other side are our good neighbors Keith and Pat Sauer, who are into baking and hence use an email address including "sauerdough" in the name. So when we saw the place in Seward, shown below after Nadine's picture, we had to pass the image back to Keith and Pat. Keith, who is also a professional photographer, much improved the photo qualities.

Day 10 - Aug 1, 2013 [Thu]

Art Shops In Homer

- We spent the day visiting various art and curio shops in Homer. My favorite item, which we purchased: A refrigerator magnet with a picture of a mother bear and her two cubs over a dead guy, with the quote "The family that preys together, stays together." The creator has a website at
- Also saw proud anglers standing with their halibut catches from recently arrived fishing charter tours. Here's a video of a catch being processed.

Day 11 - Aug 2, 2013 [Fri]

Homer to Hope

- An uneventful drive to Hope, a very, very small town - 200 people - on Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, which is right across from Anchorage. We stopped several times to take pictures. The next one is looking back to the Homer Spit from the highway just outside of Homer. Also, here are some videos:

- We found our "rustic cabin" run by Discovery Cabins, which is very nice, with Bear Creek just outside. The sound of the flowing creek is nice. The cabin has electricity and heat, but no toilet or showers, which are a short walk away. There are mosquitoes, black flies, and other insects here in the woods around the cabin. The first photo below is of the building with the bathrooms/showers shared by all and a gathering room upstairs for group tours.

- Tomorrow we were scheduled to stay at a campground in the area, but decided that with rain threatening and lots of bugs we would find an alternative to the putting up of a tent. Discovery Cabin had nothing available, but we did find a luxurious, 3 bedroom duplex with large hot tube (which we will not use), barbecue grill (which we will not use), and large screen TV (which we will not use). It also has a nice kitchen and WiFi, which we definitely will be using. We are both very relieved to put off actual camping until Denali.

- Next we toured the little town of Hope and walked along Resurrection River, where several fisherman were casting their rods. It was breezy, so no bugs. We stopped at an art gallery run by a lady who told us stories about the bears, wolves, and moose around Hope. We hope to see one or more of those tomorrow.
Shirley is now cooking us a wonderful 3 course meal on our little, portable, 1 burner, electric stove: broccoli, split pea soup with mushrooms, and tomatoes and avocado, with blueberries for dessert. Bob went outside to pee and had a little brown mouse walk up to within a few feet.

Day 12 - Aug 3, 2013 [Sat]

Hope: A day of hiking

- First we hiked Gull Rock Trail (see video), which takes off from Porcupine Campground, the campground we decided not to stay at, even though we had non-refundable reservations for a campsite. Instead, we told the host that we would be parking there in the afternoon, but someone else could have it in the evening and overnight. When we came back to hike, sure enough, someone was parked at the campsite. We met, parked our car, and began hiking. Went between 4 and 6 miles. The path was a beautiful woodland trail. We were hoping for some spectacular views of Turnagain Arm (a bay or sound coming off the Cook Inlet), but there was generally too much forest between the trail and the Arm. Nevertheless it was a very nice hike with winds, sometimes strong, blowing through the tops of the trees. And keeping bugs away. The sound was just great.

- Next we began hiking the Resurrection River Trail (see video), which started at a small bridge over Resurrection River, then quickly climbed into forest. The sound of the river was peaceful, but there was no wind, the trail left the river out of sight, and various flying insects appeared. We decided after a short distance to return.

- Drove over to Hope to take one last look at the village and the Turnagain Arm. Twice were surprised by bicyclists as we approached Hope, who came quite close to our moving car. When we drove into Hope we discovered it was the end of a 100 mile bicycle race that was still in progress.

Day 13 - Aug 4, 2013 [Sun]

Hope to Hatcher Pass

- Drove out of Hope, taking photos at beautiful roadside pull-outs, then saw a moose with two calves by the side of the highway. Quickly stopped, did a u-turn across the highway, went back, pulled off the side of the road, and walked back to see the family. They quickly walked away. Tanker trucks and cars zoomed by at 70 mph.

- Next stop was the Alaska Conservation Center, where we saw fenced in bear, elk, musk ox, and other animals. Reminded us of a zoo, not at all like seeing them in the wild.

- In Anchorage we dropped off a pamphlet belonging to our first hosts, which we had inadvertently taken, bought more groceries, and left.

- Arrived in Palmer, bought yet more groceries, then stopped at a very nice visitor center with a vegetable garden. Palmer is the agricultural center of Alaska, where 100 lb cabbages can be grown - the champion cabbage at the state fair was 127 lb.

- Stopped at a musk ox farm and got in for free, saving $20, because they were having a fundraising, raffle event and no tours. We saw enough to decide we did not want to go back.

- Final leg of the journey was up toward Hatcher Pass and the views - as is so often the case in Alaska - were just beautiful. Arrived at Hatcher Pass Lodge and its rustic cabins. Our assigned one was too close to a noisy generator, so we were offered two others, one of which we liked and opted for. It is a nice little cabin with electricity and heat, but no shower, water, or WiFi. We like it. It is in the prettiest setting of any place we have ever stayed, except perhaps on our coast of Oregon trip.

- Decided to go for a hike and went part way up the nearest mountain, just behind our cabin. Coming down, Shirley twisted and pulled her ankle and knee on the soft, spongy tundra. We are hoping it is not too bad and will avoid hiking tomorrow.

Day 14 - Aug 5, 2013 [Mon]

Hatcher Pass

- Drove up a gravel road towards Hatcher Pass. At a pull-over on the way up we noticed an RV coming up the gravel road, in spite of a "Recommendation" that such vehicles not take the trip. We took a video of the scenery, that included at the beginning and end the RV. The RV turned into the pull-over and we met them. Several were younger and enthused about driving up to the pass. The mother seemed much less enthused about driving the RV up the steep, winding, gravel road. The third photo shows the RV as it starts down the other side of pass.

- At the top we also pulled over, where a couple of trails began. Bob then hiked up to a nearby ridge, while Shirley hiked to Summit Lake. The photos below show the start of Bob's hike, Summit Lake, and a couple of views from the ridge to which Bob hiked (the first of those actually include the cabin at which we stayed). This is a video from the ridge.

- After lunch, we drove up to the Independence Mine state park. We saw the ruins of the mine. A few buildings which housed people still remain. Below are a few photos. Here is a video of the surrounding landscape, including a view of our lodge.

- As we were driving a warning light came on. Shirley looked it up - "Low tire pressure." Later, using a gauge the kind Lodge staff provided us - we found one tire was 10 lbs under recommended pressure. Nothing to do until we drive the 20 miles back into Palmer tomorrow.

Day 15 - Aug 6, 2013 [Tue]

Hatcher Pass to Healy (Denali)

- Day began with worries about the low pressure tire. But those were solved with a couple of very, very nice encounters. As we drove towards Palmer from Hatcher Pass, going slowly and having packed the car to lessen weight on the low pressure tire, we saw our first station with an air pressure hose. So we stopped and met a young woman working there who was just instantly likeable and friendly as could be. She did have an air pressure gauge and a free air pump, but she suggested we visit Palmer Automotive [9150 N Palmer Fishhook Rd, Palmer, AK (907) 745-2283], just a couple of driveways back down the road. She said the guy there was really good and very honest and was particularly good with solving tire probems. All of this turned out to be true. The owner/mechanic was Tom who, when we drove up, was moving an engine into a truck for transport. Next he helped a lady get into her locked vehicle, which was fun to watch. Tom also was as friendly as could be, took off our tire, immediately found a small screw that had pushed into the tire, then told us it would take a bit to repair the tire. So we went outside the workshop onto the driveway and admired the back yard of his house.

After a few minutes Tom's wife Marta came out from the enclosed back porch and invited us in. After she offered tea and coffee (we declined because we had just finished breakfast), we had such a nice conversation with her. We learned the moose came into the back yard, sometimes with young ones, and hence the gardens, green house, and trees all had to be fenced. It turned out we all had a lot in common to share and the time went quickly. Tom then came in and said the tire was repaired, he had re-balanced the wheels, and checked the electronics because the warning light was still on. He told us that once we started driving for a bit, it would probably turn off. And it did. We thought he charged us too little, so we reached a better price.

Thus, what began as a problem - a low pressure tire - turned into a very nice, memorable event of our trip. I am glad the tire pressure went low and the warning light went on. And of course we could not recommend Palmer Automotive more highly.

- Because of Tom and Marta's advice, we avoided driving all the way back to Palmer and instead cut right over to Wasila [yes, that Wasila ;-)], which had the grocery store we needed to prepare for our Denali Park camping.

- Driving to Denali was even more spectacularly scenic than all that had come before. Incredible views of the Alaskan Range mountains, with tioga and tundra in the foreground. Mount McKinley is the highest summit in North America - nearly 4 miles high at 20,320 ft - and is beautiful. We got to see the top-most peak only once, from a long distance, before clouds encircled the upper portion.

- At Denali Park, which includes Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake just below it, we wanted to stop and pick up our bus tickets to Wonder Lake for tomorrow, get our camping permit, find out how to store our stuff, and where to park in the morning. This turned out to be another fun experience because the staff member who helped was as helpful, pleasant, knowledgable and as fun to talk with as could be. She mentioned one customer who came in and insisted she had a reservation for Jewel Lake. There is no Jewel Lake in Denali, but the lady was insistant. The staff member asked if perhaps her reservation was for one of the other nearby parks. The lady said no, it was for Jewel Lake in Denali. Finally, the staff member asked could she mean Wonder Lake? The lady's response, "Well, yes." The story was told so well.

- The rest of the day was spent first visiting various Denali facilities, then driving to the nearby Denali Park Hotel. We like the place a lot - your basic motel room with refrig, microwave, wonderful shower, quiet, WiFi, etc. Re-packed everything in preparation for 3 nights of camping starting tomorrow.

Day 16 - Aug 7, 2013 [Wed]

Healy to Wonder Lake, Denali Wilderness Park

- Bus ride took a 90 mile, winding precipitous road, almost all of which was gravel to Wonder Lake. We saw so many wild animals:

There was a guy from Switzerland who was the first to spot all but maybe one of the animals first.

- Our bus driver told a number of anecdotes, stories, and jokes

- We arrived at Wonder Lake campground, which was just swarming with mosquitoes. That night in the tent, we counted between 25 and 30 mosquitoes trying to get through the net windows of the tent. Not as bad as another stop years ago at Tickfaw State Park, which unabashedly describes itself as built in Tupelo Swamp in Louisiana, but enough mosquitoes to require netting over the head, long sleeve shirts and pants, long socks, etc. The camp ground had a walk in food locker, where all food had to be stored, along with any scented items, etc. Very convenient. Right next to picnic tables. And campground had flush toilets, potable water, place to wash dishes.

- Walked to Wonder Lake, where the wind was blowing, hence no mosquitos.

- Mt. McKinley was obscured by clouds, but other peaks were glorious.

- My camera battery goes dead and I cannot find the plastic bag with my extra batteries and video chips. Shirley and I search everywhere. So no more photos with the newer camera.

Day 17 - Aug 8, 2013 [Thu]

Wonder Lake, Denali Wilderness Park

- At 5 AM we discuss going back to visitor center on a 5 hour bus ride to check our locker there to see if the lost batteries are in our suitcase. We decide against it, but given that it was 5 AM and a bus leaves at 6:30 AM, we decide to take it back as far as the last previous stop, the Eielson Visitor Center.

- At the Eielson Visitor Center we hiked a trail that took us up above the center, then another trail that took us down towards the river bed. Before getting down to the river bed level, the trail became too steep and treacherous. We met two backpackers, Tammy and Paul, who were coming up from the river. They had crossed it at a point where it came up nearly to their hips in a strong current. Tammy lost her balance and Paul was able to grab her before she was swept down the river. She got thoroughly soaked. Tammy was from Tennessee and Paul from Texas. They had met through hiking clubs.

- The views around Eielson were of course beautiful, as shown in the next photo:

All four of us wanted to take a bus back to Wonder Lake. The "dispatcher", who controlled who got on and off buses, said he did not want us to use a "Camper" bus like we had come in on, but use a "Shuttle" bus. Camper busses have the last few rows of seats removed to leave plenty of room for all the camping gear. He could give no good reason. We had heard that there was a drive on to eliminate camper buses, so we figured this was part of that effort. First shuttle bus was completely full. Next shuttle bus was questionable, while the recently arrived camper bus had plenty of room. At the last moment, we all four were given seats on the shuttle bus. We see ptarmigans and 2 moose on the way back, a female moose in a on a ridge.

- Took the bus back to Wonder Lake and driver let us off at the "Y" junction, just before the lake, so we could continue on foot along to Reflection Pond. By now the sky was clearing of clouds so Mt. McKinley was coming into view. It was magnificent.

- As we were walking back from Reflection Pond, a very kind volunteer Ranger, Magali Vincent, stopped and gave us a lift for the last mile or two. She had immigrated to the US from France and was as fun as could be to talk with. She was giving the evening presentation at Wonder Lake on animal tracks. The previous evening she and another had focused on rabbits.

- Mt. McKinley completely cleared up in the evening and we took photo after photo. Of course, not one captures the true grandeur. Here is one of our better ones:

- On Mt. McKinley in the above photo, the tallest, obvious peak is the North Peak. It is not, however, the taller peak. The South Peak is the taller and from this view is behind the North Peak and far enough away to appear lower. No one, including the volunteer ranger, could confidently state which of the 3 peaks in the background that are just below the North Peak was the South Peak.

- We had decided to cut one night of the 3 nights we had originally planned to stay at Wonder Lake for three reasons - we had been lucky enough to see so much, mosquitoes were a pain, and several people during our trip had suggested we should visit Talkeetna if we could get the chance. We decided to spend a night in Talkeetna, though we had no motel reservation, it was peak tourist season and we did not know what to expect.

Day 18 - Aug 9, 2013 [Fri]

Wonder Lake to Talkeetna

- Up at 4:45 AM, packed up all the camping gear and caught 6:30 AM bus. Saw a couple of more grizzlies and caribou.

- Did not find camera batteries in locker, so decided to drive back to last motel, 11 miles on the way to Fairbanks, as opposed to the direction we were going.

- Picked up a hitchhiker headed to Fairbanks. The poor guy had been rock climbing and fell. His eye was deep black, bruises on his face, and he said some teeth were broken. We felt so bad for him. Hope he gets to Fairbanks, where he is staying. He is from France.

- Batteries were not at motel, so we drove to Talkeetna. Light rain most of the way. We found the most hidden motel imaginable - no address in brochure advertisement, no signs along road, no sign on the motel. We had to stop at a local ranger station, where one of the rangers told us it was right down the street a block. She also said many in Talkeetna had no address. We walked around the motel, but there was no office. We went across parking lot to a bar/tavern, the door was locked. We walked around the tavern and a lady came out the back door to ask if she could help us. Turned out she was co-owner of the motel and yes, there was a room available. [This did not surprise Bob in the least, who has never failed to get a needed reservation on no notice (Bob's memory is not the best, however).] The lady was quite nice. Said she had to clean up the room before she showed it to us, so we said we would walk through Talkeetna and come back. It is the Talkeetna Motel. The website, unlike the brochure we found, does in fact have an address and clear map. Below you see first our motel (note the lack of signage) and some shops on Main Street. Here is a short video of Main Street

- Talkeetna is two, maybe 3 blocks long of tourist shops, mostly art/gift shops and restaurants. There are a few unpaved side streets. Unclear why it is such a tourist draw, other than it runs "flightseeing" tours to McKinley. We did get a recommendation for the best salmon restaurant in town: The Wildflower Cafe. We also drove out of town to check out another hotel, The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Looked like hundreds of rooms in a 3 story building. Fabulous view of rain clouds in rooms that cost from $285 to $569/night. Not really our type of place. But I did enjoy reading about their best suite, The King Suite, at $569/night which, according to their own website, was "Recently upgraded with new amenities, bedding,...." How cool is that. Now you get a bed.

- Went back and got key to our room. The layout was quite nice, exactly what we were looking for, except there was an irritating background noise. We turned off the refrigerator, but that was not the problem. We walked around outside and decided it might be a ventilation fan nearby. So we went back to the tavern to see if another room was available. The male co-owner was there. When we explained the situation, he was about as snide and irritating as could be. Said it was probably the fridge. When we said, no, we had turned that off, he became angry and berated us for doing it. Said we were lucky there was not a railroad outside to annoy us. That the problem was the attic fan which could not be solved and that no other guest had ever complained about noise before. Fortunately, the woman co-owner, perhaps his wife, walked in and asked to go back with us to the room. She identified the noise as the fridge in the next room, and moved us to a much quieter and equally well laid out room. We were pleased and enjoyed our stay. If you go to Talkeetna, we recommend Talkeetna Motel, particularly if you do not have to deal with Al and only talk with Pam or one of the staff (got the names from their website).

- Went back to the recommended restaurant, but at 5 PM they were not serving dinner and when we returned at 5:30 there were no seats. So we ordered take-out salmon dinner and ate at the motel. The salmon was great. Wonderful taste. Not quite as good as that from the Seward restaurant, The Salmon Bake, but a really close second. Totally enjoyed the meal and highly recommend the The Wildflower Cafe.

- We found the camera batteries and video chips in the one pocket of the backpack - which was with us at all times - that we did not check. AARGH! But good not to have lost them forever.

Day 19 - Aug 10, 2013 [Sat]

Talkeetna to Palmer

- Left Talkeetna to go to Palmer on way to Anchorage. Drove in constant rain until we got to Palmer. Arrived at Alaska Garden Gate B&B and Cottages. Very nice cottage with view of Knik Glacier from bedroom.

- Rain cleared up, sun and blue skies arrived, so we drove into the mountains to get a view of Matanuska Glacier, driving up along the Matanuska river. Stunning views beside a roaring river. Here is a video of the river rapids.

Day 20 - Aug 11, 2013 [Sun]

Palmer to Anchorage

- Got a relaxed start, first taking a photo of the truck of our next door neighbor:

- Cloudy and raining as we drove towards Anchorage. Our first of two side trips was to a reindeer farm, where there were of course reindeer, but also elk. You could pick nearby grass and feed the elk. It was actually kind of sad. They were in a large, muddy, fenced enclosure and wanted so much to eat anything held out to them. We did enjoy seeing all the moose antlers. Antlers always bring to mind Bob's sister Marian. And we were amused by the juxtaposition of a "Snack Shack" and a portapotty.

-We took another side trip to the Eagle River Nature Center. Here we walked a path that took us to an old, out of use beaver dam in a river where we saw some salmon. Whenever we see a beaver, we think of Shirley's brother Robert, hence the photo below of a stuffed beaver at the nature center.

However, the exciting part of the trip was as we were leaving and someone said, "There is a moose in the parking lot". We rushed out. The moose was beside the road leading to the Center. It was a large, antlered male, eating by the side of the road. Best view of any wild animal we had seen on the trip, other than the brown bear in the Russian river. Below is a photo and here is a video.

Our car, a Nissan Versa, was about 5 feet high and 14 1/2 feet long. This was a large bull. Bull moose stand 4.6 - 6.9 feet tall and 7.9 to 10 ft long. This bull was clearly taller than our car, 2/3 the length of the car. It was obvious as we parked near him that he was huge and close to the size of our car. It drove home just how dangerous the moose could be. But our car did outweigh him. 3,400 lb for the car vs up to 1,500 lb for the moose.

Day 21 - Aug 12, 2013 [Mon]


- Decided to veg out for the day. Shirley has a cold. So all that is left is to prepare for the flight home tomorrow.

Day 22 - Aug 13, 2013 [Tue]

Anchorage to Santa Rosa

- Two of our connections, the flight from Seattle to San Francisco and catching the bus to Santa Rosa, could not have been more closely timed. They had already begun to shut the doors for the flight to San Francisco, because our flight from Anchorage had been delayed. They re-opened the door as I rushed up.

- The bus to Santa Rosa was to go by at 11:00 pm. At 10:55, Shirley's suitcase came off the carousel, so she rushed out the door and down about a block to ask the driver to wait. She arrived as he was loading suitcases and said he could not. At 10:59 the rest of the luggage arrived. Bob grabbed the large duffel bag, put it on the roller suitcase, and began running. As he came out the door he saw the bus down the block was already there. So he ran faster and arrived just after the last suitcase was loaded. The bus driver loaded our suitcases and we were on our way.

- Shirley got sicker than the day before the flight and the plane ride did a number on her ear. 5 days later and she still cannot hear out of one ear and the cold/sinus congestion continues.

Our Route

Here is the route we followed and the locations where we stayed each night on our 3 week, 1,275+ mile vacation in Alaska. The route shown does not include side trips we took from each location.

Contact/Website Author:
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
July, 2011

Other Websites
By The Author: