Part 2 of Morgan and her father’s epic road trip through Alaska…
If you have been with me through the first part of our road trip through Alaska, you know we have been through Anchorage, Homer, and Alyeska and were nothing short of amazed. Those towns and drives feign in comparison to what we were about to embark on…
Day 4: Alyeska to Valdez
After a very relaxing stay at the Alyeska resort we headed out to Valdez, which I have heard nothing but rave reviews on since arriving in Alaska.
On our way there we made a few stops at local attractions:
Eklutna Burial Houses: Chugiak, AK
These burial houses have a rich history which tells the story of the evolution of religion in this small town. For a low price anyone can get a guided tour telling the stories of the houses.
Musk Ox Farm: Palmer, AK
Musk Oxen are arctic animals you won’t normally come in contact with, but at the Musk Ox Farm you can learn all about these ancient animals. Due to our time constraints, however, this stuffed version was as close as we got. Keep the Musk Ox Farm in mind, and schedule a tour if you are interested in learning more about these unique animals.
Worthington Glacier: Cordova, AK
We thought it was well worth it!
These all made for a great day of stops, but the real fun started the closer we got to Valdez with the amazing waterfalls scattered throughout Route 4…
Horse Tail Falls
Once we got passed the waterfalls, and got to Valdez we were surrounded by the most serene mountains in what seemed like a simple fishing town, with the odd addition of hundreds of domesticated bunnies that hopped around the town. They were all so pretty and nice, one even let me feed it!
The story we got from a local about why there were so many is that someone let a bunch of pet bunnies go and they multiplied to the point they are today. I don’t know if this is true, but either way the bunnies gave this town an surreal feeling to it, as if we were all in a movie.
Day 5: Valdez to Denali
That night we stayed in a pretty average hotel for the first time, so no stories to tell and no reason to stay late, so at 8am we were off to across the river to see the salmon hatchery.
The Solomon Gulch Hatchery
Those are hundreds (possibly thousands) of salmon falling over each other, and while this is a rare sight to capture for a Pennsylvanian it was not the only exciting scene at the hatchery.
There were also hundreds of birds, a group of seals, and even a harbor porpoise . Great place to take a family, or to get up close and for anyone that wants to get up close and personal to all of these animals. But be aware, with salmon come bears. Though we did not see one, we were warned that bears frequent this particular hatchery.
After the hatchery we were on our way to Denali. There are two ways to Denali, one’s 436 miles and paved, and one’s 336 miles and dirt. My dad, being the genius he is, decided shorter mileage = the easier path, but this way was anything but easy.
The Denali Highway
We were pretty much the only group of cars on the road as the rest of the vehicles were four wheelers, bikes, and a select few cars that probably made the same dumb decision. The ride took us around 8 hours and majority of that ride was spent looking for pot holes instead of looking at the scenery. But we did manage to get this…
This road definitely provides the best pictures of the tundra, and if you are a hunter this is the place to do it. We also got respect from the locals after they heard we drove the entire highway, and in the end my dad said he would do it again but only in a rental. I would keep it in mind that it was exhausting and there are very few places to stop to eat/get gas/anything.
Our Lodging Outside of Denali National Park
That night we stayed in Denali Salmon Bake Cabins and as the title clues you in on, the bar food was amazing. Another perk was that we were in a remote enough location that some of us were finally able to see the northern lights. We didn’t get any pictures of that, sadly, but the picture below should tell you how secluded this place really was.
So if you are looking for some great food in an Alaskan hideaway & really want to see the Northern lights, this place is something to keep in mind.
Day 6: Denali National Park
This entire day we spent in Denali National Park, which anyone who wants to visit has two options: to drive a few miles until you must stop, or take a bus the full way in with the option to go the whole way to Mt. Denali for 10 dollars a person. We chose the bus.
This monster of a ride went around narrow turns filled with tourists dying to see Mt. Denali and wildlife, yelling stop anytime they saw something photo worthy. Some parts were nerve racking, but all of it was worth it.
Mt. Denali (formerly known as Mckinley)
We were able to snag this picture out of per luck. Our tour guide said that it is extremely rare for the mountain to be clear like this, and we not only got to see it, but grab a picture. The mountain’s summit was very rapidly hidden by clouds, proving our tour guide right. With this in mind, please ground your expectations when visiting Denali, because you’ll need a lot of luck!
We stopped off early, opting out of the 2 more hours we could have gone to start our journey out of the park. We saw plenty of animals on the way out, with these being only a few of them…
Overall, the day spent in Denali was so worth it, and I would suggest to anyone going that they should take the bus, instead of driving an underwhelming few miles into the park yourself. You won’t see much, and you will still have to pay for it. Take the bus, and you will get to see what you came for.
Day 7: Denali to Anchorage
After one more night in the cabins and at the bar, it was time to head back to Anchorage for our flight the next day.
On our way back we stopped at places you can only find in Alaska…
The Abandoned Igloo Hotel: George Parks Highway
This Igloo shaped hotel, was once a dream, but is now a skeleton of a project that ran out of funding. We managed to sneak into through a hole in the side. All we got to see was that there was not much of anything inside, but I got a video of what it looked like…
We attempted to go to see the “Dr. Seuss house” but were sadly greeted by this gate, and these intimidating signs, and promptly turned around. We also drove by Sarah Palin’s house, but there wasn’t much to see there.
We ended the trip where we began, but this time we did we actually went back to Alyeska to hike through bear country to get to this…
Alyeska Hand Car
This ride across the beautiful river on a rickety hand car was so worth the hike in, even with the worries about bears.
That night we had a bonfire in our hotel parking lot, and just talked about our trip. Definitely the best way to end such an amazing trip with friends.
Though I doubted this trip at first, now that I have been there I would go back to Alaska any chance I got. I hope reading this article has convinced you that Alaska is definitely worth the hassle of long flights and harsh dirt roads.
Life is definitely different out there, but you can never fully appreciate it until you go out and live it yourself.
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