Alaska or bust: a father & daughter road trip for the ages

A father and daughter bond over one mega road trip through America’s last wild frontier…

While Alaska is on many Americans’ list of places to see before they die, I never really felt the urge. Mostly I figured there would be nothing for a 20 year old to do, and one could only see so many mountains. But when my dad asked if I wanted to road trip through the state with him and a few of his friends, I thought, “Why not?”

I couldn’t have been more shocked by how exciting this beautiful state could be.

This is a chronicle of our father/daughter trip through Alaska; the hot spots, good eats, and beautiful mountains that made me fall in love with the state.



Day 1: Anchorage

We started our journey in Anchorage.

This train can be found in quite a few places in Alaska, but we caught up with it on Ship Creek Avenue, Anchorage.

We went straight to our rental car place from the airport: this is where we got our first lesson about Anchorage. When you rent the Kia Rio they probably won’t have any car even remotely close to it. So for a mere $214, we got a vehicle worthy of Alaskan roads for a week.

Later we would realize exactly how much we needed this monster, but our first stop after our 12 hour flight was food! After a quick search on Google we landed here…

The Glacier Brewhouse: 5th Avenue (Main Drag)

With its rustic decor and mouth-watering food, Glacier Brewhouse is an Anchorage institution. Of course, my first meal had to be a salmon sandwich, which was amazing! It’s a must-visit for anyone pilgriming through Anchorage.

The Ulu Factory: Ship Creek Avenue

Picture of my father in front of the Ulu factory

After lunch it was time to tour the town. We headed over to the Ulu Factory, a popular tourist spot where you can watch them make these legendary Alaskan knives. It’s also a great place to pick up a cool souvenir, but I wouldn’t suggest trying to get your Ulu knife through security.



Day 2: Anchorage to Homer

After a night in a hotel spent solidifying plans, we started our journey to Homer, taking Route 1. Sadly, our first day was full of clouds, but that didn’t stop me from slamming on the brakes anywhere I could get a picture of a mountain range.

Seward Highway

These mountains, though seemingly bleak, were larger and more beautiful than any range I had ever seen before. Even if every day had this weather I was excited for more, but luckily it only got better from here.

We stopped a few minutes out to see all of the Alaskan animals we had been hoping for! VERY worthwhile stop, especially because we got these amazing pictures…

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: Anchorage, AK

   

With our many stops for pictures while traveling through the Chugach National Forest our trip took about 8 hours, but I was enamored by my surroundings every second.

Once we finally made it, I had my dad stop for one last picture:

Being totally exhausted, we didn’t bother stopping anywhere else before checking into our hotel. My dad did not tell me anything about where we were staying, but I figured it would just somewhere cheap. To my surprise, it was the coolest hotel I’ve ever stayed in…

Land’s End Resort: Homer Spit, AK

This quaint hotel is tucked right on the edge of the water, and we even had a personal porch overlooking the bay and the mountains that surrounded Homer. Just look at our view…

A night here was $212 but well worth it, and I, still not 21 yet, stayed in for the night. The rest of the group  went over to a bar on Homer’s Spit. My dad explained it as “small and quaint, but the dollar bills covering every inch of the place made it pretty cool.”

Salty Dawg Saloon: Homer Spit, AK

What started out as one of the original cabins of Homer in 1897, the Salty Dawg has been everything from a post office to a schoolhouse, but since the 1950s it’s been the local watering hole. It’s “lighthouse,” used to cover a water tank, is one of Homer’s most well-known landmarks.

via Salty Dawg

My underage self only got a T-shirt which I appreciated, especially considering no one I know in Pennsylvania would have a matching one!



Day 3: Homer to Alyeska

After the gang had their night of drinks it was an early start back towards Anchorage, but to a new town called Alyeska. This drive was the same route we took down to Homer, so we decided we needed to see something new. We routed a trip to see the Exit Glacier and the Russian Falls to see the Salmon running. These stops were NOT mistakes!

Exit Glacier: Seward, AK

This was the first glacier I’ve ever seen, and it was anything but underwhelming. The walk way to get close to the glacier was marked with signs with years on them, which showed how big the glacier used to be in each year, which put the whole thing in perspective, and, frankly, was a bit depressing.

Overall, the visit was a nice way to get out of the car for an hour, educational, and the views were remarkable. My only qualm was that we were restricted from getting closer to the glacier, but this would not be our last visit to a glacier while in Alaska.

Our second stop was to fulfill my dad’s bucket list item of seeing the Salmon run…

Russian River Falls: Seward, AK

This walk was long but relatively flat, and we ended up here…

This is the view from the deck at the end of the trail.

If you feel adventurous, like we did, you can climb down to see salmon up close and personal. 

One of our crazier friends even managed to catch one with his bare hands! Which probably isn’t recommended, but still makes for a great picture…

In one day, I saw a glacier and salmon running for the first time, but before the day was out I accomplished another first… This whole time we were driving I kept telling my dad I could climb most of the mountains we were seeing. Though I hike pretty often, I was never serious, but my dad did not pick up on the sarcasm, and put me to the test that night at the resort we stayed at that night, Alyeska Resort.

Via Alyeska Resort

First, let me say Alyseka Resort was purely incredible. There were fire places everywhere, and the place was huge with its own spa. Needless to say it was pretty posh, but the fact that it was a ski resort meant that I would finally get my chance to get out of the hotel and see some stuff. So of course my first idea was to prove to my dad that I could actually climb an Alaskan mountain.

Mt. Alyeska

Mission accomplished 🙂

But to be honest the hike wasn’t so bad. Even the geezer made it up…

The view was absolutely beautiful, and it was surreal that we would literally get stuck in clouds to the point where we couldn’t see anything until we either went higher or it passed. This was honestly my favorite part of the trip. I’d highly suggest Mount Alyeska for any moderate hiker, but it is definitely not easy so be prepared.

Alyeska Sky Ride

We took the Alyeska tram ride down which is a three to seven minute ride that allowed us to take a break and view everything in a much calmer setting. Great alternative to hiking the mountain!

By the end of the third day I had already fallen in love with the state of Alaska and we had only experienced three towns on mostly cloudy days. But in those three days we had already seen bears, moose, salmon, beautiful bodies of water, and incredible mountains (conquering Mt. Alyeska).






That third night I went to bed in that incredible resort remembering that this was just the beginning and we still had Valdez, and Denali to see, which I heard from everyone I asked were the most incredible places in all of Alaska.

Rest assured that the glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife to come, did not disappoint. If I have peaked your interest you can check out the second half of our trip in part two.

Click here for Part 2 of Morgan & her father’s Alaskan adventure.

Also, follow Two Lane America on Facebook for all our adventures from the road…

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3 Comments on “Alaska or bust: a father & daughter road trip for the ages

  1. This is a wonderful article with beautiful pictures. Almost made me feel like I was there with you. Thank you for sharing it.

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