Visit Alaska - The Last Frontier

 
There is something so exciting about the thought of visiting a country that is just so far away.  It is dark and cold for much of the year – but there is a window when it is a great place to visit and it is well worth the trip to experience this fascinating part of the world first hand.  You can read about it, you can dream about it, but actually going there is what travelling is all about.
 
The variety is the most exciting thing about this trip: Seattle – city break Anchorage – a different city; Alaskan railroad train to Denali National Park; 1 night outside the park 1 bus a day into the wilderness (must be sure to be on time for that!);  3 nights in the Alaskan Wilderness; 5am bus back to park outskirts; a Panoramic bus trip back to Anchorage; Train to Whittier; Cruise for a week aboard the Sapphire Princess through Hubbard Glacier, Glacier National Park, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and finish in Vancouver.  
 
 
Glacier Bay Marjorie Glacier Alaska America
Marjorie Glacier
Alaska Itinerary

Best time to visit Alaska

There really is a very small window for visiting Alaska. I think we timed our trip pretty well at the tail end of August and early September.  If you leave it any later than that, then it gets really cold and the days are long and dark – not great for exploring.  If you go in the Summer time, then you may get slightly warmer temperatures – but the mosquitos like those too and there are A LOT of them here!  They are a real nuisance – not to be taken lightly.  The locals told us you could almost write your name in the bugs they were so thick a week or two before we got there – Yuck!

Top Ten “Must-Dos” for a trip to Alaska

  1. See the Space Needle in Seattle
  2. Amaze yourself at the creations in Chihuly Gardens and GlassSeattle
  3. Get a view of Mount McKinley – it’s elusive, but worth it!
  4. See brown bears in Denali National Park
  5. Travel the Great Alaskan Railroad
  6. See whales at play in their natural habitat – Juneau
  7. Dine at the Chef’s Table on the Sapphire Princess (pre-booking essential)
  8. Watch a black bear catching his salmon at Ketchikan
  9. Listen to Hubbard Glacier calving.
  10. Sip a Kodiak Beer – “Like true Alaskans, we aren’t afraid of the dark!”

Where I Stayed

Links to Accommodation Reviews for all the hotels where we stayed on our trip are listed below:

Alaska Denali Backcountry Lodge Quigley Ridge
Denali Backcountry Lodge
Alaska Exterior of the Arctic Club Seattle
Exterior of the Arctic Club Seattle
Alaska The Sapphire Princess
The Sapphire Princess - Whittier

My Reading List

My reading material for this trip was  “Alaska Bound – One Man’s Dream, One Woman’s Nightmare, by Tammy Jones – www.AlaskaBoundTammyJones.com.

It is a true story about building a log cabin in the Alaskan wilderness.  Intense cold, dark, icy water and bears all feature in it. True stories are always the best aren’t they – and it doesn’t come much more gripping than this one!

Reading

My Packing List

The luggage restrictions are really daunting for a trip with this much variety.  Packing was a real challenge – made harder by the fact that we were cruising for part of our journey, so we needed to pack evening dress as well as all the practical cold weather gear and hiking boots.

Don’t travel without:

Mosquito repellent

Mosquito net

A really good torch – there are no lights in the Alaskan wilderness!

Quigley Ridge Alaska Mosquito Net

Flora and Fauna

Wildlife

This is just a checklist of what I actually saw – to inspire you to go – but there is potentially so much more to see here!  Search for “Flora and Fauna” to find the relevant posts.

  • Black bear
  • Brown bear
  • Humpack Whale
  • Orca Whale
  • Seals
  • Salmon
  • Moose
  • Bald Eagle
  • Porcupine

Flora

  • Mountain tundra
  • Bluberries
  • Tiny fir trees
  • Lichen
  • Mushrooms

Useful Websites

Sort out VISA waiver – ESTA approval well before you travel – www.london.usembassy.gov

Tips for Future Travellers

  1. If you do take a cruise with Princess Cruises as part of your Alaska trip, Dining at the Chef’s Table is a great experience.  You need to sign up right at the start of your cruise though – before you unpack even – because the numbers are very strictly limited.
  2. Leaving the car at home was a great idea – doing the whole trip on public transport and finishing with the cruise made it a very relaxing holiday and there was nothing we missed as a result of not having a car with us.
  3. If you stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge, you need to get your name down very promptly as hiker numbers are strictly limited to preserve the wilderness feel of the place.
  4. The luggage restrictions on Alaska Airlines flights need to be checked carefully before you travel.  Their planes are small which cuts down what you can pack – quite a challenge if you are incorporating a cruise into your trip as we did.  Given that we did the trip on public transport though, packing light was a good move.

Read my full trip to Alaska:​

Alaska Itinerary

Alaska Itinerary

We start our big trip to Alaska in less than a month now. I always really love the planning and looking forward bit of a trip though.  Sometimes, I think the looking forward and then re-living the memories when you get back are as much fun as the actual trip itself?! Read More for our Alaska Itinerary.

Read More »
Alaska
Seattle Children playing in the Fountain - Seattle

Seattle in 1 Day

Seattle proved to be very possible in one day – with the benefit of some careful planning and research in advance, of course. One fully packed day, with plenty to see and do.

Read More »
Alaska
Anchorage Beautiful Alaskan Wildflower Quilt

Exploring Downtown Anchorage

Alaska is such a big state!   To get to the heart of it – Anchorage – we took an early taxi yesterday to Sea-Tac airport to catch a 10 am Alaska Airlines flight. The flight took around 3 hours 40 minutes.  We are booked into the Embassy Suites, Anchorage for 2 nights.  The hotel is in Midtown Anchorage, but there is a free airport shuttle Downtown, so exploring is easy.

Read More »
Alaska
Denali National Park Denali Lodgings

Denali National Park – Into the Alaskan Wilderness …

We had a morning to kill before the bus ride to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, so we took the shuttle up to the Denali National Park Visitor Centre and learned a bit more about the flora and fauna and the history of the gold rush. I particularly liked the recipe for blueberry pie made famous by one of the early pioneers, Fanny Quigley. First, catch, your bear … – see the photo for the full recipe! Life was very tough here.

Read More »
Alaska
Denali Backcountry Lodg

Denali Backcountry Lodge – Exploring the Real Alaska with Fanny Quigley

OK – this is the wilderness, but I was kidding about the accommodation. We were in the Denali Backcountry Lodge, which has warm rooms, comfortable beds and hot showers. Thank goodness, because it is cold now. There was a frost this morning. The bit about the key was true though – it still feels odd to leave your room unlocked all day – even out here!

Read More »
Alaska
Quigley Ridge Alaska

Quigley Ridge – Time for a Real Hike

Yesterday, we were just practising. We missed the cut off for the guided hike sign up – 11 people got their names down before us and that is the maximum limit. So, we decided to go it alone – well – not quite alone. We found 3 other brave explorers to hike with us – Vash, Lindsay and a guy named Doug. Armed with pepper spray, a hand drawn map (?) and borrowed walking poles, we set off to climb up to Quigley Ridge.

Read More »
Alaska
Goldilocks and the 3 Bears Denali National Park

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Goldilocks and the 3 bears … We were rewarded by seeing a family of three brown grisly bears on the journey back to civilisation out of Denali National Park. It was amazing to see this bear family walk across the road right behind the bus as though we were part of the landscape.

Read More »
Alaska
Alaska The Sapphire Princess

En voyage to the Sapphire Princess

Princess Cruises – Sapphire Princess – Accommodation Review.
When I say cabin, that is something of an understatement… We have a large, comfy bed, a lovely bathroom with a deep bath, a lounge area and, best of all, a huge balcony that wraps itself around the front of the ship with a dining table and chairs, 2 steamer chairs and still plenty of room to walk around! Flowers, fruit and a full bar – I could get used to this!

Read More »
Alaska
Alaska Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier – Totally Awesome!

with my camera a bit more today – nice to have the time to do that properly! We sailed past an iceberg or two and then came face to face with the beauty of Hubbard Glacier. It was totally awesome – I have seen nothing like this before and it was definitely a highlight of the trip so far. It appears to be a beautiful fluorescent blue in places, which is apparently because when the light hits the compacted ice, long wavelength colours (reds) are absorbed whilst short wavelength colours (blues) reflect back through the ice to your eyes.

Read More »
Alaska
Basking Seals in Glacier Bay Alaska

Basking Seals in Glacier Bay

What left a lasting impression of Glacier Bay for me was the sound of it. You could hear the glacier almost crunching as it creeped icily into the sea. Occasionally, you could hear a sound like a thunderstorm when it calved. You could hear the screams of gulls and seabirds too, which seemed to echo around in the otherwise still air of the icy bay.

Read More »
Alaska
Alaska Gold Rush Country All a Man Needs for a Year

Exploring Alaska Gold Rush Country

Exploring Gold Rush Country – In an attempt to prevent starvation, the authorities at the time of the gold rush required all men to carry all their requirements with them for a whole year so that they wouldn’t have to depend on any other man for survival. It was a good job that they were self sufficient as there was stiff competition on the tail and a reluctance to help out a fellow stampeder. They let their horses die on the road, which was littered with horse carcasses in places. Carrying a year’s supplies entailed many trips backwards and forwards up the trail – men would have to retrace their steps 20 to 40 times, depending on the size of the load they were prepared to carry each time.

Read More »
Alaska
Humpback Whale Alaska

Juneau – Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching

Juneau is the capital of Alaska with a population of 30,000 people and accessible only by sea or air because of the mountains and huge ice field that surround it. it was a rainy day today and fog obscured the best of the views of Mendenhall Glacier. It is a great place for whale watching!

Read More »
Alaska
Ketchikan Black Bear fishing for Alaskan Salmon

Bear Tracking in Ketchikan

Today, we boarded a bus and then a small boat to take us to Neet’s Bay. Bear tracking in Ketchikan is not difficult!  There is a not-profit-salmon hatchery based there, which makes it good territory for bear tracking. Keeping a plentiful supply of salmon going is very important to the isolated communities in this area, which is known as the salmon capital of Alaska. Apart from providing a good food source generally, there is money t be made from sport fishing, which is a popular passtime here.  We saw a large black bear almost immediately we arrived at the bay.

Read More »
Alaska