Published: August 6th 2007June 20th 2007
Richardson highway to Wrangell NP. Richardson Highway:
Our first stop was not too far from Fairbanks. 20 miles away is North Pole where it is Christmas everyday at "Santa Claus Haus". We were so glad we could meet Santa & actually talk to him. He was very friendly. We thought we had to wait in line for a handshake. This was so cool.
This part of the highway was so hot & dry that we found it difficult to imagine how it would be in winter. The Trans Alaska pipeline curved its way in & out of the highway.
We stopped a lot for photo opportunities. Our night halt was at Golden Spruce Cabins
. It is a little expensive place, but totally worth the price. There is pretty much no one or nothing around except for 5 log cabins & a home. The cabin was stunningly beautiful. The owner was very hospitable. After a shower, we had time to get into Wrangell-St.Elias National Park(the largest National Park in North America). Amidst infinite mosquitoes, we managed to take the short trail to Liberty falls. We would have done better justice to the falls sans the quitoes!!! They
We drove until the Three mile lake. It was a canyon & windy. So no bugs. But, we could not stand either. On our way back, we drove just in time to see the sunset. Its a shame we did not allocate more time for this place. Road construction Info June 21st:
We had to leave early in the morning to drive to Valdez. Ganesh had booked a guided sea-kayaking trip
to Shoup glacier.
I was surprise to see Kate, a woman, as our guide. I am not a MC, but I did not know that women were so interested in these sports. My bad!
It was a sunny day, but we got prepared for a windy/rainy day. We had to come early due to the tides. A water taxi dropped us at the outer Shoup bay. We started paddling from there into the glacier. We saw some bald eagles & a couple of seabirds there. It so happened that the tide was still coming out. So, we had to pull/carry our kayaks upstream.
Two words there : Heavy
We got to paddle later to a kittiwakes rookery. It
was amazing to be so close to the birds. We saw some eggs too! Shoup glacier was at a distance & we were paddling towards it now. It was still sunny, but the wind started to pick up.
We pulled over our kayaks to the shore, should the tide set in, hiked up the rocks near the glacier & halted for lunch. We had a lot of time to eat, stretch out, relax & chit chat a little bit.
We climbed down to the kayaks & surprisingly realized that the tide had not set in. I did not know if Kate smelled something fishy yet. We paddled close to the glacier & took some pictures. Time to get back! From nowhere, clouds started to set in. It became windy & difficult to paddle. We crossed the rookery to just find "white water" leading out of the bay. Kate was a little worried & asked us to paddle continuously, thumb rule being: hit the wave head first!
Well, we crossed the rapids, all safe. We got to the outer bay when the winds really started to pick up. The water became choppy with at least 1 ft waves. I was scared
to hell. Lets just say that if Ganesh was not around, it would've taken me a real long time to get back to land.
All of us were shaken & were eager to get home. Apparently, Shoup wanted to show its other side to us
We were more than happy to leave Valdez. Ganesh still had a lot of energy in him. He planned to stop at almost all the waterfalls along the highway. Keystone canyon has some awesome scenery & waterfalls. Our next stop, not too far, was at Worthington Glacier. It was a short hike.
After 2 hrs, we called it a day at Ninilchik Lodge(43 miles into Glen highway). Again, a very cute log cabin. June 22nd:
We decided to really sleep for a night & get up late. We stopped at Palmer for lunch. By afternoon, we were in Anchorage. We were first customers at Backpacker's Inn
. We just dropped our baggages & left to downtown. Interestingly, it was cloudy, cool & pleasant. [Actually, Anchorage has a more regulated temperature among most of Alaska, but they have their worse moments too. A couple days earlier, it was burning hot there]. And I
have to say, they have a pretty downtown. Ship creek was nearby & is famous for its salmon run. What else! So many people out fishing in the cold waters. Not one caught a salmon though. We gave up & came back home.
Anchorage was cool & sans pests! Wow! Love the coast.
We planned to sleep early, but we talked till we dropped with our hosts(*one of the most interesting people we met on this trip*). We did get a bargain since we were their first customers. Also managed to grab a t-shirt from them. June 23rd
: We had breakfast & left early towards Whittier. On the way, we stopped at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
& were lucky to see 2 grizzlies playing[or fighting](on tape). Pretty neat place. We also stopped at Portage Lake visitor center. There was a huge ice berg in the lake now. Rain or shine, Ganesh had to capture that!
We managed to be on time for the tunnel opening to Whittier. A 2.5 mile long tunnel that opens for 15 minutes every hr.
We boarded Klondike Express
for 26 glacier
cruise in Prince William Sound.
We did not like
the cruise as much as Kenai Fjords I would say. It was commercial & they could not afford to stop for every wildlife.[They were doing 35 knots on an average]. We did see Orca pods, lots of Sea otters, some harbor seals, pufffins & a humpback whale. The weather was not cooperating. It was raining & we could not see many distant glaciers. Even worse, it started raining by the time we got to Harvard glacier. Another stop at Surprise glacier. Strong wind & rain seldom stopped people from going out to the bow to take pictures. Surprise glacier calved few chunks into the ocean. It was such a beautiful sight. Prince William Sound had much calm & green waters than at Resurrection bay in Gulf of Alaska. It certainly had more glaciers too!
Somehow, I did not like this cruise nor their service as much as I thought I would. We were glad we did the Kenai Fjords cruise earlier.
Back at Whittier, we caught the train at the station. Whittier is a beautiful town, but much much smaller than we had expected. It was raining & we had to drop the hike to horsetail falls. We were
on time to catch the 6:00pm tunnel opening.
We decided to retire home early & relax a bit. June 24th:
Checked out of the Backpacker's Inn. We thought we'd return in the evening for a shower. Our hosts were very friendly. We were sure they wouldn't mind. But it started raining & we weren't sure if we needed a shower at all. We headed to the Federal building right opposite to the visitor center to catch some Alaskan videos. We saw 2 of them. After that, we fell sleepy. So, to brisk up, we decided to skip the rest of the movies & spend more time at the Alaskan Native Heritage center
. Someone at Safeway told us that Muldoon road was closed & we had to detour like crazy before we realized that the Heritage center was on the other side of the highway.
So, we managed to enter only after lunch. It is a cool place & you can spend one half day there. Native Indians describe their arts, culture, sports & houses.
It is so amazing we have so much, yet complain it being so little & these Indians have so little, but
still have a lot as they make use of everything. Their houses maybe primitive, but caters to all their basic needs. Most of these people live in sub-arctic & arctic conditions & these homes really protect them from the cold & wildlife.
We had a late night(or early morning) flight & we had to do some last minute souvenir shopping & packing. All said & done, we reached the airport by 11:00pm. It was raining while we returned the rental car & it was a little crazy to roll the baggage in the rain & into the shuttle. But the shuttle driver helped us out in pulling it in & out. Much appreciated!
Anchorage airport gives free wifi & we were surfing until we boarded by 1:00am. Continental Airlines ran a little late, but I think they were on time reaching Seattle. We were sleep-walking-hungry[we slept through the flight & missed our so-called snack] to our gate at Seattle airport.[technically, we gained an hr in Seattle]. We continued our sleep the minute we hit our seats[even before take off]. But before landing, we woke up, asked for something to drink & it felt like a flight journey only after that
can of tomato juice went in! I swore to sleep the rest of the day at home!
We missed 2 baggages in the transit & Alaskan Airlines offered to drop it at home. More than happy!
CA did seem a little hot at 9:00am. Aaah! We'll get used to it now. Interesting people we met:
-A very friendly Santa & his wife.
-Glen & his wife, who worked at the hostel & were on a world tour. These people really amazed us! They left Australia 5 yrs ago & plan to touch every continent, every country if possible. Their next venture is to fly into Russia, rent a jeep & drive down via China, India, Pakistan etc before ending up in South Africa. After that, they don't know yet!!! Flash news:
They canoed 8 weeks from Toronto to Fairbanks!!! These people intimidate us. What guts! They quit their job back home & travel & work where they stay for a while. Hats off! Overall:
Alaska is indeed a huge state. We were 488 miles to the Arctic Ocean even from the Arctic circle(that's like 200 miles from Fairbanks, which is 325 miles from Anchorage).
People are extremely
Alcan highway starts here
friendly, nothing compared to the lower 48.
The Britishers sure have traveled all across the world. They leave their mark, even here.
Alaska is as varied as it can get. They have the maximum coastline, huge mountain ranges, major climatic zones, but then, people do live happily. Alaska is that part of America where people still survive on subsistence, have no electricity, stay warm & still follow traditions.
People are God/Nature-fearing as they depend on nature for their food.
No one can go to Alaska & return with a bad vacation or photo. Also, Alaska gives each person a unique experience.
We are glad that our destiny led us there!
God Bless Alaska!
If Malaysia is truly Asia, Alaska is truly Heaven. Again, we've not yet traveled to the Antartics
Travelers seldom not-travel.
So, until something adventurous turns up, we'll leave you all to rest.
There are more photos below