Christine Westen


Christine Westen

Last day of no worries! One last buffet breakfast where again the plate was a jumble. Pancakes (not very good), fruit, hasbrowns, fried cheese, rice pudding and a donut. I'm sure some people eat and eat and eat but I limited myself to one trip each time I ate at the buffet. Otherwise I would have had to buy new pants! First I was just going to sit on the beach so I wouldn't have a super wet suit to pack. Then I decided I had to get in the water and it didn't matter if things were wet in my suitcase. Threw on my suit, slapped on some sunscreen and gave myself an hour and a half in my happy place. One of the most relaxing sounds is waves crashing on the shore. Whether I'm ... read more
I love the beach!
One last feet in the water picture
One last beach pic

Almost a repeat of yesterday. Usually I like to have things to see and explore while vacationing so not having anything to do any of the days seemed strange at first but I got over it! I walked to the beach before breakfast today just to enjoy it without all the people. And I ate later since I had to go for my Covid test after. Breakfast was at the buffet again. Today I went with eggs, hashbrowns, fruit and some pastries. The Covid test really puts a pause on your trip. You have to get one to return to the US and you have to wait in line to schedule and get tested, which takes some time out of each day. An online scheduling system would improve the overall process. Anyway, I got in line ... read more
Look at that blue sky!
Got a spot at the lazy river
View from the lighthouse

Today I did a lot of nothing and it was great! Started off with breakfast at the buffet restaurant. They have a huge selection of things so if you can't find something to eat then you must be very picky. Really good fruit, some ok waffles, pastries, eggs, fish, cheeses, meats and a ton of things I had no clue on. Also some fresh made juices, I had cantaloupe. First stop after breakfast was to the lobby to schedule my Covid test. Hopefully this is the only trip I will ever take that I need to do this. There was a desk in the lobby to make the appointments but no one staffed it the two days I was there. Finally someone came and told us to go to the medical center, which was just a ... read more
Fun tree
Finally the beach!
Cove next to the resort

Time to depart cold, grey Illinois for warm, sunny Dominican Republic. I booked this trip on a whim after seeing a deal for a 3 night stay in a junior suite with free upgrade to a rooftop terrace. Kind of hard to turn that down when the price includes everything! And it was perfect timing to get a break from the rough start to 2022. My departure time was 10 am from O'Hare and I arrived early, as usual, to avoid rushing through security and to the gate, which always ends up being the furthest away from security. I parked in the relatively new Multi-modal Facility. This new parking garage houses the rental cars as well as two levels of economy parking. It is also connected to the airport by the people mover, which just reopened ... read more
Resort Entrance
Ocean El Faro

North America » United States » Alaska » Anchorage September 10th 2021

Last day in Alaska:( The temperature in the morning in Denali was a crisp 32° but clear. Today I had to head back to Anchorage for my 10PM flight back to Chicago. I had hoped to take the train back but the shortened summer schedule didn't work out with the timing of my flight so I was back on the Park Connection bus. We departed from Denali at 7:15 and headed on the journey out of the Alaska Range down to the coast in Anchorage. The driver for this stretch was a lady named Karen and she was awesome! She has lived in Alaska for 25ish years and provided all kinds of information on the landscapes and the towns as we went by. She told us all about the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction and Wilderness Women Competition ... read more
Snow in the sun
Same view, no Denali
A snowy foothill

North America » United States » Alaska » Denali National Park September 9th 2021

Today I had booked a 3 hour guided hike with Walk Denali, a local hiking company. And then I decided that wasn't enough and did another hike in the afternoon. I think I'm all hiked out now. I grabbed breakfast from the lodge because that's basically the only option for food. Pickup for the hike was to be between 7:45 and 8 so I headed up to the parking lot to wait for the guide to arrive. There were two couples on the hike plus myself. Our guide, Jeremy, has lived in Alaska for 15 years and really likes hunting. But he was also very knowledgeable about the plants, landscape and wildlife. He took us to the Three Lakes Trail, which is part of Denali NP but we used a trail head at the south end ... read more
Great View
Spruce Grouse
Lake 1

North America » United States » Alaska » Denali National Park September 8th 2021

Today I was able to venture further into Denali NP by taking a tour bus. Originally the tour was to be 8-9 hours but the park road is closed at mile 45 so instead it was 5 hours. The tour buses are converted school buses (same as the free shuttle) and they are able to travel beyond the Savage River stop onto the unpaved portion of the road. If you want to see the park beyond the pavement and do not want to go hiking off into the wilderness, this is what you want to do. There is probably a greater chance of seeing wildlife and there are breathtaking views of the Alaska Range that you don't get in the first 15 miles of the road. Take a bus tour if you come to Denali. You ... read more
Northern Hawk Owl
Moose battling it out
Savage River

North America » United States » Alaska » Denali National Park September 7th 2021

Denali National Park was established in 1917, however it was then called Mount McKinley National Park. Apparently people were huge fans of President McKinley and thought that was a better name than the one the native people's had called the mountain. I had to look him up because I couldn't even remember his first name or when he was president. The name debate continued and in 1980 the name of the park was changed to Denali NP but the mountain was still called McKinley. Finally, in 2015, the mountain was officially resorted to Denali. The park is a little over 6 million acres and has one road that extends 93 miles into the park. The first 15 miles is paved and open to cars, the rest is by tour bus or campground bus only. However, as ... read more
An approachable bear
Free shuttle
A lady moose!

North America » United States » Alaska » Denali September 6th 2021

A long day, but so worth it. I was to meet the Park Connection bus at 12:30 at the gas station in Girdwood. So I had time to kill in the morning and all I did was read in the cozy robe provided by the resort. Check out was 10 AM and I was hungry so I went to the grab and go place, got a salad and ate it outside. Took the Girdwood free shuttle back to the gas station to wait for the bus to arrive. This Tesoro station is super busy. Apparently it's the only gas between Anchorage and Seward so no wonder! The bus was not full and I was able to get a set of seats to myself with good views of the Turnagain Arm. The tide was way out so ... read more

North America » United States » Alaska » Girdwood September 5th 2021

Today it was time to move on from Seward. It was a sunny, crisp morning and I was able to clearly see the surrounding mountains. I enjoyed my last morning of free breakfast, packed my bags and headed out to meet my bus. Today I had a short 2 hour ride on the Park Connection bus from Seward to Girdwood. The bus was a regular bus with nice seats and big windows. The Park Connection is a good option to get around if the train schedule does not work out in your favor. I chose to spend the night in Girdwood to break up the journey from Seward to Denali and to experience more of Alaska. Girdwood is a small town about 40 miles south of Anchorage and the main draw here is the Alyeska Resort, ... read more
Transportation for the day
View along Seward Highway
Alyeska Resort

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