June 29, 2013

I’m a Travelin’ Fool

Filed under: Roadtrips, Travel, Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 11:03 am

Hello my faithful readers! It has been a very busy month of traveling for me, and the summer will continue to be full with roadtrips, camping trips, and other summer activities. But this IS Alaska, and summer IS short, and we certainly want to make the most of it.

(I’ve been working on this blog for the past several days, so some of this was written days ago. I’m happy to report it’s a little cooler today)

FEELING HOT HOT HOT

Today, it is a balmy 94F. I write that with my tongue planted firmly in cheek, because “balmy” is not the descriptive word I would prefer to use. But since my blog is G-rated (sometimes PG-rated), balmy will have to do. This heat is not entirely unusual. Summers in interior Alaska can be quite warm. But long stretches of this 90s stuff are not fun - especially since air conditioning is practically non existent. It’s humorous to read status updates on Facebook about people finding a reason to go to the hospital (to pick up prescriptions, make appointments, etc) because the hospital is air-conditioned.

I just came in from tossing a frisbee to Raven in the back yard. In addition to being eaten alive by the voracious mosquitoes (who happen to be here in greater numbers than ever), the oppressive heat had both of us sweating in no time. So happy we bought a room size AC for the bedroom. At least sleeping is comfortable.

I had to run a few errands today, and my trip was rated on which stores had air conditioning. In case you’re interested: Walmart doesn’t have AC (I don’t think), but there are no huge windows and it’s a concrete building, so it was cool. Likewise Joanns Fabrics. Michaels Crafts was warm, but they have huge windows facing the sun. The Class Six (liquor store on post) was also cool. Must be a well-insulated building. Old Navy (I ran in there briefly) must have AC as it was rather nice in there. If they were running a good sale, it might be a place to hang out for a few hours.

SUMMER TRAVELS

Steve and I went to Seward while he was off from work. We spent 5 days there - at the Seward Military Resort. The campground (full hookups except sewer - but there is a dump station) is only $25/night. It’s very reasonable, and many military (active duty and retired) take advantage of it.

You can also book fishing charters and wildlife cruises through the resort. The fishing charters go out on military-owned boats and are at least $100 less expensive than the local charter companies. Steve paid $176 for an all day fishing trip (this includes travel to and from the fishing grounds). He came home with two halibut and four rockfish, and had a wonderful day on the water.

We both went out with Kenai Fjords on their National Park wildlife/glacier cruise. Luckily for us, they were running a two-for-one special back in March, so we both cruised for less than $150. These cruises aren’t cheap, but they are a lot of fun (children are half price). If you’re military and local (or plan to visit AK), keep an eye on the Seward Military Resort website for these specials in spring. There are also military discounts throughout the year, but they aren’t as good as the half off spring specials.

The drive down the Parks Hwy wasn’t too bad. We did run into some road work at several points along the 350 mile drive to Anchorage. Pilot cars guided traffic through and there were some wait times, but nothing too frustrating. But the best part about the drive was Mt McKinley (Denali)! The mountain was visible the entire way and crystal clear too; no clouds obscuring the top. What a treat!

We stopped on JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf/Richardson) overnight. It was a first for us staying at Black Spruce RV Park on post. It’s a rather nice facility and most spots have full hookups. You can’t make a reservation, but we didn’t have any problem finding a site, despite arriving around 6pm. The only downside was the mosquito problem, but what can you expect when you’re camping in the trees? An upside? Seeing a black bear crossing the road! Apparently black bears have been spotted quite frequently this summer.

After setting up camp, we visited with friends Jason and Amy and sons. Steve and Jason served together at Fort Bragg back in the late 90s. That’s when I met his lovely wife Amy. Our lives took us in different directions, until they arrived here in AK two years ago. They’re stationed in Anchorage though, so we don’t get to see each other very often. I hope they’ll make the trip to Fairbanks while they’re here.

Jason grilled chicken, and Amy had yummy side dishes (and dessert). It was lovely to sit in their dining room, laughing, catching up, and enjoying the cool breeze coming through their house - especially as it’s been so warm in Fairbanks.

The next morning, we went to the commissary for groceries, and the gas station to fill gas cans, in preparation for our time in Seward (where these items are much higher priced). We also went in search of more bears, but weren’t lucky there. It was a sunny day, and we were looking forward to Seward.

Bikers on the Parks Highway The beautiful Mt McKinley! Broad Pass Trees
Our Truck and Camper Steve with Denali in the background Broad Pass Pano
Denali Overlook MP 135 Denali Scenic Overlook Raven is a pretty good passenger
Passing through Wasilla Bear crossing the road on JBER Bear crossing the road on JBER

The trip to Seward is beautiful, especially as you leave Anchorage behind. It’s no secret that Steve and I are not huge fans of Anchorage. We both were born and raised in big cities, and have lived in big cities throughout our marriage. As we’ve aged, busy cities with lots of people have lost their appeal. While Anchorage certainly has much to see and do, and is located in an absolutely gorgeous part of the state, it’s a little too fast paced for us. No offense to my Anchorage friends/readers. I know quite a few Anchorage folks who aren’t fans of my home town of Fairbanks (called Squarebanks by some). Different strokes for different folks!

We decided to visit the AWCC (Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center) on the way to Seward. It’s a favorite stop any time of year, and I was hoping to see and photograph the brown bears. Unfortunately, it was so warm that the bears were hidden in the tall grass, trying to keep cool. The black bear I saw was napping in his cave, but at least his upper body was visible. The musk ox, bison, elk, and moose were also rather lethargic. The temperature was in the 80s - much too warm for many of us. I didn’t take many photos; the sun was too bright and the animals were hiding.

The drive around Turnagain Arm was lovely as always. Traffic wasn’t too bad, considering it’s summer in AK and many people are hitting the road for places near the water. But further south, we hit a long line of traffic waiting for a pilot car. Fortunately the view was gorgeous, which made the wait a little more tolerable.

Traffic on Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage Black Bear at AWCC Bison and Baby at AWCC
Bison and Baby at AWCC Bison and Baby at AWCC Bison Baby at AWCC
Elk Babies at AWCC Traffic on the Seward Highway near Turnagain Pass

We were exhausted from our long drive in terrible traffic, and with construction delays, so we didn’t go anywhere after setting up the camper at the RV park. Instead, Steve packed his fishing backpack for his charter the next morning, and we made dinner. We took Raven for a walk and a frisbee toss after eating, but we were all asleep early. Steve had to get up at 4:45am.

The next day, while Steve was out fishing, Raven and I took a drive around town. The sun was shining, and it was nice and warm - maybe a little too warm for our liking. But the fact that it wasn’t raining was a major plus, and we enjoyed our afternoon.

We drove out to Lowell Point first. The morning fog was amazingly beautiful, as it rolled across the bay and up over the mountains. When we came back into town, I decided to park the truck and leash up Raven so we could take a walk on the paved trail along the bay. By this time, more people were out and about. Families were in the playground with their children. Skateboarders were enjoying the skate park. A few people were down on the rocky beach near the water. And quite a few people were walking the path, as we were, with their canine furkids.

The walk was nice, but as the hours passed, the sun grew even more hot. I forgot to take water for Raven, so we came back to the camper to hydrate, before taking a drive around the end of the bay to the Nash Road Day Use Area. We saw folks swimming, fishing, grilling, and just relaxing. There was a nice strong breeze which cooled things down and kept the mosquitoes at bay.

By the time we got back to the camper, Steve was calling to let me know they were on their way back to the harbor. His catch of the day: two halibut and a couple of rockfish. Not bad for a day on the water, but not as much as he hoped for. Oh well…. there’s always July and our trip back down to the Peninsula!

Fog rolling in from the bay Sealife Center and Dandelions Resurrection Bay
Resurrection Bay Old boat ramp Resurrection Bay Dandelions and Resurrection Bay
Seward Footbridge Crow and drift log Nash Rd Day Use Area Seward AK
Fishermen in Seward Fishing in Seward Nash Rd Day Use Area Seward AK

Each night, before bed, we played Frisbee with Raven. She was a very happy girl!
Raven and Frisbee

This is the Seward Military Resort Campground. It’s a bit tight for RVs/Campers, but it’s only $25/night with full hookups. We don’t go to Seward to hang out in the camper, so it really doesn’t matter where we’re sleeping at night. They also have hotel rooms, yurts, and entire townhouses to rent if you have a large family. Fees are on a sliding scale based on rank.

Seward Military Resort Campground

We had a free day in Seward, between Steve’s fishing trip and our wildlife/glacier cruise the following day, so we decided to check out Exit Glacier and the salmon counting station at Bear Creek. We also drove over to the Nash Rd Day Use Area to see the fishermen. Steve wasn’t sure if he was going to participate, but decided not to as the tide wasn’t *right*.

We had another sunny, warm day. These types of days are always a thrill in Seward, as Seward tends to get caught under rainy or cloudy weather that hangs up overhead. One of the ladies I spoke to said that, with the exception of one cloudy day with sprinkles, Seward was enjoying two weeks of sunshine and warmth. Nice!

Salmon in Bear Creek Bear Creek Salmon in Bear Creek
Salmon jumping the falls Salmon jump the falls in Bear Creek counting smolt
Smolt Exit Glacier Steve and Exit Glacier
Valley Stream Tustumena Frankencars
Frankencars Dry dock Seward Harbor
Seward Harbor Seward Harbor Fishing nets

This was my favorite sailboat in the harbor. It’s called Sherpa, and what drew me to it was the beautiful HAPPY colors. I also like the name, and the way the moon is woven in the letter *S*. The owner was topside when I came upon the boat, and she told me that she liked the primary colors used in the eBay logo, but that they were too stark. So she moved over one color on the color wheel and chose the medium sky blue and orange to go with the primary color yellow. I love the color scheme!

The day of our wildlife cruise dawned bright and sunny. We were so happy it was going to be a good day on the water. Nevertheless, we both took a Dramamine - just in case. Better safe than sorry! We were the first folks on the boat, but it filled up rather quickly.

We took the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour that left the dock at 8am. It is a 6 hour cruise and includes a fully narrated tour by experienced captains. You also get to visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, home to teeming seabird rookeries. The captain was quite knowledgeable and we all enjoyed the cruise, even though we didn’t see as much sea life as I hoped to see. I wanted to see more whales, and even though we did have a wonderful encounter, the other sightings were so far away, that it wasn’t even worth pictures.

Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the cruise, as the weather was fabulous, I met some really nice people, and I got to see whales, sea lions, sea otters, orcas, dalls porpoise, and countless birds and raptors. You can’t ask for a better way to spend a morning and afternoon on the water.

After the cruise, we were both so exhausted, we decided to take a nap. We lay down at 3:30pm and neither of us woke again until 8:30pm! We were still exhausted and after a quick dinner, the two of us went back to bed for the night. I slept straight through to the next day!

Sea Otter Eagle in Nest Dalls Porpoise
Tufted Puffin Breaching Humpback Whale Humpback Whale Pectoral Fin
Humpback Whale Fluke Tufted Puffin Taking Off Common Murre
Gull's Nest and Flowers Sea Stars Tufted Puffins
Tufted Puffins Horned Puffins Tufted Puffins
Horned Puffins Holgate Glacier Orca
Orca Sea Lions Sea Lions

The next day was a free day for us in Seward, before packing up and heading north to Talkeetna the following day. We decided we’d take a walk downtown and also look for the Two Lakes Trail which is easily accessible from the town of Seward. It’s a loop that passes two lakes (hence the name), and then to a waterfall and then back to the start. We went in a counter-cockwise direction because it felt more natural to us to enter the trail where the larger sign was located. Wish we would have gone the other way now. The mosquitoes were so horrible that we got off the trail about 1/3 of the way into the hike and walked back to town on the streets, instead of in the woods. The waterfall was in the opposite direction, and we were so eaten alive, we were not going to go back in the woods - even for a waterfall!

Two Lakes Trail, Seward Two Lakes Trail, Seward Two Lakes Trail, Seward
Steve and Raven Chocolate Lily Marsh Marigold

After freshening up and cooling off in the camper AC, we drove back to Lowell Point and walked on the beach for a little bit. Back in town, we parked the truck and walked the streets, checking out the shops and businesses. We decided to have a burger at Alaska Nellie’s Roadhouse. It was only average. Unfortunately, we probably won’t eat there again. With one last stop at the harbor for photos, we mentally said our goodbye to Seward for another year.

Waterfall Lowell Point Downtown
Downtown Van Gilder Hotel, Liberty Theater Library
Seward Harbor Seward Harbor Seward Harbor

The next morning, we packed up the camper and drove to Anchorage. We had a better time with road construction going back, so it didn’t take us long to get there. The view was gorgeous as always. I love that I captured an image of the Alaska train coming back into Seward:

Alaska Train outside of Seward

Another favorite stop, is the pull out overlooking this beautiful lily pad pond. Water lilies were starting to bloom, but the pond is still rather sparse. It will look much better by the end of July. We almost always see wildlife at this pond - whether it be an eagle perched high in a spruce, or waterfowl enjoying the pond, or even a moose walking through the marsh grasses surrounding the pond. It was our lucky day, because there were swans nesting in the pond AND a moose walking in the tall grass.

Swans in a Lily Pad Pond outside of Seward

Moose in a Lily Pad Pond outside of Seward

Lily Pad Pond outside of Seward

Swan Pair in a Lily Pad Pond outside of Seward

The view is always so beautiful! This was taken from the moving truck on the Seward Hwy heading toward Anchorage. This is a couple of miles from Turnagain Arm; it’s always such a beautiful photo of the mountains ahead.

Seward Hwy approaching Turnagain Arm heading North from Seward

Just south of Anchorage, we came upon this windsurfer enjoying not only the fairly strong breeze, but also the very warm sunshine.

Windsurfing, Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage

While on a bathroom stop with Raven, Steve walked off into the bushes and came back to the truck carrying these beautiful wild daisies. (There are a few ants on them, but that’s OK!) I absolutely LOVE when Steve picks wildflowers for me! It’s something he has been doing since I met him.

Wild Daisies along the road

We stopped on JBER to get a few things at the commissary, and gas up the truck. By dinner time we were set up in Talkeetna at the only RV park in town. We ate, and then drove the short distance to town. We planned to drive out to the campground on the river after walking around *downtown*.

Talkeetna was established in 1919 and is located at the confluence of the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna Rivers. The town is about 3 hours from Anchorage by train, or 2.5 by car. The core downtown area is classified as a National historic site, with buildings dating from the early 1900s, including Nagley’s General Store, Fairview Inn and the Talkeetna Roadhouse.

Every summer, they have “Moose on Parade”, which kicks off in May when “Moose on the Loose” show up all over Downtown Talkeetna and a few locations along the Talkeetna Spur Road. (There’s a map available if you want to find them all) The Moose Art parades on the 4th of July and afterward there is an auction in which you can bid on (and take home) one of these moose. This year, there are several really pretty ones. I would love to have one for my yard or garden. I didn’t bother looking for them all, but I did photograph the ones I did find.

We then drove to the river, to a campground with no hookups and only outhouses. While the sites were quite nice (shaded and fairly private with bushes and trees), they were also overrun by mosquitoes. Those poor campers. They had to wear head nets to sit outside their camper. In addition to the head nets, we saw a couple sitting outside at the picnic table wearing head nets and swinging tennis racket zappers. How can that be fun? We were glad we chose the RV Park -even if it was right next to the railroad tracks.

I finally visited the Talkeetna Cemetery. In all the years of staying in Talkeetna in the summer, I never visited the cemetery. It’s out on a side road, near the airport. I’m really glad I went. There is a Climbers Memorial in the cemetery, and a bulletin board with tiles engraved with the deceased’s name. There are also individual grave sites marked by climbing tools. Propellers also dot the cemetery, in honor of pilots.

Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna
Talkeetna Talkeetna Talkeetna

The next morning, we had breakfast next door at the Latitude 62 Restaurant and Lodge. We always have breakfast here on our final morning in Talkeetna. The restaurant gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, and we’ve never been disappointed. However, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with my experience on our recent visit. My scrambled eggs were runny in places, and my bacon was soggy and limp (I always order crisp). We were in a rush to get on the road, so I didn’t bother sending it back. I handed the bacon off to Steve, and ate the firmer portions of my scrambled eggs. Perhaps they were having a down day.

As we left Talkeetna behind, and made our way the 14 miles back to the Parks Hwy, I glanced in the side mirror and saw Denali behind us! We pulled off the road to enjoy the view and take some photos.

Leaving Talkeetna - Steve and Camper/Truck:
Leaving Talkeetna, Denali visible!

The mountain was out all the way home. Another photo of Denali taken from Broad Pass:
Denali - Mt McKinley - from Broad Pass

Steve and Raven with Denali behind:
Steve and Raven with Denali

A nice sighting of two young moose along the Parks Highway:
Moose Pair, Parks Highway

COMING UP:

Commentary and photographs from my trip up the Dalton Hwy last weekend. It was an awesome trip, except for the flooded tent and the horrid mosquitoes. It’s going to take me some time to go through all the images, so bear with me. We’ll be leaving for the Kenai Peninsula (Homer, Kasilof and Cooper Landing) in a few weeks and I want to get this blog updated with the Dalton information before we head out again.

Until next time…

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11 Comments »

  1. Susan,

    I love your blog! Alaska is absolutely beautiful, we were there last summer and I can’t wait to come back. Until then, I will look longingly through your eyes.

    Debra

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Debra, and thanks for commenting. I’m happy you are enjoying my blog. I enjoy sharing my surroundings and adventures with everyone.

    Take care,
    Susan

    [Reply]

    Comment by Debra — June 29, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

  2. I love the shot of Raven with the Frisbee, and there can never be too many views of Denali. Thanks Susan.

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Linda and thank you! Raven seems to love the camera, and she’s always a pretty good model for me. We love having her in our lives!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Linda Douglass — June 30, 2013 @ 5:04 am

  3. Susan, thank you for the update. The pictures of Talkeetna really made me “homesick”. The moment I saw the place I felt like I had come home and your pictures really took me back! I don’t know how I can miss a place that I have only visited, but I do. I am so happy that you share and allow me to have virtual visits.

    Sorry about the heat. I can’t imagine not having air conditioning in 90 plus degrees. Hope it cools off soon.

    You are so awesome, thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Charlene. Talkeetna is a favorite stopover of ours. We’ll be staying there again in a couple of weeks, on our way home from the Kenai.

    Fortunately, the temperatures have cooled off for us. But now we’re dealing with the horrible fire.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Charlene — June 30, 2013 @ 8:38 am

  4. Thanks for the lovely pictures. I love it when you go to Seward :) It is always nice to see my hometown through the eyes of someone else. I especially loved seeing the photo of the Tustumena! My father worked on that boat for many years. I finally got to see the library for the first time in May-so beautiful. The colors are pretty wild. And Two Lakes trail-I used to walk that all the time as a kid. Thanks again for your post!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Juliana and thank you for commenting. How cool that you live(d) in Seward. We love visiting Seward in the summer months. And I had a blast visiting in January during the Polar Bear Plunge.

    On our recent trip, we were so happy to have such beautiful weather. It was a great week to be near the water.

    I wish I would have known about Two Lakes Trail prior to now! I’d have walked it long ago!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Juliana — July 1, 2013 @ 1:13 am

  5. Thanks for sharing your trip to Seward. Lovely photos, but I wouldn’t expect anything else. I love the pano of Denali. It’s always a joy to read your blog. I do miss you on LJ, but I can understand your lack of time with all you do. Enjoy your Summer!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Kat and thanks for commenting. I miss all my friends on LJ too. I am so busy… it’s hard to keep up with all my blogs and social sites. :( And in the summer months, it’s all about enjoying the season. I appreciate you coming by this blog. Have a great summer too!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kat — July 5, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  6. I just came across your blog and and loved it!! I’ve never been to Alaska but I have a huge yearning to visit and possibly live there. I’m a huge fan of the show Northern Exposure and would love to experience small town life in Alaska. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading and seeing more!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Sanyika — July 11, 2013 @ 10:36 am

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