Alaska: the last frontier

I needed a nature getaway. With work and wedding planning, I felt nature was a great way to connect to the very thing that “resets” me. So here’s an itinerary I took with a childhood buddy of mine in an RV for two weeks.

Italicized verbiage was my journal while there.

THE REAL ITINERARY


Mon, Aug 29

Fly out to Anchorage and pickup RV from Great Alaskan Holidays.


Anchorage

Flew in and picked up RV. Grabbed groceries from the local Walmart and Costco in Anchorage. Dinner at 9p at 49th State Brewery: beer flight — the Smoked Marzen was smokey and delicious. Beer battered halibut and fries. Drove until midnight; looking for side rest areas. Hard to see at night.

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Tues, Aug 30
9am – 14:30p — White water rafting @ 6 mile creek
http://www.chugachoutdoorcenter.com/six_mile_rafting.htm

We had some changes to our itinerary where instead of the 9am start, we started around 12:30 and it was perfect. So before the rafting, we opted for a really close hike with a view of Turnagain Arm.


Description: Three Canyon Six Mile Creek Rafting6 mile creek most challenging. On way from Anchorage to Seward.


OUR OFFICE FOR SIXMILE CREEK RIVER TRIPS IS LOCATED AT MILEPOST 7.5 ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE HOPE HIGHWAY.

TO GET THERE FROM ANCHORAGE GO SOUTH ON THE SEWARD HWY. TO THE HOPE JUNCTION, TURN RIGHT (NORTH) AND PROCEED 7.5 MILES DOWN THE HOPE HIGHWAY.

THE HOPE JUNCTION IS 70 MILES FROM DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE.

SHUTTLE VAN TRANSPORTATION IS AVAILABLE FOR GROUPS OF 2 OR MORE FROM GIRDWOOD, COOPER LANDING, WHITTIER AND SEWARD.

PLEASE CONTACT US FOR PRICING.

CALL TOLL-FREE AT 1-866-277-RAFT (7238).

ANCHORAGE AREA RESIDENTS CAN DIAL LOCALLY AT 277-RAFT”

Exit Glacier:
Google Map: 1h 18m
https://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/exit-glacier-area.htm
Ice Climbing Exit Glacier: ?8hrs — we opted for an easy 2 mile hike up to see Exit Glacier since we would be having our own ice hiking/climbing adventure at another glacier.

Post up in Seward for the evening:
http://www.rvparkreviews.com/regions/alaska/seward
http://www.cityofseward.us/index.aspx?nid=864
http://www.cityofseward.us/DocumentCenter/View/2969


http://www.themilepost.com/features/ipad-and-android-apps

Tuesday, Aug 30

Hope

Drove into Chugach National Forest — so beautiful! Tall mountains, tall trees and pines, gorgeous lakes and creeks. This morning, we were supposed to have a 9am white water rafting trip down 6 mile creek (class 5 Rapids)…. But there was a miscommunication. But, it got worked out — we ended up going to do Hope Point hike and saw some amazing views of the Turnagain Arm. After we did our hike, we went down to grab a coffee and snack at Kayak and Coffeehouse. The owner, Levi, was super helpful in explaining to us the bore tide as well as answering questions on what to do in town and what Alaskans think about the pipeline. After a bite and convo, we headed to our whitewater raft company to get suited up and do the 6 mile creek class 5 Rapids at 2p. It was an incredible experience. You do a practice swim…in a dry suit with a life vest…and then get in your raft with your guide. Canyon 1 and 2 are fun. The class 5 occurs in the 3rd canyon — Staircase is a 5 foot waterfall drop. And then there’s the other two right after (Sucker hole? And ZigZag). So rad. Just do it! Dinner in Seward at Chinook — yummy halibut. Fresh caught.

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Wed, Aug 31
Seward
TripAdvisor: Things to do in seward

Fox island kayak and cruise:
7am: Check in at Adventure Center (1302 4th Ave, Seward)
8am:Depart Seward on a Kenai Fjords Tours boat
9am:Arrive Fox Island


http://www.sunnycove.com/

Drive to Soldotna (possibly stop thru Cooper Landing on way?)

Wed, Aug 31

Seward

Woke up early for the kayak and fjord tour and found out that it was really windy and choppy on the water, so the kayak portion of our trip was cancelled. But we still got on the boat and checked out the fjords with glaciers! There were tons of wildlife out: sea otters, seals, puffins, bald eagle, northwest humpback whale, and Dall’s porpoise. So many incredible views and sceneries. After that, we did a little hike out at Exit Glacier. Then we rolled into Fred Mayer grocery store — which is like a combo of Super Walmart/Costco. We picked up our fishing license and then RV’d in the driveway of our fishing place for tomorrow in Soldotna. Seward was decimated by an earthquake back in the early 1900s and had to rebuild. But before that, it was on it’s way to becoming a big town!

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Thurs, Sep 1
-drive to Soldotna

Check out Cooper Landing:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g30971-Activities-Cooper_Landing_Alaska.html

Trip Advisor: Things to do in Soldotna

High Adventure Air: salmon
High Adventure Air Charter
38675 Longmere Lk Ct, Soldotna, AK 99669
(907) 262-5237 https://goo.gl/maps/AA39paQDgcw


730am flight:

buy fishing license there

Fishing in Alaska


Soldotna to Glacier view: about 5hrs (Google Maps)
Drive as far as possible…

Thurs, Sept 1

Soldotna

Took a fishing trip with High Adventure Air. Our guides were so wonderful!! Gorgeous seaplane flight from Soldotna to Crescent Lake. We flew over big lush trees and crater-like mountains. It was a beautiful takeoff and landing from the seaplane! We started casting out immediately and my first fish was a dead one. ;P. The next fish I caught was a silver salmon. Vinoop caught several Dollys and a lake trout. Overall, it was a terrific day with gorgeous sunshine and a beautiful backdrop of landscape. We also saw several bears including a mama bear and her two cubs. In fact, the fish we caught were kept in the lake water bc it was so frigid, but we had to gut and fillet them so the guts were thrown back in the lake which seemed kinda like a nice flowing river. The mama bear started swimming toward us and made it halfway across the lake to snatch up the guts of the fish we cleaned. It was pretty scary. Otherwise, the Bears did a good job of just keeping on their own. We checked out Kenai River brewing and then made the 4.5h drive to Glacier View for tomorrow’s ice climb!

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Fri, Sep 2

Glacier View

10:30a – 18:00 Ice climbing
https://micaguides.com/#_=_
https://micaguides.com/activities/ice-climbing/


(907) 351-7587
info@micaguides.com

Milepost 102.5, Glenn Highway
Glacier View, Alaska
Google map

Glacier View to Valdez


Fri, Sept 2

Glacier View

We arrived to the Matanuska glacier and Mica Guides for some ice trekking/ice climbing. They gave us our gear and strapped us into some gators, ice climbing boots, crampons, waterproof gloves that looked like dishwashing gloves, and a helmet. Once we hiked out to the glacier, they gave us lil activities to check our skills. First was learning how to walk in crampons. You want to dig your feet into the ice — stomping, kicking, anything to get a good grip. Duck walk to go up the ice…and the cowboy to go down the ice. Next check off was how to use a ice climbing pick. Reach behind like you’re doing triceps (keep your elbows in) and extend the pick up overhead and use the wrist to snap it down for more power. The key is the wrist snap. We practiced our safety grips as well. Always have the leash on — just like a beginner surfer! After getting familiar with the ice climbing pick, we practiced traversing a glacier free style (just a couple feet off the ground). It’s important to be able to kick into the glacier to get the 4 teeth on the front of the crampon to grip the ice. Test the bite and make sure it’s stable and then kick your other foot in. Our first test, we went down a glacial crevasse. It was spectacularly beautiful. We used our foundation that our guides Emily and Brett taught us. It’s difficult not to marvel at nature’s beauty. I felt like my rock climbing skills really helped. After that pass, we went to a more difficult pass known as a moulin ( like Moulin Rouge). It was a glassier, more iced over face that was shaded and had a different texture and feel. It was more difficult to get the ice pick and crampons into the ice. BUt, you just gotta make your tools stick. I felt like a real ice climber. It was such a wonderful experience!! After the ice climb, we got back into the RV and made our way to Valdez — stopping by Tok Thai — an awesome Thai place we found on Yelp. We settled in overnight at Copper Center along the road at a picturesque spot where you could see Mt. Sanford and mt. Wrangell.  

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Sat, Sep 3
 Valdez


Sat, Sept 3

Valdez

Walked around the pier here — home to the great Valdez derby. This derby is a contest to see who can catch the biggest halibut as well as the biggest salmon. We caught it on its last day — and so far the biggest salmon was 17.8 lb and the biggest halibut was 253 lb! Small quiet fishing town where the Alaskan pipeline ends. Seems to be a bit smaller than Seward.

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Sun, Sep 4

Evening close to Denali

View from bodenburg butte


Sun, Sept 4

Drove from Valdez to Copper Center thru Wasilla (home of Sarah Palin) to Bodenburg Butte. We did a lil hike there and then ended up heading to Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna. Excellent Belgian strong there.  

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Mon, Sep 5

call for wonder lake shuttle tickets 8am (alaska time) shuttle
http://www.alaska.org/detail/denali-park-shuttle-bus

Drive to Denali


Camp in Denali Riley creek site.

Mon, Sept 5

From Talkeetna, we drove into Denali national park. We stopped for lunch at Prospector’s (it was rainy and cold). Excellent craft beer on top — like 40+ beers! Excellent pizzas as well! After lunch, we walked around the park and then decided to make the sled dog demo. These dogs are so excited to pull!! They’re Alaskan huskies who love to pull a sled. We saw the 6 week old pups! This is the only working sled dog kennel in any of the national parks. These dogs work hard in the winter freeing up debris from roads, hauling supplies to hard to reach places, helping keep the roads maintained — but they love what they do! Gotta say, they’re the hardest working federal employees! We stayed the night in Riley Creek campground (yes you still get a cell signal on AT&T).
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Tues, Sep 6


Tues, Sept 6

Early early morning shuttle bus ride to Wonder Lake — we saw beautiful views of bears, caribou, and moose. It was super rainy and drab…cloudy. We got to Eielson center and decided to take the 12p ranger led hike up Alpine trail. Although we got soaked from the rain, it was worth the 1000+ ft elevation gain to see the different terrain. We learned from Ranger Nick (which this was the last ranger led hike of the season) that there are a ton of earthquakes or at least seismic activity happening in the Eielson area. But we didn’t feel anything that day. Do take a moment to stop and check out Eielson center. It’s full of info and a great stopping point to watch a movie on climbers to summit Denali — 3 weeks, no Sherpas, and you carry your own waste in the freakin’ cold! I don’t think Denali is in the cards for me. We took the return bus (we didn’t make it to wonder lake)…cold and wet. Once we got to the RV, a change of clothes and a beer did the trick to turn our frowns upside down! We hit up Prospector’s again for dinner and it was fabulous!! Night again in Riley Creek Campground. 

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Wed, Sep 7


Wed, Sept 7

We decided to fill up our RV with fresh water and then check out of Riley Campground and park in the Visitors center lot (just for the day). We opted for the Mt. Healy Overlook trail — which is a strenuous 2 hour trail, one way, 2.7 miles, 1700ft elevation, 25% grade, 2 feet width, with native soils with roots and rocks. It was totally rad!! Great way to see the various terrain at the different altitudes. Pack a lunch and have it at the top of the trail as the views are beautiful — even on a partly cloudy day. The descent is much faster than the ascent. There are edible blueberries along the way for a great snack! Dinner tonight at Karsten’s — a new restaurant that has a yummy caribou burger as well as awesome sweet jalapeño cornbread! After dinner, we drove to Savage River campgrounds to RV for the night. No AT&T cell phone reception here.

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Thurs, Sep 8

From Savage River campground on Savage Alpine Trail

View from top of Savage alpine trail


Thurs, Sept 8

From the Savage river campground, we walked to the trailhead to Savage Alpine trail. This trail can be started either at the campground or at the end by savage river. If you have trouble with steep descents, I recommend starting at Savage river (from the campground, you can catch a shuttle to take you there) — it’s a steeper ascent by more relaxed descent closer to the campgrounds. The Savage alpine trail is strenuous, 3 hours one way, 4miles, 1500ft in elevation, 25% grade, 2 feet width, and has native soils with roots and rocks and gravel. So, from the campground going up you start a gradual ascent with tall grasses initially that breaks open to subalpine/alpine tundra that’s short. We didn’t’ see any large wildlife along this trail — but there are plenty of warning signs for bears. Once we got to the top (no more elevation gain on the maintained trail), we saw a rocky peak that we wanted to get to for a better look at Denali. So, we forged our own trail. It was rocky and barren and was an extra 400ft or so almost straight up (>25% grade). The wind was fierce and strong — but we made it. At the top, we had an Alaskan Summer Ale beer to celebrate the climb and enjoy the peace of the area around us. Our descent was tricky — super rocky terrain with steep areas. We went carefully and slowly down the mountain back to the maintained trail. I spotted an alpine squirrel who didn’t seem to be scared or even interested in me — he was going after some grub in the ground! The descent was super steep even once we got onto the main trail. After we got down from the savage alpine trail, we opted for an extra 2 miles along the savage river loop trail. Nice and relaxing 45min trail around the river with minimal elevation change. I’m still amazed at the sheer beauty of Denali and could easily come back here. We drove into town to see if we could arrange a flight for tomorrow to circle Denali. Looks like we’re a go with Talkeetna Air!

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Fri, Sep 9
Denali to Talkeetna

Denali


Fri, Sept 9

Today we drove from Denali to Talkeetna to catch a plane that will go over some glacial ice fields and then circle Denali from Talkeetna Air.  Impressively spectacular views from the plane!  I highly recommend it!  Dropped off the RV back at Great Alaskan Holiday and arranged for a taxi to Moose’s Tooth — a must stop for awesome pizza and craft brew in Anchorage!  After that, we took a taxi back to our RV and then picked up our luggage and then headed to the airport for a midnight flight.

Talkeetna to Anchorage: about 2 hours

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Sat, Sep 10


Sat, Sept 10

Flight home from Anchorage waaaaaaaay early!


Itinerary to Valley of Fire, Zion, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Havasupai Falls

April 12-19, 2015
Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada)http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/
  • Map: http://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/upload/Horseshoe%20Bend2.pdf
  • Approximately 5 miles south of the Carl Hayden Visitor Center on U.S. Hwy 89, just south of highway marker 545, turn west on the dirt road which ascends the small hill. Drive a short distance west on the dirt road and park at the base of the hill. Climb up and down sandy hill.
    1.5 mile (2.4km) round-trip
    Easy
OTHER IDEAS
Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point

This 10.7-mile out-and-back dives more than 3,000 feet to a photogenic perch offering five-star views of the Colorado River and the second deepest canyon in the United States.

South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Trail

Trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on this 13.7-mile shuttle hike that tours rugged canyons, visits the Colorado River, and features stunning cliffside views.

Beaver falls

Friday, April 17

There was an incredible amount of wind and rain overnight. It was extremely gusty and felt like the tent would be lifted up off the ground. My biggest fear through the night was whether a tree would fall on the tent or a flash flood that would wipe out the campsite.  Then came the rain. A full on downpour for about two hours. Good to know that my tent can definitely handle a good windy downpour. 
Woke up around 8am and enjoyed another delicious freeze-dried meal: Mountain House scrambled eggs with red and green bell peppers, potatoes and sausage.  This was delicious!! I have been supremely impressed with these meals! After breakfast, we moved the tent to a drier spot and headed out for the three mile hike to Beaver falls. The descent down to the base of Mooney falls was steep!  Plenty of caution signs to travel at your own risk. 
  
There are chains along the way to help climb down as well as wooden ladders appropriately placed. 
   

     

As you travel along the path, you will come across several river crossings that will require traversing. 
  
Bring either some old shoes you don’t mind getting wet, water shoes, or your bare feet. Today, the highest level of river to pass was roughly knee deep on a 5’7″ gal. The water was chilly, but extremely refreshing. It took about two hours to reach Beaver falls from the campground. 
   

   

Once at Beaver falls, go for a dip or explore the area. It’s one of the most scenic landscapes I have seen in the desert. Several guys were jumping off the falls. We opted to climb up the right side of the falls and wander around the upper pools. 
We had some lunch on a rock overlooking Beaver falls. These Epic bars made of organic meats and seasonings were like a thick jerky but fancier. The first one we tried the other day was a buffalo and bacon one. That was our fave. Today, we had the turkey, cranberry and almond. We also had the lamb, mint, and chutney. Both were ok, but not as good as the buffalo bacon one. 
After an hour exploring the area, we headed back towards the campground. There was a neat little offshoot to the right off the trail. Like a little slot canyon with a pretty dry/sparse area of water. The boulders were massive. We got back on the trail and enjoyed the impressive volume of water flowing at Mooney falls before climbing up the chains/ladder scramble. Note: tons of centipedes on that lil part. 
Made it back to camp around 3p and started another freeze-dried meal. This one was Mountain House beef stroganoff.  Let me just say… This was a delicious take on classic comfort food.  So far, I’m really enjoying these freeze-dried meals! I may have to go hiking more often to just eat these meals!
Minor blister on the left pinky toe from the water shoes. But there was plenty of dirt that could’ve been trapped to cause it. These Keen water shoes held up for the 6 mile trip (3 mi out and back to Beaver falls). 
Decided to share another small freeze-dried meal since we started smelling the yumminess that was coming from our campsite neighbors. This one was AlpineAire Spicy sausage and pasta. The flavor was just as it was described. If I had a spicy sausage pizza craving, this would hit the spot (minus the tomato sauce). Matter of fact, this pouch would’ve been super delicious with tomato sauce!

Trek to Havasupai Falls

Thurs, April 16

After staying in Canyon Lodge (super stay!!) on Rte 66, we made the long drive from Seligman, AZ to the trailhead (Hualapai) for Havasupai Falls on a long straight road.  It took roughly 1-1.5 hours.  Organized our gear for a backcountry hike with a two night overnight in the campground. 
Made the 8 mile trek to Supai village. The trail has gravel, sand, and larger rocks throughout. They have mules/horses that you can reserve ahead of time to haul your gear down to the campground. We did not do that… We hauled our own gear; just part of the experience. 
  
We checked in at the office and they had openings (basically we took a chance without a reservation bc they were full online about a month ago). Got our tags and bands and headed the two miles toward Havasupai falls. On our way out of the village, we saw a helipad where they take visitors from the village back to the trailhead start for $85pp. Also, if we were out of luck with getting a campground permit, we would’ve had to hike back out to where we started (not fun since I had a 25-30lb pack on).  
   

 

On the way out of the village, you will come across a beautiful fall…Supai falls!  It is stunning and deserves a bit of time and pictures!  We got back on the beach sandy trail towards the campground. Right before reaching the campground, you will see a massive waterfall with a beautiful canyon backdrop – Havasupai falls. After basking in its sheer awesome strength and beauty, we headed further toward the campground and staked out a site and setup camp.  The bathrooms were extremely clean. It was a toilet seat base that dropped waste into a hole deep in the floor. For breakdown of bacteria, they had wood chips to place after every toilet use and it really reduced bathroom stench (in fact, no stench at all!). 
The freeze dried dinner of the day was a delicious Thai curry. It completely blew my mind! How could something packaged like that taste so darn good? Honestly, it could rival some Thai places I’ve experienced in town.  Let it be known that it was also my first taste of a freeze dried meal. I couldn’t be happier… Especially after the hangriness kicked in from a really small lunch (half a clif bar and some pork jerky) for a 10 mile hike. After our bellies were full, we took a short walk toward Mooney falls (another gorgeous waterfall)!  
After the falls, we went and checked out the fry bread which is exactly what it is — fried dough. Got the Indian taco which is basically a tostada on fry bread. It was pretty good!
Now the bellies are full and the body is tired. Time to quiet the mind. This place is incredibly relaxing!

Zion national park: The Narrows and Orderville Canyon

Woke up to a rather relaxed morning start after 12 hours of sleep (that was much needed!).  Picked up our gear from the outfitters around the corner from Watchman campground (literally walking distance and we didn’t need a reservation!).  Took the shuttle to the last stop Temple of Sinawava.  There’s a 1 mile hike on a paved road down to the river. 

 

From there you will walk roughly two miles through rocky River beds and cold water (today it was 50 degrees; yesterday it was 45) to the start of The Narrows.

The Narrows itself is gorgeous. Amazing how the river carves it’s way through the canyon. For any of you who live in a big city, sky scrapers are the norm; this is nature’s skyscraper downtown. Beautiful architecture! 

 But The Narrows isn’t the only amazing trail down here in the water… the Orderville Canyon is absolutely splendid (and I think it’s more glorious than The Narrows).  Why? It was less crowded, had stunning views of the tops of the canyons, offered more options for mountaineering, and had nice carvings as well. If you’re running short on time, I would recommend this offshoot right before The Narrows! It’s a gem!   

  

      

 After this terrific out and back hike (dunno maybe 6-8 miles total?), we returned our gear and grabbed some dinner at the Brew Pub next door. We found out that there are showers for $5/token for a 5 minute hot shower!   

Great way to end a wonderful day! 

Valley of fire and Zion National Park

Saturday evening took the 9:30p train from San Diego to LA’s union station. It was a very pleasant rise and put me in LA around midnight. 

   

 

After that, drove with a friend to Valley of the Fire. 


Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada)http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/

   

 

After a quick exploration, we headed to zion. We got there around 11am and checked into our campsite in Watchman.   On to Angels Landing! Roughly a 2.5 mile out and back (so 5 miles total) with incredible views and a steep elevation gain. 
 Young and old alike were on the trail looking for a challenge. 
   

  

This is a truly wonderful hike that I would recommend. It’s tough, so go at your own pace. 

We grabbed a bite at Meme’s cafe and then grabbed some groceries and gear for The Narrows tomorrow. The water temp is 45 degrees.  I am extremely exhausted!