Alaska: The Last Frontier
This past July, I had the vacation of a lifetime, that’s right, I went and explored Alaska. If you know me then you would know how much I love exploring new places. Eventually my goal is to visit all of the 50 states and plus other countries in the world but I officially marked Alaska off my list and let me tell you it was fourteen days well spent. So here is a play-by-play of the beautiful state of Alaska…
Day 1: Travel
Our day started out bright and early taking a small airplane from Colorado Springs to Denver. I was not a huge fan of the small plane but it was weird only being on a plane for 15 minutes (yes, waiting for take off and going over the safety rules was longer than the flight itself). From Denver we began our next flight in the series to Seattle, Washington. The plane was amazing… I’m talking comfortable seats, free movies(I watched the Greatest Showman) and complimentary drinks. Once arriving in Seattle we had a layover until our next flight so we walked around and got some fish and chips since we hadn’t had lunch for the day. Once our last flight of the day took off, we were headed to Fairbanks, Alaska! This was the longest flight of the day but I was able to watch a couple of movies on my phone and there were complimentary drinks and snacks… Finally we had arrived in Fairbanks(that was the longest flight of my life, I was really antsy for most of it). The weather in Fairbanks was not what I expected…I am not going to lie I was expecting there to be snow (I know…I know, silly right?). It was absolutely beautiful weather and I couldn’t believe how amazing it was. We ended the day heading to the grocery store and basking in the sun which wouldn’t “set” for the next few days of our trip (I don’t think I saw the moon until the 4th or 5th day on the cruise).
Day 2: Exploring Fairbanks
Our day started out bright and early in the morning, after eating some breakfast and getting ready for the day we were off on our first excursion…Alaskan Husky Kennels! If you don’t know who Susan Butcher is, let me give you a little background. Susan Butcher was a champion American dog musher and four time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, she and her husband, David Monson, opened up this kennel to keep the Alaskan Husky breed trained for future races. The huskies are trained specifically to their position on the team, whether they are lead dogs or wheel dogs, there are all unique but make a team together. The most exciting part of this excursion was being able to pet the puppies! They were absolutely adorable!
Our next stop of the day was Gold Dredge #8 and let me tell you… I was in love! Along the dredge was part of the Transalaskan pipeline, which carries oil from one part of Alaska to another. This pipeline carries on average 1.8 million barrels of oil in it each day. I was definitely geeking out over the different types of sensors used to keep the oil safe and uncontaminated. After learning about the pipeline we took a quick train ride to the actual gold dredge… after learning the history behind it we were able to gold pan and pan for some gold (I found $13 dollars worth of gold) I absolutely love god panning so being able to do that was the best part of the day!
After a quick lunch in downtown Fairbanks we headed off to a Riverboat Discovery Tour , there we took a steamboat down the Chena River to a setup of a Chena Indian village. Along the river we saw a bush pilot demonstration and saw the Susan Butcher Kennels once again but this time with a demonstration of the sled dogs running. This was an exciting experience and very informative…after coming back we headed back to the hotel for our next adventures.
Day 3: Train Ride and Denali Wilderness Tour
We packed up our bags and loaded them up on the bus…then we headed to the train depot for our first train ride of the trip. I am a big train fan…not entirely sure why but trains have always been my favorite form of transportation, they are just so relaxing. The train ride was about four hours long and included several bad jokes and lots of nature (there was a moose in a pond just before we pulled into Denali National Park so that was really exciting). We got off the train and went to the visitor center before our Tundra Wilderness Tour, which is a seven hour tour (totally worth it by the way)… usually the trips are exciting but this trip was something the tour guide (who is also studies animal behaviors) had never seen before. This trip might’ve been long but along the way we saw a lynx, 7 grizzly bears, totally unheard of, an alpha wolf, 3 moose and a calf, Dall Sheep and a ton of caribou… the only think we did not see was Denali itself but there is less than a 30% chance of seeing it so the wildlife made up for it. This was a phenomenal experience and was definitely worth it. Once we made it back it was around 9:30 so we ate our boxed lunches from the train and went to sleep getting ready for our next days adventures.
Day 4: Train Ride to Talkeetna and bus ride to Anchorage
We started the day off with another train ride from Denali to Talkeetna,although in the morning we got to go to the Denali National Park sign and I got to stand in glacier water (felt amazing by the way), which was full of more bad jokes, history of Alaska and some beautiful nature. This train ride was absolutely amazing, and honestly I am debating on whether or not I want to do a cross-country train ride. Since this day was just travel once we got to Talkeetna we immediately got on the bus and drove down to Anchorage, since that say was national ice cream day, we stopped at a small store and ate some delicious ice cream.
Day 5: Anchorage and train ride to Seward (Cruise Day)
This was the last day of our land tour and what better way to go out than with a tour of the city and a trip to the zoo! After a quick tour of the city and the small airport (it was really meant for water planes) we headed to the zoo. The Anchorage Zoo is full of rescue animals and is quite small for Anchorage being a bigger city in Alaska, but it was my type of scene. I absolutely love going to zoos especially when the animals were all rescued from dangerous situations. There was a wide range on animals from sea lions to camels, my favorite animal though was the polar bear… he looked absolutely adorable (although I don’t think I would go anywhere near him if he was in the wild). After the zoo we headed to the train depot to check into the cruise and go on our last train ride for the trip. This train ride was amazing, absolute beautiful scenery from mountains to the ocean to waterfalls, this part of Alaska was something I had never seen before in my life. Sadly, the train ride had to end otherwise I would’ve stayed on the train for the rest of the trip but we had arrived to Seward and it was time to embark on our cruise adventure. The cruise was huge! This was the first time I had ever been on a cruise so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I figured there would be a lot of people on the cruise but I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of people there. I could barely walk without running into someone but I was excited to get going and go shopping in the ports around us.
Day 6: Travel day on the sea
There wasn’t much to this day as we were on the boat the entire day, so I explored a little but spent majority of the day eating food and sitting in the hot tub. We saw a giant glacier, which I didn’t actually think glaciers were that big but that was huge! I also watched a movie in the movie theater (I’m pretty sure it was the new Tomb Raider movie)
Day 7: Hoonah, Alaska (Icy Straight Point)
This was our first port of the trip, Hoonah, Alaska was a small tourist town. First thing in the morning my mom, aunts and I went sea kayaking. I’m not even going to lie, as much as I love doing outdoorsy activities, I was absolutely terrified to go sea kayaking, really it was just because I didn’t want to get eaten by a whale( of all the things I could think of that was the only thing I didn’t want to happen, I’ve read Moby Dick). Overall, it was an amazing experience. I ended up braking a few ribs from a car accident before the trip so I couldn’t paddle very long, so I just became the designated DJ for the trip. Once we regained our land legs we explored the gift shops, I ended up getting a few things but my favorite thing was getting to eat crab (it was delicious).
Day 8: Juneau, Alaska
I’m not even going to lie, this day was a complete surprise for me. Before the trip even started I found out that I was going to get to go on my first ever helicopter ride! I was beyond excited, I have never been on a helicopter but I have heard that it was such a smooth ride and super exhilarating. Upon waking up in the morning, we immediately got off the boat and headed towards the helicopter airport. After seeing hundreds of eagles we finally made it, got our safety video and got into the helicopter. I got to sit in the front and it was such an amazing time. We landed on a glacier and got to explore the glacier a bit where I got to try some delicious glacier water and also received a glacier silt facial 😉 (Really she just rubbed mud onto my face). After getting back onto the helicopter and back to the airport, we got back into town and explored Juneau a bit. I ended up buying at least 5 different shirts that day but I love shirts that say where I have been.
Day 9: Skagway, Alaska
This was second to of last stop of the trip, Skagway, Alaska is a very small tourist town but I got to go to a zip line adventure park. I had a blast. Usually, I am always down to try new things but up in the heights are not my favorite (which is funny because I love hiking mountains and flying). After a bit of nervousness and reassurance that I wasn’t going to fall, I finally got enough courage to try it out and it was so much fun. I loved every minute of it. After zip-lining, we went back into town and did some shopping. I found more t-shirts and got some really delicious ice cream. The rest of the day was spent hanging out on the cruise waiting until our next stop.
Day 10: Ketchikan, Alaska
This was our last day to go ashore but we had to sail most of the day before we got there. Once we got to Ketchikan, we just explored. We walked around went to different stores, bought some souvenirs and basked in the sun. It was a wonderful day, and a really awesome way to end the cruise portion of the trip. Once we had to go back on the cruise, we were headed to Vancouver.
Day 11: Another Day at Sea
This was our last day on the cruise and it was a full day at sea. We had a show and tell of everything we bought and then I watched a movie, Jumanji, in the theater. Later on we all had dinner together and then I went to go see the last show that the cruise was having. Overall it was a great day, but I was so antsy to get off the cruise and to go home. As great of a time as I was having, I was exhausted and ready to see my cat, Elsa.
Day 12: Vancouver, B.C, Canada
We had made it to Vancouver! After getting off the cruise and going through customs, we got on a shuttle and headed to the hotel. After getting all of our things settled in the room, we got onto the bus and walked around downtown a bit. Our plan was to have high tea but none of the places were open that day but instead we went to go see where the Winter Olympics were held and headed back to the hotel for our adventure the next day.
Day 13: Victoria Island and the Buchart Gardens
We had decided that exploring on our own wasn’t going to be as fun as going on a package tour that was offered so we went on that instead. We started the day getting on a ferry, which is the only way to get to Victoria Island, and then drove a bit to explore the town. My mom and I went off on our own and did some shopping and taking pictures. It was a beautiful town, however, it was super crowded so it was very chaotic to get into stores or anything. We ended up eating lunch at a hot dog joint and then headed off the the Buchart Gardens , which are absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I loved walking around, taking pictures and seeing all the the different flower displays. There were so many different types of flowers plus they had an awesome selection of gelato (delicious BTW). After spending some time at the gardens it was time to take a ferry back to Vancouver and prepare for our flights the next day.
Day 14: Time time to head home!
This was our last day of vacation, we woke up and got everything packed. Then headed off to the airport (by Taxi, it was my first time doing that too), it was an awesome trip. I had the best time of my life. There were no worries of doctors appointments or worrying about being sick. I am beyond thankful that I was able to go on this trip and couldn’t be more thankful for my family, who allowed me to go on this trip and waited for me to be healthy enough to go.