Alaska: A two week trip

buckland

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Alaska is a long drive from New England but frankly more enjoyable than being in airports/planes/lines/ etc. That said, when time is of the essence one just has to suck it up and join the crazy that is flying today. It sure isn’t like the future I saw in my “Weekly Reader” in the second grade… where we would all be flying in our personal ‘air cars’ or be whisked through glass tubes like in the Jetsons. Man did I love reading about that!

We were flying flight miles and inso doing took what was available. I would have loved a non stop but that was out of the question. This was a budget trip. We had a flight from Hartford CT (we live in north western Massachusetts on VT line) after a 2 hour wait on the runway due to some complicated problem…. on to Minneapolis,Minnesota. Luckily our wait between connection flights was a long one so were then able to get the flight straight to Anchorage. Trouble there at the airport with the gizmo that ramps us in so we sat there for an hour at the gate. Got to a Motel at 2 AM and slept until 5 AM. But we were there!

I love travel by trains so we had booked the Anchorage to Seward 5 hour trip. It is hit or miss for weather, but were lucky there, rain cleared enough for great views on the way. My nephew is a captain of ships out of Seward. He takes research ships out to the Aleutian Islands or up to the Bering Sea sometimes just to drop off a ship and fly back or sometimes for the length of the research. Some very interesting stories. His wife owns the Resurrect Art Coffee House and Gallery which is in a 100 year old church. She was born in Seward and her extended family has some long history there. They have a couple Air B&B’s and we were put up in one.

Our plan was to visit with them for a few days and then hit the road with their truck camper (named Bardur which is an Icelandic mythological creature half human and half giant. He calls it “The Beast”’. He bought it with 200K, flatbed Tundra and a hard side camper. After a few days enjoying Seward area, hiking to the Exit glacier and a short jaunt in my nephew’s boat, we were excited to be roaming around AK again (we had driven our FWC Eagle here in 2017).

Our first destination being an area above Hope (on the Cook Inlet). It is a road up into the mountain that goes to a trailhead (the name is not actually clear but the coordinates are 60.79236, -149.54693 . (the trail is a 30 mile hike to Cooper’s Landing). Along side of the road there are spots to boondock. The terrain is above trees, wet and like mountains in Scotland: moss, thicket and rock. The fall colors were rust reds, burnt oranges and dark greens. Lots of rain (first 7 days!) but being Irish seemed normal.

We went on from there to Whiskey Gulch, a beach on the way to Homer (north of Anchor Point). It is a public stone beach with maybe 10 sites, free and basic… ok. Still raining and the sea pretty whipped up. It is a noisy place with the waves and rocks but quite nice in my book. We were trying hard to arrange a bear viewing flight but most all businesses were closing up for the season. We finally found one and arrived in Homer (at Beluga Lake) but the wind was 60 knots and the planes weren’t flying. The owner of Beryl Air, Stephanie, was doing one more flight if clear the next day. Of the five seats she had 2 so were all set!

We flew to Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park for the last day of bear viewing as they feed on salmon. A fantastic flight over and a great day seeing bears. On our return flight the owner/pilot who had two friends on board, flew us at low altitude on a wandering flight path circling around when we saw caribou and black bears. We also flew 100 feet above the Augustine volcano! A great experience and I highly recommend Beryl Air, which is good to see is an all women employee airline! On our approach to land we saw another flight-seeing plane upside-down in the marsh near Beluga Lake.We later found out it had crashed there that day while we were away. All onboard were rescued and were not seriously hurt.

Great craft beers, great food and friendly local bar scene at Champagne Alices apres landing or crash. We decided to camp at a closer spot than returning to Whisky Gulch beach, at Halibut Campground, an AK State Park on the water. Great off season with maybe a couple other folks… real quiet, clean and good beach walking, Views of the inlet and three volcanoes covered in snow! Two nights as we wanted to tour around, visited the Russian settlement and 100 year old orthodox church in Ninilchek. Great history and the grave yard telling.
As my nephew was leaving for Iceland we were able to return to Seward for a couple days to regroup before heading out again in the camper this time to an area north of Anchorage called Hatcher’s Pass and Independence Mine. Snow is already happening and the higher road through Hatcher’s pass was closed but we stayed a couple nights near the mine and did a few hikes as well as toured the gold mine. Amazing how fast time goes so the plan had it to leave their camper at the airport which they would get on their arrival. We had a long trip home 30 hours awake for me as I can’t sleep on planes. Time seemed to fly, so different from the long road trip in the Eagle.

There was one night in the trip I did not mention. A boondock site that locals call Waikiki. It is on I-overlander but hard to be specific. It is a wonderful site so PM me for details if interested. We had a uniquely AK experience there, alone on a massive lake. Out of the blue a young couple showed up at our site… it was cold, and we had a fire. They were there for a baptism… a baptism in the cold to start anew, a hopeful break from drug and alcohol addiction …at the 30 day mark of sobriety. They asked us to be witnesses and we did. Into the water they went in their clothes, he held her and spoke as he then lowered her into the waters. They then needed warming by the fire. Who knows if it will be successful… but I’ll give anybody a chance to cut free and start over. Just one more for the books.

I will throw in a bunch of photos as well ...see if you can match them to description
more photos coming ...a tad laborious trying to resize to keep it under 500 kb!
 

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With the suggestion by Vic I have uploaded photos (sorry some duplicates...haven't seem how to delete those yet) to the gallery.
[sharedmedia=gallery:albums:1603]
 
Hello Rob

Glad you had that visit.

People are part of the landscape.

David Graves
 
Looks like a great trip (sans the air travel), looks like you were able to get off the beaten path in a few places, which is good to see that is possible. I'm envious of the flight out to Brooks Falls. Great pics in the album as well. Thanks for posting.
 
Thanks Ed. It was fun to be back there. It is only my nephew who made it possible. I also meant to shout out to the Salt Smokehouse. We bought a few pounds of smoked black cod and salmon to bring back. We froze it, then packed it in ice. Drained the ice at airport and went through (only carry on luggage) TSA, got pulled to hand inspection... they smiled and put it back. Once through TSA we got a beer at a 49th State Brewery and asked them to fill our gallon ziplock bag with ice. We had bought a child's thermal lunch bag at the dollar general store and were able to repack for the trip home. It is absolutely delicious. I wish we could have shipped fresh frozen home but the cost was crazy high for us. All I have to do now is win the lottery so I could afford 1st class direct flight. Wouldn't that be something!
 
We saw a huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes circling high above the river there, I suppose starting their migration?
 
Rob, what a great adventure! We had much fun going through your photos and matching them up with your narrative. Thanks for sharing with us! :)
 
I will say Monte, ( though we haven't met)... it was exactly that. A lot packed in for 2 weeks and I will say I am a lucky man for being able to get up there. AK is so big ... more than one can think of seeing it all, but there is a bit of the truly wild still up there... and it is an honor to have seen it. Sure hope others see it as a treasure worth saving. Who knows ...this eagle may just head on back!
 
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