GRANDDAUGHTER’S LAST FEW DAYS IN ALASKA WITH US… HOW MUCH CAN WE DO??!!
With just a few days left to explore Alaska on her two-week trip to visit with us, her grandparents, Carrie decides she wants to try to do it all in Alaska before leaving. She actually decides that she has to at least try to see Denali… so off we go back to Denali.
You see we had already been to and through Denali but since it was such a tourist trap we blew threw pretty quickly. But not with our granddaughter. We even booked the Tundra Wilderness Tour bus ride… an 8-hour ride on curvy, bumpy, remote roads… in the rain… through mud slides and rock slides… on what is essentially a school bus!
So we hated it, right? Wrong! We loved it. Our bus driver was more of a tour guide, pointing out wildlife, scenery and facts about the park that no amount of research could have taught us. We saw all kinds of wildlife multiple times, even getting a glimpse at a rare Lynx.
After all the fun, even though it was raining buckets the entire time, it was time to meander towards Anchorage so Carrie could board her plane to head back to NC. Along the way we took in a great hike at Bird Falls. After spending the night in our Travato van in the Anchorage Cabala’s parking lot we got up at 4am to get her on her plane. Two weeks with her here in Alaska with us flew by and we soon found ourselves in a quiet, somewhat lonely, van again.
Wouldn’t you know it… our granddaughter visits with us in Alaska and it rains on us for the first time! But, we made the most of it!
With just a few days left in Alaska, Carrie decided that she wanted to at least try to get to see Denali so we set out for Denali Nation Park and Preserve. Along the way we stopped for breakfast at The Moose Is Loose bakery in Saldotna. We then checked in for our 3-night reservation in Teklanika Campground inside of Denali, only to find out that, as Carrie put it, we were held hostage… meaning we could not leave the remote area of the park. And, of course, for the first time since we’ve been in Alaska it rained… and rained… and rained. We sure tested the limits of how long 3 people could stay cooped up in a Travato 59K van. We made the most of it and found enough of a break in the rain to take Carrie to the Denali Sled Dog demonstration, which she loved!
In this episode we leave beautiful Seward, Alaska and make a stop to hike out to Exit Glacier with our granddaughter, Carrie. If we had stopped there it would have been a successful, non-forgettable adventure in Alaska with her. But, we pointed the Travato van further south and headed down the Kenai Peninsula on our way to what we thought our destination would be, the Spit in Homer. But we got sidetracked big time. We found the jewel of a state park in Deep Creek State Park about 30 miles north of Homer and that ended up being our home base for 3 nights as we enjoyed the views of the volcanos, the eagles, the tractor-assisted boat launches and we even drove down to Homer for an afternoon.
So when we downsized to our Travato van from a 31’ 5th Wheel we knew it was going to be really hard to have our grandchildren come and stay with us on the road. In fact, we had just had to make ourselves OK with the fact that when they wanted to visit us on the road we’d have to get a hotel.
So when Carrie’s mom changed her mind and decided we could fly Carrie to Alaska to spend 15 days with us here we decided we would try to make the little van work. Both of our beds have gel toppers on them so we had the great idea that we could just put one of these on the floor near the front of the van and she could sleep in the “hallway” area. Wow! How easy! And it worked like a charm. Our granddaughter was comfortable and slept well each night. The driver’s side bed has a seatbelt and our granddaughter actually enjoyed the time driving as she’d just ride immersed in reading her book… she actually read nearly 20 books while with us.
So, it can be done. It’s tight and there’s a lot of excuse me… and hey I’ll just sit at the picnic table while you guys get dressed and ready… but it worked. And what a blessing to get to be part of this special time in our granddaughter’s life as she saw her first glacier, her first midnight sun in Alaska and well, just the splendor of Alaska! She loved it and we’re sure the tight quarters of the van were made better by the smiles she had on her face many, many times each day!
Haven’t you always wanted to fly??… like an eagle? Well, after camping right on the edge of a huge cliff over top of the Copper River watching eagles laughing and playing as they flew by time after time we’ve got to say that we sure wanted to be able to fly. But, what a great place to spend the night!!!
How did we find this spot? Same as almost all of our boondocking spots in Alaska… the iOverlander app. It’s our go-to way of finding cool, unique places to spend the night out dry camping / boondocking in our little Travato 59K van. That van is perfectly suited for these kind of 1-3 night stints in these remote places. This place was a bit of a test to get down to the exact spot… in fact Lynn had to closely watch the rear end of the van was we went down one steep hill to make sure we didn’t drag as we got to the spot! We didn’t and the rest is history… what a great, great spot and precious memories that will last a lifetime.
After a great night’s rest at the literal edge of a cliff we headed to Palmer, Alaska to spend a few nights the quaint little Paradise RV Resort washing clothes, the van and ourselves and preparing for the upcoming visit with our granddaughter, Carrie, who was flying in to Anchorage in a few days.
So you’d think we would have had enough of gravel, washboard, pothole roads, right? After the Dalton and the Top Of The World Highway we thought we’d seen it all. Nope! The McCarthy Highway, which takes you out to the bridge where you can walk a mile to the quaint cool town, is probably the worst road we’ve been on in 2019! The worst! Why? Well, one couple blew two tires on the same pothole. And the washboard road is almost non-stop with grooves big enough to had a set of golf clubs in… easily. They rattle your dishes… they rattle your windows… and they just about rattle your fillings out in your mouth if you have them.
But… once you get to the end of this treacherous road you get to walk a mile to a town that takes you back in time to an era when things were much, much simpler. Like when horses wouldn’t mind all the washboards kind of simple. A town where dogs are not only encouraged to be in town they are not allowed to be on a leash. You read that right. You cannot have your dog on a leash in town. They call it free range kids and dogs and it is really cool and you can bet, Maggie LOVED it!
After just a few days of being there Valdez, Alaska quickly became our favorite stop on this Alaskan journey in our Travato van. Why?
Well, within 8 miles of town you can see bears and moose and more salmon than you thought would be possible in one spot. Drive a little further up the Richardson Highway and you can hike up to the top of Worthington Glacier. And then there’s the quaint little harbor town, full of people like us who came here only to find they hated to leave or just refused to do so and admitted they had found home. Were it not for our family back in the Carolinas this would likely be our new home. Crazy? Maybe so but the sounds and the smells of this harbor town just made our souls smile like none other. And the people here are truly amazing… easy to get along with like you’d expect a bunch of fishermen to be, savvy business men and women who make enough to live off of during the 4-5 months of non-winter days here when folks actually visit. And there are interesting local stores for shopping and a few really good restaurants to keep your belly full and happy. Who could ask for more? And oh yeah… the rabbits.
Maggie quickly started referring to Valdez as “Rabbit Town”. For a reason unknown to us there are 100s and 100s of domesticated rabbits roaming the streets of Valdez… and Maggie loves to chase rabbits… at home in NC and now here in Valdez. And chase rabbits she did… 10-20 times per day… and even in her sleep. Many times we would watch her as she slept in the van… growling and running in her sleep… and you could just tell she was chasing one of those rabbits. If she got a vote then she’d vote to chase rabbits here every day… but then again, she’s never experienced winters here so we bet she would change her mind… we probably would too.
So whether it’s rabbits that you chase, or halibut fish, or salmon or just the pure beauty of being surrounded by miles and miles of glaciers making their own way to the ocean, we think you’ll love Valdez, Alaska as much as we did! If you get the chance to go there one day and find our for yourself and let us know if you agree.
Oh yeah… at the end of this video is part of one song I sang at a local open mic. 🙂