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. 🙂
The longest stretch of freeway in Alaska and is the main highway to get to Anchorage. We’ll take this highway to the Richardson Highway which will end in our destination toady of Valdez.
In this episode we take leave our perfect little boondocking spot on the Matanuska River outside of Palmer, Alaska and start on our way to Valdez, Alaska. Along the way we began seeing the Matanuska Glacier and stopped to take a hike there and see our first up close view of an Alaskan glacier. Then we hopped on the Richardson Highway and found ourselves amazed at the views of the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range. After all the jaw dropping beauty of the glaciers and mountains along the way we just had to laugh when as we neared Valdez we were presented with two of the most spectacular waterfalls we’ve seen, Bridal Veil Falls and Horse Tail Falls.
All this driving put us into Valdez, Alaska around 9:00pm so we found a cool little stealth camping spot in the marina, grabbed a little dinner and walked around the beautiful little harbor town.
The last scenic sequence of the Valdez has one of my songs as the background music. Here’s the link to that song, where you can download it for free or leave a little coffee money if you’d like. (As many of you know I used to make my living writing, recording and performing music but now we are just out here, off our couches, loving exploring everywhere we can go in our vans… so a tip is not necessary… just enjoy the music if that’s your thing).
You’ve seen a sheep dog, but have you ever seen a dog sheep? It seems we’re always finding interesting things to see and remember in beautiful Alaska. We left our little home by the rivers to experience Hatcher’s Pass with our friends Jim and Cynthia of @Wings And Wheels Alaska.
The beauty was apparent when we first stopped to take in the sounds and sights of the raging river coming off the melting glaciers some 2,000 above us. The drive up was as stunning as any we’ve experienced and took us to the Independence Mine State Preservation Park, where we learned much more than we’d ever known about this very successful Alaska gold mining operation.
We left there and continued up to the summit, which is 3,886 feet above sea level, to the lake that is accurately named, Summit Lake. Even though it was cold and rainy the dogs took a dip in the lake and climbed even higher than us on neighboring peaks. You could see forever and the air… the air was so crystal clear and pure. Alaska is truly the last frontier. Everywhere you look you see beauty… in nature, in the scenery and most importantly in her people. We love it here!
Our take aways from creating and watching this video were:
⁃ It is sad to part ways with friends… miss you Nick
⁃ Sometimes when you part ways with friends they show up again soon… love you Jim and Cynthia
⁃ If Jim and Cynthia had not shown us this we might have missed it… thank you guys!
⁃ We could still learn the history from the fallen buildings even though 80 years old and still see the beauty in it even though it was falling down all around us
⁃ Some people love sheep dogs and some love sheep and some love both… neat to see a sheep on a leash… we’ll remember that one forever
⁃ The irony of two sheep dogs walking on leashes with a sheep on a leash was, well, ironic and made us do an old-fashioned Laugh Out Loud
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you… the people of Alaska, those who live here, are the best part of Alaska. You can just feel their love of summer… you can just tell that they know it is only a few months and you have to make the most of every day, every weekend and every hour. We think it’s rubbing off on us because we feel the same way more and more now. There’s not a day that we don’t wake up excited about just being here… the smells… the sights… and most importantly… the people.
This episode might seem to be a lot about nothing… a hodgepodge of miscellaneous activities and fun. But, really that’s what being in Alaska is anyway. It’s waking up and not knowing what fun it going to present itself that day… it’s not knowing where you’re going to sleep that night and just smiling because you know it will most likely be even better than where you stayed last night. That kind of day to day hodgepodge of living can be addicting to us NC folks. We’ve come to love this way of life and the people of Alaska who celebrate every day that the sun shines and the temperature is above 50.
So, if you have a chance to visit or migrate to Alaska we would say go for it! Get off your couch… heck, burn your couch… and just get out and enjoy the world you’re in. Don’t wait until you get to an epic spot like Alaska to make memories of your lifetime. Just Do It!
Man, Denali National Park is/was crowded! Disney World kind of crowded! The parking lots… the roads… the stores… the hotels… the restaurants and the campgrounds. It’s where every train stops and where every tour bus driver dumps his bus load of tourists so he can sit and take a nap until they return. Most of the thousands of tourists who land in Anchorage and Fairbanks every day get off the planes, hop on a tour bus and head for Denali so it’s no wonder it’s super crowded. We knew that going into this trip and knew that the morning we woke up with plans to make the most of Denali one way or another.
With all the smoke from the 600 plus wildfires in Alaska, the chances on seeing “The Big One” aka Denali were Slim to none and Slim had already caught a ride back to the airport on a tour bus with 10,000 other tourists, most of which didn’t speak the same language as Slim. So, what did we do? Well, we smiled and went about doing our best to make the most of it. All the campgrounds were booked up so we could not stay in the park. All the surrounding campgrounds were full too so we knew we were going to have to drive in each day. After bumping into so many people just trying to look around the Visitors Information Center we decided on a plan… take the 2:00pm bus to the free Sled Dog Demo, hike back to our vans and get the crap out of there… hopefully to come back on a day that had clearer skies and clearer roads and trails.
It took a total of 4 buses to get everyone to the Dog Sled Kennels at Denali from the bus depot. We were, as luck would have it, on the fourth bus. So by the time we walked off the bus the kennels resembled something more like a zoo than a working sled dog kennel. But we made the most of it. Are you seeing a pattern? We loved seeing and petting the dogs. They are simply majestic in every way. They love to work and love to please and they are really good at what they were born to do… be a working sled dog.
After the demonstration we decided being cramped on that fourth bus was not for us and opted instead for the 2 1/2 mile hike back to the visitor center and our Travato vans… and Maggie, who was patiently waiting for us even though she would have loved to have watched the sled dogs do their thing. It was a long hike… hot… muggy… steamy… and near the end, stormy. We were actually caught in a hail storm but we made it back safely to the vans and… you guessed it… made the most of it.
We took the hail storm and crowds as a sign… the sign said “You made the most of it so now get the crap out of here!”… so we did. We headed south to the little town of Talkeetna. We loved it there… shopping, galleries and the quaintness that reminded us of a little artsy/fartsy town near our NC home, Blowing Rock. After lunch and shopping we’d had enough of even the crowds in this small town and headed out to the most remote place we could find and setup camp right on another riverbed. That night we went to bed smiling. Why? Because Alaska just makes us smile. Sure there were crowds and sure we didn’t get to see one of the biggest attractions in Alaska but we literally made the most of it and it turned out to be a great day. At one point during the day we were constantly. bumping into thousands of people and then by the end of it there was not a person, other than Nick, in sight. We took what Alaska gave us and made sweet Alaskan memories… just like you’re supposed to! That’s how you make the most of it!