Sunday, August 1, 2010

August is Finally Here!

So in just four short weeks we'll finally be in Denali National Park for the first of three weekends in Alaska. This trip has been fine-tuned and tweaked to what I expect will be the final itinerary, covering much of this beautiful and wild state.

Friday 8/27 flight into Fairbanks; arrive around 8pm. Overnight in a local hotel with a rental car.

Saturday 8/28 AM tour of the University of Alaska/Fairbanks (UA/F) Large Animal Research Center and grocery shopping before picking up the RV. By noon it's off to Denali NP where we'll be camping for three nights at Tek(lanika) campground. Tek is roughly 30 miles inside the park boundary.

Sunday 8/29 will be the first of two days on the shuttle deep into Denali Nat'l Park for wildlife viewing, photography and some walking/hiking. I expect we'll make it as far as Wonder Lake and with any luck, Mt. Denali in full glory.

Monday 8/30 another day of adventure inside Denali Nat'l Park via the shuttle bus system. The wildlife sightings and trip reports on TripAdvisor (TA) have been very exciting. Bear, moose, caribou, sheep (including rams), wolves and lynx have been frequently reported.

Tuesday 8/31 will find us rising and shining to make the drive down to Talkeetna. We will be doing a boat tour w/Mahay's and then overnighting at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge with high hopes of seeing Mt. Denali from our room. A good hot shower will be in order after three nights of roughing it RV style.

Wednesday 9/1 morning Denali Grand Tour, with glacier landing (hopefully) flightseeing tour with K2 out of Talkeetna. Afterwards, driving on to Palmer and the Alaska State Fair. If time permits, I hope to stop by the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla before reaching Palmer. We will overnight in the RV there at the fair.

Thursday 9/2 is scheduled for the Knik Glacier Tour by boat. This tour has received mixed reviews so I'm very interested in seeing how it really is. We may do the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer while in the area, as time (and weather) permits. Afterwards, we will have a somewhat long drive down to Ninilchik. Perhaps the worst of it will be the part going "through" Anchorage. We will camp here for two nights, which is also our home base for our first of two fishing charters.

Friday 9/3 fishing charter out in the open waters for halibut. I'm looking forward to bringing in a barn-door sized fish. Mmmmm good eating are those halibut.

Saturday 9/4 is one of our lightest days, schedule-wise. We may venture down to Homer (I would love to see the Time Bandit from The Deadliest Catch). This is also Labor Day weekend, so it will be interesting to see how many people are out on the road on the Kenai Peninsula. We will eventually end up in Soldotna (just 40 miles from Ninilchik); camping for two nights at another fish camp.

Sunday 9/5 is our silver salmon fishing charter on the Kenai River. If we're lucky with our two fishing trips, we'll have 100 lbs of fish to ship home, but we'll be happy with just 25 to 50 lbs of fillets. Of course, it is very possible to be skunked . . . but I hope that doesn't happen!

Monday 9/6 Labor Day . . . and the much anticipated fly-in trip to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge for our overnight bear viewing (and photography) experience. Some of the video coming out of there from trips earlier this summer have been wonderful and have really heightened the anticipation of these two days.

Tuesday 9/7 has a very good negative tide for the morning, so I'm expecting to be able to watch bears clamming on the shoreline and getting out there to do some clamming of our own. Who knows if we'll have anything to clean and take with us. If the bear viewing is too good, clamming may have to take a back seat. We fly back to Soldotna in the early afternoon, and will head on to Seward. We have two nights reserved at the Seward Windsong Lodge.

Wednesday 9/8 will be a full day in Seward. In addition to our six hour Kenai Fjords tour, we will also visit the Alaska Sealife Center and the Exit Glacier area of Kenai Fjords Nat'l Park. Our schedule is such that we have some flexibility to do these last two areas on our trip into Seward on Tuesday . . . or as we depart Seward on Thursday.

Thursday 9/9 starts the long trek north, back to Fairbanks, covering just about 550 miles. We will probably get as far as GlennAllen, taking in spots along that way in Palmer that we didn't make when we were there the week before. Camping near GlennAllen will also provide us with an opportunity to stop by the Wrangell Elias Nat'l Park visitors center.

Friday 9/10 will find us back in Fairbanks in the late afternoon, with campground reservations made and plans to do a couple of classic Fairbanks' tourist attractions . . . the Alaskan Salmon Bake and the Palace Theatre show. A stop in North Pole to see Santa can be expected too!

Saturday 9/11 has a light agenda, allowing for some sleeping in and no RV driving. I will pick up a rental car for the rest of the weekend driving in and around Fairbanks. We will be doing the afternoon El Dorado Gold Mine tour, which is much to the chagrin of my dear friend John/FTI from TA. I don't care how much of a tourist trap the place may be; our trip to Fairbanks wouldn't be complete without it. The Alaska Pipeline near Fox is also slated for this afternoon.

Sunday 9/12 and a fond good bye to our RV when we return it to the family who has made all of this possible. "The Beast" as already nicknamed by another TA friend Pete, will have her holding tanks emptied and other fluids replenished. That afternoon we will enjoy what I hope will be an educational and leisurely trip down the Chena River on the Riverboat Discovery. At some point over this weekend, we also plan on a visit to the Museum of the North on the campus of UA/F. We will spend our last night in the same hotel that we stayed in the night of our arrival.

Monday 9/13 8:00am flight home to the lower 48, arriving in Milwaukee at 6:45pm (assuming no "special adventures" compliments of Delta).

As you can see, we have tried to put as much into the itinerary as possible, without killing ourselves by over doing it. David has some pretty mixed feelings about driving the 29' RV but I'm totally confident in him. He did great driving on the opposite of the road during our two weeks in the UK four years ago . . . so this should be a piece of cake!

Thanks for stopping in and please be sure to follow us along the road later this month and into September. We have the route mapped out to right at 1, 500 miles over the 14 days in the RV. With WiFi available every few days, I expect updates (with photos and video) to be possible at least every three (or four) days.


  1. While you're enjoying the Palace Theater at Pioneer Park, make sure you see the rest of the park. There are several museums there - most of them free. There's a small gallery on the third floor of the Centennial Building (looks like a round birthday cake) which is free and is "usually" open. There is also a small museum in Gold Rush Town.. forget what it's called. A small Native museum is also down past the Railroad museum in Pioneer Park.

    If we're not out of town (not sure yet, as reservations in Valdez have not been made yet), maybe we can get together. Drop me a line (if you can) when you start heading back to Fairbanks from Ninilchik.

    Also... see the Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik. Beautiful church and when it's a clear day, Mt Iliamna and Redoubt are a gorgeous backdrop. There are often bald eagles down near the shoreline in that area. Love the peninsula!!!

    Also, if you have time, and you haven't seen much wildlife, I highly recommend the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage (along Turnagain Arm). The entry fee goes to a good cause, and you can view and photograph Alaska's (injured or abandoned) wildlife up close and personal.

  2. Sounds awesome! Sure wish it were me going!

  3. Looks like our trip to Valdez in September has been canceled, so perhaps we'll get to meet up after all! We will be taking care of home matters, but hopefully there will be a time and place that will work for both of us for a meet-up.