small bug icon  Alaska 2016 - Part 2: Overland



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We’ve had Alaska on our ‘bucket list’ for a number of years and finally got around to planning and taking that much anticipated vacation. Unfortunately, Alaska has not been completely checked off our ‘bucket list’. Having been there, we are considering going back to see some of the parts that we missed on this trip. Alaska is so big and there is so much to see. We both agreed that our Alaska trip was one of the most exhausting we’ve taken — maybe we’re just getting old!

Our vacation consisted of a northbound “Voyage of the Glaciers” 7-day cruise followed by an additional week touring on land. We opted to do both portions [sea & land] with Princess, since they are the ‘biggest player’ for Alaska touring. This was definitely a splurge vacation for us, especially after figuring in the cost of the various additional excursions. But, all in all, we feel it was well worth it for the things we saw and learned.

grizzly bear in denali national park

This page contains narrative and pictures from the overland portion of our trip. Be sure to see the pictures from the cruise portion of our trip to Alaska.

  1. Denali
  2. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
  3. Anchorage
  4. Links
 

Denali

The land portion of our trip can be separated into three segments, based upon where we were staying.

Our first two nights were at the Denali Princess Lodge, just outside of Denali National park. After a 9.5 hour train ride from Whittier, we got in a little after 6:00 PM, unpacked and headed out to a local pizza place for dinner. Fortunately it stays light a long time — like past midnight! The next day we had booked an all-day, 12.5 hour bus ride, the entire length of the only road into Denali National Park — 92.5 miles. We saw plenty of wildlife and were very happy with that aspect of the trip. We learned that the Alaskan mosquito and grizzly bear share an important ecosystem and depend on each other! That evening rained, but we still took a local shuttle bus up the road a few miles to Healy for a meal at the 49th State Brewery. We saw the bus from the “Into the Wild” movie, but in the rain did not stop to explore it.

The next morning we got up early, packed, and went back to the Denali Park Visitor’s center to look at some of the exhibits. We regretted the fact that we didn’t have more time on our own in the park to explore — maybe next time! Alaska is not totally checked off our bucket list yet!




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McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

We spent our next two nights at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. To say the lodge is in the ‘middle of nowhere’ is an understatement. The nearest town, Talkeetna, was an hour away. However, the Lodge did offer some nice views of Mt. Denali. We had read that many visitors don’t get to see Mt. Denali because it is shrouded in clouds 2/3 of the time. The mountain is so big that is actually has its own weather system around it. We felt very lucky to be able to enjoy the view of Mt. Denali for an entire evening. We took the bus into Talkeetna the first afternoon, explored Talkeetna, listened to some music, did some shoppping, and had dinner in town before heading back to the lodge. The next day we took separate excursions. Michael went on a 6 mile, 6 hour hike in nearby Denali State park. Sonia went back to Talkeetna and took a plane ride and glacier tour of the Mt. Denali area. The next morning, back on the bus riding back to Anchorage.






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Anchorage

Anchorage is another tourist friendly city. It is very walkable and has an easy to use bus system with discounts for senior citizens. Our vacation thru Princess would have had us traveling back home on July 4th, so we opted instead to spend an extra night in Anchorage. We had a great time on the 4th, including a pancake breakfast and fish taco lunch at Delaney Park, then a great nature walk along the Tony Knowles Nature trail. We also visited Earthquake Park and the Anchorage Museum before a final meal at the Captain Cook Hotel and heading out to the airport for a red eye flight back to Philadelphia.


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Links

Be sure to see the pictures from the cruise portion of our trip to Alaska.

We did a lot of research on the Internet for this trip. As is usually the case, we learned a lot more from our actual visit. So if you considering a trip to Alaska, we're more than happy to share what we learned about travelling in Alaska. Below are a few links we found particularly helpful.

  1. Join Cruise Critic and sign up for the RollCall for your specific cruise. Also check the generic 'Alaska' forum for other Q&A and discussion.
  2. Check what other ships will be in port the same day. This can affect your experience. note: Dockings always subject to change [and weather]. See Northbound June 22, 2016 for a sample and detailed links.
  3. Glacier Bay National Park brochure
  4. Typical Glacier Bay ship route map
  5. Denali National Park map
  6. Earthquake Park
  7. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
  8. Anchorage Museum

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