Alaska Unleashed: Highlights

I’m going down a slightly different path with this post (and the next two), and talking travel. Not to worry, the blog will remain Cleveland focused but will feature periodic posts on places that I’ve been and some travel tips.

As people asked me about my trip to Alaska, I found it difficult to find the right words to explain what we saw. Alaska fulfilled my expectations and then some. I felt so full and grateful for all we were blessed to see while we were in this beautiful part of our country that so few have the opportunity to visit each year. So I’ll speak from the heart when I call out some of the high points of my trip; the not to miss if possible. The thing of it is, when you go to a place as vast and wild as Alaska, you never know what you might find. You aren’t guaranteed to see anything, so when you do, it makes it that much more magical.

High points of my trip to Alaska:

Wildlife. I’m leaving this one pretty vague, because if you go to Alaska and don’t see wildlife I would be surprised. Before we got to Alaska, the way people talked about wildlife I thought there would be bears and moose at every crosswalk. What I failed to realize is that Alaska is the size of 1/5 of the entire United States. With an area of land that vast, the animals have a lot of places to roam and hide. Still, we managed to see wildlife many times throughout our journey, with the highlight being a grizzly bear eating salmon, not more than twenty feet from where I stood.

Bike riding along the “highway” in Haines, to Lake Chilkoot. We saw bald eagles soaring through the sky and the road followed along the ocean. It was quintessential Alaska.

Flightseeing around Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain peak in North America. You don’t get to see that type of untouched beauty from the ground.

The 49th State Brewery in Healy, Alaska. Fabulous brewery, with a super trendy feel for being in the middle of nowhere. Plus the bus from the film “Into the Wild” was there.

Seeing a pod of seven orca whales in Resurrection Bay. I’ve seen other whales in the wild, but never orcas. It was amazing.

The ice caves at Mendenhall Glacier. After a fairly strenuous hike and hiking on a real live glacier, we were treated with aquamarine ice in a cave that will likely not be around after another year due to the melting of the glaciers. It was so surreal, I couldn’t believe such a place of beauty existed.

Denali National Park. This park reminds you of just how small you really are. Six million acres of park is set aside for the wildlife that calls this place home. Plus the fall colors were starting to come out, so it was breathtaking. Oh and we got to see all of Mt. McKinley while we were there, which only 1 in 3 people has the luck to see.

Watching the Margerie Glacier calve in Glacier Bay National Park. Out of the 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, only twelve are advancing while the rest are all receding. Margerie Glacier is one of these twelve. Watching a twenty-five foot chunk of ice plunge into the teal glacier water was magical.

Staying in Talkeetna. Talkeetna sits at the end of a 14 mile road, and has real small town charm. The town has around 1,000 full time residents and some fabulous little restaurants. My only hope is that this town doesn’t become to touristy with the addition of a Princess Lodge.

Driving the scenic highways of Alaska. The drive from Anchorage to Seward and the drive from Wasilla to Denali are two of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. You pass through tiny towns as you go, but mostly are greeted with mountains on either side of you or ocean at certain sections. You must do the scenic drives for a true feel of the country.

My next two posts will feature recommendations for when you visit Alaska as well as a suggested itinerary!

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