We were officially in the homestretch of our 3+ week journey around just a portion of vast Alaska! Kodiak was going to be hard to beat! We landed in Anchorage and picked up 5 checked bags. We were driving to Seward that night! It was an overcast day but the inlet was still pretty remarkable! There was a mishap with the reservation in our cabin. We were staying at Salmon Creek Cabins in Seward. Walter and my mom both made reservations when we only really needed one cabin. My mom emailed the lady to cancel it more than the 14 days that were required for most of a refund. The lady who schedules the Salmon Creek Cabins supposedly didn’t get the email and was ruder than I thought she should have been. It was all a miscommunication. My mom’s email did say it was sent and had a time stamp on when it went through but the lady said it didn’t matter because she didn’t get it. We had already lost quite a bit of money in the whole stuck-in-Gustavus debacle, and another cabin expense was not ideal. Even if the lady couldn’t help us, she could have explained it in a more positive, understanding way. It was very frustrating. But anyways, we made it around the inlet and to Summit Lake Lodge for dinner. I had a steak and it was okay, not fabulous. The burger Connor got looked and I was told was delicious!
After dinner we made our way down to Seward. The guys went to Safeway grocery for some snacks and us ladies went to the docks! I wanted my mom to see it when it wasn’t raining! It took 5 years but my mom finally got to see Seward without rain and ominous rain clouds! We walked the docks and saw a few otters and a sea lion! We didn’t stay long because it was getting late quick!
It ended up working out quite well about the two cabins. We all hadn’t truly showered in 6 days… Having two shower was helpful! We both showered and then headed to bed. A real bed with a real mattress felt pretty darn amazing! We woke up bright and early for our whale/wildlife ocean trip out of Seward. We arrived at the bakery in town, which is where we were supposed to meet up with the rest of the tour. We got there a little early to hopefully get a sticky bun or burrito to go, but for some reason I always pick to do the tour on the day they are closed! How sad for us! We went to the boat and it was the largest boat I have been on of theirs. It was a sunny day in Seward! It was going to be a superb day!
Not long after leaving the harbor we saw an otter! The otter was pretty active and spun around for us. This boat tour had the most photographers I have seen on one of these boats. I have seen lots of large cameras and lenses in my travels, but it was like every single person had a camera worth over $1000, and lenses to match! After the otter we continued on the east side of the bay and saw some harbor seals! Harbor seals are the one main Alaska sea critter I haven’t gotten a real great photo of. It was fun getting to see their different markings.
We continued on our way and saw a bald eagle. Next, some people on the boat saw a mountain goat or two. I did not end up seeing it. If there were some, they were little dots. Next we saw some humpback whales! I got a few tail photos before we headed on our way. We rounded a corner and we saw a bald eagle on one of the rocks. While watching the eagle, two humpback whales puffed air around us. We then were trying to get a better look at them but they were very stingy with their tails, in Petersburg we would have called them lazy tailed whales! While we were waiting for one of the whales to surface, word came in of a pod of orcas in the area! The boat went straight over in hopes of seeing the orcas!
The orcas were the highlight of the trip for me! There were at least four of them. One of them even lunged on its belly and slapped its tail! We traveled a little ways from them but with them so we got to see them mostly from the side, which was fun! It being a sunny day we also could see them when they were about to come up to the surface! We watched them for a long time before heading on to Holgate Glacier. We ate lunch on our way to the Glacier.
The Glacier was radiant in the sun! I saw it in the rain and clouds almost two months prior. Seeing the glaciers in the rain I think can bring out the blue in it, but the blue in the sky was definitely a plus. When leaving the glacier we came across some harbor seals. The boat captain did his best to put us in position to take a few photos of the harbor seals with the glacier in the background. I truly enjoyed all the harbor seals we saw on this trip!
On the way back to Seward we saw some sea lions as well! Another photographer, my mom, and I enjoyed photographing the sea gulls as they were flying behind and beside our boat as it went into the harbor.
As we came into the harbor, my mom spotted a man working on the top part of one of the boats with his shirt off!
After the ocean excursion we went to the Train Wreck to eat, but it was closed! The Train Wreck is a series of three old Alaska Train cars, one of which is a restaurant. We ended up at the Seward Brewery, which is one of my mom and my favorites! We enjoyed a pretzel and beer! I also got a reindeer dog with their house-made chips. After dinner we went back to the cabins. Mom and I did laundry and then picked out a movie to watch. Mom picked out Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence. It was nominated for four academy awards but we weren’t really fans of it. I watched part of Mouse Hunt afterwards but fell asleep pretty early on in it. It had been a long day!
We woke up and packed up our bags, yet again! We were to make it to Denali that day! The morning was spent on the docks lounging around with these large fur balls! When we walked up one otter was even out of the water! You would never think an otter was that big by looking at it in the water.
They slept most of the time, but would wake up every once and awhile. They slept on the water and would drift with the current, sometimes being knocked into the docks. They would wake up and move their flippery legs a little and their tail to steer them to get back to where they wanted to be. Some of the otters would rub their heads and face after they waked up. It was almost like they were trying to dry their heads off.
I could have stayed forever with the otters! Unfortunately we had a lot still to do! We went back to the Train Wreck to eat. The atmosphere was awesome! We sat inside the train car. The decor was pretty modern and fresh. The only real problem was the service. The people working were fine, but the kitchen was so small for the amount of people they were trying to serve. It took forever to get our food. The burger I got was good, the coleslaw was good, and the cheese grits were good. The beans were bland and had no taste. The food probably wasn’t worth the amount of time it took to eat there. It is a fun place to eat with a little Alaska history, but it is too small of a kitchen for the gourmet food they are trying to serve. I was glad I had the opportunity to eat there and would recommend it if you had the time! We walked out to the end of the harbor after lunch. It was time to say goodbye to our friends and fellow Frazer Lake survivors! It is always hard to say goodbye to friends! I hope we see them again soon!!!
We went on our way up to Denali. Our first stop were the wildflowers around the inlet. They were so vibrant! We didn’t get much further before we saw Dall Sheep on the hillside along the road South of Anchorage! They were the ewes and lambs. It is always a good day when you get to see the Dall Sheep!
We drove through Anchorage, only making one stop to get gas. It was a beautiful clear day but smoke from wildfires blocked our possible view of Denali. We didn’t see a single moose on our way to Denali! I was shocked! When we arrive we dropped some things off at our little “economy cabin” at the Salmon Bake Cabins. The cabins weren’t much, but then again we didn’t need much. There were two beds, a small table and an electrical outlet. The bathroom was hostel style, or where you have multiple bathrooms or a bathhouse outside of the room. After checking in and dropping some things off we headed into the park!
We didn’t see the mountain, it was way too smokey! We didn’t see any large critters either. We took a little hike around mile 15 and saw some pika and a ptarmigan family! One the way back we saw more ptarmigan families and a hawk owl! We went back to our cabin to head to bed! We had an 11:45am bus the next day!
We slept in for the most part, packed up for the day, and then went to search for a pack lunch! It was harder to find a lunch than I thought. The lunches we did find were pricey, so we decided to just head to the Wilderness Access Center (WAC) for snacks. The snacks there were also expensive but we didn’t want to drive around the Denali Village any longer. I got to talk a little with Brooke – the awesome organizer of people to buses! She also showed us her babies! …well spider baby eggs that she was fortunate enough to watch get put on one of the Shuttle bus signs! Pretty amazing!
We got on the bus and headed into the park! We were fortunate to see some dall sheep, a caribou, and a grizzly bear, all before we got to polychrome pass. At polychrome pass we walked around and got to photograph some wildflowers and ground squirrels.
At Toklat my mom became part of the honorary Denali Caribou herd!
Ptarmigan family groups were all over the road, it was fun to watch them disperse so quickly when the bus would drive up to them. We saw some ravens, more caribou and another grizzly bear on our way from Toklat to Eielson Visitor Center. We enjoyed our lunch at Eielson, in the bus of course, we don’t want to accidentally feed the wildlife out there!
Our way back was sprinkled with wildlife. We saw a long-tailed jagger bird, dall sheep, and another grizzly bear. We got off the bus for a hike and ended up getting spooked by a spruce grouse!
We we decided to do a little hiking closer to end of the ride. We hiked around a little aimlessly until we heard a high pitched shriek. I followed the shriek and found a hawk owl! I am a sucker for owls! To see one yesterday driving in the park and now hiking, what a great 24 hours!
We we watched the little guy for awhile and walked back towards the road. On the way back we saw one of the adult hawk owls! This adult hawk owl had a large vole in its talons! What a cool find! We missed a bus heading back out of the park so we decided to explore a little longer. I ended up coming across the baby owl again and having the adult owl feed it the vole! Another incredible opportunity that I felt so fortunate to be able to see! We left the owls and then hiked the road.
Denali park road is littered with wildflowers! They are beautiful! The pinks, yellows, and blues, all more exquisite than the next! There were a few bugs out and it was actually pretty warm out, another epic day in Denali! We were picked up by a transit bus and headed out of the park. On the way out we saw lots of ptarmigan! One family of ptarmigans wasn’t afraid of the bus at all and laid on the side of the road right next to us!
We made it back to the WAC later than we had anticipated but I wouldn’t have changed a thing! Well, my mom would have wanted to see a moose! I can’t believe we drove from Anchorage to Seward and then Seward to Denali and failed to see a single moose!!! I thought it was strange but thought we would have seen one driving into Denali that first night since it was dusky time, but no moose. Now we spend the entire day in the park, and still no moose. My mom was going through moose withdrawals!
We hadnt really eaten a real meal in over 30 hours, so we called in for a pizza pick up from Prospector’s Pizza. We stopped at the grocery and liquor store right next to the Igloo gift shop in the southern most pull out in glitter gulch for some wine! While there we saw an amazing lunch deal! For $13 they gave you a sandwich, a choice of three snacks (of at least 15 choices), a piece of fruit, a frozen bottle of water, and a small lunch box! It’s the best deal in town, that’s for sure!!! We left to pick up our pizza with the plan of coming the next morning to pick up lunch!
Pizza was hot and delicious! We ate quite a bit. After our pizza and wine we both kind of crashed and went straight to bed. We had an earlier shuttle the next morning. 7:00am came way too quickly. We got ready and headed to the grocery for our lunches. It was fun picking out all our items! We just pulled onto the Denali Park Road when mom realized she forgot her Bayer Back and Body pill! We had to go back! We got back, she grabbed her pills, and we went straight to the WAC. We talked with Brooke a little and the got on our bus!
It was a beautiful sunny day, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We saw a sow and two cubs in the wildflowers in Sable Pass. They were all munching on the grasses out in the field. A little further down the road we saw a nice bull caribou.
After Eielson we got off the bus for a hike! We enjoyed photographing the abundant wildflowers. We were headed up a little hill of sorts when an intense downpour came… We had just enough time to put our rain jackets on our cameras and ourselves. It seemed like it took forever to get back to the road! We had to go off the hill we were on and then down a rocky, shrubby, drainage area. The rain did not let up and we were soaked, head to toe. We were still a ways from the road when we saw two green transit buses, one headed east and one headed west.
I raced to the road, my mom was behind me and lucky for us one of the green transit buses waited for us! It was great they didn’t make us wait soaked on the side of the road. The driver was super nice! The passengers were not so happy that we were getting them wet walking to the back of the bus. We each had our own seat for the time being. We took off as many damp layers as we could and laid them out across the seat to dry. We were back at Eielson and we were doing our best to dry off for the ride back.
On the way back we got to see one bear that was just as wet as we were! We also saw a lazy caribou, a really far away bear family, two silly caribou on the road in polychrome, and more dall sheep! It was a pretty great trip!
I even talked my mom into stopping for another hike. Right when we got off, an adult hawk owl was perched right off the road! We were fortunate enough to see another spruce grouse and another one of the owlets as well. It was a quick hike, but a much more enjoyable one than the soaking wet adventure we were on earlier that day.
The bus we got on to take us to the WAC was very empty. We got to see a whole family of ptarmigans and a snowshoe hare!
When we got to the WAC I had some texts from Hilary! She had come to the park and was going to stay with us that night! We met up with her at dinner at the Salmon Bake. After dinner we went on a mission! A mission to see a moose! My mom had been in Alaska over three weeks and over a week in the interior, and yet had not seen one moose!
We dropped some things off at our cabin and then headed to the horseshoe lake trail in Denali. We walked around and got to see the sun trying to set. I say trying because we were still having those long days with no real darkness. Eventually we came to see a beaver! It was my first beaver of the year in Denali! I took it’s photo and then I found the baby beaver! I had attempted to see this little beaver before but moose families kept getting in the way. I was so excited to see it, I got closer, and actually went into horseshoe lake to get a see the beaver a little more clearly. While I was walking in the lake, there was a large splash. My mom, Hilary, and I, all looked! There it was! A MOOSE!!!
Our mission was complete! We walked back to the car and then back to the cabin. Another eventful and adventurous day in Denali National Park!
The next morning we slept in! It was a long night. We drove into the park for another hike! We saw a little bull moose on our way! Another moose for my mom! The first stop was the Visitor Center where my Mom and I finished our Junior Ranger books! You are reading an official Denali National Park Junior Ranger’s blog right now!
We got to the Mountain Vista Trail Head. We started our walk and enjoyed the wildflowers. It was a grayish day but still beautiful!
Right as we were getting back to the car, the rain came! Weirdly enough one of Hilary’s dogs was out of the truck? It was very odd, with the dog only being a foot tall. We were puzzled, but also getting pretty wet, so we all piled in. Poor Cedar, the chocolate lab had to stay in the bed of the truck.
On the way out of the park we saw yet another moose! We ran a few errands, to the WAC, Alaska Geographic book store and souvenir shop, and the Denali baggage claim to look for some of my mom’s long lost lens caps!
We got back to the Denali Park Village, did a little more shopping, and then headed to the 49 State Brewery for a quick bite to eat! We dipped our pretzels in beer cheese and guzzled down some craft beer, while thinking back on all the crazy adventures we had the opportunity to have in the last three weeks. From the ice caves in Juneau to the pounded rain hike of Denali, hiking with Kodiak Brown bears to be stranded in Gustavus, it has been incredible. I couldn’t have picked a better traveling adventurer than my mom! I feel so fortunate to be able to spend the time with her and explore this enormous state with her every summer. I truly feel so fortunate we both have summers off and are able to get away, play some cards, travel to new places, and photograph all along the way! I can’t wait to see what next summer brings! It will be hard to top this one!