Hip hip hooray because it’s the National Parks Service BIRTHDAY! Whether you realize it or not, national parks come in all shapes and sizes and today is the day that this grand organization turns a whooping 100 years old. Growing up I was fortunate enough to spend time in the great outdoors from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite and even Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach, all of which I greatly miss while living back east.
Can we get a little BEYONCE up in here on a Friday? Yes. Broadway Bodies with Alistair was certainly a highlight from the week. My attempt to be hip, cool, and sassy was a fail but it was 100% fun and worth it.
Since three of us won free classes, we’ll have to go back to dance part 2. That or I’ll just add dance classes to my monthly budget. #priorities
All good fun must come to an end and today I share the last of my pictures from Alaska. Although, I do have to say while Monday and Wednesday’s posts provided a wonderful (biased of course) look at the state, nothing beats getting out to explore on your own!
After wrapping up the land portion of Un-Cruise on Friday, we took a tour of Anchorage and had dinner with a couple my mom knew when we lived in England for a short time. They have moved around a lot in the last twenty years and are now locals of Alaska and loving it. They selected the Moose’s Tooth as the destination of choice and boy was it crowded – must mean they are doing something well. With unique beer brews and delectable [pizza] pies, I’d give it double thumbs up.
On Saturday we woke up bright and early (hello 5:30) and headed off to Juneau via flight. The actual Un-Cruise cruise wasn’t set to depart until after 5pm so we checked our bags in and went off to explore the state’s capital in the rain. After two weeks in the mist I can safely say I would not last long in the northwest. I love my sunshine, even if it’s humid sunshine.
We also took a bus out to the Mendenhall Glacier and then walked around the park a little bit. The rain pants and rain boots allowed Meghan and I to wade through the water and get closer to the falls but were not exactly the most comfortable to power walk in. Duly noted.
^^ On the bus back to the hotel where our bags were staying we saw a bear! Correction: I saw a bear and my dad missed it by a smidge. Hello bear and sorry dad.
By 4:30 we were were at our orientation and by 5:30 onboard, taking off from Juneau, and en-route to Stika. We met the rest of the 70 or so passengers, enjoyed some nice bubbly and cheese and settled in for the week ahead.
Every morning Meghan and I woke up around 6 to “workout” on the elliptical and stationary bike. I honestly don’t know how I managed to use the elliptical so much in college because it can get quite monotonous…
We also participated in the morning “stretch” class led by one of the guides. I use quotes here because 15 minutes of very light stretching doesn’t really cut it for most people. There was some disappointment since they used to have a yoga teacher/masseuse but in the end, Un-Cruise needed someone who could actually help in other ways onboard.
^^ Here’s the family mid-hypothermia dance
Our activities ranged from skiff (boat) tours around the bays or coves, searching for wildlife, kayaking, standup paddle, bushwacking (hiking without a trail), or shore pokes (mild walks). Overall Un-Cruise did a pretty solid job of avoiding disastrous weather, rearranging certain activities and cruise routes so that we wouldn’t have to deal with too much rain the entire trip. Of course weather is never in our control and we just had/have to make due with what Mother Nature provides. << Something that’s always good to remember rather than get frustrated by.
^^ Day 1 was spent in Glacier Bay National Park with some more excellent views of the local ice packs. Sadly enough global warming’s impact is quite evident and I only fear what the next 10-20-50+ years will bring.
^^ Personal floatation device (aka PFD) was a must on most outings and obviously made for a very attractive look. You know for the amount of time I spent in rain pants, I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on as the next fashion trend. Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse during the fall Fashion Week.
^^ Oh yes. The meals. There were three square meals a day with buffet-style breakfast and lunch, a gourmet sit-down dinner and yes, dessert + coffee came with all three. They actually had a beverage station so the coffee was optional but I decided to have tea and coffee at all three meals. Despite the fact that I switched to decaf starting at lunch, that weeklong decision made for a TERRIBLE caffeine withdrawal upon my return.
^^ From a shore walk to a bushwack adventure. Plenty of vegetation to see and walk through. Much different in comparison to my usual NYC posts, right? No concrete in this neck of the woods.
^^ By far the best cookie of the week. Certainly about the 10th cookie too many for the trip (they make a different batch every day for lunch…) but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t delicious.
By Saturday it had been one full week on the water and it was time to disembark in Stika. We left with a few more friends and definitely some good stories and plenty of pictures to look back upon.
Alaska. It’s been real. Until our next adventure.
“To travel is to live” – Hans Christen Anderson
Now you know that I wouldn’t come back from a two week vacation without hundreds of pictures, right? In fact I wasn’t even the worst at being trigger happy because my dad had over 900 on his camera card! Of course there were a few hundred that were just moving shots or blurry images thanks to the movement of the train and bus, but hey got to catch ’em all.
As noted on Monday, the first week was spent with Un-Cruise galivanting about Fairbanks, Denali, and then to the Knik River Lodge by the Knik Glacier. This last spot may have been a favorite because of the glorious mattresses and the SLED DOGS!!! If you ever have the opportunity to meet sled dogs and ride with them, throw caution to the wind and go.
Wednesday was one helluva travel day since we got up at the crack of dawn (5:30) to enjoy a 6 hour bus tour out of the park, 4+ hour train tour to Talkeetna for dinner, and then 2 hour bus trip to our final destination. In the end it was all worth it because we witnessed several more bouts of wildlife, enjoyed a walk and tasty meal Talkeetna and made it to Knik River Lodge by bedtime.
^^ Yep, this is downtown. With a population of about 876 (back in 2010), no need to spend more than a meal in Talkeetna. However, if you are interested in camping, that’s a different story.
This was the view from our adorable little hut along the Knik River and Glacier. Each hut could house up to one or two beds and I do declare they were the most comfortable beds I have experienced. Meghan and I took to running two of the mornings that we stayed because well, it was week 1 of marathon training and I was already behind.
Along with marathon training came some hiking or rather “bush-wacking”. This entails one pushing through bushes without a very well defined path in order to reach your destination. Rain pants are a must in this situation because otherwise you will have countless scratches, bruises, and even bug bites from the contact and exposure.
^^ 3 miles round-trip (1.5 up and 1.5 back with 1hr 20 up and 1hr back) for this beauty. It would have been 10x better had there not been mosquitoes waiting around for us but who am I kidding?
^^ Don’t you like my outfit? Keeping things real attractive in the Alaskan countryside.
After our jaunt up the mountain, it was time to grab a quick lunch and then off to see the doggies! There were about 4 groups visiting the group of dogs on the glacier throughout the day and we happened to be #3. Fingers and toes were crossed that the weather would clear up because group #1 wasn’t able to land the helicopter due to the grumpy clouds chilling in the sky. I know it’s for precautionary reasons but it would still suck to go all the way up and not be able to see them. Not to mention hearts and souls crushed. (minor exaggeration…maybe)
Just take a look at that blue in the glacier!! Fun fact – the blue color is actually what’s reflected within our eyes and not the actual color of the glacier. Neat, right?
Just two sisters getting along for 13 days of very very close proximity together. 😉 My dad actually asked me if I brought any clothing that didn’t have a November Project tag on it. Um, yeah sorry no. Guess it has to go in the Christmas card (again).
Final dose of Alaskan adventure coming your way Friday!
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Well I’m officially back in the lower 48 from one amazing Alaskan adventure. My family and I spent the last two weeks bouncing around the state, starting in Fairbanks and moving towards Denali, spending a quick night in Anchorage and then cruising around down to Sitka. Each portion of the trip had its own special element so today I’m going to take you through the first portion – the land portion – and the famous Denali National Park.
As I mentioned above, we had two weeks on the trip – one week on the land and one week on the sea. It’s hard to say which one was my favorite since both were oh so different. Both portions were with the company Uncruise, the sort of tour company that focuses on the wilderness and wildlife.
We flew out of LAX bright and early on Sunday morning to Anchorage where we spent our layover walking up and down the very small airport. My mom, Meghan, and I were somewhat obsessed with getting our steps in and so off throughout the terminal we went. Of course we needed to get a picture with the first wildlife of the trip.
After spending one quick night in Fairbanks, it was off to Denali via the Alaska train and later school bus. It was sort of strange to go to bed and wake up (around 5 in order to run) and have the sun already out. I’m not sure I could manage that year round, especially when that means it would be gone most of the winter!
One of the perks of this travel arrangement was that we got to ride in style and enjoy delicious meals for the entirety of the trip. Eating in the dining car of a train sure seems like a good bucket list item. Check!
Not only does my dad do an excellent job researching and planning our trips but he always documents what we do throughout the trip.
Another perk of the Uncruise trip was that we were able to stay overnight in the heart of Denali – Kantishna. This is about a 6 hour ride via bus from the park entrance but thankfully there are a few rest stops along the way to get out, use the facilities and stretch your legs. Our bus driver was simply a doll and shared stories throughout the ride as well as stopping any time that we saw wildlife.
^^ Good ‘ol Fredson as Kirsty (our driver) named the bus
^^ MOOSE ON THE LOOSE! Day 1 of the trip and we had already seen plenty of caribou and three moose at the visitors center. Who would have thought?
Some people had asked if we were going to hike Mount Denali (formally known as Mount McKinley) and no, we did not (nor will I ever). Located in the Interior Alaska, it’s the highest mountain and North America. The land is made up of forest,deciduous taiga, tundra, glaciers, rock, and yes snow. There are over 400,000 people that visit the park each year (source) and most of these folks visit via vehicle along the 91-mile Denali Park Road, 15 miles of which are available to private vehicles. There’s only a small bit of the road that is paved thanks to permafrost so your best bet is to ride with a tour group.
While we didn’t hike Mount McKinley per se, we did hike along the Kantishna portion, located at the very end of the road. We are used to hiking in Mammoth with completely groomed switchback trails, wide enough for people to walk two by two. This was not the case and we were left to push through various bushes and vegetation as we entered a cloud.
^^ Here’s our first glimpse at sled dogs. Later in the week we would have the opportunity to visit sled dogs on a glacier, which was probably one of the highlights of the week.
More nature to come…
“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” – Mollie Beattie (Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Another summer day and another outdoors adventure. It’s safe to say that I spend more time reminiscing and dreaming about hiking now than I did when I lived in California. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I’m surrounded in concrete and yearning for that outdoors experience. Although to be fair, I also spent a lot of time wishing I was spending more time outdoors in college and well, it was college. I definitely could have done so back then.
Anyways, thank goodness for active friends who are willing to try something new. Even if it means taking New Jersey Transit from NYC to Tuxedo, New York to go hiking. Yeah, I’m not sure how we got that one, but we made it.
Our options for the 4th of July weekend hikes were between Bear Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and Beacon. Many of us had raced Bear Mountain for the North Face Endurance Challenge and weren’t exactly too keen to revisit that course, but found a different part of the mountain to explore.
^^ All set with the very smooth and tasty (yet a bit high on the sugar scale) Noosa and Califia experiment. I’m much more of a fan of almond milk lattes with the barista blend, but this on the go brew was solid enough. Some of the other folks picked up bagels near Penn Station at Best Bagel & Coffee but I was saving up for dinner at Parm. More salivating pictures and reviews on that to come.
We weren’t entirely sure what type of hike or route we were going to take but thankfully one of the gals had brought a map along with her, so we weren’t too terribly lost.
^^ Huge fan of NUUN, an electrolyte tablet that you can pop in your water to shake up hydration. It’s pretty popular among runners and folks on-the-go and as you can see, perfect to pop in any bag when traveling or even keep at work!
Those looking for the nitty gritty, the electrolytes packed in these tablets (namely >> sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) help reduce cramps and improve muscle function and recovery.
^^ We may not have found a true look out point but this side of the mountain provided quite a nice view. We even had an encounter with a deer! Don’t worry, we didn’t actually touch the deer, but I got some decent action shots.
We made it back around 3:30 to catch the early afternoon train into NYC. From there it was off to PARM and oh what a tasty treat that was. To be continued…
“Whenever the sun is shining, I feel obligated to play outside!”
― Charles M. Schulz