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Old 16th September 2021, 17:56   #1
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Default Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier

Alaska: The Last Frontier

There is something mesmerizing about Alaska, that is so aptly said in the tag line, The Final Frontier.

Alaska had been on my bucket list of travel destinations. Just saying the word, Alaska, has something special to it, that almost feels like you've to be fortunate or plain lucky to be able to visit.

I got deputed on work to the US in mid 2016, making me one step closer to exploring Alaska. Like someone once said, "The Deepest Desire of Human Nature Is To Explore And Discover."


Back then, the cost and planning details were over whelming to being with. I just relegated it to "will come back to it" while we did other trips in and around the US.

A colleague had visited Alaska in the fall of 2018, which sort of re-ignited my desire to plan it out.

In 2019, we did a trip to Peru ( that is for another thread ) and 2020 was more of a washout.

2021 started out on a decent note with us getting our vaccines and doing smaller trips in summer. It was time for one big memorable trip.

Thats when Alaska came back into the foray.

Teaser: The first sights as you approach Anchorage
Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210904_194744.jpg

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Old 18th September 2021, 07:08   #2
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The Plan

The ball was set in motion around the first week of July. As a thought, I started looking up airfares and some basic details on the weather and tourist season.

Caught up with my colleague around the 10th of July to get all details of his trip, activities he did etc., basically a load down of his itinerary. Armed with this info to start with, was another impetus to go.

I like to believe that, the plan is actually cast only once the travel tickets or hotels are booked. Tickets booked, Alaska, here we come !

Got decently priced tickets on Delta, which was originally from Pittsburgh --> Atlanta, Atlanta --> Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City to Anchorage. It was a basic economy ticket, that we couldn't modify.
We had a 45 min layover in SLC, that was cutting too close. Concern was ,in case we missed the flight from SLC to ANC, the next option was flying out the following day.

Luckily for us, around the 3rd week of Aug, Delta allowed one change to the itinerary. We changed it to a more comfortable Pit --> Minneapolis --> Anc. This afforded us an additional evening in Anchorage before starting out. This was like God sent.

Travel date:
Departure from Pittsburgh: Sept 04.
Arrival in Anchorage: Sept 04, Evening

Departure from Anchorage: Sept 12, late night and Arrived back home on Sept 13, morning.

This allowed us 7 full days and the last day for souvenir shopping in Anchorage, basically the boundary of our activities.

Spent a couple of days planning the details, plotting the same on excel.

Snapshot of the master planing sheet

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-screen-shot-20211005-6.31.13-am.png

Using my colleague's itinerary as a blueprint that we began piecing together the activities we wanted to do and places to visit.

There are basically two coupon books available, that are absolutely worth it.
  1. Northern Lights Coupon Book
  1. Alaska Tour Saver

The Northern lights coupon book was more useful to us, based of the discount we got at the Talkeetna Air Taxi alone( Mt Denali Glacier Landing ).

The booklet arrived within a week. We got a chance to speak to the owner / publisher of the Northern Lights coupon book, during our planning phase. His inputs proved invaluable. It sort of gave us better insights and specifics.

The other major cog in our plan was the car rental. The regular rentals were pretty much sold out. I turned to Turo ( my first time ), most either had a restriction on driving down the Dalton or a lower mileage limit.

Froze on a Subaru Outback that fit the bill. I am a big fan of this car / wagon.


All other details were finalized by end July.

Teaser 2: Another aerial shot of a Glacier as you're approaching Anchorage

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210904_201406.jpg

I must admit, everything fell in place like clockwork. The planning was thorough.

Itinerary:
Day 1: Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise

Day 2: Portage Glacier and Mt Denali Glacier Landing

Day 3: Denali National Park Bus Tour

Day 4 & Day 5: Fairbanks, Yukon River Camp and Arctic Circle

Day 6: Fairbanks: Gold Panning & Chena Hot Springs

Day 7 & Day 8: Matanuska Glacier Trek, Drive down Route 4 and The Glenn, Hatcher Pass and back to Anchorage

End

Last edited by Aditya : 18th October 2021 at 07:55. Reason: Index links fixed
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Old 18th September 2021, 07:19   #3
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Default re: Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier

Day 0 and Day 1: Anchorage & Seward

We landed in Anchorage at about 6pm. The hotel had a shuttle that arrived in about 10 mins of calling them. While heading to the hotel, the driver gave us a mini drive-by tour of the city and mentioned some good dining places.

Freshened up and immediately left back for the city. The shuttle to our rescue again. It was a nice relaxing evening, took a little walk down a trail by the shore and then went to a micro brew. Pics from the restaurant cannot be posted here, for obvious reasons. But it was fun and a relaxing evening before starting out on our Alaskan adventure.

Day 1: Seward

First stop after picking up the rental, a Subaru Outback, was a grocery store to stock up on water, snacks and some fruits. The drive towards Seward was essentially the first drive and experience of the land.

The section highlighted in red on the map below, is called Turn Again Arm.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-anc-seward.png

Some pictures to do the talking.

On the drive to Seward


Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-road-anc-seward.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-seward1.jpg

At Beluga Point. This is one of the more popular pull-outs on the Turn Again Arm route. We just missed the train crossing this point on our return.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-beluga-pt-2.jpg


At the entrance to Kenai Peninsula


Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210905_085722.jpg

This is the point where the you move out from the Marina.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-sea-cruise-1.jpg

We did the National Park tour ( Dotted White ). The Northwestern Fjord Tour ( Dotted Blue) is a 9 hour cruise tour that goes way further into the sea as well as a number of additional Glaciers as well. This was closed the week prior to our visit.

National park tour was also in its last week of operations before closing for the season.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-cruise-map.jpg

Its hard to tell the distance and height from the picture. But we were about 4 miles from the Glacier, and the height of that glacier is about 350ft ASL.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-glacier-main-.jpg


Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-glacier-kenai.jpg

This is the closest we got to the Glacier.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-glacier-main-2.jpg

Some otters and seals along the way.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-wl2.jpg

We did catch hump back whales. It was exciting to see the flume. Most of the whales had already left for warmer waters towards Hawaii.

Orcas are also around but closer to the Northwestern part.

Pizza anyone ?

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-foodseward.jpg

My wife clicked me clicking the car.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-seward.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-seward-me-clicking-car.jpg

We spent that night in Seward. It was a nice little quaint town with some decent food options. The whole town is about 2 miles across.

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Old 18th September 2021, 07:24   #4
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Default re: Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier

Day 2: Portage Glacier and Mt Denali Glacier Landing

Route map of the places we travelled to on Day 2.

The itinerary:

1. Head to Portage Glacier for a 90min Glacier cruise.
2. Drive to Talkeetna for the Denali Glacier Landing.
3. Our night stay was booked in a motel in Healy, which was close to the Denali Bus Depot, for the National Park bus tour, planned for Day 3.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chapter-2.png

This picture was clicked enroute to Portage just outside Seward. It was just so lush green.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-near-seward-copy.jpg


The landscape suddenly changes once you exit the Route 1, and enter Portage Glacier road. All the while, you'll see the hills in the background, and then suddenly it feels like its right in front of you.

We had to rejig our initial plans to accommodate the Portage Glacier Cruise, as this was the last day for the season. Our original plan was to do this towards the end of the tour. This change in plans, made us re-schedule our Denali glacier air tour to an early evening slot. Not to mention, we had to head to Talkeetna immediately after the cruise, which was a 3 hour, 170 mile drive.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-portage-_-backdrop.jpg

Portage glacier is fed by 3 other glaciers, which can be seen in the below picture. The lake has zero water life, as the sedimentation is very high. Its pretty much filled with rock flour, crushed by the glaciers. Come winter, this lake becomes an ice skating, skiing and snow-mobile activity centre. I would love to see it a frozen lake sometime.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-p_glacier_feed.jpg

The main glacier below. We were about 2 miles away from the glacier landing at this point. The glacier itself is about 4 miles wide. The cave is about 150 ft high.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-portage_glacier-_near.jpg

You can clearly make out the 3 glaciers merging.

Here is another close-up of the mouth.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-portage-glacier-copy.jpg

Us having some fun after the glacier tour.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-portage-_-us.jpg

Energy bars served as quick bites, along with fruits, bread and cheese slices. A quick bite later, we started for Talkeetna.

The glacier landing was one of the highlights of our trip. This was probably the single most expensive item booked.
The Northern lights coupon booklet had a decent 25% discount coupon for Takleetna Air Taxi Glacier Tours

We opted for the Mountain Voyager with Glacier Landing, which is the most recommended and value for money tour.

Our plane was a 7 seater. The trip itself is about 25 mins of flying to get to the mountain range. It was breath taking.

We get special waterproof and skid proof shoes before taking off.

Mt Denali is majestic to look at. It is experiencing the real thing, that we would have seen on National Geographic, Planet Earth and those documentaries and school books.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mt-denali_-plane.jpg

Lucky for us, it was relatively clear skies.

I'll let some pics do the talking.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us_-glacier-landing_-plane.jpg

We get about 15 to 20 mins on glacier.

Some of the pics while returning.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-denali-glacier_-1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-d_glacier_2.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-d_glacier-3.jpg

We were probably just so mesmerized with the might of Mt Denali and humbled by the experience at the same time, that most of us were just quiet on the return flight.

It sure was an experience of a lifetime. Lucky for us, the weather played in our favor.

The staff at the booking office recommended a micro brew, Denali Brew Company ( just about 10 miles away ) for some amazing pizza and drinks. No pics of that, on this forum

A nice early dinner later, we headed to Healy, with drive time of two and a half hours covering close to 170 miles to the hotel.

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Old 18th September 2021, 09:06   #5
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Default re: Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier

Day 3: Denali National Park Bus Tour

By and large one of the most contrasting day in the entire trip. It was a lackl-ustre Denali National Park bus tour, and then our first sights of the Aurora.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chapter-3.png

Since we were booked on the early morning tour ( starting at 7am ), we planned to stay close to to Denali Park Bus Stop ( the starting point ), making it easy to reach.

The lodging / hotel options right outside the National Park were very expensive, so we decided to stay at Healy, that was about a 20 min drive. We stayed at the White Moose Lodge, which turned out to be surprisingly clean and comfortable.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-dnp_lodge.jpg


Customary pic at the entrance to Denali National Park

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-_-entrance-dnp.jpg

The road heading towards Denali National Park.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-road-towards-healy.jpg

Here is a link to the Denali National Park Bus tour. We were booked on the 62 Mile, Tundra Wilderness Tour, but unfortunately there was a land slide around the 45 mile mark. Our tour was cut short to the 42 mile mark lasting about 5 hours. You get a bag of some chips and cookies.

Reviews on youtube and google maps were highly rated, but I personally, would give this a pass if I had to recommend it to anyone. For the price, it isn't worth it. I would rather suggest doing a Jeep or ATV tour through the park.

You'll observe rapid changes in the terrain, but again, you are basically circling Mt Denali. Having seen Mt Denali, the day prior, landing on the glacier, today's bus tour seemed just tiring and boring to an extend. Not to mention, we were possibly tired too.

Some pics of the park.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dnp_1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dnp_2.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dnp_3.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dnp5.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dnp6.jpg

The plan was to do a little hike up one of the easier trails to get a vantage point across the valley / landscape, by hiking up to the Horseshoe Trail, and time permitting, towards the Mt Healy Overlook Trail.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-screen-shot-20211012-10.19.00-pm.png

After reaching the Horseshoe trail, exhaustion got the better of us, deciding to return back, considering we still had 2 hour drive to Fairbanks.

A quick lunch and off we were to Fairbanks. The drive was uneventful. Low traffic as well.

Stopped at a Walmart for some basic snacks, water and then checked into the hotel. Freshened up and then left to grab some dinner. Fairbanks, as a city, is fairly well planned and you'll get lots of restaurants and cuisine options. Curiously, there was lots of Thai restaurants around.

Murphy's Dome was the place to be, a 45 min drive to an elevation that is far enough from the city lights. Luckily for us, the sky was fairly clear.

This was my first sighting of the Aurora Borealis. Spellbound, we were!

Forgive the poor quality of the pics below, they don't really do justice to what the eyes capture. I was still not very competent using the DSLR's settings.

It started out as grey bands across the skys that would gradually increase in thickness, and then suddenly around 1 am, they burst streaks of lights that were dancing all over the skies.

It was simply spectacular. For a second, we pretty much forgot how cold and windy it was.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210908_005856.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210908_005904.jpg

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Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-20210908_010037.jpg

Chasing the Aurora was the second highlight of the trip. I had read about the Aurora as a kid, and watching it with my eyes was a surreal experience. This will be etched in my memory for a long long time. I barely slept that night, thinking about the Northern lights.

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Old 18th September 2021, 09:08   #6
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Day 4 & Day 5: Fairbanks, Yukon River Camp and Arctic Circle

Planning the trip was a key. I had researched enough to know that the best sightings of the Aurora was in Fairbanks and north of it.

Keeping that in mind, we planned to spend the next couple of nights in and around Fairbanks, while keeping the day's activities relatively fluidic. Everything doesn't work as planned, which we would learn later.

Charged from the previous night's experience of the Aurora lights, we decided to drive to the Arctic Circle sign.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-screen-shot-20210927-11.17.55-am.png

The thrill being, driving down the legendary Dalton Highway and reaching the Arctic Circle latitude.

The roads north of Fairbanks quickly deteriorates into a semi paved, loose gravel road.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car_enroute-yrc.jpg

This road quickly giving way to this , just as you leave Fairbanks.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dalton-hwy-1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dalton-hwy-2.jpg

Note: Most rental companies prevent driving down the Dalton. Do check before renting. Also, a lot has been said about shattered windscreens from flying debris from passing trucks acting like projectiles.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-dalton-hwy.jpg

Lucky for us, there was barely any traffic, but we still did encounter, first hand, what the warnings said, a blast of loose gravel pelting the windscreen everytime a truck passed by.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dalton-hwy-3.jpg

As a precaution, I would slow down and move as far away as possible, whenever a truck was passing by.

Mid-point is the Yukon river bridge / camp. That is the only fuel station on that route, till you get to Coldfoot.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-yukon-river.jpg

A quick stop at the Yukon River Camp and we were set to carry on the journey.

The manager got talking to us, and my wife suggested that we stay back at the Yukon River Camp. After a look at the living spaces, we knew it would be an experience in itself. Adding to prospect that we might be lucky enough to catch the Aurora again, since we were so far up north was enough a reason to stay back.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-pipe-yrc.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-history-pipeline.png
These camp was originally used by the workers on the Trans Alaskan Alyeska Oil Pipeline . Its neat and comfortable. I would highly recommend this place.

My dad, (while doing his Masters in Cranfield, UK ) had apparently worked / researched on some of the Welding technology used in this Pipeline. Considering the weather and terrain extremities, this was an engineering feat at that time. Quite a proud moment for me as a son, to know about my dad's contribution. On a call, he was rattling off numbers and details like it was yesterday.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-alyeska-pipe.jpg

Made a call to our hotel back in Fairbanks to cancel the booking for that night.

This pit stop which was originally supposed to be a quick fuel and restroom stop turned out to be a good 1 hour halt, but it was not a concern since we weren't driving back to Fairbanks, as originally planned.

Condition of the road was pretty much the same, narrow in some sections but fairly broad enough. Mud and loose gravels.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dalton-hwy-4.jpg

I got a few videos on a GoPro of this drive. The terrain is simply breathtaking. Beware of Moose crossing the roads.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-gopro-2.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-dalton-hyw-6.jpg

The Arctic Circle sign.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-arctic-sign.jpg

The plan was to get back before sunset, grab a bite and get some rest before heading out to chase the northern lights.

Unfortunately, there was massive cloud cover. We drove about 30 miles south but couldn't see anything other than a faint glow in the sky. Called it quits around 2 am and returned back.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-aurora-1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-aurora-2.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-aurora-3.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-aurora-4.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-aurora-5.jpg

The next morning, we spent a little time around the banks of the River Yukon before starting for Fairbanks, heading straight for Santa Claus House, North Pole. It is about 15 miles from Fairbanks.

In all honesty, this can be skipped. It is a lousy, over priced gift shop that has a Big statue of Santa Claus. Would not recommend this place. The staff were also very rude when we were asking a few questions about stuff we could do or any restaurant recommendations in the area.

We spent about 20 mins and headed back to the hotel for the night.
Skies were completely overcast that night with no signs of letting up. We were up till about 2am and called it a night.

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Old 18th September 2021, 09:11   #7
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Day 6: Fairbanks: Gold Panning & Chena Hot Springs


It was another one of those days with a fluidic plan. Like I had mentioned earlier, please book in advance, the tours and stuff you want to do.

Our plan was to kill some time around Fairbanks in the morning and then head to Chena Hot springs.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chapter-5.png

After a quick breakfast of bread + butter, we headed to Pioneer Park. Timing was wrong.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-pioneer-park-us.jpg

Most of the stores and shops were done for the season and closed. Decided to go Gold Panning while lazily strolling around.

While doing the initial research about things to do in Fairbanks, Gold Panning came up as a recommended activity. Two places turned up as recommended places to go,
  1. Dredge 8
  2. Gold Daughters

Dredge 8 being closed, we headed for Gold Daughters.

At first, we thought it would be too kiddish and boring. I was pleasantly surprised as to how much fun it was.

The history behind Gold Daughters is also pretty inspiring. The is a National Geographic documentary on them. They staff are very helpful. We'd planned an hour or so, but ended up spending a good 3 hours at this place.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-gd_1.jpg

Totally recommend this, if you are going. We just had a blast. Besides, at this point in our vacation, we were done with the major things and needed to take it easy. Almost every night,we were awake till about 3am, chasing the northern lights.

Grabbed a quick lunch in Fairbanks and headed for Chena Hot Springs. Some road construction work delayed us by about a hour.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chena-entrance.jpg

This is where I would strongly suggest, making reservations ahead of time.

Chena Hot Springs has an Ice Museum, that was on our list. When we called, the day prior, they had spots available on their 90 min tours,( the last one being at 7pm), and since we wanted to keep the day flexible, we didn't book. Big mistake!

Murphy's law, by the time we got there ( around 5:30pm), the tour was sold out. They just wouldn't accommodate us.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chena-us.jpg

From the website and youtube reviews, this place looked very basic but expensive. Having visited it, I would recommend spending at the very least 2 days and a night here. It is an all - inclusive resort with ATV tours, Horse tours, guided hiking tours etc. The hot water spring is within the resort and free to the guests staying over. You'll be able to explore the surroundings and activities if you stay, rather than, like us, just visiting and leaving.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chena.jpg

We were a little indecisive as to whether to wait at Chena that night and catch the Aurora or head back to Fairbanks. Having been lucky at Murphy's Dome, Fairbanks, the first time, decision was made to head back to Fairbanks.

We spent a decent couple of hours at the Hot water spring and left for Fairbanks.

Grabbed a pizza enroute and headed straight for Murphy's Dome.

Just then, it started pouring coupled with fog. . Thinking it might be a passing shower, we waited till about 1 am. With no signs of the weather letting up, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.

Afterall, we had a long drive the next morning.

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Old 18th September 2021, 09:13   #8
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Day 7 & Day 8: Matanuska Glacier Trek, Drive down Route 4 and The Glenn, Hatcher Pass and back to Anchorage.


By far, this was the longest single day drive through the trip. A 250 Mile drive from Fairbanks to Glenallen along Route 4, and then abothe 150 miles along the beautiful beautiful Glenn (as its called).

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-chapter-6.png

Route 4 is probably one of the most scenic routes in all Alaska. It just transforms itself from Summer to Fall to Winter. I am glad I took that route down to Wasilla.

Considering the amount of traffic and the remoteness of this road, I was pleasantly surprised at it's upkeep. Butter smooth.

I'll let some of the pictures do the talking.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-route-4.jpg

Some of the stretches on this route are dead straight. Snaking right beside the road is the Alyeska pipeline. Stunning landscape.

There are multiple pull outs. We stopped at one of them to stretch our legs and soak in the scenery.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us_1-glen.jpg

The Talkeetna range in the distance.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-glen-1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-glen.jpg

This spot was simply irresistible to not stop for a photo-op.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-glen-2.jpg

The water gets its bluish grey color from the rocks that got crushed many thousands of years ago and now are flowing with the melting of the glaciers. Such natural phenomenons. Getting to experience and see them first hand is just so humbling. Things that we had only read about in books as kids.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-car-glen-2.jpg

How could we not click a pic with a backdrop like this

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-glen-3.jpg

Just soaking the mood, hills and nature. What a vacation, it has been.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-me-pensive.jpg

The concept of a Glacier was very vague to me till this trip.While studying in school, it was hard to visualize an ice column flowing like a river, carving out a path through the hills. See it this close, makes you respect the forces of nature and Mother Earth. Spectacular is an understatement.

As you drive down the Glenn, this is probably the first glances you'll see of the Matanuska Glacier, and the Chugach Ranges.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mat-car.jpg

This was pretty much the final escapade on this trip, A Glacier Hike. Yes! We would actually walk on a Glacier.

We had booked through one of the tour companies for a basic 4 mile, 3 hour hike. They give us snow shoes, micro spikes and helmets.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-before-hike.jpg

Pictures speak louder than words!

From the parking here, to the glacier is about 1.5 miles. All of this path is also ice under the slush. Its difficult to imagine, till the guide poked through the mud exposing the underlying ice.
Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mat-gla-4.jpg

The mud / rocks actually acts like a layer of insulation preventing the ice from melting away.
Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mat-gla-2.jpg

Our guides were fun with an amazing sense of humour and knowledge. The guy helps out with blasting ice during the winters preventing avalanches. He was dishing out so much information along with trek.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-guidemat-gla.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mat_glacier1.jpg

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-mat-gla-3.jpg

We were done by around 5pm. A quick fuel stop, rest stop and some coffee to recharge. Next stop: Hatcher Pass, that was about a 65 mile drive.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-hatcher-pass.jpg

It was Moose hunting season, you'll see a lot of folks in trucks and RVs, towing along ATVs to get into the forest. We were told that, most serious hunters spend about a couple of days, minimum, in the forest. The winding roads towards Hatcher Pass made for some relaxed driving.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-top-hatcher-pass.jpg

A short hike to the top of the first hill for this spectacular view of the valley. Pictures just do not do justice to what the eyes see.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-hatcher-pass.jpg

Reflection Lake, situated in between the hills.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-hatcher-pass-lake.jpg
We were also pretty tired by then. Headed to Wasilla for the night. There are decent restaurants around, and we didn't have to struggle to find them.

By far, this cabin was one of the cutest cabins we stayed in, during our stay. I guess, by this point, we were just overwhelmed with all that we saw and too tired to take more pics.
Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-us-wascabin.jpg

Day 8: Back to Anchorage.


Luckily, our return flight was a late evening one, according us the almost the entire day.

Plan was to spend the time in Anchorage, do some souvenir shopping on 4th Ave and basically just kill time.

Some of the souvenirs we got.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-souvenir_collage.png

And that gets added to the collection.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-collection-magnets.jpg

I had reserved trying the smoked Salmon, which is a Do-Not-Miss for a sea food aficionado, for the last day in Anchorage. And I wasn't disappointed with it. Just the way I had imagined it. I cannot post a picture here, for obvious reasons

Having a couple of hours to kill after lunch, the Anchorage Trolley Tour caught our fancy. Definitely a good way to get to know some history of the city, we went for it. The guide had an amazing sense of humour. Some of the highlights of the tour were;
  1. The history and aftermath of the devastating 1964 Earthquake and the Earthquake park
  2. The history of the Alaskan Railroad system
  3. Lake Hood, The largest Float Plane / SeaPlane Port
  4. The history behind the very name of Anchorage
  5. History of the early settlers, and how the US govt had actually incentivised the early settlers
  6. A brief history of the native tribes who crossed over during the ice ages, across the land bridge from Russia to Alaska

It was a pretty interesting tour. I recommend it.

Alaskan Holiday | Chasing the Northern Lights in the Final Frontier-sea-plane.jpg

Returned our Turo rental. The owner was kind enough to drop us back to the airport.

With that, we conquered the Last Frontier , an experience and memories to last a lifetime.

Last edited by nikhilarni : 15th October 2021 at 08:34.
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Old 26th September 2021, 17:14   #9
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End


A few details on the trip.

1. Total Days spent = 8
2. Miles driven = 2121, roughly about 3400 kms
3. Fuel consumed ~ 125 gallons. 4$ to a gallon was the average cost.

I do not want to get into the costing side of things. I have put in the links for most of the stuff we did.

We were strongly recommended to fill up at every town. I never really let the needle drop below half tank.

Renting the Outback ( the owner calls it, Silver-Back ), was probably the best decision. Ample space, and super comfortable on all roads. It was a pleasure to drive.

It took me a while to compile the notes and this travelogue. I'll follow-up this post with some videos of the trip. I still need to edit them ( too lazy right now ).

Big shout out to fellow TBHP-ian, Sunay aka Fusionbang for trusting me with his DSLR and GoPro. Thank you. I was planning to rent one from Lensrentals, but it was proving to be too expensive. That's when Sunay offered his camera and even drove to a mid way point between Philly and Pittsburgh.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this super long travelogue. This is my first travelogue, do provide your feedback and tips. I could definitely use the tips to improve my penmanship.

Signing off

Last edited by nikhilarni : 15th October 2021 at 08:36.
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Old 15th October 2021, 11:46   #10
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th October 2021, 17:01   #11
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Great summary and pictures.

Looks like you had a great time and its definitely a must place to visit for anyone who loves traveling.
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Old 15th October 2021, 18:21   #12
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Awesome travelogue Nikhil Well deserved 5 stars thread

Alaska is a must visit place for people staying in US. Can't wait to plan one as soon as possible (may be next summer)
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Old 15th October 2021, 18:39   #13
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My god that looks surreal.
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Old 16th October 2021, 03:54   #14
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Hey Nikhil,

We talked about this so much and finally, I get to see the pictures. Looks like the king of wilderness and surreal landscapes. Some of the pictures are breathtaking and I can only imagine being there in person would be an amazing feeling.

Thanks for that excel sheet prep sheet, Please do send me that offline as well.

AK for me is no longer a distant dream as there are multiple ways to visit Alaska from Seattle.

a) Take a Cruise
b) Hire a Cruise Ship and Sail
c) Fly
d) Drive

I think I will try either a) or b)

Don't you have any videos to share? If yes, please post them as I am sure they would be equally enchanting.
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Old 16th October 2021, 05:38   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vj123 View Post
Great summary and pictures.

Looks like you had a great time and its definitely a must place to visit for anyone who loves traveling.
Thanks Vj123,
It was an experience in itself. The sights are breathtakingly beautiful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fusionbang View Post
Awesome travelogue Nikhil Well deserved 5 stars thread

Alaska is a must visit place for people staying in US. Can't wait to plan one as soon as possible (may be next summer)
Hi Fusionbang,
Thank you and thank you for trusting me with your DSLR and GoPro. Totally! You have to go. I'll be happy to share the specifics as well, if that helps in your planning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nitinsharma1000 View Post
My god that looks surreal.
Hi Nitin,
True. It is a surreal experience. A month now, and I still think about it. I have to look at those souvenirs and tell myself it wasn't a dream. I have been there now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mobike008 View Post
Some of the pictures are breathtaking and I can only imagine being there in person would be an amazing feeling.

Thanks for that excel sheet prep sheet, Please do send me that offline as well.

Don't you have any videos to share? If yes, please post them as I am sure they would be equally enchanting.
Hi Avi,

It is an enchanting land. Now that you are so close, you should make it. Try doing a winter trip in Feb, head straight to Fairbanks and camp there.

I do have videos. I'l post them. I was tired after writing the initial thread. I'll send you the other details offline.
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