Denali National Park & Reserve
I love exploring Alaska. It is a favorite destination – especially as a road trip where you can stop whenever, watch mountains and wildlife, or turn down any paved or unpaved road to see where it might lead. Alaska, our 49th state, was an early inspiration for my ‘end of road’ gallery with camping on the Homer spit along Cook Inlet, Denali in mid-April (1/4 mile of road open, with a definitive end at a 20’ wall of snow), or the Veteran’s Highway out of Juneau – each an example of a wonderful road to nowhere.
Approaching Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
Nearly as good as visiting our Last Frontier is getting to it. Unless you fly or take the Ferry (highly recommended) traveling north requires a road trip between Washington’s San Juan Islands and North Cascade Range, just east and in full view of British Columbia’s Coastal Range or taking the Alaska Highway on into the North Country. Each option is just stunning with a new awe-inspiring view around nearly every corner and over every rise.
In September 2015, my wife Stephanie and I flew from Bellingham to Anchorage, rented a SUV for two weeks, and began one of many road trips around the state. North to Wasilla, then to the scenic Hatcher Pass Road along Willow Creek. Next, we continued north to Talkeetna (trading post, riverboat supply base, and starting point for most Denali climbing expeditions) at the confluence of the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna Rivers to get a preview of Denali National Park and Preserve (in all its glory the days we were there) and a flight over the Talkeetna mountains and the Alaska range. Up the Susitna River Road to see where the now abandoned dam site was proposed, and then to the park for hiking, photos, and an early snowy start to the winter season. From there, east along the remote, beautiful, and 134-mile Denali Highway over Maclaren Summit to Paxson, turning South on the Richardson Highway to Valdez and traveling along the Wrangell and through the Chugach Mountains. After wandering around the Port, we boarded the car ferry across Prince William Sound to Seward, where we rented a small cabin as our basecamp on a Resurrection River tributary with salmon spawning just off the back deck.
Denali Mountain Crags
We also took an outfitted nine-hour and ‘family friendly’ kayak trip to Kenai Fjords National Park along with puffins, whales, ice sculptures, and the Holgate Glacier. Both Stephanie and I love paddling, but I had to ask our guide how kids handled a full twenty-five mile + day? His response, “Oh, kids hate this trip!” Once back, we headed up the Seward Highway and then west on the Sterling Highway which eventually follows the Kenai River to Soldotna and on to Homer where the highway ends at Kachemak Bay. As with most road trips, we took too many exits and photos, and so we had just one day to make it the 226 miles back to Anchorage to catch our flight home.
Holgate Glacier Kayak
Two weeks, 1,200 + miles, time alone with my wife and no meetings, deadlines, cares, or car trouble. And a lifetime of memories and photos. I love exploring Alaska.
Denali National Park & Preserve