First of all…if you know me, you might know that I actually have a fear of flying (weird career choice, right?). So, the fact that I flew in a float plane, a helicopter, and a ski plane on this adventure needs to be noted in this special section. And…high five to me :)
I also realized how special it can be to travel with a group of like-minded women. I haven’t laughed that much in a VERY long time. It’s amazing how travel, adventure, and nature can bring people together. So, be on the lookout for future small group opportunities with us! Who knows, we may even plan one to Alaska!
Our adventure began in Anchorage, the gateway to Alaska’s captivating wilderness, where we immersed ourselves in the natural splendor of the Chugach Mountains, the native people, and some amazing restaurants! We went on two amazing tours that talked about the big earthquake and the native people. A visit to the Native Heritage Center was great, and we got to watch some teens playing native games (my athletic children couldn’t come close to competing with these young adults)! From scenic hikes to informative tours, Anchorage offered endless opportunities to connect with nature, making it a must-visit destination for all adventure seekers out there. It’s also a great place to just take a day or two after your long flights!
Next up was Whittier, a hidden gem that can only be reached by traveling through a tunnel that both trains and cars share. This is also where most Princess and Holland America cruises port when they do open jaw sailings that usually involve a cruise tour. Or, it’s the place that folks in Anchorage would tell you, the weather is always s*%$$ier in Whittier. It was a really cold day in the 30s (especially for early June) that required every layer we brought AND some that the tourism board provided. We embarked on a mesmerizing 26 glaciers cruise in Prince William Sound, where glaciers stood tall, commanding our attention everywhere we looked. We had the opportunity to get much closer to calving glaciers than I ever have before, and we saw so many seal moms and calves. This area is so vast and majestic that you truly cannot describe it. Other nature we saw were lots of bald eagles and otters all over…they are so funny!
We then headed to the excursion that I was most terrified of, Alaska Helicopter Tours. I almost chickened out, but I am so glad I didn’t as this was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. The panoramic views of the sprawling glaciers and jagged peaks were nothing short of otherworldly. Touching down on the glistening expanse of Knik Glacier, we marveled at the magnificence of this frozen wonderland, feeling like we had stepped into a scene from a fantastical movie. Our tour actually allowed us to stop in three different places, and all three were so different, I was shocked! To be on the ice and able to see the flowing water underneath is unreal. This glacier is enormous as well, so being above it really makes you see how powerful and majestic mother earth can be!
While you can do this as a day trip from Anchorage, we had the opportunity of staying at the Alaska Glacier Lodge, and it was my favorite night. This location is small cabins and a lodge with a great restaurant! We were able to sit outside and see the midnight sun while we drank wine and laughed about the day’s adventure. The hotel is under new ownership and they are making some neat modifications that will be able to support larger groups and even corporate trips. I can’t wait to watch it grow!
Leaving no stone unturned, our adventure took us to Talkeetna. In Talkeetna, we experienced the thrill of a ski plane ride above the clouds, and actually got to see Knit Glacier from higher up. We were supposed to fly to Denali, but the weather was not cooperating and they weren’t allowing the planes in. Our pilot is actually the guy that usually lands at Denali base camp to pick up the climbers. This year there are just shy of one thousand people attempting to summit, and there were 20 or so waiting to get picked up from base camp, which can take up to two weeks sometimes (Imagine having to bag your own waste for that long…yikes!). Summer was super late this year, and there was still so much snow on the mountains we were flying over, it was indescribable. There was snow just hanging off the cliffs that were probably 30-40 feet deep. It was wild!
After we landed, we got to experience a powerboat that went through wild rapids of Talkeetna River. The highlight of this for me was getting to see a homesteader site (yep…I am the people that watch those shows on homesteading in Alaska) from the river. The river was actually getting too close, so the owners sold the site…don’t worry, we weren’t bothering homeowners. The ice breakup happened quite late this year as well, so we were one of the first days the boats were running! Being out there and seeing the damage the ice break up does first hand was super cool, and again a reminder that we are quite small.
As I reflect on my time in Anchorage, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for the experiences I had. This opportunity definitely solidified my conviction to share the beauty of this destination with everyone (and these experiences I shared are just tip of the ice burg (pun intended). Anchorage, with its boundless adventures and breathtaking landscapes, promises an unforgettable experience for anyone who dares to explore its untamed wilderness, and I recommend that each and every person should add Alaska (by both land and by sea) to their travel lists.
I will actually be traveling back to Alaska by sea in September with Princess Cruise Line, so you can tell how special this destination really is.