Bring on the Alaska posts! I’ve decided to divide them up into six parts and they’ll be coming out over the next two weeks. Overall, my whole experience was incredible and it was possibly one of the best trips I have ever taken. I had this preconception that Alaska would be constantly snowy and barren, but in the summer Alaska is a paradise. I went for the first week with two friends Justin and Brian, and then the last week on my own. I guess three things to note – 1) apparently we got lucky with the warm weather and it isn’t always like that in the summer, 2) I got whiplash from double taking every few steps to look at the stunning scenery and 3) there is a lot of fish on the menus so be prepared.
To kick it off, this post is all about Denali. Denali is one of the main national parks in the state and was our first stop. We drove up there from Anchorage and it took about five hours. During the summer, road construction is a huge thing so you will probably get stuck in it like we did. Once there we stayed in a cabin outside of the main hustle/bustle which I would definitely recommend. Tonglen Lake was so peaceful and away from all the tourists and shitty gift stores. It is smaller and not on the radar but somewhere to consider if you want a nice getaway.
I guess I have to start talking about Denali with the park. If you want to truly explore you’ll need to organise a bus tour or go on a very extravagant hike – after mile fifteen the road into the park isn’t accessible to non-commercial vehicles (and there’s a good eighty more miles of it). We went on the Horseshoe Lake Trail and that’s what you can see below. The starting point is right by the visitor centre and the whole walk took us around an hour. The route goes through wilderness and alongside the lake so it isn’t repetitive (I know sometimes once you’ve seen a tree you’ve seen a million trees). A highlight was getting up close to a moose. We managed to see her eating on the lower level but then also from up top in the water twice. On this hike you also get to see a beaver dam, pretty cool beach and some epic mountains that could be screensavers.
One of the funnest experiences in Denali we did was driving ATVs. I’ve done this two times before but it still gets my adrenaline up. We went with Denali ATV Adventures and did a private tour on a Grizzly and Viking. You sign a waiver/meet them in the town area and then they drive you out on their minibus. The excursion takes place outside the park but still amongst the country. We had two guides who were both really chatty and up for going fast and furious. It was about two and a half hours long with three different stops, including the top of a hill and by this massive sand dune. It’s a fun, different way to see Denali and also get a little dirty.
Next to the ATV pickup are a bunch of shops and food places. This is the ‘touristy’ area and we decided to break for lunch. I would recommend Salmon Bake as the food was pretty delicious and there is a big selection. The restaurant itself is pretty unique as the floor slopes and the decor makes for good selfies. You can see below the halibut tacos and elk burger – both of which really good but so much food wow.
You can’t go to Alaska and not cuddle up with a cute husky. We went to the Husky Homestead and met Jeff King and all his dogs. They pick you up in their shuttle bus and take you to their camp which is nice. The event is split into three sections – puppy play, husky life and iditarod info (I’ve named them these and think they’re pretty accurate hah). You first get to play with the puppies and everyone melts. Apparently this is beneficial to the puppies as they get used to new smells and being held/managed in different ways. There’s a great photo on my instagram here if you want to see just how happy I was holding a puppy. The next part you sit outside and get to watch a husky demo/find out about how they raise them. Each litter has a theme and is named after that e.g. rockstars, colours etc. I found this part really interesting – (I guess the best thing I found out is that these dogs are Alaskan huskies not Siberian huskies as I thought). The last part takes place indoors and Jeff talks about his iditarod experiences and what it takes. The iditarod race is something I would love to witness one day and might have to add to a bucket list for a later year! This experience is a little pricey but you do learn a lot about something that is truly unique to Alaska.
If I was to go back I would spend more time in the park and go deeper. There are meant to be some beautiful trails and viewpoints but I mean you have to leave something to come back for! It was a pretty action-packed time in Denali and the rest of the trip didn’t slow down either. Come back on Thursday to check out Anchorage part one!