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S Bokil's Journals
Tips and advice and sample route are provided here to help in planning an Alaska vacation.
We were traveling with our 3 kids ages 4,9, and 11 and had a great trip. We did not know if we were being too adventurous renting a car and driving around to see Alaska rather than taking a cruise ship, but we really enjoyed it and saw a lot more than we would have on a cruise. In fact the constant change of scenery and the fact that we stayed in B&Bs was really enjoyable for the kids. Since we had laundry facilities at all B&B’s, we really needed only about 3 pairs of clothes, a rain jacket with a hood and a sweater for when we were on water for each person. We did just fine with tennis shoes. I had my digital Nikon CoolPix 4500 for all my pics and really enjoyed it. I ended up taking close to 500 pictures.
Secondly, there was a lot of concern about the weather but Alaska is so beautiful that it looks great it any type of weather. In fact some of my pictures in cloudy weather were better than my pictures in the sun because the clouds seem to give a mystical effect to the mountains; also the glacier blue is really highlighted on cloudy days. Heavy rain does dampen some specific activities like hiking, fishing, flight seeing, etc, but in Alaska it is usually light rain with exceptions on some days when it does rain heavy all day.
Aug 17th -Anchorage, Aug 18th – Whittier, Aug 19th – Seward, Aug 20th – Seward, Aug 21st – Homer, Aug 22nd – Homer, Aug 23rd – Homer, Aug 24th - Valdez
Aug 25th – MatSu Valley, Aug 26th – Wasilla, Aug 27th – Wasilla, Aug 28th - Talkeetna
Aug 29th – Palmer, Aug 30th - Flight out of Anchorage
Aug 17th: Anchorage: Flew into Anchorage. Got a Rental from USave on Spenard Ave off the airport. Cab fare was $12 to get to the rental location. Spent around $ 750 on a 12 day rental for a full size car. Spent the night at Alaskan Suites on Spenard Ave booked via priceline. Got a room with 1 King and Queen pull out with breakfast included for all five for $130 for the night.
Aug 18th: Seward: Started driving down the Seward Highway at 9.30 am . Stopped at various overlooks; it was light rain and the mountains looked beautiful. Took the detour to Girdwood (Alyeska Tram using Toursaver) and Whittier (Portage Glacier Tour using Toursaver). Alyeska Tram was awesome. We went above the cloud cover when we reached the top and could see the Alyeska Prince Hotel below thru the clouds. Had lunch at the café on top. Portage Lake was windy and raining. When we reached the glacier, it stopped raining for a bit and we got some nice views. This is a really pretty area with the lake surrounded by mountains. Stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Safari to see moose, reindeer, bears and musk ox since there was no rain. Reached Moose Pass around 5pm and it starts raining heavily so we drove on to Seward. We stayed at the White Swan Inn B@B, just 5 minutes from down town Seward. Very nice host, private cottage for B@B guests with washer, dryer, bedroom, full kitchen and living room for $ 120 a night.
Aug 19th: Seward: Rainy day. Took the Renown Tours Toursaver 8 hr Kenai Fjords boat trip and captain said that there was a 10% chance that we would make it to the glaciers. 15 mins out of the harbor, the sun came out. We saw some stellar sea lions and since the weather was good out here, the captain said he was going for the full run to Aialik Glacier. The Glacier was beautiful and it was highlighted with some beautiful colors since the sun was playing hide and seek. We witnessed several calvings. On the way back, we saw an eagle’s nest and some mountain goats. Then the captain got a radio report of a humpback whale sighting in one of the coves and we rushed there just in time to see him. We spent about 15 mins in the area and saw him come up several times. The boat trip took all day and the kids were a little tired, so we headed back to the B&B.
Aug 20th: Seward: Lots of rain in the morning, so we went to the Seward Sea Life Center. It was OK, saw puffins, seals and stellar sea lions and got a good understanding of sea life in the area. It stopped raining in the afternoon, so we headed to Exit Glacier which is about 20 mins from downtown Seward. Worth the trip as you can get up close to the Glacier if you take the longer trail. You can go up and touch it although it is at your own risk. In the evening, we went to Mitch Seavey’s Iditarod Kennels, which was a great experience. Learnt about mushing from folks that actually take part in the big race and saw about 100 dogs that pull the sleds. Also interacted with small puppies and took a 2 mile ride on a modified sled pulled by about 15 dogs over some rough terrain. Kids loved it.
Aug 21th: Homer: Sunny, beautiful day. Started driving onwards from Seward to Homer at 9.00am . Seward to Homer is not as pretty a drive. Stopped at Clam Gulch and drove down to the beach area to great beautiful views of the volcanoes, Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt. It was something to see snow clad volcanoes and the beach itself was kind of eerie with only us on it. Next stop was at Ninilchik to see the Russian church. Very picturesque. Drove into Homer around 6pm and the view of Homer from the lookout as you enter Homer was amazing. Went up Skyline Drive to see a birds eye view of the spit and the mountains behind it. Stayed at a B@B called “ Home Away From Home”. Great place in a private house about 100 yards from where they live with 2 bedrooms, full kitchen and bath. Paid $110 per night.
Aug 22nd: Homer: Cloudy, Spent the morning browsing the shops on the Homer Strip. Saw at least 4 eagles on the banks and lamp posts in the area. Went on a Halibut fishing trip in the afternoon. There were 19 of us on the boat and we caught only 4 fish out of a possible 38 ( 2 per person limit) which was very unusual as in Kachemak Bay, you usually max out. It was the first time for us and the kids got to know how to use a fishing pole but it was a little disappointing; more so to the others who seemed avid fishing enthusiasts.
Aug 23nd: Homer: Clear, nice day. Had to resist the temptation to go on the Katmai bear watching trip, as it was kinda pricey and no children under 5 allowed. Decided to skip and went to the local museum and spent more time on the Spit itself and generally taking it easy. Had diner at a brick over pizza place that was excellent. ( Fat Olives) All in all, one should not miss going to Homer if you are going to Seward anyway as it is an awesome place.
Aug 24th Valdez: Rain and lots of it, but we did not mind as this was the day we were mostly going to be driving to get to Whitter for the ferry. We left at 6.30 am in the morning and made it to Whittier by about 11.30 a.m. The drive thru the tunnel was an interesting experience. We got on the M.S Chenega at 1.30 pm for a 3 hour trip on the ferry to Valdez. It was very cloudy and when we reached Valdez around 8.00pm it was almost ethereal as the port loomed up before us. We saw one of the giant tankers that ship all the oil.
Aug 25th: Mat Su Valley: Cloudy. Valdez was soaked in clouds but we could see glimpses of the peaks and I think Valdez is probably the prettiest harbor setting that I have seen so far, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Drove up toward the Worthington Glacier. On the way, we passed KeyStone Canyon and with all the rain they had been having, it was overflowing with waterfalls. This was one of the most amazing areas that we passed thru and the beauty was breathtaking. In retrospect, Worthington Glacier was probably the least impressive of the glaciers we had seen. Thompson Pass area was gorgeous. We reached Glenallen and stopped for lunch and continued to the Matanuska Glacier area around 4 pm and decided to trek down to the glacier for which there is a $10 or so fee per person. This road is not well marked and you really have to watch for it. You can drive up to a point after which it is a 15-20 minute light trek to the glacier. Once you get to the glacier, you are free to climb on it and explore deeper if you wish. This is one of the only places where you can get up close and personal with a glacier and we loved it. Even our 4 year old was game and trekked all the way to the glacier. I was amazed at his tenacity and interest in all this. On our way back we heard some splashing and were lucky to see a moose just 100 yards away drinking water off a stream. We spent about 2 hours at the Glacier and spent the night at a cabin in the valley area.
Aug 26th: Wasilla: Sunny day. Drove the next morning for a brief halt to check into our B@B. We stayed at the Pioneer Ridge B@B for $130 a night. We stayed in the Iditarod Room and it was modeled around that theme. This is an excellent B&B with a lot of Alaskan memorabilia. They have 6 suites, each with a different theme, a game room with pool and computer access, hot breakfast that Shannon herself makes and serves in the morning and all the comforts of home. We highly recommend it. In the afternoon , we drove to Talkeetna for our 7pm Flightseeing trip with Talkeetna Air Taxi( using Toursaver with Glacier Landing option). On reaching Talkeetna, we found everyone to be in good mood. It seemed that they had been having constant bad weather for about 3 weeks in a row and not a lot of flights had been operational. We were keeping our fingers crossed, as the weather can change quickly there. We did make the 7 pm flight. It was the 5 of us and the pilot and she said that this was her best flight of the summer!!. The sun was low in the sky, and the mountains were casing long shadows in the valley. Denali(Mt. McKinley) was out and it was magnificent!! It seemed like we were flying right next to it. We landed in the Sheldon Ampitheater area surrounded by snow clad mountains on all sides. I highly recommend a glacier landing if you are going to spend the money on a flightseeing trip anyway. We were at a loss of words when we returned.
Aug 27th – Wasilla, Sunny. Went to Independence Mine and Hatcher Pass area. You can get some pans at the gift shop and pan for gold here. The kids enjoyed that. Hatcher Pass was very scenic. The road to Willow was closed though due to recent flooding, so we spent the afternoon in the area. That evening, we went to the State Fair in Palmer. Palmer and Wasilla are just about 15 minutes apart and the State Fair is held every year around this time; so we were lucky to be in the area and decided to take advantage of it. The highlight is the giant sized vegetables that are on display.
Aug 28th – Wasilla, Cloudy – Went on a trip on the river with Mahay’s Riverboat Service( using Toursaver Coupon). Nice relaxing trip with great scenery. We did not see any wild life though. In the evening, we did some browsing on the streets of small town Talkeetna. Not much here though the used book shop and the Chocolate Shop were good browsing options.
Aug 29th – Wasilla, Sunny. It was a great day with excellent weather so we wanted to do some hiking. We first stopped at the Reindeer Farm in the morning. We decided to skip the hiking and see if we could see any more glaciers. We could not help but think that this was probably the last productive day for us in Alaska and wanted to see a Glacier for the last time on the trip. We decided to do something different; we called Glacier Jet Alaska using Toursaver coupon as they offered a jet boat ride up to a glacier. Fortunately, they had a slot available at 3.00pm and the drive from Palmer to Girdwood is not too bad. It took us about an hour and a half. It was just us on the boat. We sped down the Twenty Mile River and the ride itself was one of a kind thru marshes and water that was in some places, just about 6 inches deep. We stopped at a pristine lake with all the mountains clearly reflected in the water. Then we sped to the 20 Mile Glacier Area. There were huge chunks of ice floating in the river as we approached the Glacier. We got up so close that we could almost touch the steep walls of the glacier. It was a bright sunny day and this trip was different form all our glacier experiences earlier in our trip. We were glad we took this. It cost us $320 for the whole family and was worth it.
Aug 30th - Anchorage. Sunny. We had a flight out of Anchorage at 9.00 pm, so we had almost the whole day to kill. We took the chance to use the Toursaver coupons to visit the Alaskan Experience Theater to see 2 films on the Big Earthquake and on Alaska in general. The theater is kind of old and after seeing IMAX films on some of the newer IMAX screens, it is not up to par, but all in all, a good history lesson. We then went to downtown Anchorage, to see the Alaska Mint and also browse some of the Fur Shops and Alsakan Gift stores. Then it was time for the long haul home; but we left this great land with nothing but satisfaction and admiration at the beauty of it all.
Las Vegas, NV to Grand Canyon - 278 miles or 447 kilometers
Take Highway 93 south to I-40. Take I-40 east to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north directly to the South Rim.
Trip Plan: (Mom Dad, and 3 kids, 6, 10, 12 yrs)
Nov 9th, FRI:
Leave L.V at 9 a.m in rental car
Reach GC at 2.30 pm, South Entrance
Drive East Rim - Desert View Drive
Drive stopping at several points to Desert View, climb Watchtower
Reach Lipan point at 5.00 pm for sunset photography
Check in at Thunderbird Lodge around 7.00 pm
Wake up in the morning at 5.30 am and walk to the rim (bring flashlights) behind the Bright Angel Lodge for sunrise photography.
7.30 AM Go to El Tovar for breakfast.
8.00 AM: Check The Guide, for list all of the Jr ranger programs scheduled for kids and take kids there.
10.30 AM: Walk the Bright Angel Trail, just a little way to give a real perspective of the GC
Early Afternoon: Take shuttle to Hermits Rest stopping at points on the way.
Take shuttle back at 4.00pm and get off at Hopi for Sunset photography
Spend night at Thunderbird Lodge
NOV 11th Sun:
Go to Yavapai Point for Sunrise
Leave for LV at 9.00 am for 4.45 flight to Pittsburgh
I put this together looking at comments on TripAdvisor, so we are thankful to the posters for their reports.
HAWAII - BIG Island suggested route:
• Up Hwy 190
• Kaloko Dr - Mile Marker 34 - diversion to see city of Kona from mountain top
• Left on Hwy 250 at Chevron
• 14 mile marker , you can see Maui - quite stunning
• 20 Mile marker, go left towards Hawi
• Head right on Hwy 270 once in Hawi
• Statue of King Kamamahena the Great on roadside on reaching Kapa au
• Hwy 270 Road ends at Pololu Valley. The hike on foot ( 20 mins) down to the black sand beach at Pololu is spectacular.-- Picnic Lunch
• Return back on Hwy 270
• Take on Hwy 19
Kohala - Mauna Kea Beach-32 miles north of Kona-68 mile marker- Hwy 19
Hapuna Beach -30 miles north of Kona-69 mile marker Hwy 19- Touristy - good location- safe to swiim
Kona -Kua Bay Beach-88 mile marker-Hwy 19 - 1 mile 4WD
Wawaloli Beach -94 mile marker -Hwy 19-good for kids-watch sunset-
Kahalu'u beach park - Best for snorkeling - Alli Drive- mile marker 5- Hwy 19. Down town Kona
Puhonua o Honaunau Park - Mile Marker 104 of Hwy 11 watch sunset from tables in the park
South Island - Road to the Sea Beach 1 and 2 - 40 miles south of Kona between mile markers 79 and 80 - Hwy 11= - 4WD only = Black and Green Sand
Black sand beach of Punalu'u- Sea turtles -Mile Marker 56-Hwy 11 ...60 miles from Kona
Map page 132 and 135
Hwy 190 to Hwy 19
Left off Hwy 19 on to Hwy 240
Waipo Valley is a must-see If you rent a 4WD SUV, you can drive down into Waipi`o Valley
Akaka Falls and the Kahuna Falls, a must see. Great viewing areas and a trail of many tropical plants –Mile Marker 13 and 14 - Hwy 19 going down
Laupahoehoe Point—Before Mile Marker 27 going down -- Hwy 19
Onomea Bay Drive -before 7 mile marker going down - Hwy 19, is a beautiful little country road that skirts this little bay, and overlooks waterfalls, cliffs, and some charming old Hawaiian homes. It is "real jungle". Start at the south end, and drive north.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. This one is about $15 per person, and everyone who goes says it is well worth it.. Plan on about 2 hours
• Volcanoes National Park
• Counter-clockvise tour on Crater Rim Road
• Volcano House
• Sulphur Banks on right
• Steam Vents on Left
• Kilauea Overlook
• Jagger Museum
• Volcano Observatory
• Chain of Craters Rd for Later
• Pu Pua I Overlook
• Devastation Trail
• Kilauea Iki overlook