July 29 – August 5, 2017
I was extremely excited when my grandparents announced they would be taking my family on a summer trip to Alaska before my senior year of high school.
I’d always seen beautiful pictures and heard about how wonderful the state is, so I was ready to dust off my hiking boots and go on some adventures. This trip was right up my alley, full of exploring new areas so different from Florida and seeing unique wildlife.
Day 1: Arrival
After a literal entire day of travel, I realized Alaska was way farther away than I expected. My family flew first from Tampa to Houston for a few hours, then we hopped on another plane and flew seven more to reach to Anchorage (seriously, at that point you’re basically going to Europe).
The four-hour time difference certainly didn’t help my exhaustion, but neither did the fact that during summers in Alaska, it doesn’t get dark outside until after midnight, so my jet-lagged brain had no clue what time it was.
After landing, we rented a car and drove to our hotel, then ate at a restaurant called Humpy’s for dinner.
Day 2: Exploration in Anchorage
Our first day felt long but wonderful. We ate breakfast at our hotel first thing in the morning, then visited a cute weekend village market across the street where people were selling handmade items, from jewelry, to clothing, to knives.
After leaving the market, we went hiking in the nearby mountains and were stunned by the amazing views, truly unlike any other place I’d ever visited.
For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called the Glacier Brewhouse. I chowed down on a delicious steak with potatoes and vegetables before returning to the hotel and calling it a day.
Day 3: Next Stop, Talkeetna
When we woke up, we checked out of our hotel in Anchorage and drove to get to our next stop, a town called Talkeetna.
On the way, we stopped in a small village called Wasilla to get brunch, then a bit later, we stopped again when we reached the Lazy Mountain and hiked for a few hours. I remember feeling like I was on top of the world looking out at that view, even though we were only about 4,000 feet above sea level (but that’s a lot for someone from Florida, right?).
After the hike, we finished our drive to Talkeetna, where we would stay in renovated cabins in the woods for the night.
Day 4: A Day in Denali
Right after waking up, we ate a huge breakfast before driving to Denali State Park for a day of hiking through breathtaking surroundings. We explored areas in the mountains, as well as walking around a huge lake, which was a rocky five miles in itself, so we were pretty exhausted afterwards.
When we returned to the cabins, we rested a bit before dinner, then walked into the town and explored Main Street. We ate dinner at the Wildflower Café, where I devoured a divine seafood curry.
Day 5: On the Road Again
We left the cabins in Talkeetna and drove to our last stop, Seward. It was a long four-hour drive, but we stopped for a nice lunch in Girdwood when we were about halfway through it.
Seward is an oceanside town, so our hotel was a super cute boutique-looking hotel right outside of a marina. We explored around the water and shops, and even had one of our first wildlife sightings, an otter, which was as cute as can be.
For dinner, we ate at a Mediterranean restaurant called Apollo, where I enjoyed smoked salmon fettuccine. Yum!
Day 6: Kittiwakes in Kenai
Our most adventurous day yet – we ate breakfast at the hotel, then went on a marine cruise tour of the Kenai Peninsula and other picturesque areas of Seward.
My favorite part was all of the wildlife we witnessed: puffins, sea lions, several humpback whales, kittiwakes, dolphins and more! We also got to see a huge glacier – a few chunks of it fell off while we were stopped and they made super cool, loud noises.
For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Ray’s, which was a lovely way to end the day.
Day 7: Here, Fishy Fishy
If you’re not into fishing, you can’t be part of my family – it seems like every trip we go on, we have some sort of wild fishing adventure day. This time, we were hunting for wild salmon.
We woke up at 5:30am to get on the boat and we fished the entire morning. Although it was an insanely long few hours, it was worth it, because everyone caught at least two fish – mostly salmon and even a few halibut. In fact, we caught so much fish, we didn’t have to worry about dinners for the next year.
By the time we got back to land, it was only noon, so we relaxed and walked around the village shops before dinner. We went to Ray’s again, and I ate a delicious salad and chowder.
Afterward, we walked around downtown Seward and got ice cream before heading back to the hotel to rest up for our last day.
Day 8: Exiting
For our last event of the trip, we packed up before hiking the Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, which was tiring but fun, and the glacier was the most beautiful shade of blue.
In the afternoon, we drove to the Anchorage airport.
On the way, we had a bit of time to kill and wanted to see more animals before leaving, so we stopped by an animal preserve and saw brown bears, reindeer, bison and wolves. We hadn’t really seen any wild animals on the trip besides on the cruise, so I loved the opportunity to admire these beautiful Alaskan animals.
Then, we finished driving to the airport and said farewell to the Great North.
This vacation really brought out the adventurer in me – I was so grateful to be able to go and experience this beautiful place that looked like nowhere else I’d ever seen.
Alaska is one of those states you have to travel to at least once. Although it’s a long plane ride, it’s absolutely gorgeous and not too much of a travel hassle since it’s still a US State. I would like to return someday, do more hiking and see more animals.