What an amazing week we had while Donna was in town visiting.
I know that this will be a vacation she won't soon forget and
neither will we.
Donna brought the sunny weather with her, which was the most
fantastic thing besides seeing her! We had nearly record temperatures
the entire time we were traveling, and all of our excursions were
under mostly sunny skies and warmth. In fact, I didn't pack enough
warm-weather clothes and had to buy a couple of t-shirts along
the way to stay cool. What a big difference from last year at
this time, when Diane was in town and we had to wear long underwear
on the wildlife cruise. I am so thankful.
Because I took so many photos, I'm going
to break this entry down into several different pages to save
on load time. I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures and
seeing the many photos I took. Donna took many more than I did
and I know she's going to be busy working on her Alaska scrapbook
Donna arrived right on time last Saturday, the 16th. I know how
exhausting the plane ride is to and from the east coast, so we
planned to grab a quick bite to eat on the way back to the house.
We chose The Dogsled Saloon at the Captain Bartlett Inn, and were
very pleased with the service and the food.
When we came back to the house, we chatted for a little while
before Donna headed off to bed at 8pm. She was still on Eastern
Time (midnight in Philadelphia) and we were planning to get on
the road the next morning at 9am for the long drive to Palmer.
She said she was asleep immediately after her head hit the pillow.
The blackout drapes in the guest room did a good job of blocking
the sunshine, however Donna did tell us that she woke at 3am and
just had to get a photo out the window, where it was still light.
Sunday, June 17th - Fairbanks to Palmer:
Steve and I were up early and started loading the camper with
food and linens for our 5-day camping adventure. Donna woke a
little while later and helped. We were on the road by 10am, after
a stop at Sunrise Bagel for a breakfast sandwich. I was thrilled
to see sunshine peeking through the clouds, and even happier to
see a hazy Mt. McKinley on the horizon as we passed the Tanana
Valley overlook on the Parks Highway.
We made many stops along the way to stretch our legs and walk
Sedona. Donna enjoyed watching the landscape change as we left
the rolling hills of Fairbanks behind and met the Alaska Range
head on just outside of Denali National Park.
about the trip to Palmer... )
Monday, June 18th - Palmer to Seward:
We were all up early, and anxious to continue on the next leg
of our journey. I think we broke records packing up the camper,
hooking up, and pulling out of the campground!
Seward is about 2.5 hours from Palmer, but the drive is awesome.
I know how excited I am to see those views, and Steve and I do
the drive at least once each summer. We wanted to make the drive
an easy one and allow for plenty of stops along the way so that
Donna could also appreciate the views.
about exploring Seward... )
Tuesday, June 19th - Cruising in Seward:
I booked a glacier/wildlife cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours for
Donna and I. While we were cruising and looking for wildlife,
Steve was out fishing with a charter out of the military resort.
Our cruise was for 9 hours, and in that nine hours we traveled
from Seward to Northwestern Glacier - 150 miles roundtrip.
We were picked up at the resort at 8am sharp. The ship left at
9:15am. It wasn't as full as it was when I went with Diane last
year, and it certainly wasn't as cold. The sun was already high
above us and warming the air nicely. We didn't bother wearing
long underwear tops, but I packed them just in case. We also packed
rain gear just in case. If it got too cold, the raincoats would
at least keep the wind off of us.
about our Seward Cruise... )
Wednesday, June 20th - Seward to Denali:
had another long drive ahead of us, and no specific plans except
to get to our destination, check in at the Denali Wilderness Center
for our bus trip the next day, and then relax. The cruise/fishing
really wore us all out, and we knew the long drive would wear
us out even more. We stopped a few times to stretch our legs,
and didn't get to Grizzly Bear Campground outside of Denali until
around 6pm or so. The highlight of our drive was a brilliant view
of Mt. McKinley at mile 134. Donna has been quite lucky on this
trip; some people come to AK and never see the mountain.
We set up camp, picked up our bus passes, checked out the bookstore
at the park, and then came back to the camper to relax. We put
a movie in the DVD player which made us all tired.
Other than that, it was a very long, but lazy day.
Thursday, June 21st - Exploring Denali:
We had tickets for the 9:15am bus to Wonder Lake - 11 hours roundtrip.
We got up early, packed our lunches, filled our water bottles,
and set off for the park. We were the first people in line, and
took the two frontmost seats on the bus. Steve sat on one side
by himself, and Donna and I shared a seat on the other side. This
strategy ensured that we'd have someone on both sides of the bus
in the event wildlife made an appearance. It's much easier to
climb over someone you know, than someone you don't!
about our Denali Trip... )
Friday, June 22nd - The Eldorado Mine and exploring Fairbanks:
With a short drive back to Fairbanks, we took our time to have
some breakfast and pack up the camper. I had reservations for
Donna and I to visit the Eldorado Gold Mine at 3pm.
After helping Steve to unload the camper, she and I took off
for Fox. On the way, I stopped at the pipeline so she could get
a few photos, and pick up some literature (as well as more
about Eldorado and Fairbanks sightseeing... )
Saturday, June 23rd - The Riverboat Discovery and exploring
We had early reservations for the Riverboat Discovery, so I set
my alarm for 6:30am. After having a quick breakfast, we set off
for the big paddlewheeler and our adventure cruise on the Chena
The Binkley family runs both the Eldorado Gold Mine and the Riverboat
Discovery, and they do it in a first rate way. The narration is
informative and humorous and makes for great entertainment.
more about our Riverboat experience... )