From time to time, Bob Gurr shares a past adventure with us. The destination and the year is up to fate. Today’s Wheel of Adventures has stopped at 2009 in Alaska . . . and off we go . . .
Make sure you have a visit to Alaska on your bucket list. This is the one place in America not to be missed. It’s a vast place with few highways providing an array of vistas best seen by air and water. Still, much of Alaska’s spectacular areas can easily be enjoyed by a road trip with side day trips by excursion boat, land and float plane. Two main ways to reach Alaska are by large sea cruise ships embarking from Vancouver Canada, and by airline to the major city of Anchorage.
After a previous August 2005 Alaskan Cruise, I flew to Anchorage in June 2009 to begin a highway exploration north to Denali, the gateway to Mt. McKinley after first sampling some adventures in the Anchorage area. Not only did I enjoy much scenic photography, I also wanted to produce an Alaska travel video to capture the stunning and dramatic experiences to share with friends. You can see this video by visiting https://vimeo.com/gurriniworld to view Bob’s Alaska.
Anchorage is a large sea level city surrounded by high mountains and numerous fjords and glaciers, with a number of easy day trips reachable by highway. On day one I drove to Girdwood, an all year sports mecca, to ride a cable gondola up to a mountain peak cocktail lounge with a most glorious view to enjoy a sundown martini. Next day’s outing was a cruise on the Klondike Express thru Prince William Sound for a full day’s viewing of many glaciers, whale sightings, sea otters, and birdlife. Seward was another road adventure thru high mountains to go hiking on Exit Glacier on a very warm summer day.
Before heading north to Denali, I went for a flight in a Cessna 205 floatplane to view the wider Anchorage area by air, and also rented a bike for a 20 mile ride along the Anchorage sea coast forest, in addition to hours of local sightseeing walks. While one can stay in a hotel, you really should stay a few days at one of the plentiful B&Bs to get to know real Alaskans. Also one should take many hikes thru the local bird preserves for an even deeper Alaskan nature experience like I did.
On the way to Denali there are spectacular mountainside roads such as the green Hatcher Pass to explore the old Independence Silver Mine ruins. Among the scattered ruins was an old electric Mancha Mine Locomotive, the exact model that we used at Disneyland on the 1956 Rainbow Caverns Mine Train Ride. I made a stop at the Wasilla Transportation Museum filled with antique agricultural railroad, and mining equipment.
Another stop on the way to Denali is the interesting village of Talkeetna, home of K2 Aviation where I experienced the most absolutely glorious airplane sightseeing flight of my 70 years of flying! Boarding a 10 passenger DeHavilland Turbo Otter, I was invited by the pilot to join him in the cockpit. This would allow me to shoot the video scenes of fabulous Mt. McKinley (Watch the video below to fully enjoy this flight with me). Words cannot describe the emotion of viewing the majestic Mt. McKinley from the air close up, then landing on a nearby glacier. Stepping out of the plane into a blinding white totally silent wilderness just took my breath away.
Continuing on to Denali, the scenery gradually becomes ever more beautiful. After a restful night in a tiny log cabin, I was off for an all day bus excursion with Denali Tours, the only way to reach the main extent of the park. http://www.alaskadenalitravel.com/ This tour stops every time we see any wildlife, since it’s designed for nature photographers. I saw grizzly bears, moose, elk, deer, beavers, all sorts of birds etc. But the highlight was the gradual approach to Mt. McKinley – the mountain got bigger and bigger with each mile until we were quite near the north side. Almost cloud free, it’s a sight I’ll never forget – ground based from the north and viewed from 14,000′ from the south. I enjoyed such a long wonderful Alaskan summer day celebrating sunset at 11 o’clock in the evening.
Alaska just has to be on YOUR bucket list.