I've toyed with the idea of posting a journal-style entry on this site that details my trip to Alaska with my girlfriend, Sandi. But I think that this would push my forum from self-involved political and technology wrangling right over the line to a frustrated diary. So, instead, I've decided to simply list the places and things we did with some appropriate links to flesh them out. I wholeheartedly recommend an Alaskan vacation to anyone with even the slightest appreciation for wildlife and scenery. Our timing was perfect, as we saw 70 degree days and low, pre-tourist season prices. (The rush begins June 1st.)
Alaska is a big place, and we saw only a small part of it on our trip. We spent most of our time in Anchorage or on the rest of the Kenai peninsula:
- Two days in Seward at the Breeze Inn with a great view of the Harbor. We ate at Ray's Waterfront and Christo's Palace, a great pizza joint where we had the best Hefeweizen ever by Glacier Brewhouse. We took the amazing Kenai Fjords Cruise which featured up-close views of bald eagles, puffins, sea otters, harbor seals, steller sea lions, orcas, and incredible glaciers including an up-close view of the Aialik glacier which was shedding house-sized icebergs into the water as we watched. We also hiked up to Exit Glacier which offered an up-close tactile experience with a glacier receeding at about two feet a day. To top it off, we visited the Alaska Sealife Center which was built with money from the Exxon Valdez settlement.
- Two days in Homer at the Land's End Resort which is situated at the very end of the Homer spit, a four mile natural peninsula that extends into Kachemak Bay. We ate at the hotel's restaurant as well as Homestead restaurant which doesn't have a web page but was the best place we ate on the trip. It's about eight miles outside of Homer and overlooks the bay with a breathtaking view. While in Homer we visited the local shops and bars including the Salty Dog Saloon. We also took Mako's water taxi across the bay to visit Jakalof bay and the charming Seldovia cove (Russian for halibut) with a population of just over 300. We hiked the scenic Otterbahn Trail and had beer-battered halibut at the Tide Pool Cafe for lunch. We rented bicycles from Land's End to make the trip from Jakalof to Seldovia, which turned out to be a nightmare of technical difficulties and a really, really long trail that exhausted us to the point that we took a land taxi back to Jackalof bay (thanks, Jim!).
- We spent only one night in Anchorage, the largest town in Alaska. We ate at Simon & Seafort's in downtown Anchorage where we met up with my cousin Stephanie and her boyfriend Sean. There are lots of great stores around including Once in a Blue Moose, the Army Navy Surplus, and others.
- While driving around the Kenai peninsula we visited a number of small towns including Ninilchik and the picturesque Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. Just 45 minutes out of Anchorage, this ski town would make a wonderful winter vacation. We hit the Kobuk Jade Shop and the Alaskan Candle Factory while in town.
The Alaskans are also heavily into outdoor gear, as one might have predicted. I came across for the first time a Norwegian company called Helly Hansen which has the absolutely coolest outdoor clothing I've ever seen. It makes North Face look lame. Their stuff is predictably pricey, but I was very impressed with their designs.
Work boots are also very popular, and I was introduced to great products like Danner, Wolverine, LaCrosse, the venerable Red Wing, and others. Man, these boots are so sweet! It makes me wish I actually did work!
Anyway, that's about it. There were a buch of other things we saw that I could relate, but I'll instead close by reiterating my enthusiasm for an Alaskan vacation. You won't be disappointed.