Alaska - Week 9
August 21, 2022
We’re on our way back to the Lower 48! Goodbye, Alaska. Since we are still recovering from Covid, we haven’t done much besides driving this week. So here’s a brief recap of what we did as well as a retrospection of our trip in Alaska this summer.
Recap of Week 9
When we woke up on Monday, we decided it was time to leave Alaska! We have been missing the sun and the warm temperatures so much that we felt it was time to head south.
We first stopped in Anchorage to say goodbye to our Alaskan friends Graham & Jodi, with whom we spent a lovely weekend in Hope. To avoid giving them Covid, we met outside in their backyard. What surprised us was that they had also caught Covid recently, and were themselves recovering from it!
The day after, we reunited with our friends Renda & David since they were also leaving Alaska. We caravanned together and enjoyed each other’s company for a few extra days until we parted away in Whitehorse where we planned to stay with our friends Jennifer & Michael.
Kuan met Jennifer during a women’s retreat with Diane Musho Hamilton back in February 2020. They hit it off right away as they shared the room for 6 days in the Utah desert, and Kuan had since wanted to visit her in Yukon.
Jennifer and Michael have been living in Whitehorse for the past 20 years, and their beautiful home is located in the pine forest south of the city. Though we weren’t sick anymore, we took the precaution to only hang outside and camp in our truck in their backyard.
They welcomed our arrival with bowls of delicious homemade wild bison chili and corn bread. Over dinner, Michael shared the story of Bubbles, the bison he and his family hunted in March, and whose meat was in the chili. The annual bison hunt is part of their family tradition, and one bison would feed the family of 4 for a whole year. In sharing the food and the stories, we felt honored to be part of the tradition. Thank you, Bubbles, for giving your life to feed us!
The following day, Jennifer and Michael invited us to pick wild blueberries in the mountains south of Whitehorse. We could not refuse the offer!
After berry picking and the stop in Carcross, we were tired and decided to stay one more night with Jennifer and Michael. On Friday, we waved goodbye to them and Whitehorse, but not without making a plan to come back in the winter to go hunting with them next year!
Retrospection of Our Trip in Alaska
We officially left Alaska early this week, and thought it would be timely to capture some of our highlights and learnings from our two-month journey in the beautiful 49th State.
- While you can’t predict wildlife encounters, we’ve seen so many eagles in Alaska that we’ve lost count. Of course, bear viewing in Katmai National Park and Reserve is quite the experience of a lifetime.
- Glaciers were everywhere! It was stunning to see them in all directions during our drive, and Alaska offers numerous ways to see glaciers up close: via boat tours, by foot, with climbing guides, or on a kayak. We were in awe every time we saw one from afar and up close.
- Alaskans, like their land, are weathered and resilient. We loved people-watching on the streets and chatting up with the locals in bars, and you can always tell the residents apart. They wore short sleeves when it was 50 degrees and raining outside, and they rock their overalls with XtraTuf boots. Regardless of the weather, Alaskans always seemed to be having the best time. At least in the summer, anyways, as our friends Jodi and Graham said.
- The road system in Alaska is limited, and there aren’t a lot of backcountry adventures, like off road driving, that are suitable for vehicles. Instead you need to take boats and float planes to access the backcountry, which leads us to the next point.
- Traveling in Alaska in the summer is very expensive. From meals to gas to lodging to activities, visitors are expected to pay a premium in the high season. Once you add up the $80/person 15-minute water taxi ride to the state park, and the two breakfast sandwiches in town, you’re easily $200 out before the activity even starts.
- Food choices are limited to mostly American restaurants across the state, but there are abundant smoked fish products. Our favorite is the smoked black cod from Saltwood Smokehouse outside of Seward.
- It’s difficult to find last-minute lodging, so you either have to book ahead or be prepared to camp. Plus, lodging is quite pricy in the summer. We’ve tried to look for last-minute Airbnbs a day or two in advance, but had no luck. The only time we succeeded was a total coincidence that someone had just cancelled their reservation.
- Timing and research are an important part for planning the perfect Alaskan trip. For instance, if you want to see the bears fishing salmons in Hyder, you will need to visit during a certain time period.
What We Would Change/Do Next Time:
- Go to the Arctic Circle and perhaps see some polar bears, if they aren’t extinct by then… We were really craving for some sun and warm weather, so we decided against driving north to the Arctic Circle this time. Something to look forward to in the future!
- Be better prepared for winter weather in the summer. We don’t say this lightly. We’ve brought our wool long johns and down puffies with us, and were still cold camping in the wet, rainy weather. At one point, Kuan layered a pair of rain pants on top of a pair of down puffy pants on top of a pair of Merino thermal long underwear, and she was still not warm enough…
- Spend more time in the backcountry. We learned a lot about how to stay safe in the bear country during this trip, and would love to explore more of the backcountry next time we visit. We were quite jealous of the backpackers with their overnight packs in Denali and the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.
- Visit indigenous communities. We saw quite a few thriving indigenous communities in the neighboring state of Yukon, and were curious what the thriving communities in Alaska look like.
If it was not for the gray sky, cold temperature and constant rain, we would have spent more time in Alaska. Until next time, the Last Frontier. Stay wild!