First off, this trip to Alaska is proof that I’m not an extreme type A must-have-researched type of traveler. My friend Kate and I decided to go to Alaska maybe 5 days before we left. I booked our airbnb and reserved a car 2 days before, got home from a work trip to unpack repack, and headed back out.
So, this person who likes to know alllll the activities and options a place has to offer was sent a message loud and clear. Some of the best experiences just unfold on their own.
First, we arrived 3 weeks after season ended (Sept 1st the locals said), but what a treat that proved to be! High 50’s and the leaves all bright yellow looked beautiful on an Alaskan backdrop of snowcapped mountains and rivers. It was much welcomed considering it was 95 when we left TX. Our airbnb was a “tiny house” that I called a gamble when I sent the listing to Kate before I booked it. What a gem it turned out to be. It was built in the side yard of the owners home that is located in a nature reserve. Here is the link to Renae and Patrick’s little masterpiece:
We had the unique opportunity to arrive, drop our bags, and go walk the dogs with the owner and their 16 year old son. It was a beautiful hike, (they dont just walk the dogs along the gravel road as we had expected) and ended with us strolling through the area blocked off to the public because it’s highly populated with bears catching salmon. Had we not been with the 2 locals we would have missed seeing the hundreds of salmon that had swam upstream and deadended into a pond, and the dozens of scattered salmon pieces along the bank. Remains of a recent feast. We witnessed the only grizzly bear the owner has seen in over 20 years. I’m still not sure what the difference between the other bears and a grizzly is, but he was very excited. Luckily it was across the stream and a good enough distance away that we could hide behind a tree and still watch the massive animal do his thing, presumably leaving salmon leftovers scattered around. We were informed that the bear would have been at least half the size of the Toyota Corolla we rented, which puts things into a much closer perspective. Stories of coming across bears and moose from these locals who were letting us spend our evening with them had all of our attention on the walk back to our humble abode.
We took local recommendations from our Alaskan flight attendants and host as to what we should do with our limited time there, and decided that walking on a glacier is something we needed to accomplish. The 2.5 hour drive to Matanuska glacier was worth it even if you dont see the glacier! We stopped no less than 10 times to take pictures of the landscape on the way.
The glacier appears to just be someone’s property and if you follow the signs ‘to the glacier’ you pull up to a small general store. You have the choice of doing a guided tour for $100 with spikes for your shoes, or paying $25 for the entry and to just walk on the glacier. We did the cheaper option only to be disapointed when we found the ‘do not pass this point’ sign only a short distance after we started walking. We had already signed our live away and decided to ignore it. 2 blondes out walking on a glacier, one in boots and the other in running shoes, what could go wrong? We didn’t go far… but far enough to feel like rebels and satisfied with climbing and sliding around on a glacier.
The glacier is impressive, especially when you consider it is 27 miles long and 4 miles wide! Pair the ice and deep cracks with the backdrop of the mountains and trees and take in the largest glacier in the US accessible by car. The entire morning was just breathtakingly beautiful, and I feel like I took 20 pictures that could have been on postcards. Not because of my photo skills mind you.
Next up on the day we decided we had time to fit in a hike up flat rock mountain. We heard about it from our flight attendant and a tour guide in anchorage when we first arrived. They both spoke of it casually saying ‘it’s a great 360 view from the top’ and ‘it’s the most popular hike around’. Knowing it usually takes 2 hours we figured we could do it in an hour and a half or so. Since it’s the most common hike around and must be fairly easy, right? Wrong.
The trailhead said it was moderate to difficult. Hmmm ok. We are active girls, no problem. It also mentioned ‘rock scrambling’, a term I had never heard before, and falling rocks. The hike is legit yall. Alaskans dont play apparently, and can scale mountains and call it moderate. Seriously, it was strenuous and a moderate incline from the get go. You think you must be reaching the difficult part when they put wooden stairs in so you dont fall off the mountain, but youre not even close! After hiking up switchbacks and stairs, always up, for about an hour we look up to spot the American flag on top of a flat rock and realize we are a very long way from our goal. That flag was just a mear dot, and there was no more trail.
from the bottom to the top-
This would be when I put 2 and 2 together and realized what rock scrambling means! We climbed mostly on all 4s up the side of a mountain promising ourselves that we wouldn’t look down. I may be a little dramatic describing the experience, but if you know me you know I’m not one to quit, mainly out of stubbornness. I definitely asked Kate, ‘do we have to go all the way up to the top?’ Luckily, she’s just as stubborn and competitive and we kept going. The view from the top is pretty epic tho. Since we climbed to 3,350′, below is Anchorage, the ocean, and views of Mt McKinley in the distance.
Then we had to go down, and try not to fall or start a rockslide. Down was much more terrifying. BUT, by all means go hike flat top mountain if you’re in Anchorage. I’m just making sure you’re aware what you’re getting into since no one did that for us!
Unfortunately after dinner and local beer at the Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse and that was the end of our Alaskan adventure. We had to fly back the next day after a homemade breakfast in our airbnb and a stroll up their street.
I definitely want to go back, Alaska is soo large I feel like I need a week minimum to properly explore. I hate we missed the heritage museum in Anchorage (our host said it was good). I would be interested in going to Fairbanks, south to Seward, and doing the lift and wildlife conservation center (we had planned that for our 3rd day), as well as trying fly fishing. Also, depending on the time of year the Northern lights are present in Alaska. We drove to see the seaplanes around Lake Hood in Anchorage, but realllllly wanted to take one up! (so if you are reading this and have a seaplane, message me!)
The last frontier certainly didnt disappoint, and I’m still reeling from the natural beauty that was on display!