Thursday, June 14, 2012

Great Alaskan Road Trip: Photos and a Recap

Now that we are have spent a few days resting and catching up at home, it's time to finally share our trip photos!  I put them in flickr albums for easier access, rather than inserting a ton into the blog format.

Denali National Park Photos
Fairbanks Photos
Talkeetna Photos (this is where we have the best views of Mt. McKinley (Denali)!

Now for a few musings and tips from the trip:

-The entry area to Denali National Park is VERY touristy and geared toward the bus-loads of cruise ship passengers who are on land excursions into the park.  While it's great that those visitors get a chance to see the park, as an independent traveler I felt like a second- class citizen in the eateries and especially the Denali Princess hotel.  I highly recommend staying in the surrounding areas (like the McKinley Creekside Cabins) and driving the extra 15 miles to the park.  We will be taking the train back up in August, and will be without our own vehicle, so I'm sure we'll learn some more tips then for avoiding the cruise ship masses.

-We drove our own car into Denali, just the 13 miles to Savage River that personal vehicles are allowed.  With small kids, it was perfect for seeing enough of the park, even providing a spot for a glimpse of the mountain if the clouds are cooperating, while still being in control of our own schedule.  When we return, we'll try taking the shuttle bus further into the park.  I think the furthest we will attempt is the Eielson Visitor's center, which is 66 miles each way but a 5-6 hour roundtrip.

-Fairbanks was my least favorite destination out of the three because I'm not much for city traffic and driving, but it was the favorite stop of my kids.  They loved Pioneer Park and the Riverboat Discovery. I would spend an extra day in the area if we go back so we cold check out the Chena Lakes recreation area and go on a hike at Angel Rocks, toward Chena Hot Springs.

-Mosquitoes in the Interior are ginormous! No amount of OFF could protect us.  I even have a photo of one biting Little Man right in the middle of the forehead (not staged, of course, just crazy timing of the shutter.)

-Talkeetna is awesome.  It has a great mix of locals and travelers from around the globe.  It's like Homer, only even more laid back (who knew that was possible?!).  We already have another reservation at the Roadhouse for Labor Day weekend, after a visit to the Alaska State Fair.

Would I do that trip alone with the kids again? Absolutely!  The driving was easy, with a 2-lane highway most of the way, and plenty of pit stop locations.  The only thing I would change is my planned driving times.  I did not take into account that Little Man still likes his afternoon naps.  We drove in the mornings and adventured in the afternoons.  Next time, we will be sure to flip that plan.  By Thursday his patience (and mine) was running thin!

Kids doing what they do best!

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