Alaska: the final frontier. A while back, my friend Amy told me she’s been wanting to go to Alaska, and I responded that Alaska has been on my list too (then again, everything is on my list). Soon enough, we were planning a trip for this summer. Since Alaska is a gigantic state, four times the size of California(!), we had to be pretty selective about what we wanted to see, so we focused our efforts on two national parks: Kenai Fjords National Park and Denali National Park.We decided to fly to Anchorage and rent a car for a week-long road trip, first going southward to Kenai and then doubling back and going northward for Denali. Here’s the picture-perfect first half of our trip below!
We arrived in Anchorage in the early afternoon and made our first stop at Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop but hopped across the parking lot to Anchorage Brewing Company for some pizza.
Our ride for the week! We headed south toward the Kenai Peninsula.
Rain in the distance. A bit misty along the way, but absolutely beautiful.
We arrived in Seward and checked in and then came back out to see this beautiful rainbow over the harbor!
Our first dinner: Chinooks.
Yes to all the fish!
The next morning, we hopped aboard the National Park Tour cruise we had booked through Alaska Collection. We basically hoped to see a bit of the Kenai Fjords National Park by boat, expected to see a glacier, hoped to see a puffin, and that’s about it. It far exceeded our expectations!
We saw so much wildlife on this cruise! Puffins were everywhere! They are very fat and not very good at flying, but they try anyway! I also spotted a couple jellyfish…
Two orcas were hunting right near the boat. This one came so close!
So many birds. Besides puffins and seagulls we also saw cormorants and common murres. Also otters and Steller sea lions!
A glacier, as promised.
And just before we were returning to the harbor, our second humpback whale sighting! See the tiny little black dot in the distance?
Our captain was awesome and gave us a play by play of our whale sighting, prepping us to see the tale bid us farewell! The perfect finale.
I painting all our wildlife sightings! So fun.
And then we headed to the Alaska SeaLife Center, where we got to see some of these animals up close! Here’s a sea lion.
A bit about different types of salmon! And a tide pool. The SeaLife Center also rescues and rehabilitates marine animals like otters.
Walking around the shops of Seward.
And a small loop hike around Two Lakes Trail.
Dinner: The Highliner Restaurant. More seafood!
And finally, our last day in Kenai, we checked out of our motel and headed to the Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier. We happened to be there for a ranger-led hike, so we got a nice intro to bear safety: talk constantly, be an obvious human, wave your hands, and if charged, play dead with brown bears and fight for your life with black bears. Never turn your back and run. All very reassuring! But in the end, we saw zero bears in Alaska, even when we were later hoping to spot them from the safety of our vehicle. Oh well, after seeing the bear on my trail in Shenandoah I’d be ok with zero more bear encounters in my life.
The hike starts flat through the woods and then begins an ascent up the mountain.
We came all the way up here with the group, but then we kept going up! In all, we did about 8.2 miles, with over 3000′ of elevation gain.
Wildflowers! I loved seeing these fireweed plants all over Alaska. They really add such a distinctive pop of color to the landscape.
Huffing and puffing up the mountain is one thing, but I struggled the most coming back down when all my toes were blistered and then I rolled an ankle. But it’s ok, I made it down, and I’m fine now!
Gorgeous views on the drive back north.
Then we stayed the night in Girdwood, a ski resort town in the winter. And we got ready to go further north to our next national park: Denali! Stay tuned for part two!
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Part 1: One Week in Alaska | Kenai | Part 1 of 2