Leaving the Lower 48

It started as a joke about saving $14 per plane ticket and ended up being one heck of an adventure. Six months ago we were looking for a vacation spot to link up with Dad and Elaine and we decided to look for something more outdoorsy not knowing what the ‘Rona would allow for. We had tickets to Jackson Hole Airport in the shopping cart but before we clicked “buy it now” we peeked at fares to ANC. Much to our surprise, it was a few bucks cheaper to fly all the way to Anchorage. Easy decision! See ya lower 48!

Turned out to be an epic trip by all accounts, something that we’ll remember for a lifetime. We found a great house in Girdwood and set up shop for 10 days. We alternated our days between more organized adventures and letting Meredith pick the most grueling hikes she could find, attempt to downplay them, then let us work ourselves to exhaustion to see some of the most picturesque views in the area.

The first of such hikes was a 2.5 mile climb up 2,087 feet to get a sandwich and a huge “Welcome to Alaska” view on Mt Alyeska. We all made it and once we caught our breath, it was all smiles at the top. We even caught a free gondola ride down to the car. What a deal.

The following day it was back into Anchorage to hop into a 1958 de Havilland piloted by Bruce who likely had some 20,000 hours of time flying bush planes. We took off from the seaport side of ANC and headed up to Denali National Park where despite some clouds, we were treated to epic views of the glacier fields and mountains. And, because why not, we (Bruce) set the floats down on a little lake so we could stretch our legs and snaps some pics.

When we got back home to Girdwood, Will and I snuck out on what would become our daily ritual of evening fishing. We found a spot less than 1/4 mile from our house where the clear waters of the California Creek teed into the fast flowing Glacier Creek and hundreds of pink salmon hung out. Because the sun set around 11:30pm, there was always a little daylight to try our luck each night.

Day three was another “lace up yer boots” day where we hiked Crow Pass up to Crystal Lake and back clocking another 6 miles and 2,000 foot climb. After the hike the kids tried their luck at panning for gold and we relaxed, had some dinner, listened to some live music, and got to see Dad and Elaine dust off some of their dancing skills.

Next was a split adventure for land lovers and pirates of the sea. Mere, Dad, and Sophia headed out on horseback while Will, Elaine, and I tried our luck on the Kenai with Adam from Five Dogs Fishing out of Cooper Landing. The earth people and sea people all had a blast. Elaine proved to be a red hot good luck talisman and couldn’t stop catching Dollys or trophy sized rainbows. After some coaching from Adam, we mastered the Kenai Flip and pulled in enough sockeye have a feast with extra to ship home.

Our next big adventure was a train to Whittier where we hopped on a boat and made our way into the fjords of Prince William Sound. The day started out super cloudy with visibility dropping to under 1/2 mile at times but it made for a serene experience. We saw plenty of harbor seals and otters as we cruised the Harriman and College Fjords. Visibility lifted as the day went on and we marveled at the sheer size of the glaciers.

The rest of the trip was spent spending quality time together while exploring the area around the Turnagain Arm and Kenai Peninsula. Hikes were had. Afternoon coffees led to evening cocktails. Feasts were cooked and washed down with wine. We made it to Seward, visited the local brewery in Girdwood, and walked a few more miles in between. Will even got his much anticipated axe lesson and lived to tell about it.

On the last day, we said our goodbyes, boarded our separate planes (after watching a moose walk down the sidewalk in Anchorage!), and headed back to our respective homes thankful for the time spent together and eager for the next adventure whether it be big or small. As the plane climbed out and made its eastbound turn, we were given one last parting shot of our adventure as we flew over the Harriman Fjord glaciers we had seen by boat just a few days earlier.