Driving Through Alaska | August 2021
I don't know if I have anything bad to say about Alaska - it was the trip my soul was craving. No kids, beautiful mountains, cold weather and hot coffee every morning - I could have stayed forever (except that the need to see my babies kicked in hard about day 5).
If you read this because you are planning a trip to Alaska - then you know how much there is to see and do. One week there wasn't nearly enough time, but we managed to cover Fairbanks to Homer and see some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
We started our journey in Fairbanks, Alaska which is 198 miles south of the Arctic Circle. We were coming from Portland, Oregon - where we had been averaging 95 degree heat - my least favorite weather. So when we landed in Fairbanks to cold, rainy weather - I was one happy traveller. Traveling in true Brighton style, we stopped at the liquor store first (vacation without kids!) and the grocery store for snacks second and then hit the road.
Our first hotel was Chena Hot Springs, about an hour and a half north east of Fairbanks. The drive meandered through Chena River State Recreation Area, which also happens to be the only place on our entire trip where we saw a moose (we were really excited about that!). The rest of the trip was a little anxiety ridden, since shortly after the moose, I lost all cell signal and couldn't access the directions. But if you make the journey, take a breath at this point - the road will literally dead end at the resort.
After seeing almost no other car on the almost two hour journey, we were shocked to see that this little hotel was packed full of people enjoying the ice museum, the cabins and of course - the hot springs. A quaint hotel - to had everything we needed to enjoy the night and honestly, I could have stayed anywhere without the kids and felt like I was living the life of luxury - my standards have lowered tremendously! After making friends with the dinner host and skipping the long line, we enjoyed one of the best steaks we have ever had.
I woke up early to enjoy hot coffee before we went and soaked in the hot springs to avoid the crowds. Travel tip: go when they open at 7 AM, otherwise you are bumping shoulders. We had almost the entire pool to ourselves and could relax until breakfast. Before heading south, we visited the Ice Museum, which is open 365 days a year and serves a mean appletini in a hand carved martini glasses.
We headed to Denali next, which might have been my most favorite part of the trip. Mountains that seemed to touch the sky and scenery that looked like an oil painting. McKinley Creekside Cabins were incredibly beautiful and I was genuinely sad to only have one night there.
Just on the south side of the Denali National Park entrance - lies the little resort. We stayed in the hotel block and the rooms were so clean and smelled brand new. But we made our way to the creek side and sat until the sun went down with hot buttered rums. I would be lying if we didn't try and brainstorm ways to become the owners of this resort - it was that beautiful.
From Denali we went to Alyeska, a beautiful ski resort east of Anchorage. This was our luxurious stay - with three restaurants, a spa and big, beautiful scenic rooms - we relaxed and enjoyed no kids for a bit. But, the adventure bug bit here as well when we noticed red helicopter after red helicopter flying by our window. Interested, we looked into it - where we booked our only excursion of the trip - a glacier tour with dog sled ride - and it did not disappoint!
We flew through Alpine Air Alaska, located at the Girdwood airport. Small helicopters for a private tour through the Chugach mountain range to Punchbowl Glacier to a remote base camp of an Iditarod winning dog sled team! We met the dogs and got to go for a thrilling (but short) dog sled ride to the end of the glacier and take amazing photos. If you wanted to splurge on an adventure, this is the one. So many fun things packed into a few hours - we were more than happy with our spur of the moment decision!
While you are at Alyeska, be sure to ride the tram to the top of the ski slopes for panoramic views of the Chugach mountains and a peek of the Turnagain Arm. We grabbed beers and enjoyed the sunshine.
From Girdwood, we made the long drive down the Kenai peninsula to Homer, where we visited the Salty Dawg Saloon, had delicious fish tacos and caught the water taxi to Seldovia for the next couple of nights. In Seldovia we stayed at Between Beaches, an Air BNB that had been on my bucket list for a couple of years. I couldn't resist the bay views from either end of the cabin and it didn't disappoint. We packed our own food, made bonfires on the beach, kayaked with the sea otters and soaked in a wood fired hot tub. I could have stayed there forever and if there had been property for sale on the McDonald Spit, I would have convinced my husband to purchase a vacation home.
After the painful good bye of Seldovia, we drove back up the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage where we stayed in the historic Captain Cook Hotel in downtown. We walked to the famous Club Paris for dinner and had filet mignons bigger than my head to celebrate our last night in Alaska.
Any trip without kids is a luxury. Hot food, hot coffee, a full nights sleep - it doesn't take much to make a happy mama. But this trip was more then that - I felt so at home here and am so glad we went through with this trip, despite everything going on right now.
If I could give you any advice about Alaska: GO! It doesn't have to be for long - every inch we saw was wild and beautiful and worth seeing.