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Alaska, USA

Sadly our time in America was coming to an end. We had spent a total of  2.5 months in this incredibly diverse country and our last stop was Alaska. This state is the largest in the US, in fact it is twice the size of Texas, yet only a small amount of it is accessible by road. We arrived in Anchorage, hired a car and started planning a 7 day adventure:

PS: we realise that there is a lot of script in this post but the following information is EXTREMELY INTERESTING and VITAL to anyone even thinking of visiting Alaska…

Alaska landscape is stunning every direction you look!!!

Alaska landscape is stunning every direction you look!!!

:: Camping In Alaska

We didn’t research much accommodation before arriving in Alaska so along with hiring a car we decided that the easiest place to stay would be in a Tent. We went to Walmart and bought one, as well as a mattress, pillows and a couple of camping chairs. Camping is so popular in Alaska in summer, in fact you can’t camp in the winter because a lot of Alaska basically shuts down. There are some great camping sites, some of which are free and some of which you have to pay! But go to the visitor centre in Anchorage and ask for a 50cent map of Alaskan Campsites (very handy).

With maps in hand our navigator is ready to roll...

With maps in hand our navigator is ready to roll...

As fun as camping was, we actually spent 7 days freezing and were regularly drenched by downpours of rain at night. As a result Elissa’ request for the last night in Alaska was to stay in a cute log cabin perhaps even one with a little fireplace (Pete promised). Instead we ate dry bread and sat in the rain with a campfire that blew smoke in our eyes because the wind and rain would not allow it to take off.

Dinner on our last night in America was not quite what Lis had in mind!!!

Dinner on our last night in America was not quite what Lis had in mind!!!

There's is nothing wrong with Pete's fire building skills!!!

There's is nothing wrong with Pete's fire building skills!!! ps: Elissa enjoyed the first few nights camping...

:: Anchorage to Homer

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska (Juneau is the Alaskan capital) yet in comparison to where we had been felt like a small and sparse town. To be honest most of the action was out of Anchorage so we decided to get on the road and make our way to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula – a cute seaside town but better yet, the best place to take a seaplane into Lake Clark National Park and Reserve to find Grizzly Bears.

Homer spit is where a lot of restaurants, campsites and boating goes on.

Homer spit is where a lot of restaurants, campsites and boating goes on.

:: Alaska Bear Viewing Tours

The Grizzly Bear Tours by seaplane are very expensive and get booked up really early so if you did want to do one, its best to organise it a couple of weeks before arriving in Homer. We arrived and were just very lucky that a guy called Charlie had some room on his plane and could take us at only a day’s notice. The total cost of the tour was $300 US per person to go to Lake Clark National Park and Reserve . The tour was about 5 hours in total – one hour either side in the seaplane and then 3 hours walking in the path of Grizzly’s.

Lis comparing her footprint with a local grizzly bear

Lis comparing her footprint with a local grizzly bear

A grizzly bear popping his/her head up to see what's going on

A grizzly bear popping his/her head up to see what's going on

Other tours fly to Katmai, where you can see the grizzlies catching salmon as they fly up the waterfall but apart from the being too expensive (around $600USD per person 5hrs) it also seemed a little too staged because you stand on a man made boardwalk with lots of other tourists and see the bears from a safe distance. Kodiak Island is another place where you can fly to see them, but then there is no guarantee there.

We saw a few grizzly bears in such a serene environment, it was incredible.

We saw a few grizzly bears in such a serene environment, it was incredible.

Although we didn’t get quite as close as we would have liked to these amazing creatures (our closest was 150m), it was so amazing to be seeing cubs with their mothers or other loners just going about their own business. A couple of times the bears seemed to take an interest in us, but usually poked their heads up from grazing on their pristine prairie, took a peak, smelt the air and then resumed grazing.

Grizzly mum and her cub smelling the air. They have one of the best senses of smells of all mammals.

Grizzly mum and her cub smelling the air. They have one of the best senses of smells of all mammals.

:: Homer to Seward

Following our thrilling Bear viewing experience we drove to another sea side town on the Katmai Peninsula called Seward. It is named after the William Seward (Secretary of State) who purchased Alaska from the Russian’s for $7.2million in 1867. After the Russians had collected the fur from as many sea otters they could, they figured the area wasn’t worth much. They obviously didn”t know of the enormous Oil and Gas reserves Alaska had. Seward is an interesting town especially if you are into your fishing. We saw loads of chartered fishing vessels return with huge catches of mainly Halibut and Salmon. We were there (early July) for the start of the salmon run, when the millions of salmon swim back from the sea up the rivers to spawn.

Silver salmon catch from one of the many fishing charters out of Seward

Silver salmon catch from one of the many fishing charters out of Seward

:: Fishing in Alaska

Fishing all over Alaska is popular at this time of year. Thousands of recreational fisherman come to Alaska to catch (or net) themselves a salmon or six (daily limit of 6 silver salmon, 2 King salmon and 2 halibut). Before you drop a line you definitely need to get a fishing license to avoid a fine. Non-resident license: 1 day – $20, 3days – $35, 7 days – $55, 14 days – $80, year $145 ($USD).

Fisherman using nets to haul in the salmon swimming upstream. Netting can only be done for a short time of year. By The Shaw think its cheating.

Fisherman using nets to haul in the salmon swimming upstream. Netting can only be done for a short time of year. By The Shaw think its cheating.

:: Denali National Park and Preserve

Pete had some luck with the fishing, unfortunately no Salmon but a ‘massive’ fish called a Grayling…. in Denali National Park.

Pete and his big catch

Pete and his big catch

Denali is located north of Anchorage (3-4hrs by car) and is a beautiful national park. It contains what is known as Alaskan landscape’s most impressive feature – Mount McKinley which is 20,320 feet or 6,194metres high. It is also home for loads of wildlife. You can drive in and camp at the Denali but most of the area can only be accessed on a guided bus tour. It was on this tour that we saw more Grizzly Bears as well as Fox, Caribou and Dall Sheep (unfortunately no wolves). Any visit to Alaska should include a visit to Denali.

Us enjoying Denali National Park.

Us enjoying Denali National Park.

Just a couple of random shots below but please check out the gallery for more!

How does one fall asleep ON A SEAPLANE IN ALASKA?????

How does one fall asleep ON A SEAPLANE IN ALASKA?????

Our camping neighbours building a fold-out boat!! It packs up to be the size of a malibu.

Our camping neighbours building a fold-out boat!! It packs up to be the size of a malibu.

In finishing on Alaska By The Shaw totally endorses a visit to this beautiful American State. It has adventure, relaxation and beauty everywhere you look.

In finishing with the USA as a whole we think its certainly one of the most interesting countries in the world. It is so diverse that we understand why a lot of Americans don’t travel very much abroad, because they have such fantastic and huge backyard themselves to explore. The Americans we met along our way were extremely friendly, generous and welcoming. We had a blast there!

Check out more photos of Alaska….please

  • Robbiecrusso

    Cockle shell……

    How goes the travel?

    It pleases me greatly to know you are still alive.

    Melbourne is a slightly quieter place in your absence.

    Hopefully you brought the noise to the States.

  • CJ

    Nice work Pete. I went to Denali and saw wolves but no bears.

  • Thanks Chris, seeing wolves is a coup…. great to hear

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