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Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

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Adirondack, New York
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Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

I would like to thank all of you who answered any of my questions I posted here before this trip. You definitely contributed to such unforgettable trip.

This time we visited Anchorage, Valdez, Wrangell-St. Elias NP, Denali NP. Anyone planning trip soon please let me know if you need any information and I'll be more than happy to share the latest observations and personal experiences on the above places.

Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

Hi Places! When I saw your reply to someone yesterday, I thought - oh, good, we'll get a trip report from you soon . . . .and I wanted to hear details!! Where did you stay and eat in Denali, Valdez . . . I love all those kinds of details. Post those when you have a few moments. Glad you had a great trip by the way - you were fortunate to not be rained on as much as others! :)

Adirondack, New York
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2. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

coalminer, our visit to Denali was so fantastic that we certainly won't wait another 12 years before our next visit. It was much more than we expected and we had such gorgeous weather. Tundra in fall colors is what I really wanted to see. It was like seeing a palette of colors in the beginning of October in New England just instead of a colors on trees everything was on a ground under our feet.

We stayed in the cheapest place in the area, Denali Park Hotel. This motel is nothing to write about but it was clean, quiet, had a refrigerator and microwave, plenty of hot water, and a nice view from our window. But it was just a cheap motel so not everyone would be happy with it. We saw Northern Lights on Monday night.

We had one dinner at Mile 229 restaurant. The other night we returned from the park at 9 pm. After all day on a bus, a couple of hikes including one long we were too tired to go to Black Diamond for dinner so we just grabbed something from Subway. And we never eat at any fast food places.

I'm not sure about a trip report. I think trip reports are more interesting when written by those who visit Alaska for the first time. But as you already maybe noticed I 'm always willing to answer questions on the areas I'm familiar with.

How was your trip?

Healy, Alaska
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3. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

oh, places - trip reports are great by anyone, I think . . .especially returnees, as you notice changes, good and bad and see things a bit differently, but your replies on the forum are very helpful as well and I hope you continue to do that. So how was your meal at 229?? I hope it was good! Yes, the tundra colors are so amazing and difficult to describe to people. I remember a young couple from India that visited last fall during the labor day weekend were just so amazed - they had never experienced fall colors like that and were so glad that they came North to see the Park.

I had a great little trip - nice escape before snow flies! The trees are changing rapidly . . . but I always hope that snow won't fly until October, though I usually don't get my wish!

When you come up next, we'll have to meet up - just let me know! :)

Adirondack, New York
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4. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

coalminer, as to changes after 12 years, I expected more glitter at the entrance of Denali NP. I actually was pleased with some changes but all those big signs advertising sales or opening times (Subway) are not really needed in such natural ideal setting.

Regarding Mile 229, I don't know how to put this gently because I know how much you enjoy this restaurant. I hope you won't mind I write about our experience that has not been too positive. Food was good but service very disappointing. It seems the most dinners that evening were locals which, in our opinion, is usually a very good sign. However, we were completely ignored as two waitresses who worked that evening and other people who were continuously coming out of the kitchen were too busy hugging and chatting with arriving or leaving local patrons. First we waited for our salads for ever but this is not a big deal. Soon after that our dinner arrived as we were only beginning to eat our salads. I had a grilled halibut and one piece was perfect but the other one extremely dried as if it was grilled twice. Our waitress asked, while flying by, whether everything was good but never waited for our answer. Finally, my glass was never refilled with water. My husband asked for it three times and it finally arrived but after we finished our meal. Would I return to this place? Maybe, since you always have a great meal there and I hope this was an unique evening and people who work there and own this place usually pay more attention to visitors. I apologize for such negative review.

pine hill, nj
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5. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

I was wondering where you stayed in Valdez? We are looking at Blueberry Mary's, or Wild Roses by the Sea. What did you do in Valdez, and how long did you stay in Valdez, and the whole vacation? We are looking at the same places as above, (Valdez being the only new town to visist), and maybe Homer. Everyone on this site chose Valdez over Homer. Any input? Thanks

Adirondack, New York
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6. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

tripgirl74, I just lost a long answer for you. Will try to rewrite sometime today. It is a tough choice between Homer and Valdez. Both towns have magnificent settings.

Are you planning your second trip to Alaska next year? What month?

How many days are you going to have for a whole trip?

How many days do you want to spend in Valdez or Homer?

We love Valdez for hiking. We love Homer for bear watching trips with Emerald Air Service, whale watching trip with Rainbow Tours and many other endless activities.

Healy, Alaska
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7. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

places: I am so sorry to hear about your dining experience - man, I would have been ticked, esp w/those prices. I once had only so/so service, partly I figured it was the waitress, and also because I was a local (ie: I would probably be more understanding that they were busy), but service like that is unexcuseable. I just had one similar on my recent trip . . . . a simple snack that took an incredibly long time to arrive with a very scattered/non-attentive waitress. I so wish this had been different for you.

Also, where did you stay at in Valdez and how was the dining? I haven't been here in several years.

tripgirl: places is correct - it's more about what you want to do, but also there is a big size/population difference to these places. Valdez is much smaller than Homer - so Homer will have more choices of lodging/dining, but also more traffic, etc. Both are very beautiful . . . .maybe a few days in each?? :)

pine hill, nj
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8. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

Hi coalminer and Places. I just came across a post from you coalminer in a Hawaii forum. Thought that was pretty funny. This will be my 3rd trip to Alaska June17-29.My first trip was Kennecott, Denali, Seward and Anchorage. The second time was 5 days at Iceberg Lake, 2 1/2 days in Anchorage. I want to go bear viewing again. The first time we went out of Soldonta(spelling?),but it was more of a fishing trip with a bear that just happened to come around and entertain us. I have been in contact w/Emerald Air, and they seem like real nice people. They told me I should do my bear viewing as early as I can(I told them my dates)when arrive. So that being said, that's what's throwing a loop in my plans. I don't think I can fit both Homer and Valdez. I wrote on post(I think you responded Coalminer)that I was thinking t0drive right from the airport, right to Homer. I know it's a long day, especially from flying all day, but I think that's the best way. Last year my husband and I flew to Edmonton(total of 11 hours travel time)and drove to Jasper which was about a 4 hour drive. If I have to delete something from my itinerary, I can probably forgo Kennicott again. I may be giving something up, but I'm gaining 2 places that I have not seen. So here's what I am thinking:

Arrive 6/17 in Anc, drive to Homer.

6/18 bear viewing and explore(take advantage of the long daylight).

6/19explore Homer and drive to Girdwood(missed this too last time).

6/20 dog sledding in Girdwood hike.

6/21explore, hike, or maybe drive down to Seward for the day.

6/22 drive to Healy(that's where we'll be staying)5-6+ hours of driving time. Probably stop by Talkeetna and maybe do a scenic flight(may do one out of Chitina instead to see the Wrangle's).

6/23Hike. Maybe get a pass to Polychrome Pass, or just do some hiking near enterance.

6/24 Tour all the way to Kantishna. I am not much on tours, but I did enjoy this last time, and we saw tons of wildlife. If not I'll get a pass again. Not sure yet(I'm still on crutches right now so it's hard to think about hiking).

6/25 Drive the Denali Hwy and go to Valdez. I know long long long day.Last time we did Chitina to Healy, and the views were amazing. So I kinda thought I'd like to see the views from the opposite direction. I'm looking at Wild Roses by the Sea or Blueberry Mary's. Both go good reviews, however I was looking for a local's opinion.

6/26 Kayak

6/27 Recoup from kayak(it's my birthday). Hike, explore.

6/28drive back to Anchorage.

6/29 depart.

I wish I could have just 1 more day in there, but to get the airfare I had to do it this way(deal of the century from Delta rt from Philadelphia to Anchorage $267.00, so I guess it's worth it).

I am totally open to all itineraries and suggestions. I have not booked anything, however I know I have to get moving in the next 2 weeks. Obviously we love nature,scenery, wildlife, little adventure, and hiking even if I can't my husband can still go. Thanks very much for your input. It's pretty funny, I'm leaving for Hawaii in 1 month, and I'm not nearly as excited as going back to Alaska.

Adirondack, New York
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9. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

Coalminer, don't worry. We never expect everything has to be perfect while travelling. We travel all over the world and a long time ago we learned that to fully enjoy traveling we have to be flexible and sometimes ignore some things or laugh about things that are not so funny to someone else.

We had a fantastic time in Denali and as I mentioned already we were pleasantly surprised that Glitter Gulch wasn't as glittery as we expected. We even enjoyed our food from Subway after a long day in the park. The fall colors of tundra in Denali and near Valdez took my breath away. Next time we'll be staying at least for four nights in the area. Until this trip I never realize what an amazing natural treasure Denali National Park is.

Also next time will be staying in the motel in Healy and trust we can meet you. I wish we could stay in one of the lodges in the park but because of my husband's health issues we have to be always prepared for canceling our whole trips or part of them at the last moments.

You asked about accommodations in Valdez. We always stayed outside Valdez in a little rustic chalet but I always hesitate to recommend it to out of state visitors. Unfortunately once a while inexperienced travelers are disappointed with such rustic accommodation. We love it though and always prepared our meals there.

This year we stayed in Best Western because we made last moment arrangements and it was only overnight stay with a main goal of doing laundry. It is almost our ritual to do laundry in Valdez at 6 am or earlier.

We never found any worthy to return places to eat in Valdez.

This year we ate once in Mike's Palace. It was just a clam chowder and pizza. Not bad at all but still can't figure out what the name "palace" refers to. This is definitely not any palace.

I noticed in another post you highly recommend the Sheep Mountain Lodge on Glen Highway. We stayed in this place two nights I think two years ago and loved every moment there.

Thank you again for all your help and comments.

Adirondack, New York
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10. Re: Just returned today from another successful trip to Alaska

Tripgirl, I read your posts and have some comments and suggestions, if you don't mind. Before I post a couple of them I want to check some of my notes on Valdez and Homer.

Don't give up on including Homer in your itinerary. I think you should go with Coalminer's suggestion and include both, Homer and Valdez, and maybe you can go to Wrangell-St. Elias next time.

My husband and I went many times with Emerald Air on bear watching trips and once with another company. All I can say is, if you want amazing, unforgettable experience and endless photos to amaze yourself while looking at these pictures long after your trip is over, then don't give up on taking this trip. I highly recommend Emerald Air, they are as professional as no other company but you have to book them months in advance as they are fully booked very early. Every time we travel with them we see about 40-50 bears or more and many of them just a few feet away from us. With other company we saw only 4 bears for the same $$$.

If your husband is interested in ice climbing then he can do it from Valdez on Worthington Glacier with Panagaea Adventures. We never used them for this activity but only their water taxi service for transfer to a remote cabin in Shoup Bay Park. I only have this number for them 1-800-660-9637.

Sea kayaking from Homer is wonderful. If you want to see plentiful wildlife then Homer won't disappoint you.

I know, you are having hard time to decide what places to include or not include in your itinerary but what I learned is to plan two trips to Alaska at the same time. This year while planing our last trip I also planned our 2007 trip that is going to include a few days visits to Cordova and Nome.