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"Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

Ithaca, New York
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"Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

What started out as a solo trip to see my sister has now turned into an RV trip with the whole fam (with 1 3-yr-old and 2 late 50s/early 60s ladies), and we're supposedly going where the wind takes us, but we already know we want to hit Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Kenai Fjords NPs. While we're in the neighborhood, we'd like to stop in Valdez and have opted to drive back to Anchorage as opposed to taking the ferry. Denali and Kenai Fjords are taken care of and reserved, but other than that, nothing else. How do we enjoy W St.-E on a budget and still go into McCarthy (without driving our RV, since we heard we'll most definitely pop a tire), and what else could/should we see/do between Denali and Wrangell and Wrangell and Valdez that's relatively inexpensive ($100-150/person AT MOST)? Will most likely fish off the docks in Valdez - no chartering this time around. Dinner cruises? Hot springs? Glacier hiking? Horseback riding? Anything else??? Anything oddball?? We like quirky!

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Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

Hi, welcome to the forum.

It would help if tell us what you already have planned for Denali and Kenai Fjords, so we don't suggest activities you're already doing.

You could take the shuttle to McCarthy. Or you can fly one way if that doesn't mess too much with your budget: http://www.wrangellsteliastours.com/

No hot springs that I'm aware of along your route. I don't know of any dinner cruises either.

Horseback riding would best be done in Anchorage (or Cooper Landing if you'll be there). Glacier hiking can be done at Matanuska Glacier, Root Glacier, Valdez Glacier, Exit Glacier. Another activity you might try is kayaking, either Seward or Valdez. Out of Valdez you can also kayak amongst icebergs for much less than the Seward trips.

Oddball? How about paragliding at Girdwood? Whitewater rafting at Six Mile?

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Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier
671 Reviews
Kenai Fjords National Park, AK
Seward
Seward
Alaska
fti
MN
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2. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

Welcome to TA. Sounds a lot like my 2-week trip the end of next month. Seward, Denali, Fairbanks, Wrangell/St. Elias, Valdez, then the Matsu Valley.

I am traveling with a 17 year old so I am not sure how it will work with a 3 year old.

I always travel "budget" but that doesn't mean I skimp on excursions. With my last trip, I came up with the term that I "experience" Alaska, not visit or tour Alaska, even though I travel on a very limited budget. And I think there is a huge difference between visiting, touring and experiencing.

Anyway, for Wrangell/St. Elias you can camp at the campground (Glacier View Campground. You can also stay at the Kennicott River Lodge and Hostel, which has a kitchen so you can prepare some of your own meals.

Though I am not sure how well it would work with a small group (some places only take one coupon per day) I would check out the Northern Lights or Toursaver coupon books. I was considering the hostel mentioned above but ended up using a buy one night, get one night free coupon for Ma Johnson's Historic Hotel in McCarthy. Costs about $170 for two people for two nights, so that is only $43/person/night.

You can take a bus/shuttle from Chitina or other towns near there to McCarthy, which is cheaper than flying (or perhaps shuttle one way and fly the other?).

Lots to do "on the cheap" in Alaska. Hiking is always free. Glacier trekking on Matanuska Glacier with Mica Guides costs $45/person plus park entry fee but is not suitable for the 3 year old.

Independence Mine near Palmer is cheap and also nice hiking near there.

Thunderbird Falls is a short hike from the parking lot ($5 parking fee I believe). Eklutna spirit house tours nearby are pretty inexpensive (going next month for the first time so I don't know all the details firsthand).

Stan Stephens has a $112/person glacier tour in Valdez and you can use a toursaver coupon to buy one, get one free.

Denali has lots to do for free or cheap - the visitor center exhibits and film, WAC film, sleddog demos and ranger-led hikes near the entrance are all free. Shuttle bus to mile 15 of the road is also free.

John

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Seward
Seward
Alaska
Alaska
Alaska
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Ma Johnson's Hotel
Ma Johnson's Hotel
241 Reviews
McCarthy, AK
Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska Glacier
405 Reviews
Alaska
Mica Guides
Mica Guides
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Glacier View, AK
USA
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3. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

Ha! Sorry, but forget 6 Mile rafting. It's Level IV & V whitewater, requires a strenuous swim test, & would never allow a 3 year old!

Instead go to the Imaginarium in Anchorage & try to make a bubble that covers your body or a million other quirky fun things.

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Ithaca, New York
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4. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

This is great - thank you. My sister and I actually discussed kayaking in Valdez, but I was kind of weary because of the old Exxon spill way back. I've recently read other posts, though, and have seen and heard things are doing better every year. I think we'll definitely do this. The glacier hikes you mentioned look great, too, and really affordable. We might have to check one of those off our list, too. Funny you mention paragliding - we just got my dad a gift certificate to go for his 60th. That would be phenomenal - I'm going to check it out.

We'll be staying at Teklanika in Denali and taking the bus ride to Kantishna one of the days. We have reservations for the 3-night min. but may only stay 2 nights. This will be the 1st leg of the 7-day trip from Anchorage. Then, we'll do the glacier cruise in Seward after we drop off the RV, on the back leg of the trip. I don't think we get to walk out onto a glacier on the cruise, do we?

Great idea about splitting up the trip to McCarthy by flying AND shuttling. I wasn't aware we could do that. It sounds ideal for us.

Another question... We'll be doing most of our cooking in the RV, but we love to find fantastic whole-in-the-wall eateries where you can find all the locals. Any suggestions along our "route"?

One more... I believe I've heard we should take the route through Delta Junction from Healy to Wrangell. Is that right? More scenic and not too much longer?

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Seward
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Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

"Ha! Sorry, but forget 6 Mile rafting. It's Level IV & V whitewater, requires a strenuous swim test, & would never allow a 3 year old!"

Ummm....neither the whitewater rafting nor paragliding was meant for the 3 year old. Obviously at least one member of the party would have to stay behind and find other things to do in Hope or Girdwood respectively. Same with the glacier hiking.

Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

"Then, we'll do the glacier cruise in Seward after we drop off the RV, on the back leg of the trip. I don't think we get to walk out onto a glacier on the cruise, do we?"

First, there isn't any glacier cruise out of Seward (those are out of Whittier). The Seward cruises that are at least 6 hours long do include a bit of time near a calving glacier. And no, you don't get to walk on the glaciers. They will be calving tons of ice into the water in front of you, and the boats have to stay far enough back to be safe.

Glaciers can be very dangerous. A woman was killed at Exit several years back. There is a sign there warning you not to go past it. When I was there in 2006, a couple of foolish teens went right into one of the ice caves. The glacier could have dropped tons of ice on top of their heads.... Someone was killed at Matanuska a few years ago too. That's why you need a guided hike for those. If you want to play a little bit on a glacier without a guide, try Byron Glacier near Portage Glacier. You can walk out on that a little ways (and the price is right: it's free). It's one of the few places you might find iceworms too. However, you don't get to explore crevasses, etc. like you would on the guided hikes.

"but we love to find fantastic whole-in-the-wall eateries where you can find all the locals. Any suggestions along our "route"?

Well, off the top of my head, Salmon Bake near Exit Glacier.

"One more... I believe I've heard we should take the route through Delta Junction from Healy to Wrangell. Is that right"

I'm not sure what you mean. If you're talking about Denali Hwy, that is between Cantwell and Paxson and you don't go to Delta Junction. That is a scenic route, but be sure your RV company allows you to drive on that gravel road (some do if you keep the speed really low).

If you mean driving up to Fairbanks, then down through Delta Junction, that's also scenic. Maybe stop at Santa Claus House in North Pole for the little one and to mail postcards (postmarked North Pole, of course).

Either route probably takes a similar amount of time (since on Denali Hwy you have to drive slowly) and it would mean you're not doubling back over territory you've just seen on your trip.

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Seward
Seward
Alaska
Santa Claus House
Santa Claus House
734 Reviews
North Pole, AK
Ithaca, New York
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7. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

Heh, heh - thanks for the clarification. You never know what people might do, so you can't be too careful, I guess. I figured we might take turns going paragliding during my nephew's nap or have a free-for-all day if we went rafting, but I don't think any of us are anywhere near being ready for a class IV or V. I'd love to SAY we are, but it sounds like we'll have plenty to keep us busy, anyway.

The Imaginarium sounds like a great place for "littles". Sounds like it'd be fun for the grown-ups, too.

Ithaca, New York
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8. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

fti - I like your style. I feel the same way when I travel, and you've given some wonderful ideas that I haven't heard of yet! I'm going to have to do some more research on them, find out exactly where they are and how they would fit into our "route" and definitely have my sister get out her coupon book (she mentioned it a few months ago). Now that the trip's a mere month away, we better get on the ball. Thank you so much, and I hope you have a wonderful trip, yourself! Cheers~

Ithaca, New York
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9. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

OK, Salmon Bake - definitely going to try that, and it must be Whittier where we catch the glacier cruise. My sister's been living in Anchorage for over a year now, and she's already taken visitors there, so she knows all the details in that area.

I'll have to check into the gravel road thing. I wasn't aware it was gravel, so we might just stick to the main, paved roads for the most part.

The North Pole sounds like a *dream* to a 3-year-old - I LOVE the postmark tidbit.

Wow - this little part of Alaska has so much to offer, I can't believe it. I already knew I was going to have to take at least three or four trips up there (to fulfill my national park quota), but I haven't even been there yet and I can't wait to go back!

Thanks again for all of your wonderful input. I'm loving Trip Advisor - this is great!

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Alaska
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fti
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10. Re: "Going Where the Wind Takes Us"...Sorta

>>Wow - this little part of Alaska has so much to offer, I can't believe it. I already knew I was going to have to take at least three or four trips up there (to fulfill my national park quota), but I haven't even been there yet and I can't wait to go back!

Hmm. I just got back from my twelfth trip to Alaska and still haven't seen all there is to see there!

Several of the national parks in Alaska are VERY remote and it is hard to see even two of them on a single trip unless you have a lot of time and a lot of money!

John

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