A Travellerspoint blog

Alaska Part Two

Denali Denali Denali

sunny 87 °F

Part Two- Denali
Our arrival in Denali found us basking in 75 degree weather and beautiful blue skies punctuated by high cirrus clouds. On our first day we joined the 30% club, the 30% of visitors who actually saw the summit of Mt. McKinley. Our providential streak of clear days would continue for the next three days as we explored the park even though these high temperatures kept the animal activity to a minimum until the end of our stay.
We took the “luxurious camper bus” back to Wonder Lake. The trip lasted five hours in our school bus which had several of the back rows removed to make room for bikes, tents, and the massive back-packs that many of us were hauling. On this initial foray into the camp we saw, Dahl Sheep, caribou, and two bears on a distant ridgeline. It whet our appetite for things to come! At about 7:30PM we arrived at Wonder Lake and encountered the hordes of our mortal enemy for the first time, the dreaded Alaskan Mosquito. Thanks Justin for the heads up on the trip MVP- Most Valuable Purchase- Mosquito head net. It was the bomb! We laughed as the mosquitoes pelted the fine protective mesh around our faces to no avail.CIMG4673.jpg
During the next several days we completed several hikes, one of about 13 miles down to the Moose Creek Valley through deep willow brush and tundra. The three major highlights of this part of the trip were: 1)seeing Mount McKinley almost constantly, 2)Flightseeing, 3)the Grizzly Encounter, and 4) the people we met.

1.Mount McKinley is so huge that initially it is difficult to find. A “lower” ridge of mountains stands between the campground and it. These mountains rise to a height of around 13,000 feet but pale in the shadow of “The Big One.” I tried to point out the summits peaking out of the clouds to Sara, but at first it was difficult to see because of the sheer whiteness of the summit as well as the great height above the first range. When Sara finally saw it, its proportion and majesty truly stunned her and kept us both in a state of amazement.
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2. On our third day, after resting at the confluence of Moose and Eureka creek (and looking for gold). We met Matt from Kantishna Air taxi and discussed the possibility of a flightseeing tour of the mountain. By the time he returned from his errand, we were ready to commit to a flight that evening. As we flew high over the 6 million acre park toward the mountain we were rewarded by ever clearer and nearer views of the glaciers and peaks surrounding the summit. Bright blue pools of water dotted the glaciers reflecting the blue sky overhead. Sharp toothed ridges shrouded in snow stood out vividly as we circled the mountain. We saw the climber’s base camp which appeared as a fragile inhabited miniature on the sheer slope of the mountain. We discovered in Anchorage that two climbers had died there that week. We flew to within about 1,000 feet of the summit. At the apex of our flight we saw the scattered clouds far below us framing the beauty of the isolated crests of the peak.CIMG4725.jpg
3. We had only seen two bears from about two miles away until our final trip out of the park. We were loaded on the camper bus, and we saw a Grizzly coming out of the brush on the north side of the main park road. It was about 50 yards away. Our driver advised us to lower our windows before we got closer and stay quiet to avoid scaring the bears! Soon two cubs followed the first bear out of the brush. The "momma" bear began to scratch her back and top of her head on the "Sable Pass 3,000 ft " sign. Soon the cubs were copying her. It was an itching frenzy. Next, the momma bear began chewing the sign to pieces. Chunks of wood were flying and sticking in her fur. Finally, she led the cubs toward the bus where they all scratched their backs on the side of the bus before heading to the south side of the road into a small stand of aspen-like trees. The momma bear stood on two legs and reached with her front legs to hold the tree steady behind her. She bagan to sway and scratch again using the tree as a back scratcher. One cub joined her on the left and the second cub soon joined her on the right. All three were scratching and swaying and shaking their hips. After they had scratched all their itches they headed south into the brush and were gone.
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More to come in the next installment… the people.
Sara and Mike

Posted by tourdeflor 19:48 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (2)

Alaska Part One

Mission- Journey to Alaska. Evade death by Bear or Mosquito. Return Safely. Status- COMPLETED.

sunny 75 °F

Miles traveled approximately 5,000. First Installment.
Sara and I have returned from Alaska after a fantastic eight days. First of all, mad props to Alaska Airlines. They helped put some joy back in flying. The service was great. Their planes were new, comfortable, and spacious. Not to mention the young man who shared our row had on an Insectosaurus T-Shirt!! The staff helped us get on earlier flight to avoid a long lay-over and even helped us deal with a chronic high decibel snorer. After landing in Anchorage, we were stunned by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and trees. We started off taking a lot of pictures while we adjusted to the Alaskan environs.
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Highlights of the First Three days…
The first highlight was Glacier Brew house in Anchorage. Their microbrews were delicious and the halibut fantastic. The ambiance was very Alaskan with great amounts of wood and a stone fireplace in the center of the restaurant.
Second highlight: Drive to Kenai Peninsula. The drive to Kenai took us through the Turnagain Arm and down the peninsula. We were surrounded by snow-capped peaks and clear blue mountain lakes. We saw our first big game- moose. Each turn brought new vistas, each more beautiful than the last.CIMG4562.jpg
Third highlight was the Seward cruise on Major Marine. The cruise took us on a circuit of Resurrection bay and a few of the surrounding islands and glaciers. The cool sea air and sunny skies made for ideal cruising. The onboard prime rib and salmon buffet delighted our taste-buds. Sara and I viewed an astonishing variety of wild-life during the cruise, the largest being Dahl Porpoise, Stellar Sea lion, and Harbor seal. We also saw an abundance of Sea Otters. A great variety of all birds accompanied us on the whole voyage. (puffins, pettiwakes, bald eagle, etc.) At several points the porpoise played alongside the boat showering us with spray and giving us a close up view of their athleticism and playfulness. The cruise had seen a humpback whale the previous day, but we did not have the luck to see them on our cruise. Killer whales also cruise this waters, but our cruise did not see any. CIMG4570.jpg
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This amazing gathering of sea life is brought about by the unique combination of factors on the coast of southern Alaska. 1. Deep Glacier cut bays and inlets. Resurrection bay, for example, is over 500 feet deep. 2. The runoff from the snow and local rivers dumps a great amount of nutrients into these waters every year. 3. Fierce tidal and summer storm energy stirs the nutrients in the summer as the amazing wealth of sunlight shines down on these waters (about 20 hours of daylight) at this time of year. This brings about a great phytoplankton and zooplankton bloom during Alaskan summer which forms the base of ocean food pyramid. This provides food for the herring as they spawn and their fry (a baby herring) afterward. The sea lions and porpoise feast on the herring. Even humpback whales get in on the action. They can eat up to 1,000 lbs of herring a day. This summer explosion of life extends more than a thousand miles out to sea as the summer progresses creating a wealth of life of greater mass than is contained in the Amazon!!
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Just to whet your appetite, next installment…Denali and the two American cultures we discovered there.
God Bless,
Alaska part two to come soon.

Posted by tourdeflor 09:42 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Alaska Part Three

Third and final entry on Alaska -- a look at the people.

overcast 70 °F

The people….are proud of their state and protective of their environment. They inspired us to be more aware of ours. Alaska has its own culture of sorts. The people are generous and friendly. They live in small communities and have learned to rely on each other in a way that many of us have gotten away from due to having resources at our fingertips. They also love to talk about the uniqueness of their state. From talking to Alaskans, I now know more fun facts about Alaska than any other state, including my own. I know the five type of salmon that spawn there every year (by their real name and their nickname), the state bird, flag, The Big Five found there, Iditarod history, and what to do if I encounter a Grizzly bear as it differs from if I encounter a black bear in the Alaskan wilderness. The people’s enthusiasm for their state definitely leaves visitors wanting for more.
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The dollar bill on the pizzeria pub wall said it best: “TRIP” (Traveling Right Into Poverty). Ah… exactly what Mike and I had in mind! Apart from the locals, the traveler’s there also seemed to harbor their own culture. Everyone talked to everyone curious about what brought them to the last frontier, Alaska. During our time there, we ended up exchanging emails and addresses with at least 3 different people, offered a place to stay by 3 people, and offered a ride by another. We danced the night away with yet another couple we met eating pizza and exchanged stories of travels past. Mike and I felt right at home in a room full of people that had the same passion for traveling that we do. It was magnificent to experience so many people at once who made traveling a way of life in which they are able to learn, grow, and gain an understanding of others and the world around them. They were excited about their life and happy to be where they were…..it was really good feeling to share a room with them.
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Posted by tourdeflor 08:16 Comments (0)

Going to Phoenix

Pre-Departure #2

sunny 105 °F

Entry #2. The tensions mount. Miles traveled -44.

The stress of final preparations for departure to Alaska with imminent worldwide departure is beginning to take a toll on Sara and me. After some investigation and conversation it seems that raingear is an absolute necessity as are waterproof hiking boots. We have spent about two hours hunting through various sporting, hunting, and REI catalogs. Hint: If you want to spend twice as much money you can buy it all at REI!! YIKES, we don’t have that kind of bankroll.
Maricopa Garbage snafu sets us back several hour from departure…well Sara and I have been trying to take good care of her parents homestead which includes getting the recycling and garbage out for collection. As of 1PM still no collection today and the garbage is STINKY and we need to get to PHX today to go from -44 miles traveled (we are actually farther from departure today) up to 0 miles traveled for departure on Saturday. Not to mention we still have to get the rain gear, boots, and clean up the house on Coronado. I got a fire extinguisher and two smoke alarms installed there, home depot is getting rich also, while our bankroll shrinks.
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Not to mention Insectosaurus our mascot( from Monsters vs. Aliens) has been preparing to take on the world. He has been working out. See attached pictures. His first foe Insectosaurus vs. Maricopa, AZ (See the clip attached) was a challenge for the out of shape monster. He has been hitting the bon- bons pretty hard since gaining big screen fame.

Our backpacks are pretty jammed, and we still have to fill them with camping food. Sara still does not have enough hiking/travel pants. Sara has a three hour salon appointment to get her “traveling style” together. We have our final happy hour with Phoenix cronies Friday at Switch, one of our favorite semi-posh local joints. We are also planning on meeting with Stephanie for dinner with her beau “Dear Gene.” Insectosaurus hopes to get in one more pre-flight work out. Insectosaurus vs. Stephanie +Gene for the second round!!
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Preparation Flashback: The first tip that Sara and I would offer to anyone trying to save for a trip is keep your housing costs down. Sara and I have both been working since we have been married. Many times we received the advice “ Move a little further out and get a bigger house.” Our cute little house served us well. One extra bedroom for guests and a nice back yard was plenty. We kept our total housing cost(including utilities) at about 16% of our gross income that leaves much more for saving and fun on a daily basis. After all, we can’t resist dinner and drinks with our friends.
Check out the pics and short flicks.
And Stay tuned…Sara and Mike

Posted by tourdeflor 21:42 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (0)

The countdown begins

Planning and scrambling to departure: Installment 1. Miles traveled...0.

sunny 101 °F

Hello Everyone,

We are excited that you would like to keep up with us on our adventures. The seed of this trip was planted several years ago when Sara watched the motorcycle diaries recounting Che's trip throughout South America. Sara and I have both spent time in Central America and have toyed with the idea of an extensive trip through Spanish speaking lands.

Last year, our friend Regina relocated to Nebraska and met John and Nadine who had made a year long trip around the world. The idea began to grow, especially in Sara's mind, with the inspiration of John and Nadine.

As that year wore on I lost several people in my family. My Grandmother passed away, Aunt Willy passed away, my mother passed away, then my Aunt Pearl, and finally my Uncle Al passed away. It was a very difficult year for me. I found it hard to focus and spent a lot of time trying to decide what my next step would be.

In the midst of all of this, two free flights that I had on Alaska Airlines were set to expire in December. While we were in the booming metropolis of Litchfield, Illinois for my mom's funeral we took our first step. After some discussion, ( I hate to lose free flights after all, especially ones to alaska worth about $800!!) we decided on taking a week to go to Alaska.

Our friends Justin and Patrice had talked about the wonders of the last frontier so we made Denali our goal for the trip per their suggestion.

Our departure to Alaska is a week away now. Sara has 6 direct hours left to complete the hours of her internship, and Mike has three days of work left. Our house is being emptied out because our trip has recently outgrown a week in Alaska and even the trip through South America. As of now, the trip...you can see on the map... Is not quite around the world, but we do hit five continents over the next seven months ( we didn't quite get to John and Nadine's year). Our idea is to make it a trip focused on meeting people and keeping it "on a shoestring".

We have spent a lot of time in the last week gathering quick dry, anti microbial, stink resistant clothing!!! It also appears that bug-hats, and rain gear are a necessity in Alaska. Who Knew?

Lot's of people are asking us how we did it, and we will get into all the gory details little by little so as not to overwhelm or bore.

Thanks again for your interest. More to come soon.

Mike and Sara Tour de Floret

Posted by tourdeflor 13:51 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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