A transit day consisting of a 6-hour drive north from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We started off the morning going at Black Cup Coffee before heading to the Anchorage Saturday Market. Kenny had told us he was chatting with a girl named Michelle who just so happens to have landed in Alaska the night before and was also just travelling through the states (making Alaska her 50th state as well) documenting her own project called American Happiness. She met us at the Market and did a little interview with Kenny and we ate with her before dropping her off for her sea bus tour of Denali.
We then hopped back onto the road and started our trek to Fairbanks, which is 6 hours from Anchorage. We stopped along the way and took in the sights from Denali Viewpoint South. When you come to this lookout point, there is a tree in the middle. Look at where that tree is and look directly past it and there you will locate the top of Denali Mountain.
The weather got much warmer further inland we went. It was a long and gruelling drive but we made it in with a little rain. There definitely are more stops to make along the way. Around Denali National Park entrance is where we saw the most touristy of areas.
Originally, my plan was to reach Fairbanks around 2PM so we had ample time to explore and relax but I am glad we were able to check out the Anchorage Saturday Market and make a new friend. I wanted to check out the Chena Hot Springs but by the time we hit the road, we wouldn’t have made it in time. We mapped out the route to the hot springs from our Airbnb location in Fairbanks and that would require another hour drive – not worth it.
We made it to our Airbnb in Fairbanks where we met Kushaan. Kushaan was our final traveller who greeted us at the door but it got sticky and we got locked out. Luckily, the host was upstairs and opened the door for us. The day before, we had challenged Kushaan to greet us with a dance challenge or he couldn’t get in the car. He stepped up. Once we all got settled, we decided to leave the car behind and walk to dinner.
We went to Brewster’s for dinner. Steak bits, Popcorn Shrimp & Hoodoo German beer made up my meal for the evening – $35USD after tip.
We walked home to our delight feeling as if it was 630PM and getting that little bit of golden light but really, it was 1130PM.
With such a short period of time in Fairbanks, we drove a few streets to get the lay of the land and stopped by the infamous Antler Arch. Stopped by Alaska Roasting Coffee Co – Reindeer pockets for breakfast and off we went. A 2-hour drive south from Fairbanks to Healy where Denali National Park is located.
When we arrived at Denali National Park – Visitor Centre – You show your annual park pass (if you have one OR you pay your admission) and get your ticket to place into your car. Unlike other parks, the season pass covers 1 car but if not in the car, it covers the holder plus 4 people. It costs $15USD/pp if not.
We watched the video and then got ready to go on our first hike. We were told by the ranger to leave our car parked by the visitor centre as parking is atrocious everywhere else along the way (although there was parking and for a matter of fact empty spots). We hopped on the free shuttle bus that goes through the park and drops you off and comes around every hour on the hour. From the visitor centre, the bus leaves every :40. The bus was super slow but if you want to get further than the 18-mile marker, you require the bus.
We took the Savage River bus to the very end of the loop where personal vehicles are allowed – #18 and hopped off to do our first hike of the day – Savage River trail loop. The Loop was very easy and about an hour roundabout. We spotted a few caribou’s just hanging around by the bridge.
Once we finished that hike, we hopped back on the bus and got off at the Sled Dog Kennel. I thought we had more of a chance to play with the dogs but they are all on leashes near their dog houses. There is a sign that shows the behaviour of the dogs and yes you can pet them. There are a few dogs in the fenced off area who are off limits to play with.
We left before the demonstration and made it back to the visitor centre area to add more clothing layers before we headed to our final hike of the day – Mt Healy Overview Trail – one of the steepest hikes in the park. I brought a rainjacket and wore it for approximately 10 minutes before it got too hot. The trail itself is a steady incline – at the beginning not a huge incline but it’s a constant one.
There definitely are points where it is a consistent incline and then there are stairs. Once you’ve hit the stairs area, you are almost at the top. There are temperature air pockets along the way making it really hot then much cooler. Stop when you need to and take a moment to take in the views but don’t wait too long as the bugs start to bite.
Personally, I thought this trail was a little harder than Kenai Fjords – Harding Exit Glacier Trail. We got up pretty quick and even quicker going down. There are other points of Mt Healy that are higher but we chose a medium difficult hike route. The view is stunning from above. The best thing about hiking in Alaska in summer is that you don’t ever need to worry about it getting dark.
A 2-hour drive South to Talkeetna was to come right after the arduous hike and with so much light out, we didn’t realize that we would arrive to Talkeetna around 10PM and there weren’t many places we could find food for dinner. We had looked up all the restaurants and they all closed by 10PM but we did just barely make it in time for Subway. We arrived at 10PM but it still felt like it was 7PM with sunlight. The temperature did dip to the cooler side.
We stayed at an Airbnb Cabin – Talkeetna Wilderness Lodge. Cute little property with our cabin having a full kitchen and bathroom but also a communal fire pit.
Unfortunately from all this up and down weather especially from Kenai Fjords, Kenny ended up catching a fever and his bronchitis, asthma and whatnot was all becoming more intense.
Back in November 2018, I applied for this travel experiment called Yuujou. It was an open call to people from all over the world. I made top 10 out of 30 000 applicants however top 5 were chosen to go on this 100 day adventure. Yuujou is a travel experiment that would push the limits of 6 travellers by making real life connections. Starting out in Berlin, the 6 travellers (split into 2 groups of 3) have 100 days to get to Tokyo but only travelling through friends of friends.
The best thing about going through this whole Yuujou process were the friendships I made. Yes, the connections for the most part are digital but they have expanded into the real world. On my last trip to Turkey, I was able to meet a new friend Jide in Istanbul who is apart of the Yuujou community.
This Alaska trip was an idea that was sparked between myself and 2 other Yuujou friends. Kenny from Wisconsin and Kat from Rhode Island who became my friends early on in the application process and we had supported each other to the very end. Since none of us got chosen for the Yuujou adventure, we all had other plans for the rest of the year. Kenny decided to start his own documentary journey. Kenny embarked on a 5-month road trip through a big portion of the United States. During our exchanges of updates on life, he told us that Alaska would be his 50th state to visit and both Kat and myself jumped at the idea that we join him and do our own Yuujou adventure. This idea became a reality but unfortunately, Kat was unable to join us. We opened up this trip to our network of friends and for this 6-day adventure. We tried very hard to accommodate everyone’s schedules but in the end, had a pretty good mix of 5 people coming together to explore Alaska.
Kenny’s friends Kushaan from San Francisco, Ryan from Toronto and my friend and old Varsity Badminton teammate Merle from Toronto (who I had only seen once or twice in 12 years prior to this trip).
Many people who go to Alaska tend to do Alaskan cruises but we opted to inland. Our original itinerary consisted of meeting in Anchorage (4 of us) and driving south to Seward to hike at Kenai Fjords, then driving North to Fairbanks and spending 2 days exploring and hiking Denali National Park. Obviously plans change so this itinerary reflects the original plans. If I could change the itinerary after going on this trip, I would have taken out visiting Fairbanks and spent more time exploring Seward and that area. We spent way too much time in the car for my liking.
Alaska is the place where retirees go to experience the outdoors outside (aurora borealis, fishing, nature, hiking, glaciers) unlike Florida where people go to retire on a beach.
-Note that for the month of June in Alaska, the sunrises at 430AM and sets at 1130PM which means tons of light but unfortunately no sights of the Aurora Borealis.
-With the extended hours of light, you don’t have to worry about hiking in the dark however, keep note of the timing especially if you have a lot of driving to do or looking for dinner options as many places close at 10PM or earlier on weekends.
-The temperature for the most part was a low of 8-11C with a high of 18-26C.
-When it says it will rain, we found that it would be sporadic and not last too long. Wait 15 minutes and the weather changes. I brought my rain jacket and wore it for a total of 10 minutes before I got too hot while hiking.
-The weather gets more warm the further inland you go.
-Tons of Mosquitoes – DEET UP!
There are tons of drive-through container coffee/espresso stalls all over Alaska – in town and also on the side of the highways.
Alaska is quite the melting pot of cultures that spans decades. Russian, Japanese, African, Chinese,Filipino etc.
– Hiking poles can come in handy – you can buy at Walmart for $20 or check out Goodwill/Salvation Army. They are not accepted as carry-on items.
– Bear Spray – If you are hiking, it is recommended to carry bear spray – $30USD – can be bought at Walmart but also know it cannot be returned. Make sure to cut off the yellow tie on it. We originally decided against it but another customer in the store suggested it. If you don’t use it and it can’t be returned, you can donate it to your hostel or to Park Rangers.
-Another technique we saw was that people would wear bells to make a discreet noise while they hiked.
*Remember – Black bears – try to be loud and talk them down and run.
Brown bears – play dead
-Reindeer is very popular meat being served.
Now onto the itinerary!
This is the itinerary I had going into the trip. As trips go, they never go as planned.