Since we had a sick traveller, we took it a little easier this morning. Also, Raptors had won the championship and back in Toronto, they were hosting the huge parade so we all tuned in for that.
We took our time and slowly made our way back to Healy. We stopped by Roadhouse in downtown Talkeetna for breakfast – no tipping required as the fee is included in the fee. I got the biscuit and gravy. We shared a nutty cinnamon bun. Great assortment of baked goods and each meal comes with 2 drinks.
We walked around the general area and ended up going to the Talkeetna Historical Society – $5 to go through the museum that is located in an old schoolhouse. We stayed around to listen to one of the guys who have climbed Mount Denali. The talk went on for about 40 minutes and then we decided it was time to leave and begin our long trek back in the direction of the previous day.
We drove an hour and half north to check out Hurricane Gulch viewpoint. Then onto Denali North Viewpoint – You can definitely skip this lookout point as Denali Viewpoint South is much worthwhile. The rain was on and off during our drive. I feel like this drive in particular was too arduous especially for the views. We spent a lot of time in a car and pretty much just backtracked. We already made the decision not to do big hiking back at Denali especially with one of our people feeling under the weather.
Drove back down to Talkeetna and was trying to get to XY Lake (pass flying squirrel and turn right). We missed it the first time around and ended up at Christensen lake. We dropped off Merle and Kenny back at the cabin as both were now feeling under the weather. We ventured back and found the right entrance to XY Lakes. Once you turn onto the street, the entrance will be on the immediate right side and you follow down the path. The longest of hikes is 5.2 miles around XY lakes.
Once we finished the hike, we went back for Merle & Kenny and went back to downtown Talkeetna for dinner at Denali Brewpub. I got the Belgian beer then split fish and chips with sweet potato wedges as well as a sirloin pretzel dip sandwich with Ryan. The Fish & Chips was better than the sirloin pretzel dip sandwich.
After dinner, we walked over to Fairview Inn which was literally in eye sight distance. They had karaoke that night and Kushaan sang Backstreet Boys. We also were able to play some shuffle board and ping pong before calling it a night.
Since we stayed up late the previous night, we had a late start on our final day. The group went for coffee and tea and spoke with Todd who gave us recommendations for our route back to Anchorage. We took the Hatcher’s Pass route that would take us through the mountains before bringing us back to to the highway that would eventually bring us back to Anchorage. This detoured route took us off-road and it was quite nice to see that hidden route. It did get quite intense though as we started to get higher in elevation and Ryan was driving us into the clouds. It was a literal sheet of white that surrounded us and it didn’t help that the roads were narrow and hard to see metres in front as we ascended. We did see a few people on motorbikes pass up coming from above. We made it to the top of Summit Lake which was 3500+ft above sea level. It would’ve been a beautiful view if the clouds and mist had lifted but the eeriness of the fog made the experience pretty cool on its own.
At this point of the trip, 3 of 5 were sick. We all have been in tight quarters of the car for the week and that cough just started to spread.
Since the detour was a lot slower than we thought, we stopped in Palmer to get the infamous Taco Bell we had been talking about before hitting the road again. Since the weather was much colder than Denali and we had sick people, we continued past Reflection Lake, Mirror Lake and Thunderbird Trail which are apparently great little trails and stops right off the highway.
When we reached Anchorage, we decided to spend the day indoors at the Anchorage Museum. It was such a beautiful Museum with great exhibits. We pitched in $5 extra for the special exhibit – Frozen in Time (Not worth it). The collection of art and the dedication to spotlight Alaskan history was very informative especially coming into Alaska not really knowing anything. Alaska is actually quite the melting pot. Besides the Native Americans that lived there before, there were people from Sudan, Russia, Philippines, Japan, and so on and so forth.
We would have loved to stay longer however we needed to get Ryan to the airport by 630PM and we still had one more place to go before we dropped him off. We went to Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria which apparently has been known to be the #1 pizza in America and we had to try it out. The place is pretty cool. You can sit down and eat, order out and there is also a beer garden area where you can sit in a courtyard and drink and if you do takeout, you can eat there as well. We (Ryan, Kenny, Kushaan and myself) shared the Forager – Mushroom & spinach white pizza – not bad but also not the best pizza I’ve eaten.
Kenny ended off our final meal with a gratitude and appreciation circle where everyone went around our group and you had to name at least one thing you appreciate and/or a funny moment that each person brought to the group. It was a great way to end the trip and made us feel closer especially for strangers coming together in a timespan of 6-7 days from different walks of life to experience Alaska together.
After we dropped off Ryan, the rest of us besides Kenny had a few hours to spare before we also had to get dropped off at the hostel. Once again, the light messed with our sense of time as it was already 7-8PM and we were trying to kill time but majority of establishments were already closed. We went to the park by the Airport where we saw what sort of looked like what I’d imagine a sunset would look like at this time of year. We still had time to kill and found a place called Boba Tree and got a little taste of boba before getting dropped off. I got the Banana & avocado smoothie – $5USD.
The route home such as the route getting to Alaska took us from Anchorage to Seattle to Vancouver before reaching Toronto. It just so happened when we landed in Seattle, I messaged my friend Jenn (who is also a mutual friend with Kenny) just so happen to be flying out that same morning. I caught her for a split second before she had to board her plane enroute to Montreal.
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.