Visiting Alaska is something I always dreamed of doing, and in April it finally happened! My cousin lives in Eagle River while he serves in the army, and he was kind enough to allow my boyfriend, Luke, and I to stay with him so we could explore this beautiful state. We arrived early Monday morning (I’m talking 3AM!), so the dark drive to his house felt like any other drive here in PA. It wasn’t until the next morning that we felt like we had actually arrived. Waking up, we looked out the window and saw our first big snow covered mountain view right in the neighborhood. We were welcomed by his adorable cat, Charlie, and we slowly got our first day started as we adjusted to the 4 hour time difference and shook off the overnight flight. We spent a lot of our time in Alaska driving and looking around. I don’t think anyone could get tired of the impressive mountain views.
The first day we drove South along the famous Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm. We parked at one of the many road pull-offs and walked across the railroad tracks and down along the black sands that meet the bay. It was cold and windy but we were amazed by the views and excited to be in Alaska! We touched the waters and climbed the rocks, taking in the scenery. We continued South, winding along the highway which hugged the coast. We followed some signs and ended up at a toll booth, facing a tunnel that goes into the mountain. We asked the attendant where we were going and he explained we were headed to Whittier, a boat harbor and small town. The tunnel is one way and allows traffic in for the first 20 minutes and out for the last 20 minutes. We followed the other few cars and made our way through. We saw bald eagles, beautiful blue water, and more mountains as we hiked portage pass (well almost). We drove to Mt. Alyeska and saw the famous ski resort full of skiers and snowboarders, and then we headed home through Anchorage where we stopped for dinner. A random GPS dinner pick led us to the restaurant, Bread and Brew, and it was awesome – famous for it’s grilled cheeses – and if you know me, you know I LOVE grilled cheese 🙂
Day 2, we headed north and drove to Talkeetna, Alaska where we arrived at K2 Aviation to prepare for our small plane tour over Denali National Park. We put on our headsets and took flight, learning about the history of the Talkeetna River systems, and the significance of planes to transportation in Alaska. Did you know – no motorized vehicles are allowed in Denali National Park? But planes can land there! Our pilot landed our plane on a glacier between the huge mountains. We saw the Sheldon Mountain House and Chalet that were built in the park and is now the only established residence there, which people can now visit and even rent for the night! We circled around the mountains and saw Denali up close. I even got to ride shotgun in the plane as we headed back to the air strip! We drove literally one minute and arrived at the Talkeetna Roadhouse where we got the keys to our Garden House Cabin for the night. It was so cute and cozy, and kept warm by the gas wood stove; we loved staying there! We explored the quaint small town on foot and then ate a delicious dinner at the Denali Brewing Co. We drove around and looked for moose before calling it a night, we spotted 3!
Day 3, we woke up early and had family style breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse which consisted of very large chocolate chip pancakes, and we grabbed a sticky bun to go from the Roadhouse bakery, mmmmm 🙂 It was a 2 hour drive to Denali National Park and we enjoyed every minute as we watched the mountains get bigger and closer. The roads were empty and it felt at times that we were the only people on it. We got out a few times to take some photos with the scenery and mailed our post cards at a small post office in the middle of nowhere. We spotted a few more moose and then arrived at the park. We drove as far as we could into the park, stopping first to see the Alaskan Husky’s that were members of the Denali Sled Dog Teams. I fell in love with these sweet pups and I’m pretty sure Luke did too! Just look at these photos… Venture was my favorite! After saying goodbye to our new best friends we drove to Mile 13 and got out and walked the closed roads of Denali. It was freezing! We walked and took photos and when I attempted to walk off the road to get a photo in the snow, it only took a few steps before I fell through up to me knees. I had a momentary panic and then handed my camera to Luke so I could get myself out – he proceeded to take a picture of my suffering! We took turns taking pictures at the end of the road before heading back to our car. Luke was taking a photo of me turned around and pointing to the large mountains ahead. When Luke said he got the shot, I turned back around only to find Luke on one knee holding out a ring!!! I couldn’t believe it, and I think I said, “Are you serious?” “I’m not prepared for this!” You see, he had been telling me not to expect a ring until fall, so I really was surprised! After saying “yes” and putting on the ring, we headed back down the road as I asked him a million and one questions. We came across a woman who was out hiking and she took a few photos of us, newly engaged. It was a weird feeling! Everything in Denali was still closed for the winter, so we spent the night at an inn in Healey, a few minutes past Denali. There were only two restaurants in the whole town and you could literally drive through it in under 2 minutes!
Day 4, we headed for Eagle River, a four hour drive! We spent it sight-seeing, listening to music, and talking about wedding things haha. We went to dinner in Anchorage and went on a walk along the Peter Marsh, Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk, where we saw 3 more moose. We stopped again along the Turnagain Arm, walked over the tracks and came a little to close to a moving train. Luke carved our initials into a tree and we enjoyed the sunset.
Day 5, we went to the Eagle River Nature Center and got lost and hungry on the trails. We went to dinner that night with my cousin and spent some time watching Alaska House Hunters while in Alaska, haha.
Day 6, our last day in Alaska we spent driving up to Hatcher Pass. It was a beautiful snow covered public skiing spot up in the mountains. We parked in a lot full of cars with people getting their ski gear out of their cars and getting ready to go. But they were all dressed in suits and dresses and fancy outfits. I asked one man what they were all doing there and he said “Champagne and Brunch,” he explained a big group of people got together on Saturdays and skied up the mountain, all dressed up, and they have brunch and drank champagne. It was the craziest thing, but it was awesome to see. It seemed like everyone had their dogs with them too, running alongside them as they skied. Luke and I headed toward the Hatcher Pass Lodge and after finding out it was indeed open (despite all the snow cover) we headed in for coffee and cheesecake. It was an awesome place and I loved seeing the small snow covered cabins for rent. Oh, and the owner has the cutest pup that followed us around!
It’s hard to think of a way to wrap this post up, but all I can say is that this is a trip we won’t ever forget! Our first real trip as a couple, and I couldn’t have picked a better travel partner, or life partner <3