Sunday, June 26, 2011

Alaska - In a Nutshell

What an amazing experience to visit Alaska. The beauty surrounding you everywhere is sometimes hard to put into words (although, by the end of the trip, it was like mountains-water-glacier-forest!). Since I consider this blog part diary for my girls and part running motivation, I'll tell my little story of our visit to the 49th state of the U.S. in a dear diary format.

Wednesday, June 15 - Day 1 and a long day of travel. 4.5 hr flight to Seattle from Cleveland, a 2 hr layover, followed by a 3.5 hr flight to Anchorage. Arrived in time to check in and enjoy the managers reception at the Embassy Suites. Two beers each and a couple plates of cheese and snack mix and we were golden. We ordered take-out pizza from the Moose's Tooth Saloon - the steak pizza with a jalepeno cream sauce and just made our first day a chance to regroup! Oh, and it's only dark for about a half hour during the summer. That's killer, let me tell ya!

Thursday, June 16 - Day 2 started with a very early wakeup due to the 4 hour time change. I actually had to WAIT for the 6am breakfast considering I was bright-eyed at 4am! Breakfast and a quick 3-mile treadmill run, then we were off to Whittier for our glacier boat ride. We saw sea otters, bald eagles, puffins, kittywakes (small sea gulls), and breathtaking views of glaciers. The drive was neat because we had to go through a one-way tunnel, which changed directions every half hour (hoping we made the right "half-hour" choice). Lunch was served on the 6-hour cruise of absolutely delicious crab cakes followed by an afternoon snack of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Since we were exhausted by 6pm Alaska time (10pm Eastern time), we had dinner of leftovers in the room. Thank you Moose's Tooth.

Love this family picture!

Friday, June 17 - Day 3. Morning trip to the Alaska Zoo for some kid time. The zoo was pretty sad in size - makes you really appreciate the Cleveland and Columbus Zoos here in Ohio. Lunch at the Snow Goose Restaurant & Brewery with a nice view after hitting up the smallest Expo I've ever been to. Since every race requires pasta the night before, we found a great little place called Ninos - fantastic italian food experience. I got the pasta bolognese and Greg was the dinner winner with a spicy meatball sub that was yummy, but painful!

Saturday, June 18 - Day 4 Race day. If you missed my report, you can read it here. After the race, we all met up at Humpy's Bar & Grill for lunch so meg could get another inappropriate vacation t-shirt. Then headed to Talkeetna for 2 nights. We stayed at this gorgeous log cabin home, which was so nice to have all the space. The kids truly enjoyed the space and it was so close to the town center (the town is like a small Taos, or a small ski resort). Dinner at West Rib Pub & Grill, featured on Man v. Food. More yummy microbrews and I tried the reindeer chili mmmmmm!

Sunday, June 19 - Day 5 Happy Fathers Day! Breakfast at the Roadhouse. Terrible service, but since it was also featured on Man v. Food on the Travel Channel, we had to try it. Bridget and I shared the sourdough pancakes which spilled over the plate, while Meg had the cinnamon roll and Greg ordered "the standard", which had the best bread as toast. Bridget and I stayed back while the rest of the group went on a charter plane to see Denali where they got to land on a glacier!

Joined up later for lunch at Denali Brewing Company, then a little light shopping. Alaska is a bit lean on cool shopping opportunities, and heavy on tourist trap shopping (which is not our cup of tea). Hit up a little ice cream shack post lunch. According to Megan, this was the best ice cream-it was hand-churned and we actually got to watch the "churning". Dinner at Mountain High Pizza Company as take-out, a smart move because the kids were beat (and so were the parents).

Monday, June 20 - Day 6. Off to Girdwood for the night. On our way to Girdwood, we stopped at Beluga Point to see if we could spot any white beluga whales. No whales, but all of us including my daring Bridget went rock climbing while there. Unbelievable views!

Tonight, we stayed at a ski resort hotel - the Hotel Alyeska (my favorite stop on the trip). Outside our room was the most amazing view of the ski resort and tram. Greg actually challenged me to some trivia - thinking that this was the place where The Shining was filmed (nope, it was Oregon - yay Me!). Went on a nice little stroll of the grounds, browsed the hotel shops, checked out the swimming pool, then off to the Silvertip Bar & Grill, a dive bar near the hotel. Great burger and IPA (this became a nightly ritual of trying out a new IPA each evening). A short walk from the bar was a great playground for the kids to burn off a little steam.

Tuesday, June 21 - Day 7. Greg and I went for an early morning run on the trails while Meg and Bridget slept in. We traversed the Winner Creek trail outside the resort, which turned out to be 5 miles. I would be lying if I didn't say I was nervous the whole time for fear I would see a bear. Everywhere you went there were signs cautioning you about bear encounters and what to do if you saw one. I did not want to rely on my bear-scaring skills. I mean, what if I got that one bear that was off the grid in it's behavior?! The first couple of miles were easy going with crushed gravel and lined paths. Then the trail turned into a technical single track, which was so exciting and freeing. Saw a breathtaking gorge and Greg got to go on a hand tram.

After a fantastic morning run, I could only top it with good coffee. Met up with the girls for breakfast then all of us went up the mountain on the tram. Famous run at the top is the double black diamond North Face trail. Lunch at the top, then off we went to Homer. The 3-hr deive was miserable for EVERYONE in our car due to my salmon and yellow and green pepper salad with ginger dressing. Literally, I was burping every 15 minutes and the whole car experienced it! I was banned from all things Salmon and pepper from that point forward! Our rental in Homer was a house at Lands End - amazing, but see for yourself. The view may be the best yet. More seafood for dinner (Halibut, not Salmon, thank you very much), then stopped in to the Salty Dawg for a Homer Ale in a recycled Sobe bottle! happy summer solstice! I'm really beginning to miss the moon!

Wednesday, June 22 - Day 8. I talked Greg into getting up with me and venturing out for coffee at the Coal Mine Tea & Coffee Company. We've been together long enough that he gets my addiction - it's a combination of having to have a cup of coffee and having to find the neatest little place serving coffee. One of the most unique things about Alaska is that coffee shops are in stand-alone little shacks located along vitually every road. No Starbucks. No chains. At the Coal Mine Tea & Coffee Company, we had a great barista - I could easily spend a day with her, even picked up some local beans. Let the kids sleep in a bit, and then we headed out to find Seward. Checked into the Seward Windsong Lodge, the least liked place that we stayed at this whole trip, but still ok. Took the kids to the Sea Life Aquarium, which turned out to be another of Meg's faves. The Sea Life Aquarium was originally established to address the animals who were affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Dinner at Chattermarks where we all had King Crab legs (with quinoa!) and ice cream for the kids after dinner. Food during this trip has been simply delicious. Short hike to another glacier in the Kenai forest area, but the bugs were biting too much. We learned that Alaska is a temperate rain forest - cool - didn't know that, but it explains the biting bugs!

Thursday, June 23 - Day 9. Up bright and early for the Iditarod Dog Sled tour with the Seavey family. Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod in 2004 and there's 3 generations of Seavey's racing dogs today.

On the way back to Achorage we stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood-best side stop yet. We got to walk around and get up close to elk, moose, bears, caribou, musk ox, eagle. Very cool. That's exactly how I want to view bears - with an electrical fence between the two of us! Every trip must eventually come to an end, and ours will end with a final pit stop to the Moose's Tooth before making our flight back to Cleveland. That place was so pivotal to us, that we ALL got t-shirts at the Moose's Tooth!

A wonderful, incredible experience. Not sure I would change anything because each stop offered a new and different kind of Alaskan experience. But by far, the day spent at Girdwood at Hotel Alyeska was my favorite. Meg's was a tie between the small plane ride over Denali and the Iditarod sled dog experience. And Bridget's favorite part was collecting sea shells and seeing her cousins.

But no matter how amazing someplace else is, there's no better feeling than sleeping in your own bed when you return!


  1. Simply incredible! What fun that you got to experience it with your family & relatives - thanks for sharing all the details AND welcome home!!!

  2. wow what an amazing family trip!!