The Water’s Edge

Note: This post is long, but filled with so much adventure and action that you can’t skip it!

The next part of our trip, we made our way to the southern part of Alaska. Homer, Kenai National Park, Seward, and Whittier are the main destinations along the Gulf of Alaska and we went to them all in a week. This is one of the most beautiful areas I have ever witnessed. The sea, marine lifestyle, mountains, and the silvery grey skies created a peaceful experience. This was probably the most eventful part of the Alaskan part of our trip, that was filled with so many amazing adventures. The whole area is picturesque. All these places had most of the same things in common. Small seaside town, great views, doesn’t look like much is going on, but surprises the heck out of you!

Each of these places boasts incredible views, great seafood and a selection of adventurous activities. Homer was beautiful, we camped right on the water, on the north end of The Homer Spit. The spit is 4.5 miles long, with a few campgrounds, and a cozy seaside town with shops and restaurants. This strip of land is surrounded by water of the Kachemak Bay, and the Kenai Mountain range. This town is a popular fishing town, as well as a tourist destination.

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Kenai Mountains, Homer AK: By Colleen Ducat

Our next stop was Seward and the Kenai National Park. The Seward port is a popular fishing town, as well as tourist destination. Thrill seekers come here for the number of activities they can try. Kayaking and boat cruises being the most sought out. I was able to go on a little kayaking trip with my parents provided by Miller’s Landing: A locally owned adventure company that takes you on a variety of guided water tours. Our guide took us around Tonsina Beach, a nice forested, secluded area. We were able to paddle around all the rocks, and try sea pickles, which is just seaweed that’s been fermented by the saltwater. There is also a little yurt rental place which is pretty cool. Our guide threw in a little extra treat and took us to Humpy Cove. There you can paddle by the few abandoned and empty cabins hidden among the trees. Continue all the way back and you can see a large waterfall that drops into crystal clear water, and is probably the most fresh water I’ve ever tasted. On the way back from our adventure we were picked up by our water taxi that dropped us off. We were joined by porpoises that played in the waves of the boat. Such an amazing experience.

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Humpy Cove Waterfall: By Colleen Ducat

A little ways outside of Seward is the Kenai Fjords National Park. Hiking and kayaking are the main draws to this scenic wonderland. One of the main attractions is the hike to the Exit Glacier. There are a series of hikes for the length of time and how far up you want to go. This is bear country, so be bear aware! Make sure you have proper footwear and clothing as it is rainy, wet, and cold most of the year. This glacier runs down from the Harding Ice Field which spans the Kenai Mountains. This is a beautiful hike that gets you really close to the glacier. A must see stop on your Alaskan Adventure.

The last stop on this list was Whittier Alaska. There is exactly three ways you can get to Whittier. One by boat, two you can hike in over the mountain pass or three (depending on the lane you are in) wait an hour to go through the multi-purpose train and car tunnel. One tunnel that changes direction of traffic every thirty minutes, except when the train comes, then you wait longer. The cool thought about it is you’re literally driving on train tracks through the base of a mountain going twenty-five miles per hour. When you make it to the other end you see the face of a train waiting on the other side. It’s a little unnerving. Now this small town, and I’m talking really small, doesn’t look like much. It has a good fishing economy and it’s a tourist port for Alaskan cruises, but other than that the activities in the town are pretty non-existent. The real action is out on the water. Now the only reason we even went to Whittier was to catch a ferry to Valdez, AK, but that would have ended up being a really big cost with little reward. So after a few hours of exploring the town and deciding what to do, we found this water taxi/ glacier tour guide called Epic Charters run by Brooke Whip and his wife Christina. It cost about the same as the big one way ferry, but it packed so much more action. We took an eight-hour round-trip boat ride across Port Wells, on the Prince Edward Sound, to the College Fjord.

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Harvard Glacier, College Fjord: By Colleen Ducat

Spectacular views of glaciers and wildlife. We got up close and personal to the glaciers, and had some fun watching whales, sea otter and sea lions play in the water. We filled up a cooler full of ice that was over ten thousand years old. We learned that the clear ice is the oldest. Our tour guide gave us the full experience and got right up close to the Harvard Glacier. It looked as if we were right next to it, but were still six miles away!

Brooke explained that we perceive things to be smaller and closer than they are. The base of the glacier we were at was the equivalent of a forty-story building, and it gets taller and wider the farther you go back. Just imagine the wave of a collapsing skyscraper. Six miles was the safety zone. This is the moment that I realized how big the world is, and there are larger things out there. So be aware, that there are many small and seemingly boring towns in Alaska, but some of the best adventures are not in plain sight, you have to go on a scavenger hunt. It may not be what you had in mind, but might just be something you didn’t know you were looking for. Until one minute you just decide “what the heck, why not?” and then you’re off on an amazing adventure, experiencing something magnificent.

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Vassar Glacier, College Fjord: By Colleen Ducat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Denali it all you want

 

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Denali through binoculars: Photo by Bill Ducat

After our trek to the Arctic, we headed south to visit Denali National Park. Home to the tallest mountain in North America coming in at a height of 20,310 feet above sea level. This is an absolutely beautiful park filled with mountains, rivers, and wildlife in abundance. Even on an overcast and rainy day, this is a stunning expanse of land. So wild and natural that it seems untouched by man. The only way to enter the park is either on a bus tour or on a hike. During our visit to the park, my parents and I took a six-hour bus tour through half of the park. We did not get to go all the way to Denali; however, we saw so much beauty and wildlife that it was totally fine. Among the various animals were elk, moose, and doll sheep. No bears were seen, unfortunately, but most bears can be spotted along most of the roadways all over Alaska and Canada.

 

 

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Female moose: Photo by Colleen Ducat

You can Denali it all you want (see what I did there?) but this place is simply amazing, and a must-see stop on any Alaskan journey. After we left Denali National Park, we headed toward Wasilla, AK to meet up with some friends, but halfway there, my dad suddenly pulled into an overlook that was staring right at Denali. Unfortunately, the same cloud cover that we had during our visit to the park, was still covering the mountains. Geoffrey Chaucer was right when he said “patience is a virtue,” because if it wasn’t for my dad, and his ability to sit and wait for something to happen, we would have never seen even the smallest portion of Denali peaking through the clouds. It took about 5 hours to see just that small piece that we did. Even though we didn’t get to experience the full view of Denali, it gave us a reason to come back.

 

 

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Iditarod Sled Dog Headquarters: Photo by Bill Ducat

We took two days in Wasilla, AK to visit friends and recuperate from the long drive. Our friends gave us many more suggestions on where to go on our way south. A little fun activity: if you visit Wasilla, make sure you stop in at the Iditarod Sled Dog Headquarters so you can cuddle with some adorable puppies. You can even go on a sled ride for about ten dollars. I suggest going in the morning when they open for maximum puppy time because it does get crowded. If you love dogs as much as I do, then this is a must stop destination.

 

Hidden Treasures

We started the trek to Alaska by crossing the border into Canada. We were met with so many pleasant surprises along the way. British Columbia is a province with many large and small cities within its vast acreage but between each city is miles and miles of beautiful country. I saw an abundance of rivers, mountains and wildlife: bears, moose, and eagles to name a few. My dad asked me to be the navigator of the trip. He wanted me to find unique places to visit, and within a day of driving through British Columbia, we found two fantastic waterfalls– Shannon Falls, the third tallest waterfall in Canada; and Nairn Falls, Provincial Park. This unplanned exploring provoked us to explore all the places we traveled to and find all the hidden gems they had to offer.

To be able to go on this length of trip, you need to consider a budget. This leads to finding free or inexpensive places to sleep. Since we were in an RV, it was a little trickier. Luckily, British Columbia has a series of hydro recreation areas with free camping. Outside the little town of Lillooet, British Columbia sits the Hydro Seton Lake campsite: One of the best free campsites I have ever stayed in. surrounded by mountains and rivers in the wilderness.

British Columbia was not what we were expecting. My dad thought it would be a quick drive through the province, like that of some of our fly over states; however, we ended up exploring British Columbia for nineteen days. In that time, we ventured to every place that was on our route to Alaska. Witnessed my first glacier—The Salmon Glacier– in the extremely small town of Hyder, Alaska, jointed by the town of Stewart, BC. There are no customs to get into that part of Alaska, since the only way out is back through Canada.  This was just a teaser of what the rest of Alaska was like. After spending a week exploring south east British Columbia, we pushed northbound to the Alaskan/Canadian border.

Blog Promotion

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we did it our way blog photo: by authors Carine and Derek

Hello dear readers, I would like to take a moment to tell you about another blog I love. If you like my work, then head over to this site for more content you’d love. If you love travel, and adventure there are many cool blogs out there to choose from; however, if you seek something more fulfilling and inspiring, then I am suggesting this amazing blog. You will love every word of it, and want to keep reading. I know I do.

The blog, “we did our way” is written by Carine and Derek, two world travelers that live their life to the fullest. They promote living your best life, and that is ultimately my goal as well. These two have been to so many amazing places, and have so many stories to tell. We all have our own unique story. It’s just a matter of actually taking the steps necessary to achieve our goals. Carine and Derek inspire people to do just that.

These two knew they wanted to see the world and explore. So they made the decision to put their home lives on hold and take an adventure. They chose to do what they want while they still can, so they dropped everything and are living their best life. Carine and Derek inspire and strive to make dreams to become reality. Go check them out for funny and inspiring content that will lift your spirits!

 

 

The Last Frontier

Here it is, the moment you all have been waiting for. The first big Alaskan adventure of my trip. Let me tell you, this first whimsical decision was quite literally spur-of-the-moment. On the sixteenth of July, we finally crossed the Alaskan-Canadian border. We spent the next few days thinking about where to go first. We decided to go to Fairbanks, to get more information about places to go, and wonders to see. This is where my dad learned about one of the most dangerous roads in Alaska that people call “The Haul Road”. My dad, like the adrenaline junkie he is, thought seriously about actually driving it. It’s about 500 miles of dirt road, mountains and snow, north of Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  The most northward city in America. A 1000 mile round-trip.

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Ice Museum, Chena Hot Springs: by Colleen Ducat 

That night, we stayed in the Chena Hot Springs Resort and Campground, and it just so happened that we met a few people who had just done the haul road themselves; however, the only difference is they had jeeps, but we were driving a large RV with no extra tires, towing a jeep with limited outdoor camping gear. So we took the night to soak in a beautiful hot spring and take a tour of an ice museum and hotel. Complete with apple-tini’s served in a martini glass made out of, yes you guessed it, ice. After a day relaxing and unwinding from being on the road, and thinking about the haul road, we headed back to Fairbanks. Where we decided, now is the time to do it. We were already in Alaska and didn’t know when we would be back, so what was stopping us? Nothing what so ever, because it would be cool just to say we did it. In a split second we were preparing to go north toward the Arctic Ocean. We made sure to get all the right gear and clothing so we would be prepared for anything.

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The jeep is actually red: by Colleen Ducat

It took about five days to do the entire road and within those days, a lot happened. Mud covered vehicles, cracked windshields, 18-wheeler’s driving 80 miles an hour on muddy two-lane roads, snow covered mountain pass, 180 degree view of The Brookes Range, Musk Ox, and walking on the Arctic Ocean for the first time just to mention a few. Now there are only three gas stations on the entire road. The first on the Yukon River, where the prices are sky high. The second is in Coldfoot, Alaska, which is the most northern truck stop in the world– we loved it, and the staff loved us so much that we declared ourselves honorary regulars (we went there only twice). The last is in Prudhoe Bay, so to drive this road, make sure you fill up.

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A walk on the arctic side: by Patrice Ducat

Now when you get to Prudhoe Bay, there is only so much you can do before you turn around: You can visit the general store for all kinds of trinkets, and you can take a tour of the town and go out to the Arctic Ocean provided by Arctic Ocean Shuttle. This is the only way to see the Arctic Ocean in Alaska. There is another way to the Arctic through the Yukon, which is the same kind of road conditions as the Haul Road. We did not do this road, but I heard it has easier access than through Alaska, so take your pick. After we had our fun in Prudhoe Bay, the only thing left to do was turn around and head back the way we came.

 

Parental Guidance

To start this off right, I need to thank my parents for allowing me to tag along with them. My parents, who are avid travelers and RV enthusiasts, have always wanted to take a road trip to Alaska. Summer, 2018, they finally went through with it, and they asked me if I wanted to go with them. My original plan was to only go as far as Seattle, then head home. I had so much fun driving with them to Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. I saw so much beauty and country, that I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.
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Cape Flattery, Washington: by Colleen Ducat
Three days before I was set to fly back to Texas, I took a day trip up the coast of Olympic National Park with my dad. We hiked up to Cape Flattery: the most northwest point on the continental United States. Halfway there we took a short break to get food. On the docks of La Push, Washington looking out over the water sat River’s Edge (I recommend the fish and chips). While I stared out a waterfront window at the waves and rocky islands, and relaxed in the peaceful atmosphere, I realized there was so much more beauty out there to see. I knew that I needed to experience more for myself.
So I messaged my boss, posing the hypothetical question about me going to Alaska with my parents. I was on cloud nine when he replied, “just go, your parents are paying for everything anyway.” So it was final and I dropped everything. I canceled the summer class I was going to take and headed to Alaska. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. This made me realize that you have to experience things when you are young or else you’ll never get the chance. So thanks to my parents, I was able to go on the trip of a lifetime and I am so grateful to them.

 

Alaska On a Whim


My name is Colleen Ducat. I am an advertising major at Texas State University and an adventurer at heart. In this blog, I will talk about spur-of-the-moment traveling. Many people have a deep desire to travel. I want to help those people bring their desires to life.

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Author photo at Portage Lake Glacier, Girdwood, Alaska: by Colleen Ducat

I hope to inspire people to get out there, travel and see the world unplanned. I took a trip to Alaska, which was on a whim. Every place I went was a spur-of-the-moment decision that was worth every minute. I hope to reach people who love to travel and experience incredible things.

I will include national park websites for more information about the different places I’ve seen. I will also show websites of packing lists for the right equipment you may need (I didn’t bring most of these items since I did not plan to go). I will post photos for each place I went to show its beauty. Hopefully, this will inspire you to get out there and explore.