A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. - James Dent
Question #93315 posted on 09/14/2020 11:20 p.m.
Q:

Dear Guesthouse,

You went to Alaska! Where did you go? What did you see? Do you have pictures you'd care to share? Stories?

-Inquiring Mindless

A:

Dear Inquirer, 

I DID go to Alaska, and it was one of the coolest places I've ever been! I'll provide a brief itinerary highlighted with pictures just for you! 

Pebble and I (and my in-laws) bought tickets in March because we were naive back then and hoped the virus would be dealt with by July. It wasn't, but we had all been cooped up for so long we went anyway. I felt guilty about it. To travel to Alaska, you have to get tested before you go and provide the negative test result at the airport. Testing is awful, just like you think it is. We also social distanced the whole time we were up there, which is pretty easy because there aren't very many people. We took a pretty late flight, had a layover in Seattle, and got to Fairbanks around midnight. It was really unsettling how light it was outside. 

When we got there, we barely got to sleep half an hour before it was time to drive to our first adventure: King Salmon fishing on the Klutina River. Pebble's uncle got us a guided tour, but we had to drive 4 hours to get there. After being on a plane for 6 hours, that was brutal. Also, Pebble's uncle drives like the rules don't apply to him (he is very rich, which will be further evidenced later) so we sped down there at a consistent 90-100 mph. Luckily, like I said, there aren't very many people up there so it's not really that dangerous. Plus, there is so much space for the animals they rarely get anywhere near the road. 

A few important notes here - 1) Pebble is obsessed with fishing. I thought I'd have at least 20 years of marriage before he turned into a middle aged man, but alas. 2) I do NOT like fishing. I do not like fish, I do not like getting wet while wearing clothes. 3) I have only caught one fish in my whole life and it was about 6 inches long. I didn't even touch it. 

Many hours of driving and getting geared up later, the guide brought us to the first hole and taught us how to use the heavy-duty rods and got us into a casting rhythm. Before too long, Pebble shouted out that he got one! It gave him a crazy fight, and it took him EIGHT MINUTES to reel in the giant (45 inch long) salmon. The endeavor was so exhausting that he could barely hold it up for this picture. (Naively, I didn't know we were going to kill it... watching it get bashed with a stick was not my favorite.) 

 Pebble's fish.jpg 

Before too long, I got one on the line too! It is an exhausting amount of work to reel one of those things in. I had to plant my feet so hard in the mud that I got stuck and they had to help me get out. Also, I ended up with a bruise on my hip from rooting the end of the rod to give myself stability. Sadly, I edited out my face, just trust me that it shows a mix of disgust, excitement, and exhaustion. Also fun fact, I fully did not expect to catch anything, and because I had no idea what I was doing my body basically reacted by having a panic attack and my heartrate was upward of 120 for nearly a full hour after I brought my fish in. Here she is: 

Guesthouse's fish.jpg

No one else caught anything the whole day though. I had to sit next to Pebble's dead fish the entire rest of the boat ride and that was NOT fun. 

Most of the next days were spent just hanging out with the cousins and their cute Newfie. We made pizza, floated the Chena River on kayaks (no pics, sorry), did the Angel Rocks hike (where we picked some wild blueberries, also forgot to take pics. We were enjoying the moment!), played a LOT of card games, and completed two of the most difficult puzzles ever. We also went skeet shooting one day, allowing me to solidify my reputation of being an amazing shot. 

For the last 3 days of our trip, the fam (parents-in-law, two lil bros-in-law, Pebble, and myself) went to Denali National Park. We were really hoping to score tickets to a bus tour, but they were all FULL! So instead, we drove in as far as we could go and occupied ourselves doing other things like (drumroll for the highlight of the trip).... 

TAKING A HELICOPTER TOUR TO A GLACIER (sponsored by Pebble's uncle)

I don't know how to explain this one so I'll just show you the pictures (which still don't do it justice, but I can't attach videos here.) Pebble had a permanent smile on the whole time and I was just in awe. I also got the best seat on the chopper because I could see directly out the front and the side window. Seeing the tundra, the massive rivers, the buckling ice flows, flying over crests of mountain ranges just to see more right behind it... man, if you ever get the chance to go, you NEED to. 

lotta choppas.jpg

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AH-MAY-ZING. 

Anyway, we got to land on a glacier and walk around a bit. The pilot took us to his "secret swimming hole" which he normally doesn't get to go to because it's always cloudy. We were really lucky with the weather that day. Here's the group and the glacial lake I got to drink out of (it tasted like cold mineral water, in case you're wondering)

on the glacier w the fam.jpg

While we were in Denali National Park, we stayed in this really cute little cabin at McKinley Creekside Cabins and Cafe (name hasn't changed yet, I guess.) The food (especially the cinnamon rolls...) was really tasty, and the vibe in the cabins was so cozy and peaceful. Each cabin had a porch with a clear plastic roof so you could see the rain coming down. The cabins also are set up right by a creek (hence the name) and it was just such a vibe. I LOVE the cool misty air and the fog everywhere. 

view from the denali cabin.jpg

The last day in the Park, we were saddened by not getting to drive through the park and see Mt. Denali in all its majesty, so Pebble, his brother (15), Dad, and I all decided to drive the 3 hr (roundtrip) to the southern viewpoint. It was fun just to jam out to music and enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy when we got there. You could see Denali for about 20 minutes before the top of it was hidden away. But! We saw a cubby bee asleep on a flower and a black bear running in the wild (very far away). Here's the best shot of Denali I could get, with a little pink line to help you see the top (since it's snowy and white and blends in with the clouds) 

denali from really far away.jpg

The picture really doesn't capture how MASSIVE it is, even from many many miles away. I'm really glad we drove to see it. Funny side story, on the drive to the southern view point, we stopped at the northern view point... and thought we knew which mountain it was and took a bunch of pictures, but then it turns out we took pictures of the WRONG mountains. They were nice pictures anyway. 

pretty mntns.jpg

I didn't include food pictures here, but if you ever end up in Denali, you NEED to go to Moose-aka's. It's a Serbian/Eastern European restaurant that is really delicious. Their signature is fried crepes (savory and sweet) and they were to die for. 

Thanks for letting me share this really amazing experience with everyone! I totally recommend going to Alaska when you get the chance. It is rugged, wild, and breathtakingly beautiful. I do have to recommend, however, that you don't share a cabin with your father-in-law because he will snore all night and it makes it very hard to sleep. 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse