It’s not what we have in life but who we have in our life that matters. For me, that means ample fur-babies, a marvelous group of friends, and a giant but closely knit family.
As soon as they heard I was getting married and moving to Alaska my parents booked a pair of seats on a plane. Their main objective was to get to know their new son-in-law better but unfortunately life has a funny way of changing the best laid plans and Brian was deployed to South Korea a month before their visit. They still came up and let me show them around my new state of residence but hoped to return another time. It took two years, but they recently returned and brought my Uncle Wally – someone whom I never thought I’d ever get on a plane, let alone to Alaska – with them!
I picked them up from the airport at the wee hours of the morning and drove them home in a light drizzle. Our midnight sun was shrouded in rain clouds as we drove across Anchorage. Brian was already sleeping soundly by the time we made it through the door. My guests were also exhausted from multiple plane rides and a long day of travel. After a quick tour of our humble abode everyone promptly retired to their rooms for the night. I let them sleep in their first day and we spent the entire day touring JBER & the rest of Anchorage. We took plenty of time to hit up all the local tourist hot spots downtown and eat some locally sourced reindeer sausage.
Day two we were up early and on the move north for Denali National Park. On our way we stopped at Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, toured around Talkeetna, and took photos from the South Denali Viewpoint along the Parks Highway.
It was at our destination for the night, Glitter Gulch, that my travel companions got a real taste of the Midnight Sun. While their trip was a few days before Summer solstice, the night was a clear one that provided little darkness for ample amounts of sleep. We stayed up far later than we should have eating food, walking the shops, and taking in the local scenery.
Our party was up to catch a 6 am bus into Denali NP on the third day. We took the park bus only as far as Eilson Visitor Center where we snacked on a light lunch. I had plans to take my family on a short hike through the tundra on the way home, but both spots I had scouted out had families of grizzlies within sight of the road. After encountering the 2nd set of momma griz and twins, along with the impending food coma that was taking over everyone, I was outvoted to stay on the bus for the remainder of the trek home and skip the march through the tundra. On our way out of the park we encountered yet another set of twins, this one of the moose variety. We dead headed back for Anchorage for a short nights sleep; another adventure awaited us tomorrow.
Day four was another (not quite as) early wake up call and a long day of driving. By 11 am we had trekked three miles south of Anchorage to the tiny seaside town of Seward. Here we parked the rental and boarded the Tanaina. We’d hardly left the harbor when we encountered a small pod of humpback whales bubble feeding. After making our way to a small private island for a prime rib buffet and rock skipping competition we headed back out to sea for more wildlife viewing.
Just when we landed back in harbor and my family thought they were done moving for the night, I loaded them back into the rental and hauled them 3 hours south to Homer for the night, but not before driving them through a torrential downpour, hailstorm, a bit of snow and the start of a forest fire.
I dropped everyone off at the hotel in Homer before Dad, myself, and Brian drove north to Anchor River for the midnight start of king salmon fishing. Brian caught his limit, Dad caught but lost his king and I caught Dad. (j/k, he really caught himself, but made me pull the hook out of his hand anyways. *insert gagging noise here*)
Our fifth day was spent touring the Homer spit, day drinking at the Salty Dawg Saloon, and eventually making our way back to Anchorage, but not before stopping at a few of my favorite places along the way.
Finally, on day six I let my family sleep in. It was the last full day of their vacation, so they deserved at least one day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t about to let them have it. While mom and dad bonded with Bucket and Kratos, Brian and I took Uncle Wally and Tina to Matanuska Glacier for one last adventure.
It also happened to be Father’s Day. When we returned home I treated my family to a little Alaskan surf and turf of NY strip and fresh Alaskan king crabs. I’ve also got to give a shout out to my cousins for helping pull off this surprise for their dad (my uncle) to make it a great Father’s Day for him as well.
Before dropping them back onto a plane their last day, we took Kratos to Cabela’s so they could see him at his favorite spot, the giant fish tanks. I’ve been telling my family about his love of fish for the last year and I don’t think any of them believed me until they saw it with their own eyes.
All in all we spent nearly 30 hours in the rental vehicle totaling almost 1,500 miles, 8 hours on a bus through Denali, and 6 hours on a boat touring the Resurrection Bay. I can’t say I’ll be shocked if my uncle decides to never visit me again, but at least I can say I showed him most of what is important to me in Alaska and know he’ll never have another trip anywhere else in the world quite like this again. Xoxo.