Going to Alaska and I could use a little advice

Hello all,

I am off to Alaska on September 8th for 8 days. Very much looking forward to it as I think it will be a great trip. I do, however, have a few questions that I am hoping my fellow dopers may be able to assist me with.

  1. I have to spend two days in Anchorage and the I am on my open. Here are some of the things that I am considering:

Driving to Valdez because I heard it is a wild drive.

Heading up to Denali and camping out for a few days.

Going to the Kenai and doing the whale watching thing.

  1. I have managed to obtain a hunting permit through a friend of mine so I am curious as to whether it is worth it or not. My experience is strictly with small game (pheasants etc.) so this would be very new to me though I am a decent shot with a rifle. Any thoughts on hunting?

  2. If I do decide to go after larger game then how do I go about getting my rifle & sidearm up to Alaska? I have never flown with guns before (always driven, I am in the midwest). Is there are protocol that I need to follow or should I just call the airline?

I have purchased a couple of books on Alaska and I think I am sorted for clothes etc. but any advice or suggestions would be very welcome. All the best.

I can’t help you with the hunting, but your travel ideas sound good.
Of the three, the jaunt down to Kenai peninsula would be the most scenic and beautiful and you’ll want to spend the most time there. It’s also reasonably close to Anchorage. There are some very nice campgrounds there, beautiful mountains, fishing and hiking spots. And Cook Inlet has the second highest tides in the world, after the Bay of Fundi–very impressive to see the tide travel a half mile or so from low to high.
Valdez is a bit longer drive, if I recall correctly, but an interesting fishing town and point of embarcation for taking the ferries down the coast to Vancouver/Seattle.
I don’t remember anything specific about the drive down there, so I don’t know about it being a ‘wild’ drive. I did drive up to Alaska (from Texas), and the most beautiful parts of the drive were actually along the Cassair Highway through Yukon Territory–very spectacular and even stunning at times.
Denali is pretty awesome too, but you’ll have to get lucky to actually see it–most of the time its obscured by clouds. Lots and lots of mosquitoes amongst all that tundra, too, so be sure to take along plenty of DEET. Even if you apply repellant to your face, they will find the parts that weren’t covered, like your lips, inside part of your ears, nostrils, etc. But perhaps they’re not as bad since you’re going later in the season.
Another kind of fun thing–depending on your predilections–that you can do while you’re driving to Denali national Park is to stop on the side of the highway and climb up on top of the pipeline. It’s pretty neat to think about all that oil flowing through there. Be prepared for very long drives, too–it may look close on a map, but Fairbanks and Anchorage are a long way apart.
As for Anchorage, I’d pretty much spend as little time as possible there. It’s mostly a dusty city with too much road construction going on (recovering from the annual winter that’s so brutal on roads up there).
And I should mention that my info may be a bit dated–I was last up there about 16 years ago.

Take pictures and have fun.


Since you’re looking for advice more than straight facts, I’ll move this thread to the IMHO forum.

moderator GQ

If you drive down the Kenai, try and make it to Homer. It and Sedona are the two prettiest cities in the US.

The drive to Valdez passes right by the Matanuska Glacier. You can park and wander around on it but, trust me, wear something other than cowboy boots unless you want a wet ass. I’ve been as far as the turnoff (Tok?) but just north, not south to Valdez. What I saw was darn pretty but not Kenai pretty.

Every time I went to Denali is was crystal clear. This apparently makes me a freak because, like Pablito said, usually it’s shrouded.

The only whales I’ve seen on the Kenai were killer whales in Turnagin Arm. Doesn’t make the trip any less spectacular but don’t let your enjoyment hinge on seeing any because, unless things have changed as of late, sightings aren’t guaranteed.

Don’t know whether this matters to you or not, but there are numerous dry jurisdictions; it seems that alcohol has caused untold problems for the aboriginal population, and many municipalities have banned it. Even simple possession is illegal in some of these places.

If you go to Mt. McKinley (Denali) know that you can’t go in all the way to the mountain by yourself. IIRC they stopped allowing people to do that back in the 80s sometime. They have tours that go in by bus, I can’t remember at what time of the year they stop doing that. But there is a ton of info on the Alaska tourism page. Also IIRC getting to go all the way into the foot of the mountain is done by lottery, sort of like some of the hunts (Caribou), and going to the McNeill River site for grizzly watching.

Driving to Kenai is a great trip, I used to live in Soldotna/Kenai, very pretty. Homer and Seward are also great.

In Anchorage, the Great Alaska Experience theatre is pretty cool (I always take relatives there when they’re visiting). They actually have a hydraulic set up that emulates the strength of the '64 earthquake, and movies and historical stuff. There is earthquake park, which is on the West side of town down in Turnagain arm. On 4th is a neat little log cabin for tourists (wracking my brain trying to remember the name of it), I think it’s just called the Visitor Center. It’s close to the PAC (performing arts center, ugliest building in the US :D).

Mr. Whitekeys show at the Fly by Night club in Spenard, is a fun, slightly off color, but uniquely Alaskan show. In September they should be starting into the Ballot Box Bonanza (or whatever they decide to call it this year).

For fully Alaskan owned and “flavored” restaurants? Moose’s Tooth Restaurant, the Glacier Brewhouse and Simon and Seafort’s are all good places to eat. Oomingmak’s down on (I think it’s 6th, it’s near JC Penney’s anyway) has mittens, scarves, sweaters and stuff made of woven musk oxen hair.

4th Avenue has a ton of native art and gift type shops, but you’re better off going to bars and waiting until the native people approach with their wares, more fun too, some of them have awesome stories and “sales pitches”.

Funny, because September 8th is when I’ll be returning home to Anchorage. What flight are you taking? (don’t worry, I’m a quiet traveler, I usually either sleep, or read) :smiley:

Sorry I forgot some stuff.

It takes about 3 to 3 and a half hours from Anchorage to Soldotna, about 20 minutes more to Kenai, and about an hour and a half from Soldotna to Homer. About 2 to 2 and a half hours to Seward.

To Fairbanks it’s about 6 hours. The best way to go to Valdez is to drive to Whittier, about an hour south of Anchorage, and then take the Ferry across to Valdez, otherwise it’s about a 6 hour drive.

Whittier is a cool little town too, very “Alaskan Frontier-like”. Buncha cool old buildings. It’s a fishing town, with a year round population of about 200 or so (last time I was there), and a summer population (because of the fisheries) of probably 1000.

I worked on cruise boats there when I was a teenager. Lots of fun.