Land of the Midnight Sun: Getting Lost in Alaska

Few places in the world offer such pristine landscapes where glaciers meet the oceans, wild animals roam freely unafraid of people, and endless forests stretch as far as the eye can see. Alaska has a lot going for it, and I am glad I finally decided to check it out. A couple of my friends, Larisa and I started planning our trip earlier this year. Sometimes, when going to other parks, things are certain - go here, go there, hike this trail, hike that tail. Easy. Planning for Alaska was a whole different kind of beast. 

Alaska has eight national parks, scattered across a landmass the size of eastern continental US. Transportation and amenities in Alaska are generally expensive compared to other destinations in the lower 48. Visiting as many different places as possible is usually in most people’s interest. After long deliberation and many days of research, we all agreed on three core places to visit: Kenai Fjords, Denali and Katmai National Parks over the course of ten days. 

Our first leg of the trip was to Anchorage. Since there are no direct flights from Boston to Anchorage, we left Boston on a 6 AMflight, and got into Anchorage just short of 8 PM.

   The most beautiful approach I've ever been on. Snowy peaks somewhere between Juneau and Anchorage. 


The most beautiful approach I've ever been on. Snowy peaks somewhere between Juneau and Anchorage. 

Anchorage airport was really impressive with how modern, clean, and easy to navigate it is. We picked up our luggage, got the rental car, and were on our way out to get some groceries. With four of us and all of our backpacks and food, the Chevy Traverse was just the right size. It was almost midnight by the time we got groceries and settled in at the hotel (the only hotel night during the trip). When most of us headed off to bed just past midnight, the sky was just as light as during daytime hours. Alaska experiences white nights with roughly 20 hours of daylight May-July. It makes up for those short, cold winter days. Having been to northern parts of the world before, I am not a stranger to midnight sun, but every time, it’s an amazing experience. 

Saturday morning, we went to a local diner not far from where we stayed. At Jackie’s Place Restaurant, some of us got reindeer sausage, but I’ve settled for a more traditional, omelette breakfast. It was great. Larisa said the reindeer tasted like regular beef.

After breakfast we stopped by at REI to get bear spray and a couple of other necessities, then headed to downtown Anchorage. 

Anchorage is often seen by people as a small, sleepy town, but during the summer time, town officials go to great lengths to bring the city alive by planting flowers everywhere. It’s probably the most floral city I’ve ever been to. It’s quite beautiful, and I appreciated it a lot, because without the flowers, Anchorage would be rather dull. 

 On the summer weekends, Anchorage has a market that sells locally-produced arts, crafts, and food. I love going to local markets when I’m traveling, and some are better than others. The highly-regarded market in Reykjavik turned out to be a disappointment since most of the goods sold there were not local, nor were they very impressive. Anchorage market has delicious coffee, pastries, and has booths with awesome crafts made locally with the use of natural materials like whale bone, caribou antlers, local wood, rocks, etc. My Alaska souvenirs budget ran out in a matter of minutes, I wanted to buy everything at that market. 

One of the biggest things that also sets Anchorage and much of Alaska apart from other places I’ve been to is how welcoming and friendly Alaskans are. People always smile, tell you about themselves, and ask you what you’re doing in Alaska and where you’re from. It’s a nice feature that set Alaska apart from other  places I've traveled. 

Because each park is very unique and we’ had quite a few adventures in each one of the areas, you can read more about our Alaska adventures in each park below:

Kenai Fjords National Park

Denali National Park & Preserve

Katmai National Park & Preserve