Sebago Lake in Maine is a special place. I've made a habit of visiting almost every year. The lush forests surrounding the lake, the wide open water, bald eagles, world-class lake kayaking, fishing, and pristine sandy beaches are all the things that make it worthwhile coming back to year after year.
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.
Alaska is known for the number of national parks and national forests and their size. For most people visiting the 49th state, Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks are at the forefront of the places to visit and are the most-visited national parks in the the northern part of the state.
When Larisa and I were originally planning our trip to Alaska, we didn't even consider any other parks due to their remote locations, high cost, and low popularity. I started doing more research and talking with people who have been to Alaska, I've discovered that the true gem of a park is actually located several hundred miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula - Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Katmai National Park, established only 35 years ago in 1980 to protect the area of extreme geological interest and the prime salmon and costal brown bear habitat is located 235 air miles from Anchorage and getting there isn't easy.
With an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, Denali offers enough space to cover the distance as far as the eye can see in all directions. Denali is the king of all the National Parks. We were slated to spend three days in the park - a tight schedule considering the sheer geographic area.
Denali National Park and Preserve is located about four hours north of Anchorage. Having been warned about wildfires along the Parks Highway, we made sure to leave early on Monday morning to make it to Denali at a decent hour. Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic, nor wildfires on the way up, and we even got a glimpse of Mt. McKinley from a viewpoint just south of the park. We were hoping that we’d get a much closer view of the mountain from inside the park, but later we’d be grateful for having at least seen it on the way in.
So I’m going to Alaska in July with my girlfriend and a couple of friends. This is a trip I’ve wanted to take for many years. After all, Alaska is that special, magical place everyone talks about, kind of like Iceland.
We’ll be gone for 10 days from July 3rd to July 13th. In the week and a half that we are there, we will be going to four key areas of the state: Anchorage (think cool galleries and shops), Kenai Fjords National Park (think whales and glaciers), Denali National Park (think sweeping views of tundra and Mt. McKinley), and Katmai National Park (think bears, lots of bears).
This summer is definitely turning into a “Maine Road Trip Series” kind of summer as Larisa and I keep coming up to the pine tree state almost every other week. There’s no denying that Maine’s “worth a visit, worth a lifetime”, so this past weekend, we decided to come up and visit once again. On the agenda - staying at Lake Sebago State Park and kayaking on the lake.
Sweeping 360-degree views consisting of azure-blue water, islands, mountains and trees, rugged coastline, the ringing of the lighthouse in the fog, endless carriage roads and hiking trails - those are the things that define Acadia National Park.
Acadia was the first National Park I've ever been to. As an 11-year old kid, I was mesmerized by the rugged coastline, the evergreen-covered mountains, and numerous, crystal-clear lakes of Mount Desert Island, and most importantly, the fall foliage. That was my first visit to Acadia in 2001. Since then, I've visited the island several times and this spring, while trying to figure out what adventure to go on for Memorial Day weekend, I've stumbled upon the last remaining campsite at Blackwoods campground in Acadia. I asked Larisa if she wanted to go and given her love of Maine, she couldn't be more excited.
So we packed up the car, loaded up the bikes on the roof, and headed up to Maine on early Saturday morning.