Alaska Part 2!

Our story of Alaska continues! If you read my last post, you saw my journey on the train to Seward and my crazy Mt. Marathon climb. After we came back from the coast, we spent a few days in the valley, in Palmer, where the Alaskan Man lives. It was a nice couple of days just relaxing around the house not doing much except spending quality time with Alaskan Man.

On the 4th we went on a nice, cool hike in Hatcher Pass. The great thing about the valley is you’re only 30 minutes from SOO many different, beautiful areas and fun things to do. Hatcher Pass is up through some pretty green mountains. You can park in one of the lots and just hike around in the blueberry fields, or drive up farther and hike around a lake. There’s a lot of area to enjoy the outdoors in without the crowd. Hatcher Pass is home to the Independence Mine that was shut down back in 1951. You can do underground mine tours and it’s said that there’s plenty of gold left to find! In the nearby river, you could even pan for gold!

Hatcher Pass

We just found some random trails and meandered around enjoying the views. The mountain air up there was crisp and fresh! I didn’t want to leave!

Friday, we rented a car and drove to Fairbanks. We actually got to drive a Ford Focus…now, I never used to like those, but the new ones are NICE! It was a smooth, fun, and zippy little car – made my car feel so clunky when I got back home! (Side note: if you do travel to Alaska and rent a car, I highly suggest getting the insurance. The roads aren’t traveled as much there because of the intense winters and less people, so there’s a lot of debris. In the two days we had the car, we were hit with a rock and it made a pretty good sized scratch…but luckily it didn’t matter because of the insurance.)

The road to Fairbanks takes about 5 hours, but the views make the driving bare able. We pulled over a few times to take pictures of the landscape. We got a pretty decent shot of Mt. McKinley, but the top was covered with clouds.

Mt McKinley, aka Denali, is the peak just left of that tallest tree.

Unfortunately for my driving buddy, the motion of cars on long trips puts me to sleep like a baby, but I did wake up at important moments to take some nice pictures.

Another view along the way

We got into Fairbanks with empty bellies and stopped at a restaurant recommended by my travel book as the best shakes and burgers around! And, they were probably spot on. We ate at Brewsters and each had a delicious burger and we split a cookie crumble shake. MMMM…

I actually wasn’t all that impressed with Fairbanks itself. I didn’t like the atmosphere; think college city mixed with military base mixed with the south. It was strange. Our hotel was decent though. Nothing special, but the staff was pretty nice. We stayed at Pioneer Park Inn. It’s right next to Pioneer Park, which is kind like a ship-themed amusement park – minus the roller coasters. We didn’t actually check it out, but it didn’t seem that interesting to us.

That afternoon, we went up to Chena Hot Springs and took a dip in the hot water! This resort is really nice (probably really expensive) and is open all year round. During the summer, people enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities. There’s an ice museum, but it didn’t look that cool (no pun intended), so we skipped that. During the winter, there are even more activities like dog sledding, snow moiling, etc. The main tourist attraction in the winter is coming to sit in the hot springs while there’s snow on the ground and to catch a glimpse of the Borealis lights in the sky! I want to visit around that time of year and see that! They have full-service spas, and of course, guests get into the pool for free (only 10 bucks for non-guests like us!). There’s an indoor pool area for kids and a few just regular hot tubs (which was god-awfully loud and annoying) but luckily the outdoor pool is ADULTS ONLY, no children….yessss!

The outdoor pool is actually cool. It was pretty natural: a sand floor with big boulders around. The water is the natural hot springs and actually has to be cooled down to make it stand able. It was wonderful. I love hot springs. I actually don’t have any pictures of this place because I took them on a disposable waterproof camera, but I left it in the rental car. Luckily, Alaska Man was able to get it and eventually I will see those pictures!

After a relaxing day at the pool we went to the hotel to crash because the next day was…RACE DAY! On that Saturday I participated in the Jingle in July 5k race. I’m going to write a separate race review post about that…but it was a blast! However, it took place at Santa’s House and I was really excited to see what kind of attractions they had around but was pretty disappointed because Santa’s house was nothing but one big store. Just a huge Christmas gift store. There were a few reindeer outside. Maybe during the winter they have a lot more activities.

I’m guessing this was Comet

We made our way back to the valley (stopping first at Skinny Dick’s…it’s a bar/tourist trap..and yes, I got a t-shirt) after the race, we returned our rental car, and just relaxed at home for my last day and a half. Sunday before my flight (which was at 12:45am, technically Monday morning) we went on one last hike at Eklutna Lake. This was another quick trip from Palmer to more beautiful hiking trails. We were planning on renting a kayak, but the wind was too much and made the water really choppy and hard to manage, so we passed and just walked around and let the dogs swim.

Eklutna Lake

Bongo and Taz…I love those dogs!

Alaska was wonderful for many reasons, and I really miss it! Next time I go, I would like to do see all the islands and cities of southeast Alaska…maybe some kind of cruise around that area! I also want to check out Nome, AK for two reasons: 1) It’s where the Iditarod ends, and 2) It’s where that movie the Fourth Kind supposedly takes place! I even want to venture up to the 30 Days of Night area of Marrow, AK….scary!!! And,  reallllllllyy want to see a humpback whale! So much to do there!

I can’t wait to go back.

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