Now you’re probably wondering how this blog post is for America when I had no intention of going there. The story goes.. after making new friends trekking in Argentina and then reuniting in Ecuador, my friend Tim (who lives in Minnesota, USA) mentioned that he’s planning a trip ‘Road Trip to Alaska’ and that sounded appealing to me. After typing in ‘Alaska’ into google images, 5 photos in and I’m sold on the idea. I get in touch with Tim and said, if you’re still going, count me in. I spontaneously re-arranged all my flights… Alaska here we come!! (Freedom of unplanned destinations is the way to travel)
1. Tim and Tayva – I met these two Trekking in Argentina and have now become very good friends of mine. They kindly let me stay at their house in Minnesota before me and Tim embarked on our 3 week long road trip to Alaska. Tim’s place felt like a home-away-from-home, having my own bedroom and bathroom (A Luxury after being in dorm rooms and communal bathrooms). Numerous dinners made by Tayva and dining American style. Greatly Appreciated the hospitality.
2. America Goodies – Lucky Charms!! Icon of American breakfasts, I just had to get a box of these! (kindly given as a welcoming from Tayva’s mum). Lots of other American goodies, including peanut butter chocolates (Note to self that Americans cannot live without peanut butter, it’s in everything!), Salt-water taffy and the rest..
Road Trip to Alaska
1. Preparation – Tim had his 4×4 car all checked before we embarked on a 9000 mile journey to Alaska. We raided Tim’s house for chairs, cutlery, camping equipment and food. Tim’s love of coffee also meant that we took the home coffee machine that we could hook up to the car. We set-up the tent in his front yard and had a rough plan of the route we would take.
2. BadLands National Park, South Dakota – The first day of 600 miles of driving through South Dakota and we detoured through the ‘Badlands’. This is a magical place full of spires, amazing rock formations and pinnacles. Such an impressive sight. This really opened up my eyes to what the USA has to offer.
3. Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota – A Scenic drive around the mountain roads, leads you through narrow passes and beautiful scenery. The famous iron mountain road which passes through one-lane tunnels surrounded by rock formations and pinnacles. Boasting a view of Mt.Rushmore, which is the famous mountains which have the faces of American presidents on them. So impressive. We took a short 2 hour hike around and the weather turned a little windy and rainy. On our return to the car, a huge boulder had fallen and was about a metre away from crushing Tim’s Car. Day two and a lucky escape, that would have ended our trip if that boulder hit the car.
4. Glacier National Park, Montana – A scenic drive through the national park with glaciers, lakes surrounded by pine trees. The US national parks all allow for a slow drive through the parks and stop-off points to park up, take a hike and picnic spots. We opted for a hike around for a few hours, to get a stretch of the legs after another 800 mile drive.
5. Wildlife en-route – Just driving through the national parks and rocky mountains, you stop(or halted shall I say) by unexpected wildlife along the way. Cayotes, Bison, Wolfs bears and a Grizzly Bear!!!
6. Cool Camping and motels en route – As we were covering nearly 800 miles a day, the evening would consist of sleeping in a motel room for a nice nights sleep before we would hit the road again. On the days that we had spare to stop off to explore a national park, we opted to stay in tents (or cool camping as I’ll call it). Having a nice camp fire and sharing stories with other campers in peace.
1. Black Bears – after crossing the border into Canada, within a couple of hours drive, on the bend of a mountainous road and something popped it’s head over the side barrier. I had to double take as to what this was, as in my mind I thought it’s just a dog or something. Tim says pull over ‘That’s a god damn bear crossing the road’. How incredible and unexpected. A Black bear was started to crossed the road. I was not expecting that. Welcome to Canada.
2. Icefield Parkway, Alberta – Voted as the most scenic drive in the world, I think I would agree! Driving from Banff through to Jasper, the scenery of glaciers, lakes, mountains, an abundance of wildlife and beautiful trails, picnic stops. The Canadian Rockys are out of this world and breath-taking.
3. Five Lakes, Jasper National Park – Imagine the sun shining, no clouds in the sky, surrounded by pine trees, glacial mountains, green coloured lakes and silence! Picturesque, I think the picture portrays the moment.
4. Watson Lake, Dawson Creek, – All the stopover spots along the route to Alaska on Highway One! You could be driving for 10 hours in a day and see 10 cars. Highway one is completely empty. There is more wildlife than cars. Traffic? None at all, the only times you get stuck is due to roadworks, otherwise it’s a clear route full of Harley Davidsons and RV’s.
6. Check the mileage!!! – Arrival in Seward, Alaska.
1. Helicopter Flight to Husky Sledding – When you think of Alaska, Sledding on snow by Alaskan Huskys is something that you picture as a transport method. This was an activity I had been wanting to do at somepoint in life and I would not miss this opportunity to do so. A lovely helicopter flight across Seward taken through snowcapped mountains and landing on a Godwin Glacier. Coming into land and you see lots of Huskys all lined up waiting to run! We get off the helicopter and are introduced to the Alaskan Huskys, which are roaring away and are super excited. I stand on the back of the sledge and the huskys set off. Running and pulling me along the snow on the glacier, just a surreal experience. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to be transported around. They were so excited that they let us go around for another 15 minutes with the Huskys as they had so much energy to burn. One of the best experiences I have ever had.
2. Deep Sea Fishing – Taking a deep sea fishing day out into far into the middle of the Alaskan sea, we went fishing of Halibut, Salmon and Rockfish. When you think of fishing, you imagine sitting for long periods of time and after hours upon hours you finally catch a small thing. Now this is Alaska fishing. You drop the line in, let it sink about 250 feet and boom, within minutes you are struggling to reel the line in. It’s a tiring process of pulling these HUGE fish in. I would be catching fish for the fun of it and due to fishing licence restrictions, you can only keep a certain quota, so if they were not big enough, you just throw them back. Weight wise I mean the biggest was 31.5 inches! Massive! After catching our quota between me and Tim, we went back to the resort, got help in cutting the fish up and vacuum sealed and shipped to Tims house. Fish for the rest of the year for Tim I think.
3. Whale Watching Cruise, Seward – An entire day trip on cruise from Seward to visit the northwestern glacier and to see whales, specifically humpback whales and we even got to see Orca’s ( Another type of wildlife I have been longing to see). Now I’ve been on whale watching tours before, and you just about see one. Not the case in Alaska, we saw pods of humpback whales through the day, sea otters, seals and pods of Orca Whales.
4. Snowhiking on Harding Icefield – An 8 hour trek to see the Exit Glacier, incrementally getting harder. The first half was clear of snow and a clear trail but then halfway through the terrain changed to Snow! Walking with our boots, with socks starting to get cold and soggy as every step was inches deep in snow. Seeing bears along the way in the distance and Goats walking across the snowfield. What an incredible day.
5. Salmon and Halibut Dinner – We treated ourself to an amazing sea-filled dinner of the freshest Salmon and Halibut. Delicious it was.
6. Yurt Lodging – As Tim used to be in the US Army, we was lucky to be able to rent out a Yurt in the Army resort (Last minute for a cheap price, just perfect). We didn’t need to set up our tent as for the same price we were able to stay in a Yurt. A Yurt is kind of like a fixed Tent, with cradles to put your sleeping bag on and a fire outside. Ideal for what we needed.
7. Reindeer Burrito – As soon as I saw that reindeer was on the menu, I wasn’t going to miss this. I love trying to foods and meat. Reindeer is very tasty.
8. Alaskan Malamute – so cute!
1. Dennys lumberjack breakfast with Brendt – Another friend we met in Argentina lives in Alaska and we all met up for Breakfast. A lovely catch up with a fellow like-minded traveller and we caught up over a Dennys. Dennys breakfast is a huge portion of food, I had to get takeaway for half of my meal everytime (American portions!)
2. Vancouver evening – only unfortunately having the evening in Vancouver (a place I’ve also wanted to visit for a long time) we walked around for a while at some sights and then had a fish and chips dinner by the coast.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – This national park has a wonderful scenic layout consisting of unusual volcanic activity of exploding Geysers, bubbling mud and volcanic steam. Lots of wildlife along around the national park including black bears, buffalo, elk and deer. We set up our tent in a campsite and spent the night there.
4. A plate full of random meats – I couldn’t end my trip without one last try of unusual meats. A selection of wild sausages. A few more to add to the list of wild and wacky foods.
End of the Road (Literally my final stop)
After a 9000 mile drive from Minnesota to Alaska and back, a blue car turns into a brown car, as exhausting as the 10 hour back to back drives were, we made it! A Wonderful and eye opening experience of America and Canada, the rocky mountains, the numerous national parks and wonderful wildlife. A Special thanks to Tim for suggesting the idea, making me feel at home and having the best end to a world trip anyone could have ever had. Alaska became one of my top destinations in the world I have ever travelled to.