Alaska
Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Wasilla, Denali, Fairbanks and North Pole
Wednesday, July 10th through Tuesday, July 16th

On this trip was Charlie Haubein, Tommy Trest, Tommy's son Nathanael Trest, Keith Montz and for three days, Tommy's younger son Nick Trest.  Nick Trest is on his final days of service in the Army, stationed in Anchorage at Fort Richardson, where he joined us for three days of exploring.

We flew out on Wednesday, July 10th and arrived in Anchorage in time for dinner and then spent most of the vacation days exploring beautiful national parks.  There was nearly constant day light except for around midnight which only lasted a few hours but even then it was like dusk in the lower 48 USA States.  Every day our itinerary started around 6 am and lasted until way past midnight. 

During our treks through the National Parks, we saw beautiful wild life and never felt threatened.  Most places did have warnings against startling bears and grizzlies but we never saw one in close proximity.  For protection against any attacks, I brought a 44 Magnum pistol from home loaded with 240 grain bullets which at close range could stop a bear but I never had to draw it from my holster. This to me was better than bear pepper spray.  Maybe next time, we will bring a Riffle or 12 gauge with slugs.

Thursday, July 10th - Drive from Anchorage to Homer, boat taxi across Kachemak Bay to and hike to Grewingk Glacier Lake in Kachemak Bay State Park

In Homer we stayed at a beautiful motel, Ocean Shores, with a view of the ocean right from our rooms.  The ocean tide coming in and out went down around 8 feet exposing huge boulders which we walked out to in one part of our stay but at other times we could not even see the boulders.  In the morning we saw a whale moving along inward towards the boat docks scaring off seagulls that were congregated in the water. In the distance was beautiful, snow covered mountains.

At Kachemak Bay State Park we took the Glacier Split Trail to Grewingk Tram Spur Trail.  Next we doubled back on Grewingk to resume on Glacier Lake Trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake.  After staying a bit at Grewingk Glacier Lake, we doubled back to take Saddle Trail back down to ocean to be picked up.  The trek started at 2pm and took us 6 hours to finish with an 8pm pickup by the water taxi.  During the walk we did not see any wild life other than some sea gulls and black birds. 

1 Breakfast at International House of Pancakes.  Nick met us after mourning roll call.
2 Highway 1 Road view of ocean going down to Homer
3 View from patio of motel room looking out to ocean
4 Keith, Tommy and Nathanael standing in area in front of motel rooms with view of ocean and mountains behind.
5 Mako Water Taxi ride across bay to Kachemak State Park
6 On water approaching Kachemak State Park
7 Kachemak Bay State Park - Glacier Lake, Saddle & Blue Ice Trails Map, which we use
8 Tommy, Nathanael and Charlie walking through forest area.
9 Tommy, Charlie and Keith on Glacier Lake Trail at one of the notification trail splits for Grewingk Tram trail.
10 Keith, Charlie and Tommy before the tram crossing on the Grewingk Tram trail.
11 The Grewingk Tram.  It is a hand propelled two person tram.  We crossed but it took some upper body strength.
12 Nathanael and Keith crossing on the tram.
13 Approaching Grewingk Glacier and Grewingk Glacier Lake.  Charlie and Nathanael on trail.
14 Charlie, Tommy and Keith at Grewingk Glacier Lake.
15 Keith near the Grewingk Glacier Lake.
16 Keith walking across log bridge as we descended down Saddle Trail down to ocean for taxi pickup.
17 Keith on shore exploring caves with Tommy as we awaited water taxi.
18 Boat Marine view with bay and mountains, Keith's shadow on the ground.
19 View of the restaurants along the Highway one peninsula.   Charlie texting on the left.
20 Bald Eagle sitting on one of the huge boulders back at our beach in front of the Motel during low tide.

Friday, July 11th - Drive from Homer to Seward, Explore Homer and Exit Glacier National Park.

1 Keith in front of bear at Seward Welcome Center
2 Keith and Tommy at Kenai Fjords National Park.
3 Keith standing next to Exit Glacier.
4 Looking down Exit Glacier towards the cut canyon of the park.

Saturday, July 12th - Kanai Fjords Glacier Cruise.

The highlight of the Cruise was the whale watching and Aialik Glacier.  For the entire cruise, it was slightly over cast but as soon as we got near to the Aialik Glacier the clouds parted which was definitely a prearranged God appointment as the immenseness and beauty of the glacier became more revealed.  Photos, which are two dimensional, never show the magnitude and depth of places like glacier.  The Glacier dwarfs our ship as we came into the bay, and like other glaciers, we heard "white thunder" as blocks of ice fell into the sea.

1 Keith at the south end of Seward near a waterfall coming down from the mountain area that surrounds Seward.
2 The front office at the boat docks for Kanai Fjords Glacier Cruise
3 Nathanael and Charlie on the cruise.  It was cold when the boat got moving.
4 Sea Lions resting on a rock.
5 Whale tail.  It was hard to photo the numerous whales we saw at the Chiswell Islands.
6 Approaching Aialik Glacier
7 In front of the Glacier.
8 Coming back into Seward.
9 In front of our Cruise Ship the Tanaina.

Sunday, July 13th - Anchorage Flattop Mountain Top.

The mountain was very cloudy and a little cold.  When we started the hike to the top the clouds were blowing around with visibility very limited in some places.  Towards the descent down, the clouds were burnt away leaving incredible views of Anchorage the ocean in the far distance.  Only Tommy and Nick made it to the top.  Keith and Nathanael stopped at the large open area right before the last split trail.  Charlie took a rest about a third of the way up, enjoying the great views.

1 The early part of the trail on Flattop Mountain.
2 Near the top with a mile left to go.
3 Charlie and Keith on return trip down with gorgeous view of Anchorage and the ocean.
4 Moose on the trail eating leaves.
5 Nathanael on snow ice patch on the trail.
6 In back yard at Fred and Judy Maldonado's house in Anchorage.  From left to right, Charlie, Tommy, Fred and Fred's son Desi.
7 Keith and Fred Maldonado.  Fred is Keith's childhood / life long friend, Ed Maldonado, older brother.

Monday, July 14th - Denali.

There can be paragraphs written here about Denali and it wouldn't express the beauty and immense views.  We unfortunately only scheduled one day here where several days are needed to do the place justice.  We saw a mother bear with cub, moose, coyote, caribou, sheep and chipmunks.  When buying our tickets we made friends with three sisters taking their father on the bus trip portion.  One of the sisters, Lori, shared some of her photos below. I am very thankful because she was able to get some great close ups with her camera.

1 Park entrance.
2 Keith, Charlie, Nathanael and Tommy at the first bus stop over nearly dry river bed.
3 Photo of the beautiful mountains with a rare view of Mt McKinley which the bus driver stopped for us to photo, making us part of the 30% club.  The photo only shows the top of Mt McKinley which is nearly always obscured by clouds.
4 Keith and Tommy at the second bus stop overlooking vast scenic view.
5 Caribou running past our bus.
6 At last bus stop for us at Toklat River before taking bus back, Tommy and Nathanael down near silted river.
7 Keith, Nathanael and Tommy in the bus looking out at the scenery.
8 Coyote passing our bus.
9 Mother bear and cub.
10 View of a Sheep very high up on one of the mountains, a little blurry.
11 Sheep high in mountain.
12 Getting dropped off by bus to go hiking for a few hours.
13 Keith at Sable Pass, elevation 3900 feet.
14 About to eat dinner in town at the Salmon Bake Restaurant outside the Denali Park entrance.

Tuesday, July 14th - Fairbanks and the North Pole.

We only spent a few hours in Fairbanks along with briefly visiting the city "North Pole" as we had a long drive back to Anchorage to catch a plane late in the evening.  The plane ended up being delayed four hours because of storms in Houston preventing take off to Anchorage, so we got extra time to see some more of Anchorage.  Nick also joined us for dinner at a very nice restaurant over looking a river which people were kayaking and riding tubes on.  The river also had red salmon swimming up stream, which we all viewed from the outside balcony of the restaurant.

1 Charlie and Keith at City Sign.
2 Keith at North Pole City Hall.