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Kenai to Denali

Traveling through Alaska

Story by Taylor Eke September 17th, 2015

Down the Kenai Peninsula

The first thing you notice about Alaska even before you get off the plane is that everything is massive. It’s like being surrounded by Mt. Hoods.

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Luckily we had a rental car we could just sleep in because there was a lot of driving to do and not a lot of time to break down camps.

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The view of all the volcanos (including the active Mt. Clark) across the Cook Inlet is huge and will never be captured by a camera properly. I would recommend everyone visit this area before they die. I’m posting a boat-load of pictures and I hope you look at them all, but I don’t think they do anything justice.

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click this image twice to expand then download the version you can zoom around in.

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It’s a good thing they have giant lakes in Alaska because literally everyone fishes all the time.

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There are way more flowers in Alaska than I imagined. It’s actually a lot more vibrant than the Pacific Northwest. The timber is very different also. The trees were small and we never saw a sign of the logging industry.

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Homer

I wish I was back in Homer right now. We were lucky enough to be there when the beaches felt like California (just don’t step into the shade).

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So much uninhabited area to explore, including that glacier over there, but more of that later.
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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir. I saw this quote and remembered having read a lot about this mans work and his influence in Yosemite earlier in the year.https://docs.google.com/uc?authuser=0&id=0BxJPQTkcMlE1Q01UN2liTWZFM0U&export=download

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This little crow eating an urchin!

Seriously the panoramic views never end here.

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Wherever I go there is almost always one constant and that is the Seagull.

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I had the most expensive sushi I’ve ever imagined, but it was worth it for the fresh salmon sashimi. After sampling the local food I saw a drawing of a Puffin and this whole trip took on a new goal. VIEW WILD PUFFINS!

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I came for puffins. I found many many many many sea otters.

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I went to a state park that was pretty well maintained, but still going somewhere you can only get to by boat gives you that awesome feeling of exploration.

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Icebergs may be bigger than they appear.

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I want to live here.
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This dog was funny because he is always on the lookout for seals. I was told it’s because they are basically dogs that defy all the laws of dog. Also all dogs in Alaska have sweet collars.

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Seward & Portage

We basically skipped some stuff going down the Kenai peninsula that I’m glad we stopped for on the way back up. Well it was a total bummer finding this black bear that had a really jacked up arm though. People drive really really fast down the back roads in Alaska so animals really don’t stand a chance. I generally found that Alaskan were really nice people, but they seem to have a false perspective on some things because of the unrealistic appearance of abundance in Alaska. There appears to always be more bears and ice and fish in Alaska, but it sadly isn’t true. For example anecdotally a native Alaskans told me when he first moved here it would be consistent 40 below and 12 feet of snow (not in the summer), while now there is barely 4 feet of snow and it’s 10 below. However comments like that were followed by someone saying the ice isn’t going anywhere and they would rather have Obama “spend less time worried about ICE and more time worried about ISIS”. They’re entitled to their opinions, but I find it curious that people like me in the cities often take nature less for granted.

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It's considerably further up since 2007... like basically further than the image up the hill.
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Soo many glaciers! Click through the image to download the full zoomable.

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AWCC & Turnagain

Apparently the Turnagain Arm is named because Captain Cook was looking for the northwest passage and had to turn again! We were told we would see a ton of animals by the locals, but we hadn’t (yet), so we went to a refuge to see them up close and being super lazy and bored apparently. I definitely wasn’t supposed to touch the animals, but that Moose was lazy and totally let us pet him. Also a Grizzly Bear seriously thought he was doing a professional photo shoot or something.

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Baby Elk are adorable!

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These blue winged birds were all over Alaska, we really enjoyed seeing them.

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Itchy butt
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Lots of itchy animals at the refuge.

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We got so lucky catching the Beluga whales chasing the salmon up through the tide.

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North to Denali

We moved north to Denali, but the weather took a turn toward average for Alaska.

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I tried to take pictures while it was clear. You can always see the rain falling around you, because even with the mountains everything is so vast you can see very far.

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Apparently this is a hotspot for Mountain Goats and I still can’t find them. Mountain Goats will forever elude me.

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We were stuck in the clouds in Denali so we decided to try to find the Northern Lights in Fairbanks. Spoiler alert: we didn’t see the Norther Lights.

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Lots of signs of the scarring of the land from gold mining out here toward the yukon.
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I basically had to take a picture of every sled dogs at Chena Hot Springs.

North Pole, Alaska
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Balto
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This dog did not want us to ever leave him, it was kinda sad. He tried to block my dad from leaving.
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It was very relaxing after days of sleeping in a car.
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Antlers too big to eat :(
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Fat Raven
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I was really close to this baby Moose, but I didn't have the appropriate lens at the time for the pictures. Damnit!
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Albino looking Reindeer. Would fit right in pulling Santa's sleigh.
My dad was petting him, but I'm pretty sure he tried to bite him.
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denali at the first snow fall

If you’re still with me you’re probably wondering if I really have MORE pictures. The answer is yes, but now that we went back to Denali for the first seasonal snowfall I’m sure it will be worth your time.

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Caribou this time, not Reindeer ;)
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This looks fake...
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I didn’t care if I got trapped personally, but apparently we could get trapped if the buses into the park kept going any further while the snow was falling. So we spent about 3 hours just literally waiting on a bus and staring into the distance. The skies also never cleared so I wasn’t able to see Mt. McKinley, but apparently that’s typical all year round (it was McKinley for a couple more hours at this time). Ultimately the buses did move us in further which you will see, but we only made it half way through the park rather than all the way like we had hoped for. I like to think it was worth it to go there during the snowfall. Typically these areas are closed except for the dead of summer.

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These bears were HUGE. Can't do it justice since I wasn't climbing that hill to get closer.
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Digging for the roots to settle his stomach during hibernation.
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This valley is freaking massive. We were questioning how many Seattles we thought could fit in it.

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Buses stopped again and I was pretty bored without a lot of hiking in the park.

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Here are the pictures you were waiting for of the cubs. This was definitely one of the coolest moments in my entire life alongside snorkeling on Kaua’i (which I will post a story about soon)! I learned that apparently Brown Bears can be black and Black Bears can be brown. It might be harder to tell in the pictures but one of the brown bear cubs is totally black. Apparently it’s pretty rare to see the little first year cubs, so again we got pretty lucky.

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Brown cub on the left, black cub on the right.
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Damn you FOCUS! Could have been the greatest picture I ever took!
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Finally just a peak at the top of Mt. McKinley (Denali). The peak on the left if south peak and the highest point in North America.
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It had rained so hard when we went north I missed some of this beautiful terrain until I was driving back south again toward clearing skies.

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Anchorage

We had to kill a day before our flight and clean up at a hotel. We still saw plenty of nice things around Anchorage though. There was a bear right on the frisbee golf course and even more moose on the cross-country ski trails. The parks in Anchorage are a billion times better then our parks. The first one I went to included marked and rated single-track mountain biking trails, marked and rated cross-country ski trails, a few frisbee golf courses and ~30 miles of walking path along the coast. Even the most remote spots in the parks had well cared for flowers and planted areas, which is a lot more than I could say for some of the parks in Portland that are smaller.

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Yum berries
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After seeing this view then flying back into portland, I have to say that Portland is actually pretty large.
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The lights are boats going down the cook inlet
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I finally saw Mt. Denali (yep now it’s Denali, thanks Obama). But now that I was hundreds of miles away.


To give a couple of these images coming up context I was trying to show how there is a Tidal Bore around Anchorage that I saw take take tide far out then wash in.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_bore

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Mt. Denali finally clear and now I'm hundreds of miles away!
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Chaga mushroom. My new secret ingredient that I just made not a secret.
This is a lagoon park in Anchorage, parks in Anchorage are freakin' sweet.
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Wild Rose. I see these in Oregon, but I thought it was weird to see it here where it's supposed to be cold and dreary all the time.
Pay attention to the waterline in a couple of these pics, because you’ll see in the next set how we almost got trapped out on this rock a couple hours before our flight.
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We left this rock at literally the last moment before it was an island. I was just being lazy wasting time taking photos out on the other side of it. Didn’t realize we would have been stuck until we were leaving by chance.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_bore

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The last thing I did before leaving was nerd out at the world’s largest float plane base. It’s like a traditional airport layout right next to the paved airport.

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Goodbye Alaska!

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