Alaska: Part One

Oh boy. Where do I even begin? I feel like no matter what I write, it’ll never truly do justice to how lovely our trip was. It wasn’t a perfect vacation- coming down with the flu saw to that, nor was it particularly relaxing- I mean, we do have a toddler. But after three months of craziness, not seeing each other and enduring some intense heat at home, being in Alaska was perfectly refreshing. Taylor and Emmett got some much needed time to reconnect, though I didn’t plan on it, I got a few days of rest and solitude, and we got to be outside, in beautiful, wild country doing what we love to do most. Explore and learn together. We have hoped to take this trip for several years and we are so thrilled and thankful that we were able to make it happen.

I think I’l split the recap into two posts, given how many photos there’s going to be, so hold on to your hats! The other part will be coming soon. And will have A LOT of fishing photos. Hooray! But for now, let’s start from the top.

Summit Lake Lodge:
Before I say anything about anything, give me a moment to go on and on about Summit Lake Lodge and our incredibly generous and welcoming family who made this trip a possibility for us. Our brother and sister-in-law (whose parents own the lodge and who grew up there) spend their summers in Alaska, working their buns off and making hordes of Alaskan visitors dreams come true. They so generously allowed us to invade their beautiful space for 10 DAYS, putting us up in the most charming cabin, showing us the best fishing spots, setting up trips and tours and even taking care of me when I was stricken down with the flu. We feel extremely humbled and grateful for the warm welcome of their whole family and crew, and we just had the very best time. It doesn’t feel like we’ll ever be able to thank them enough for our amazing experience, though we’re certainly going to try. Thank you so much Jason, Megan and the rest of the Arnoldy clan. You guys are the very best.

Summit itself was even more charming than we expected. Set right off the Seward highway on the banks of Summit Lake, it has a lovely combination of rustic charm and beautiful scenery. The cabin we stayed in instantly became our home away from home, and I was so grateful for such a cozy place to rest when I got sick. Though it was lame to be stuck in bed for two days while my boys explored, I was so grateful for a soft bed, warm fire and all-day movies on the Hallmark Channel. Emmett slept like a champ in his pack-n-play that we stuck in the shower, and we were thrilled to be able to shut the bathroom door and let him have his own space to rest.

When he wasn’t snoozing in the shower, he was enthusiastically running around the beautiful grounds, throwing rocks, chasing Henry (the resident lodge dog) and singlehandedly consuming all of the hot chocolate in the restaurant. Every morning when we’d head into breakfast, he’d turn over his coffee cup first thing and ask for his cocoa. Dude knows a good thing when he tastes it. Though my pants are a little tighter after our trip, we loved everything we had at the restaurant, and definitely hit the ice cream parlor a few times.

Summit, we’ll be back.

Alaska State Fair:
Early on in our trip we tagged along with the whole Summit staff to the Alaska State Fair. We ate Spinach Bread, drank blackberry limeade, consumed corn fritters doused in honey butter, stuffed our faces with a few corndogs and Emmett and I shared a gloriously disgusting cup of Dip-n-Dots. We walked through all the shops, perused the arts and crafts exhibits and spent a great deal of time in the farm building, petting animals and watching 4H kiddos do their thing. Emmett’s highlights were the corn fritters, the tractor exhibit, the wide variety of turkeys in the farm area and the finale of our time at the fair, the Lumberjack Show. He even cried when it was over. Oregon State Fair, you’ve got some work to do.

Kenai Fjords National Park + Exit Glacier:
Despite being the day that I began to feel really lousy, one of my favorite things we did on our trip was the visit to Kenai Fjords National Park, more specifically our hike to Exit Glacier. Seeing a glacier up close was one of the things I really, specifically wanted to do on our trip and I was so grateful we could make it happen. Taylor kept laughing at me because every time we saw a glacier, near or far, it blew my mind. They were so bright and so blue and so beautiful. It’s just not like anything you see anywhere else and at one point, as we waited for the tunnel to Whittier, we were surrounded 360 degrees by mountaintop glaciers (Taylor tells me it was the Harding Ice Fields in Portage Valley).

The hike itself wasn’t too long or strenuous, but it was cold, crisp and beautiful and wound around the forest and up into the hills before opening up into the little valley where the glacier sat. After a pretty hot and dry few weeks at home, it felt so good to stand there in the midst of so much green, waterfalls rushing down every hillside and pouring down into the riverbed below the glacier. It was just what my soul needed.

Whittier:
Whittier wasn’t even on our list of things we’d planned to do, but we were trying to ease back into things after I was sick and taking a little detour to this tiny town seemed like a good option. Taylor actually didn’t even decide to head that way until just before the exit, when he informed me he was pulling an “audible” and taking us towards the tunnel. He’d gone through as a kid and it had left quite an impression. And I’m so glad we decided to do it! It was such a quaint little town with lots of history and not a ton of tourists roaming around. We shared a slice of pizza from one of the three restaurants in town, drove around the old army base and walked the docks, trying to decide which fishing boat we’d choose if we decided to make a career change. It was the perfect way for me to ease back in to exploring.

And that tunnel! Oh boy that tunnel is freaky! I had a little claustrophobia on the drive in, so on the way back out we occupied ourselves by timing how long it took to drive through. Six minutes and 45 seconds! The middle of that tunnel is darker than dark, and all of the safe houses and emergency phones every few feet aren’t the most comforting sight as you cruise along. Still, what an incredible feat of engineering that thing is! I’m so glad we experienced it!

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:
From the minute we stepped off the plane, and into an airport filled with stuffed wild animals, Emmett was talking about bears. Non stop. Hardly an hour passed by that he didn’t find a reason to roar at something or other. So we knew we just had to take him to the conservation center to see the bears. Unfortunately, the weather was abysmal that day and though we only spent about 15 minutes on the bear boardwalk, we were soaked completely through. You can see the look on his face in the photos above while the horizontal rain poured down on us. Nevertheless, he was quite intrigued by the bears, and later the moose, and we were glad we made the stop.

That’s all for Part One…coming up in Part Two: fly-fishing, bear sightings and gold mining! Stay tuned!

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Alaska: Part Two - Bird is the Word

  2. Kali, these photos are gorgeous! What a wonderful trip for your little family! Alaska is on my to-do list, as well, and I can’t imagine a better time to visit than the middle of 100-degree forest fire season in Oregon. Thanks for sharing!

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