Ryan Jerz, a person

Planning a trip to Alaska

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Thursday March 21, 2013.

A brief aside from the all-too-infrequent posts about Europe here. My family is planning to take a week and drive around in an RV in Alaska this summer. We’re also planning to attend a wedding, which is kind of the bigger reason we’re going to that state in the first place, but the planning of the driving around is kind of a big deal here.

The lowdown on the trip is that we’ll be flying into Anchorage on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. We’ll pick up the RV and head to Girdwood for the wedding, which is on Monday. After that, we have about ten days to tool around and do whatever. The travel party will consist of the four Jerzes and my mom and stepdad. The six of us will share a 32’ RV for the week plus.

If there is one must-see in Alaska, at least for the part of it where we’ll be, it’s Denali National Park. Denali is home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, and is gorgeous from what I hear. With the amount of hiking and just general sightseeing inside the park, it should serve as a significant portion of the trip.

The proximity to other adventures is also very intriguing. The day after the wedding we plan to head south from Girdwood to take a glacier tour on a boat with a couple of my aunts and uncles. Those will take us toward Seward, which is home to a super cool-sounding race that I wish I would be there to see. It’s called the Mount Marathon Race, and it appears to be kind of dangerous (and really difficult). Over a 3,000 foot vertical in a mile and a half. Unfortunately, it’s about a month before we’ll be in the area.

Seward is going to be as far south as we go, I think, but it’s basically the entry point to Kenai Fjords National Park. We’ll likely see what’s called Exit Glacier there before moving on. It appears to be very accessible and an easy enough hike to really enjoy the day.

After Seward, we’ll head north to Anchorage to pick up some more supplies, gas, whatever. We’ll probably stay a night there before heading north more to a town called Talkeetna. Talkeetna is used as a starting point for climbers looking to summit Denali (I just read that America calls the mountain ‘Mount McKinley,’ but Alaskans call it Denali—this is actually codified in Alaska law and U.S. law). It’s southeast of the peak and apparently the perfect spot to base and head toward the popular west route for climbing.

After a night in Talkeetna, it’s time to head into the park. We won’t be doing anything super strenuous as far as climbing—mostly sightseeing while we’re there. We should, based on my preliminary idea of what our itinerary should be, have two days to explore. It’s not much, but it’s a visit nonetheless.

Map of DenaliMap of Denali: Click on the image to see the full-sized version.You can’t drive into Denali. You basically have to park and ride a bus past about the halfway point in the ~90 mile road that winds its way in. From what I understand, you take the bus in, do your thing, then just hit the road and start walking back. As a bus passes, it will stop and pick you up anywhere along the way. This should work pretty well for us. Who knows how long we’ll last each day out there? I would love to think that we’ll be out all day, but without having to worry about hitting any time for the ride back, the day is a lot more flexible and fun.

After the two days in Denali, we’d head back to Talkeetna for a night. Then, finally, it’s back to Anchorage and a midnight flight home.

Here is the itinerary based on the days:

  • Day one – Wedding in Girdwood
  • Day two – Drive to Seward with possible glacier boat tour
  • Day three – Kenai Fjords Park and Exit Glacier
  • Day four – Drive to Anchorage for supplies
  • Day five – Drive to Talkeetna and explore there
  • Day six – Drive to campground at Denali National Park
  • Days seven & eight – Explore Denali
  • Day nine – Drive to Talkeetna
  • Day ten – Return to Anchorage and home

Most of the driving we’ll do is very limited for one day. I have heard that not only does traffic move slowly on the roads there—there will be a lot of inexperienced RV drivers, like me, clogging things up—it’s probably just best to leave plenty of time to get places and enjoy yourself.

One challenge for me is that I have heard that the skies around Denali are only clear a few days each year. I want to take photos upon photos of the place and the mountain, so I hope we get something close to visible while we’re there.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who shoots photos and video, builds websites, and works at the University of Nevada. Ryan formerly taught digital production at Nevada's Reynolds School of Journalism.

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