I’ve mentioned our trip to Alaska in a couple posts before, but I have yet to share any details. I still don’t really know where to start, we explored so many new places and added about 20 things to our bucket list instead of crossing them off.
Going to Alaska is something I’ve dreamed of ever since I read The Call of the Wild in middle school. The expansiveness of the land, mixed with the history ignited my curiosity for the area and other stories about the wild west.
Over a year ago, our good friends Tom and Greg introduced us to a BBC show called the Long Way Around staring Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman. Together, they rode around the world on dual sport motorcycles, starting in the UK and ending in New York. After watching the first show, and then its sequel, Kyle, Tom and Greg decided they wanted to complete their own version of the Long Way Around, settling on a ride from Coeur d’Alene to Alaska and back, calling it Denali ADV.
There was no way in hell I was going to stand by and watch them go on such an epic adventure without me. At first, I successfully recruited Lisa, Tom’s wife, to be my co-pilot and follow the guys in my Subaru as a sag wagon (support vehicle) and camp along the way. After a couple complications and some reconsideration, Lisa stepped down from sag wagon duty and I found myself making the decision to not continue on the trip by myself for safety and logistics reasons.
After talking with Kyle extensively, and then with the guys, I decided to just meet them in Denali and then fly home when they had to turn around for the return trip. Although I was sad to miss out on the trip through Canada, I was relieved to not have to spend over 12 days alone in a car with little rest or time to explore.
So, on July 21, I bid Kyle a teary-eyed farewell as the guys began their trek northward. Then, on July 26, I boarded an early flight to Anchorage and began my own journey to Denali National Park.
Day 1 – Spokane to Anchorage
Leading up to takeoff, I had intense anxiety, more than I had experienced in a long time. I usually get some nerves leading up to a big trip – worrying that I forgot something important, that I’ll miss my flight, or that something bad will happen at home while I’m away – but this was different. Because literally anything could go wrong with the guys’ schedule due to mechanical errors or wrong turns, or because I could get bumped from a flight (I was flying standby) a lot of our time in Alaska was left unplanned, something that goes completely against my nature. But as I took my seat on the plane and watched as the cars, roads and buildings fade into the clouds, the anxiety waned and excitement took the reins.
The day I arrived in Anchorage, it was extremely overcast and rainy. My first impression of the city wasn’t all that great – it actually reminded me a lot of Spokane. I was riding in the front seat of the hotel van, asking the driver questions about restaurants and things to do. He asked why I was traveling alone, I fibbed and said I was meeting my husband and his friends that day, when in reality it was supposed to be two days.
The route to the hotel downtown took us along dingy streets and through seemingly sketchy neighborhoods. But just as I was questioning my decision to travel so far by myself, we turned a corner and the town square welcomed us to a new view. One with a beautiful garden, a historic visitor’s center and the sound.
Not too shabby, Anchorage.
I checked into my hotel, exhausted from a long day of travel and stress, and eager to meet Kyle in Denali. I couldn’t help but notice my room looked nothing like the pictures posted on Expedia. The floor was damp and crooked, and the musty smell left a lot to be desired. It was then that I finally got a chance to look at my phone and saw I had a text and a missed a phone call. The guys had some bike problems and would be delayed a day. Because Kyle had our tent I needed to find another place to stay up in Denali, stat.
After a few calls I found a hotel outside Denali that had an opening – the ONLY opening – and technically it was in Healy. Relieved to have a place to stay for the second leg of my trip, I headed up the road to find some food and scope out what all Anchorage had to offer.
Wandering the streets, I noticed buildings covered in local art, showcasing the area’s array of wildlife and scenery. The town square was full of blooming flower baskets, the corals, violets, reds and blues a stark contrast to the gray sky and low clouds.
I settled on Glacier Brewhouse for a very late dinner. The spicy shrimp salad and amber ale did not disappoint. After paying my bill I left the restaurant expecting to navigate my way back in the dark. At nearly 11 p.m., I found myself emerging into complete daylight and feeling relief as I headed back to the hotel safe, sound and ready for bed.
Next Up: Alaska Part 2 | The Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park
Just for Fun
Check our my SnapChat story from the entire trip.