Author Topic: The Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips  (Read 8147 times)

Offline Something Fishy

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The Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« on: January 31, 2021, 12:26:31 PM »
4 trips, 48 flights, 34,521 miles of flying, and 2,678 miles of driving. Traveled by jet, prop plane, ski plane, floatplane, helicopter, coach bus, school bus, truck, minibus, van, rental car, taxi, snowmobile, sled, ATV, raft, kayak, skiff, catamaran, pontoon boat, train, aerial tram, and dog sled. Almost got to ride in a police car too, but turned that down.

From -40 to +75 degrees F, from the tallest mountain in North America to the northernmost point in the United States, from rainforest to tundra, and from thousand-pound bears to thousands of mosquitos.


All flights - 48 legs and 34,521 miles flown:




Alaska close up - 31 legs:




Close up of south-central Alaska:





Trip 1, February: Homer, Deadhorse, Barrow, Fairbanks


Arctic fox in the sea ice, Point Barrow


Trip 2, July: Matanuska Glacier, King Salmon, Katmai National Park, Whittier


Leap of faith, Brooks Falls


Trip 3, August: Girdwood, Matanuska Glacier, Denali National Park, Whittier, Chugach National Forest, Punchbowl Glacier, Lake Clark National Park, Spencer Glacier


Helicopter dog sledding, Punchbowl Glacier


Trip 4, August: Spencer Glacier, Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park, Colony Glacier, Lake Clark National Park


Glacier Kayaking, Chugach National Forest
« Last Edit: April 10, 2021, 09:38:21 PM by Something Fishy »
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Offline m65

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2021, 12:47:14 PM »
waiting anxiously for details

Offline YitzyS

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2021, 12:51:13 PM »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2021, 12:58:37 PM »
Wow, looking forward. Hopefully you had better weather after 4 trips than the constant rain we had in August (years ago).

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2021, 09:57:54 PM »
I envy you very much. All I can remember is quarantine and self-isolation...

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2021, 03:09:20 AM »
Trip 1, February



Part 1

The goal of this trip was to stuff in as many weird and off the beaten track experiences as possible, ideally in the nastiest weather imaginable (use those clues to figure out which batty DDfers came along). It involved plenty of running around, bouncing up and down Alaska, and a whole lot of adventure.

The final trip routing was, fittingly enough, just a tad north of crazy: LGA-MSP-ANC-FAI-SCC-BRW-ANC-FAI-ANC-JNU-PSG-WRG-KTN-SEA-BOS-JFK.



Sunday: Fly LGA-MSP-ANC, drive 5 hours to Homer through a snowstorm, and overnight.
Monday: Homer
Tuesday: Drive back to Anchorage, and fly ANC-FAI-SCC. A couple of hours in Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay, and then continue SCC-BRW. Overnight Barrow.
Wednesday: Full day in Barrow, then fly BRW-ANC-FAI. Fairbanks aurora hunt all night.
Thursday: Long way home via the ultra-scenic Alaska Milk Run hopper - ANC-JNU-PSG-WRG-KTN-SEA-JFK Longer way home via the supposedly ultra-scenic Alaska Milk Run hopper - ANC-JNU-PSG-WRG-KTN-SEA-BOS-JFK

Landed at around 8:30pm, and right away stopped for a photo shoot of an endangered species:



After picking up our Tahoe and a quick Walmart run,we hit the road to Homer. The drive is stunning, but we didn't see much, it being nighttime and all. We did see a couple of moose on the way, but they disappeared into the trees before I could take a picture.

Stay weird, Alaska:



Our Airbnb in Homer was at the top of a hill and had a great view to the bay below, the famous Homer Spit, and the mountains beyond.

Early morning shot from our balcony:



Homer Spit is basically a long, thin ribbon of land sticking some five miles out into the bay, which makes for great bald eagle habitat. And so this was our goal today: bald eagle photography.

It's pretty common for there to be large flocks of 50-odd eagles hanging around the beaches and peirs, but it was slim pickings today - during the first half of the day we saw no more than four eagles, three of which were pretty distant.

But the one that we saw up close - man did he put up a show. As is often the case with wildlife photography, you don't need huge numbers - just one cooperating animal can be all you need. This guy let us come to within 15 feet before flying off and literally posing for us:







We spent some time following him around the place, and shot a variety of other bird life as well - there were plenty of cormorants, scoters, buffleheads, and goldeneyes around.

The spit is a strange place - it's a confusing mixture of open beaches and grassland, industrial shipping and fishing yards, rows and rows of tourist traps, and a single cluster of apartments - all in a ribbon of land only a few hundred feet wide in places:



While the spit has a massive tourist scene in the summer, pretty much everything was closed this time of the year. The Salty Dawg Saloon was the only open place, and was a perfectly weird place to grab a drink and warm up a bit:



I banged my head into the ceiling about 14 times - which is a given - but all that cash somewhat softened the blow.

Anyways, once our eagle took off over the water, we left the spit and stopped at the very beginning. There were a bunch of eagles out here on the ice floes, and the juveniles actually let us approach to within 8 feet or so:


Not a golden eagle, sorry Yoely.

Check out these talons:



Off to our next destination, one of the most scenic in all of Alaska: the Homer town dump!

This guy seems pretty happy here though:



While this one, on the other hand, is clearly rethinking his life's choices:



That's it, I'm outta here:





Back to the spit, let's see what else we can find.

Hey look, it's grandpa otter...



...just in time for the shmorg! First up, sea urchin:



Next we have some choice clams:



The otter was deep into his second clam when this scoundrelous, good-for-nothing, son-of-a-gun miscreant literally landed on his stomach, stole a clam, and promptly absconded to safer climes:



But not all is bad in this world, because for desert, we have... starfish!



Nom nom nom:



This dude showed up too late and missed the smorgasbord, but he's still happy since the chuppa never starts on time anyway:



After that show we were all good and tired, so back to the house it was.

Passing the Homer airport, and of course there's an aircraft crossing warning on the road, because apparently airplanes on the road are a thing here:



Took a short hike on the way home, and bumped into this little fella:





After a good night's sleep it was another early morning for us, with a beautiful 5-hour drive back to Anchorage:



Continuing the time-honored tradition of wearing crocs in the snow on my trips:



Getting brighter:



Most people come to an airport in weather like this to fly somewhere warm:



Amateurs.

Us idiots - we're heading straight up to the arctic!

Feels like minus 53? That should be cool enough, I think:



So you'd think Alaska Airlines would have a direct flight to Barrow (aka Utqiaġvik, for the politically-inclined), would you not? Well wrrrrrong you are!

For starters, winter flights to Barrow stop in Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay for a couple of hours. Now that was actually a fantastic piece of news, because as a lover of the arctic and of crazy places, having a chance to visit here in the dead of the winter was amazing. However, the northbound flight to Barrow only leaves from Fairbanks, not Anchorage. The return, on the other hand, goes directly Barrow-Anchorage.

Now our plan for the trip was to do Anchorage/Homer, Barrow, and finally Fairbanks. Now as we have just seen (you're taking notes, right? There will be a quiz afterwards), flight-wise, it would have been a lot more convenient to do Fairbanks first and Anchorage/Homer after. But that didn't work for a bunch of other reasons, and so we found ourselves flying Anchorage-Fairbanks-Deadhorse-Barrow-Anchorage-Fairbanks over the next two days.

Spray tan time:



It was snowing pretty hard at this point, and the pilot announced that he'll "need to test the engines at the beginning of the runway". No idea what that was about, never heard of such a thing.

Anyway, flight to Fairbanks was nice and fast, the layover was nice and short, and before we knew it we were crossing over the Brooks Range heading to the far north:



So, Deadhorse. Basically a company town, built to service the immense Prudhoe Bay oilfields out in the Arctic Ocean. It's basically a couple of blocks of prefab buildings, truck yards, collections of massive industrial equipment, and the howling, screaming wind.

The only people here are oil workers, ice road truckers (the town is the northern terminus of the famous Dalton Highway haul road), and a few odd service workers. Women are practically non-existent.

The trans-Alaska pipeline begins here, carrying the oil all the way down to Valdez to be loaded onto tankers and taken to the lower 48 for refinement.



Our plane was fully loaded with big, burly, loud men on the way to their shifts on the oil rigs. As we were all crowding down the jet bridge, someone in the back sings out, "there's a lady here y'all! A LADY!" He sounded so surprised that everyone instantly moved to the side to let her straight through. She would be one of only three women we saw in the entire town.

The entire airport is pretty one big, smelly room, but we found an empty bench and sat down to get into our arctic gear. There was nowhere to store our carry-ons in the airport, so we ended up shlepping it around during our entire visit. A bit annoying, but not the end of the world.

Only minus 31, meh!



My eyes actually froze shut a couple of times:



Our plan was to basically wander around and explore, with nothing specific in mind.

Um, what?



Carlile!!! It's actually real:



I had made sure that the only "hotel" in town was open, so we'd have a warm place to duck into if needed. The hotel was basically a bunch of trailers all connected to a central hallway, but it was warm and they had drinks and souvenir magnets so all was good in the world:



We ended up spending an hour or so in there, chatting with the employees and a bunch of oilfield workers. They looked at us like we're crazy, apparently we were the first tourists to visit in four months. We had some interesting conversations, ate dinner, and headed back out.

It's a pretty desolate place:





Every now and then a truck would pass us, and invariably we'd be offered a ride "to wherever the hell you're going". I guess we made a pretty strange sight, 4 random dudes marching down the road in Deadhorse dragging suitcases in the middle of the winter.

We politely declined all offers, even the one from this guy:



He told us we're crazy, we told him that we're unfortunately well aware, and he drove off - presumably looking for people driving 7-and-three-quarter miles per hour.

Stopped at the Carlile yard again (there aren't exactly 400 tourist attractions to choose from up there), but this time we were spotted and unceremoniously kicked out. To be fair, the guy was quite nice about it - he even let us take more pictures before escorting us out - but it's an active truck yard and he said he can't just have random people traipsing about.



Another interesting thing about this place is that alcohol of any sort is not allowed. This applies to the entire North Slope of Alaska, including Barrow. Here in Deadhorse it's due to the safety of the oilfields, and in Barrow it's because of the high alcoholism rates among the native Inuit (that's one way to deal with the problem, I suppose?).

Anyway, at this point one of the guys pulls out a can of beer he stored away from the Anchorage to Fairbanks flight. Personally I can't stand beer of any kind, but c'mon, I had to take a sip this time:



(And yes, it still tasted like puke. I don't know how anyone could drink that stuff.

/soapbox)

Anyone going to Lakewood and has room for one man?



Make it three actually:



Seriously:



Time for mincha:



Back at the airport:



Kinda cold - but the next stop is just gonna be colder:



Flying over the oilfields:



Next stop: the northernmost spot in the United States.


To be continued...
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Offline m65

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2021, 04:02:24 AM »
wow!
אין מילים

Offline YitzyS

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2021, 07:36:22 AM »
That photo should win an award
Seeing Part 1, it looks like this trip report may result in something like "27 nominations, 11 Pulitzers"

Offline Mordyk

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2021, 08:11:30 AM »
Wow.   That's all I can say.

Every time you post a TR I think to myself that I better start traveling.  ;)

Offline Dawie

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2021, 10:01:50 AM »
Trip 1, February



Part 1

The goal of this trip was to stuff in as many weird and off the beaten track experiences as possible, ideally in the nastiest weather imaginable (use those clues to figure out which batty DDfers came along). It involved plenty of running around, bouncing up and down Alaska, and a whole lot of adventure.

The final trip routing was, fittingly enough, just a tad north of crazy: LGA-MSP-ANC-FAI-SCC-BRW-ANC-FAI-ANC-JNU-PSG-WRG-KTN-SEA-BOS-JFK.

bli guzma


Offline Joe4007

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2021, 02:30:44 PM »
Awesome!

Thanks for taking the time. A pleasure to read!

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2021, 02:31:28 PM »
Awesome!

Thanks for taking the time. A pleasure to read!

Just you wait for trip 2 :P
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Offline Joe4007

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2021, 02:33:03 PM »
Just you wait for trip 2 :P
Emphasis on wait...

Offline Something Fishy

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Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2021, 03:15:43 PM »
Wow, so cool! It looks like a really cool place to visit, especially when you chose to go. I mean going in the summer when it's 30F isn't nearly as exciting. Looking forward to the next installment.