Our 2009 Alaska Trip - Prologue
A little over two years ago, we spent a month driving around Alaska - at least the part we could reach for Anchorage via automobile (see Alaska 07). We wanted to come back in the fall to see the caribou and moose with mature antlers. We finally found time and opportunity to do it. This is a recounting of the trip. After spending a month there earlier, we realized there were places we didn't need to revisit and things we didn't need to do again, so we only allowed about half the time for this trip as for the earlier one. We elected to spend about half of the two weeks exploring the Kenai Peninsula and the other half at Denali National Park. Several things surprised us on this trip given what we were prepared for as a result of being here in the spring two years earlier. One, the animals and eagles that were so numerous in May were not in evidence in the fall. This appears to be a function of food availability. According to a big game hunting guide we talked to, during the winter and early spring, the animals and eagles of the Kenai Peninsula move into the areas of human habitation along the coast. We don't know whether this is to take advantage of food availability due to human proximity or because of warmer temperatures near the water - or for some other reason. Anyway, during the late spring and summer, they move back into the forests where there is now plenty of natural food. The absence of eagles and moose on the Kenai Peninsula was obviously different from the situation we found there in the spring. The caribou in Denali were seen relatively infrequently compared to our previous spring trip. On the other hand, we saw a larger variety of animals on this fall trip compared to the earlier one in the spring. The second thing we were unprepared for was the absolutely beautiful fall color in the Denali area. We didn't plan to be there for the fall color but we hit it dead center - at the maximum of the color. It was lost very rapidly though - we could already see dulling of some of the color - yellows going to browns - before we left.
We flew into Anchorage (1 on the map)on August 25, arriving about 5:30PM, rented a car and drove to Soldotna (2 on the map) where we hoped to see salmon running and fishermen catching them. Soldotna is a salmon fishing center. We then drove down to Homer (stop 3) as a base for roaming around the coastal Kenai Peninsula. We then moved up to Cooper Landing (stop 4) because we wanted to look for bears in that area. We had seen a couple on the drive down from Anchorage to Soldotna but didn't get to really look at them as they immediately disappeared into the forest. From Cooper Landing, we drove to Denali National Park (5 on the map), staying in Healey a few miles North of the park entrance. After the better part of a week at Denali, we went back to Anchorage (stop 6) to fly back to Orlando on September 8. All told, we spent two weeks in Alaska and enjoyed every minute.