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Solo Travel Destinations Traveling Alone to Alaska

Solo Travel Destinations Traveling Alone to Alaska

Looking out one wintry day, the East Coast’s massive snow storm reminded me of my, my prior Alaskan trek. It was there that I expected to really freeze.  There were plenty of icy landscapes. However, many days it was sixty degrees.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Alaska was America’s fiftieth state. It was only admitted in 1959 after Hawaii. Alaska is filled with wildlife, rugged terrain and an independent spirit.  Whatever the temperature, Alaskans find a way to be hearty outdoorsmen. The famed Iditarod Sled Dog Race started in 1973. An Alaskan woman, Susan Butcher, the best-known contender, won four times. Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas. However, its population is less than 1 million. From the state’s largest city, Anchorage, at around 300,000,  the population quickly drops. Fairbanks and the state capital, Juneau, only have about 30,000 inhabitants.

Alaska has a colorful history. In the 1800’s, the Gold Rush brought a colorful  influx of fortune hunters. A different kind of “Gold Rush” recurred in the 1960’s. Oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay. Alaska still has a pioneer flavor of the Old West.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Getting there:

With its rugged terrain, many areas can only be reached by air or sea. If you plan to drive to the capital in Juneau, you will quickly discover you may need to catch the ferry . There are no direct roads from points such as Anchorage. There is a limited highway system and wide distances to cover. As a result, many Alaskans opt to fly their own planes. Having flown in small planes only under clear African skies, I was not too confident how they fare in a sudden Alaskan blizzard.

To see as much of Alaska as possible, I ruled out driving or flying and chancing weather delays.  Although I generally prefer river cruises in small ships, I chose an ocean cruise. It journeyed south down Alaska’s well-traveled Inner Passage. That solved the problems of navigating in a challenging climate and trying to access remote regions. This route provided daily stops and is known for smooth seas. I decided to balance the week’s cruise with an active first week in national parks. There were lots of options from hiking to canoeing, white water rafting, kayaking and fishing.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Fairbanks and (Almost) Endless Daylight:

Flying from the US East Coast to Seattle, my ultimate destination was Fairbanks. I was pleasantly surprised on arrival. I found bright sunshine and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the first things I noticed was the long hours of daylight. At around 4-5 AM, I lifted the blackout shade in my hotel room. I was surprised to find sunlight as bright as a day at Miami Beach. At that early hour, I headed to what I thought would be an empty hotel lobby. To my surprise, it was already filled with fellow travelers eating breakfast.  After getting an early start, I had my first taste of Alaskan wildlife from a sternwheeler. Caribou grazed on the bank. They had velvety antlers like candelabra!

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Denali National Park:

For the remainder of the week, it was off to Denali National Park. It is famously dominated by what was then known as Mt. McKinley. This is America’s tallest mountain. I was surprised by the long hours of daylight. I hoped to photograph the sun setting behind “the Mountain”. The only problem? At 11 PM, the sun had not completely set! I have a photograph of twilight only. From Denali, I recommend is a day trip to the small town of Talkeetna. It has only a few hundred inhabitants. It is easy to get to since it is approximately 10 miles away. Its local attractions included the fiddlehead fern. It is featured on Talkeetna menus so we dutifully tried it. Back at Denali, there were many opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing or whitewater rafting.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Cruising the Inside Passage South:

Although roads were scarce, the local railroads were a great way to make the next leg of the journey. I ultimately connected by bus to meet my the ship heading down the Inside Passage.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Day 1 Glacier Bay:

I chose the cruise going south towards Vancouver. One of the most memorable stops was at the beginning. The ship pulled into Glacier Bay surrounded by sparkling lime green ice.. In the hours of our approach, the visibility was almost non-existent. When the fog lifted, I watched as small but plentiful icebergs floated by. Having apparently seen the movie the Titanic too many times, I had some concerns. The blue-green glaciers could easily be seen “calving”. That is partially dissolving into the sea. At this coldest part of the trip, I could not resist trying out the Jacuzzi. it was on the open top deck. The only other two occupants and I had a lively chat. The bad news? The only way out soaking wet was to run across the very cold open deck. At the time, it did seem like a real adventure.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Day 2 Skagway:

As we made our way southward, the next best day was in Skagway. The main streets looked like the Old West. There were colorful stories to boot. The tour of a local cemetery revealed a cast of 19th century characters. That included some resting there after engaging in local shoot-outs. However, it was impossible to tell who were the real villains. A very special afternoon was spent riding the White Pass train. This famous railway was suspended over a deep gorge. This is the towering mountain which connects Skagway with Whitehorse and Canada’s Yukon.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Day 3 Juneau:

As we cruised by, whales leaped back and forth to everyone’s delight. I had practically slept with one eye open going through the icebergs. I left them behind as the ship reached Juneau. There was no gold-domed state house in view. The biggest draw was the nearby Mendenhall Glacier. It was possible to drive or take the bus. Juneau, itself, is also a hub for day or extended trips to destinations like Sitka which can only be reached by boat.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Day 4 Sitka:

Sitka is located to the far west of the remainder of the stops on the cruise. It is a combination of  a Tlingit and Russian past. In June, there were mainly green mountains rather than snowy peaks overlooking the harbor. In the early 19th-century, Sitka was the capital of “Russian America”! It was named then Novo Archangelsk. In 1867, it was renamed at the time of the Alaskan purchase. However, the Russian influence can still be seen. There is a Russian Bishop’s House still standing plus a Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Russian Cemetery.

Traveling Alone to Alaska:

Ketchikan and Vancouver:

The last stop was Ketchikan. Although totem poles could be seen throughout southern Alaska, Ketchikan had some of the greatest number. They have been relocated into local parks. An excellent tour guide explained their history and meaning. Ketchikan is also the self-described “Salmon Capital of the World”. Before leaving Alaska, hardy travelers still looking to spot wildlife can hike the nearby Tongass National Forest.

Surprises I found in Alaska:

  • The enormous size of the flowers: The reason? The long daylight hours in summer create extra growing hours.
  • The temperature: Although typical photos of Alaska show the glaciers/snow-covered mountains, it was not really much colder, if any, than a summer’s trip to Maine!
  • The shortage of roads:  How could there be such limited access to the capital!
  • The length of the sunny days: Rather than a dim twilight in the middle of the night, the sunlight rivaled an afternoon at the beach.

Alaska provides the chance to find adventure. Active sports range include sea kayaking, canoeing, navigating Class III/IV whitewater or flying on to glaciers in small planes.  For a more leisurely option, you can view wildlife. That ranges from Humpback Whales to Bald Eagles, and sea lions. Also you should be on the lookout for grizzly bears, wolves, foxes and more caribou.

The one drawback? The weather limits tourist travel largely to the three summer months. On the positive side, lodging is moderately priced. In addition, local residents are very welcoming despite the onslaught of in-bound travelers. Alaska will provide you with a contrasting view to the “Lower 48”, make your plans now and start packing!

For more information on Alaskan deals, return to our travel packages and click United States and Canada.

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