The Last Frontier: Alaska the Beautiful
I never expected I'd have the chance to see Alaska though I'd always heard amazing things. We had family and friends that had visited Alaska on cruises. Everyone always went on and on about the beauty - the snow capped mountains and monstrous glaciers. Since I'd always heard about Alaska visits via 'cruises' I just kind of wrote it off, as I'm not a 'cruise person.' Well, little did I know I would eventually date someone that was from Alaska. My boyfriend Evan was born and grew up in a small town called Homer. This past summer, he rounded up me and a group of his friends and we took a week long trip to Homer, Alaska.
We first landed in Anchorage on Sunday night where we met up with most of the crew. We had a casual dinner (pizza and beer!) and went straight to bed. The next morning, two more friends showed up and we headed out to Homer. The 4.5 hour drive was genuinely stunnign. Evan had to keep reminding us (as we were snapping photos like mad) that nearly all of Alaska was that beautiful. We stopped briefly at Alyeska to take the tram up Mt. Alyeska.
The view from the top of Mt. Alyeska was breathtaking. The tram takes you up 2,300 feet and theres a 'mini' hike that takes you to even more incredible views. To be honest, this non-hike 'hike' wore me out! It was so steep. I tried to play it cool even though I was out of breath. Ha! We made a couple more scenic stops before arriving at Evan's family's home.
On Tuesday, we drove around Homer and got to know the town. After breakfast at Two Sisters Bakery, Evan's family friends were kind enough to let us come by their peony farm: Chilly Root Peony Farm . The property completely blew me away. Working in floral and event design, I had an especially strong interest in seeing what a peony farm was like in 'real life.' I can only imagine not all peony farms are as impressive as Chilly Root Peony Farm. The backdrop of the thousands of peonies just happens to be rolling snow-capped mountains and glaciers. I was giddy the entire time.
Rain on Wednesday interrupted our plans to hike Grade Ridge so we opted for Kayaking around Yukon Island instead. I had not been kayaking since summer camp years (and years) ago so it was fun to get in the water to get reacquainted with a paddle!
Quite possibly my favorite part of the entire trip was our full-day fishing trip. We took a boat out for 8 hours and caught halibut and salmon. Homer is actually known as the 'Halibut Fishing Capital of the World' and it definitely lived up to it's namesake.
Friday we went bear watching at Brooks River in Katmai National Park. It was an hour and a half float plane ride to Katmai National Park. I had another 'first' - riding on a float plane! The entire plan held about 12 people. The ride was stunning - views of mountains and glaciers, galore. The ride was about an hour and a half. When we landed we pulled right into a section of Katmai National Park.
Before embarking on the self-guided 'tour' of the bears, everyone attended a mandatory instructional talk. This is where the park rangers basically tell you to respect the bears, or ELSE! (And I sure as hell didn't want to see what the 'or else' entailed!!) You are not allowed to have any sort of food or drink on your person, as the bears have impeccable noses and are (obviously) very keen on yummy food. The rangers also told us that you should always 'make yourself known' to the bears. This was something I hadn't thought about before, but it definitely makes sense. The bears don't like to be surprised - especially the mama bears protecting the little ones, so you should always talk loudly and make noise as you walk through the park so the bears don't feel like you're sneaking up on them.
If you are curious as to what 'bear watching' is all about, they actually have a live bear camera at Brooks River Falls that runs 24/7. Sometimes it's fun to check in with the bears and see what they are up to! Spoiler alert: they will most likely be catching and eating salmon!
We rounded out our trip with a huge dinner at Evan's family's home. His mom, Kim, is an incredible cook. In addition to our group, several family friends and neighbors also joined and Kim made a huge batch of Paella on the open fire pit in the back yard. It was the perfect way to end the week. We also were graced with a gorgeous picture- perfect Alaskan sunset.