08 September 2013

Alaska Adventures, Part 1

Where in the World is Kacey?!?!

I've spent the last few weeks in Alaska and haven't had full access to computers, and while I could blog from my phone or public computers, I'm not willing to do that - not while I'm busy having fun at least.  Sometimes this blog has to wait for me to catch up.  I'd apologize, but I'm not really sorry about it.  I'm still 'on the road' so you're going to have to put up with some instagram photos until I have time to edit and do a full months recap.

So Aaron had to go to central Alaska for a while with work stuff, and I was able to utilize Space-A to get to Alaska.  *Warning - Bragging Ahead!* Not only was I able to score a free flight to Alaska from Japan, but it just happened to be on the plane that Aaron flies.  AND Aaron happened to be on that flight also.  He wasn't flying that day, but we were able to hang out in the back together for the trip over.

Freaking. Awesome. Right?!

I couldn't pass this trip up.  Ever since I could remember I've wanted to visit Alaska.  I don't even know why a 7 year old would want to go to Alaska, but I did.  Free flight to one of my dream location? Yes please!  Aaron was going to be working constantly for numerous weeks, so I planned to do my own traveling and exploring.  One of us should have fun, right?  Sure!  I went at the same time he did with the intentions of traveling solo and if he happened to have a day or two off, we could spend some time together.

I ended up staying at an AMAZING hostel in Fairbanks, Alaska.  It's called Sven's Base Camp Hostel and I highly recommend this if you need a relaxing, laid back and fun place to stay.  Everyone was great here and I LOVED my tent cabin (The Lynx).  I had the whole thing to myself most of the nights I stayed.
I pretty much did everything there was to do in Fairbanks.  Four days was more than enough to become a tour guide, which I didn't become, but probably could have.  My second day in town Aaron was able to meet up with me to explore.  We hit up a museum, downtown, and my favorite thing to do in a new town, go to a farmers market!  We had a delicious lunch of street tacos and elk sausage and then hit up Hot Licks (hehe) for some homemade Alaskan Blueberry Ice Cream.  Aaron had to catch the last bus back to where he was staying, and I headed to the Fairbanks State Fair.  It was actually pretty decent.  I was educated on the Eskimo Olympic games and traditions, listened to music, looked at Alaskan crafty things and ate deep fried pizza.  

I met a bunch of great people from all over the world at the hostel: Finland, Iceland, Barcelona, Australia, Montana, etc.  I also met Chris and Jimmy who are a couple of awesome dudes currently riding their motorcycles over 24,000 miles, through 17 countries (Alaska to Argentina), and using these 6 months of their lives to raise awareness and money for Cure for Life Foundation.  Check out their site, Heads in the Clouds Wheels on the Ground to follow their adventure and find out more information.  Bad-ass to say the least.

I spent another day in Fairbanks running some errands, getting my stuff together, making traveling plans, and sleeping in.  I explored the area a bit more, and took a 15 hour bus tour to the Arctic Circle.  Worth. Every. Penny.
I had originally thought to rent a car, but decided not to for a few reasons.  The ONLY road north to the Arctic Circle (198 miles north of Fairbanks) and Prudhoe Bay (500 miles north of Fairbanks) is the Dalton Highway.  Also known as the "Haul Road", this is the road you might know from the show Ice Road Truckers.  Yup, that same road.  The ONLY reason this road exists and still exists is to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and support the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.  Due to the conditions of the road, regular rental cars are banned from this highway (true story: I had to sign something saying I wouldn't take my rental on this road).  There are just a few companies that will rent vehicles specifically for this trip north.  Just to explain how dangerous this road could be, these rentals include: a CB radio, numerous spare tires, first aid kid, a car maintenance kit, etc.  In the winter they also include a Satellite phone, warmth kit, studded tired, engine block heater, etc.  Asides from a rental fee of $200-$300 per day, I would be driving by myself (not usually an issue, but here...ehhh...) and basically have to pay attention to the road 120%, not being able to enjoy the area and it would take forever.

So I went through Northern Alaska Tour Company and paid $189 for a 15 hour bus tour.  I was a little hesitant because, lets face it, that's a freaking long time on a bus not knowing if your tour guide is going to be annoying or your fellow visitors obnoxious.  Look at me, being all positive and stuff.  But like I said, it was worth EVERY PENNY.  Not only was our tour guide the best tour guide ever in the history of tours.  (Seriously, I'm writing the company a letter about how great she was), but the information she provided about Alaska, the Pipeline, and the highway was PRICELESS.  It would have been a pretty freaking boring trip by myself, and I wouldn't have known about anything I was viewing.  We learned about the Alaskan gold rush, Alaskan natives, the pipeline (which I became much more interested in than I ever expected), oil production and the tundra.  Seriously. Worth every penny.

After actually physically crossing the Arctic Circle, we stopped on the side of the road for some blueberry picking and to dig a hole 8" deep so we could feel the permafrost.  I don't know why I was surprised to put my hand in the dirt and hit a block of ice (well, frozen ground) so close to the surface. I mean, I've learned about the permafrost in school since I was little.  It was just a whole different experience actually seeing and feeling it first hand (pun totally intended).  I guess I always learned better in labs.

The final morning I was there, I picked up our rental car to go get Aaron and head down to Denali National Park.  Driving on the other side of the road in Japan seems so normal to me now, I was a little nervous to drive back in the states. Not to mention I was able to go really, REALLY fast.  70mph fast, which is so much faster than in Okinawa. ZOOOM!!!

Aaron and I spent the day together in Denali, taking the bus 4 hours into the park to Eielson Visitor Center.  You can only take a private vehicle a couple of miles into the park and then buses the rest of the way.  We were hoping on seeing Mt. McKinley aka Denali, but weren't successful.  On any given day, there is only a 30% chance of being able to view the mountain due to the crazy weather there.  Below is a picture taken at Eielson.  If we were able to see Denali, it would be towards the top right of the shot.

Regardless, it was a fun and beautiful day.  We didn't see much wildlife, but up in Alaska you're able to see nearly anything just on the side of the road.  Because of Aaron's work schedule, we were only able to spend a day in the park with each other and then grab some dinner.  It was totally worth it though, since that was the last day we were able to see each other for 3 weeks.  I would definitely like to visit here together again to explore deeper into the wilderness and do some backpacking and camping.

Denali was awesome even though I only saw a small percentage of it.  Like I said, I'd love to go back.  I have so many photos I want to share with you, but it's going to be a little bit longer before I get a chance to organize and sort through them.  At least you get the idea of what I've been up to.  By the time I left Denali, I was only day 8 into my trip, so I have lots more to share.

Check back soon!!!

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  1. kacey! this is the coolest thing ever! i've always wanted to go to alaska too, so i'm super envious of your awesome trip. thanks for sharing!

    1. So glad you are enjoying it, thanks for commenting, I always wonder if people actually read this thing!!! You are welcome to join me on any of my adventures btw :)