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North...to Alaska

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S: North...to Alaska Our 2011 Family Vacation

BC: This book is dedicated with love, to our little Adventurer, Connor, who makes us smile everyday. Love, Hugs and Kisses, Mommy and Daddy

FC: North...to Alaska Our 2011 Family Vacation | Alaska's state bird - the bald eagle

1: What an adventure! Our 2011 Family Vacation took us to Alaska. After much research and planning, we started our trip in Anchorage. We didn't plan a lot of time there as we knew we wanted to see landscapes and wildlife. And that we did! After a day and a half in Anchorage, we headed up to Denali National Park to see Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest peak. After spending a couple of days there, we headed back down to the Kenai Peninsula where we spent most of our time. Our first impressions of Alaska? Amazing scenery and abundant wildlife. Common phrase during our trip...Do we need another moose picture?

2: Day 1 - On Saturday, our first full day in Alaska, we headed to Potter Marsh. There was a nice boardwalk that Connor loved. The view of the mountains was beautiful and there were lots of birds. We even went back the next morning and saw a moose!

5: Potter Marsh, Anchorage, AK

6: The Seward Highway

7: After our stop at Potter Marsh, we decided to venture down the Seward Highway, said to be one of the most scenic highways in North America. We weren't disappointed.

8: I scared Daddy more than once when i yelled "Stop the car!", like when we saw these Dall Sheep alongside the highway.

9: I said during our trip, that if we ever make it back, I want to take the train. It looked like a great way to see Alaska.

10: We decided to tour around Anchorage for a while before heading to the popular coastal trail. As we drove near the airport, we had our first encounter with a moose! It was a bull who was eating at the side of the road, less than a kilometre from a subdivision.

11: We didn't know it at the time but this was the first of many many moose encounters.

12: We took a walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11 mile trail that runs from downtown Anchorage south to Kincaid Park. We started at Earthquake Park, near the airport and walked a couple of miles toward downtown before turning around. | Mud Flats | Earthquake Park | Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

14: Day 2 - Very early, before beginning the drive to Denali, we visited Potter Marsh again and stopped at Bird Creek along the Seward Highway. We wanted to hike the trail but it was a common area for bears so we decided against it.

16: Bird Creek

18: passing through Denali State park along the way. We saw this cow moose eating salt out of a parking lot alongside the highway. | We turned around and began the drive to Denali National Park,

20: The drive along the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Denali was long. Connor was happy to get out of the car at the lookout points.

21: Our cabin at Denali was very nice, alongside a creek that Connor loved throwing rocks into. It was about 10 miles from the park entrance.

22: Our first stop | Daddy's ATV | This is so much fun! | After checking into our cabin, we headed to "The Canyon"for our ATV Tour. After a short drive to an area near the northern boundary of the park, we headed out. | Mommy & Connor's ride! | Another stop

23: Connor loved ATVing!

25: We rode for an hour and a half stopping a few times along the way to enjoy the scenery. Connor absolutely loved it! We rode up a small mountain and finished the ride along an old dry riverbed. Lots of fun! | Denali ATV Tours

26: Denali National Park, AK Day 3

27: Connor was bound and determined to head out and explore Denali!

29: That small brown 'dot' is a grizzly!

30: Denali National Park

31: We followed the park road into Denali for 15 miles which is as far as you can go without taking a park shuttle. The scenery was great. We were up very early so there were very few people around, just moose!

32: About 1 mile from the park entrance is an area called "The Canyon" where the bigger lodges and most restaurants are. There were great views of the Nenana River.

33: Denali National Park | We decided to hike the trail from the park entrance to the Canyon which is a paved trail alongside the highway.

36: It was on this trail that we had a bit of a scary encounter with a moose! Walking toward the Canyon, we saw two moose calves in the woods with their mama who just kept her eye on us. We didn't even stop to take pictures as we were only about 20 feet away. We got by no problem. On our way back we noticed a calf laying down in the woods. We stopped this time to take a picture. In the meantime I was looking for Mama moose who I quickly noticed was on the other side of the trail. We were in between Mama and her calves, not a good place to be! Mama came toward us slowly, we backed away about 100 feet or so and she went into the woods. With no other option we waited a few minutes and walked past them on the trail.

39: Day 4 - We were up early on Tuesday morning to drive south from Denali down to the Kenai. It was a long but beautiful drive with great views of Mt. McKinley, which we had yet to see. | Our first bear siting, a black bear alongside the highway.

40: North View

41: Finally, A clear view of Mt. McKinley! At 20, 320 feet Mt. McKinley is North America's tallest peak! | South View

42: We saw this bull moose as we were heading south from Denali. He was happy to 'pose' for a few pictures!

45: Welcome to the Kenai! Our first stop was the town of Seward, a nice little harbour town with many shops and restaurants and also the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.

46: Exit Glacier | Day 5 - On Wednesday we headed out to Exit Glacier, the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by car. We hadn't intended to do any hiking but there was a 1 mile trail we had to take to get to the Glacier. After spending some time in the Visitor's Centre and heeding the bear warnings, we headed out on the trail.

50: Connor did great on the hike to the glacier, which was steep at times. We had to carry the stroller part of the way, as the Park Rangers told us that if we left it on the trail, the bears would use it as a toy!

54: Day 6 - On Thursday, we took a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park.

56: Marine Wildlife!

58: These Steller Sea Lions were amazing to see! Especially the large male who we were told weighs as much as a black, grizzly and polar bear combined! Males can weigh up to 2500 pounds!

59: Jenny Lake | Signal Mountain Overlook

60: The boat tour took us to Fox Island where we enjoyed an Alaska Salmon and King Crab buffet!

62: At Fox Island, we saw these beautiful Steller Jays, closely related to the Blue Jay.

63: The return from Fox Island to the harbour at Seward took us past Bear Glacier and some beautiful scenery.

64: After our boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park, we began the drive over to our next stop, Soldotna. This drive took us past some beautiful scenery and through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area with high populations of moose and bears. Funny enough, we didn't see a single bear or moose on this stretch of road during all the times we drove it. It wasn't until we went onto the back roads in the refuge that we saw some more wildlife. | The glacial waters were so blue!

67: The Homer Spit | Day 7 - On Friday, we took a drive to Homer. We drove all the way to the end of the Spit and toured around. A great little town, well worth the visit.

68: We spent a good part of the day touring around Homer. Next time, I am definitely going Halibut fishing!

70: We began the drive back to Soldotna from Homer, stopping in Anchor Point along the way. It is here that Connor added to his list of superlatives! In addition to the most southerly point on mainland Canada, the tallest peak in North America, and the most easterly point in North America (Cape Spear, Newfoundland), Connor has now been to the most | westerly highway point in North America! Coast to Coast!

71: These were the first bald eagles we saw, atop a tree alongside the highway. We had heard that this was a common area for sightings. | After talking to a local, we learned that there was a second sign marking North America's most westerly highway point, down by the beach, so we headed down.

72: We were so glad we went down to the beach where we saw all these bald eagles! | Anchor Point, AK

73: Connor loved beachcombing!

74: Day 8 - Early Saturday morning, we took a drive through the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area within the Kenai Wildlife Refuge in hopes of seeing some wildlife! | Our first sighting was this porcupine who was pretty shy.

75: Skilak Lake

76: On the road throught the Skilak Lake Recreation Area, we came across this mama bear with her 2 cubs. She was very protective of her little ones and made sure we knew she was watching.

77: There must have been a good berry patch around becauase we drove this road a number of times and saw bears each time. | 3rd Port | Gold Rush Cemetery

78: We stopped in Cooper Landing to check out the Kenai River where Daddy would be fishing the next day with a guide from Alaska Troutfitters.

80: Fly Fishing on the Kenai River | life is good

82: On our last full day in Alaska | Day 9 - On our last full day in Alaska, Daddy went fly fishing on the Kenai River to try and catch the big one! Since it was opening day for salmon fishing, the river was packed with fishermen.

83: Day 9 - On our last full day in Alaska, Daddy went fly fishing on the Kenai River to try and catch the big one! Since it was opening day for salmon fishing, the river was packed with fishermen. | And while he may not have caught the big one this time, he had a great time trying! We were sad to leave Alaska but look forward to our next adventure!

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