Alaska Highlights

As promised, I put together my travel highlights from my trip to Alaska. After screening all 1,962 images, it was pretty tough to pick my top four. The state is just so incredibly beautiful. You can tour a whole year through Alaska and still wouldn’t be able to see everything. Just three words: magical, endless and adventurous.

My personal Alaska highlights

Just a little side note before I put together my highlights. Alaska is worth a trip for you if you love the great outdoors, are up for adventures and have some camping experience, not being afraid of the wilderness. If you are looking for a wellness destination or some nice city trips, this is nothing for you.

Denali National Park

Well, this one is obvious. One of the most magical places. However, there are several ways you can explore Denali: by a touristy bus tour, staying at a cottage and going for daily hikes or by camping.

There are soooo many cruise tourists coming to this place, it can be pretty annoying. Thus, I would recommend to explore Denali on your own. Take the train from Anchorage to Denali: it is a beautiful 8-hour train ride through the whole state where you can spot wildlife and get to learn about the history of the state, exploring some of the most magical spots. But only take a one-way ticket. Either finish your trip at Denali or go to Fairbanks afterwards. But don’t book a tour where you have to take the train both ways only staying for one or two nights. You should schedule in at least five days for Denali – in my opinion. It’s a real paradise for outdoor lovers. Also, make sure to compare prices. Sometimes you find cheaper tickets with Gray LineAlaska or when you buy a coupon book at the visitor center so that you get a 2 for one train ticket special. You can save up to 150 bucks.

If you are not much into camping or backpacking and prefer to stay at a little cottage, just going on daily hikes, I can recommend the McKinley Chalet Resort. From there you have some pretty cool bike and hiking trails directly into the park.

You should definitely check out the Visitor Center at the park to get an idea of all your options. Whether you are looking for trail recommendations, wanna join a guided tour or need a permit for the backcountry – this is your place to go to.

IF you wanna explore the backcountry going backpacking, then you do need a permit. You have to get a proper briefing from one of the rangers, they need to make sure you are prepared for the wilderness. But, I need to be honest: only do it when you have some camping & outdoor experience.

You need to have good outdoor equipment, you need to be prepared that it can snow at any time. It gets really cold at night. You will see wild animals: bears, wolves, moose, maybe even a lynx.

They do show you a safety video and tell you what to do when you see a bear or a moose, but there is just so much more to it. AND: don’t do it alone. Just don’t do it like Christopher McCandless! Be prepared and be aware of your surroundings and changing weather conditions.

Check out the offical park site for more specs. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the famous bus from “Into the Wild” – there was no way I could cross the river and the weather conditions didn’t allow it. But that was okay. It was still one of the most magical places.

Mountain Biking

Alaska is a paradise for mountain bikers. BUT: things are different over here. Don’t expect these awesome prepared trails you know from Bavaria, Austria or Switzerland. Alaska is WILD – so are many trails.

For Downhill & Bike Park fans, I can recommend Alyeska. If you need a rental bike, check out the Trek Store in Anchorage. They have the latest bikes and can help you out with almost anything.

One of the most magical trails that are all in good shape: Flattop Mountain Trail, Powerline Pass Ride and Kincaid Park – all Intermediate and near Anchorage. Beginners can check out the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage. Probably the sweetest single trail would be along the Lost Lake Trail. Simply awesome!

Whatever you pick, even if you wanna explore the wilderness on your own, just like I did – you will never forget these rides. Just one little tip: be prepared to get muddy, especially in September. I totally LOVED it.

Heli Fat Biking

If you are up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, save some money and book a heli fat biking tour. Don’t book it in advance because you won’t be able to cancel it last-minute. Contact the local aviation services two to three days before you wanna do it. Either call or send them an email with your date options. Since the weather conditions need to be pretty good to fly out on a glacier, you do need to be flexible.

I personally can recommend Alpha Aviation. If they cannot help you, they can hook you up with other local services. Just don’t make the mistake and book the first package you find online or at the visitor center. Make sure to compare prices. Flightseeing experiences vary from 150 bucks to 450 bucks. So, here it is worth to make some research. Also, if you meet other bikers or backpackers, ask them, if they would be interested as well. Sometimes it gets cheaper when you have a little group of three or four.

Honestly, I wish they would offer it in Switzerland. Heli fat biking in Switzerland must be so freaking awesome.

Knik River Lodge

I admit after spending a lot of time out in the wilderness and doing lots of biking, hiking and exploring, you should definitely schedule in some time to relax and unwind. But don’t do it in a hotel or at some touristy location. Either book a nice cottage via Airbnb or pick a location far out where you have everything you need: a nice little cottage with a fireplace, access to food and water and then nothing but the wilderness. Just like the Knik River Lodge.

I loved watching the helicopters come and go from the Knik glacier, checked out the nearby trails as well as the river and could have just sat there for hours, simply reading my books and enjoying the most magical views. Their Perch Restaurant is a little food heaven: traditional burgers, parmesan fries, fresh scallops, really good craft beer and excellent wine – literally 7th heaven. An excellent place to refuel your energy.

My recommendation: stay there for three nights, then your chances are also pretty good you will get to see the aurora borealis.

What else have I learned

Well, as I mentioned earlier, there is no way you can see it all in such a short period of time. Plan at least three weeks to explore this state and pick a focus. Make sure to enjoy the highlights and don’t try to rush through everything just like these crazy cruise tourists. Also, don’t book a package. Travel on your own. This way you are far more flexible. Here are more things I will remember:

  • Anchorage (as well as other cities): totally overrated. You feel like you are stuck in a time capsule. In 1964 Alaska was hit by a major earthquake. This explains the landslide, the peculiar ripping hills and slumping effects in some areas. Naturewise, pretty impressive. But regarding infrastructure and architecture, you feel like you are stuck in the ’60s or ’70s. Only schedule in an overnight stay if you need it, but don’t spend more than one day in any of the cities. Anchorage itself has some pretty mountain views as well as beautiful views of the ocean, but the city is extremely ugly. And not safe between 11 pm till 6 am. NOT SAFE at night! So, if you wanna travel the country on your own, rather stay in little cottages in between your stops than in the major cities. Not worth it.
  • Wilderness: They teach you what to do when to see a bear and how to hide behind a tree when you see a moose, but that’s about it. But there is so much more. Make sure to learn about animal tracks, how to react when seeing a lynx or meeting wolves a night. What fish are safe to eat, what river areas are safe and how you can protect yourself. I am honest: when traveling through the wilderness, you should consider taking along a hunting weapon. There were two situations where I would have felt safer. And, to be honest: don’t travel alone. Just don’t.
  • Weather: Yes, Alaska is a wild and rough state. Bad wild fires, extreme heat, heavy rain showers and snow. I saw it all. Always be aware of your surroundings and the changing weather conditions.
  • Moose steak and reindeer burger: The meat over there is delicious. Go to local farmer markets and always buy local food or eat at restaurants where they serve local food. You should definitely try moose and reindeer. Sooo good.
  • Wednesdays and Fridays are usually cruiseship days: make sure to plan your touristy activities around these two dates. Believe me, you will regret it, if you don’t.
  • Alone as a woman: Well, as I already mentioned several times, Alaska is rough and old-school. And for a woman, it can be dangerous. There are areas that are not safe. When traveling the state, you mostly meet animals, but there are occasions where you meet other people. And believe me, sometimes people are more threatening and frightening. Once I took a wrong turn and ended up on a private ground near the river. Wow, they immediately chased me through the woods. Literally! Not fun at all. So, again, always be aware of your surroundings and not too trustworthy.
  • Don’t make too many plans: Alaska is the largest state in the USA. Hence, don’t make too many plans in advance. Take it easy, enjoy life and simply go with the flow day after day.
  • Glaciers: Yes, there are many glaciers and many excursions. They are all impressive: Knik Glacier, Portage Glacier, check out my list of recommendations.

Well, I hope this gives you a little overview of my adventures. If you wanna know more, just drop me an email or DM on my social channels. You will also find more images on my Facebook page.

xoxo

photo credits: Munich Mountain Rebel, Alpha Aviation

Six million acres of wild land: Denali National Park

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Denali National Park and Preserve encompasses 6 million acres of Alaska’s interior wilderness. Its centerpiece is 20,310-ft.-high Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), North America’s tallest peak. With terrain of tundra, spruce forest and glaciers, the park is home to wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and Dall sheep. Popular activities in summer include biking, backpacking, hiking and mountaineering.

“Into the Wild Bus”

Every year, travelers take to the famous Stampede Trail in the Denali borough. It is known from the book & movie “Into the Wild” – the true story of Amercian adventurer Christopher McCandless, born February 12, 1968 in El Segundo, California.

He was found dead on September 6, 1992, at Stampede Trail, Alaska. The adventurer died from starvation and possibly poisoning at age 24 while camping alone on a remote trail.

The trail keeps attracting adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Unfortunately, many come unprepared – just like Christophier McCandless himself. Hence, the bus has been the source of multiple rescues since it was made famous, first by Jon Krakauer’s book published in 1996 and then by Sean Penn’s 2007 film.

The Wilderness in Alaska

I am pretty adventurous myself and LOVE the great outdoors. I climb mountains, hike at night all by myself, sleep on mountain peaks and try to push myself beyond my limits. But I only take calculated risks and know the difference between the great outdoors in the European Alps and the wilderness in Alaska.

The trail is located near the northern boundary of Denali National Park in a small finger of State of Alaska public land that extends into the national park. Of course, I wanted to see the bus, but the weather conditions were just awful. Traversing the beaver ponds, “mud flats,” and crossing the Teklanika River are major obstacles. There was no way I would be able to make it all by myself. Hence, I turned around, which was wise.

Also, I did not camp out there – especially not alone. I had no gun, was not familiar with the terrain and the weather was just unpredictable. So, this time I decided to better be safe than sorry.

Majestic Mt. McKinley

However, the trip is so worth it. The highest mountain in North America has been the goal of aspiring high altitude climbers since it was first climbed in 1913.

I admit, I wanna learn more about high-altitude climbing, finding out what I would be capable of. I will definitely go on more climbing trips back home. Cannot really explain it, but it is the mountains where I feel most alive.

So, apologies: I don’t have a picture of me in front of the bus, but I made some great memories, anyways.

xoxo

Alaska: The magic of the glacier

About 5 percent of Alaska’s area is covered by more than 100,000 glaciers — that’s about 29,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers), or more than the entire state of West Virginia. While a few of Alaska’s large glaciers are advancing, 99 percent are retreating, the book, “Glaciers in Alaska,” states.

True Magic in Alaska

“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.”

A true saying from a Native American. Alaska is treating me well. Almost seven months after my mountain bike accident I feel good again. Happy and peaceful. I don’t have a big itinerary or major plans, I simply take each day as it comes, just following my heart.

And there it was. This pure beauty! For a moment, I was holding my breath, got goosebumps all over. Breathtakingly beautiful – simply magical. Honestly, no words can describe this experience. Untouched nature. One of the most gorgeous and impressive scenery I have ever seen so far. But see for yourself.

Glacier Sightseeing in Alaska

Alaska’s melting glaciers are losing 75 billion tons of ice a year. According to a recent study, Alaskan glaciers melt 100 times faster than scientists previously estimated. One could write a whole book on glacier melting, its causes, climate change and so on.

But right now I just want to share one of my most magical moments with you. It is true what people say: “Alaska is too big to see in one lifetime, even for a resident. But there are wild pieces that can be explored from different angles – riding in a helicopter, standing on a glacier, and of course vista gazing from a big wide deck with a fresh Alaska grown meal.”

Best glaciers to visit in Alaska

As I mentioned earlier, there are about 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. I went on a little glacier expedition, learning about some of them. In Alaska there are several glaciers that calve icebergs that do not move very far from their source. So, that is pretty cool to watch.

Below I put together my personal recommendations.

  • Matanuska is one of the largest glaciers, but it’s also the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States.
  • Mendenhall Glacier.
  • Spencer Glacier.
  • Portage Glacier.
  • Knik Glacier.
  • Hubbard Glacier.
  • Kahiltna Glacier.

Just a little side note: Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue.

If you are specifically looking for glaciers you can walk on, these are my favorites:

  • Exit Glacier (near Seward)
  • Matanuska Glacier (near Anchorage)
  • Mendenhall Glacier (near Juneau)
  • Worthington Glacier (near Valdez)
  • Childs Glacier (near Cordova)
  • Portage and Byron Glaciers (near Anchorage)
  • Middle and Explorer Glaciers (near Anchorage)

I will leave you with these tips and will keep exploring this beautiful country.

xoxo

photo and video credits: Munich Mountain Rebel, unsplash.com, pexels.com

Take along your bear spray when exploring the great outdoors in the USA & Canada!

When exploring the great outdoors in Canada or the USA, chances are that you will encounter some wild animals. Bears travel along the same paths that people do such as trails or the banks of rivers.

Generally, bears tend to be shy unless they feel threatened. Especially mama bears get furious when they think you are too close to their cubs. Other than that, bears only want your food, your hunting kill, your fish or even your trash.

So plaese, never leave anything out in the open and take your trash with you – simply keep your camp clean. And do not feed any animals. Let nature take its course.

Bear Spray

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game recommends bear spray and it is effective in many situations. Wind direction is critical, and can extend its effective range or shorten it. Most bear spray has a range up to 30 feet.

Remember, that most airlines will not allow you to fly with bear spray, but it can be purchased at many locations once you arrive in Alaska, like Mountain View Sports, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and even grocery stores like Fred Meyer. If you purchase bear spray, read the instructions thoroughly so you are prepared to use it if necessary. Most sprays come with a holster that you can fasten to a belt or backpack where it is within easy reach. 

When you see a bear…

  • Make calm noises. Talk normally, clap your hands, sing—anything that sounds human. Don’t mimic bear noises.
  • Don’t run — bears don’t like sudden movements; plus, they can run faster than you. They can also outpace you when climbing trees or swimming.
  • Back away from the bear to stay out of his comfort zone. If you can, walk upwind, too, so the bear catches your human scent.
  • Don’t make eye contact — bears consider that aggressive.

Some bears will bluff you by doing a mini-charge and stopping short. Your right response would be to back away calmly. A bear that is standing is usually just curious. However, if the bear charges all the way, it’s probably because it feels threatened. Your best bet is to play dead: face down, or curled up with hands on head. 

One possible qualifier: black bears. Recent history in Alaska has proven that if a black bear keeps after you even while you’re playing dead, your only choice is to start fighting with everything you’ve got.

I have never had any problems. Saw some bears out on the street or from the far but no dangerous encounters. My advice: check local news and park notices in advance, learn how to use the bear spray and know the steps during an encounter.

So, enjoy exploring the great outdoors and stay safe!

xoxo

Exploring Alaska – Making a dream come true

“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Life is too short for empty compromises. Hence, I am making one of my biggest dreams come true: exploring the great outdoors of Alaska. No internet, no civilization, no plans. Just me and my bike – and some gorgeous views.

Facts about Alaska

Alaska is the largest state (in area) in the United States. It became the 49th state in the Union in 1959 after being purchased from Russia in 1867.

Acquired by the United States in 1867, the territory was dubbed “Seward’s Folly” after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, who arranged to purchase the land from Russia. Critics of the purchase believed that the land had nothing to offer, but the discovery of gold in the 1890s created a stampede of prospectors and settlers.

Alaska is bounded by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north; Canada’s Yukon Territory and British Columbia province to the east; the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south; the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west; and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. The capital is Juneau. (source: history.com)

There are more than 3,000 rivers and 3,000,000 lakes in Alaska. AND, pretty impressive: it has about 100,000 glaciers, covering 5% of the state. Right now, I cannot really tell you where I will end up and where the trails will take me. I will be offline for quite a while, simply living my dream.

In the end I will stop by at the Knik River Lodge, refueling my energy, just inhaling the fresh air, simply living life.

But I promise: some time later in September I will share my personal highlights and travel tips with you. Until then: enjoy the mountains!

Nature is home!

xoxo

photo credits: Knik River Lodge, pexels.com, Munich Mountain Rebel