Or so says Mary Poppins.
After Denali, we headed to Anchorage to pick up our daughter Jennifer and our two marvelous Grandsons, Xander (5) and Sebastian (3). The crew spent a little shy of two weeks with us and what an adventure it was. Not only did we complete another three of the 61 National Parks on our bucket list, we also got to marvel at incredible scenery and wild animals through fresh eyes full of wonder.
We added Lake Clark, Katmai and Kenai Fjords to our list of National Parks bringing our total to 53. We are now halfway through the eight National Parks in Alaska. The logistics of seeing Alaska’s Parks is a bit of a challenge, to say the least. You can see all but two of the 49 National Parks in the lower 48 by driving. A lot of driving. We started our quest in 2013 and drove 85,000 miles before we saw them all. The Dry Tortugas off of Key West requires a boat or a plane as does Isle Royale in Michigan. In Alaska, you can drive only to Denali and Wrangell-St Elias. Four of the remaining six can be reached by either a plane or a boat leaving two which you can only see by chartering a small plane.
Lake Clark: Only 150 miles from Anchorage, Lake Clark is incredibly remote. But you’ll read these words a lot as we describe flying or sailing to all of these National Parks. Lake Clark embodies all the natural wonders of Alaska. It has glaciers, mountains, volcanos, bears, moose, and of course thousands of salmon. We chartered a Cessna Skymaster to take all of us to both Lake Clark and Katmai. This was really cool. The two boys in the back, Lillian and me in the middle row and Jennifer got to be the co-pilot!
Katmai: If you’ve ever seen the famous photographs of Brown Bears catching salmon as they try to hop over a waterfall, that is shot at Katmai. You can watch them fishing at Brooks Falls. Check this out. The Katmai Bear Cam is live! Sadly, we could not see them. Something about the Park Service thinking a three and five-year-old and bears are not a good combination.
The tour by plane was awesome. It would have been better if we could have landed and walked around a bit. But it was still great.
Kenai Fjords: If a flightseeing trip is a perfect way to see Lake Clark and Katmai (well it’s almost your only way), a cruise to the Fjords is the ideal way to see this National Park. Did you know that the second largest mammal in the world was a Fin Whale? Yep, we saw one. Did you know that Orcas or Killer Whales love to show off and are very social and friendly? Until they eat you. Saw them too. Yes, we saw a humpback whale, puffins, otters, and dolphins. Basically, we got to see all the wildlife Kenai Fjords has to offer. We also got to see the Holgate glacier calving (that’s when chunks break off and fall into the ocean). Please keep up people. The highlight of the cruise was when Xander and Sebastian earned their Junior Ranger Badge. I don’t know who was prouder, Mother or Grandmother? The boys looked pretty proud as well.
Sadly, we put the crew back on a plane for home. I think they got to enjoy almost everything Alaska has to offer. I know I got to enjoy them enjoying Alaska. I truly am blessed.
Actually, Lillian took them to the Airport by herself. On their travel day, I caught a flight to Kotzbue, 30 miles above the Artic Circle. From there I chartered a small plane to Kubuk Valley and Gates of the Artic National Parks. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll have to read about it in the next blog.