North to Alaska

Eklutna Lake Alaska

As much as I love Ohio, I also like to get out and travel beyond its borders. With travel opening back up, I was able to find some cheap tickets to Anchorage, Alaska.
Heading north to Alaska (to borrow the title of a song from the early 1960s) has been a dream of one of my daughters for some years. This trip, which was very short, was an opportunity for her to check this destination off her bucket list.

North to Alaska

I would actually classify this as a young person’s trip. Natalie, being both young and in excellent shape, was ideally suited for the travel. The trip was a little more difficult for me, being that I’m a few years older and not especially adept at sleeping on airplanes. It was a whirlwind.

View of Alaska from our seats on Alaska Airlines flight.
Our first view of Alaska, out the window of the plane, was amazing and we could tell we definitely weren’t in Ohio anymore.

We flew out of John Glenn International in Columbus around 6 p.m. on Monday. At 9 p.m. pacific time, we landed in Seattle with an overnight layover. Intent to squeeze as much out of this trip as we could, we rented a car from the airport and headed out on the town.

A Layover in Seattle

Of course most everything was closed, but we were able to visit and get some photos of a few notable sites. We first visited the famous Pike Place Market, which is recognizable from numerous movies and television shows (Sleepless in Seattle for one).

At Pike Place, Natalie was excited to get her photo in front of the original Starbucks (she’s been a barista for the last two years). Then we headed out to Kerry Park, which quite honestly took some looking. However, we enjoyed driving up and down the hilly Seattle streets, which are so different from out city streets here in Ohio.

The first Starbucks located in Seattle next to Pike Place Market.
Natalie was excited to visit the original Starbucks in Seattle which is in the Pike Place Market area.

Kerry Park was definitely worth the effort. It’s just the smallest patch of land in a residential area and there are no amenities. There’s literally nothing to do other than gaze at the beautiful Seattle skyline. The view after dark was breath taking and the homes in the neighborhood have the most gorgeous view.

Downtown Seattle as viewed from Kerry Park. We had a layover in the city on our way north to Alaska.
The view of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park was fantastic. On a clear day, we were told, Mount Ranier can be seen to the right of downtown.

Lastly we visited the famed Space Needle, a remnant of the 1962 World’s Fair. Of course the Space Needle features prominently in television and movies. Most notably, Elvis dines in the restaurant in It Happened at the World’s Fair. But you will also recognize it in skyline shots from Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy and others.

By midnight (their time, my aging body thought it was 3 a.m.), our short list of after dark destinations had been exhausted. Striking out on the 24 hour diner we’d researched (a COVID victim), we hit a late night drive thru for some fast food chili and headed back to drop off the rental car.

The Seattle Space Needle at night.
Though the Space Needle was closed for the day, we still enjoyed a quick night time visit.

By 1 a.m. we were sitting at our gate with five hours until boarding. Natalie was able to catch a few hours sleep on the floor while I sat nearby, my head bobbing perilously back and forth as I drifted off. I decided I would try to sleep on the plane.

Back on the Plane – Once Again Headed North to Alaska

Flash forward: I can’t sleep on a plane. I just couldn’t get comfortable, again with the head bobbing. Resigned to my state of exhaustion, I spent the flight playing games on my phone and looking out the window. Natalie, already rested up from her sleep at the airport, napped peacefully next to me.

Flying in to Alaska we were so excited to see the snowy mountains below. Quite honestly, it felt like we were going to another planet, not another part of the United States.

We arrived at the Anchorage airport 9 a.m. Tuesday, Alaska Time. The airport in Anchorage was small, especially in comparison to Seattle, and we easily navigated our way through to pick up our rental car.


The next three days would be a blur. We started off with breakfast at Gwennie’s Old Alaska, a hearty affair of home cooked food that included a side of reindeer sausage.

Thunderbird Falls in Alaska.
Thunderbird Falls, on the left, as seen from the observation deck. A trail leads down to the base of the falls as well. On the right, Natalie posing next to some native birch trees.

Then we headed off on our first hike at Thunderbird Falls, an Alaska state park.
Thunderbird Falls was two miles total on a hilly out and back trail that ended on an observation platform of the falls. The number of birch trees was surprising. There were entire forests of birch that were just beautiful.

I was a little wary of bears, having stumbled upon a few bear vs. human horror stories on the internet. I made sure to keep talking the entire hike and made certain our bear spray was well within reach. While I was excited to see the Alaskan wildlife, I was a little leery of meeting a grizzly on the trail.

Looking out over Eklutna Lake and the mountains, near Anchorage, Alaska.
Eklutna Lake, an Alaska State Park, was a highlight of our trip. Pictures truly don’t do it justice.

After our Thunderbird hike, we stumbled upon Eklutna Lake courtesy of a wrong turn. We were in awe at this beautiful blue-green, glacier fed lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It was also our first encounter walking through snow, still a surprise to us in mid-May. My first glimpse of this lake is still one of my favorite parts of the trip.

The Long Road to Seward

Quite tired, we took the Seward Highway toward Seward, Alaska. This is probably the most beautiful road I’ve ever travelled and worth the trip to our 49th state in and of itself.

A stop on the Seward Highway between Seward and Anchorage, Alaska.
One of many stops and trailheads on the Seward Highway.

It runs between Anchorage and Seward and is dotted with awe inspiring views of both water and mountains. There are a number of pull offs to take in the fantastic views. I was particularly excited to see a bald eagle perched on a branch next to the highway. On our return trip just two days later, we would see a total of 12 bald eagles on the drive.

Seward and Resurrection Bay

Finally we reached our hotel for the evening, the Harbor 360 Hotel. We had chosen the property for its view of Resurrection Bay and the Seward Small Boat Harbor. We were not disappointed with the view. Though it was still a few hours before sunset, we turned in early around 9 p.m. Alaska, it seems, stays up later than us.

The Seward Small Boat Harbor in Seward, Alaska.
The Seward Small Boat Harbor, just outside of our hotel

Kenai Fjords National Park

The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out for our first adventure of the day. Natalie was anxious to hike to the Exit Glacier in the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park.

The entrance to Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska.
Natalie at Kenai Fjords National Park. She has now decided that she would like to visit all of our national parks.

The road to the trailhead and visitor center was still closed through the end of May so we had to park and hike the road in to the trailhead. The road was flat and free from snow.

A young woman poses next to a snow bank and on a road in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.
This seemed like a lot of snow for us being that it was mid-May. Natalie, right, on the road to the Exit Glacier trailhead.

Glacier Overlook Trail, however, was still snow covered and we walked through snow as high as knee deep for about a mile to a mile and a half in total. We didn’t see any wildlife, but did see plenty of moose droppings on and around the trail. The view was amazing, just surreal.

Near the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.
This spot, showing the edge of the glacier in 1926, was almost too picturesque.

Orca Cruise – Resurrection Bay

Revitalized by the crisp air and successful hike, I felt full of energy as we headed to our next stop. We had booked a four hour orca cruise with Major Marine back in Seward. This was probably the part of the trip to which I was most looking forward.

We climbed aboard and took a seat next to the window. The trip started off on a high note as the captain circled the boat around a bald eagle perched on a pylon before heading out into open water.

Photos from an orca cruise of Resurrection Bay, sailing out of Seward, Alaska.
Views from our Orca Cruise in Resurrection Bay.

It was then that the last few days of sleep deprivation came crashing down on both of us all at once. Suddenly we didn’t care about orcas, or the water, or being on the boat at all. We just wanted to find a warm and comfortable place to nap.

In truth, the cruise was great. We saw porpoises, humpback whales, and orcas in the water. We learned about World War II fortifications as the captain showed us otters, sea lions and seals lounging at the base of cliffs. I only felt bad that I was both too tired and chilled to be excited about all of the wonderful wildlife. But it was still an amazing experience.

Seward Small Boat Harbor from our hotel and halibut from Chinooks.
Left, the view of the Seward Small Boat Harbor from our second floor room. Right, my halibut at Chinooks.

After the cruise we headed back to our room without talking at all, crawled under the covers and sunk into a well deserved nap. We both woke about an hour later, hungry and ready for dinner.

Chinooks – Dinner in Seward

The front desk attendant recommended Chinooks, just down the boardwalk, for dinner. It was a short walk but, still chilled from our cruise experience, we couldn’t get there soon enough.

We started off by splitting an appetizer order of king crab legs. Natalie followed up with an order of salmon, which is one of her favorites at home and definitely her go-to meal on the trip. (I was actually suspicious our trip to Alaska was based on her love for salmon.) I had the halibut fish and chips meal which was excellent. Everything was so fresh and the staff was both friendly and attentive.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

We again beat the sun to bed and awoke the next morning bright and early. It was Thursday and our final day in Alaska. We took the Seward Highway and headed back to Anchorage, this time stopping at a few spots along the way.

Beluga Point on the Seward Highway in Alaska.
Beluga Point on the Seward Highway.

Our final day was spent visiting smaller parks in the Anchorage area, touring the downtown, and shopping. We stopped at a downtown food truck festival where Natalie found a truck specializing in, you guessed it, salmon. Wanting to try something new, I tried a dish from a truck dedicated to Russian food.

From there we visited the Ulu factory and purchased some souvenirs. The ulu is a traditional Alaskan knife traditionally used, we were told, for skinning seals. Though I planned to use mine for the more pedestrian use of chopping vegetables, I purchased one to use at home and a few as gifts. There’s a handy video where you can see the unique knife and see how it is used.

Views from our trip to Anchorage, Alaska.
Gwennie’s on the left from our first day in Anchorage and the bear statue that sits outside of the Anchorage City Hall.

We did some more shopping at the touristy t-shirt shops downtown and took a few photos with the bear statues near city hall. We had a nice evening meal at the 49th State Brewery, more seafood.

Going on a Moose Hunt

At this point Natalie was disappointed only in the fact that we had not seen a moose. There were plenty of moose crossing signs and we had seen droppings at several sites.

Not wanting to leave Alaska with this one item still remaining on her checklist, we headed out on a moose hunt. A quick Google search pointed us in the direction of a city park with frequent moose sightings. On our drive through, we were so excited to see not one, but three of the giant creatures in the park! Natalie got out of the car to get a few pictures, all from a safe distance of course.

A moose along the road in Anchorage, Alaska.
One of the moose that we saw in a local Anchorage park.

Relieved that all of her Alaska dreams had come true, we headed back toward the airport for an overnight flight. Natalie, again, slept like a baby on our flight to Phoenix and then again to Columbus. I, still unable to catch more than five to ten minutes of sleep during the flight, arrived bleary-eyed back at John Glenn International where our adventure had begun just a few days previous.

I had an amazing time in Alaska and would love to visit again when I have time to explore more of the state. If you have the ability to add our 49th state to your travels, I would highly recommend.

While I usually write about our travels within the state of Ohio, I will be sure to include some of our travels out of state in the Travels section so check back to adventure with us. If you’re looking for day or quick trips within the state, you may want to check the Day Trips section.

We would like to thank you for FindingOhio with us. We hope you enjoyed joining us on our trip north to Alaska. And, as always, we thank you for sharing our content on social media.

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