Long drives and little children do not get along very well. When Ed gets the itch to go on a road trip, we usually break up the drive into shorter segments to keep the children happy and the parents sane. We spent a leisurely three days driving from Chicago to Estes Park, Colorado. We were also just as leisurely driving to Niagara Falls, with a stop in Pennsylvania’s Cook Forest. Our last long drive was during our vacation in Alaska. We wanted to drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks, which is about 359 miles…not much farther than our usual road trip to Des Moines to visit my family. But we were in Alaska! We definitely wanted to take our time on this long drive.
The morning we left, it was a typical June day in Anchorage: chilly and wet. My aunt, whose house was our headquarters, urged us to borrow her umbrellas for our trip. They definitely came in handy that day! Not far out of Anchorage was our first sightseeing stop: Thunderbird Falls. By then it was officially raining, but that didn’t stop us from hiking up to the falls. We couldn’t get close enough to feel the spray from the thunderous waterfall, but since it was already raining we could use our imaginations.
After shaking ourselves off, we got into the car to dry off and head to our next destination: Independence Mine and Hatcher’s Pass. This is a little side trip off of Parks Highway, and well worth the detour. I have been there twice before, but unfortunately the weather was colder and foggier as we drove up into the mountains. We went as far as we could go before we reached a gate. The pass was still closed; too much snow. We got out of the car to stretch our legs and the air was definitely wintery.
As we headed back to the highway, a cow and calf crossed the road. The girls were so excited! It was our first moose sighting in Alaska!
We spent the night in a very small, very cute cabin in Talkeetna. Talkeetna is often referred to as the backdoor to Denali. Sight seeing flights for Mt. McKinley take off in Talkeetna. Mountain climbers gear up and start their journey to the tallest North American mountain in Talkeetna. It’s a very interesting little town. Our cabin was just a couple miles outside of town in the woods.
The next day was our second leg of the trip…on to Fairbanks! We started the day with some hot chocolate from a little cafe down the street and stopped to buy some smoked salmon for our lunch later on. As we drove further north, the rain clouds began to dissipate and the sun started to shine. We stopped a few times to take pictures, but we didn’t take any hikes. We passed Denali National Park…we were going to stop there for a couple of nights on our way back to Anchorage. We kept driving North.
Although this was my third trip to Alaska, I had never been up to Fairbanks. As we left the mountains behind, the land became flat and all we could see were spruces for miles and miles. For lunch, we pulled off at a spot by the side of the road and had a picnic in the back of our rented minivan. Triscuits, smoked salmon and cheese!
While driving through miles and miles of spruce trees was not that exciting, it was still better than the miles and miles of corn fields we drive through to get to the Mississippi River. We reached Fairbanks in plenty of time to enjoy Pioneer Park and have dinner at their famous Salmon Bake.
Now this long drive was my kind of long drive; plenty of things to see, nice driving weather, and good food at the end of the day!
Have you had a memorable long drive?