It was finally time to go back home. We definitely had a lot of fun in Alaska. Our road trip back to Anchorage was the best part of the trip – mainly because we were all together. Even though J and I had driven this stretch once before (when we drove back a rental vehicle a month before after flying into Anchorage just the two of us), it was almost like seeing it for the first time. This time around the sky was cheery and the sun was reflecting off the giant snow flakes that had fallen since then and guided our way with rainbow flecks of light. Plus, being the passenger instead of the ever-so cautious driver I could see everything that I had missed on the drive back from Anchorage the first time. Everything felt like a picture moment. I love road tripping with my boys. Some of our best times are in a car together.
We left at the perfect time. It was so exciting to leave Valdez (not that we didn’t love you!). Right before you leave the city limits there is a stretch of road that follows a river where hundreds upon hundreds of eagles gather. You look up in the trees and you can spot 15 in a single tree and the ones by the water are so close you feel both excitement and panic at the same time (well, I do anyway because wild life scares me apparently). Then comes the Bridal Veil Falls. Then Worthington Glacier…. It’s no wonder why people want to come to Valdez.
At about mid point of the drive is the Matanuska Glacier just off the highway. It is one of the largest glaciers accessible by vehicle in the U.S. measuring at 27 miles long and 4 miles wide. Beautiful. Confession: until I came to Alaska I always thought of glaciers as icebergs (yes, yes, I know that we learn the difference between the two in grade school, but don’t act like you don’t forget basic information at times too…), so the first time I saw one I didn’t even realize that I was looking at one at all until I was told, and even then when it was pointed out to me I said “I don’t see it” haha. Don’t judge.
Alaska’s Seward Highway is one of the most magical drives you could ever dream of taking in the U.S. This was actually my second time taking it – the first time was accidental. When I started my drive home to Valdez from Anchorage with the rental my GPS kept wanting to take me this direction. Apparently this was the way to the ferry… if there was a ferry at the time – there wasn’t. But it was a worthwhile mistake and I was happy I took the route because I got to see all the birds that gathered at the marshes. The road was lined with cars and birdwatchers and photographers with lenses the length of my arm. The second time around the birds were gone and the marsh was iced over and was instead filled with people ice skating. These are the things that make Alaska amazing…
The Kenai Fjords blew my mind… so incredibly beautiful (and I didn’t even take a water tour). There was so much more to see. If I do make it back another time I will be sure to book water tours earlier because they don’t do them after mid September for the most part. This place was the most magical part of our experience. The time of day we came (the lighting), and then the perfect serenity of the water against the majesty of the fjords…
We stayed at Hotel Alyeska our final night in Alaska which was a fancy ski resort tucked away in the snowy mountains. Jonah spent most of the evening and morning playing by the window, which I was happy about because it meant that I spent a lot of time there too taking in some of our last views of the amazing Alaska landscape.
Finally it was time to fly home. Because we had to return our rental by a certain time, we ended up having to wait around the airport for about 5 hours before our flight was supposed to leave. On the up side we did end up on a red eye so Jonah slept most of the way. Also, the Anchorage airport has the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had, so I wasn’t too upset that we had to wait because I had the opportunity to get another yogurt… I say “another” because the first time with Jonah I was trying to push a stroller and a carry-on and instead of sitting down right there to enjoy it, I thought it would be a good idea to walk to the benches across the way. I hardly made it half way before my yogurt plopped face down on the ground… anyone surprised here? It’s moments like that where if you don’t laugh out loud you end up folding under the embarrassment and start sweating profusely while turning a shade of red that looks good on no one. More than the embarrassment [and disappointment] of doing something like that is having to figure out how to handle the situation. I mean, do I try to clean it all up with a thousand napkins or do I find someone else to clean it up, and then what about my antsy kiddo who has decided that he has been sitting patiently long enough and is determined to get out of his stroller whether I’ve finished taking care of the mess or not… then what? Note to self: don’t listen to “great ideas” that come into your head that involve any amount of balance, finesse, grace, etc and food.