Three of my Texas grandsons graduated from high school in 2022, and one the previous year. I wished to top off their H.S. education with an enlightening visit to Iceland, to see glaciers and nature at its best. Only the pandemic made that nigh impossible. So I chose a similar place, no passport required, Alaska.
From my previous trips with teenage grandkids, I kept in mind two things:
- feed them, again and again
- don’t make them rise too early or they’ll snarl at you all day long
I chose 3 main destinations for the five of us and our rental van that we would pick up at the Anchorage airport ($2,500 for a one week rental, by the way):
- Palmer and a walking tour through and about the Matanuska glacier
- Whittier – tiny fishing/tourist village with hiking trails – you access thru a long dark one-lane, one-way tunnel that opens once every 30 minutes for each direction
- Seward – small fishing/tourist town with day cruises to the Kenai fjords and glaciers
PALMER and the MATANUSKA GLACIER TOUR
From the airport we drove an hour north of Anchorage to the city of Palmer nestled between rich-green mountains. The air is cool and clean, immediately I feel relaxed and refreshed. Especially after a waffle ice cream cone from The Big Dipper across from our hotel. Julian catches the eye of one of the girls behind the counter and after encouragement from Fabian, he returns for her snapchat address.
The next morning we drove a bit to the Mica Glacier Tours company, just past the entrance to the Matanuska Glacier.
We got outfitted with crampons for hiking on ice, and hard hats. Our guide Kendall (with intern Sherman) stressed to us the potential dangers (stepping into a puddle that is actually a deep crevasse of ice water, or slipping on black ice and breaking our bottoms).
We then headed over the moraine (gravel and ice-covered gravel, also known as glacial tilt) towards the blue-white heart of the beast.
At one point Kendall asked the boys if they would like to try to reach with her ice pick the bottom of a puddle. They couldn’t. Note how she held on to them as they tried.
She told us this was a new deep crack that fooled one of the guides who stepped and fell in. She told us the path they take changes every day like a shifting maze as the glacier stretches, splits and melts.
We spent a couple hours on the ice, and even bottled some fresh glacier water.
WHITTIER, Wild Life Refuge and PANNING FOR GOLD
After another good night’s rest in Palmer (to bed at 11:30 when sun goes down, but not up at 4 when sun rises!), we drove a couple hours along fantastic scenery on highway 1 and 9 to the Whittier one-way narrow and dark tunnel. We put up in the Whittier Inn, which looks like something from a Hitchcock movie but has the best food in town.
The next day we headed to the wildlife refuge and got to see a mama grizzly bear and teenager in their compound, along with elk, reindeer, and bison.
After lunch we sluiced and panned for gold at the Crow Creek Mine, where Fabian and Julian actually found a tiny sliver of gold from sluicing the river gravel. Andrew, Cezar and I had no luck panning.
We spent the night back in Whittier, where we ate another great meal,
visited the outside of the haunted Buckner Building (built by the military in the late 50s)
and hiked the mosquito-filled path to view Exit Glacier.
SEWARD and our SEA CRUISE
Next stop, Seward, a cruising kind of town. We had booked a 6 hour sea life and fjord/glacier tour, and almost missed the 11am boat as the boys wanted to stop and buy two large grocery bags of food (including a gallon of milk) to keep their tummies full. We also took Dramamine to keep our tummies still. Actually the water was calm and the boat gave a smooth ride. But 6 hours is a long time and we found ourselves napping between whale, sea lion and glacier sightings.
Andrew spots something
Finally reached our glacier
Magnificently tall – with that wonderful blue-white luster
I was a bit disappointed with the tiny icebergs coming off the glacier, though fanciful, they were much smaller than the ones I saw in Iceland, but all in all an enjoyable time on the water with great scenery and good company!
ps. On the beach at Seward our last evening I found fools gold cubes embedded in stone so the rock-hound inside of me was fed.
Categories: foreign travel, rockhound, travel, Travel with grandkids
These were fabulous! What a cool trip with grandsons. One I’m sure they will never forget. You are a brave soul to take on 4 teenagers/young adults!! Loved the pics. Jan
Ray, what a marvelous and wonderful trip. I know the grandsons enjoyed it, I could tell by their happy faces. Alaska is such a magnificent and beautiful place. The glacier was so cool and pretty to look at. I felt refreshed seeing all the blue and white. The wildlife refuge didn’t disappoint either. The grizzly bears and sea lions, even the whales looked peaceful. I’m so glad you could go and thanks for sharing.
Loved it all, Cyndy