Cheap Summer Vacation Series: Glacier Bay National Park

This year, H and I took a trip to alaska to visit a few national parks that I was unable to get to when I went up there in 2011. We went to two parks, Denali and Glacier Bay National Parks. We had an awesome time, and I wanted to share some financial details of our trip and some pictures.

Both of these parks are in alaska, and are not the easiest or cheapest places to get to, but once you get there there are plenty of activities for low or no cost. Getting to glacier bay is difficult – you need to fly from wherever you are to anchorage, then down to juneau, then take a (literally) 13 minutes flight to gustavus. Once you get to the gustavus airport you need to make your way to the national park, which is about 10 miles. H and I took a cab that we split with a group of people and it cost us $10 bucks each. Since we couldnt fly with any fuel, we had to stop by the store and pick up some fuel for our camp stove. From there, it was on to glacicer bay to our campground.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip


This was the beach that we did all of our cooking on. You had to cook in the intertidal area so that if you dropped any food or left anything that a bear might smell, it would get washed away by the tide. This is a sunset from the first night – after 4 days in fairbanks, it was nice to see the sun set at a normal time (around 1030pm, If I remember correctly)100_4530

This is a picture that we took on a hike the first full day we were there. It was a nice hike – I’ve never been in forests that were that dense before. There was moss and trees and other things growing everywhere! I’m just used to tall trees and bare forest floors.100_4557

The next day, we went on a guided kayak trip. This picture was taken from the kayak of a sea otter who was just hanging around eating. I had fun in the kayak, but I think that I positioned the steering pedals wrong because my leg kept falling asleep.100_4606

This was a picture from our last day in glacier bay – We decided to take what they called the “long boat” which is a day cruise to the upper reaches of glacier bay that are fairly unaccessible without this boat. What we found out while we got on the boat though was that you could bring your own kayak, and this boat would drop you off somewhere along the route, and you could kayak around the portion of the park where basically no one goes and camp on the island beaches!  I wish that I had known that before we left, but unfortunately I didnt. It’s just something we can save for next time.100_4672

This is from the boat ride – a little island full of sea lions. I saw these last time I went to alaska and went fishing, but it was cool to see them again, and H had never seen them outside of a zoo setting.100_4774

This picture is from the glacier that we got to see (if I remember correctly, it’s the mendenhal glacier). I love glaciers and think they are so fucking cool, so I was really excited about this. This glacier was huge, and like all of them, very cold once you got close. It was really fund to see the glacier calving, and it really made me envious of the people with the super fancy new cameras with the giant lenses. We were very close so I still got some good pictures, but they could have been much better. This is one of the few glaciers in the park that is advancing (growing every year).100_4752

This is a picture of the same glacier, and you can see how far it extends up into the mountains behind it! It’s a huge glacier and awesome to look at.

H and I had a blast in glacier bay, and we are hopeful that we get the opportunity to travel there in the future. It was a nice time, and a great way to spend our 1 year anniversary. I’ll include a sappy anniversary picture that we took on the final day in glacier bay. We were able to get the boat on our anniversary, then head to anchorage and have a pretty good dinner at glacier brewhouse. So even though there was about 2 hours of flying in there, it was a great time.


There are our cold hands near the glacier.

Readers: Have you ever been to glacier bay national park? If not, are you interested in going now? If you are, drop me an email and I can tell you how I did it for super cheap for H and myself.


Alaska Pictures, Part 4

Unfortunately, this is going to be the last post of my pictures from alaska.  Even though I took north of 375 pictures, I didnt want to spend weeks and weeks on this series, so I broke my events down into days and selected some of my favorite pictures from each activity.  Hopefully this made you want to go to alaska a just a little bit.  I enjoyed my time up there and will hopefully be going back soon!   If you missed the first three groups, you can find here and here and here.

This group of pictures was because of a bartender that  I was talking to over dinner.  I asked him for some nearby trails and he sent me over here.  It was about a mile walk out of town (I didnt have  a car) just to the trailhead, and I was on the trail for about 2 miles 1 way. It was quite a bit of walking that day and it was tiring, but it was a great hike.

The hike was mostly along the coast south of seward, so there were quite a few rivers and other bodies of water flowing into resurrection bay.   This was one of them.  One of the best parts about this hike was that I saw 2 other people and 2 dogs throughout my hike.  It’s nice when you can get out there and truly be by yourself.

I took this picture because I thought this was funny – this is supposed to be a bridge over this shallow creek.  It wasnt really sturdy or anything like that, and it didnt really work.

I thought this was a pretty nifty tree, it looks like it had been cut down at one point and is regrowing as a new tree.

This is a ghost forest.  I wrote about them last time, but I think they are really cool!

This bird scared the crap out of me.  All of the sudden something broke the silence that I had enjoyed for the past 2 or so hours and made all this noise as I was standing on the bridge.  I was taking pictures of the fish in the water, but I got an ok shot of this guy considering.  There was also an eagle flying around, but I was unable to get a good picture of it.

You can see a bit of seward and the mountains behind it in this picture, but my favorite thing is the very well defined snow line on the mountain.

This is one from the walk back to town on the road.  I thought the boats looked neat in front of the mountain.

Is Getting Your Own Food Cheaper

For the last few years, I’ve made it a point to try and obtain some of my own food.  For a lot of people this means a garden.  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do that quite yet because I’m afraid the dog will tear it up, and along with that, I dont want to do anything to the back yard (I rent).  So this leaves me to trying other ways to get my own food.  I’ve done some of this (though I’m not sure if it would count) by canning apples, and I’ve also done some elk hunting  and antelope hunting.  Unfortunately I havent gotten an elk yet, but antelope are plentiful here to the point of becoming a huge nuisance, so I’ve gotten one of those two years in a row.  One thing that I’ve been wanting to do more of is fish.  Usually it’s pretty cheap, and there’s good fishing close to where I live (mostly trout).  So I decided to book a charter fishing trip when I was in Alaska – it was one of two “big” (read: spendy) things that I decided to do while there.  Here’s what it cost – and I’ll leave out the flight and the room and food, I would have needed those anyway.

  • Charter trip (Late season) $220
  • Out of State fishing license $20 (1 day)
  •  Safeway $15 – Ziplock bags, foil and saran wrap.  There were no processors of fish left open in town ( I probably wouldnt have used one anyway) so that I could portion, pack and freeze my catch.
  • Cooler $23 I needed something to take the fish home with me so that they wouldn’t de-thaw on the plane.  This worked really, really well, but it was because the cooler was packed very, very full.  It also didnt fit everything in it – 1 serving had to be packed alone.  I’ll have to see how this one fared.
  • Check bag fee $20 – to check the cooler to take home.
So in total, I spent approximate $298 to catch and take home this fish.  I didnt get any very large halibut, but I got some fair sized ones.  According to my count, I got about 12 two person servings for dinner, for an average cost of $12.50 per serving.  Now I dont typically buy halibut too much at the store but if I recall, I’ve seen it go for 16.99 per pound, and I took home approximately 15 lbs.  While this is high cost, I took this estimate from a nearby whole foods and though the store is expensive, what I caught is what they market.  “Organic, wild caught, bla bla bla”.
Fish Caught by Everyone in the Boat – We each got 2.

All in all, I got less than $90 dollars worth of fish from the fishing trip, bringing my cost per pound of halibut to a level that I dont even care to calculate.  However, the trip wasnt just about taking home enough fish to feel me and H for the winter.  I wanted to experience something new (I’d never been halibut fishing, or on a boat that small in the open ocean), and I wanted to have fun.  Both of those things I accomplished, and like I’ve been learning quite a bit lately, it’s not always going to be about the money.

Of course, there are  plenty of ways that you can make getting your own food cheaper.  Hunting or fishing in your own state would probably be the first one that comes to mind.  You’ll get cheaper prices for tags because you pay state taxes, and you wont have to travel too far.  This would also eliminate the need to check a bag to take back home.  (sidebar: One guy on the boat from my state shipped a moose home from Alaska.  I dont even want to know how much that cost).  Doing the processing at home would be free as well, as just about everyone has foil/saran wrap already.  Some of my hunting trips over the last 3 years have cost about $75 ($50 for an antelope tag and another $20 or so to have it ground into sausages/hamburger, and 5 bucks for a beer or 2 to celebrate with my hunting buddies).
I also got some killer pictures from the fishing trip, and alaska.  To see part 1 of my alaska pictures, head here.

Readers: Do you ever get your own meat, or do you stick to gardening?  If you do get your own meat, have you thought about cost effectiveness, or are you just interested in where you food comes from and going out and having some fun?

Alaska Pictures Part 3

I’ve got some more pictures from alaska to share.  The first two groups (which you can find here and here) is from my week in Anchorage, and the ones where I’m on a boat are taken from a harbor wildlife cruse I took that was based out of Seward, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.  For all of these pictures, I was hiking Mount Marathon in Seward, AK.

This was a really fun hike that I did in Seward.  When looking at the route before I left, I noticed there was 2 trails (which I found more about later) and took the easier (and longer) hikers trail.  It was something like 3 miles from the edge of town where the trail started to the top.  The trail started out in a pretty dense forest for about a mile before breaking.  Here’s what the trail looked like as we got through the trees.

This didnt go straight up, it hooked around the back before I regained the ridge.  It was cold on the back side.  There was no sun, a large creek and the wind had kicked up.  I was fully prepared though, so I just pulled out my gloves and hat and kept on going.

This is a picture of the town of seward from near the top of the mountain.  Yes, that’s the whole town – it’s around 5,000 people.  It was a nice little place, and I probably walked from one end of town to the other about 4 times per day – or more.  I had no other way to get around, but I dont mind, it was good exercise.

I took this picture from the near the top and was thinking to myself, that would suck if you fell off of this part.  It was pretty steep, and the soil was pretty loose so there wasnt much to stop you.

This is a shot of ressurection bay from mt marathon.  It is pretty impressive.  During the good friday earthquake of 1964, (the highest ever recored on the richter scale) a tsunami was headed for the town, but the deepness of the bay blunted the strike and there wasnt as much damage in seward as there was when the tsunami made land in california.

So after reaching the high point and turning back, I found the trail that I had missed earlier and started following it down.  I didnt follow it up – so I didnt know where I’d end up reaching the hiking trail (the one I took up) again.  Not too long after, I realized that this moment was never.

That picture that I took earlier saying that I didn’t want to fall down I started going down.  As you can see, it’s quite steep.  The dirt was really loose, so I was able to pretty much take a few steps then slide down, stopping on one foot for a second and then continuing down the trail.  After a while, I realized that I was on what they call the “runners trail”.

Another part of the runner’s trail.  Yes, it goes through that runoff creek.  After thinking about the runners, I was wondering how the hell they did this in a race.

This is the trail that I took down from the top – you can make out the lighter part in the grey rock.  That was me kicking up the trail and turning the darker rocks over.  You can see the trail go off the left hand side of the mountain and duck into the green – that’s where the trail starts going through the river.  It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to descend the trail.  I thought that was pretty good, but when I went to dinner later that night, my world was rocked.

I was talking to the bartender when I was eating dinner that night, and he was telling me about the Mt Marathon Race.  The race is held every July 4 and was started after a bet in a bar around the turn of the century (the best kind of race, right).  The bartender told me that the racers run from around the building we were in (about a mile from the trailhead), to the top of the mountain, and back.  The crazy thing was that the record for this run was 45 minutes and some change.  When I heard this, I was clearly stunned.  I knew that I took the longer route, but didnt think that my 5 hour hike could be distilled into less than an hour race.  The even more shocking thing was that the decent (that took me over an hour) took the race winner less than 11 minutes!!!

I couldnt believe it – I want to try the race, but unfortunately it’s so cool that there’s a really long waiting list and they have a lottery.  The town grows to 35,000+ people during the race weekend!

That’s the last of the pictures from this hike – next week will be the last installment of my alaska pictures.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed them.


Alaska Pictures Part 2

I’ve got some more pictures from alaska to share.  The first group (which you can find here) is from my week in Anchorage, and the ones where I’m on a boat are taken from a harbor wildlife cruse I took that was based out of Seward, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.  For all of these pictures, I was halibut fishing near Seward, AK.  I also have gotten my first taste of the fish (I grilled a fillet last week) and it was soooo gooood.

This first group is from the halibut fishing trip.  You may have seen my posts about halibut fishing on twitter and what a hassle it was to get my halibut home from Alaska, but the trip was awesome.  Here’s a view from the boat as we are steaming out of resurrection bay around sunrise (8am-ish)

Even though I am a terrible photographer and have a terrible camera,  I still think this one turned out really good.  It’s the same 3 glacier area that I posted some pictures of from the other boat.

This next shot is a view from the boat after we have exited the bay and were out in the open ocean.  The water was quite choppy, so much so that the whole group almost didnt go out because of it.  I was still ok during this part – I didn’t start to feel like donating last nights dinner and that mornings breakfast to the fish until much later in the ride.

Those snow covered peaks in the very back of the shot are from Kenai Fjords National Park. I wanted to spend some time in the park, but it’s not really accessible by car.

When I was on the halibut boat I was wearing my wyoming hat, and a guy walked on the boat with a wyoming hat.  He quickly sat down next to me and we started chatting.  Turns out, the guy lives where I used to live in wyoming and knows both of H’s parents!  I absolutely couldnt believe it.  It’s such a small world sometimes.

These are all the fish caught by everyone on the boat.  Alaska has a daily bag limit of 2, so that’s the maximum that you can catch.  Everyone on the boat caught that many, and after that we were steaming back to the harbor.

I didnt sit down in the cabin of the boat at all, and rarely went in there because it made me feel sea sick. (note to guys: if it’s a choppy sea and you need to go to the bathroom, dont waste your time peeing in the bathroom.  I got thrown around so many times and hit my head on the wall and had water splashing me in the face from the porthole window that I had regretted my decision even before I was finished – Just go off the side of the boat.) So as I was sitting outside watching the deck hand toss all the fish out of the box and onto the deck, I waited for mine (marked with orange zip ties around the tail) to come out.  The first one I saw flew out of the box, and on to the deck, where it washed right out the deck drain!  I told the deck hand and he chuckled (because it was sorta funny) and he said they had another one for me.  I probably got the better end of that – the one they gave me was probably bigger.  S

That’s the deck hand cutting up one of the fish I caught.

Some of you have probably seen this, others probably have no idea what it is.  It’s a coal tipple, and one reason that I took a picture of it was because I thought it looked really awesome in front of the mountain.  The tipple is there because this is the only port in alaska that doesnt freeze over for the whole year, so most of the coal mined in central Alaska is taken by train to a facility near this tipple, processed, and then sent to this tipple for loading on a boat.

Alaska Pictures Part 1

As you all know, I was fortunate enough to have my job send me to Alaska.  I was arrived on a sunday (around 6pm, after traveling for 12 hours) and was on the job until that friday at around 1pm.  After that, I decided to stay and use that as a bit of my vacation.  The conference was in Anchorage, and after it ended I basically just hung out around the hotel.  I was pretty beat from a week of super long days, and couldn’t muster the energy to go much of anywhere, especially given the fact that I had to be ready to go at 8am the next morning to meet a shuttle down to Seward, where I’d take a wildlife cruise and go halibut fishing, then spend a few days.

I got to hike quite a bit around on the trip, and was able to see some amazing things.  Anchorage has what they call the coastal trail, which is just what it sounds like – a trail along the coast.  This is a bike/multi use trail that runs along the coast.  I headed here 3 of the nights I was in anchorage, to get in my daily workout.  There are some great views of the Knik arm and downtown Anchorage, and I got a few pictures.That’s what they call the sleeping lady.  If you look at it right, it looks like a woman sleeping.  I can see it sometimes, though this photo doesn’t really show it.  There was also a very close and very quick hike up flat top mountain.  I didn’t really plan to do this, but saw it on a whim in a guide book and decided to get it in before my conference started.  Great hike, very quick and I was able to run down the last 2 miles.

That’s a view from the top of the mountain (it was somewhere around 3500 feet – nothing that big) and a good, quick hike.  Those were basically all the pictures I got in anchorage – I was working a lot, and I didnt have much time outside of the conference to do anything other than eat and head to the conference.  I did visit a lot of microbreweries, and if you’re really curious, you can email me and I’ll show you pictures from them.  After Anchorage came Seward. I got a lot of great pictures there, and did a lot of things.  There was a lot of walking (I probably walked across town 10+ times) and a lot of fun to be had.

I went on a wildlife cruise, a fishing trip for halibut (more on that later) and did quite a few hikes, one which has a long back-story.  Before I left I warned H that if I came back engaged to a glacier, she shouldn’t take it personal and that it was just the way that things had to be.  She said she understood, but I’m not so sure she meant it – who can be OK with getting left for a large sheet of ice (aside from me)?

You can see the glaciers rather easy in this photo – they are cirque glaciers, and not attached to any larger ice sheets. I also saw a whole rock full of lazy sea lions.  All these guys do all day is lay on that rock, sun and make tons of noise – sounds like a professional blogger (j/k!).

The bear glacier – this thing was huge and when we got near it, you could feel the effects that it had on the local temperature – it got cold.

That is all the pictures that I’ll share for now – there’s still quite a bit more from the fishing trips, the hiking and just the general walking around.  I took about 400 pictures in total (2 of them have people in them) and I’ve got a few more posts to put together with more of the pictures.

Readers – have you ever been to Alaska?  Did you enjoy it?  Where did you go and what did you do?  Why did you go there?  

Also, this will be the first of two or three posts – I’ll probably post them all on Wednesdays.