OK, Not Really

AWCC-Brown bear up close

Brown bear, a little close for comfort

…just bears at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center!

Much of the drive to the wildlife center is along the inlet. Imposing and majestic mountain peaks outline the inlet and the cliffs alongside the highway are scattered with marshes, meadows and waterfalls.

Once at the center you can either drive through the refuge or get out of your car and walk on a gravel road that winds throughout.

AWCC-Elk at feeding time

Elk at rest

The highlight for us was the bear walk. You can walk along a raised walk that goes over the brown bear and the black bear habitats. We arrived in time for the bear feeding and were able to watch the guide throw fresh salmon and crabapples to the bears below the walk. The refuge caretakers were extremely friendly. They explained the differences between the brown bears and black bears, and some of their behaviors. They also allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted when they were through.

AWCC-Brown is territorial

Territorial overlord

At one point I was one foot away from a bear and could have reached out to touch it (through a barbed wire fence with an electric fence behind that)! Still, it was exhilarating! Besides the bear, there are foxes, lynx, wood bison, moose and more.

The refuge’s center is about 20 minutes past Girdwood.  Girdwood is home of Alyeska Ski Resort and some of the prettiest neighborhoods in Alaska, in my opinion. It is also very close to Portage Glacier so you can see several Alaskan highlights within very close proximity to one another.

AWCC-Brown bear

Brown surveys

Tip: If you plan on seeing all three, start early!

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Written by Laurel on September 29th, 2014 - Adventures, Places

Road to Portage Glacier

If you were to spend the money on only one excursion while in the Anchorage are I would have a very difficult time choosing between one of two activities.  Alaska Native Heritage Center and a Portage Glacier cruise.


The glacier cruise on Portage Lake is a must.  First of all, you will drive through breathtaking and awe-inspiring scenery on your way up to the lake and glacier. Secondly, the trip is very well narrated by a knowledgeable guide and extremely educational.  Finally, and most importantly, who doesn’t like to see a glacier up close and personal, and let’s face it, it is one of the first images most people’s minds conjure up when thinking of Alaska!


I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and would wish for anyone getting to spend time in the Anchorage area to get to enjoy this site.

Begich, Boggs Visitor Center

Portage Lake

MV Ptarmigan

Up Close and Personal

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Written by Laurel on July 29th, 2009 - Adventures

Hobo Jim and Libby Riddles sing of a yummy native Alaskan delicasy…

Fish head, fish head stew, fish heads looking back at you!

Don’t want no food
That comes from a can
And I don’t care if it’s catfood or spam
Gotta have real food
If I’m going to survive
It’s fish head stew that keeps me alive.
Fish head, fish head, fish head stew
Fish heads looking back at you
Makes me feel good thru and thru
Gotta have some fish head stew.
When I get home
Well I won’t be blue ’cause I can have
some fish head stew
and if you’d like
I’ll share some with you
Fish head, fish head, fish head stew.

The song is a reference to the high protein diet fed to the highly pampered sled dogs.   In this case it’s from Danger, the dog yard cat’s perspective.

This was no meal for the dogs.  It was a yummy treat for all.  Sorry about the blurry picture but it was a bit of a shock seeing those eyes staring back at me.

If you want to learn more about Danger’s affection for fish head stew, stop by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters in Wasilla which is only about 20 minutes from our cabin in Big Lake.

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Written by Dave on July 28th, 2009 - Adventures

Rafting the Matanuska!

Would you believe rafting the runoff from a glacier?

Today we arranged for a Matanuska River Rafting tour.

We signed up for the “Lion Head Run” which tackles a short, fast stretch of whitewater where the Matanuska gets squeezed between rock and ice. During the 3½ hours on the water, we passed a get a great view of the 27-mile-long Matanuska Glacier, which presses the river up against the massive rock wall called Lion Head. Even the white of the whitewater is gray from glacial silt, and boulders deposited in the river by the glacier make the ride that much wilder. There were a few miles of Class IV rapids and 14 miles of Class III.

The yellow, teal and purple helmets in the front, paddling for all we’re worth, are us!

The tour began after an hour drive to Palmer and on to Chickaloon.  On the way we saw beautiful views of the Matanuska river and georgeous views of the Mat-Su valley and Chugach mountains.  Upon arrival we took a bus to the entry point, suited up in dry suits, and got our feet wet in a little tributary of the Matanuska, then off to the mighty Matanuska.

Our guide offered anyone a swim on the Matanuska’s 37 degree water as we passed the glacier.  None of our party of 8 was daring enough but another group had one taker.

My wife and daughter could have taken those class IV rapids all day.  Above the roar of the river all I could hear was…

 More! More!

Big Lake to Matanuska river entry around Glacier View, Alaska
Click here to see on a larger map

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Written by Dave on July 24th, 2009 - Adventures

Little Susitna in Alaska

When in Alaska there’s not a lot else that breeds as much excitement as when salmon season opens.

Standing in the fishing platform

Our cabin in Big Lake, Alaska is situated in a central location in the Mat-Su valley when it comes to salmon fishing.

On this particular outing we decided on the banks of the Little Susitna river.  We travelled about 45 minutes to the Little Susitna River Public Use Facility campground and boat launch. As you can see from the photos there are several very nice fishing platforms a little downstream of the boat launch area.



Now seems like a good time to share my fish story.  I know you’ll say you heard this before – because it’s about the one that got away.  I stood on the platform and saw a very nice 20+ pounder just across the river.  After several casts to the area near the other bank, I decide to go down off the platform and wade into the very mild waters.  Not uncomfortable at all.

Fishing on the Little-Su on a sunny Alaskan summer

I spent the next 15 minutes trying to coax this fish that would surface and feed every few minutes.  Finally, convinced that he proceeded further up river I gave up my pursuit and prime fishing sport.

About this time two other fishermen came and stood in my exact spot.  One cast and it was a hit.  They fought and pulled MY FISH to the bank.   Within minutes they were off – as quickly as they arrived.

I KNOW they were watching me through the brush just waiting for the right moment to swoop in for the kill.

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Written by Dave on June 13th, 2007 - Adventures

If you want to take a great over-night excursion, I highly recommend Fairbanks. It is an easy and scenic six hour drive from the Jade Lake cabin through the Denali Wilderness Preserve. You are guaranteed to see wildlife and have opportunities for side excursions as well as many photo opportunities. 


Fairbanks is quite a bit warmer than the Anchorage area in the summer and has a unique, small town Alaska feel to it.


One of my most memorable activities in Fairbanks was taking a dinner cruise on the Tanana Chief. It is an authentic paddle wheel boat that takes a leisurely cruise down the Chena River. They started the cruise out with a cocktail hour and a little information about the boat and the River. The boat itself is very charming, and the upper deck was open providing great views and photo opportunities. The scenery is truly beautiful and they served a surprisingly elegant catered dinner. The cruise only lasts a little over two hours but is a beautiful way to end a day in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Happy Sailing!


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Written by Laurel on August 10th, 2005 - Adventures

A test.

 Question: What do you do when you’ve just found an exciting new pastime, you’ve got 2 families in a motor home, you’re en route to Seward and want to break up the 5 hour drive with some excursions?

 Answer: You take your motor home offroading!

 We had just introduced geocaching to our extended family and we were all hooked.  Nothing beats geocaching in Alaska!  In the remote areas, and some not so remote, you’re not just looking for the cache.  You’re keeping you eyes and ears open for signs of moose or bear.  And you encourage the little ones to make a lot of noise…

 Now the Alaskan state bird, immortalized in this photo, is another story.  As we headed only ¼ mile down a trail to a cache just off the highway the critters were swarming so thick neither man nor beast could penetrate.  Soon 8 reasonably rational human beings were running and screaming for all they were worth back to the safety of the motor home.  A bear would have caused much less commotion.  Armed with OFF! “special Alaskan formula” two of our intrepid party made a second journey to retrieve the cache.

 The next cache stop some 40 or 50 miles down the road yielded very few brave souls.   We were less than excited about meeting the siblings of our previous foe.  We were beaten.  Then a brilliant idea!

 The trail in this case was wide enough for an all terrain vehicle, why not a motor home?  Potholes and ruts aside the width was certainly accommodating.  Let’s do it!  We made the trek about ¼ mile while every cabinet spilled its contents onto the occupants who were in a state of forced animation.  The scene was not unlike the inside of your typical dryer.

 Did we care?  No not really.  I don’t think anyone really noticed because we were all belly laughing more than should be allowed in one day.

 Don’t try this at home.

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Written by Dave on June 27th, 2004 - Adventures

Securing a fishing charter in Alaska is one of many ways to explore the alaskan outdoors.  

Port Seward

 Our wonderful family treated us to a Halibut fishing charter in Seward, Alaska.  The trip did not disappoint.  Besides the wonderful family time in the motor home on the journey from Big Lake, Alaska to Seward, we made the most of the trip by geocaching along the way.  Well, we also stopped for what seems to be one of Alaska’s favorite desserts, ice cream.  There are as many ice cream kiosk’s alongside the highways as there are coffee shacks.

 We arrived in Seward, excited for our all-day charter scheduled to shove off first thing in the morning.  Our captain and first mate were top notch.

Headed out for halibut

 3 day fishing pass + halibut tags in hand each of us stepped onto the study charter and headed off shore.  Yours truly made sure to take an all day doze of Dramamine to ensure all would be right in the world.  

Our captain promised we’d limit out and to make good on this she first journeyed to her favored fishing stop where we were instructed how to fish off the bottom for our catch.  No luck in this off the charts location so by lunch she informed us that we’d be headed to the “sure thing.”  The fish would not be as large but this is where we all limit out.

The limit!

 She was worth her salt in fish.  Sure enough as we dropped our lines to the bottom and reeled them in the first mate had more than he could handle.  In short order all 8 of us had reached his (or her) limit.

First Mate at work

By the time we got to the dock the first mate had gutted every one of those fish and had them ready for us to take to the packing store.  Decisions, decisions.  To FedEx halibut home on ice or eat them as soon as we got to our secluded cabin near Houston, Alaska.


We ate very well.

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Written by Dave on June 26th, 2004 - Adventures

Opening day of Salmon season in Alaska in a boat in the Susitna drainage basin is quite an adventure. 

...setting out

We put in at Deshka Landing near Willow, Alaska and the boatful of us headed up river to the prime spots.

No sooner had we arrived when it seems we brought the entire state of Alaska with us. You’ll note in the picture those other boats look fairly far away. Don’t be fooled, by mid-afternoon the real question was whether any salmon could ever migrate this guantlet.

Just see if a salmon can make it up river

It become a challenge to prevent from casting over the boat next to you.  Especially as the sea planes were landing in the river during the day.   Just see if a salmon can make it up river. 

This was definately a unique experience.  3-day fishing license and salmon tags in hand was too much for any of those rascally fish. It seems they successfully avoided the boatload of us for the entire day.

Alas, not all was lost. We stopped on shore for some eats and did a bit of exploring and sun-bathing.  You’ve got to love 20 hours of sunshine!  As with all things Alaska everything is an adventure that you just can’t wait to experience again!

Lunch time!

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Written by Dave on June 18th, 2004 - Adventures

Alaskan Chalet @ Jade Lake

Memories of our time with Alaska