Everything was going according to plan, no delays or cancellations. Even got through security fairly quick with only my brother being randomly selected to for random search. We arrived at our designated gate about a half hour early so we just sat around chatted until boarding started. Our flight plan was to fly out of Grand Rapids to Chicago and from Chicago to Anchorage.
The flight to Chicago was short as expected taking around 25 minutes in total. Once we arrived in Chicago we realized something that we hadn't noticed before, we had almost a 6 hour layover, we had landed a little after 5 and the flight wasn't expected to leave until shortly after 11.
The 6 hours went by at a crawl. We had walked around the entire airport (which is fairly big) got some food multiple times for snacks and dinner and ever around 10 for another dinner. When it was almost time for boarding to start the previous flight was just beginning to unload for reasons I still don't know.
When we finally had boarded the plane it was around 11:50 Chicago time and the flight was expected to be anywhere from 5 to 6 hours. I'm not entirely sure when the plane eventually took off because I had fallen asleep shortly after being seated but when I woke up the cabin was pitch black until my eyes adjusted. I noticed it was only so dark because everyone closed their windows or blocked them off with belongings to keep light out. I had the aisle seat so I couldn't exactly see out the window, but someone near me and opened theirs to see and the light was blinding that many people around the area were awoken from their slumber. Because of the light I knew it had to be early morning and when I checked my phone it read 7 A.M. and I knew there was no way that was right and I figured out it was still set on Michigan time so it had to actually be 3 local time (Alaska is 4 hours behind) and decided to get as much sleep as I could because I knew what was ahead when we landed. I re woke up to turbulence and it was because the plane was in the process of landing.
When we finally landed and unloaded we slowly and almost zombie like walked through the airport to find our uncle and or baggage claim on our way we noticed that the airport was almost completely empty, this was because it was 4 almost 5 local time. We found our uncle or he found us not sure which and he helped us find the baggage claim area. Our bags were among the very last ones to be placed on the belt so we waited a while. Once leaving the airport our uncle quickly drove us through downtown anchorage which like the airport was also very empty. The most noticeable thing was that for 4 in the morning it was quite bright and it sparked my attention and I asked my uncle about it and he explained how during summer it never gets dark and during winter it is opposite in that it never gets bright because of the geographical region Alaska is in.
The next 4 hours were a drive from Anchorage to Denali for a 5k run, I had fallen asleep for most of it, but for the short time I was awake we saw 5 moose some were as close as just off the road. Also during the drive there was a stretch of road in which we got to see Mount Denali, it has the highest peak in North America, but it wasn't noticeable from the distance we were away from it. When we arrived at Denali we had donuts, chocolate milk, and donut holes for breakfast, not the best thing to have just a few hours before running a 5k but it was all we had and it didn't seem to have a negative effect.
The thing about that was different from this 5k is that no matter how much I would have trained it wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever. I had been training at close to sea level for 2 months but the 5k was at an altitude of over 3,000 feet so the air was much thinner. I could feel the continually thinning air continue to take my breath away gradually before the race ever started. While preparing all my brother could say while changing into running clothes was “dang it's cold”. It actually was cold compared to what we were used to but it got better as the day went on. Nothing really interesting happened in the 5k but when you finished they gave you the time you finished in and a Gatorade and a hotdog if you wanted one.
Once we had all finished we decided to go and check into our hotel that was just a few miles away. While driving out there was a moose just across the street and it was so close to the car that if I wanted to I probably could've touched it. Luckily it didn't attack us and we got out just fine and headed for the hotel.
The hotel was mostly out doors except for the rooms. The balcony outside of our room had an amazing view of a river that was sometimes used for white water rafting and mountains surrounded us. After checking into the hotel we decided to go through all the stores that were literally just across the street and look around. Everything there is so much more expensive than it is in Michigan but on the bright side there is no sales tax. The shopping went by because none of us bought anything except for my uncle bought a bottle. After all of that it as around time for dinner and there was a well known restaurant in the area. We decided to eat there and it was the first time I had had halibut but it didn't taste like fish but instead more like chicken. After getting back to the hotel things weren't very eventful we all ended up falling asleep around 8 from a long day.
When we awoke in the morning it was to an alarm and was a very chaotic morning because my uncle had planned a 12 hour tour of Denali National Park. The route the tour bus would take was 92 miles one way and the bus made many stops along the way. On the first part we stopped to see animals such as elk, deer caribou, even saw a bear eating a dead elk even though it was almost a mile away everyone on the bus still saw it and went crazy. On the way back we didn’t stop quite as much only twice to see a bear and once to stop and take pictures of the mountains. Again to see the bear eating again, a wolf watching the bear, and a moose being sketchy about whether to leave its hiding spot or not. After the tour guide had us wait for about half an hour we eventually left because the moose had laid down and the wolf had fled. The rest of the tour was very boring with nothing interesting happening. Our tour guide even said that our group was very lucky that we’d seen so much. The tour didn't take the full 12 hours. It only took in full about 11 hours and once it was over we decided to head back to our uncle's house in anchorage.
The drive back we had all got sleep except for my uncle who did all the driving with a us all waking up every now and then. When we got back we were all still tired and even though late still bright out.
The next day was very plain with most of us sleeping in, taking the day off to catch up on sleep and be lazy and the most we did was go out to eat later at a well known restaurant by the locals, known for their chicken. During the dinner we all talked about what was already planned and what else we wanted to do throughout the week. We all just wanted a day to stay in town and walk around and do a little shopping. And that day was soon but my uncle already had planned out a whole day for tomorrow.
Left as soon as the weather allowed us because when we awoke it was raining quite hard and very foggy to the point where you couldn't see 20 feet in front of you but once we left it was about an hour to where we were supposed to go and my uncle was keeping it a surprise. Along the way we saw quite of bit of wildlife and the train that does tours throughout the southern part of Alaska. Where we ended up going was a wildlife zoo type of thing. All of it was outdoors with no roofs so it was not protected from the elements, probably to make the animals feel as close to their natural habitat as possible. While there it was the first time I had gotten close to bears, buffalo, baby moose, lynx and eagle. After we did our walkthrough of the place we went off for our next destination. By now it was sunny and 65 outside and the next place wasn’t that far away. When we got there we all quickly figured out what we were doing. Gold Digging, not really digging but separating it from the rocks it is trapped in. We all found 3 slivers each, someone random guy found a whole nugget while we were there and man he was happy.
Day 5,6,and 7
These days were reserved for the drive to Homer, the day we actually fished, and then the day we drove back to Anchorage. Drive down there was boring but when we got there we drove around to see what kind of restaurants there was, wasn't much. The people that were hosting the fishing with us had cabins for us to stay and they provided us dinner. The dinner was fish tacos and it was quite good, better than I thought. The day of actually fishing was long but fun. The boat ride out I ended up falling asleep because we had an early wake up and the boat ride out was almost 2 hours long. When we arrived at the area we were going to fish we had to wait for the boat and water to settle. Once those happened it was easy to catch the fish. The biggest fish that the whole group caught was one I caught and it was just over 200 pounds. Later in the day the fishing slowed down and after about an hour of nothing happening we headed back in, again i fell asleep. When we were back on land we headed for the cabin where we were staying and showered so we wouldn't stink like fish. The place we ended up going was a town known restaurant. All I remember about that restaurant was that it had the best chicken strips i've ever had. Day 7 was the drive back nothing happened during this drive either.
Day 8 was shopping day. We walked through the entire city and went through every store that caught our eye. None of us actually ended up buying anything. After the shopping we went on a tour trolley. On the tour we learned that in Anchorage there is about 3 earthquakes every hour but none are strong enough to feel, their is a house completely underground, and that one of the main roads that is now 25 feet lower than the one just next to it used to be at the same level once in the past and that it lowered due to a massive earthquake. Dinner was at a restaurant that was known for burgers and I understood why after eating their. I had a reindeer burger and it was the second best burger i've ever had. It had a very unique taste but it made it just made it taste even better.
Day 9/Last Day in Alaska
The morning was early because my uncle wanted us to eat at the remaining restaurants that he thought were good. The morning we ate at an old school diner and it was alright, nothing amazing the food was good the place looked good. After the breakfast we headed back so we could pack up to be ready to head to the airport when the time came. By the time we were all done packing it was time for dinner. For dinner we ate at a pizza place called the moose's tooth and it was very very busy took almost an hour to get a seat but it was worth it. We all even got a dessert and that was also good. Once we all finished we realized we had about an hour and a half to get to the airport. We didn't exactly cut it close because we had already been pre checked by TSA. On the plane we all ended up being separated and had to sit next to random places. The flight wasn't that bad except the lady next to me elbowed me multiple times and ended up waking me up. One time I woke up and she was half laying on me.
Once that flight was finally over we were in Chicago again but it was the next morning and none of us ended up getting a lot of sleep and we had a short layover and our next flight was all the way across the airport. We did make it but the guy at the gate slowed us down because he claimed he didn't see our tickets after he had actually checked them twice. In the end there was no other troubles and everyone was excited to see us when we got all the way back.