Things I Learned On An Alaskan Road Trip

Liz and I never learn. I think it’s become a universal rule that:

The two of us + a car = the worst weather imaginable.

That’s what I figured when I woke up on Monday morning, our last full day in Alaska and glanced at the dark, damp and chilly scene outside.

Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from our soggy Australian road trip, it’s that you can’t let nature keep you back! So after another go at the tasty reindeer omelets, we crammed into our tiny rental car and set our sights for Seward, some 120 miles south.

I’m glad we did too, because although I got really, really wet, I learned some really interesting things about Alaska:

The Weather Works Only in Extremes

The first half of our day was the most miserable weather imaginable. When we left Anchorage it was merely drizzling but as soon as we got on the open road it began to rain, hard core. The drive to Seward is supposed to be quite scenic, but we had no idea, as all we could see was gray mist and low hanging clouds.

About an hour outside of the city we stopped at the xx animal sanctuary, home to elk, moose, buffalo and more. The animals looked even more miserable then us as they sat in the rain (which surely they must be used to by now). I’d show you some pictures but not a single on turned out.

Small Towns Are The Same Everywhere

As we reached Seward though, the skies began to clear and our spirits rose. Seward, population 3000 is a little town on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, which stares out onto a sparkling clear harbor with snow capped mountains in the distance. This is a pretty large town for southern Alaska: the biggest nearby metropolises are Homer, pop 5000 (home of Jewel!) and Kenai, home to a whopping 8000 people.

It was a really cute little place, with small shops, burger joints and even a greek place.

Alaskans Really Love Dead Animals

Everywhere I went in Alaska, really, nearly every restaurant we went to and our own hotel, had at least half a dozen varieties of stuffed wildlife. Reindeer, elk, big stuffed bears that loom menacingly in doorways- I even saw a stuffed badger. Taxidermists must make a killing.

It must be an extension of their love of hunting (expressed to me a couple of times) plus their state pride. It’s a little unnerving at first but also kind of cool.

 They Also Really, Really Love Being Alaskan

You know you’re in an inherently good place when every. Single. Person. Just goes on and on about how much they love living here. Really, I think you’d have to love it to stay in a place with entire months of darkness, where it starts blizzarding in October. I met so many wonderfully chatty people, some born here, some who moved from the lower 48 and they all just love their state.

There’s Snow Here 365 Days a Year

The weather did a complete 180 on us. As we left Seward I donned my sunglasses and started to peel off layers. It was sunny and actually warm (well warm for Alaska, so like 70). Even so, in late August, the very beginning of Alaskan fall, there was snow and ice on top of the white capped peaks that appeared like ghosts out of the fog. A couple miles north of Seward we took a sharp left turn down a winding road which lead us to the Exit Glacier. While not as stunning as the Matanuska Glacier, it’s still one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska, primarily b/c you can drive right up to it. It’s still a strange sensation to see such a huge chunk of ice on a warm sunny day.

Alaska is really, incredibly beautiful

So this was I was missing in the haze and rain! We took the same exact route back to Anchorage, but it was like driving through a different world. The scenery was an afternoon postcard: vibrant green grass, snow peaks, blue sky and white puffy clouds. As I stared out the window, drinking up the scenery, I felt a pain of sadness to be leaving Alaska. Still so much to see in this great big state. I’ll be back for sure.


Special thanks to the Hilton Garden Inn Anchorage for sponsoring our trip to Anchorage!

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12 thoughts on “Things I Learned On An Alaskan Road Trip”

  1. You did a great job of summing up AK! I’ve spent a good amount of time there and yes, the weather is more often than not rainy. And cold.

    And yes, taxidermy is a bit too commonplace. But I’m happy to see you finally got some great weather so you could take in the beautiful scenery!

  2. Yay Seward! I was there a few days before you and we had the most excellent weather for one day and then the day we packed up to leave, miserable. I love that you can drive and drive and it changes by the minute. You just never know!
    I love their state pride. Kind of reminds me of Texas, but since there are less people, it’s not as in your face as much. Plus, nearly everyone that lives there now, came from somewhere else first.

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