Monthly Archives: September 2018

What to pack for a trip to Alaska

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Let’s take a quick break from talking about what I did in Alaska to talk about what I wore. My friend put together an excellent packing list that I used as my guide. But, I had some workhorses that I wore over and over again. I mean, hey, I never got that sweaty and who cares if your pants are a little muddy?

Most of my items came from REI. I swear, I just handed them my paycheck. I bought my first pair of hiking boots and LOVED them. They’ll probably become my winter boots, too, for when it’s gross and slushy outside. They’re super comfortable, waterproof, and I hiked 10+ miles in one day in them with no blisters. Total winners.

I also bought two pairs of convertible pants. I never did zip them off into shorts, but I loved having so many pockets. Plus, they were water resistant which was perfect for glacier climbing and kayaking and, for, uh, learning how to “go” in the woods. I also bought a pair of these North Face pants and they were great for travel. Now they’re my go-to post-workout pants at home.

Oh, and I can’t forget my rain jacket that my friend Annabelle gave me!

Of course, when I wasn’t hiking or climbing or being active, I needed something to wear around the campsite. My recommendation? Sweatpants and a sweatshirt. They’re even perfect for giving a ranger talk. Long story. I’ll share it soon!

My sweatshirt was also a gift from Annabelle but my sweatpants are from Shopbop. And, yes, Shopbop is having a sale if you want to stock up on sweatpants, or sports bras, or other activewear or athleisure. Look! It comes in handy for the gym, for lounging around the house, or pretending you know what you’re talking about in front of a group of strangers.

The sale starts today if you use the Shopbop Mobile App or tomorrow if you don’t. But I recommend you don’t wait as things do sell out quickly. What’s the sale, you ask?

  • 20% off orders under $500
  • 25% off orders of $500 or more
  • Use code STOCKUP18 when you checkout

My exact sweatpants are here. I also recommend a few running or sweat-wicking tops like this one to wear as base layers. Also, if you’re going hiking, you’re going to want to wear something other than your hiking boots around camp. A pair of sneakers is perfect. Mine are Nike but I really like these, too.

Oh, and some sports bras. That’s what I wore the entire trip. And lots of socks. Having clean socks is the best. I bought a bunch of SmartWool socks and plan to wear them a lot this winter, too.

Other items I recommend? A packable vest, at least one pair of running tights or leggings, a hat, sunglasses and gloves (especially if you want to go glacier climbing!) I think I wore everything I brought at least once. And, to be honest, I could have worn some things a few more times than I did.

Figuring out how to layer is key. Most days I wore a sports bra, running tank top, long sleeved running top, my vest, a jacket and a pair of my convertible pants. Then I would strip off a layer on top and put it in my backpack as I got warm.

I learned a lot on this trip. How to dress for summer in Alaska is just one of the many things. In my next post I’ll tell you what I learned about behaving around caribou, what happens when there are bears on the trail you want to hike, and how to pretend you know everything there is to know about dinosaurs in Denali.

Alaska Vacation: Backcountry Camping in Denali National Park [Part 4]

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As promised in Part 3, it’s time to talk about Denali’s back country. I fully admit that when I signed up for this trip I had no idea what to expect. I purposefully chose not to Google everything on the itinerary. I trusted my friend who was putting the trip together and I trusted that we’d have a good time.

Turns out this was the BEST decision. I was able to learn so much while there, whereas reading about it online ahead of time would not have done it justice. For example, what the heck does “backcountry” mean?

Traveling and camping in this expansive terrain is special. The lack
of developed trails, bridges, or campsites means that you are free
to determine your own route and discover Denali for yourself. – source

Backcountry means you can only get to this part of the park if A. you have a special permit to drive and camp at Teklanika River and/or B. you purchase a park bus pass to ride the bus past Savage River.

We had the special permit to drive our RVs to the Tek campground. However, we had a slight snafu when two of our RVs missed the turn to the campground and had to figure out how to turn around on the super narrow gravel road!

Hanging out, eating trail mix, waiting for our other RVs to figure out how to turn around

Thankfully, everyone finally arrived at the campsite safely and with enough time to set up and get in a short hike along the river before dinner. I stayed behind and read my book, though. Hey, when you’re traveling with 17 people you’ve got to find some peace and quiet when you can.

After dinner we discussed the plan for the next day. We had guaranteed seat bus passes on the first bus of the day that allowed us to take the bus all the way to Wonder Lake, aka the end of the road. However, this can be a 4+ hour bus ride from Teklanika! Why so long? Well, the buses stop for wildlife and at several other scenic areas. Also, backcountry campers with permits to camp outside of designated campgrounds and hikers that want to hike in the backcountry can ask the bus to stop anywhere along the road and get out. Plus, the road is entirely gravel and is barely two lanes wide!

All of this makes for an interesting trip. I admit, Wonder Lake is the one thing I Googled in advance because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to ride the bus all the way there. However, if the weather was just right it would be the best view of Mt. Denali (f/k/a Mt. McKinley). I didn’t want to get so close and then regret not going. So, I decided to ride all the way to Wonder Lake.

I also figured that riding all the way out to Wonder Lake would give me the best sense of what to expect of backcountry. And, let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.

 

We definitely saw wildlife (caribou trotted in front of the bus for awhile), and we saw some amazing vistas.

This stretch is known as Polychrome. 

Once we got to Wonder Lake, though, we realized that it was too cloudy to see Mt. Denali and that Wonder Lake is, in words my mom once used to describe a lake in Minnesota, “a mosquito infested weed hole.”

Thank goodness our friend added “mosquito head net” to our packing lists

Okay, maybe it was still pretty, but some of us quickly decided we’d rather ride the bus back to Eielson Visitor’s Center and hike two of the only three groomed trails in backcountry.

And that’s where I’ll pick up the story next time.