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Need a big favor - Alaska!!
Kee Woo Rhee
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need a big favor - Alaska!!

Hello Everyone!

A Happy Holiday!

I am looking into spending a month or so in Alaska next year perhaps in the fall-winter.

There are couple of things in my mind.

1. Needless to say.. Landscape photography
2. Aurora
3. Maybe train ride

I am wondering if I should fly into Fairbanks or Anchorage. Hear that for the aurora I need to go to Fairbanks, and for landscape photos, to Anchorage and go to Valdez.

Since I never been to Alaska, I would appreciate it very much if any of you could guide me for my travel.

I am thinking of renting a cabin for a month at one place and travel around.

It will be mainly all by myself with perhaps some visits from my family members and friends during my stay.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Kee Woo

Dec 20, 2016 at 02:00 PM

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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need a big favor - Alaska!!

Fairbanks or even farther north into the Brooks Range is certainly best for auroras. By late Aug and early Sept there is more than enough darkness in the Brooks Range to see good displays. But the fall colors will be fading fast by early Sept, depending how far north you go and the elevation.

Landscape photography is very broad. You need to decide what type of landscapes you're after- mountains, glaciers, coastal, tundra, etc. Mid winter offers some great light in the very short days but access is tougher or even impossible (short of spending a lot of money) and there are far fewer tourist facilities open.

Renting a place is a possibility but its a very large state so that will be some what of an anchor. If you have the budget for it, a small motor home is much more practical. Or camping.

Get a publication called The Milepost, it will help you immensely with figuring out distances and what facilities and services are available in various parts of the state.

I'm not a fan of the AK Railroad. Most of the tracks are along the road system. The fares are quite high and the refund or ticket change policies are very regressive. The AK ferry system is far more customer friendly and goes lots of places that you can't get to on the road system. I'd highly recommend that a portion of your trip be along the ocean, whether in south central or south east AK. The weather is certainly cloudier and wetter, but nice days are really tough to beat! Especially in southeast AK, aka the "panhandle."

Dec 23, 2016 at 02:04 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need a big favor - Alaska!!

I have to agree with RansomRR - renting a place would tie you down and Alaska is a huge place. Staying in the same place like that would hamper your visit, not help it.

I spent a few weeks in Alaska 8 years ago, and I planned the travel carefully enough to find places to stay using the internet and made reservations (we rented a car). If I had a month up there, I'd want to see the aurora, Denali, Wrangell-St Elias, and the Kenai Peninsula, and maybe the Misty Fjords. Renting an RV of adequate size is a strong alternative to finding lodging and making reservations.If you have enthusiasm for the planning process, you should be able to make a good estimate of which approach - rented car plus motel/hotel rooms or RV - might be cheaper. I suspect that the variety of RVs available would be larger in Anchorage than Fairbanks, but that's just my guess.

Timing: later in the year is better for aurora, of course, but later in the year also makes for difficulty travelling the state. Autumn starts in Denali in August, and most of the park turns red - the fall foliage on the tundra is shrubbery - it's so cold and dry that the tree line is only about 3,000 ft, so few to no trees. But that shrubbery is beautiful. Denali closes for the year about mid-September - check for the specific date in 2017. Trying to travel the distances involved to see aurora, Denali, the Kenai and Wrangell-St Elias could get to be difficult to impossible after mid-September - snow will be a significant factor.

Milepost is an amazing publication. It describes everything along every road in the state. That might sound like a monumental task until you find out there are very few roads in Alaska. The book is a wonderful resource for driving around the state.

I also agree with the suggestion about the Alaska Highway ferry system. Some family members travelled that way a few years ago and had a terrific time. I suggest that a ferry from Anchorage to Ketchikan would let you see (and photograph) much of the state's amazing coast, and from Ketchikan you could tour the Misty Fjords by boat or by air (or both, budget permitting). There are other destinations on the ferry system - the internet can get you complete information on it.

I haven't ridden the AK railroad, but friends have. They enjoyed it but they were cruise ship travellers who liked the easy ride and weren't pursuing photography.

Dec 23, 2016 at 03:59 AM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need a big favor - Alaska!!

Alaska is a hard place to get around...VERY BIG, roads are not that many or that great....I go once or twice a year...and I fly to juneau and take the ferry to Haines...where I have some friends who live there...pick up a rent car and start driving....for me the best time is in mid september, the leave or turning and the color is great and then when drive north, you get the lights....and on top of that, most of the tourist are gone....but that also means lots of the parks are closed...you might want to fly to AK and rent a camper van....that way you can go or stay as long as you want...in any place....I agree get a Milepost...buy a used one on Amazon or ebay....as not much changes year to year....and you can get lots of ideas....I have driven the AK Highway three times ...and you always need to plan ahead...

best to you on your adventure....

Dec 23, 2016 at 08:51 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need a big favor - Alaska!!

Kee- I spent couple weeks last August. So here is my 2 cents. Forget renting since, as many people mentioned, AK is hugely huge. Southern AK is spectacular but can be rainy as hell. Try to spend good amount of your time around Seward/Homer/Kenai for almost endless photo ops. Fall comes at the last week of August in Denali and it looks spectacular. Almost unreal. You need to preserve few days for Denali or try to camp inside. Bad weather can ruin your day pretty fast. On our bus ride, it rained almost for the entire day. There is not much things to do if you choose to travel north unless you want to hit Yukon river. Northern light is doable from Fairbanks in late august but do note that you will have day light till very late, like 10PM and it still does not get quite dark. Make sure to get enough MP3 albums in stock since FM is hard to come by for the most part of your drive.

Jan 19, 2017 at 07:56 PM

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