North to Alaska!

Gayle Greg and Dad_HomerThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

My father always enjoyed the Johnny Horton song, North to Alaska (see the YouTube video here: Starting June 9, that classic country hit became our theme song.

My dad, husband, and I started our northward journey flying into Anchorage via Alaska Air from Great Falls, Montana (about 90 miles from my parents’ home in Denton, MT). My father had been planning this trip for more than two years, saying, “If I make it to 80, I want to see Alaska.” He turned 80 last July so plans kicked into full swing autumn 2016. We didn’t go for the gold nor dog mushing, as Johnny sings about in the song noted above, but we did many other activities.

Dad couldn’t travel alone, my mother didn’t want to go, so he asked me to accompany him and he would pay my airline ticket and cover most of the lodging. My husband went with us for two reasons: (1) so he could see Alaska, too, and (2) to help me with Dad, especially in case of emergency. I’m happy to report nothing bad happened to any of us; the entire trip went smoothly and we visited all the places we planned. Well, one not-so-good thing happened: my luggage didn’t return to Montana with us and had to be FedEx’ed from Seattle to Casper. And, truth be told, the “land of the midnight sun” was difficult to get used to as far as sun sets between 11:30 pm and Midnight and sun rises between 3 and 4 am – thank Heaven for darkening curtains in the lodging facilities!

Alaska Range

Trip highlights include:

  1. Two cruises into Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska via Major Marine Tours out of Seward – one featured a national park ranger as we cruised through the Kenai Fjords National Park on a wildlife watching excursion and the other was shorter and specific for whale watching (we encountered 6 humpback whales during the journey!
  2. Trip to Homer (basically the end of the road, like Seward) and toured the Ocean and Islands Visitor Center operated by the Alaska Maritime National Park staff as well as visited with our friend author/writer/professor Nina McConigley who was presenting at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer.
  3. A stop at Potter Marsh, a bird and wildlife refuge on the outskirts of Anchorage where we saw (up close!) a mamma moose with twin calves.
  4. A bus tour in Denali National Park where we encountered Dall sheep, caribou, Alaskan brown bears (including a mother with two yearlings), and a single wolf; and we became part of the “30 percent club,” seeing Denali Peak/Mount McKinley on a clear morning! (The mountain rises more than 20,000 feet and is often obscured by clouds).
  5. Two days in Fairbanks with a dinner at Denny’s, the northern-most Denny’s Restaurant in North America (Dad’s dinner choice for one of the nights) and a visit to Creamer’s Field, a migratory bird refuge where we saw nearly 100 sandhill cranes!
  6. Glaciers, glaciers, and more glaciers! Including Portage and Exit, both south of Anchorage on the way to Seward, and a large glacial ice field near Palmer, northeast of Anchorage.
  7. Wildlife, wildlife, and more wildlife, including moose (many moms with twins), eagles, sandhill cranes (including one near someone’s front door outside of Homer! And hundreds of them at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks), sea lions, and (my favorite and what I really wanted to see) sea otters (including one up close in the Seward Harbor).

Sea Otter

What did I come away with from this trip? Memories with my father and husband, the joy of experiencing nature in some awesome and inspiriational settings, gratitude for the opportunity to see this amazingly beautiful state (and have the time with my dad and husband), and even a few writing ideas for a book and some short stories (I may weave Alaska into my pet rescue romance work-in-progress).


North to Alaska – that song rings ever more steadily in my mind, and I’m thankful to have had the privilege to do go north to Alaska! And, at least the temperature was higher than -40, as Mr. Horton sings in his other Alaska-oriented song, found here:

What places have you visited that inspire you to write, maybe even to write something new?

Alaska mountains and river

See more photos of our Alaskan vacation on my Facebook page where I’ve created a Photo Album titled Alaska 2017:

Brown Bear_Denali Park.jpg

Gayle and Greg_Alaska

Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer who enjoys traveling and nature photography as well as writing. She finds inspiration in nature and animals as well as history and people. Her pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, and friendship. She is a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, including pet stories in the Colorado-based Prairie Times, and her short story about a rescue dog, titled Jasmine’s Journey, will appear in the August Chicken Soup for the Soul release called The Dog Really Did That? This will be her seventh contribution to the Chicken Soup series. Learn more about Gayle and her work at

Mary Book Cover   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   cody-cabin-cover2   Walking_FrontCover_small   Chicken Soup book_Dog Really Did That_2017




13 thoughts on “North to Alaska!

  1. I wanna go! It sounds so wonderful. I’ll follow what you did, you covered it all. There’s nothing that can beat nature up close, except up close and with loved ones. Thanks for Sharing. Cher’ley


  2. What a fabulous and well earned trip, Gayle. I confess to having had to look up Dall Sheep to find out more about them. 🙂 You say the temp was higher than -40 but from the photos of you all it looks like it was a pleasant temperature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy, the weather was quite pleasant, except for one day when it was cool (about 55 F) and rainy. I was amazed to find out that Fairbanks, which lies farther north than Anchorage, was warmer than Anchorage; it could be because the daylight lasts longer farther north. Glad I taught you about Dall Sheep! 🙂 I actually thought about putting in links for the various animals, but ended up not doing so — sorry! Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. My uncle lived in Fairbanks during the quake. Other than that, he loved it up there. In many ways I saw what he saw through your eyes. Thank you. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We learned a lot about the earthquake when we visited Seward — amazing how communities can rebound after such disaster! Glad I could bring a bit of the state to you, Doris; it’s certainly a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t choose to live there because of quakes and the long winters! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Talk about jet lag… sunset at 11:30 p.m., sunrise at 3 a.m. Twenty hours of daylight. A friend of mine back in the 1980s took a newspaper reporter job in Alaska and lived there for a couple of years. For fun wilderness vacations, my best took place at Glacier and Yellowstone national parks back in the 1980s. Did quite a bit of multi-hour day hikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Mike, it was difficult to sleep at times, and we are all still attempting to adjust back to “normal” after almost 10 days home! LOL I love visiting wild places, and I’m grateful we had the opportunity to visit Alaska — but if we had to do it over again, we’d add a few more days so we’d have more “down-time.” Thanks for reading and commenting.


    1. Thanks for the compliments, Barbara. Alaska is beautiful, that is for sure! I’m grateful we had the opportunity to go, and sharing the experience with my dad made it extra-special. I appreciate you reading and commenting on my post!


  5. So glad your trip went well, it sounds spectacular. Alaska is on my wish list, but it will have to wait until Hubby retires.Nearly every place I visit inspires me to write about it. Of course you know I always have plenty of pictures to go with my memories of a trip.


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