Entries in ‘Alaska’ Journal

Movie Review: Wildlike

Thursday November 20, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

I am drawn to Alaska. I have visited this wild frontier in the winter, spring, summer and fall. Perhaps it’s the gorgeous scenery that pulls me in like a magnet or the wide open spaces that it offers up to active adventure travelers such as myself. Whatever the case, I jump at the chance to introduce others to Alaska – this time via the movie, Wildlike, filmed on location in beautiful Alaska.
I asked my friend Karla Hart to review Wildlike, as she is a resident of Juneau, Alaska and will see this movie from a different perspective. I also watched the movie, and while disturbing, it tackles a sensitive topic in a splendid setting.

Alaska, Wildlike, movie

Scenes in Alaska from Wildlike


Wildlike Trailer 1 from Frank Hall Green on Vimeo.

Wildlike is a movie set in Alaska that deserves recognition. The story is raw, real and compelling and all of the cast bring depth and believability to their characters.

Ella Purnell, as Mackenzie, showed me clearly the vulnerabilities of being young, alone and homeless – in my own town, Juneau. I kept repeating in my head the resources available to her. AWARE, Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies has caring professional staff. She was a mile away when seeking shelter in the hotel. Juneau Youth Services offers a drop in shelter for runaways and any youth needing a place to land for a bit.

Sadly, there are too many “uncles” in Alaska and the world, there to pray on the vulnerable. Happily, there are even more decent folks to lend a hand. I think including a National Runaway Safeline phone number and URL (http://www.1800runaway.org) prominently before the movie credits would be a great service.
Denali, Alaska, Wildlike, movie
I liked that Wildlike uses Alaska as a realistic backdrop, featuring scenic highlights and more subtle elements, without going overboard. Small details that many might miss gave it an authentic sense of place (though, as to be expected, they took some geographic liberties in getting around Juneau and the state).

A couple of points of the movie didn’t add up to my experience. These don’t detract from the story but would be discussed among friends.

1) The bear pepper spray. Rene would have only been carrying one pepper spray. It makes no sense he would pass it off to Mackenzie. They were hiking through brush that could result in close bear encounters at any moment. My eye went instantly to the zip tie still securing the trigger guard. Rookie mistake to not remove that before you go in the field, otherwise you won’t be able to use the pepper spray. Finally, anyone I know who spends time in bear country would have had the pepper spray in hand with trigger guard off with the grizzly encounter they had. Pepper spray is kept ready for just that reason.

2) The Park Road in Denali is a continuous parade of buses during the entire season it is open. There would have been buses coming that would stop at the same rest area Mackenzie and Rene were at within an hour, if not minutes. Clearly that reality would alter the course of the story too much.

Denali, Alaska, Wildlike

Exploring Alaska

And, as an aside, the Alaska Marine Highway System recently announced a new policy prohibiting unaccompanied minors and require a notarized permission form for minors traveling with an adult other than parent or legal guardian.
In response to public feedback they have pulled back this policy for now. http://www.adn.com/article/20141115/dot-delays-changes-unaccompanied-minors-policy-alaska-ferries)

I had been wondering what triggered the new policy. Now I suspect it may have been this movie.
And, as a personal treat out of the movie — Mackenzie is seated at a fish wildlife table top when she looks at the map on her southbound ferry ride. That table top is part of a bigger interpretive project that I dreamed up and saw implemented when I worked at Fish and Game. There are perhaps three other people in the world who would also make note of this. I’m glad I got to see it.

The feature film Wildlike offers up beautiful Alaskan photography from the wild frontier. Click on the Alaska category on the right side of the blog to read more about Alaska.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @WildLikeFilm on Twitter.
Wildlike, movie, poster
Where to See: Wildlike

This movie review is a guest post by Juneau, Alaska resident Karla Hart. She was supplied with a screener link for review purposes, as well as photos. All opinions are her own.

You might also like the movie Maidentrip.

Small Ship Review: UnCruise

Friday October 17, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 6 Comments

"Safari Endeavour" crew

The crew of Safari Endeavour. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

It’s not often that you meet a hotel manager while cruising on a small ship through Alaskan waters. In fact, I had no idea that the role of hotel manager existed on the high seas. Yet when you think about an 84-guest passenger ship, it really should be considered a floating boutique hotel.

I was one of 84 guests to experience an UnCruise Adventure aboard Safari Endeavour while exploring Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park. The 232 foot luxury vessel Safari Endeavor is Un-Cruise Adventures top-of-the-line ship. Similar to an all-inclusive resort, meals, alcohol, airport transfers to and from the ship, as well as all shore excursions are included in the price of the adventure. Something else that is included in the price of the cruise; one complimentary massage per person. You won’t find that at any luxury hotel!

"Safari Endeavour" stateroom

Commander Stateroom #318. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Like the television show Fantasy Island, passengers are individually shown to their staterooms (offering five accommodation types) and sparkling wine awaits guests in the main lounge. The crew is friendly, energetic, knowledgeable and professional. From expedition leaders to waitstaff, wellness instructors and Safari Endeavour Captain Barrett Whitten, the mindset is “how may we make your experience unforgettable?” The goal of Un-Cruise – un-plug, un-wind, un-stress.

My stateroom on the third floor deck featured two single berths, a desk and chair, full-length closet, as well as several cabinets and drawers. The bathroom was small, but clean and functional. I loved coming back to my cozy room after an expedition and reading a book while the scenery passed by.

"Safari Endeavour" "Philip Bley"

Safari Endeavour Chef Philip Bley. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Onboard dining

After touring the ship’s all electric galley kitchen, I have new respect for preparing hot meals for 80+ passengers in one sitting. The pastry chef worked her magic throughout the 7 day voyage and the executive chef prepared fresh Alaska salmon, as well as rack of lamb, among other menu items while sailing along Glacier Bay National Park.

“Our food service is based around the expeditions,” said Hotel Manager Kathy Madison. “The guests come to experience southeast Alaska. Our role is to support that adventure.”


"Kathy Madison" "Safari Endeavour"
Insider tip

For anyone concerned about food allergies or special dietary needs, Un-Cruise aims to please. Notes are kept in the kitchen with any special requests from guests, as well as birthday or special occasion celebrations. I also took advantage of the healthy snacks and granola bars available 24/7 for guests to enjoy in the lounge. I travel with my own water bottle, but the hotel staff had placed eco-friendly water bottles, as well as binoculars in each stateroom.

"Alaska" salmon

Fresh Alaska salmon. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @UnCruise on Twitter.

If You Go:

Un-Cruise Adventures (888) 862-8881
3826 18th Ave
W. Seattle, Washington 98119

Article written by and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Kathy Madison photo courtesy Un-Cruise. I was a guest of Un-Cruise Adventures.

Serenity in Alaska: Winterlake Lodge Review

Wednesday October 8, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Living in Lake Placid, New York, the home of forty-six High Peaks and a multitude of beautiful lakes and streams is not exactly a shabby existence, but my husband and I decided to venture to Alaska because it has been in the number one spot on my bucket list since I was ten years old. Fortunately I have a cousin who is a travel agent, Susan Halperin Travel, who set us up on what would be the trip of a lifetime. Knowing me as she does, Susan recommended a rustic, backcountry Alaskan lodge forty miles from civilization; accessible only by floatplane, weather permitting, or ski-plane in the dead of winter. With that, I was set on going to Alaska.


"Winterlake Lodge", Alaska

Winterlake Lodge in Alaska


Within the wild

After eighteen hours of travel and a night at the comfortable Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage, we boarded our Rust’s Flying Service floatplane from Lake Hood. Rust’s Flying Service has ten planes available for travel and sightseeing expeditions. The flight was forty-five minutes over one hundred miles of open terrain, with lots of water as it had been raining the past two weeks. We landed on Finger Lake and were enthusiastically greeted by the owners Carl and Kirsten Dixon’s daughter Carly, and several engaging employees. We were treated to hot drinks and warm cookies just baked in their large kitchen where they not only offer a daily cooking class, but produce the most delicious meals planned by Kirsten, a Cordon-Bleu-trained chef. We were shown to our cozy cabin- Happy River- where we had a log bed, private bathroom, oil-heated stove and a fabulous view of the lake. We immediately donned rain gear and met our guide, Josh. For the next three days, Josh took us out in an electric boat where we were entertained by three river otters, swans, loons and a beaver working on a dam he had built. We began to feel the serenity within the wild.

"Finger Lake" airplane

Floatplane lands on Finger Lake, Alaska


Winterlake Lodge activity

Our days at Winterlake Lodge were up to us and our guide. Activities could include any of the following: hiking easy or more difficult trails right behind the Lodge or on part of the historic Iditarod trail, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, Alaskan bird watching, wildlife viewing, nature exploring including wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, woody frogs and helicopter excursions for salmon fishing or glacier landings with hiking. The guides are all extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of the natural surroundings and clearly love what they do. Of course you could also sit in the Main Lodge, relax and take it all in, read a great book or play some board games available there. After only being there a half of a day, we felt at home and taken care of as if we were part of the Dixon’s family. Everything was so personalized. Complimentary yoga was offered daily at 6:30 am in the wellness room, complimentary massages were available to all guests, and the use of the hot tub and sauna completed the total spa experience. Three meals a day were provided in the Main Lodge. At 6 pm wine and cheese tasting with cheeses from Murray’s Cheese Shop in Manhattan and homemade appetizers were offered. Throughout the day coffee, tea, cold drinks and snacks were available at the coffee bar. You were never hungry. If you chose a day trip as we did, lunches were packed and enjoyed on top of a glacier where we were at one with nature and essentially captured the entire Alaskan experience.

"Winterlake Lodge", Alaska

Relax inside Winterlake Lodge


Gourmet cuisine in Alaska

Being somewhat of a “foodie” I feel that I must do justice to the culinary experience. All and any dietary restrictions or requests were met with the greatest of pleasure. Milestones were celebrated with a special dessert of your choice along with the daily scrumptious dessert. My husband’s 60th birthday was celebrated with apple pie and homemade vanilla ice cream- his favorite. Each meal was prepared with great thought and creativity and presented flawlessly. My favorite dessert was a combination of lemon cake, meringue, stewed blueberries and fresh homemade blueberry ice cream with freshly grated parmigiano cheese sprinkled on top for the finishing touch!!! Out of this world! I cannot say enough about the exceptional cuisine that we enjoyed over our three day stay.

"Winterlake Lodge" Alaska

Finding serenity in Alaska

If you are thinking about going to Alaska, which in itself is impressive for its sheer size (it is 1/5 of United States total land area), and want an experience that combines activities and excursions, cuisine elegance with extraordinary taste and relaxation, then Winterlake Lodge should be at the top of your list. This rustic, luxury lodge epitomizes and exudes all within the wild to help you find your serenity. I have found mine.

If You Go:
Within the Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodging (907) 274-2710
Winterlake Lodge, Alaska

This is a guest post by Dr. Karen Cooper. All photos courtesy Karen Cooper.