Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

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.

Cruising Alaska: Active Adventure Travel

Friday October 3, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

“I’m not the cruise ship type.” I heard this statement over and over during my trip to Alaska with Un-Cruise Adventures. I met an 18 year old traveling with her aunt; celebrating her high school graduation and an 80 year old retired teacher from New Zealand sailing solo. Both guests were cruising Alaska with active adventure travel in mind.
 

“Last year I cruised Antarctica in a small ship,” said Barbara deCastro of New Zealand. “I had to try Alaska. I wanted to compare our fjords with Alaska. They are totally different. Ours are beautiful, but so are these. Alaska’s glaciers are much bigger.”

Two active adventure travelers; yet two unique Alaskan experiences were had on the same ship. What keeps people coming back? “The sort of people who sail on small ships are nice people,” deCastro noted with a smile.

 

"Safari Endeavour" Alaska, cruise

Guests aboard Safari Endeavour are all smiles. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Small ship cruise benefits

One of the benefits of small ship cruising is the flexibility the captain has with itineraries. Our original itinerary had Safari Endeavour sailing to George Island and Elfin Cove. At 25 knot winds Captain Barrett Whitten determined that it was too windy for this destination, instead, he would steer our 232 foot ship to Idaho Inlet. Once here, our expedition guides re-grouped and we were offered “Plan B.”

 

Itinerary change to Alaska's Idaho Inlet. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Itinerary change to Alaska’s Idaho Inlet. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Tracking bears in Alaska

I signed up for the “Skiff and beach walk” adventure on Chichagof Island.  I pulled on my Kamik rubber, waterproof boots, rain gear and personal flotation device (PFD) and headed downstairs to the EZ dock boat launch.

Insider Tip

For those of you who don’t own foul weather gear, Un-Cruise Adventures had plenty of travel gear stocked in their lending library. I also packed my own healthy travel snacks, a water bottle and binoculars – all unnecessary, as Un-Cruise had all of these items ready and waiting for every guest.

With the smell of Sitka Spruce hanging heavy in the air, we walked the beach in search of animals. Armed with bear spray and a camera, our Expedition Guide Kenneth O’Brien led us into the Alaskan rain forest. Chichagof Island is known for housing a dense brown bear population. We saw evidence of the bears in the form of bear scat, claw marks on trees and moss covered bear tracks, but no bears were actually sighted on this particular outing.

Upon return from our bushwacking adventure, passengers were greeted with hot chocolate or coffee – with or without alcohol. Ahh, the benefits of sailing on an all-inclusive small ship. Another benefit of sailing with Un-Cruise Adventures is a complimentary massage offered to every guest. Two of the first floor staterooms were converted to spa rooms. Did I mention that Safari Endeavour also boasts a sauna and not one, but two hot tubs on the 3rd floor deck? Soaking in a hot tub while cruising by glaciers – now that’s a conversation starter for your next cocktail party!

 

"Chichagof Island" mushroom

Colorful mushroom on Chichagof Island. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 

Alaska" bear tracks

Tracking bears in Alaska. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Does cruising Alaska on a small ship appeal to your sense of active adventure?
 
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. I was a guest of Un-Cruise Adventures. All opinions are my own.

Empty Nest Travel Tips

Friday September 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

empty nest

Empty nest travel

As our daughter graduated from college this summer and our son traveled to Oxford, Mississippi to begin college, it has occurred to me that my husband and I are now empty nest. Our young adult children have flown the coop and we are free to travel at our leisure. No more worries about teenagers hosting house parties while the parents are away or having to pay outrageous prices for airline tickets and hotel stays when everyone with children is on vacation from school. We are looking forward to empty nest travel! Here are 5 travel tips for empty nest baby boomers!

 

 

Tips for empty nest travel

1. Take advantage of off peak pricing.

Airlines, hotels, resorts and cruise ships are all looking to capture the baby boomer traveler who is no longer tied to travel during school holidays.

2. Financial freedom

Depending on the amount of children in your family, empty nesters no longer need to worry about reserving multiple hotel rooms, family-friendly villas, requesting adjoining hotel rooms or renting houses large enough to accommodate kids and friends.
 

traveling with teens

Dining with teens

 

3. Dining decisions

I don’t know about you, but often times our dining decisions during travel were based on where the kids wanted to eat. Traveling with teens often boiled down to fast food drive-ins or chain restaurants. Dining out as empty nest travelers gives us flexibility to choose where we spend our dining dollars.

4. Travel discounts

When it comes to travel tips, I’m all about discovering the discount. I’m not entitled to senior citizen discounts yet, but there are organizations such as AARP (a non-profit organization that helps people over 50 improve the quality of their lives) and AAA ( a North American based not-for-profit motor club that offers emergency road service, insurance & travel assistance)  that offer travel discounts for hotels, tours, cruises and such.

 

"empty nest travel tips" mini cooper

Travel tips: downsize the car


 

5. Automotive downsize

Ditch the mini van or sport utility vehicle that carries children and a dog. Instead, downsize to a sporty Mini Cooper or electric car. You’ll get better gas mileage driving a two-seater coupe and a smaller vehicle forces you to pack more efficiently.

Are you an empty nest parent or getting ready to enter this stage of life? What empty nest travel tips do you have to share?

Article and photos by empty nest baby boomer Nancy D. Brown.