Into the Wild - Solo Alaskan Travel
As a general world consensus and likely to the dismay of many true Alaskans, three words can generally be used to describe any adventure in Alaska – Into the Wild. Regardless of where your inner adventure junkie takes you, it is likely that you will find beauty in the vast tundra, awe-inspiring glaciers, remote mountain hideaways and brisk ocean waters that define Alaska. National parks span across this “land of the midnight sun”- from Denali National Park in the south-central region to Glacier Bay National Park in the far south and reaching up to the high northern areas where you’ll find the nearly untouched Gates of the Arctic National Park. The opportunities to seek adventure at any level are endless.
Alaska marked my first solo excursion as an adventure travel enthusiast - which is somewhat of a big deal. Travelling solo is a learned skill and one that is not without its own challenges and obstacles. Nonetheless, it is an experience that will help define your abilities and likely increase your desire to pursue further exploration!
Setting up base camp in Anchorage gives you access to a variety of day and weekend trips, including the beautiful area of Hatcher Pass. Let me just say this, Hatcher Pass in the fall is like something you would see on the front of a postcard. The trees and foliage are vibrant yellow, red and orange in striking contrast to the mountains sprinkled with termination dust ((in Alaska) A light, high altitude snowfall that indicates the end of summer.). This stunning valley is home to one of Alaska's most scenic drives, winding through the Talkeetna mountain range and making its way up to Independence Mine State Historical Park. This abandoned gold mine is closed during the autumn and winter months so you have to park at a lower parking lot (there is a small park fee) before making the trek up to the site. Getting an early start (aka arriving around 8:30am) will likely ensure that you have the entire mine site to yourself. Side note: some locals told me afterwards that the place is haunted - take that little piece of information as you will. Tucked away in the mountains, the raw remoteness of this location will be sure to give you a small taste of the wild Alaska, leaving you wanting to explore more destinations. Oh and keep in mind that with the elevation gain, you will probably run into more snow than you expected so prepare for a season change and a temperature drop in advance. In other words, bring your favourite mittens and extra clothes.
Moving down into lower elevations, you will find the Gold Mint trailhead. This moderate trail will lead you along the Little Susitna River and through the lush tundra valley. This area is a prime location for hiking and camping in the summers and snowmobiling and skiing in the winters. The Mountaineering Club of Alaska has also stationed huts throughout this mountain valley to provide travellers with a warm shelter to stay the night. The only requirement is that you become a member for a small $. Pretty amazing deal if you ask me. But just to be clear, even weather in these lower mountainous regions can change quickly and drastically so be sure to pack the appropriate gear for all weather conditions. Prepare for sun, rain or snow. If you have the right gear, you will be able to enjoy your experience without the hindrance of cold hands or wet feet, because let's be honest - nobody has time for that.