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Into the wild frontier: Alaska captivates Latrobe couple

| Saturday, April 14, 2018, 7:10 p.m.
This is Surprise Glacier seen on our boat trip through Prince William Sound.
This is Surprise Glacier seen on our boat trip through Prince William Sound.
Dog sledding on top of Punchbowl Glacier.
Dog sledding on top of Punchbowl Glacier.
Lori Copelli and just some of the beautiful flowers found in downtown Anchorage.
Lori Copelli and just some of the beautiful flowers found in downtown Anchorage.
Beautiful dahlias grown in Alaska are huge.
Beautiful dahlias grown in Alaska are huge.

After many trips to Florida and the Caribbean, my husband Bob and I were ready for a different adventure, so we decided to take a trip to Alaska. Giving myself six months to plan the trip, I was able to make the most of a seven-day vacation in July of 2017.

Our trip started by flying into Anchorage, renting a car and staying at a hotel near the airport with a float plane lake just outside the rear of the hotel.

On our first day we woke up early and went on a “flight-seeing” tour over Denali. The small float plane left from the lake behind our hotel and we took in amazing views of mountains, lakes and glaciers. We landed on a lake on the top of the Chugach Mountains and walked around. There were signs of wolves and other animals, but no other humans or homes around, just a small cabin on the lake shore. Upon returning we drove around the city of Anchorage and enjoyed the beautiful flowers that seemed to be everywhere. From enormous hanging baskets to dahlias that were bigger than I have seen before. It was just amazing how large the flowers grow here. With 19 and a half hours of sunlight in July, most flowers and produce grow extremely well. Returning to our hotel to have a bite to eat, we were surprised at the time, it felt like 5 p.m., but was actually 10:30 p.m. and still daylight. With so much daylight we never felt tired.

Over the next several days we made trips to Girdwood to pan for gold, hike and fly in a helicopter to the top of a glacier called the Punchbowl. There we met 60-plus Alaskan huskies and went dog sledding. This was awesome. We learned how the dogs were raised, trained and ready to sled. We even petted puppies.

Another day we drove to Palmer, a city north of Anchorage. We got into rubber boots and waterproof jackets to ride quad runners through waterways and trails to see a glacier and beaches. Beaches are rocky and gray, but the locals love to ride and some even had bathing suits on due to the sunny 70 degree day.

Another wonderful day was spent taking a train ride to Whittier, south of Anchorage. We rode the Glacier Discovery, a two-story train car, glass enclosed, with amazing views. On our journey we saw wildlife such as dall sheep and mountain goats. Upon arriving in Whittier, it was like entering another world. Whittier is a fishing town with huge mountains all around, surrounded by the water of Prince William Sound. We boarded a catamaran and sailed up close to glaciers and lots of wildlife. We saw bear, sea lions and comical otters playing with their cubs. What a great day!

A hiking tour to Denali was something we did not have time for but we were hoping to see more wildlife. A woman at one of our excursions recommended the Alaskan Zoo and the Wildlife Conservatory. We drove to both places and were able to get up close to many animals such as wolves, eagles, moose and bears.

Our trip would not be complete without getting some information on the Northern lights. This was not the time of year for this phenomenon, but the Anchorage Theater in town shows movies all day on the topic. It is truly amazing to learn about this and someday plan a winter trip to experience this for ourselves.

Our trip was not only a great time, it was truly a learning experience. We will certainly plan another trip here because there is so much more to see and learn about. We are very fortunate to call this land part of our country.

Lori Copelli is a Latrobe resident.

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