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Culture, General travel, North America, Travel Gear, What to Pack

First Day in Alaska

August 17, 2017 • By

I am a city girl.  I ride the subway, I hail cabs and I complain about garbage and rats.  The sound of heavy traffic, roaring fire engines and honking horns soothes my soul.  Carry-out menus line my kitchen shelves and my refrigerator contains a handful of perishable items.  Breakfast for idiots is my kind of book and I have a chef who cooks for me. I live in a 465 square foot studio and identify my neighbors not by their faces but by the sounds of footsteps or a hair dryer and blender.

Why on earth did I decide to visit Alaska?  This is an easy answer.  It’s the complete opposite of anything in New York City.

An hour after my arrival in Alaska, I found myself on the side of Mt. Alyeska in Girwood hiking the North Face trail.  My friend Brooke Edwards outfitted me with bear spray, binoculars, layers of clothing and the important and necessary day pack and off we went.  At some point while swatting mosquitoes, yelling out, “Hey Bear,” I wondered why I would embark on this journey.

Fantasyaisle

Mt. Alyeska, Alyeska Resort, Girwood, Alaska

Brooke assured me this was an hour-to-the-top type /kind of hike and I would appreciate the views.  I admired how she didn’t break a sweat and I struggled to maintain my dignity. Brooke may not have understood my current level of experience involved(better word) “hiking” up 20 or so steps from the subway to the street and a few block stroll along a flat and even surfaced Lexington Avenue. (See Life on the 6 Train)

The view at the top exceeded my expectations and I was happy to get a sense of my surroundings and take in the scenery of the Turnagain Arm, a branch of glacial water surrounded by towering mountains that leads to the Gulf of Alaksa.  Turnagain Arm proved not to be the Northwest Passage Captain Cook sought to discover but its natural beauty rivals any landscape I’ve seen in the world.

Catching my breath, I hobbled to the restaurants as I peeled layer after layer exposing my sweaty back and the markings of an out of shape city girl.  I hoped Brooke would be amenable to a “Kelly kind of eating and drinking break” before heading down the mountain.  She did better than that, after a brief exchange we decided to go fancy in our hiking gear and dine at Seven Glaciers Restaurant, where I feasted on my first Alaskan halibut and a Boullabaisse soup, loaded with seafood and a saffron broth.  We topped off my first day with a pleasant tram ride down the mountain and heaps more wine at the Alyeska Resort.

Fantasyaisle

My expert guide Brooke Edwards at our first toast after hiking Mt. Alyeska, 7 Glaciers Restaurant

With the midnight sun (11:30 PM sunset) toying with my emotions and idea of place, I settled in for a few hours of desperate sleep before jolting awake at 5:30 AM when the sun beckoned me to hit the road.


Travel Tips, What to Pack

It’s time to pack

June 18, 2015 • By

Your departure day is fast approaching and it’s time to think about packing. If there is one piece of advice every single traveler gives to another it’s DO NOT OVER PACK but it’s bound to happen to everyone sooner or later and you will find yourself sitting on that suitcase to ensure closure and cursing at it the duration of your travels.

My trick to the trade is checking the weather of my destination as early as possible so I can figure out if I need to hit the sporting good stores, Athleta, Lululemon or stock up on cotton dresses from various department stores.  If you are planning a trip in advance, it also helps because some clothing is only available seasonally in stores (always check online).  Will you be hiking in the mountains or sunning on the beach?  Typically, I use a durable suitcase that I can carry-on but expands if necessary and a small backpack or over the shoulder day bag.

Travel tip: Lay out all the clothes you think you need and then pack half or maybe even less than half.  You don’t need four pairs of shoes, two sets of jeans and multiple swimming suits unless of course you are going on a two week holiday to one location.

WHAT TO BRING ON ALMOST EVERY TRIP

CLOTHING

  • Underwear – I bring enough for 2 weeks of travel
  • Socks – Mix and match your favorites I tend to wear these a few times before washing
  • Undershirts & Bras
  • Pajamas
  • Cardigan/sweater or wrap for airplanes and air-conditioner
  • Dressy Outfit – You never know when there might be a special occasion
  • Jeans/Pants/Shorts – Climate and culturally appropriate
  • Skirt – Many women are required to wear garments covering the knees
  • Jacket/Rain proof/vest – Depending on climate, you may need a full winter coat or a waterproof rain jacket or something to block the wind
  • Hats – Winter hat for the cold climates or a baseball cap to block the sun or even a visor or beach hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarves – Multiple purposes (covering hair, shoulders and keeping warm or dressing up an outfit)
  • T-shirts/tanks
  • Exercise Clothing
  • Swimsuit or trunks
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Sneakers
  • Flat comfortable shoes

TOILETRIES

  • Toothbrush – old-fashioned or make sure you extra batteries for electric
  • Toothpaste & Dental Floss
  • Bar of Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/Comb
  • Hair accessories/products
  • Cleanser
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Contact lenses/glasses/solution
  • Razor
  • Make up
  • Nail accessories if necessary
  • Hand wipes – these are my saving grace.  I buy a few packets and keep on me at all time along with mini toilet paper rolls
  • Kleenex
  • Laundry packets
  • Stain remover/Tide stick

MEDICAL

  • Vitamins
  • Aspirin
  • First-aid kit – band-aids, neosporin, moleskin for blisters, cotton balls, sewing kit with needle and safety pins
  • Birth control/prescriptions – Don’t forget to bring a list of all and the reason for taking each
  • Sleeping pills
  • Earplugs
  • Iodine tablets to sterilize water if necessary (camping/hiking)

TRAVEL DOCS

  • Passport/Visas – also bring paper copies and hide in luggage
  • Driver’s license
  • Copies of itinerary on you and one left at home with family for friends
  • Copies of credit cards in case of loss (in accessible location)
  • Emergency contact
  • Medical/health insurance cards
  • Medical history
  • Hotel loyalty cards
  • Money belt/secure and hidden bag for valuables

TECHNOLOGY

  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Mobile phone – Make sure to set up roaming/data before departure.  Foreign fees are high
  • Chargers/Adapters
  • Batteries
  • Mini Flashlight
  • Download any movies/books for the long plane rides or drives

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Journal
  • Magazines/Books
  • Snacks/granola bars
  • Pens
  • Gifts for locals such as pencils, chewing gum, paper, etc
  • Umbrella if room
  • Ziplock/plastic bags – dirty clothes, shoes, toiletries, all sorts of uses and come in handy
  • Cash – US Dollars or Euros are safe for exchange
  • ATM Card/Credit card – Use cards with no foreign service fees like Capital One or Chase explorer
  • Luggage lock – May not use on some airplanes but good for leaving behind at hotels
  • Day bag/backpack – over the shoulder or small to fit a guidebook and scarf and a few toiletries
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