As the eagle flies, it's about 110 miles
between the cities of Anchorage
-- just a stone's toss by standards of Alaska, by far the biggest
of our 50 states. More than twice the size of Texas, three-quarters
the size of Mexico,
the place is huge -- not just in size, but in diversity of scenery,
landscape, people and all the rest. I had three weeks to spend in
the state last year and harbored no illusions of seeing it all as
I planned a research trip for a new AAA guide.
But visit the Kenai Peninsula -- a rugged, fist-shaped chunk of
land stretching southwest from Anchorage to Homer -- and you'll
get a good idea of all this amazing state has to offer. "It's
like a mini-Alaska," a Gray Line of Alaska travel guide told
me during my early planning stages. She waxed exuberantly about
huge glaciers pouring down from snow-crowned peaks, pods of whales
spouting in misty bays, grizzlies and moose roaming free in virgin
A week, she said, would provide a pretty good overview of "the
Kenai," and that's what I told my old college pal Glenn as
I urged him to come along for the first leg of my trip. It was not
a hard sell; he was long overdue for a break from the Southern California
rat race, and like me, he's always been up for something new and
GETTING THERE -- Alaska Airlines
and several other carriers offer daily flights between Anchorage
and major cities in the Lower 48. By car, it's about 220 miles
from Anchorage to Homer, near the southwest corner of the peninsula.
All major car rental agencies have offices in Anchorage. In addition,
Hertz operates in Seward, Homer, Kenai and Soldotna.
WEATHER WATCH -- "Summer"
on the Kenai area means daytime temperatures in the low- to mid-60s
and nighttime lows in the 40s and 50s. Precipitation varies in the
extreme, from less than 20 inches annually in Anchorage to more
than 180 inches 50 miles away in Whittier. Seward and Homer average
38 and 24 inches respectively.
FASHION TIPS -- Dress In Layers! That's the soundest
wardrobe advice we can offer in Alaska. Forget a heavy overcoat
(overkill for summer) and pack a sweater or fleece top, plus a light-
to mid-weight jacket. Raingear is essential, and most locals prefer
a two-piece rain suit or Gore Tex outerwear. Leave the umbrella
and poncho at home.
WHEN TO GO -- May and September, the so-called "shoulder
months" generally bring decent weather without the crowds
to the Kenai and elsewhere in Alaska, and you may find some excellent
deals on package tours and lodging. The downside is that some operators
may not be open.
Journalist David Brackney is a travel writer for the Automobile
Club of Southern California, who specializes in Baja California.
He authored the Auto Club's guidebook to Baja and the most
comprehensive guide to the peninsula in the club's history. Previously
he worked as a journalist in Mexico
City for six years.