Doug and Dan's Excellent Alaskan Adventure

Army veteran, candidate for Congress, husband and father. Those are just a few of the roles Doug Heckman takes on each day. With a plethora of family duties and a major congressional campaign under way in the Heckman house, Doug and his 18 year old son Dan needed to take a respite to Alaska. The trip was filled with fun, adventure and plenty of bonding time.

The trip

Doug and Dan left for Alaska on a typically hot Atlanta afternoon. "We gained four hours on a seven and a half hour flight to Anchorage International Airport," Doug recalls. "We got our rental car and stayed at the Airport Courtyard and went to bed at 10pm -- the sun was still shining brightly." In Alaska, it stays light until midnight and gets light again at 5am. In June, it stays light even longer. Doug's advice: "It's important to have good shades or it is difficult to sleep."

Kenai Park

"We got up the next morning early and left for Seward – driving south," he says. Doug and Dan drove for three hours to a small port town where they took a six hour ferry ride to the Kenai Fjord National Park which is filled with breathtaking vistas and wildlife.

The air at Kenai was in the 50s (F) and jackets were needed outside as the ferry moved pretty fast. The less adventurous and warm sat inside. Doug and Dan saw a superpod of 13 killer whales, sea lions and some humpback whales. Doug describes the glaciers as, "mammoth." The constant crackling of the glaciers filled the air as they ‘calved’ and a piece would topple into the water.

"We drove two hours across the peninsula to Kenai to stay for two nights and stayed at the Kenai Landing," Doug recalls. "It was an old salmon cannery that was converted to a rustic resort complete with a restaurant and several stores." Doug confesses that Kenai Landing was difficult to find. "The king salmon were running and that only happened for two weeks out of the year," he says. "We didn’t get a chance to fish because the guides could not take non-Alaska people out on Sundays or Mondays."

Nevertheless, Doug says it's beautiful at the mouth of the Kenai River. He and Dan explored up the coast where they were treated to seeing two Grizzly Bear cubs playing. "We were worried the mother might be around, so we never got too close and we always kept a lookout," Doug says.


Denali National Park

The duo drove north through Anchorage toward Denali National Park where they eventually stayed at the McKinley Princess Lodge for two nights. This resort services cruise passengers that select this land excursion. When the weather is good, you have a clear view of Mount McKinley – the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet. It is a shimmering white rock that rises beautifully on the horizon.

Doug and Dan spent a day in Denali. "You have to take a school bus tour to go very deep into the Park. We had them drive us into the park about two hours and drop us off," Doug says. "We proceeded to hike up a mountain -- easy for Dan and challenging for me -- before coming back down. There were amazing views of the Alaskan Range. We then flagged down a returning bus and drove back in. Wildlife seen included caribou and foxes."

Anchorage

Doug and Dan headed back toward Anchorage and stopped in Talkeetna. There they took a prop flight through the mountains. "Fantastic views, but the weather was dicey enough that the pilot would not land the plane on a glacier," Doug remembers. "After a 90 minute flight, we then went salmon fishing for five hours with a guide. We caught several pink salmon -- which is not good eating -- and other fish called chum. These fish seem to be pretty big. It was lots of fun."

Last night

"We didn’t have reservations for the last night and stayed at a place way off the beaten path called the Paradise Hotel," Doug says. "It was a series of beautiful log cabins and the prices were very reasonable. The views were amazing from the back porch. We drove back to Anchorage the next day and explored the downtown area."

Back to reality

Doug and Dan retuned to the Atlanta heat on a redeye flight and got back into town around 8am. They definitely want to go back.


Doug Heckman was a candidate twice for the state of Georgia's 7th Congressional district.

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