Airlines

Flight-Seeing Through the Heart of Alaska

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When I booked my trip to Barrow, Alaska, I deliberately picked the itinerary with 4 connections. Definitely a first for me.

ANC FAI SSC BRW

My hope, which turned out not to be in vain, was that the Anchorage-Fairbanks-Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay-Barrow could double as a flight-seeing tour. I’d loved my flight around Mt McKinley and was hoping that the plane would fly low enough, or the mountains would be high enough that I could get a view of all the Alaska wilderness I’d never seen. That would mean I could also “write-off” $400 from my plane ticket cost when justifying my trip, right?

During my layover in Anchorage I was advised to get a seat on the left side headed to Fairbanks because you can see Mt. McKinley on a clear day. Sweet! Unfortunately Labor Day was late enough in the summer season that sun didn’t really rise until 7ish, and my 6AM flight was too early to see anything. Not to mention the cloud cover. But at least the sunrise landing in Fairbanks was quite pretty.

Fairbanks landing

Leaving Fairbanks was much better (as I’d hoped it would be). We crossed the Brooks Mountain Range, getting to see the first light dusting of snow before heading into the Arctic Circle.

Brooks Mountain Range

There was alot of amazing snow/ice fields north of the Brooks Mountain Range, so as we descended into Prudhoe Bay I was a little surprised to see the golden orange colors of the tundra (shows you how much I knew about that area!)

Ice Prudhoe Bay

Prudhoe Bay Deadhorse

It was breathtakingly pretty in a very stark way. The sun was shining, but just looking at the Arctic Cotton flowers bent over from the breeze made me snuggle into my coat a little more. Of course then I saw folks used to the area deplaning in shorts…

After take off, we flew over the Trans-Alaska Pipeline which I was fascinated with for some reason. Fortunately there was no one in the adjacent to be put off by my excitement.

Prudhoe Bay Oil Pipeline

Luck did not favor me on the flight into Barrow — there was heavy cloud cover most of the way, and it was gray and overcast the whole time I was there.

landing in Barrow AK

We got to fly a “combi” on the flight back to Anchorage which was rather exciting for me. I’d never even heard of them! But we boarded from the back of the plane, and I got to my seat, 18 A, to discover I was one row from the front. (note the lack of windows in the front of the plane. Something I didn’t til afterwards)

Alaska Airlines Combi

There was just a carpeted wall with an ominous looking sealed door. Wow, now that was definitely keeping first class separate? It wasn’t until we deplaned in Anchorage that I saw the front was devoted to cargo. Not exactly the exclusive first class I’d been picturing…

Sadly the cloud cover lasted most of the flight back to Anchorage, so even though I had dutifully chosen a seat on the left side so I could see Mt. McKinley, I didn’t see much.  I did at least get good views until we crossed the Brooks Mountain Range again.

So is it worth grabbing the flight with 2 connections instead of the direct? I thought so! But then again I get a little excited about these things. If you do go though, make sure you don’t get a seat in the exit row as it actually cuts off quite a bit of scenery.

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Heels First’s Travel Advice–Sophisticated Travel, Uncomplicated Advice. The travels and tribulations of two frequent flyers jumping into the world of travel, sharing their travel advice. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

4 Comments

  1. Bonnie Weber Glod

    September 10, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Super narrative and photos, Keri! Next AK trip will include Iditarod?!

    • Keri Anderson

      September 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      Oooooh. That’s actually not a bad idea if I can find a way to deal with the cold!

  2. Roy Neese

    September 10, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    We can get you enough layers, come on up!

  3. Ken

    September 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Too bad about the Denali view at 35,000 ft. However, that is usually the norm. I fly the route 2 times a month and have only seen it 3 times this year and only once when it was totally clear. Another good viewing plane is AS FAI SEA on the right side with the Wrangell and Chugach mountains; the shows goes on for about 1 hour and is just spectacular. Finally there is the venerable AS 62 which leaves ANC at 8 am and does the milk run down the fiords and glaciers of the Alaska panhandle stopping at JNU, KET, SEA and all points in between! Still time to ride it in F on a 737 as rumor is that part of trip will change to Q400 spring 2014.

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