Alaska house of jade bed and breakfast

Alaska house of jade bed and breakfast

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Be sure to check out our other posts for Anchorage lodging information, things to do in the Anchorage area, as well as vacation guides that can be helpful when exploring Alaska.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Anchorage Day Trip: Portage/Girdwood

Day Trip from Anchorage: Portage and Girdwood

When visiting South-central Alaska there is never enough time to accomplish everything you want to see and do.  With the long summer days and a little bit of luck from the weather it is possible to get a wide variety of activities done in one day.  In late April we went down to the Girdwood and Portage areas for a fun day trip.  We always recommend these activities (as well as many others) for guests traveling south to the Kenai Peninsula or for guests just looking for a fun day from the Anchorage area.  Girdwood is about 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, and Portage is another 10 miles south from Girdwood.

Heading out of Anchorage
through Potter's Marsh
We started the day leaving at 8:00 am (for our guests, we do offer an early 7:30 breakfast seating for those looking to get a fast start to their day! For earlier departures we do pack a prepared bag breakfast with homemade breads, yogurt, granola, cheeses, and often a few small desserts for later in the day!). Once out of Anchorage the Seward Highway skirts the Cook Inlet the whole way down, offering beautiful views of the Alaska Range and the Chugach Mountains.  Although not able to pull over and stop for pictures we did catch a couple of moose on the way out of town, as well as some Dall’s Sheep on the steep cliffs just outside of Anchorage, as well as a dozen or so Bald eagles.  These are somewhat common to see along the highway. Rare sightings of beluga whales can also be had, however they are most commonly seen in the late summer in these parts of the inlet.

Byron Glacier Trailhead
9:45 am: Our first stop was Byron glacier, located by the Begich Visitor Center before heading into the town of Whittier.  The 1.5 mile round trip trail leads you to the face of Byron Glacier.  

We actually hiked this trail in late 2015 and since then an avalanche has completely filled the valley.  Where once you could cross a small stream to hike to the face of the glacier, now a 50 foot high wall of snow, ice, and rock block the path.  It is highly advisable to not walk on this as the snow and ice can be thin.   This took about 1 hour, including a 15 minute break exploring the new avalanche filled area.  The trail is well maintained, well-traveled, and relatively flat.
Brown bear at the Wildlife
Conservation Center
11:15 am: Our next stop was the Portage Wildlife Conservation Center located right off the Seward Highway and the intersection towards Byron glacier. The Wildlife Conservation Center is a rehabilitation center for Alaskan wildlife and provides the opportunity to get close to brown/black bears, moose, 
Red Fox
Musk ox, Wood bison, caribou, elk, and wolves, as well as some other small mammals and birds. One of the great successes has been the release of a herd of Wood bison in the northwest area of Alaska, and it just so happened that the day we went here, the first wild offspring of the herd had been spotted. We spent about an hour here before heading north towards Girdwood.   

Jack Sprat Yam Fries!
12:45 pm: As we started to get hungry we headed up to Girdwood for a late brunch at Jack Sprat.  On the weekends they offer a great brunch menu.  Their dinner is also wonderful with a wide variety of options. We always go for their yam fries! Unfortunately on weekdays Jack Sprat is closed until dinner service.  But just up the hill is another great spot, the Bake Shop.  They may be most known for their breakfast (and sourdough cinnamon rolls!), they have a wonderful variety sandwich, soups, and salads.

Maintained Winner Creek Trail
2:00 pm: After fueling up, we drove into the Alyeska resort area to get onto the Winner Creek trail.  Girdwood is in a more rainforest environment, and offers landscapes similar to those found in southeastern Alaska.  Large fir and cedar trees cover the landscape.  The first half of the Winner Creek Trail is a fairly flat trail and is also well-traveled.  The second half does have some elevation changes as you approach the streams, but it is not terribly steep.  Although closed for winter maintenance, there is a hand tram at 2.5 miles in that you can use to cross over the gorge. We turned around here to head back towards the resort.  The tram goes over a stream and is a unique feature of the trail.  We stopped at the tram and headed back to the resort area, about 2.5 hours in total and about 5 miles of hiking.   

Hand Tram to cross the gorge
on the Winner Creek Trail
5:00 pm: We made our way back up to Anchorage in the early evening.  With the sun not setting now until 10 PM, we had plenty of sun light.  We didn’t see as much wildlife on the way back, but did catch some locals in the inlet wind surfing.  Guests could easily have a nice dinner back in Anchorage after this itinerary.

This itinerary is great for guests who don’t want to have to book tours months in advance, but still have flexibility throughout their day.  There are many more hikes in the area and Girdwood does have more activities, especially at the resort. We are more than happy to provide our guests some other recommendations for things to do within a day’s drive of Anchorage. We can’t promise you’ll check everything off on your list, but we will do our best to make sure your time is well spent offering the greatest variety and most unique activities for your interests.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hatcher Pass

There is no shortage of beautiful scenery within the Anchorage area, but one of our favorite areas to visit for a quick day out is Hatcher Pass, about 60 miles north of Anchorage in the Talkeetna Mountain range.  Hatcher Pass offers year round recreation, with summer time offering hiking, berry picking, site seeing, and gold mining (as well as gold mining history) in the area.  In the winter, there are opportunities for great cross country skiing and snowshoeing.  Hatcher Pass typically gets some of the earliest snow in the area, drawing winter recreation enthusiasts out once the first snow falls.

A great reason for our guests to visit Hatcher Pass is it provides a more scenic and "off the beaten path" way to get to Denali or Talkeetna from Anchorage. Typically, beginning in July, once the snow has melted and the roads have been serviced, the mountain pass opens up allowing drivers to connect from Palmer to Willow.  The drive through the pass has such incredible views of the valley floor and plenty of spots to pull over to take pictures. The drive through the Pass will add about 45 minutes to your drive, so if you’re in a rush this may not work, but for those looking to take a more leisure trip this is one drive you shouldn’t miss.

Map of Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive

Things to do at Hatcher Pass

Zack eating lunch at his favorite rock
on the Gold Mint Trail!

Our favorite trail to hike in Hatcher Pass is the Gold Mint Trail, which offers a very mild hike with little elevation gain until the last mile or so.  The total round trip hike is 16 miles which follows the Little Susitna River providing lots of opportunities to see beavers, ducks, and small mammals. Due to beaver dams, the trail can be washed out in areas close to the river line, so high boots are a must, but otherwise the trail is well maintained and busy enough to not get lost for too long. Another great hike is Reed Lakes, which in the late summer also offer some great berry picking opportunities.

Waking up in the valley of the
Little Susitna River

Berry season is typically in mid August, depending on how dry the year has been.  If you're visiting during August you'll have to make the trip though Hatcher Pass to pick some fresh blueberries right off the mountain!
The mountain sides within the area are loaded with blueberries.  You won't need to ask anyone where they are at as you'll be able to see the cars along side the road and lots of people with their 5-gallon buckets trying to fill them up.

Another great opportunity if you have some extra time in the area is camping out for a night or two.  Both the Gold Mint Trail and Reed Lakes Trail have several primitive sites you can hike out to, and there are also two semi-improved campgrounds on the eastern portion of the area.  The semi-improved campgrounds are located along the Little Susitna River.

For more information on the route or activities in the area please feel free to contact us.  We are more than happy to give you additional in-site on Hatcher Pass and the surrounding area.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Almost Snickerdoodle Cookies
(yields approx. 3 dozen)


  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Melt butter over low heat.
  2. Once butter has fully melted, measure and mix the dry ingredients.
  3. When butter has cooled, add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour egg and butter mixture into dry ingredients.  Blend until all the dry ingredients are fully mixed.
  5. Place cookie dough into refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a medium size bowl.
  7. Once cookie dough has cooled, spoon 4-6 balls into the cinnamon sugar and roll into balls.
  8. Line cookie balls on a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  10. Bake cookies 8-9 minutes. After pulling out of the oven, leave on cookie sheet another 5 minutes. For crisper cookies I recommend smaller cookie balls, not extended time in the oven.
  11. After 5 minutes place cookies on a cooling rack.

Cookie dough can be refrigerated if tightly sealed in plastic wrap or frozen.  Lasts up to a week in the refrigerator.  Fully cooked cookies also are great to freeze.  Pull out as many as you like when you want!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies


           Brownie Batter
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

          Cream Cheese filling
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (clear if available)

  1. Preheat over to 400°F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.  Add cocoa powder and continue to mix.
  3. Add eggs one at a time thoroughly incorporating between each addition.
  4. Add remaining brownie ingredients and continue to mix until well blended.
  5. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.  Pour brownie batter into pan reserving 1/2 cup of batter.
  6. Drizzle cream cheese filling over the brownie batter covering the surface.
  7. With remaining brownie batter, pour along one of the 13 inch sides.  With a toothpick or knife swirl the upper brownie mix throughout the top layer, be sure not to put the toothpick below the cream cheese filling layer.
  8. Bake brownies for about 30-40 minutes.
  9. Let sit for an hour until cooled to room temperature.
  10. For clean brownie cuts, invert the 9 x 13 pan onto a flat cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let gravity drop the brownie from the sides.  Let rest for another 30 minutes.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Alaska Summer Packing List

Packing for Your Alaskan Adventure!

Alaska House of Jade, Alaska Clothing, Alaska Lodging, Anchorage Things to Do
A typical spring Alaskan day out walking the dog!
 Alaska saw almost 2 million visitors between October 2013 and September 2014 and I would bet a large number of them shared one common question; what do I need to pack?  The simple but not very helpful answer is bring lots of LAYERS!  But the types of layers to pack adds to the matter.  There are many variables to consider including types of activities you are planning, time of year, length of stay, even the transportation method to get to Alaska.  This article will focus more on what you should expect to bring for a typical Alaskan vacation between May and September.
Alaska Salmon, Alaska Fishing, Alaska Charters, Day trips in Alaska, Fishing, Boating, Seward Alaska 

Perhaps the most important clothing items to pack for visitors are a warm fleece, light gloves, a hat to cover the ears, a light water proof rain jacket and rain pants. These are all items to wear over your daily comfortable clothes! Although it may seem like a lot for the summer time, any given day can range from between low 50s to upper 70s, with the average highs being in the mid to upper 60s.  The last place you want to be when a whale breaches or a pod of porpoises run along the ship's wake is inside the boat!  This is not to say to leave the summer gear at home.  The last few Alaskan summers have been hotter then normal bringing temperatures as high as the low 80's. 

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska House of Jade Bed and Breakfast, Bed and Breakfast, Biking in Anchorage, Things to Do in AnchorageIf you’re heading up towards Fairbanks and the interior part of Alaska you may very well want to pack some lighter clothes as you could see temperatures into the mid to upper 80s, and with the sun being up for the better part of the day, sunscreen will be a necessity.  Shorts and short sleeve shirts will be welcomed.  Just keep in mind that the non-urban parts of Alaska are notorious for mosquitoes in June and July, and you will want to make sure you have some DEET.
Of course seeing wildlife, glaciers, waterfalls, and mountains is why you're coming right?  On any given trip to Alaska you will likely go hiking, sightseeing, fishing, rafting, wildlife viewing, and glacier viewing. For tips on things to do visit our website.  As mentioned, there are a lot more reasons people come to Alaska, but they almost always focus around the outdoors.  Anyone of these activities can require slightly different gear.  Specialized gear will more than likely be provided by your tour operator, however, the items mentioned below are basic necessities you will want to have just to be prepared!  

Basic Packing List

Long Sleeve Shirts
Long Pants
Backpack/Day Bag
Comfortable Shoes
Light Rain Jacket
Water bottle
Wool Socks
Waterproof Pants
Mosquito Repellent
Hat w/ Bill
Tight fitting gloves
Small dry bag

When heading out on the water make sure you have a waterproof gortex outer layer, a hat, and a wool or synthetic under layer, don't forget your dry pack!
Even when hiking on a hot summer day, it can get very windy at the top of the peak.  Be sure to bring a hat and long sleeve outer layer for when it gets chilly.  Light weight hiking shoes are far more versatile than thick chunky hiking boots.  Whatever you chose, just make sure they are comfy and broken in!
It's also a good idea to have pair of hiking poles if you will be enjoying any of Alaska's many trails. Some can have loose gravel and a good set of poles will help keep your footing!  Also a pair of nylon pants will come in very handy.  They can be zipped off if you get hot along the trail and are fast drying if on a glacier cruise or kayaking trip. Of course don't forget the backpack to roll it all up in when taking layers on and off.

A sunny warm day in Alaska can still be quite chilly when your ship pulls up to a glacier.  Be sure to wear enough layers, and have a warm hat and sun glasses so you can spend more time out on deck! Don't forget the camera!

Our final recommendation is to talk with tour operators and see what they provide and what you will need to bring.  Although the list above is fairly comprehensive, tour operators know first-hand what their guest’s experience and I can assure you they want you to be as comfortable as possible and to make the most of your adventure!  

Credits: Thank you to Gina Gibbons for allowing me to use her photos from her many Alaskan adventures, and to Logan Claytor and Charlotte Crowder... You are all great dressed Alaskans! Oh and don't forget Gracie the pooch! 
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