We have now been in Anchorage for five days. It feels familiar. There are all the brands and names we are used to along with what we would describe as great spring Minnesota weather. Yet, we are almost 2,000 miles from what used to be our home. It is summer time here with temperatures in the low 60s every day. Rain comes and goes. When the sun is out it quickly warms up. When the clouds scuttle in the underlying temperatures quickly take control. We are neither cold nor hot. It is great! There are mountains with snow on them no matter where we look. So, it is familiar, but foreign all at the same time. Alaskans have no real discernible accent, but have the friendliness we are used to. We could get used to this place and have to remind ourselves that winter is only a few short months away and it is not something we want to experience.
In the past few days we have: explored the area by driving all over, watched 747s thunder off the runway as they passed a few hundred feet above us, toured Earthquake Park, taken the kids for a behind the scenes walking tour of the Anchorage Zoo, had a picnic lunch on the rock beach of the sound, watched the never ending passage of float planes as they head to and take off from Lake Hood, hiked to the peak of Flattop Mountain, enjoyed lazy hours reading books, made our way through the Anchorage Museum for hours before being kicked out at closing time, watched fisherman fishing from Ship Creek just minutes from downtown, shopped at Cabela’s and Sports Authority, and replenished our stock of provisions. I have enjoyed running in my new running shoes as well and marveled at the increased strength I have that I thought had passed. My old Achilles tendon injury also shows signs of healing, or at least not objecting to my increased miles running. In fact, I ran over three miles without walking just last night. I haven’t done that for years. All of us are feeling better and enjoying it.
The international airport is situated out on the western edge of town. At the end of the north/south runway the Northern Lights road passes to allow for access further out the point from town. At the point itself is a park where one is able to hike down to the rocky beach and enjoy sights out beyond Cook Inlet including Fire Island with its large wind turbines. Due to the orientation of the runway you can sit literally right under the flight path of airplanes as they take off and land. It is impressive watching these large aircraft takeoff and head out over the sound for destinations all over the globe.
Earthquake Park is also out toward the end of the point. The park is on the former subdivision grounds that sloughed off the bluff into the sound during the 1964 earthquake. There are a few commemorative plaques to explain how the clay below the bluff turned to liquid during the earthquake allowing the entire hillside to slide into the sound. The entire neighborhood was destroyed. While it doesn’t look out of place now, pictures from that time period show just how devastating the slide was to the community.
View of Anchorage from the mud flats below Earthquake Park:
The Anchorage Zoo offers a “behind the scenes” tour and guided walk around the zoo during the summer. We treated Breann and Hannah to this tour since this was the one thing Breann said she really wanted to do on the trip. They got to see behind the scenes of the Grey Wolf and Amur Tiger exhibits. Breann took over 100 pictures during their time at the zoo! They truly enjoyed themselves. While the girls were at the zoo together, Hilary and I went off and enjoyed an afternoon to ourselves. We took the time to have a picnic lunch and then enjoyed a cup of Mocha Coffee at the local Starbucks. It was wonderful!
Flattop Mountain is on the South East side of Anchorage. The hike starts out at around 2,250’ in elevation and quickly climbs to the summit around 3,600’. The trail is around 1.7 miles each way. We started out the hike in cloudy skies and ended the hike in rain. Hilary made it all the way to the top by keeping up a continuous slow pace the entire hike. The very last 50 feet required climbing up and over rocks with all four limbs. While it was extremely cold and windy at the top we only stayed a little while as we saw rain coming at us. We were thankfully down from the really steep part of the mountain by the time the rain got to us. We did end up drenched and soaking wet by the end of the hike. Breann didn’t come on the hike, but Hilary, Hannah and I really enjoyed the hike. The view from the top was also great!
The Anchorage Museum was a pain in the rear to get into. First we couldn’t find a place to park for a reasonable fee and then we couldn’t figure out where the front of the building was. Once we got in and paid our entrance fees we quickly forgot about the challenge of getting in and enjoyed the exhibits. We checked out the Arctic exhibit rooms, the hands on rooms, the Alaskan Experience rooms, and other rooms I don’t remember the names of. We purchased a magnet from the museum store depicting a painting of Mt. McKinley done by Sidney Laurence.
The first four nights we stayed at Eagle River Campground on the river of the same name just to the south of the town of the same name. The campground was remarkably bug free. Where all the mosquitoes went I don’t know, but we weren’t complaining in the least! We had to leave the campground after the 4th night due to regulations allowing for no more than four nights of camping during any 15 day period. We stayed in the Cabela’s parking lot last night and will again tonight. They have a 48 hour policy we would like to honor. That means we need to figure out where to go the next few nights while we wait for the tires for the Jeep to arrive on Wednesday (hope they do!). I think it is time to get out the guide books and figure out a plan for the next few nights. We are thinking of heading south some and exploring south of Anchorage the next few days. Then we would just drive the Jeep back up to Anchorage to get new tires once they come in.
Oh – Hilary and I also stayed up for the sunset on the longest day of the year. It is very strange having full daylight well past 11PM. I really enjoy the extended daylight hours. The only downside is that it never really gets dark. Hilary and I realized we haven’t seen the stars in ages!