I had this conversation several times leading up to my trip to Alaska:
Person: “You’re going to Alaska?!” Me: “Yes, Alaska.” Person: “Why Alaska?”
That is a good question. I hadn’t really considered going to Alaska this summer until a couple of months before I left and even then, I dragged my feet before I booked. I already had the Yellowstone trip planned and my job requires me to take a 2 week leave each year so I decided I might as well take the time off with this trip. Therefore, I had to figure out what to do with the second week off. I had a large flight voucher from a cancelled 2015 trip to Poland I had to use so I knew I needed to fly somewhere. I considered Hawaii, which is my favorite place to visit to date, but I was just there in November. In the end, a combination of already being out west so it would be a shorter flight, having a large flight voucher and trying to cross off all 50 United States led me to decide Alaska was my best option. So away I went.
I flew from Denver to Anchorage on a Saturday evening. Flying into Alaska includes one of the prettiest approaches I have witnessed. There was so much to see, including lots of mountains and snow. Many people on the plane were huddled around the windows taking photos as we approached Anchorage. We could do that even though it was 11pm because it was near the summer solstice so it was still light outside. I didn’t see darkness outside the entire time I was in Alaska – which was 7 days. It is kind of a head trip and could lead to a false sense of security. Regardless, I made sure I was in my hotel room by a reasonable hour each night with the drapes closed so I could fall asleep with minimal issues.
On my first day in Alaska, I was scheduled to take a tour of the Turnagain Arm. Unfortunately, it was cool and rainy that day and very windy, causing the boat part of the tour to be cancelled (I am not complaining about this – I do not want to be on a boat in 70 MPH winds). We still went on the land portion of the tour but because of the rainand fog, our views and photo opportunities were limited.
Turnagain Arm was named by William Bligh. Bligh served as Captain Cook’s Sailing Master on his 3rd and final voyage. The aim of his 3rd voyage was discovery of the Northwest Passage. Upon reaching the head of Cook Inlet, Bligh was of the opinion that both Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm were the mouths of rivers and not the opening to the Northwest Passage. Under Cook’s orders Bligh organized a party to travel up Knik Arm, which quickly returned to report Knik Arm indeed led only to a river.Afterwards a second party was dispatched up Turnagain Arm and it too returned to report only a river lay ahead. As a result of this frustration the second body of water was given the disingenuous name “Turn Again.” The highway going around the Turnagain Arm is very scenic and I was able to enjoy the scenic views a couple of days later on my way to Seward.
I highly recommend you follow the guide books’ advice and bring a hooded rain jacket with you to Alaska. I didn’t have one with me because there was an incident involving a canvas painting party and my not-dry canvas as I was getting into a cab a few days before I left Chicago. I didn’t have a chance to get my jacket cleaned before I left so I settled for this Cubs poncho instead. It worked but I would have preferred my hooded rain jacket. At least it was a good conversation starter. Go Cubs!
My favorite meal for the entire 16 days I was traveling occurred at Ginger in Anchorage. The menu consists of Pacific Rim cuisine and classic Asian specialties and it was delicious!!
I made it through Yellowstone and was on day two in Anchorage and I still hadn’t seen a moose. I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to see one.
For my second morning in Anchorage, I hopped on an Anchorage city tour through Salmon Berry Tours. The guide and the tour were great. Unfortunately, it was raining and cloudy again so our visibility was limited (again). We made the best of it though and I had a good time on the tour.
We drove by the Anchorage airport and it was really interesting to see all of the different types of landing gear on the planes. The one below is meant to land on water. There were small tires to land on a concrete runway, big, fat tires for tundra landings and skis for snow landings.
My first sighting of the Alaskan Railway.
The three photos below were taken at Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary outside of Anchorage. We saw lots of birds and also some salmon as they were heading up the small stream in the middle of the sanctuary. The irony of this bird sanctuary is that there is a gun range across the road. That doesn’t seem like good planning by the bird lovers.
I came across all sorts of neat artwork as I was exploring Anchorage. The three moose below were on the side of a coffeehouse where I stopped to relax and enjoy some tea and a donut.
One of the things I loved most about Alaska was all of the amazing flowers everywhere. They were so vibrant and colorful and well maintained.
Below is the Bear and Raven sculpture in Anchorage. The plaque near the bear’s feet says: “The Bear and Raven
The Raven whispers to the Bear, “I really enjoy watching you fish for salmon in Ship Creek”. The Bear’s large smile and tummy, indicates that he loves it too! This sculpture is dedicated to the fun loving spirit of all Alaskans. Legend has it when you rub the Bear’s tummy it will bring you good luck.” Yes, I rubbed its belly.
The beauty below is a red husky named Phoenix. She belongs to Rod Perry, who has competed in multiple Iditarod races. Phoenix was so fluffy and friendly.
I stayed at the Historic Anchorage Hotel while I was in Anchorage but I took this photo because it is one of the prettiest flower baskets I have seen. And you get my reflection too. Oops.
I came upon this interesting totem pole as I was walking to dinner on night #2.
The guide on our City of Anchorage tour recommended the restaurant below so I decided to check it out. It is called Bridge because it is under a bridge – so original, huh?
I went to Bridge thinking it would be neat to watch people fishing in the river outside of the restaurant. It was great – until a guy caught a salmon just as my salmon dinner was being delivered to my table. I grew up on a farm so I know where my food comes from but I really didn’t want to see that right before I ate.
More pretty flowers