Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alaska RV Tour - Part 1 of Anchorage, Alaska

We arrived in Anchorage yesterday, Wednesday July 21st, and will leave on Monday, July 26th. We are staying at the Golden Nugget Camper Park, which is located in town amid a somewhat residential area. Because our group is camping on the caravan side of the park, it is a bit of a hike to go to the laundry room located on the "regular" side. Other than that, this RV park is fine.  One of the things we've learned during this trip is that RV campgrounds in Alaska and the Yukon are rarely as nice as many found in the lower 48, especially those that cater to caravans.

After we got here around 6 PM yesterday, I spent until midnight washing the outside of Trek.  I had to be low-key about this because the RV park does not really want people cleaning their RVs at their campsite.  Anyway, this was the first exterior cleaning the Trek has had since we left home in mid-April and it was filthy! 

Some intesting factoids about Anchorage: this is the most northern major city in the US and is the largest in Alaska. With a population of over 286,000 residents, Anchorage is home to over 40 percent of the Alaska's total population and the Port of Anchorage handles 95% of all goods entering Alaska. Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB) is on the north side of town.
The first time I visited Alaska was back in 1987.  I went on temporary duty to Elmendof AFB, which was my base camp as I flew around Alaska for three weeks servicing tactical satellite radio equipment.  This is when I fell in love with Alaska and promised myself that I would come back - it only took 23 years!
This morning, Thursday, Spike took us on a tour of the city. Because he lives in Anchorage (at least part of the year), our group has use of Spike's Ford Excursion while we're here, in addition to the van and various tow cars.  We packed ourselves in tighter than usual to reduce the number of vehicles - Anchorage is a big and busy city and it's hard to keep 20 vehicles together!  Anyway, we drove past the Anchorage Float Plane harbor, through Old Towne and other areas, and stopped at Black Elk Crafts (where natives get supplies to make their crafts), the Alaska Fur Exchange, and the Ulu factory.  Although we did not buy anything, it was interesting to look at the goods. 

Spike then took us on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail out to Earthquake Park, an area where large tracts of land slid into the Inlet and an entire neighborhood of homes were destroyed by the Good Friday Earthquake.  This earthquake hit on March 27, 1964 and was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America, measuring 9.2 on the Richter Scale.

From Earthquake Park, we could look across Cook Inlet and the Knik Arm and see the beginnings of the Knik Arm Bridge which (if ever completed) will connect the Mat-Su Borough to Anchorage.

After a morning of touring around, we returned to the RV park for lunch and then off we went again for more sightseeing.  Before leaving, Spike made a bet with several of us that we would see a moose today. We laughed about this because, as much fun as we were having and as beautiful as the countryside is, we have not been seeing the quantity or variety of wildlife we expected. 


Shortly after getting on the Seward Highway to drive along the Cook Inlet, what should we see but a Grizzly bear ambling along a bike path right next to the highway! That was pretty exciting for us, but probably even more exciting for the two girls we saw on bikes very shortly afterwards, heading towards that Grizzly.

Going along the Seward Highway past Cook Inlet, we stopped at a local meat and fish processing place called Indian Valley Meats. This is a tucked away, attractive little complex on the side of a mountain overlooking the inlet. In addition to the meat processing facility, there is a small shop where they sell cured game meats and wild salmon, ice cream, local preserves, etc.  They also have a Bed & Breakfast, which looks like a nice place to stay.

After Indian Valley Meats, we continued along the Turnagain Arm towards the Portage Glacier. 

The Good Friday earthquake took its toll in this area also. At the western end of Turnagain Arm by the old town site of Portage, the ground sank about 7 feet and sea water flooded the area.  Dead trees from this event, preserved in the brine, jut up like mangled toothpicks. It is an eerie sight... like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

We made a stop at an overlook that has a great view of the Portage Glacier.  Unfortunately, it was overcast but we still got some decent photos. 

Then our group went on to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center of the Chugash National Forest.  Here we learned about Ice Worms (they are real!) and  listened to an interpretive guide tell us, in first person, the story of Alaska Nellie.

Copyright © 2000-2010. All rights reserved.
University of Alaska Anchorage
Nellie Neal Lawing was one of Alaska's well-known camp cooks and roadhouse owners - she was 42 years old when she arrived in Seward on July 4, 1915. Her life story is fascinating and I would say Alaska Nellie is exemplary of the tough and resourceful people that settled Alaska over the past century.  Here is photo of Nellie with a pet bear at Crow Creek mining camp, near Girdwood, 1918.

By the way, Lynda and I have noticed that there seems to be little gender bias in the Yukon and Alaska. Man or woman, if you are self-reliant and trustworthy, you are respected and valued.  Certainly Alaska Nellie is remembered with a great deal of admiration.

Our group then started to leave the Visitors Center to make our way to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  Unfortunately, the Frye's car decided not to start but Spike was able to cobble together a towing arrangement and the Frye family dispersed into other vehicles. 

So off we went to the Wildlife Center, and Spike won his bet - we did see a moose that day! In fact, we also saw rescued Grizzly bears, Black bears, Moose, Bison, Caribou, and Musk Ox.  This wildlife center is well worth the visit. Visitors drive through the park to view the animals, which are secured in generously sized enclosures, and you can stop and get out as you like. We enjoyed it!

It had been a fun day but we got back to the RV park a couple hours later than expected.  Thankfully, Roger walked the dogs for us and so they were fine - no messes or calamities to deal with, just two happy doggies that were very glad to see us.

Click here for photos, and stay tuned for more about our visit to Anchorage!

No comments:

Post a Comment