Sunday, September 29, 2019

Anchorage, Alaska


Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, is in the south-central part of the state on the Cook Inlet. It is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40% of the state's population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city. It has more than 60 glaciers within 50 miles of downtown, a salmon stream in the heart of the city, 300 miles of wilderness trails and Chugach State Park and National Forest one of the largest state parksAnchorage is known for its cultural sites, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which displays traditional crafts, stages dances, and presents replicas of dwellings from the area’s indigenous groups. The city is also a gateway to nearby wilderness areas and six surrounding mountains including the Chugach, Kenai, and Talkeetna.   When we departed the Alaska Railroad on the land portion of our Alaskan Cruise--click here to read that post--we were checked into the Captain Cook Hotel.  Although it was the evening, the almost 24-hour daylight of the Alaskan summer made it look like mid-day.  This was our view of Anchorage from our hotel window! (All photos will enlarge if clicked on)


Our stomachs told us we were hungry after our day of travel and we ate dinner in the hotel, enjoying fried calamari and a steak. Both were delicious!



We were only spending one night in the hotel with our tour and so even though it was late we took a walk around the downtown, where my husband posed with a local "bear." We saw Cook's inlet in the distance and numerous extra-large lilac bushes. Our visit to Anchorage took place in June and lilacs were everywhere! Their beautiful scent is one of my fond memories of Alaska.  The long daylight hours of summer helps flowers grow, even if the spring and summer seasons are short.  We were told by a tour guide that Alaska also often wins prizes for growing the largest vegetables due to the extra-long sunlight hours.



The next morning, we took a highly recommended one hour Anchorage Trolley Tour which we picked up at this unique location.  Our tour guide was very entertaining! She sang, told jokes and local sayings as well as pointed out the interesting sights.  One of the sayings we heard often in Alaska was: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd." That means that there are more men than women living in Alaska, but often the men that are there are also "unusual or unique," putting it kindly. 



Our trolley window view of the bronze  Captian Cook Monument in Resolution Park. The bronze Captain Cook Monument has the famed explorer standing on a large wooden deck, looking out to sea -- toward the route he used when he explored Cook Inlet in 1778 aboard HMS Resolution. Captain Cook was searching for a Northwest Passage and never actually reached Anchorage.  He sent his ship's master, William Bligh instead.  After two weeks of exploration of the channel, he was happy to leave the area



On another trolley stop, we looked at this driveway, glass canopy and skylight set into the ground.  What is this?  Underneath the ground is a 2,800 square feet house!  Jon and Marnie Isaacs have lived in this house, and raised their family there, for almost 40 years.  To read why and how this house was built, click on this link from the Anchorage Daily News.




Next stop on the trolley we saw Earthquake Park in the Turnagain neighborhood. This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, on March 27, during Good Friday, last century's most powerful earthquake occurred in Anchorage, Alaska. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes, killing 115 people and causing $116 million in damages ($0.73 billion in 2018 dollars.  This tragic event is commemorated in Anchorage’s Earthquake Park, where there are signs explaining the circumstances of the quake and its effect on the area.  If you examine my photo you can see wave-like ripples on the ground that was a result of the earthquake.



A view of downtown Anchorage from the park.


Next, we stopped at Lake Hood, where we saw the favorite mode of transportation for Alaskans--the seaplane! The sound of seaplanes is another Alaskan memory I will cherish, even if they can be quite noisy!  To hear a seaplane taking off click on this link which will take you to my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page where you will see my short video link--click on the photo in that link and it will enlarge and begin to play--make sure the sound is turned on!  You will hear the plane take off from the water and the tour guide's voice. She was telling us about a local lady who just posted a photo on facebook of a moose that was in her back yard!  There are estimated 1,000 moose that roam freely in the Anchorage area!  Unfortunately, we didn't see any on our hour-long tour.



More sights of Anchorage. A seaplane and the beautiful Chugach Mountains in the distance, more lilacs, the fencing surrounding some areas in an attempt to keep control of the moose, and the air full of commercial jets and seaplanes.



All too soon it was time to leave Anchorage and get on a bus that was to take us to Whittier, Alaska and our cruise ship. We loved Anchorage and would love to return for a much longer visit and see more of its sights. As Anchorage has a major airport and the Alaska Railroad, it is a wonderful location to begin a trip to see Alaska on one's own.  Just look at the scenery that surrounds the city! Now that's what you think of when you think of Alaska! Don't you agree?




I wasn't sitting in the right side of our tour bus to see the best views of the Chugach Mountains but even so, look at the views we saw!









Do you spy the grizzly bear in this photo?  It is not in the true wild, but it was located in our stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage, Alaska.  Info from their website: "The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care. AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides them with spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Most of the animals that arrive at the AWCC become permanent residents and will always have a home here. The Center maintains over 200 acres of spacious habitats for animals to feel at home and display their natural “wild” behavior. Visitors may see brown bears cooling off in the water, a bull moose strutting, wood bison roaming on pastures and more."



We watched the bears for quite a while!




I loved when he sat down among the wildflowers!

A Muskox

Muskox are members of the goat family. They’re an ancient species of arctic mammal with a thick outer coat consisting of long (up to 36 inches) guard hairs that cover a dense underfur known as qiviut. Qiviut is considered to be one of the warmest materials in the world.

Sitka Black-Tailed Deer and Elk

Elk in Alaska are limited to island habitats with temperate, maritime climates. They feed on a variety of plants at different times of the year. During the summer months, they favor grasses, forbs, willows, and other leafy greens while in the winter they munch on branches and twigs of trees and shrubs.


 Moose

Only males or bull moose have antlers. Most male moose calves develop bony knobs on their heads by the end of their first summer. After the first year, they grow antlers every summer and shed them during the winter.  This moose seemed to be resting due to the midday heat--on our visit to this Wildlife Center, the temperatures were close to 80 degrees!



There were other animals in the wildlife center, but many were hiding from the heat or inside their shelters. There are owls, wolves, bison, lynx, fox, reindeer, and wolverines.  We also enjoyed the beautiful scenery surrounding the wildlife center and gift shop and cafe.





If you watch this YouTube you will experience the Whittier Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—The tunnel's portal is made of 14 inches of concrete and was designed to withstand a major avalanche. The tunnel goes through Maynard Mountain for 13,300 ft. (2.5 miles) and is the longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America. The first tunnel designed for -40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds!

The one-lane tunnel must be shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions. This unique design enables a single lane of traffic to travel directly over the railroad track and saved tens of millions of dollars over the cost of constructing a larger tunnel.



We exited the tunnel and arrived in Whittier, Alaska to board our Princess Cruise ship!  The sea portion of our Alaskan trip was about to begin--more on my next post!


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Monday, September 23, 2019

Talkeetna and the Alaska Rail to Anchorage



After our tour left the Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge we were bused to Talkeetna, Alaska, where we had a few hours to enjoy on our own before we were to board an Alaska Railroad train to travel to Anchorage, Alaska.



Talkeetna is located at the confluence of three rivers, the Susitna, Chulitna, and Talkeetna, forming the Big Susitna River.  The town began in 1916 when the area was chosen as a district headquarters for the Alaska Railroad and became a home to area miners after the railroad's completion. A post office opened, as well as a sawmill, trading post, boarding houses, and other businesses, as well as many miner's cabins. You can read more about Talkkeetna's history on this link. It still retains a bohemian pioneer vibe. Talkeetna is the staging area for the mountaineers who attempt to climb Denali each summer, as well as those seeking flightseeing, rafting, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.


The Talkeetna Historic District encompasses several blocks of the historic village center of Talkeetna. In the photo collage above we see Nagley's Store on top. The Nagley family are pioneer residents of Talkeetna. They were also partners in the Westward Hotel in Anchorage, a predecessor to today's Hilton Anchorage Hotel.  In the lower-left is the Fairview Inn, the town's first schoolhouse, now the Talkeetna Museum, In the lower right is the Talkeetna Roadhouse, which was built as a residential log house in 1917 and expanded in the 1940s to serve as a roadhouse.


Another historic structure is Tom Weatherill's House. His 20' x 26' log house was built in 1940 by peg and dowels instead of nails. It was painted a bright yellow. Weatherill arrived in Talkeetna in 1921. He was first a miner, who later also became a long-time employee at Nagleys Supply Store.



Sights from the historic section of Talkeetna...


...and some more charm.


I loved seeing all the wild Irises growing all around Talkeetna!


Please double click on the photo to enlarge it to read the placards about this historic site.

Talkeetna’s first businesswoman, Isabella “Belle” Lee McDonald, arrived in Talkeetna in 1917 and married Ed Lee. Along with her brother-in-law Frank Lee as her head freighter, Belle developed the Talkeetna Trading Post, a freighting service, stable, blacksmith shop, and the beginnings of a roadhouse, located half a mile west of the present-day Talkeetna Roadhouse, at the edge of the river. After Ed died in 1928, Frank and Belle continued the freighting business together.


Near the McDonald historic site, there was a wooded area that surprised me! It was filled with lush ferns and lots of wildflowers, particularly common yarrow. I never imagined Alaska having such a tropical looking area but I soon learned Alaska has one of the largest temperate rainforests in the world--the Tongass National Forest. 



My husband and I walked to Talkeetna's River Front Park to see the confluence of the three rivers that meet there--the Susitna, Chulitna, and Talkeetna rovers, forming the Big Susitna River.   To see a video of the rivers flowing together go to my Mille Fiori Facebook page at this link. Click on the photo which will bring you to Google photos and then click on that photo to begin the video--make sure sound is on! 
Talkeetna is nestled at the base of North America’s tallest peak--Denali--and also a panoramic view of the Alaska Range, but once again, heavy clouds obstructed those views while we were there.



We saw many river rafters downstream.


We walked towards the Alaska Railroad Talkeetna Depot to wait for the train that would be taking our tour group to Anchorage, Alaska. Since we were a little early we decided to cool off at a nearby bar with a cold beer first.  

We kept hearing the frequent bush planes flying overhead. That sound will always be a fond memory of Alaska for me.



Finally, our train arrived!



It was going to be nice to sit back and relax for a couple hours and see the views from our train car.




The views of the Alaskan Range from the train were glorious, full of misty mountains, shimmering rivers and creeks, thick lush greenery and spikey spruce trees


Soon we would arrive at Alaska's largest city and the last part of our land tour--my next post. We would be boarding the cruise portion of our trip in Whittier, Alaska, after our visit to Anchorage. Mount Denali might have kept itself hidden from sight during our land visit, but we certainly saw so much other Alaskan beauty!

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge


After a one night stay at the Denali Princess Lodge, where we visited Denali National Park, our Alaska land tour brought us south to the Mt. Mckinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. located above the Chulitna River, and also surrounded by the majestic Denali National Park.  While on our bus ride we had spectacular views of the Alaska Mountain Range, which were robed in misty, foggy clouds, and surrounded by deep green forests and swirling rivers.


One interesting sight along the way was Igloo City! Sadly, I was not on the right side of the bus to get a clearer photo as we whizzed past, but you can see this unusual structure sitting on the side of the Parks Highway, near Cantwell, Alaska and midway between Fairbanks and Anchorage. Igloo City was originally constructed in the late 1970s by Leon Smith. His dream was to create a one-of-a-kind Alaskan lodge that visitors from all over the world would come to experience. Unfortunately, Leon’s dream of finishing the project and operating it as a popular igloo-shaped hotel never came to fruition mainly due to code violations and structural issues. The cost of updating the property to become structurally sound proved to be too high and he abandoned it. 



When we checked into the Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge we heard the lodge boasts incredible views of Denali, also known as “The Great One,” in the native Athabascan language.  In fact, a view of the mountain was supposed to be framed by this wooden arch. As you can see the sky instead was filled with heavy clouds.  



There were many informational signs around the lodge's property, and I thought this sign answered succinctly the question as to why there are two names for the same mountain--both Mt. Denali and Mt. McKinley.




There were some interesting facts about glaciers on Mt. Denali and in all of Alaska.




I was impressed by all the beautiful flowers around the lodge buildings.  There were also outdoor fire pit seating areas and hot tubs, but again, the weather was not cooperating.  There is also a treehouse on the property with activities, but we chose to do a different evening activity instead.



We went to the main lodge and sat for a while on the large deck overlooking the mountain range, hoping Denali would peek through the cloud cover. If you click on the photo above to enlarge it you can see on the placard where Denali would be located.




We were among quite a few visitors peering on to the horizon...



hoping to see The Great One. 

I tried zooming in with my telescopic lens.....



....but look and wait as we might, Denali never graced us with a full appearance.



When it started to rain we left the deck for cover and observed a rainbow in the sky!


We warmed up for a while by a fireplace and then had a delicious dinner at the lodge's North Fork Restaurant.  We enjoyed shrimp cocktail, mini crab cakes, crab-stuffed halibut, Alaska King Crab and King Salmon.


After dinner, we went to Mt Mckinley's Princess Wilderness Lodge's Hudson Theater.



The theater is named after Cliff Hudson, longtime and heroic Alaska bush pilot.  Much of travel for Alaska residents involves airplane travel. The early bush pilots of Alaska brought supplies to remote villages and encampments, as there were few or no roads connecting communities. They also ferried people and goods in and out of the wilderness. Bush pilots played a key role in the development of the Alaska Territory, even after it became a state in 1959, and are still in demand now.



One of the planes used by Cliff  Hudson was on display outside the theater--a Luscombe Silvaire. 

We saw a film called Photosymphony, a 45-minute compilation of the Alaska Aurora Borealis that is set to classical music.   Since the peak season to witness the Alaska Northern Lights is between September and April, and our visit was in June, we thought this would be the best way to experience the magic of seeing the Northern Lights. 




We also saw a fascinating talk and slide presentation about Kahiltna Base Camp, a glacier where the mountain climbers fly in to and begin their descent up Mt. Denali.  

After seeing the many photos in the presentation I finally felt as if I had seen the mountain!

The next day we would be leaving the lodge and taking a bus ride to the very colorful village of Talkeetna, Alaska, where we would be boarding the train to Anchorage.  More on my next post!


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I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link Party, Blogging GrandmothersHearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog HopGood Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Photo Tunes, Happiness Is HomemadeSomething Old Is NewOur World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesdays With A TwistWordless Wednesday on a TuesdaySay Cheese!,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday, Your Whims WednesdayWorldless Wednesday at Sky GirlWednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things Thursday,Thankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and HomeThursday Favorite Things, , Friendship FridaysFriday Features Linky PartyFriday Photo JournalSkywatch Friday, Pink SaturdaySaturday Critters
Over the MoonHappiness Is HomemadeGrammys Grid-Month Long Linky Party

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