Archive for July, 2014

ANCHORAGE July 28 – Our last day

Started off our last day with a geocache in the visitors center. We were quite taken with the building as it had a green roof, and I don’t mean it was simply painted green. It had a meadow growing on it. And it was a log cabin. It couldn’t have gotten much more adorable if it had tried.

While inside I spent a lot of time pondering this visual lowdown on the sun and temperature situation this far North. It wasn’t so much the temperatures, but the lack of daylight that held me spellbound.

We muddled around doing a little more caching (obviously) and some souvenir shopping. Or rather scoping out the souvenir shops for later. I didn’t want to schlepp any more around for any longer than I had to.

We met up with Renee for lunch and a local’s tour of Anchorage. It was super cool to see her! It has been ages and ages! So as sad as I was that I missed the Ferret Symposium in Anchorage, I think this makes up for part of it!

Renee took us to Humpy’s for lunch – oh man, any time I can choose which fresh caught delicious fish with which to have my fish & chips made I am in heaven. Also beer.

So the usual. YUM-tastic! I love eating at local, local places and Arissa and I would never have found this place without Renee!

And she introduced us to Star, the reindeer mascot of Anchorage who leads the parades. Seriously.

Also, which was a question that would have nagged me for a while, she explained the bizarre (to me) long, thin park that runs downtown. I mean like super thin. Well, it’s the old airstrip. Ahhhh.

From there we went up into the mountains for a bird’s eye view of Anchorage. And that was such a weird thing to me. It’s so small. And there aren’t a lot of tall buildings. It was quite interesting to take it all in from above. Quite cool. Although on the other hand, despite being in the wilderness, no damn moose sightings. None. Damn moose.

After bidding Renee fairwell, we went to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center which was kinda a National Park and kinda a place full of Alaskan information.

It had stuffed critters – including the ROCK CHICKEN! And handouts, oh the glorious handouts that were available. It was a lot to process.

We lucked out and they were having a discussion / film about the Anchorage Earthquake so we ducked in to learn about that. DAMN. That pretty much sums it up. DAMN. Our timing was super good because following the film/discussion we hooked up with a walking tour by Ranger Roger (seriously) about the earthquake. He had this huge portfolio of photos from immediately after the quake and then we would walk to the same spot and see what it looked like now. Really, very cool.

The tour was winding down about the time it started to rain. So we did the prerequisite last minute gift purchases and then made a dash for our last food stop in Alaska. We ducked into the Glacier Brewhouse and settled in for a good meal. And beer. There’s always beer. And a shirt and sweatshirt.

Farewell Alaska, it was wonderful, splendid, spectacular and amazing! (Although we never did see a damn moose.) But now we must go to the airport and leave for home.

July 29 post script

We flew out of Anchorage super late at night.  That should have put us in Pittsburgh around 9:00 am-ish which meant home with plenty of time to relax and sleep and try to get ourselves ready for work the next day. HOWEVER things went haywire in Chicago. We were on the plane. Then had to get off the plane. Then back on. Then there was some thing they were fixing. But maybe it had been fixed. But the maintenance guys hadn’t filled out the right form or stamped the book or what-the-hell-ever it was that they were supposed to do.

All we really wanted was to be home. Or at least on the ground in Pittsburgh.

And we were eventually, just 3 hours behind schedule.  Vacation went out with a bang, I suppose.

chris on July 28th 2014 in Geocaching, Travel

DENALI STATE PARK to ANCHORAGE July 27

We figured we’d try our luck seeing Denali at sunrise, since that’s when (rumor had it) you had the best chance. So 4:55 am the alarm went off. We staggered outside in jammies and sure enough, there was the mountain! So yeah, the ridiculous waking up was worth it. Especially since we could go back to bed 10 minutes later. I won’t bore you with those pictures, because later on, Denali was in full view.

Had some time to kill before our bus took us to Anchorage for the last leg of the trip. The natural spot to hang out and wait was the main lodge – you know, where the wifi was almost dependable. We walk out of our room and Arissa shouts, “SHE’S OUT! DENALI IS ALL OUT!” We could see the entire mountain from base to the top of the south peak! It was amazing, and not in the tired, overused meaning! I had goosebumps. Wow. What a send off!  (Check out the gallery at the bottom for the tons of pictures. It’s difficult to explain how amazing it was to suddenly see a mountain so enormous appear, seemingly out of nowhere.)

Sadly, it was time to climb on the bus and head to out. We were going back to Anchorage which meant vacation was nearly done.

On the way, we stopped here for ICE CREAM and finally got an up close view of a moose. It’s about damn time.

Next door was this place…complete with old beat up Toyota station wagon. It was closed and I felt the poorer for not having been able to go in and take a look at what wondrous “and stuff” I might have been able to procure.

Anchorage was a lot smaller than I expected. I don’t really know what I was thinking. It was also crazy warm. So crazy warm I was about ready to buy some scissors so I could cut my jeans off into shorts since our rooms weren’t ready. Yeah, I was so hot I was gonna go down the jorts road.

We headed down to try to find the Anchorage Brewing Co. (717 W. 3rd Ave, Chad told me confidently). First we stopped at Hard Rock Café so Arissa could get a pin for her collection. It was fairly close to the address for Anchorage Brewing Co. I looked on the map, nothing by that name was listed. However, our handy dandy handout (complete with map) did show a place called Sleeping Lady Brewing Co. (that’s the name of a mountain, by the way).

So that’s where we ended up. We were able to score a table on the deck and enjoy the unofficial air show (courtesy of JBEAR).

Sunshine, delicious food, beer, air show…the winding down of this vacation is barely a winding down.

But wait! There’s more! After all that fun in the sun, we headed out for a nice dinner and along the way, we saw a moose!

Actually, it was the same moose we’d seen earlier in the day. I guess it really liked this one store in downtown.

Anchorage, you sure know how to show us a good time!

Check out the gallery below. It’s pretty awesome.

chris on July 27th 2014 in Travel

DENALI STATE PARK July 26

It was around 7 am. I had just started to wake up when I was startled upright by the phone. MOUNTAIN CALL! DENALI IS VISIBLE!!!! Jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick! Grabbed the camera and shuffled out the door and @#$%#$^^&$%^& if the mountain wasn’t already obscured by clouds.

So at this point I still didn’t understand WHERE I was supposed to see the mountain when it finally did come out. I even consulted this very fine informational panel.

Around 11 am Denali peeked out. OK, so now at least I know what the hell I’m supposed to be looking for and it was WAY higher up on the horizon – the peak I mean – than I’d thought.

We decided to stay on property and see if we could spy any moose. We’d heard plenty of folks saying they’d seen moose here. And then we saw this sign. Even though the trail was now open, we had high hopes for a moose sighting. Especially since no other idiots were out on the trails today. Sadly, no moose.

So we did the trails. Because a vacation isn’t a vacation without forced marching nearly every day. Arissa probably was unaware of this rule when I signed up for this trip. Although to be honest, at least she didn’t think I was purposely trying to kill her like in Talkeetna on the Nature Trail (yes, Arissa, it was too a legitimate nature trail in Talkeetna; there was a sign!).

 

Also, there are 4 caches here, so we had stuff to do.  And no, I did not carve my name in the rail. It is just happy coincidence that I have such a common name. One of the caches led us to a (very obviously) man made stream that ran under a bridge. There was even a waterfall flowing down from this huge sculpture. As we were standing on the bridge, waiting for a good opportunity to search for a cache, a couple ambled by. The woman said, “Do you think there are fish in there?” Lady, it’s not a real stream. It doesn’t go anywhere and by the way, it’s not super deep.

All over the property we saw warnings about DO NOT APPROACH MOOSE. Do you know what we saw? We saw three ravens. Three stinkin’ ravens. Honest to God, Alaskan animals apparently hate us. I can’t imagine why.

If I hear one more person say how many moose they’ve seen I’m going to freak out. We were both pretty worn out since this vacationing is hard work. So we ambled over to the glorious fire pit. We settled in and watched as someone else dealt with the fire. Oh it was glorious. Just like my back yard, only far, far better (sorry, Chad). Even though we couldn’t see Denali, the scenery was amazing.

More pics of our foolishness in the gallery.

 

chris on July 26th 2014 in Travel

DENALI STATE PARK July 25

I’m going to own up and say out right, I was quite pissy to only have one full day at Denali NP and I could not for the life of me figure out why we had to go to Denali State Park and get stuck there when apparently – according to the map. So you may imagine my general ‘death to all things’ mood as we tried to navigate the chaos of getting on our bus.

Jesus people, read your damn hand out and stop freakin’ pushing me out of your way. I do not care that you are elderly. You don’t get to be rude because you are old. Also, we had to continue to try to avoid Mr. & Mrs. Grumpy McGumperson as they were also on our bus. Damn. So we passed this place Wal*Mike’s, which believe it or not, Wal*Mart actually gave an official store number. So yeah, Alaska is pretty hilarious; Portland, you’ve got nothing on this state!

So we arrive at the next lodge, which by the way is 50 miles from Talkeetna. Which is to say, pretty much in the middle of nothing. And I realized that Alaska is a big state, but really I could not figure out why a lodge had been built here. Especially since they told us that if we wanted to go to Talkeetna, we had to take a bus and it was $10 and it was blah, blah, blah – in other words, from what we could tell Talkeetna was not worth the hour and a half bus ride.

We couldn’t find much else to do so we decided to head to Talkeetna anyway, because as my friends & family know, I don’t sit still very well and I needed something to do. It was GREAT! Small, very small, but so much good stuff crammed into a small town, food, a brewery, geocaches, cool little shops filled with locally made neat stuff!

We feasted,we shopped, I enjoyed Alaskan beers. Arissa had wine. It worked.

And we may or may not have walked across an active runway while geocaching. Hmmm, perhaps I should have used the other map, not the one on my phone.

You know the one they handed out to us. Or maybe, just maybe, the folks in charge of the walking path may have wanted to put an “Active Runway, Do Not Cross” sign where the trail meets the runway. Which, in our defense, looked like a field (which I suppose technically it was). There was one on the other side of the runway, near the road. Not real helpful. Perhaps this should have been a clue. Or maybe the plane we saw inexplicably taking off through the trees. Ah, yes. Now it all made sense.

When we returned to our lodge I figured why it was built in the middle of nowhere Alaska. Because it had a perfect view shed of Denali when the mountain deigned to peek out from the clouds. Not that we’d seen it.

Take a look at the full gallery. Neat stuff therein

 

chris on July 25th 2014 in Travel