Saturday, May 30, 2015

Friday, May 22rd Anchorage

A surprising early wake up. It's easy when the sun is already up. Luckily we are discovering that anchorage does not wake up with the sun. We pulled out our maps and, with the help of some lovely ladies at the visitor center, charted a route. There was much map passing and circling of attractions and then we were on our way.
   I should mention it was debatable if I would join the family's departure because on Kodiak island there was a crab festival and a marathon! While intriguing... To get to this island that was relatively close, One would have to fly, which is extremely expensive last minute, but allows you to make your own schedule. Otherwise there is a nine hour ferry ride that goes back and forth every few days between the island and mainland. Hmm fine if there is time but not so helpful when a brief couple weeks is all you have to explore a state twice the size of Texas. Something to keep in perspective when googling where to go and pinning points of interest. So I opted for the Trent/Waldron glacier half marathon in Anchorage tomorrow! This state isn't going anywhere. Coming back is more then an option. It's probable.

We ate at the Snow City Cafe. Though the line was long, you can call ahead or order take out. The menu offers varieties of breakfast and lunch options that are healthy and flavorful. It also came highly recommended from the visitors center.
Following the fuel up we hit the road south about an hour to Portage to see the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center ( AWCC). We turned off the highway and walked around the gravel road past the animals fenced in fields. The animals that end up here have been rescued from the wild where being too young or too injured would prevent them from surviving on their own. The goal of the AWCC is to rehabilitate them, however some are rescued so young thing they cannot learn the skills needed to ever be released. The facility was beautiful! Yes there were fences, the wire kind, Some with a a few lines of electric fencing layered on too. These were not unhappy creatures; the animals had food, water, companionship, somewhere for shade, and some grass to nibble on.

We saw Caribou with their tall spindly antlers, which had begun growing this spring, since they shed them each season. The older the caribou, the bigger their rack will initially grow each year.
There was a porcupine, curled up in the shade with his quills making him feel safe and comfortable. Turns out, the quills do not eject from them to a potential threat! Their quills are just very loose and when they are frightened, the spines bristle, making predators rather piqued if too close!

    The black and brown bears had been rescued when they were a small 3-5 pounds ( depending on which bear ). Every now and then, one would be separated from a mother and found by hunters, workmen and taken here. The ones I read on will never be able to live in the wild though. They were cool to see up close with their slow and methodical mannerisms, but with an underlying bulk strength and speed.
    Lydia and my favorites were the moose! Their long legs are perfect for wading through the snow, but makes them look less graceful and more spindly, and their shoulders are set higher than their lower hindquarters. The most adored over feature was their long sloped noses!They look less like the horses or deer noses we are familiar with and perhaps echo what I believe a camel would sport. Their noses would waffle a little when finding a branch and somehow this large cumbersome looking creature is able to delicately strip the smallest twig of its coveted bark, without breaking or consuming the wood.
Well worth it to see these animals up close despite the fences.

Returning to anchorage we stopped at Girdwood to check out the Crow Creek Mine.  One could tour the remnants of the mine, but we preferred a short hike to a cheesy overpriced mine. This path we strolled on is part of the historical Iditarod trail. It was beautiful in the deep woods where trees crowded in close and only left in a dappling of sun onto the dirt path. We walked down to where the path intersects with a gorge, which is crossable by a handtram. One gets into a cage that is suspended from a cable, it is enclosed to a chair-rail height, and open above that. through the middle is a rope that you haul yourself across to the other side. If someone on either side is nice, or in a hurry to get the tram to their side so they can cross, they might lend a hand! we zipped right along, which is great because there is a breath taking drop with the cliffs plummeting down to a rushing river. One of the snowy peak overlooks the gully and trees crowd right up to the edge. It's hard to take it all in because your hauling hand over hand quick as can be. Partially because one doesnt want to slack while a stranger offers a hand, also because the tram does sway a little and bounce in the wind. (not a place to linger without the possibility of stroking out).
Driving back into anchorage was absolutely lovely. The Chugach mountains followed along opposite the bay as the road wound along the opposite cliff The road parallels the train tracks that run a little lower along the water bank. The bay has one of the largest water fluctuations in the world. When the tide is out, the bay's muddy floor is exposed. Due to the dry air, the top layer dries rapidly. This gives the impression that the mudflat is safe to walk on.  A local told us that the signs posted telling to beware of the flats are there for a reason, it is certainly not okay! Once you crunch through the hardened top layer the mud underneath is like concrete, trapping someone. There was an instance where someone was stuck and the fire department was on the shore, but could not get to the stuck person before the tide came in. Yeeeesh. Yikes.
Back in anchorage stayed at the Arctic Fox Bed and Breakfast. But with it's big windows and lovely soft beds it was very welcoming. We stayed in one that included a kitchen, and we cooked in fresh salmon, before curling up and sleeping.High rating at this place. Of course after one beer I was asleep before the sun set.
oh wait...the sun doesnt go down until 11:30! slept like a baby without drawing a curtain.


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