Time to move on! Our stay, once stretching out before us as three whole long months of opportunity has flown into and through us, settling somewhere in our minds as disjointed memories of camping trips, grueling hikes, road-trips, and syrupy beverages from countless colorful coffee shacks between Homer and Denali.
I often get time shock at the end of our stays looking at how quickly the time has gone. It's not because we've run out of time and missed out on doing what we planned. It's because we do so much and the time flies. I'm ready to go. The days are already getting shorter. It's raining a lot. We kayaked and dog sledded and took a ride on the Alaskan railroad. We saw waterfalls, glaciers, and moose. We saw a whale in Seward, drove as far south as Homer on the Kenai Peninsula and as far north as Denali National Park. We biked the Tony Knowles Trail and scrambled over loose scree to O'Malley Peak. We hiked to a remote lake and canoed in the rain. There is a lifetime of exploration here, but I'mready for the next thing. We've done a lot.
Here are some of the highlights:
Before living here, I could barely tell you the difference between an iceberg and a glacier. I knew glaciers were big chunks of ice that could be seen from a boat. Since we've lived here, we've hiked on or around three glaciers and seen dozens more from a distance. Like a river (they are rivers of ice), each has its own unique traits that change with the seasons. If you've seen one glacier you HAVEN'T seen them all. Some end in a large lake while others can be hiked. Some have worms. Some make noises. They fall apart. They fluctuate in size. They're receding and getting smaller each year. This description probably sounds painfully obvious to anyone that has been to a glacier, but I wasn't!
Alaska is a great place to drive just for the sake of driving. There are only two highways leaving the city: north and south. The northbound highway splits east and west about an hour north of Anchorage. These "highways" drop to a single-lane in each direction not far from the city and wind around mountains and through valleys offering some of the best views we've ever seen from the road. The highway south travels along the Turnagain Arm with dozens of stops for hikers and wildlife viewers. If you're lucky you'll see the bore tide. If you want to detour to a one-lane tunnel shared by trains and kept breathable by jet turbines, you can. If you want to hike miles to a self-operated hand-tram over a river, you can do that too!
Sounds obvious, but it's hard to appreciate this until you're actually here. I've been walking to work among the high-rise offices and watched a moose trot down the street across a four lane one-way minutes before the light changed and the traffic roared by. We saw a whale spouting from downtown Seward. We've seen a dozen moose, sea lions, sea otter, and a mountains goat. I was impressed with how nature and construction mixed in Charleston, but in Anchorage there is more of a feeling of nature pressing in on the city as large animals wander through and the winter weather competes with everyone's best attempts to maintain the roads and paint on their houses and cars.
The floor wobbled as if a big truck was passing close by. The plants shook as if being blown. It was like being on a large boat when movement is hard to detect but something doesn't feel quite right. Earthquake! Check that off my bucket list.
Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass
Most of Alaska's roads are built to avoid the mountains. Hatcher Pass is an exception. The trip to Hatcher pass is a beautiful drive that ends at a small lodge and an old mine. The mine has been maintained in preserved ruin with pictures and information about it's glory days. Trails lead away from the mine to mountain lakes and better views of abandoned mine buildings and cable car stations that dot the cliffs in the distance.
Leaving the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage, there is a jagged peak on the mountain range that's higher than all the rest and stays in views on the east bound road away from the airport-- O'Malley Peak. "Let's climb that one!" Lindsay said half joking during our first week in Anchorage. Quite the hike by our standards, but we finished it and hung out on the small summit before getting chased down by incoming rain and surfing hundreds of feet on loose scree. One of my favorite hike of our stay.
Musk Ox Farm
Talkeetna (Town with a cat for a mayor)
Winners Creek and Hand Tram
Spencer Glacier Alaskan Railroad Train
Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center
Beartooth Theater and Pizza/Brewery