Sunday, July 5, 2009

24-2009 Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska
Kenai Peninsula

I thought I’d start out by giving a brief description of costs for the past couple of months, for those who may be considering a journey to Alaska. The month of May was spent in Idaho, Montana and Alberta. The Month Of June was spent in Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska.

May: Camping, monthly: $538.15, Daily: $17.94. Diesel Fuel: $353.46 Misc. Expenses: $887.93 (purchased a small generator)

June: Camping, Monthly: $686.26, Daily: $22.88. Diesel Fuel: $860.95 Misc. Expenses: $491.58

As you can see the diesel fuel and Misc. expenses can jump wildly. Fuel was expected to be high, especially with traveling much further distances while in Canada and along the Alaskan highway. The high Misc expense in May was due to my purchase of a small generator as I thought I would need it…. As it turns out, I didn’t… Oh well, I have additional backup power now. Campground prices in Canada are very consistent and around the $28c price range. U.S. prices fluctuate wildly and can be anywhere from a low of $18 to a high of $38+.

Touring: I decided to tour today and drove approx. 150 miles south to the Kenai Peninsula to the coastal town of Seward. It was a long day, but enjoyable. The drive started by going through Anchorage, south along the Cook Inlet. The road hugs the edge of the mountain ranges and the Cook Inlet. I must admit the enormity of the mountain ranges, many covered in glaciers like the Spencer Glacier and the Sargent and Harding Icefields was almost too much to take in. Each mountain range was bordered by the most beautiful lakes and marshes which the roadway traveled along. These mountains are once again heavily covered in thick green carpets of dark green spruce trees and grasses and making for an enormous Alpine setting to travel through.

There was some road construction which slowed me down and once again covered my truck in a light tan colored spray of mud and sand. I will have to wash it tomorrow. Or, I could try and fit in and look like a local. Seward is a small town that has some great tour boats that go the Kenai Fjords and such. I should note that I decided not to take the tours (usually all day tours) as I will be taking the ferry from Skagway to Prince Rupert later in the month and should see much along the inner passage in southern Alaska.

I just toured the town and decided to spend my time hiking up to the Exit Glacier. It’s just outside of Seward. Took the mile of easy hiking trails to the glacier and got lots of pictures of course. On the way down, I met up with a 78 year man and his wife (who was much younger). They had both been volunteers here 10 years earlier. Said they saw many changes in the glacier, one being that it is now much smaller. As I continued my way back towards the parking lot, there was a bit of commotion. A park ranger told me two black bears had just been spotted in the woods next to the trail. Since I wasn’t sure which direction to take and wanting to go back to the main entrance, I asked if he would accompany me part way down. As we started walking down the path we heard a rustling of leaves and branches. The Ranger and I looked over at the same time. And there they were, a Mama brown bear and her fairly large cub not more than 10 feet from where the Ranger and I were standing on the walkway.

I quickly joined a group of about 10 other hikers and a park volunteer standing at the paths intersection. The Ranger stayed near the bears, as the bears began wondering in the opposite direction away from us. One of the park personnel called on a walkie talkie and asked for backup. The volunteer casually asked a woman if she was able to get her shots of the bear. The paths were starting to get very congested with people coming down from the glacier and many more heading up towards it. I didn’t hear any of the Rangers or staff telling folks to stay out of the area. Families with kids and all didn‘t have a clue. It just appeared to be a very unsafe situation to me especially since both brown bears were in a heavily wooded area between two of the main trails

that eventually converged on each other. Meaning the bears would have to cross over one of the paths to get out of the area.

I continued on back to the main entrance and just shook my head that most everyone was so casual about being so close to two wild bears. Passing numerous groups heading towards the glacier and the two bears, none having been warned about the bears in the area.

Well, it was exciting and I’m glad I was able to get out of the area safely. Imagine, being 10 feet from a bear. Wonder what happened after I left the area. This may be a warning to others, that no one tells you what’s up ahead.

Comment: Alaskans appear to love their coffee and ice-cream. They tell me that Alaskans eat more ice-cream than any other state in the union. I see a lot of coffee drive throughs which also sell ice-cream. And they are second in the consumption of Spam. Hawaii being the first. Who Knew.

Comment: I’ve had some of the worst meals in Alaska, probably due to my choosing incorrectly on the menu. While in Seward I ate at The Apollo Restaurant. (Frommers food award) I ordered one of the first things on the menu, “A Taste of Alaska”. It contained salmon, haddock, scallop and prawn. All were fried, which should have been a clue. The salmon and haddock were so small, smaller than a pencil in width and about an inch in length. Heavily battered as well. It was like eating a poorly prepared appetizer at a fairly high price I might add. I’m sure the rest of their menu items were better, unfortunately, I made a really bad decision on that one.

A few thoughts on Anchorage. Anchorage is a nice size city. Of course I always have a problem with parking meters, so I’m not thrilled about having to use them. At least they have a few parking garages which make paying a bit easier. July is the city’s best month to enjoy the area as the weather is usually warm 65 - 70 and sunny. I timed it perfectly. Don’t ask me how. During the summer, the city plants and puts out hundreds if not thousands of hanging flower baskets. Very colorful and welcoming. I’m told that after the flowers come down in the fall they encourage downtown buildings and homes in the area to decorate with white lights and use them all winter long. Nice idea. Temps in the winter are usually around 20 degrees. Locals say if you travel 30 minutes outside of Anchorage, you’ll be in Alaska. Sourdough refers to Alaskans, since after one arrives here, they are sour after 2 years and out of dough. There are over 2,000 moose who call Anchorage home. They can be seen in and around the numerous wooded areas around town and can often be found wondering the streets later in the evening and early morning. Population approx. 277,000 which is 42% of Alaska’s state population.

4th of July. I drove about 40 miles out of town to a small community called Girdwood. They have the Girdwood Forest Festival over the 4th weekend. Lots of local Alaskan entertainment, craft booths and food. I missed the small parade, waiting in line to get a parking spot on the other end of town. Enjoyable to wonder the booths, get a bison burger and listen to a couple local groups. The first one played some really cool jazz. The next group that I liked played down home folk music. Nice to see families, the usual hippies who seem to come out of the woodwork for these events, tie dyed shirts and all, always adding that cool factor to any event. Home spun good fun. As I left in the afternoon, I picked up the music being played live on 88.9. Glad I left at that time. The group playing couldn’t remember the words to the songs and during breaks between the music, one could here their conversation quite clearly. The young lead singer, saying, gee I forgot the notes and couldn’t remember all the lyrics. No kidding. Kind of interesting to be listen in on what should have been private moments, coming across the air waves.

I’ll be in Anchorage for one more day then heading to Valdez Alaska. Still in awe that I’m doing this trip.

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