In what may have been the world’s quickest visit to Alaska, I abruptly find myself back home. It was planned this way – working in corporate America, I have to budget my meager time off wisely. I must say though, after such a short trip my body is not quite sure what time it is. The wall clock says it’s bedtime, my computer clock (still set on Alaska time) says it’s dinner time, and I think my body is somewhere in between.
Sunday’s plan was to point the car south down the Seward Highway and explore. (If the weather crapped out, the backup plan was to go watch some dog sled races!) The Seward (pronounced “Soo-ard”) is one of only two roads leading out of Anchorage. It takes you south along the Cook Inlet (home of the worlds strongest tides) onto the Kenai Peninsula (pronounced “keen-eye”) and eventually branches off to the towns of Seward, Homer, Kenai, Soldotna, and others. It’s a beautiful drive, but a potentially treacherous one as avalanches are a common occurrence along the road. During my drive I saw the remnants of several avalanches, a couple of which looked severe enough that they may have at some point covered the road.
My first stop was the Alyeska ski resort. I’m not a skiier myself, but the setting was amazingly beautiful and an airplane mechanic at Lake Hood told me I could find some amazing soup at their restuaurant. After the resort, I wandered around the area, following signs to the Girdwood airport which advertised helicopter flightseeing tours. It’s really not much of an airport – since everything is snow-covered, you could drive right past it and completely miss the place save for a couple of Piper SuperCubs practicing their landings – one plane on wheels, the other on skis.
On down the highway I found my way to Portage Glacier – or at least a frozen lake (Portage Lake) that you could walk out upon to take some pictures of the glacier. The visitor center was closed for the winter, and I didn’t have any maps of the area, so at the time I really wasn’t sure exactly where I was going. There was a ranger station just up the road, and I asked myself a couple of times if I should shop there. In the end it didn’t really matter – the splendor of the place – as pure, clean, and unmolested a place I’ve ever been was enough. I’ll let the pictures do the talking when I put them up.. words fail me.
Along the way I stopped at every little tourist trap I could find – out of curiosity more than anything. Honestly, I was still searching for that cup of soup, and by the time I finally found a restaurant that looked promising I needed to head back to Anchorage (not wanting to be out on the avalanche-prone Seward Highway after dark). There was also an interesting looking nature boardwalk on the way back… it too was closed, though someone had crashed through the snowplow berm in front of it with their pickup truck to make a path.
Dinner was at a place in downtown Anchorage called Humpy’s – highly recommended to me for their Halibut Burger, which was excellent. I really wanted to try wild Alaska salmon. I really don’t like seafood, but I figured that since I was in Alaska, I might as well try… you just can’t get seafood like this in Kentucky! But alas, the Halibut won out – for a couple of reasons (one being the other items it was served with and the fact I’d be spending the next few hours on an airplane. Good of me to think of my fellow passengers.) And I finally got my soup – beer cheese and broccoli. Yum…
Frustratingly, Anchorage shuts down early on Sunday nights. In retrospect it shouldn’t be surprising at all. I’ve read that Alaska is the least religious state in the US, so a part of me had hoped businesses would keep the same hours all week long. Not so. I think I drove around for an hour trying to find an open coffee shop. Breaking my “no chain restaurants when I travel” rule, I finally spotted a Barnes & Noble (open ’til 11!), grabbed a cup of coffee, studied various maps of Alaska, end eventually launched into a book about Alaskan bush pilots until it was time to head back to the airport for the 1:30am Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. I could have spent a forture there. In Kentucky, I was frustrated at how little information the book stores had about Alaska. The Anchorage B&N has an entire Alaska ROOM, stacked floor to ceiling with books and maps.
I do have pictures – bunches of them. I’ll try to put them up soon. But tomorrow it’s’ back to the grind. Corporate America calls. Ugh.