Sunday, July 26, 2015

Alaska week 2

Oops, it took a little while (I’m a great procrastinator when it come to writing), but the second week of our Alaska trip was a whole different Alaska experience.  This week was more about wildlife, both up close and far away.  When we disembarked the ship, we took a bus from Seward to Anchorage.  It was a beautiful route up the Kenai Peninsula and the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.  We made one stop at a wildlife conservation center where we could see some local animals up close.  Then we went on to the Anchorage airport where we picked up our rental car for the week.  We drove around Anchorage a little, out to Earthquake Park, an area on the inlet that had been at the epicenter of the devastating 1964 earthquake.  It is nicely wooded, but we didn’t walk around for too long before the mosquitoes found us.
After spending the night in Anchorage, we headed up to Denali.  We got rained on hard for a short while, but the rest of the drive was very nice.  Although you are surrounded by mountains, the drive is not mountainous, nor are you ever at a very high altitude.  We stopped at a lookout to see Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, but it was mostly cloudy.  The mountain has its own weather system that makes it hard to see, in fact it is only visible about 30% of the time.  At the end of the four or five hour drive, we checked in to our motel just past the national park.  The next day we went in Denali National Park.  Cars are only allowed 15 miles into the park, so we took one of the busses that take you in farther.  We did the seven hour tour that goes 53 miles in.  That may seem like a long time for a little over 100 mile round trip, but that’s because you make frequent stops to observe the wildlife along the way.  Although most of it is at a distance, it was really cool to see animals in their natural habitat.  We saw several mama bears with their cubs, moose, elk, Dall sheep, and a big red fox that cut right in front of the bus.  The binoculars we’d bought came in very handy, but it was on this part of the trip that I wished I’d bought a camera with a longer telephoto lens.  I usually don’t like the bulk of a big camera, but I really couldn’t get the shots I wanted with a smaller one.
The next day we drove up to Fairbanks.  There we went to an excellent auto museum (Chuck’s hobby) that had many cars from the early days of automobile development.  It was one of the best car museums we’ve been to.  We also went to Pioneer Park that had a nice mix of old buildings and museums.  Other than that, Fairbanks isn’t exactly the nicest city we’ve visited; kind of old and run down.
On our last day at Denali we went back into the park and visited the sled dog kennels.  They are beautiful dogs that are used in winter for the park patrols.  We also managed to join the 30% club – that’s the percentage of people that actually get a good view of Mt. McKinley.  Then we headed back to Anchorage.  We got stopped for road repair along the way, and the woman holding the “stop” sign recommended to us that we visit the town of Talkeetna, a short side trip along the way.  It is a cute town of shops and restaurants.  As we almost got back to “civilization”, the highway suddenly stopped up.  We thought there must be an accident, but it turned out to be a couple large moose crossing the highway.  The next day in Anchorage we did some souvenir shopping and then went to the Alaska Zoo.  They have many animals there that are not in other zoos because they need the colder climate.  We finished up the week with dinner (food and restaurants are expensive in Alaska), and flew home the next morning.

Musk Ox

Bears at wildlife center


caribou in the wild

the vast expanses of Alaska are awesome

bear with cub in the wild

at car museum

Fairbanks pioneer park

Denali sled dogs

Mount McKinley

Moose crossing highway