Anchorage Part 1

Alaska started out as a trip solely to earn a couple thousand airline miles for a good price. We planned to stay only a day in order to avoid taking time off work. Our main destination was downtown Anchorage. Our original plan was to go in September, but the rates changed, and we opted for October instead. We left Friday in the late afternoon and headed for Alaska. We got in just around 6pm, the Airport was nice, clean and modern feeling, but with many elements that made it feel like you were in Alaska. For the first time in my life, there was absolutely no line for a rental car. It turns out tourist season ends around September 30th. I'm not a huge fan of crowds, so that was a welcome discovery. 

The drive in to downtown was fairly quick, and the weather was decent. We had checked and expected highs around the mid 40's which turned out to be just about right. We decided to stay at the Hilton Anchorage due to it's location in downtown. There were several other hotels that had better rates, but being able to walk around was worth the difference. We headed out for some sort of meal, the time change from the east coast led to a second dinner. There are number of resturants in downtown Anchorage, we walked a bit and settled on Glacier Brewhouse. Nothing to write home about, it seemed quite popular with the locals though. 

Our first day we decided to head out and do some hiking. Still partially on east coast time, we got an early start and were out of the hotel by 7am. There were a few destinations we considered, and we ended up choosing Flattop which was just south of the city about a half an hour. The weather wasn't entirely cooperating, and it was drizzling and chilly. I had a minor coat malfunction, but luckily my travel buddy came prepared and lent me a spare. I would highly recommend planning for a variety of temperatures, even in October!

Flattop is located in Chugach State Park. Despite it being only 8am, 40 degrees and drizzling, there were a number of other hikers there when we arrived. There was a small parking fee, but the automated kiosk took credit cards, which is always a nice touch. The hike has two sections, a moderate to easy level loop and a more difficult leg to acsend the mountain. We opted for the Blueberry Hill loop, which was about 2 miles. The clouds were too low, but the pictures from the clearer days show great views the Anchorage area. The hike took about an hour and a half so we started to look for our next activity. 

We considered heading to the Zoo, but opted to drive down the Seward Highway to Girdwood fot the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center instead. Why see Zoo animals when you can see the native ones? The center is a non-profit organization that is working to preserve the native wildlife, and educate visitors. Since we had not managed to see any Moose thus far, we figured it was worth it to check the place out.

The center was listed as being at "mile 79" which Google Maps seemed to have some trouble with (the map from this site is in the wrong spot too). It's actually located about 20 minutes past Girdwood, at the tip of Turnagain Arm. The drive down was very picturesque. The leaves were starting to change and the Ash trees were all bright yellow.

There is an entrance fee, but as with most non-profits the proceeds go towards helping the animals. The park itself is down a dirt road and you can either drive through the park, or park and walk. It was raining still so we mostly drove, stopped every so often to get a closer look. The park has a colection of Bears, Moose, Coyotes, a Bald Eagle, Elk, Musk Oxen, Wood Bison, Sitka Black-tailed Dee, Caribou a pair of Lynx and a Porcupine named Snickers. The park was building a new B.E.A.R.S center when we were there which looks like it will give you a much better view of the animals. Overall the park was interesting, and worth the trek down, although it was off-season so they were busy working on various projects. The place definately seems like they are making some good progress with several ambitious new projects. 

We wrapped up at the park and decided to head back to Girdwood to plan our next step. 

Continue Reading: Jack Sprat at Girdwood, AK