The complete travelogue
of our trip
North to Alaska
Part 2 of 3
Visiting Anchorage and the surrounding areas for 1 week
Picking up where we left off at the end of Part 1. Welcome to Alaska!
For those of you just joining us, we are on Day 9 of our journey back to Alaska to see where we lived from 1989-1996, and where Spencer was born in 1990. We started driving on July 1st at our home in Mascoutah, Illinois, and have come just over 4,000 miles.
This 3-foot-high obelisk marks the US/Canada border.
Canada is to the left, and Alaska is to the right, just over the line.
Looking down the clearing that marks the border between Alaska and Canada.
No fence - just a million-gazillion mosquitoes guarding the homeland.
A few miles north of the border, we reach the U.S. Customs station.
Well, they let us back in the U.S., so we continued on 100 miles to Tok, Alaska,
where we stayed at Young's Motel. Really nice place, and a great restaurant next door.
Dad hard at work trying to update the web page in the hotel with slow internet connections.
My elbow is recovering well from surgery a few weeks ago.
Here's the perfect ride to Alaska! Rugged, good power, comfortable, and easy on gas.
I guess the bike wouldn't be bad, either.
I don't think we will be filling up the van at the Texaco station today. Yikes!
Considering the population of Tok is 1,250 people, I don't think they had a large fire department to handle the fire.
After our great supper, we had a good night's sleep and were anxious to get to Anchorage tomorrow.
How much has changed since we left there 11 years ago? We'll find out.
Day 10 : Tuesday July 10th
Tok, Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska
Today 330 miles: Trip total 4,564 miles
The final leg of our trip! Starting out from Tok, it was very overcast.
We saw our first steady rain of the trip. Clouds obscured the high mountains.
We saw our first moose of the trip about 30 minutes out of Tok.
Spencer lining up the perfect shot.
At the next stop, Spencer was chasing me away from his creative photography session.
Fireweed and the Matanuska River - a great combination for photos.
See! Fireweed is a very common flower in Alaska.
It is also one of the first plants to grow after a forest fire.
We'll see a lot more fireweed on our return trip through Dawson City, Yukon in a week.
This roadside sign tells of the efforts to build and maintain telegraph lines in the brutal environment.
As we drive west on the Glenn Highway, we started seeing these curved poles along the road.
They are guides for the snowplows when the snow is so deep the road can't be found.
Memories! Beth and I stayed here in Glennallen on our way up to Alaska back in 1989.
This painting in the lodge shows Alaska humor.
Apparently, this truck driver had some unwanted company at a roadside bathroom stop.
West of Glennallen, there were many magnificent vistas.
I think Spencer was enjoying the scenery, too.
About 114 miles to go to Anchorage. This is a pretty view of Lion Head dome,
the oddly-shaped rock ahead and slightly to the right.
I got a better picture on our way home, which you will see later.
Matanuska Glacier (background) and Matanuska River (foreground), about 100 miles from Anchorage.
18,000 years ago, this glacier extended to Palmer, about 60 miles downstream.
Global warming started long before humans inhabited the area.
Garcia's Mexicana Cantina in Eagle River, Alaska. One of our favorite restaurants!
Spencer remembered the school bus on the wall and wanted to come back. Great food!!
Back on familiar ground at Elmendorf AFB, our home from 1989-1996.
(See next photo for flashback to 1995)
Same family photo back in 1995.
This is the church on base where Spencer was baptized in 1990.
(Left - with Chaplain Andrews / Right - 2007)
Our old home. We actually lived in these quarters just the last year (1995-1996)
after they started renovating our first home just down the street.
I'm glad we didn't make this trip up here in the winter. (1995)
Down the street was our first home in Alaska.
We lived in the 3rd apartment from 1989-1995. This was Spencer's first home.
Just across the street is the playground where Spencer and his friends enjoyed many sunny days.
(See next photos)
Flashback to 1995 in the playground with Spencer.
Spencer is checking out the "Giant Sledding Hill".
We used to come here a lot in the winter when he was young.
He said it didn't look as big as he remembered. (See next photo below)
Dad and Spencer on the "Giant Sledding Hill" around 1993.
Anchorage and surrounding areas.
800 more miles of driving - Trip total 5,364 miles
Family photo by the base totem pole.
After 10 days in the van, we needed to walk. We headed downtown to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail,
a series of bike/walking paths that criss-cross the city of Anchorage.
Spencer used to ride his bike on these trails, and remembered the tunnels with their echoes.
Then and Now (Left - 1991 / Right - 2007)
Looking out over the water at Sleeping Lady from the shoreline in Anchorage.
Sleeping Lady is a low mountain (just over my left shoulder)
that legend says is a sleeping princess waiting for her warrior husband to come home.
Another Then and Now (Left - circa 1994 / Right - 2007)
Later, we stopped at Subway and took a picnic lunch up to Flattop overlook above Anchorage.
The city is visible to the left and Sleeping Lady mountain is visible in the far distance .
This was once one of our favorite places to hike and picnic when we lived here.
(Circa 1994) Another one of our favorite hangouts was the Alaska Zoo,
so we decided to visit and see our old friends.
The Polar Bears were always a favorite stop at the zoo.
Musk ox. You can buy clothing made from its wool.
It's supposed to be very warm.
And another Then and Now (Left - 2007 / Right Circa 1994)
Spencer and the porcupine at the zoo.
Beth showing the size of a dahlia(?).
With the large amount of sunlight in the summer, plants and flowers grow large!
On Wednesday night, we decided to camp in the Fam Camp on Elmendorf AFB.
We picked a nice, quiet remote spot at the edge of the woods.
We saw this sign posted at the campground.
Spencer said, "Yeah, right!"
The next morning, we found out the sign was right!
Spencer's tent had claw marks on the top.
His reply - "I didn't hear a thing."
Close-up of the claw mark on Spencer's tent.
By the way, Beth said we would be sleeping in rooms from now on.
Even the Huskies drive SUVs in Anchorage.
One day, we headed north to Talkeetna and the Denali National Park area.
This sign just outside of Anchorage tells how many moose
have been killed on this stretch of highway just this year. (261 so far)
Talkeetna is a tiny town of about 100 located about 100 miles north of Anchorage.
This is the popular starting point for climbers heading to Denali (Mt McKinley).
Spencer getting kissed by a Talkeetna moose.
(It's not his first time - see next photo)
Spencer getting kissed by the Talkeetna moose back in 1994.
Walking around in downtown Talkeetna.
Family photo at the Denali viewing area - Circa 1995
Family photo by Denali viewing area - 2007.
Too bad clouds obscured the highest peaks.
Denali (to the left, behind the dark ridges) was only partially visible today.
To give an idea of scale, the first mountains are still about 20-25 miles away.
Another family photo at a different viewpoint.
After all of that exploring, we were hungry!
We had to stop at Lucky Wishbone, another favorite chicken place of ours.
What's for dinner?
We stayed 3 nights at lodging on Fort Richardson, the Army base that is connected to Elmendorf AFB.
It's about 1/3 the cost of a hotel downtown, and it's clean and safe.
Ft Richardson lodging was very nice.
Ft Richardson lodging. Nice to have a kitchen and laundry.
One day, we headed south along Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. The weather was gloomy.
The weather cleared briefly as we entered the Kenai Peninsula.
(Left - Spencer up on the sign around 1994 / Right 2007)
Our first stop on the way to Seward was the Crow Creek Gold Mine to try our hand at gold panning.
Spencer's getting a refresher course in gold panning technique.
This looks like a good spot. A "Golden Opportunity!"
Hey, I've done this before. Stand back and watch a pro!
(Left - circa 1994 / Center - circa 1995 / Right - 2007)
I think we found enough gold to get a soda with our lunch later.
There were lots of cool old buildings around the Crow Creek Gold Mine.
Lots of old machinery, too.
I took this photo in 1994 (Left) and again on this trip (Right).
Not much has changed - just the same shovels in different spots.
Another interesting scene with old lanterns.
This old truck has seen a lot of rough winters.
Nearby, we found a section of the original Iditarod Trail.
It first started in Seward and ran north through Anchorage to Nome.
Now, they start in Anchorage for all the media attention.
Just north of Seward, there is a side road that leads to Exit Glacier. It is part of the Harding Ice Field,
which covers a large area of the Kenai Peninsula. This map shows an area about 100 miles wide by 50 miles high.
You can see the ice field covers a great deal of that. See those rocks on the right-hand side of the ice field?
Those are the tips of 6,000-foot mountains peeking through the ice field. The arrow points to where Exit Glacier
spills over the top of one mountain and flows into the valley below.
On the road out to Exit Glacier, we stopped when we saw eagles along the river.
Here, Spencer is setting up his tripod.
A young bald eagle. They are all brown when young, then start
changing to part-white around the 3rd and 4th years.
Spencer took this photo of a bald eagle in a tree by the river.
The road to Exit Glacier is very scenic.
A sneak preview of the glacier from about 3 miles out.
Welcome to the Exit Glacier Visitors Center.
The glacier covered this area as recently as the 1800s.
Again, global warming has been going on for a long time.
It's hard to keep up with Spencer on these steep trails.
I caught up to Spencer as he took a break.
We are still several hundred yards away from the glacier.
Family photo by Exit Glacier.
Spencer taking another great photo of the valley below the glacier.
Hey, I'll be careful. What's the worst that could happen?
Spencer taking photos next to Exit Glacier.
Spencer, the intrepid photographer.
Spencer and Dad by Exit Glacier.
Spencer photographing some of the runoff, which is melted water from the glacier.
Welcome to Seward, Alaska. Located about 125 miles south of Anchorage on Resurrection Bay, it is popular for fishing.
(Left - Circa 1993 / Right - 2007)
At Seward Harbor, we watched a fishing boat unloading the day's catch.
Those halibut hanging up by the sign weigh about 100 pound each.
Somebody has a lot of great meals to look forward to.
On the south end of town by the water is this monument to the original starting point of the
Iditarod sled-dog race, before they moved it to Anchorage.
Our lodging at the Army Rec Camp. Great view of Mt Marathon.
Every July 4th, there is a race from downtown to the top and back. You can follow any path you want up or down.
VERY grueling, and many people come back with broken bones, twisted ankles, and covered in blood.
Click here for more info: http://mmr.seward.com/
After leaving Seward, we headed north back to Anchorage. But first, we had to stop and see Portage Glacier.
The Visitors Center (above) is located on Portage Lake.
View from inside the Visitors Center. The glacier used to come out from between the mountains
and extend into the lake. Now, it has retreated back so far it is barely visible from the Visitors Center.
This photo, taken in 1993, shows Portage Glacier reaching all the way down to the lake.
It also shows Beth and Spencer waving from the passageway tunnel to the left. Hi!!
Family Photo on Portage Glacier/ Portage Lake.
(Left - circa 1993 / Right - 2007)
Then and now - By Portage Lake. (Left - circa 1993 / Right - 2007)
Spencer kayaking in the Gulf of Alaska. (Portage Glacier Museum)
Middle Glacier, on the side road out to Exit Glacier.
Bear signs all over!
Back in Anchorage, we visited another one of our favorite hangouts - the Anchorage Library.
The lobby of the Anchorage Library is decorated with native designs, yet is very modern.
We also visited the wildlife museum on Elmendorf AFB.
This is next door to the band hall. Beth and Spencer used to wait in here
when they picked me up returning from band trips.
Spencer asked, "Are you the bear that tore my tent roof?"
One of many warning signs along the remote parts of Elmendorf AFB.
This used to be a training area.
Lake Hood is close to downtown Anchorage and is the largest float plane facility in the U.S.
Hundreds of float planes take off and land each day in the summer.
Flowers are a very popular sight in downtown Anchorage in the summer.
Because of the long, cold, dark winters, people are excited to see the colorful flowers bloom in the spring.
Downtown Anchorage is always busy with tourists in the summer.
Grizzly's Gift Shop is a very popular stop.
The Anchorage Visitors Center is a great "first-stop". The sod roof and large flowerbeds
give it a unique appearance. Lots of great information and helpful volunteers.
This quiet little park downtown was the site for many of our
Air Force Band community concerts in the summer "back in the day".
(See next photo)
One of our AF Band concerts around 1995. That's me on piano.
That afternoon, we drove up to Eagle River, about a half hour from Anchorage.
Family Photos (Left - 1990 / Right - 2007)
We hiked many of the trails in this park during our years in Anchorage.
We looked around the Eagle River Visitors Center while we waited for friends.
We met up with a friend (Kathy Homan) who was stationed with us in Germany,
and her son (Jessie), who was born after we left Germany. It was nice to see them.
View from the walkway at the Eagle River Visitors Center.
There is a 25+ mile cross country race each summer that goes through the mountain area in the background.
It's called the Crow Pass Run. Lots of bears, cold-river crossings, briars, mosquitoes, mud, etc.
As we head back to our room at Fort Richardson, we stopped at the base pool, where
Spencer learned to swim as a toddler. We started taking him there when he was still in diapers,
and by the time he was 5, he was jumping off the high dive and swimming to the side of pool by himself.
Spencer having a great time at the Ft Richardson pool. (Circa 1993-1995)