2007AK 457.jpg





The complete travelogue

 of our trip

North to Alaska

July 2007


2007AK 929.jpg


Part 2 of 3


Visiting Anchorage and the surrounding areas for 1 week


Click Here To Go Back To Part 1



2007AK 457.jpg

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.



2007AK 462.jpg

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.




2007AK 465.jpg

Looking down the clearing that marks the border between Alaska and Canada.

No fence - just a million-gazillion mosquitoes guarding the homeland.





2007AK 467.jpg

A few miles north of the border, we reach the U.S. Customs station.




2007AK 1024.jpg

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.




2007AK 475.jpg

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.




2007AK 476.jpg

Here's the perfect ride to Alaska!  Rugged, good power, comfortable, and easy on gas.

I guess the bike wouldn't be bad, either.




2007AK 477.jpg

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



2007AK 482.jpg

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.




2007AK 484.jpg

We saw our first moose of the trip about 30 minutes out of Tok.




2007AK 486.jpg

Spencer lining up the perfect shot.




2007AK 500.jpg

At the next stop, Spencer was chasing me away from his creative photography session.




2007AK 501.jpg

Fireweed and the Matanuska River - a great combination for photos.




2007AK 498.jpg

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.




2007AK 504.jpg

This roadside sign tells of the efforts to build and maintain telegraph lines in the brutal environment.




2007AK 506.jpg

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.




2007AK 508.jpg

Memories!  Beth and I stayed here in Glennallen on our way up to Alaska back in 1989.




2007AK 509.jpg

This painting in the lodge shows Alaska humor.

Apparently, this truck driver had some unwanted company at a roadside bathroom stop.





2007AK 511.jpg

West of Glennallen, there were many magnificent vistas.





2007AK 515.jpg

I think Spencer was enjoying the scenery, too.




2007AK 519.jpg

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.




2007AK 522.jpg

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. 




2007AK 528.jpg

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!!





2007AK 930.jpg

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.





Baptism2.jpg    2007AK 531.jpg

This is the church on base where Spencer was baptized in 1990.

(Left - with Chaplain Andrews / Right - 2007)





2007AK 536.jpg

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)





2007AK 538.jpg

Down the street was our first home in Alaska.

We lived in the 3rd apartment from 1989-1995.  This was Spencer's first home.




2007AK 539.jpg

Just across the street is the playground where Spencer and his friends enjoyed many sunny days.

(See next photos)





img464.jpg    img986.jpg

Flashback to 1995 in the playground with Spencer.






2007AK 542.jpg

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.




Days 11-16

Anchorage and surrounding areas.

800 more miles of driving - Trip total 5,364 miles



2007AK 543.jpg

Family photo by the base totem pole.




2007AK 546.jpg

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.





2007AK 553.jpg

Spencer used to ride his bike on these trails, and remembered the tunnels with their echoes.




02img042.jpg  2007AK 560.jpg  

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.




4img414.jpg  2007AK 562.jpg

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.




2007AK 568.jpg

The Polar Bears were always a favorite stop at the zoo.




2007AK 575.jpg

Musk ox.  You can buy clothing made from its wool.

It's supposed to be very warm.




2007AK 589.jpg img488.jpg

And another Then and Now (Left - 2007 / Right Circa 1994)




2007AK 579.jpg

Spencer and the porcupine at the zoo.




2007AK 594.jpg

Beth showing the size of a dahlia(?).

With the large amount of sunlight in the summer, plants and flowers grow large!




2007AK 597.jpg

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.




2007AK 601.jpg

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.





2007AK 605.jpg

Even the Huskies drive SUVs in Anchorage.





2007AK 607.jpg

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)




2007AK 610.jpg

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).





2007AK 614.jpg

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.



2007AK 616.jpg

Walking around in downtown Talkeetna. 





Family photo at the Denali viewing area - Circa 1995




2007AK 644.jpg

Family photo by Denali viewing area - 2007. 

Too bad clouds obscured the highest peaks.




2007AK 649.jpg

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.




2007AK 653.jpg

Another family photo at a different viewpoint.




2007AK 661.jpg

After all of that exploring, we were hungry!

We had to stop at Lucky Wishbone, another favorite chicken place of ours.

Great malts!!





2007AK 662.jpg

What's for dinner?




2007AK 665.jpg

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.




2007AK 926.jpg

Ft Richardson lodging was very nice.




2007AK 927.jpg

Ft Richardson lodging.  Nice to have a kitchen and laundry.




2007AK 720.jpg

One day, we headed south along Turnagain Arm from Anchorage.  The weather was gloomy.





img035PS.jpg  2007AK 725.jpg

The weather cleared briefly as we entered the Kenai Peninsula.

(Left - Spencer up on the sign around 1994 / Right 2007)




2007AK 674.jpg

Our first stop on the way to Seward was the Crow Creek Gold Mine to try our hand  at gold panning.




2007AK 672.jpg

Spencer's getting a refresher course in gold panning technique.




2007AK 691.jpg

This looks like a good spot.  A "Golden Opportunity!"





img034.jpg img068.jpg  2007AK 695.jpg

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.




2007AK 688.jpg

There were lots of cool old buildings around the Crow Creek Gold Mine.




2007AK 675.jpg

Lots of old machinery, too.





 KenaiPeninsula04.jpg    2007AK 679.jpg

I took this photo in 1994 (Left) and again on this trip (Right).

Not much has changed - just the same shovels in different spots.





2007AK 683.jpg

Another interesting scene with old lanterns.




2007AK 713.jpg

This old truck has seen a lot of rough winters.




2007AK 717.jpg

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.




sm IMG_5134.jpg

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.




2007AK 731.jpg

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.





2007AK 859.jpg

The road to Exit Glacier is very scenic.





2007AK 863.jpg

A sneak preview of the glacier from about 3 miles out.





2007AK 809.jpg

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.





2007AK 821.jpg

It's hard to keep up with Spencer on these steep trails.




2007AK 823.jpg

I caught up to Spencer as he took a break.

We are still several hundred yards away from the glacier.




2007AK 819.jpg

Family photo by Exit Glacier.



2007AK 841.jpg

Spencer taking another great photo of the valley below the glacier.






Hey, I'll be careful.  What's the worst that could happen?




sm IMG_5158.jpg

Spencer taking photos next to Exit Glacier.




sm IMG_5164.jpg

Spencer, the intrepid photographer.




2007AK 826.jpg

Spencer and Dad by Exit Glacier.




2007AK 849.jpg

Spencer photographing some of the runoff, which is melted water from the glacier.





 img046.jpg   2007AK 778.jpg

Welcome to Seward, Alaska.  Located about 125 miles south of Anchorage on Resurrection Bay, it is popular for fishing.

(Left - Circa 1993 / Right - 2007)





2007AK 781.jpg

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.




2007AK 788.jpg

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.





2007AK 805.jpg

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/  



2007AK 874.jpg

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. 





2007AK 875.jpg

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!!




img468.jpg  2007AK 869.jpg

Family Photo on Portage Glacier/ Portage Lake.

(Left - circa 1993 / Right - 2007)





 SQE Portage.jpg  2007AK 885.jpg

Then and now - By Portage Lake.  (Left - circa 1993 / Right - 2007)





2007AK 884PS.jpg

Spencer kayaking in the Gulf of Alaska.  (Portage Glacier Museum)




2007AK 890.jpg

Middle Glacier, on the side road out to Exit Glacier.




2007AK 893.jpg

Bear signs all over! 




2007AK 901.jpg

Back in Anchorage, we visited another one of our favorite hangouts - the Anchorage Library.





2007AK 904.jpg

The lobby of the Anchorage Library is decorated with native designs, yet is very modern.




2007AK 906.jpg

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.




2007AK 910.jpg

Spencer asked, "Are you the bear that tore my tent roof?"





2007AK 912.jpg

One of many warning signs along the remote parts of Elmendorf AFB.

This used to be a training area.




2007AK 921.jpg

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.





2007AK 933.jpg

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.




2007AK 935.jpg

Downtown Anchorage is always busy with tourists in the summer.

Grizzly's Gift Shop is a very popular stop.




2007AK 937.jpg

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.




2007AK 936.jpg

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.




img016PS.jpg  2007AK 953.jpg

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.





2007AK 943.jpg

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.





2007AK 947.jpg

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.




2007AK 965.jpg

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.





img087.jpg   img972.jpg

Spencer having a great time at the Ft Richardson pool.  (Circa 1993-1995)



Click To Continue To Part 3 - Returning Home from Alaska to Illinois


Back To Elyard Family Home Page