Hello from The Last Frontier!
I’m blogging while looking out a window and seeing a view of Russia (kidding). Alaska is AMAZING!!!!!! If you love nature, the outdoors, or consider yourself to be an outdoors(wo)man, then Alaska is your state. I told Leah, my running coach, Alaska is Colorado on steroids. My dad has wanted to see Alaska for several years, so we decided that Alaska would be our big trip for this year.
It’s not that I didn’t want to see Alaska, but Alaska wasn’t high on my own personal list of places I wanted to go to. Oh, that was a big mistake on my part. Alaska is astounding and I can’t wait to go back (and I’m still here!).
William Jack Fish Hatchery: Free tours at 11 am and 2 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you miss the free tour, you can drop in for a visit and go on a self-guided walk to see the salmon swimming upstream.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: I’ll talk more about this in detail when I blog about running in Alaska, but briefly, it’s a wonderful 11-mile that hugs the coast of Anchorage. Great place to run!
Earthquake Park: A nice little park that commemorates the big earthquake of 1964. Lovely views, beautiful woods, and full of interesting information about the earthquake and the impact that it had on several communities.
Won Jo Tofu House: A Korean restaurant in Anchorage? Yes! We ate here twice. The food is simple, unpretentious Korean food that looks and tastes very much like something that came from a Korean mother’s kitchen. Not fancy, but solid Korean food. In our two visits, we had chicken bulgogi, beef bulgogi, soybean paste soup, tofu soup, and bimbimbap. We were happy with everything we had. Out of all the ban chans (side dishes), my absolute favorite was the marinated tofu.
Wild Scoops: Oooh, ooh, ooh, artisanal handcrafted ice cream. What makes Wild Scoops different from all the other artisanal ice cream shops that I’ve been to (and believe me, I’ve been to plenty!) is that their flavors are truly unique. Their flavors are inspired by the Alaskan nature – spruce, birch, currants, local rhubarb, chaga mushroom (look for this to be the new superfood that we all need to be eating a few years from now) are some examples. And if these flavors are too exotic for you, don’t worry, they have plain chocolate and vanilla for you too. The line is long, but it moves quickly.
Along Seward Highway
Seward Highway: What an incredible, scenic drive! Really majestic and beautiful. It’s actually hard to drive down this highway because you’re constantly tempted to pull over to take photos or to gawk at the views. My favorite sections are Turnagain Pass and Kenai Lake, but honestly, it was a lovely drive from start to finish. I was glad we got to drive it again when we left Seward to go up to Denali National Park. Seward Highway is right up there with Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 1 in CA as one of the top drives you can do in your life.
Chugach State Park: Most of what we saw of Chugach (which was very little because even though it’s a state park, it’s HUGE) came from our short two-mile round trip hike to Winner Creek Hand Tram. You can enter the trail to the hand tram at different points on the Winner Creek Trail, but the shortest hike is from Crow Creek parking lot – one-mile to the hand tram. I was with my parents, so we had to take the shortest hike. The next shortest hike is from Aleyska Hotel (about 3.5 miles to hand tram). The hand tram is soooooo cool! To cross a river, you get on a little tram and pull yourself across the river. In reality, to help you along, people on both sides of the river pull on the rope to get you across because it’s faster than you pulling yourself. So you just get to enjoy the ride across (see my video clip on IG). Definitely, don’t miss this.
Major Marine Tours: I signed us up for a 7.5 hour boat tour of Kenai Fjord National Park and I thought I would be bored for an hour or two. I was anything, but bored. We saw sea otters, humpback whales, sea lions, several bald eagles, and puffins, along with some of the best glacier calving ever seen in that area! Yes, it was pricey (especially since I sprung for the additional $24 for lunch, but it was totally worth it (including lunch). We got to see several humpback whales with water spouts, pectoral fins, and tail slaps. The views of the national park from the boat were beautiful. We had a great park ranger who served as our guide and gave a good narration during our trip. But the highlight of the trip was the extended show of glacier calving at Aialik Glacier. Chunks of glacier regularly fall off and this is called calving. We were fortunate enough to see several huge calvings; our boat actually stayed in the area longer than usual because it was such as a great show. Seeing a side of a glacier fall into the sea, and then the following rain of ice and snow that looked like a waterfall, and followed by huge waves because of all the ice that fell in was AMAZING!!!!! I managed to capture a bit of it and posted it on IG (see earlier link). I also totally recommend getting the $24 lunch. It’s all you can eat prime rib and salmon. The food is actually quite delicious and considering how much meals cost in Alaska, $24 is a steal. I ate myself silly and skipped dinner that night because I was so full of prime rib. Pro-tip: If you get even a little bit of seasickness, take medication. I don’t usually get seasick and if I do, I get sleepy, but even I got a little queasy. I took medication in time, so I was fine, but my poor mother was not for the first 2 hours of the trip.
Exit Glacier: A very accessible and walkable glacier. If you simply wanted to look at it, there’s a short 20-min or so walk to the lookout point to Exit Glacier. I would have loved to have done the longer Harding Icefield Trails, but it was not possible with my parents in tow. Still, the short walk was nice and the Exit Glacier is cool to see.
Seavey’s Ididaride: Have you really seen Alaska if you don’t go on a dog sled ride? Since it’s summer, your choices for a dog sled is either to helicopter to a glacier to do it (expensive) or do the cheaper wheeled dog sled. Seavey’s Ididaride is run by the Seavey family. Mitch Seavey has won the Iditarod, a long distance dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, 3 times, the last time in 2017 in the fastest time (8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds). His son, Dallas Seavey, has won the Iditarod 4 times. The dogs used in dog sledding as “Alaskan huskies,” which is not a real breed. There’s a difference between dogs who are bred for working versus for show, like a Siberian Husky. The looks of an “Alaskan husky” isn’t uniform, aside from their lean bodies that’s a product of both genetics and training and thick double coats to deal with the harsh winters. They’re fairly small, compared to a Siberian Husky, about 40-50 pounds, and quite, quite lean. Only greyhounds and whippets are skinner. It was clear that the dogs were well-taken care of and they absolutely loved to pull the sleds and run. As we sat in the cart waiting for the dogs to be harnessed, dogs eagerly howled and barked. They could hardly wait to go. These dogs are incredibly agile, athletic, and strong. We had 14 dogs pulling a cart and 10 adults, and the cart flew! Whenever we stopped, the dogs very quickly demonstrated that they wanted to go run. The dog sled ride was super fun and it was much too short. I very much enjoyed this excursion, but I wish the talk about the Iditarod and the dog sledding was longer. I would have loved to hear more details about the famous race and some stories about it, especially since we were with such an illustrious dog sledding family.