Since leaving Denali NPP, we’ve spent 11 nights in 3 campgrounds in 3 towns/cities – Talkeetna, Wasilla and Anchorage. One may consider it a return to “civilization” – but that has its pros and cons! One ironic thing is that we’ve probably seen more wildlife in the week after leaving the National Park, than we saw in a week within the park. Within an hour of driving down the highway we saw a grizzly bear crossing the road much closer than the one we saw in the park.
First stop after leaving Denali was Talkeetna: only 180 miles from the Teklanika River Campground, but the drive took us nearly all day due to road conditions. Talkeetna is a small town which is probably best known as a jumping off place for climbers who may catch a flight to a basecamp to climb Denali. It’s also a popular tourist stop for people who want to catch a “flightseeing” trip over Denali or jump on a train to take them up to the Entrance area of Denali NPP. Talkeetna also has its fair share of cafes, restaurants and bars, so for us it was a welcome break, a chance to eat out, have a few drinks and relax. The children spent hours playing with other children at a school playground just across the road from our campground. Playgrounds are now high on our children’s list of priorities since they’ve been missing interaction with other children during our travels. That’s one disadvantage of travelling during the school year, but now that schools are out for summer, that’ll change.
Next stop for us as we headed south was Wasilla, home of Alaska’s largest Walmart and Sarah Palin. I couldn’t see Russia from where we were staying, but it was cloudy most of the time. Wasilla also has the Headquarters of the Iditarod (the 1000 mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome) based there. At the Headquarters they offer visitors a chance to ride a “sled” (with wheels) behind the sled dogs for 45 seconds for just $10 a person – bargain! The children really enjoyed it, though, and absolutely loved holding the sled dog puppies. Now I’m really under pressure to get a dog when we finish our trip. Close to Wasilla is Palmer, where we visited the Reindeer Farm – also very enjoyable for the children. Apparently, there are only two differences between caribou and reindeer – reindeer are domesticated, caribou are wild, and reindeer can fly. Don’t expect to learn much more at the Reindeer farm, but it is fun to feed the animals there. Oh, and by the way, only female reindeer have antlers in winter, since the males shed theirs in the autumn. Hmmm? Makes me wonder about Rudolf.
And on to Anchorage – Alaska’s largest city. It’s actually a very nice city in terms of location and outdoor facilities and attractions. The parks and bike paths we used are outstanding and the views (particularly over the Cook Inlet) are beautiful. We were treated to another, apparently quite rare, view of Denali way off to the north on a wonderfully clear day. Nina and I took the opportunity to bike ride the Tony Knowles path along the edge of the Cook Inlet. The whole family spent hours at a playground near the Westchester Lagoon and one evening, we were there past 10 o’clock and it was still packed with young children. The daylight hours here play havoc with the body clock. Another favorite of ours was the Alaska Museum – one of the best museums we’ve visited so far on our trip. That said, the boys spent 4 hours playing with legos at the museum, rather than walking around taking a look at the exhibits! It seems a shame to mention the less attractive side to Anchorage, but it’s interesting all the same. Whilst I was walking around the Anchorage Saturday Market, I witnessed a pick-pocket getting apprehended. OK, that happens. But what followed was somewhat bizarre. Some guy, wearing a Muay Thai T-shirt and looking like an MMA practitioner, but apparently unrelated to the accused, took exception to the way the man was being held on the ground. So, after some heated discussion he pushed the security person of the accused and then pushed the other man off. Unfortunately, for Mr. Muay Thai, the second guy he pushed the produced his police badge. It was interesting to watch the nervous twitch develop in the cheek of Mr. Muay Thai in the 30 seconds it took him to decide to run for it through the crowded outdoor market. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only incident of anti-social behavior we witnessed in Anchorage. So much for civilization!
And so, back to nature. We’re heading down to the Chugach National Forest and Kenai Peninsula – first stop, Portage. Nina and I are really looking forward to this leg of the journey. The opportunities for viewing wildlife and glaciers and enjoying the great outdoors appear to be endless on the Kenai Peninsula. Almost immediately upon leaving Anchorage on the Seward Hwy we were treated to a beautiful drive along the Turnagain Arm – one of the most scenic drives we’ve had (and we’ve been on a few!). Our only concern about it is the wildfires on the Kenai Peninsula – apparently, they’ve even made it onto the BBC news.
And so, until next time…