Part of an ongoing series reviewing past trips:
As Lisa and I start penciling in plans for a return trip to Alaska next year to visit friends, our thoughts go back to our first visit to America’s “Last Frontier” almost eight years ago.
We loved everything we did there, from spending a couple of days on the Homer Spit to traveling north to Denali National Park and the area.
Our first adventure occurred a few blocks from Mark and Ron’s house. They picked us (Lisa, our daughter Mallory and me) up from the airport. After being made fun of for taking a photo of a stuffed polar bear display at the airport, we headed to their house.
Along the way, just blocks from their home, we saw a moose in a yard. I actually thought it was a wood carving. The people in the vehicle laughed at me. And once the moose started eating leaves off a tree, I, too, saw it was real. I think Mallory and I each took more than 100 photos of the “Neighborhood” moose, as it would become to be known.
Our first full day in Alaska took us from Anchorage to our first glacier. The Matanuska glacier is about 75 miles northeast of the city. The drive is beautiful with lots of scenery. It’s considered the second best site to see in the state by “Alaska Magazine.”
Trees, mountains and wildlife highlighted the views. We saw our second moose walking atop a bluff above us. We nicknamed him “Mountain” Moose.
Once we arrived at Matanuska, our family was immediately in awe. It was the first time that I’ve been on a glacier. You can actually walk on top of it. I was really impressed when I was able to use my cell phone and call our daughter Steph from atop the glacier.
We enjoyed the walk on top of Matanuska. It was a challenge. We used ice cleats so none of us slide around.
The view on the glacier was magnificent. It’s about 26 miles long and four miles wide. Mountains, forests, and streams highlighted the scenery.
As we walked to the bottom of the glacier, we encountered rocks, mud and water as the glacier pushes sediment forward.
Following our visit, we headed back to Anchorage. Along the way, we stopped at Eklutna Village, which dates back to 1650. It’s an Athabaskan Indian settlement. Russian Orthodox Church missionaries came here to persuade the Native Americans to adopt their religious beliefs. St. Nicholas Church still stands on the grounds.
“Spirit houses” are located over people’s graves. They’re brightly painted and decorated. The custom is a mix of church and tribal beliefs. Spirit houses are believed to help free the person’s spirit and help them make them the journey to the next level.
In-between out-of-town trips, we enjoyed touring downtown Anchorage, with some delicious dining. The area had unique buildings and attractions.
One place we liked was the mural at Darwin’s Theory. The building sized painting depicts man’s transition. I thought it was a nice name for a bar.
One of the places we had dinner at was Glacier Brew house. The food was good. I recall Lisa having a salmon dinner. The real memory is when Mallory and I were outside the restaurant. Two young women asked us something and I answered. As they passed, one of the women “goosed” me. There was nothing to do, but laugh.
During the visit, as we strolled through downtown, we saw the Alaska Railroad depot. I liked the train display in front of the building.
President Dwight Eisenhower is honored with a statue. He was in office when Alaska officially became a state.
Two totem poles flanked the front doors to the state government offices that are located in Anchorage.
Cherry Creek Park
During our visit, we took a drive out to Cherry Creek Park to look for, of all things, bears. We were safe, though, because one of our party members had bear bells on. They typically will scare of black bears.
While we didn’t see any bears, we did catch “Park” moose. This guy was enjoying dinner time and paid us no attention. We were able to shoot several nice photos of the moose.
We had a wonderful time visiting Alaska. While the state was a fun place, we truly enjoyed visiting Mark and Ron, as well as Mark’s mom, Sharon. She treated everyone like they were one of her own. If I could have picked out a new mom after losing mine, I think Sharon would have been at the top of the list.
Anyhoo, we had a great visit during our Anchorage leg of the visit. Our visits to Homer and Seward seemed liked once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But, spending time with people who are closer than family can’t be topped. We had a fantastic visit, and we look forward to our trip this year.
For more information on Anchorage and area attractions, please visit www.travelalaska.com.