Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 28, 2011

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We had to be at the train depot by 6:00 am Monday morning for our train ride to Seward. The ride was quite enjoyable as the tracks went further into the wilderness and away from the highway. One of our first wildlife sightings was of an eagle in a huge nest. We passed close to Spencer Glacier. The train went through a series of tunnels carved into the mountains. You could glimpse some of the bustling waterfalls, rivers, and streams that blast out of the mountains between the tunnels. Our train also roared beside Bartlett Glacier on its journey to Seward. Several times the announcer implored us to look on the right or left side of the train to glimpse moose, bald eagles, or a black bear. We were able to see the moose and the eagles but unfortunately the black bear eluded our eyes. Kate ventured upstairs into the glass dome car for the majority of the trip. She kept her new friend, Ms. Elise, company as the train rolled on.We arrived in Seward about 11 am and stepped out into the cool overcast day. I had to reclaim my jacket from Taylor so she was forced to buy an Alaskan jacket to keep warm! The electricity kept going out in town so we were lucky to order our food while the electricity was on. I had the halibut and chips, Taylor got a caribou burger, and Kate had shrimp. The electricity proceeded to go off again as we left the restaurant. We strolled the mile downtown to the Alaska Sea Life Center. Here we viewed all kinds of birds, seals, sea lions, and other marine life. Kate even enjoyed being captain of her own little ship for a while! Upon leaving the center, we walked along the beach in search of shells, sea glass, and other treasures. As we strolled back toward the depot, we noticed that many of the shops were closed. It seems that the lack of electricity had forced some businesses to call it a day. We were so tired, we boarded the train at 5 pm and rested in our seats until the train departed for Anchorage at 6 pm. We were able to view Trail Glacier very clearly on the return trip. The girls and I decided it would be fun to eat in the dining car for dinner. After dinner, we headed back to our seats and enjoyed the remainder of the ride back to Anchorage. Greg picked up 3 tired girls at the station about 10:15 that night. Now we can rest a few days before our trip to Denali this weekend.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday, June 26th

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Saturday we drove over to Portage Valley on an overcast misty afternoon. As we drove down the Seward Highway we pointed out the old town of Portage and some of the old houses that lay in ruin. These homes were destroyed when the ground sank six feet during the 1964 earthquake. When we arrived near Portage glacier, we stopped near the Blue Ice Trail and let the girls test the temperature of the glacial water. They were also delighted by the crystal blue color of the water. We drove to Begich Boggs Visitor Center and were surprised to see many icebergs floating in Portage Lake. There were a few wind surfers braving the cold waters of the glacial lake. After checking out the Visitor Center, we made our way to the trail head of the Byron Glacier Trail. If you haven't walked this trail, it is less than two miles round trip, and most definitely worth the walk. It is a gravel trail that meanders by the rushing run-off waters of the glacier. The scenery is gorgeous during the entire trip and once you reach the glacier, the view is quite stunning. The girls unanimously voted it the best trail yet even though we passed two piles of bear scat on the trail. Such findings usually get an immediate thumbs down and an end to the hike. They didn't even hesitate to continue walking because it was such a beautiful hike. Once we reached the glacier, they were both glad we continued as they played on the ice, walked in the water, and snapped hundreds of pictures. Greg and I were quite impressed and will definitely be back for another walk.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 23

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It has been a beautiful day here in Anchorage. The sun has been out all day and the temps are perfect! We got out and walked to the post office to mail a book and then walked around the park strip. There were several people flying kites and really enjoying the nice day.
The girls and I had a fun day yesterday with my friend Terry and her son and his friend. They picked us up around 1 and we stopped and got a bit of lunch before heading out of town. We drove down to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This center was about a 45 minute drive south for us. Here they provide a home for injured or orphaned animals. They also have the only herd of wood bison in the United States. These animals are the largest land animal in America. The wood bison get much larger than their plains cousins. We also got to view the new baby musk oxen. I gotta admit, they were pretty cute. The 2 brown bears put on quite a show by swimming in the water in their habitat. There were 2 brown bear cubs from last year in their own area that also got into the water.Check out the claws on this dude. I was super glad he was behind a fence! Thanks to Terry for taking us along on this fun trip.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday, June 21st

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Happy Summer Solstice to all! It really is a long day here in Anchorage with all this sunlight. Tonight after dinner we decided to take a short ride out to the Eagle River Nature Center for a hike. This center is located in the Chugach State Park. After paying our parking fee, we headed onto the trail. We soon discovered that we weren't alone as hundreds of mosquitoes joined us. We hadn't figured on the mosquitoes and had unfortunately left the bug spray at home. We made it down to the the first viewing platform to enjoy the scenery. Greg took a few photos. The clouds had the tops of the mountains obscured from view but it was still lush and beautiful. Greg couldn't stand still long because the mosquitoes seem to enjoy him the most, so we continued down the trail. We soon came upon 2 piles of bear scat (also known as bear poop). At this point, Kate and Taylor let us know that they were no longer interested in continuing on the trail tonight. In fact, they were ready to leave right then! We turned around and did convince them to visit the classroom yurt. While we were checking out the yurt, we heard several dogs creating an uproar near us on the trail. Not sure if they came across the bear or not, but we decided to head on toward the car. Not only due to the uncertainty of the location of the bear but also due to a loss of blood in Greg from bug bites, we felt it was time to head toward home. As we drove back into the city of Eagle River, Greg spotted a cow moose and calf eating on the side of a road. We turned around and got a couple of decent pictures. If you are keeping score, the girls' moose count is now at 3.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011

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The girls and I did a little shopping on Friday to get some snacks for our weekend hike. Unfortunately, Taylor almost turned into a little bear snack as you can see in this picture. Saturday turned out to be a clear and beautiful day. After lunch we hit the Glenn Highway and headed toward Eklutna. Our first stop was at the Eklutna Historical Park. This park is home to the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, a fully functioning church even today. The old church was built around the 1870s and is one of the oldest log buildings in the Anchorage area. The cemetery is the final resting place for some local Athabascan, Russian, and Yupik people. The spirit houses are built over the graves 40 days after burial to house the spirit of the deceased and their possessions. They range from very simple to very elaborate in their design.
We left the park and rode over to Eklutna Lake which is located in the Chugach State Park. The lake is fed by both glacial and freshwater streams. It is seven miles long and nestled underneath the towering mountains. We walked down to the lake and then began the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. It was a beautiful afternoon and we ended up walking a total of six miles. The girls did very well! We didn't see any wildlife but still spent a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place. The trail was easy to walk and the scenery was worth every mile. We had built up quite an appetite from all the walking so we drove toward home and stopped by the Carl's Jr. for hamburgers and fries. On Sunday, we walked down to the weekend market to hunt for souvenirs and such. We saw a few really neat things but the only thing I bought were birch caramels. They boil the birch sap, like they do maple sap, and make pancake syrups, candy, brittle, and other yummy eats. We then took it easy and relaxed around the apartment for the rest of the day.