I’m not sure whether it was because I lived 3 years in Alaska from 1951-1954 or because my sister was born there at Elmendorf Air Force Base in 1953 or that it was one of my Dad’s favorite places; but we felt a calling to visit this wilderness area on its 50th anniversary of becoming a state. So the 4 of us; Chuck and I and my sister Patti and my brother in law Butch, all came to Alaska for 2 weeks at the end of August 2009. This was really a dream come true for all of us, and although my Dad at 86 was unable to join us, he was with us in spirit and even bought us a video camera to record the adventure. We decided that rather than a traditional Alaskan cruise, we would set off on our own and start by flying to Anchorage. We stayed at the Captain Cook Hotel for a week which was perfectly located in the center of downtown. Our 16th and 17th floor rooms were on the private concierge floors and had unbelievable vistas of the city, of Mt. McKinley in the distance, and of the extreme tides of the Cook
Inlet. Locals said it was the best weather they had seen in weeks. Of course Chuck said it was because good weather follows him everywhere! We took advantage of it our 1st full day, by biking 15 miles of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, visiting the beautiful Westchester Lagoon with views of downtown, on to Earthquake Park which commemorated the devastating 1964 earthquake and then to Pt. Woronzof with commercial planes taking off right over our heads. We then ventured inland to Lake Hood which is known for being one of the busiest float plane areas in the world. It was a good way to introduce ourselves to Anchorage. Probably the highlight of our trip came the first week when the 4 of us took the all day 26 Glaciers Tour. We took the Alaska Railway 60 miles ending with a 2 ½ mile tunnel into the town of Whittier where we boarded the Klondike Express. We were totally awed by the majestic glaciers of College Fjord, and many others including Barry and Surprise. We cruised 135 miles during the course of the day with an informative Park Ranger pointing out rafts of sea otters, harbor seals on floating icebergs,
and calving (releasing) of large chunks of ice from the glacier crashing into the turquoise waters. It was a perfect day!! The next day we rented a car and started our day by taking a photo of the 2 sisters at the Elmendorf AFB sign with an F4 jet in the background. Because of heightened security since 9/11 we were unable to actually tour the base but had been told that the hospital where my sister was born plus our base housing had been torn down so it was enough to be at the entrance. Then we were off to the Wildlife Conservation Center near Girdwood about an hour and a half outside Anchorage. We were able to drive our car through the grounds of the Center and came close and personal with Alaskan wildlife like moose and cute little moose calves, musk oxen, caribou, wood bison, brown bear, a bald eagle and great horned owls. We capped off the day with an aerial tram ride to the top of the mountain at the nearby Alyeska Resort. We had reservations at 7 Glaciers, their 4 star restaurant, where we enjoyed King Salmon and Alaskan king crab not to mention fabulous
panoramic views of the valley and the waters of Turnagain Arms. Our last night in Anchorage we celebrated my sisters 56th birthday at the Crow’s Nest on the 20th floor of the Captain Cook overlooking not only Anchorage but also Elmendorf AFB where she was born so many years ago. The next morning it was off to points north with our first stop being the Mt. McKinley Princess Resort near Talkeetna. They say that only 20% of the people that visit Alaska get to actually see Mt. McKinley “The Great One”. Although we arrived in the pouring down rain, the following night and morning proved to be brilliantly clear and we saw the mountain in all her glory-all 20,320 ft., the highest peak in the U.S. Unbelievable! While here we decided to take a thrilling jet boat ride for 60 miles on 3 different rivers with a nature walk to a native Indian encampment and a view into the lives of turn-of-the century trappers. It was a fun and exhilarating tour. Next it was on to Denali National Park and the Wilderness Princess Resort. Even though it was the end of August, the temperatures had dropped and the fall colors
of purple, red and yellow were beautiful. One day we drove into the park and hiked the Savage River Loop with temperatures in the low 40s. Brrr! The next day the Alaskan weather again cooperated with blue skies and high 60 degree temperatures and again we saw dramatic views of Mt. McKinley from different vantage points. We also had the opportunity to visit Jeff King’s Husky Homestead. He is recognized as the “Winningest Musher in the World” with 4 victories in the 1049 mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The family welcomed us and allowed us to cuddle the 6 week old Alaskan Husky puppies. We saw many of the 103 dogs and learned interesting facts about Alaskan life and the Iditarod race. What a special afternoon! After 2 weeks, it was time to head home with many memories that we will never forget. But the best part was the 4 of us were able to experience it together!
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