Wednesday, July 23-Thursday, July 24, 2014
The second half of the Parks Highway is much easier to drive than the north section – no road construction! The scenery varies along the way. We started surrounded by mountains, drove through a pine forest and then back to the mountains. There were a few small “towns” scattered along the way. Mainly these are a gas station or restaurant with a small campground or a few rooms/cottages for rent.
Our first stop down the highway was at Wal-Mikes – no words can explain Wal-Mikes. It is a truly Alaskan experience. The ground have been “neaten-up” quite a bit from our first visit. Mike’s has a little bit of everything and anything. There were outside displays crowded with unusual finds and the inside is like going through a hoarders home. I picked up a bottle of contact solution that expired in 2007! A very worthwhile stop along the route. Lots of others thought so too, the parking lot filled up fast.
One funky little town along the way is Talkeetna. Talkeetna has a hippy attitude, a true Alaskan town. It also is the starting/registration point for anyone wanting to climb Denali. Anyone attempting to climb Mt. McKinley must prove to the rangers in charge that they have enough supplies, enough climbing experience and are truly prepared to climb the mountain. There is just a small window of time that it is possible to attempt the climb. The Ranger station was very busy.
We enjoyed lunch at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, an original in the village. The seating is at long tables of 8-14 people. Many different languages may be spoken around the table. The Roadhouse also has rooms to rent with the bath down the hall. Many gift shops featured items that were handmade by Alaskan artists. Paintings, jewelry, scarves and clothing were the most prominent offerings. All were absolutely beautiful and out of our price range. The usual souvenir shops also offered their wares.
After our break at Talkeetna we headed down to Wasilla – Tom was on the lookout for Sarah Palin. He was lucky enough to get his picture taken with her (at Wal-Mike’s). The part of town along the Parks Hwy is so built up we didn’t recognize it. What a change in 6 years! We wanted to find the nice coffee shop downtown where we ate previously. We found the building but it now is a pizza shop – such a disappointment. Instead we settled for Cold Stone Creamery!
We made it into Anchorage and found the Walmart for the night.
We started Thursday morning at the Anchorage Visitors Center. At our visit in 2008 they were complaining because the hanging baskets at the Center were only 4 ft. long. Other years in July they would grow to about 6 feet. This year they were only about 2 feet long. It has been another cold rainy spring-summer in Anchorage.
We took the Historic Trolley Ride around Anchorage. It was so-so. The real info came when we went across the street to the Alaska Bureau of Land Information. There exhibit is also part of the National Park Service. As I said before, God Bless the Park Service! We did two walking tours of Anchorage with them. One was about Captain Cook’s discovery of Alaska and Cook Inlet, the second concerning the 9.2 magnitude 1964 earthquake that destroyed parts of Anchorage. We also saw two movies on the Gold Rush and the earthquake. Their exhibits were first class also.
The Land Bureau is located in a federal building so we had to go through security each time we entered the building. The security got to know us well since we entered three different time. I set the alarm off each time because of my knee. I was “wanded” all three times.
It started raining on the last walking tour and continued throughout the evening. We decided to try the Sourdough Mining Company for dinner. It was packed. Our waitress said there were 3 different tour groups eating that evening. After eating we visited the Alaska Wild Berry Store across the parking lot.
Changed Walmarts and found this new one much quieter than the first.