Around the World in 69 Days - Fall 2007 travel blog

Highway #1

Portage Glacier

Portage Lake

Portage valley

Turnagain Arm

bison

caribou

musk ox

porcupine

morning mist

vista cruiser


Anchorage is not a pretty town. As the capital and largest city in Alaska, it is a random collection of all the fast food joints and franchise stores that we all know well from the lower 48. Zoning laws must be non existent here. A small home may sit next to a posh hotel which sits next to a muffler repair shop. Even the government buildings have nondescript architecture and a utilitarian look that reminds me of the gray buildings of Russia in the mid '50's. Eskimo-appearing homeless folks settle down for the evening in sleeping bags in the parks and spend their days perched on the benches. However, the reason that folks like us comes to Anchorage is that it is a gateway to the Kenai Peninsula. This area boasts sparkling shore line, dramatic mountains, glaciers, and thick forests.

We aimed our rental car down Highway 1. Although the forecast for Anchorage has been in the 50's and drizzly day after day, we could see a brightness ahead and as we neared the Turnagain Arm, the sun broke through. The water looked dirty and murky, but this was not caused by pollution. Rather it was an indication that glaciers were nearby. As these massive ice floes move down the mountain side, they grind the rock as fine as flour and it stays suspended in the water. Sunlight can only penetrate a few feet, so these waters are devoid of fish and flora.

Our goal was to take a boat to Portage Glacier, part of a massive ice field that has dominated the Kenai for millenia. Global warming has shrunk this ice field just like many others, but the naturalist said that the ice field has ebbed and flowed over the years without the assistance of man's hydrocarbon bombardment. The views were spectacular and we felt so grateful for the sunshine and blue skies that brought out the deep marine blue from the heavy, compacted ice.

Then we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a small compound housing many of the animals that flourish here in the wild. Because the animals were fenced in, they were easy to see and it felt a bit like cheating to photograph them so easily. But given our limited time here, this park gave us a good introduction to the real natives of Alaska.

We are having trouble recovering from the three hour time zone change. This is compounded by the fact that our charming hotel overlooks the railroad station. While the touring season is winding down, there are still plenty of folks boarding the vista cruisers and taking the tour to the wonders of Denali. The trains depart at all hours and the engineers must have some sort of compulsion to see who can sound their horn the loudest.

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