Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alaskan Idyll, Days 19 – 22 Valdez to Anchorage

As our mission statement proclaims, our blog is published periodically but not regularly, particularly for the last ten days. We have been on the go with our Winnebago Tour Group, and we have had Internet equipment failures. A couple of days ago, we purchased a new air card as well as router from Verizon. They were over-nighted to us in Palmer , and we are back on the air again. On top of all that, and this may be the real reason for our hiatus, the weather has been almost continuously gloomy, and that is beginning to affect our mood, and our initiative.

We left Valdez, the topic of our last post, on July 7th, (Day 19), and drove on another cloudy rainy day, which has been the norm rather than the exception this summer in Alaska. Departing Valdez, we couldn't resist just one more photograph of Horsetail Falls.

Horsetail Falls, in Keystone Canyon on the Richardson Highway

On our way to the Mendeltna Lodge we stopped at the Wrangell – St Elias National Park and Preserve which is our country’s largest national park. It encompasses more than 13 million acres of rugged, heavily glaciated mountains in the southeast corner of Alaska. We spent an hour at the Visitor Center where we saw a very good film about the park and viewed wildlife exhibits.

We arrived in Mendeltna in the pouring rain and were relieved to find our campsite was not a muddy patch as we remembered from our visit here 3 years ago. The Lodge is warm and cozy, offering a full-service restaurant. The interior of the Lodge is all native pine, finished to high gloss. The tables are made from huge pine slabs, each of which would be worth thousands of dollars in the lower 48. Supper was a pizza buffet with salad (3 COWS) while breakfast was rather stale Danish (2 COWS).

Mendeltna Lodge Liquor Emporium

Some Unusual Patrons Frequent the Mendeltna Lodge

Mendeltna Lodge Dining Area

On July 8th (Day 20) we left for Anchorage and drove the Glenn Highway westward through scenic country passes as well as road construction. The rain continued, and we passed through some bothersome fog at the higher altitudes. The road passes near Matanuska Glacier and winds along the scenic Matanuska River, but we saw relatively little of those in the rain and the fog.

Alaskan Summer Sport

Matanuska River, Seen from the Glenn Highway

Along the Glenn we again saw more evidence of the of the availability of guns in our northernmost state, with many of the road signs pockmarked with bullet holes.

Alaskan Cultural Exhibit

In Anchorage on July 9th (Day 21) we toured the city with Maurice on a brand new 2008 MCI bus. Maurice is a transplanted gentleman from Arkansas whose knowledge of Anchorage is not as diverse as we would have preferred. However what he did show us was interesting.

Anchorage was established in 1915 as the construction headquarters for the Alaska Railroad. Our first stop was the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. We visited here 3 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits focusing on the art, history and cultures of Alaska. At present the museum features a special exhibit on Joe Reddington, the founder of the present day Iditarod Race. The museum was undergoing expansion when we visited last, and we hoped that the new wing would be open by this time. Not!

Native American Sculpture Seen at Anchorage Museum Entrance

Close Encounter with a Wooly Mammoth

Native American Stone Face Sculpture

Whaler in Sealskin Kayak


Museum Photo of Anchorage Main Street after 1964 Earthquake

Our next stop on our tour was Ship Creek, headquarters of the Alaska Railroad, and a popular fishing spot just north downtown Anchorage. The day we visited the creek the salmon were few and far between. Because of the colder than normal weather this summer the salmon runs have been later and in some cases unpredictable. Our bus driver told us that before salmon will swim from the ocean into the fresh water the fresh water must have reached a certain temperature. The fisherman shown below were photographed on out tour this year. The photo of a salmon was taken from this location three years ago, in 2005. The photo of the Alaska RR HQ was taken this visit, but Keith has modified it in Photoshop to add a blue sky, just to lighten the mood.

Old Alaska Railroad Headquarters, with Artificial Blue Sky Courtsey of Photoshop

Antique Alaska Railroad Engine

Casting for Salmon in Ship Creek

Ship Creek Salmon photographed in 2005

As we drove up from Ship Creek we saw an interesting fence, decorated with the 5 types of salmon found in Alaska.

Anchorage Fence Sculpture, Showing King, Red, Pink, Coho and Dog Salmon

Downtown Anchorage

Our next stop was the airport area, where we saw an extensive floatplane moorage on Lakes Hood and Spenard. We were not permitted to get off the bus to take photos, so again we include a photo from our 2005 visit.

Floatplane takes off from the lake in 2005 Photograph

We also sought moose, who hang around the airport, waiting perhaps to recover lost baggage. Once again, we were disappointed this trip, and must include a 2005 moose photo. Perhaps this particular moose finally found his baggage and left the airport, sometime in the past three years?

Moose photographed in 2005 near the Anchorage Airport

Alaska Skyline, Photographed Near the Airport

Our next stop was lunch. We headed by way of downtown Anchorage to the Sourdough Mining Company, where we enjoyed a family-style all-you-can-eat meal of chicken, ribs, fish, sourdough fritters and a make-your-own-sundae ice cream bar (3.5 COWS). Our excellent meal also provided the opportunity to take some small group photos.

Mary Ann, Randy & Mary Beth, Norma & Hal, and Kathy
Joe is off Getting Ice Cream; Keith is Taking the Photograph

Bert & Shirley, John & Julie, Rick & Carol, Grace

Sorry, Ray, I Cut You Off (Accidentally, Of Course)

Carol, Mary Ellen, Bob & Marilyn

Elaine & Jerry, Dave & Nancy, David & Mary, Marvin & Kareen

Stan & Marsha, Pete & Lou, George & Gail, Barbara & Jim

After lunch we had a shopping opportunity at Alaska Wild Berry Products. There is a homemade chocolate factory there. Needless to say, we all bought something.

Chainsaw Sculpture at the Wildberry Products Store

Thursday, July 10th was a free day in Anchorage so we shopped, did laundry and dined for the second time at the Ding How Mongolian Barbecue (3 COWS) .

Tomorrow we leave for Seward.

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