Alaskan Adventure: Days 1 & 2 – Anchorage
We had an absolutely amazing time in Anchorage – it reminds me of a small city you would find on the west coast of mainland America. The people are great, love life and are proud of the state they call their home.
Our descent after our three hour flight from Seattle to Anchorage was the most beautiful descent I have ever seen. It was low ride around Anchorage as we were landing, so we were treated to quite the sight. Volcanic ash is built up below the waters of Turnagain Arm, so when tide is out the inlet looks almost alien.
The following morning, we had a two hour city tour of Anchorage which served as a wonderful introduction of not just the city, but the state as a whole. We learned that Anchorage was discovered by Captain Cook in the late 1700’s – the same Captain Cook that discovered Australia and other places throughout the Pacific. The city of Anchorage was originally a tent city that was established when the Alaska Railroad broke ground in the early 1900’s and was actually named by the US Post Office because the residents took too long to decide what they wanted their city to be called!
We also learned that all Alaska residents are eligible for something called the Permanent Fund Dividend or PFD on an annual basis. As the oil companies that occupy Alaska lease the land from the state, the revenue the state generates are consolidated into the PFD and a dividend is distributed every year to those that can prove they were full time residents of the state for the entire calendar year. The dividend is based on the interest rate and can be anywhere from $800 to $3000 per person! While it is not life changing, the money certainly helps the residents of Alaska!
After a quick drive through the downtown area, our tour guide from Salmon Berry Tours took us to Earthquake Park, the site of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in 1964. It was the second largest recorded earthquake in history and destroyed thousands of homes and caused millions of dollars in damage. It also caused a tsunami that did not stop until it crashed into the shores of Antarctica! The earthquake itself lasted for 4 and a half minutes and left ripples on the actual land.
Earthquake Park boasted beautiful views of downtown Anchorage with mountains in the background.
After our lunch, we met up with our tour guide from 907 Tours for a tour of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We were the only ones on the tour and had a great time. Our tour started with another stop at Beluga Point – the clouds lifted a bit since the morning, so we were able to get an even better view.
After stopping to take a few gorgeous photos, we continued our drive along Turnagain Arm to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It was closed to the general public, but our tour guide was allowed to take us in and show us around. The majority of the animals in the center were unable to live in the wild on their own – either because their mother passed away when they were young or they were injured.
Our first stop in the wildlife center was to visit the moose they are taking care of. It was a very friendly animal and was waiting at the fence for us to come! Our tour guide said that it won’t be done growing for another three years!
After the moose, we saw the muskox which normally live north of the Arctic Circle. Their fur is so warm that Eskimos use it to knit a lot of their clothing – it is also very expensive. The animals are very vicious and aggressive creatures, so they were kept inside an electrified fence.
Then, we saw a brown bear named Joe Boxer and a grizzly bear named Patron. Both bears were named after the companies that sponsored the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Then, we saw a herd of elk. They moved along the back of their pasture gracefully and were amazing to watch against the backdrop of one of the beautiful Alaskan mountains!
Then, we visited a cage with two lynxes. Their fur was so beautiful it almost looked fake.
After a quick stop at the gift shop, we visited a pen that has a small wolf in it. One of the caretakers leave her dog in with the wolf during the day and they play the entire time! I’ve heard of the fox and the hound, but not the wolf and the dog!
At our final stop we saw the reindeer & learned that male reindeer shed their antlers in the fall while females shed theirs in the spring, so all of Santa’s reindeer must have been female!
After the center, we drove a few miles down the road to see a few glaciers in Portage Valley within the Chugach National Forest.
After returning to town, we visited the Anchorage Museum which provided a moving history of the Native Alaskans and how many of their challenges paralleled those of the Native Americans – sickness from contact with people from foreign lands, a loss of their culture & languages, and being forced to conform to the customs of the Russians & Americans.
After the museum, we found the ceremonial starting location of the Iditarod – a sled dog race over 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome which was started as a way to commemorate a voyage to deliver life saving drugs to Native Alaskan children along the same route in the early 1900’s. It is now the world’s most important sled dog race.
We then walked towards the Cook Inlet where we found a statue honoring Captain Cook.