Saturday, October 15, 2016

Getting there

October 2015 - May 30st, 2016

Planning this 6 week trip to Alaska and it's added side trip to see relatives in Kelowna, B.C. was quite the undertaking.  Not only because, hey, the trip is long and we have a lot we want to see and do, but for the first time in my life we are traveling ( and living ) with another couple from California. The difference in time zones made it all the more challenging.

We met Dennis and Vicki last year when we were RV'ing in Europe ( see blog in tab above ) and we hit it off.  They were perhaps the only couple in our traveling group that actually shared our love of kayaking, hiking and fine food. Dennis shares Norm's love for craft beer, so we all agreed to try a trip together.  Alaska, coincidentally, was next on both our Bucket Lists, and with us all in our 60's, agreed not to put it off any longer.

After nearly 10 months of conference calls, emails and phone calls and a bit of compromising,  we finally put it all together!

I discovered a month ago that our oh-so-important airline reservations that I made ( or so I thought ) back November 24th had never gone through!  I even picked our seats! I was basking in the after-glow of having procured the perfect airline itinerary, and at an unbelievable cost! That "glow" lasted until last month when I happened to call the airline to check on baggage allowance. Much to my horror, I discovered the reservation never when through!  Can you imagine?  I would never have suspected until Check-in that we didn't have a flight!!  I shudder at the thought! Needless to say, I spent the next 18 hours scrambling for the last seats to Anchorage.  Phew!  ( at this point everything was reserved, and paid in full as required, and we would have lost a fortune if we couldn't get there!). The flights were not the best, and they cost a lot more miles, but I am SO THANKFUL that I found out in the nick of time and the trip is on!

Testing for waterproofness. This old jacket, after washing and a hot dryer seemed to work the best.  Even with this heavy "shower" provided by our garden hose. I guess our new high-end rain gear will be returned to REI.

Norm's hiking boots failed the "puddle test" so he went shopping for those.

After a lot of reading I learned we had to prepare for a couple of things: changeable weather and the MOSQUITOES in June.  With the rain gear problem solved, the next step we took was to get a highly rated Permethrin spray to put on our clothing.

Let's hope this Permethrin spray is going to work!  It is advertised to last over 6 washes.  We will have to see.

Tuesday, May 31st 2016

Finally the day arrived, and after 20 hours of travel time we flew over the most beautiful of mountains. Norm, the sweetheart, had generously given me his first class seat ( I had assigned him the only one available which happened to have a window ). When not being being pampered by the very lovely flight attendant, I was moved to tears as I marveled at the beauty below.

How can anyone not like this food and service?

Oh, my!  I nearly wept at the beauty!  It's not often that you can see a totally awesome view past midnight.  This trip is going to be a memorable one.  It does look a little chilly down there.  Glad we brought our hats and mittens!

It was a very long but pleasant day. Going through TSA security was a breeze, all 3 flights were on time and each of our connections were no more than an hour apart. When our luggage came out first, it topped off a great day.

We arrived at our  Marriott Residence Inn 2 bedroom suite at 11 PM.  Sounds pretty good, but our bodies ( mine particularly since I hadn't sleep at all ) felt like 3AM EST.  We staggered into bed.

Friday, October 14, 2016

You need WHAT??

June 1, 2016

Norm woke up more refreshed than I did.  I think I "partied" a little too much up there in first class!  I didn't drink much, but I sure ate a lot. It might be awhile before I can look at a bowl of warm mixed nuts! ( but  wouldn’t turn down another hot fudge sundae like the one they served at midnight ).

After eating the typical Residence Inn complimentary breakfast, Norm and I got the hotel shuttle downtown and quickly headed for the visitor’s center. From there we just moseyed around downtown enjoying the views, getting a feel for the area and browsed a few shops.

We are so far away.......

Because I was in the liquor department with Norm and did not have my driver’s license (in addition to his) we could not, under any circumstances, buy any alcohol!  What?  It was HIS beer! “What if I leave?” NO! “Can he leave and come back?” NO!
We were told when he does come back I have to be with him, and I need my license. They are very strict with their strong liquor laws here; fining or even imprisoning anyone who might sell liquor improperly.  No wonder the clerk was so strict! 
We returned to the nearby grocery store 3 times this first day carrying back provisions we might need.  Later we enjoyed happy hour at the hotel where we talked with many other guests.

Dennis and Vickie arrived around 10PM ( my body still was convinced it was on Eastern Stardard time of 2AM ). We talked for a while then hit the sack.

These seem friendly enough! 

This guy is pretty nice as well!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

June 2nd 2016

2016With the group of us finally together, we took the hotel shuttle downtown to a bike shop Norm and I discovered the day before.  We chose our bikes and headed toward the 11 mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail here in Anchorage.   It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed the chilly breezes as we peddled ( or more correctly I STRUGGLED ) up and down the many hills.  Norm and I are from the flat lands of Florida, so peddling up any incline is a chore at this point.  Vicki and Dennis, from California are used to the varied terrain.

This is the bicycle route we took, but rode a little further to end up at the bus stop near the airport.

Such a lovely forest, rather eerie.......

Most of the trail was among the trees so the ride was a bit disappointing.  We did, however, see a moose in the bushes and another run across ( and almost into a bunch of us ) in a field next to the airport as we watched the airplanes fly directly overhead. 

We didn't have a lot of water views on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, woods with this beautiful moss or fern was nearly as nice.

When we reached the end of the trail, the 11 mile ride felt like a 100 to me.  Everyone else, much to my embarrassment, were fine ( so they said ).  We had a choice:  go back the way we came, or take the “alternate” route back through town. There appeared to be a place we could catch the bus and shave off a few miles which definitely appealed to me.   Norm and I chose that route to see a little different side of Anchorage , and we assumed ( incorrectly ) that it would be physically less taxing. 

 It was awful!  Lot’s of very steep hills running along busy streets!  After about 6 miles of torture, we came across a bus stop and had the good fortune of available space on the bike rack in front.  We sat back and relaxed as we saved ourselves a few miles.  Our friends beat us back to the bike shop by about 5 minutes!   I think they took the better route.

Yeah! A bus stop! I hope there is a bike rack on this bus!

Norm placing the bikes on the bus.  My hero!

My opinion of this trail is mixed. Yes, it was a beautiful way to get a lot of exercise but this well maintained paved path runs mostly through the woods. The mosquitoes can be ferocious in a couple of spots, but you are in Alaska so you have to deal with it. My other thought is that if you only had a few days or a week to see Alaska, there are much nicer hikes and better places to go with your limited time.

Needing a beer, Dennis led us to the Glacier Brewhouse down the street.  It was a beautiful restaurant/bar that served the best Lemon-drop martini I have ever had!  The guys enjoyed their craft beer as we all marveled over our tender and delicious calamari steaks.

After we got back and cleaned up, we walked down the road for dinner.  We were warned of the hour or more wait-time at the very popular  Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria.  The gourmet pizzas there were as good as the  4.5 star reviews claimed.    The guys were not disappointed in the Broken Tooth Brewery’s offerings either.  But when have they every been disappointed in a beer?  I appreciated the gluten free option although not the best pizza crust I ever had. 

With this many choices of beers on tap, the selection at Moose's Tooth is a beer-lovers dream!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Flattop Mountain, Chugach State Park

June 2,2016

Flattop Mountain - the most hiked in the state, and its a really BIG state!

To us, a trip to Alaska is about hiking the beautiful trails that run in nearly every direction. While in Anchorage there were a few that stood out.  Considering distance and elevation gain was a big factor, so Flat Top Mountain, reported to be the most climbed mountain in the state, was chosen.  Located in the Chugach Mountains, this 3 mile hike with 1350 foot elevation gain certainly seemed doable.

So far so good, this looks pretty easy!

We could see what must be the destination way off in the distance – easily recognizable by the flat top.

The parking lot was pretty busy so we weren’t too worried about bears, but the weather was threatening, and felt pretty cold.  We put on many layers of clothing, got out the hiking poles and headed up the mountain.

 It very quickly got slippery and steep.  Then the wind picked up and it started to rain- or maybe it was sleet? I thought it was great- the cold felt wonderful on my face, which was getting hot from the exertion.

Not only were these slippery wooden stairs at twisted angles, there were deep spaces between them that was hard to get your feet in.  Side-stepping was the safest method we found. 

 The four of us from the “older generation” carefully climbed up several hundred ( 78 stories according to my Fitbit ) of irregularly placed and crooked stairs- angled in such a way as to invite a possibly fatal fall.  We could not believe this trail was rated as “easy to moderate” (must be on the “Alaskan scale”) Yikes, we are out of shape! I was rather proud that I didn’t do any worse than our friends, and Norm always does well.

What? Seriously? These well-toned men (not that I notice that sort of thing ) had no shirts on as they ran down the hill.  We were freezing in the cold rain.

As we picked our way up the trail, we had to move over or be mowed down by the local young Alaskans literally flying down the trail, some at a run!

This a tough hike so early in the trip! In Florida we don't have a single stair, so all these stairs are a little rough on the knees!

 As we got closer to the top,  we were warned by people coming down that it was really windy, rainy, and VERY slippery up there.  Although we were disappointed, it was a quick and unanimous decision to err on the side of caution and avoid the danger, cold and sleet. ( plus, we were appallingly exhausted ).

After we had our lunch I tried out my new selfie stick!

We summoned up the strength to head to Walmart and later to another supermarket to get the last of the provisions we needed before heading out of Anchorage.

Beauty in every direction as we hiked along

That night we had a wonderful meal of giant local scallops.  It was a long, exhausting, but great day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Second stop - Girdwood, Alaska

June 6th,2016

Our first moving day, and boy, we have an awful lot of stuff between us!  Armed with a week’s worth of groceries, items that will be needed for the RV’s, and all the luggage we brought with us, we were glad Norm had left to go get the second rental car.

After yet another trip to the grocery store, we all headed south toward the Kenai Peninsula; our destination being a lovely two bedroom condo at Alyeska Ski Resort, Girdwood, AK.

Heading down the Seward Highway toward the Kenai Peninsula. 

I had brought  two-way radios with us which will allow us to easily communicate with each other as we travel down the road, alerting each other of interesting sightings, or places to stop

We were early to check in, so we had lunch nearby. We were then amazingly efficient bringing all our stuff up to the second floor, and put away.

I hate to say it, but this band at the Fiddlehead festival was not very good. We stayed for a while, but just had to leave. 

There was a Bluegrass group playing at the major hotel up the road so we decided to check it out. The group was not very good, but the size of the mosquitoes were to be marveled!  Our sprayed clothing seems to be working so far, or perhaps Dennis is such a magnet for them that we are being spared - time will tell.

Back at the condo we all helped cook a fabulous steak meal.

Hiking around the Alyeski Resort, Girdwood, AK

The Winner Creek Trail  is part of Iditarod Trail

Today the weather was looking a little friendlier, so it was time to take the hike that had been on our radar for many months.  A “must do”.  The Winner Creek trail is known for a hand trolley that you need to take to cross a rapidly flowing river.  How cool is that?

Wipe you feet before you hike? We thought it a bit strange, until we read it was there to prevent spreading invasive weed seeds. A great idea.

We were all excited as we found the trail at the base of Alyeska Resort.  It started out as a wide, well developed crushed stone trail, then turned into dirt pack as we traveled along this 3 mile trail. Shortly after the Winner Creek Gorge came into view we saw the tram.

Norm pulling tram across gorge

 I was envisioning an old, rickety cable we would have to pull hand-over-hand to get to the other side.  What we did find was a newly constructed very safe metal cage with heavy duty cable that hikers helped pulled each other across, 100 feet above the raging river.

More hills!

We somehow exited the trail at the wrong spot (the guys were leading) so the men trudged up the road to find the car.

7 Glacier Restaurants won very many awards

Today was Dennis’ birthday so to celebrate we went to the very high end restaurant at the top of the mountain.  We took the gondola up,and had a great table at the window.  The views were wonderful as we had a lovely meal.  The general consensus among us was the view was great, the service first class, the presentation of the entrees were an art form.

This was the prettiest lemon-drop martini!

 Unfortunately the flavor of what was served (other than the rosemary bread with truffle butter) was pretty disappointing for everyone.

After dinner we roamed about the snow on the mountain top

Just when you think you are safe from large animals at the top of this snowy mountain, we have to watch for unexploded artillery shells?  Seriously?

The view from the restaurant 7 Glaciers  at Alyeski Resort

Monday, October 10, 2016

Map of First Weeks Destinations

Our travel during the first week.  May 31st to June 8th