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the daily banana

South To The Past: Parts 3 and 4



Now for the continuation of our Alaska story:


This would be the day that the local Anchorage attractions would be experienced and enjoyed. It's nice when you don't have to drive far to experience nature, so the botanical garden was on the to do list. However, a moose decided to wander in the gardens and die. No big deal right? Well, a dead moose is like Izzy's Pizza putting coupons in the newspaper for a free buffets. Well, instead of people flocking to the buffet, along came a bear and you can guess how the rest of the story goes. So long story short, no botanical garden visit because someone had the cravings for moose ribs.

I guess the plan wasn't to go where the bears weren't (I love a good double negative, don't you?), so the revised first stop was at the Anchorage Zoo. Now, after a visit to the WORLD FAMOUS San Diego Zoo back in 2006, I wasn't expecting to be too wowed by the experience here. The parking lot could barely hold more cars than Bi-Mart. Heck, I'd say Bi-Mart's parking lot was double the size. I guess it wasn't a good idea to be so skeptical about the wonders instead, otherwise the wise owl with the shifty eye gives you a stare down.


So, this was a typical arctic zoo: Polar Bears, Brown Bears, Black Bears and Camels:




Yep, Arctic Camels, who knew? There were no lions, but they had Tigers and Bears, so as Meatloaf would sing, 2 outta 3 ain't bad.

Next up was some hiking on the local favorite: Flat Top Mountain. This was a somewhat mild hike, more than Pilot Butte but less than the South Sister. Hmmmmm, does that tell you much? Nope, but I can say that it told my daughter that it was not for her. Oh well, it probably kept me from doing something foolish and injuring myself again. We did hike the milder Blueberry Hill Loop which still gave some grand views of the surrounding mountains and the city below. Thankfully we scored clear skies for this day.


After our half-summit hike, we were famished. Moose ribs didn't sound too appetizing either. So, off to seek out our next fine dining experience in the Great North. I looked up this place that offered some good fried chicken. It took a little while to locate the establishment, and I overshot it and ended up in the strip-club district. Greasy chicken and strippers, seemed to be a good fit, but we did some backtracking and finally found the Lucky Wishbone for some nice finger licking without the PETA protestors (not that I expected to see many in Alaska).


After another late lunch, we explored downtown Anchorage a bit. We visited the Captain Cook monument and then went in search of faux Grizzly Bears outside cheesy tourist souvenir shops. Surprise, surprise, we found one.


There were plenty of McCain/Palin propaganda to purchase, including items such as t-shirts that read "Our Momma Can Beat Your Obama". I used all my will power to resist such purchases, since the humor outside of Alaska would not be appreciated. For unseasoned travelers that's a good piece of advice in general. Sometimes the things you can buy on your travels seem like a good idea in the location you can purchase them, but once you return back home you chuck it in the garage and wonder what the hell you were thinking.

After seeing the worst of the city, it was nice to experience the Anchorage Museum. Of course there was more information inside that I was ready to digest this late in the afternoon. It was sort of like looking at just the pictures in a National Geographic and ignoring the articles. That is one magazine you can admit to doing that and not get weird stares, and our museum experience was similar to that. A nice overview, but the details are a little fuzzy, and no weird stares.

After returning to the hotel famished once again from our daily adventure we met up with my dad so that we could have dinner. We decided that something non-seafood, non-burger, non-pizza was going to be the choice tonight. No, we didn't hit Taco Bell either, rather seeking out a Vietnamese place known as Rays. Upon arrival it was apparent that it was a popular place, which was a somewhat good sign.

Hmmmm, maybe the locals don't know jack, because this was by-far the oddest dining experience I had. It was almost like they just opened and had no idea about how a restaurant works. The staff glanced in our direction multiple times before actually approaching the table and taking our orders, or even bringing out water for that matter. When the food was brought out there were mistakes, and the timing of dishes was very odd. I'm not being picky here, but the service was flat-out odd.

An interesting day to say the least.


This day offered a more simplistic schedule: drive North towards another glacier. This 100-mile drive was once again very spectacular as far as the scenery was concerned. We started out in a dense fog, but it soon cleared, which was a relief because the views are not to be missed. I guess if you despise views of mountains and rivers, then this drive wouldn't be your cup of tea, but I since I did, I enjoyed it immensely.

Our goal was to reach the Matanuska Glacier, and about 10 miles from the glacier, we hit road construction. This was no ordinary, striping the road or fixing potholes road construction, but constructing a new major highway through a mountain. So, the next five miles took about an hour to complete. If you enjoyed watching heavy equipment work as well, this was a entertaining experience.

The biggest bummer was that one the return trip we'd get to do the delay all over again. Groan. Well, a few more miles down the road we reached the turn off to Matanuska Glacier. The road took a rapid curvy descent towards a very bumpy and rutted road. After a couple of miles on this road, we reached a parking lot with a pair of gates and a convenience store of some sort, where you paid your admission fee to get to the glacier. Sort of interesting since it wasn't a government-owned facility, but rather a private operation. I'm not sure how they owned the land that the glacier was on, but since they did they decided to do what any good American would do, make a quick dollar.

It cost $40 for the three of us to access the glacier. None of the tourist brochures mentioned anything besides a fee. Not exactly your typical $5 parking fee at trail heads, but this wasn't your typical trail head either. That was confirmed once again when we had to sign release waivers of liability. Ahhhhh, now things were getting good. This was a privately owned glacier of doom. Note, the glacier in the national park had a paved road, signage and ample signs explaining the dangers. This place was more of a do what you want, but don't blame us sort of place.

Obviously people love danger because the parking area was jam-packed with cars. You know the type, Jeeps, Land Cruisers, and ratty Subaru's with about 50 bumper stickers on the rear-window. This place was hard-core. After a pretty mild hike across mud, ice and rock, we reached a picnic table with a sign that read "Danger, danger, death ahead, have fun!". Well, maybe it didn't say that, but it warned that if you were stupid and unskilled, go no further, so we heeded the advice and pressed on.

Glaciers are slippery, if you didn't already guess. So, we really only went out a bit further, since none of us has spiked footwear. There were many, many, many serious climbers out in the danger zone. It was fun to sit back and watch them being the ones to hurt themselves instead of ourselves.


Seriously, this place was amazing. The scale of the glacier was mind-blowing. This sucker was actually about 27 miles long. I have no clue how deep it was, but I'm sure it was massive in that direction as well. It would have been amazing to do a fly-over in a helicopter sometime, so I'll have to put that on the agenda for next time.


After chillin' on the glacier for a while, we made the return drive to Anchorage. More road construction, and then another scenic drive. No mooses (or is that meece) jumped in our path either, so it was all good. We made it back in decent time, and since lunch consisted of apples and nuts on a glacier, we were once again famished. It makes plenty of sense to eat at a place called The Bear's Tooth when you're famished. Good eating once again, and the end of our trip was in sight as well with the end of this day.


Just time for a little bit of final souvenir shopping and site seeing and then back to the airport. The trip itself was brief, but certainly filled with enough interesting and exciting experiences to make it memorable and worthwhile. I think next time I'd like to do it during the Summer months, because a 20-hour day of sightseeing would be amazing. Of course the fear of being truly famished would be even more extreme. That's okay, I'll risk it.


Bye bye Alaska.

If you'd like to see more photos from the trip, click on over to my Flickr photos for more of these goodies in larger buffet sizes.

Posted by monkeyinabox ::: |


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