Friday, August 31, 2007

Alaska Adventure Day 4: Whittier to Anchorage

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good news! We weren’t eaten by bears! (OK, are those sighs of relief or groans of disappointment I hear out there?) In fact, we never even saw the bears. I’m starting to wonder if Alaskans just enjoy terrifying the tourists. We spent a leisurely morning wandering around Whittier, walking on the docks, watching the bald eagles perched atop some sort of weird radio antenna thing, and taking lots of pictures:




We had to wait till the tunnel opened so we could leave Whittier. The tunnel I mentioned in my last post is the only way into or out of Whittier by car. It’s only one lane, so they open it for 15 minutes in one direction, close it for 15 minutes, then open it for 15 minutes in the other direction. So if you miss your 15-minute window, you’re stuck for 45 minutes.

The weather began to improve as we left Whittier. By the time we emerged from the tunnel, the sun was shining, though it was still raining. And you know what that means: sun + rain = rainbow!


After leaving Whittier, we headed for the Coal Creek Mine in Girdwood. Husband likes to pan for gold, so we spent the afternoon along a creek. I took pictures and wandered around while Husband tried to strike it rich and Son tried to see how much water his socks could absorb. The Coal Creek Mine, accessible via a 3-mile dirt road, includes a restored mining village. The family that owns it lives on site—with no electricity, running water, or phone service. It’s a gorgeous spot, but when I’m looking for a place to live, no amount of scenery makes up for the lack of indoor plumbing.

Looking in from the entrance to Coal Creek Mine:

One of the original buildings:

Where's my contact lens? I know it's here somewhere...
Tony tries to strike it rich

Dirt and water! Cool!

Since Tony didn’t hit the mother lode, we continued on to Anchorage. The Seward Highway runs along Turnagain Arm, and since the weather was decent this time, we stopped at some of the viewpoints and had a leisurely drive in. We even spotted some Dall’s porpoises and a beluga whale in Turnagain Arm as we drove along.

Turnagain Arm from Bird Point:

We had some time to kill before meeting my friend Arlene for dinner, so we wandered around Potter Marsh outside Anchorage. I’m told the marsh was created when the railroad was built. They had to raise the tracks above the water, which created the marsh on the opposite side of the tracks from the sea. In one of the larger streams in the marsh, we saw spawning salmon. These salmon are the lucky ones—their migration from saltwater to fresh apparently consists of swimming through a big pipe that goes under the highway and railroad tracks. They emerge from the pipe into the marsh and get down to business, and the tourists get to enjoy a fishy peep show.

Stream in Potter Marsh:
Potter Marsh

And... salmon porn!
Salmon spawning in Potter Marsh

Our next stop was the Moose’s Tooth, a brewpub/pizza place in Anchorage. If you’re ever in Anchorage, eat there! The pizza is great, and the breadsticks with mozzarella are to die for. We met up with Arlene, a friend from my grad school days who is putting us up for the rest of our trip. We’re pet sitting for her while she is away at a conference in Chicago. Arlene’s apartment is in suburban Anchorage, which at first glance looks much like suburbia anywhere else. But there are a few minor differences. Arlene warned us to beware of moose, which regularly visit the wooded, marshy areas of the complex, as well as the hiking trails around it. And they aren’t the only visitors. It seems that a grizzly killed a moose near the complex not too long ago, so apparently we have to watch out for the grizzlies too. Back in suburban Portland, all we have to worry about are raccoons, coyotes, and psychotic banana slugs. Clearly we aren’t in Portland anymore. [And yes, the Psychotic Banana Slugs would be a good name for a punk band.]

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