Alaska, Washington and Oregon
Monday, Sept 14th

Sarah and Mike awoke at 7am - we took a few final pictures and then they were off to work. Bob and I showered in their lovely, wood-walled (sauna like) shower. The weather seemed much clearer now, with gorgeous views of the Alaska range as we started back south again.

The landscapes again astounded us with gorgeous textures in gold and green, with huge ravens above and another female moose at the side of the road. Mike had talked about how these chicken-sized black birds were worshipped by most Alaskan natives for their ability to survive the winter. As we truly approached the Alaska range, the clouds were there again. It snowed for a while, and we decided not to go in to the park. You're not allowed to drive your own car - you're stuck on small schoolbusses and if you want to get out, you wait until one comes along again to get you. Not in the snow! We continued on.

It was clear again at the Denali Highway, so we turned left onto it. What impressive mountains! You were truly inside them here, almost threatening in their size. We drove in on the dirt road 15 miles, marvelling at the sheer enormity of the cliffs. Bob found some prints and a skinned creature, but nothing alive. We turned around and left.

Moose Family

The patchworks and colors, black craggy cliffs and icy tops continued, and eventually were left behind us. The low scrub returned as we rounded the inlet once more. It was 6pm, and we were back near Anchorage. We stopped for a pizza, then continued onward. We went into downtown Anchorage, a huge city. 50% of Alaska lives here, amongst run down music stores and large chain hotels. We saw the salmon ladder on their central river (low tide, of course) and came back out east again. Past an Outback Steakhouse. Wending around, we got into the suburbs by an air national guard base. Bob glance in his rear view mirror. "Moose!" he cried out. I turned around. A baby moose had wandered across the road! Its mother was eyeing it from her own side. As we backed up to snap pictures, she came along the back side of the car, watching us warily. We took some more pictures then continued.

Feeding Duck

The Potter Marsh bird sanctuary is to the east of Anchorage, along the one road south to the Kenai peninsula. "By a noisy gun range" all the books said, but today it was quiet. There was a nice boardwalk over the swamp, and we saw a muskrat, some salmon, and many mallards. There were a few clouds of bugs, but nothing like the killer swarms of mosquitoes everyone was talking about. Lucky us!

Looking towards the Mouth

The sun was starting to set so we continued east along the Turnagain Arm. This road goes all the way along the north side of the waterway, then back along the south. This area has the highest tide differentials in the world, except of course for the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia. The tide was still out (sigh) but the sunset was gorgeous. No belugas, seals, or other creatures gambolled for us. The arm is 30 miles long, sided by steep, dark craggy mountains and the textured hills. At the end of the arm we continued straight to Portage Glacier, an extremely impressive wall of ice descending into a lake. Other chunks of ice bobbed in the dark water. We turned around and headed home.

Still not content, Bob drove us up into the Chugach mountains. The view of the city was gorgeous, and we found the trail heads for the various mountains as we drove around. Then we finally returned to Trappers Trail where I took a long, hot bath in the jacuzzi tub. I considered what we had seen so far.

Kenai mountain - textured lower area, black upper

It was definitely gorgeous - autumn seemed the perfect time to be here. No mosquitoes, no RVs everywhere, but beautiful scenery and wildlife. I was sad that so many people had gone on and on about how "it will absolutely astound you" and "there is nothing like it on earth". We had not found it unearthly in the least. Every aspect reminded us of the burren in Ireland, or mountains in New Hampshire, or fjords by Belfast, or other places. Yes, it's huge and rugged. This is my favorite kind of nature, and I loved it. But it was still nature, not some fantastic Mars scenery. Yes, the mountain was 20k high, and many of the drives were almost intimidating in their nearness to such huge, immense size. This is what I had expected, though. Maybe we have seen too much of this kind of rugged, natural wilderness (quite my favorite) to be 'blown away' by even such a grand example of it.

Along comes Tuesday
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