Anchorage, Cook & Talkeetna

DSC_1909Anchorage. A “big” city, the most populated in the state (c. 300,000 residents – 40% of Alaska’s total population) does have a somewhat cosmopolitan feel. Some almost high-rises, busy city streets, tough to find parking, chain stores and eclectic boutiques, and really good eateries. They tout the fact that you can now drive to Anchorage from anywhere in North America via the “fully-paved” Alaska Highway. It is a great jumping-off point for most Alaska adventures.

DSC_1907We picked up our Jeep Cherokee rental after breakfast and drove off to explore the city. Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we were able to catch a Capt. James Cook walking tour to the monument in his honor at the harbor. Our guide, in full colonial costume, was an enthusiastic Cook student. We learned a lot. Although a somewhat controversial figure, Cook changed the way the world was seen and navigated. His three circumnavigations of the globe included at least two stops in Alaska

The Anchorage Museum had two amazing exhibits. One was a display of Alaskan native artifacts from the Smithsonian. A terrific collection with films and interactive interpretations. Ocean gyres of plastic debris in the sea was the focus of the other exhibit. Artists used plastics they find to create work made from this flotsam. It’s just amazing how wide-spread this plastic plague has become.

DSC_1911We headed off toward Talkeetna near the southern edge of Denali National Park. On the way we stopped for a hike to Thunder Bird Falls. It was a beautiful walk through the woods.

DSC_1912And even this warning didn’t deter Linda who is very afraid of heights.

DSC_1913Getting to the falls was worth the climb, and took us from our city to our nature mode again in anticipation of the wonders of Denali.

DSC_1928We arrived at our hotel in Talkeetna in overcast and drizzle thinking any views of the Alaska Range of mountains and McKinley/Denali itself would not be happening. So we got settled and went into town to eat at the recommended Roadhouse. It was closed so we went to the Wildflower Cafe almost next door. They had halibut in the form of fish & chips (house specialty). They were absolutely delicious; very light breading and thick, juicy, perfectly-cooked halibut…so much better than the overdone, overpriced piece at Chinooks. We’ll do the Roadhouse for breakfast.

Talkeetna is a real throw-back kind of town (think hippie). It is the starting point for people making the climb up McKinley. They usually fly from here to base camp.

On our way back from dinner to the hotel, as I mentioned before, we saw people parked all along the side of the road. This is what they were looking at…

DSC_1923McKinley (aka Denali) What a sight — and over 125 miles away. We stood out in the drizzle for the better part of an hour just watching the light and the clouds change. Hoping it’s a harbinger for things to come as we move closer and closer tomorrow.

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