Alaska: The Great Green North
Posted July 26, 2017 by John Woltman
The Aleutian Islands! Volcanoes! Polar bears! Ice floes! Penguins! I didn't see any of that! But, I did get to see some other cool things.
TC, TH, JP, and I flew to Anchorage on Sunday, August 16. We were there to work at a telecom site for three nights, and then spend three more nights having fun before flying home.
On our first day we kept close to Anchorage. We visited the Earthquake Park monument, and saw the expansive mud flats lining the coast. Afterwards, we drove north to Thunderbird Falls and enjoyed the 1 mile out-and-back trail. While we were there, TC met a couple in the middle of a proposal, and got pictures & video of the big moment. That night we ate at the Sea Galley, a rather mediocre seafood place near our hotel.
Days 2 & 3
Work finished early Thursday morning. Our next destination was Seward, but we stopped at some cool places along the 120 mile drive. Bird Creek Park had dozens of people fishing for salmon. Then we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a place that takes care of wounded and endangered animals. We watched the brown bears feed, and got to see a bit of a bear fight when one bear started chasing the other for its salmon.
We drove on to Portage Lake, which JP had visited on the previous Anchorage job in 2013. It was beautiful. The lake is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. And then we drove to Whittier, a port city on Prince William Sound. There's a train tunnel near Portage Lake that cuts through the mountains and ends at the docks of Whittier. Now here's the cool part: you can also drive your car through the train tunnel. At 2.5 miles long, it's the longest mountain tunnel in the world.
When we arrived in Seward, we were hungry and tired, so we ate to Chinooks. The food was great, and I think it was the second best restaurant that we ate at this trip.
Friday was the big day, recreationally. We got some snacks at the Safeway and headed to the harbor to meet Captain Chris and first mate Mason, who were our guides on a salmon fishing trip aboard the Aurora. We spent about five hours on the water. TH caught three, and TC and JP caught one apiece. I had to stay true to myself, so I caught zero fish. However, I think I still had good luck because a seagull pooped on my hand. Also, the area that we were fishing in was beautiful, an archipelago where every island was also a mountain.
TC and I made the very smart decision to hike up Mount Marathon. We started at 5:30AM, and followed the Jeep Trail up the mountain. The Jeep Trail is the "easy" way up, but it's still very much a moderate-to-difficult hike. We took only a few short breaks on the way up, but the closer to the top we got, the steeper the trail became. We finally got the top after 3 hours and 11 minutes. After taking a break to eat some energy bars, we headed back down the Runner Trail. This trail is flat-out difficult. Most of the way down was through massive swathes of scree, and we had to walk sideways, leading with one foot to compact the loose rock. As the sun got higher, we could see the heat rising off the rock. We definitely didn't have enough water.
About halfway down the runner's trail, I saw a person above us, coming down. As they got closer I saw that it was a woman who was *sprinting* down the trail. She quickly overtook us & soon vanished around a ridge. Crazy.
We finally got to the end of the scree, but then had another problem. The scree ended in a creek bed, and there was no visible path down. TC climbed down into the creek, and was immediately swarmed by flies. We re-applied our Deet, and set off down the creek. We kept plunging ahead, but there was no sign that we were going the right way. Eventually we found the trail again, and left the creek. We heard the voices of other hikers, and joined back up with Jeep Trail. The entire hike took us 5 hours and 41 minutes. It was grueling, but totally worth it for the views from the mountain top.
After checking out of the Hotel Seward, we had to drive back to Anchorage to fly home. On the way to Anchorage we stopped at the Alyeska Resort and rode the aerial tram to the ski lodge, where we had lunch. Once back in Anchorage, JP and I played Pokemon Go until it was time to catch our 1:00AM flight. Good times.
Alaska is good.