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Trip to Anchorage Alaska August 15-17, 2015

Jenny and Charlie Plesums

Jump to the Trip to Anchorage, Fairbanks and other places in 2013

Jump to the Juneau, Alaska trip in 2017

Jump to the Fairbanks, Alaska trip (with Northern Lights)in 2018


Why did we go to Alaska in 2015?

Okay, at least three reasons. The last reason is probably the most honest. We have taken a number of long trips this year so Executive Platinum status on American Airlines is in sight. With past and planned trips, we still need some elite qualifying miles (paid for, butt in seat) to make the 100,000 mile total for the year, and Anchorage has a fairly low cost per mile. But a break from the oppressive heat, and a few days in a great cool city do add to the value.

Trip Summary

We flew into Anchorage, and rented a car, arriving Saturday evening. Don't expect most Alaska restaurants to be open after 9 or 10 pm, so we went out to dinner before checking into our Hampton Inn (not downtown). Sunday we slept late, went to church, then to the museum. Monday we drove outside Anchorage on one of the highways we didn't take the last trip. Back to the airport for a Monday evening flight back to Texas (leaving 8:40 pm local time, arriving in Austin at 8:00 am Tuesday local time). We slept some on the flight, but spent most of Tuesday taking a nap.

Getting There - August 15

Last time we had to change either in Los Angeles or Seattle to get to Alaska (Seattle is better). This time American had added a seasonal non-stop Boeing 757 flight from DFW (that an hour later returns to DFW). This is by far the way to go. Since the flight was totally full both ways, I expect it will continue to be offered in the future. Why is it seasonal? Alaska closes for the winter no later than mid September. Yes, many of the restaurants and hotels are only open in the summer. The last trip, in August 2013, one of our hotels was getting ready to close for the season. Do you seal it tight 10 months per year, we asked? Well we own three hotels, but only operate one through the winter. That gives us a local staff to monitor the other hotels. And most of our guests stay longer term - weeks rather than days.

Anchorage - August 15-16

Anchorage was having a dry spell, so the natives were glad for the rain that started the day before we arrived.... and continued until we were back home on Tuesday. But the temperature was in the 60's, wonderfully cool, and the rain was light.

Saturday dinner was at The Bridge, a locally highly regarded seafood restaurant (Open May 26 through August 31 this year). Dinner includes an extensive salad bar, including crab legs, but otherwise I consider it overrated. From the dining room you could watch people catching salmon in the river under the restaurant.

After Church on Sunday we went to the Anchorage Museum. Once again you get my recommendation to support your local museum that has reciprocal privileges. I pulled out my Dallas Museum of Art membership card and was immediately welcomed without the $15 each regular or $10 each Senior fee. The museum is in this unusual glass building.

The fourth floor of the museum had a baseball exhibit, that was interesting even to two non-baseball-fans. Famous players that we recognized had visited Alaska or played on Alaskan teams, sometimes under harsh conditions, but bringing a taste of the "states" to Alaska.

The third floor of the museum was dedicated to the Arctic exploration of 18th Century explorer James Cook, including artifacts such as his original log book. Sorry, no photos allowed. Ugh.

The museum second floor had excellent exhibits on the native culture, including the many distinct tribes. It was interesting, well presented, and way too much detail to report in this travelogue.

Sunday dinner was at a "local" (non-tourist) Gwennie's Old Alaska Restaurant. We had a great meal, and a waiter who had been a pastry chef in the oil fields (who shared stories).

Gwennie's has a "pet" car known as Annie, parked outside. Incidentally this picture was taken at 8:35 pm, long before the 9:45 sunset.

Monday August 17

As we started out driving on Monday, the rain was light but the fog was heavy.

By mid day the fog had largely lifted. We were able to walk on what appeared to be a metal railroad bridge, but was actually a very narrow 2 lane highway that had been replaced by the road you can see below over the river and mud flats.

This may be a braided river, where the channel moves around choosing different paths and leaving short-term islands.

Near the flats was a camper's tent, complete with a dog house. Doesn't everyone take a dog house with you when you go camping?

As the fog lifted the hills became spectacular

Between the hills we found a cute little "Mirror Lake." Note the number of float planes was roughly equal to the number of cabins.

Our first goal was the town of Palmer. We went to the farmer's market in the defunct railway station. Probably 10 farmers and 2 customers, but we enjoyed chatting with the locals. And, of course, visited the quilt store.

A small town? Anchorage has just under 300,000 people, while Fairbanks and Juneau are about 30,000 people each. None of the other Alaska towns have over 10,000 people, most far fewer, and the whole state of Alaska only has 731,000 people.

Farther along we came to the town of Sutton. Or at least we think we came to the town of Sutton since we found a post office with that name, but no business district or collection of homes. There was a wonderful village park, with an exhibit of coal mining equipment (coal was briefly key to the local economy), and numerous other buildings and displays open to the public.

In the park was a spirit house. Remember this area was part of Russia, so the Russian Orthodox traditions were blended with the native traditions.

Monday evening we went to the Fancy Moose Lounge in the Millennium Hotel. It featured fancy sandwiches, with an outstanding view of the Lake Hood, the largest, busiest floatplane "airport" in the world. After dinner we returned the car and went to the Alaska Airlines Club to wait for our flight home.

And if you just wanted to see the "full" Travelogue for Alaska, click here

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