October 16, 2016

Alyeska- on top of the world

Autumn is fleeting in Alaska, so you need to take advantage of those few beautiful fall days when you have the chance. We decided to spend one gorgeous September day, hiking at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska (about 45 minutes south of Anchorage).

In the wintertime, Alyeska is a world class ski resort, and in the summer months you can hike or bike the trails. There is also a large tram to take you up or down the mountain, which we took full advantage of on the way down!

But, first, the climb to the top.

It's hard to fully relax and enjoy the moment when you are constantly thinking about bears. And I've seen the bears with my own eyes! I KNOW THEY ARE OUT THERE! That is when you give it to God, and forge ahead.

Proper bear etiquette says to make sure that you make a lot of noise while on the trail, and the bears usually run away. They can hear human conversation from about 350 yards away, and even the click of a camera from 50 yards away. So. I kept reminding myself that they don't want to eat me. But, given the chance...

We had not yet invested in any bear spray, which I hear only works from 8 feet out anyway, but Matt joked that Eva was his bear repellent. She talks a LOT.

Sometimes you even forget about predators for a moment to take it all in.

Higher and higher we went,

and were rewarded with some pretty spectacular views for our efforts.

We hiked the North Face Trail, which is about 2.2 miles and is considered very challenging. But, hey, we made it to the summit of Mt. Fuji, so everything else is a piece of cake in comparison!

Near the end of the hike was a series of rocky and steep switchbacks, which got more challenging.

We enjoyed watching the tram sail by, and it seemed like we were so close!

Victory at the summit!

Another thing that I loved about this hike was that the trail ended at a very nice ski lodge.

And the best part? Enjoying a cold iced tea, with a fancy lunch and a view. Ahhh! I can handle outdoor-ing with this as my reward! Are all Alaskan adventures like this?

There was a spectacular view of the Cook Inlet from the lodge, as well.

And finally, the tram ride down was relaxing and worth all of our climbing efforts.

With so many sudden amenities, I almost felt like I was back in Japan (but minus the heated toilet seats, of course).

Back at the base, the girls were trying to figure out the bear proof garbage cans. Apparently they are kid proof, too.

And one final warm up by the fire at the Alyeska Hotel, which is very nice, I might add. Can't wait to return for ski season!

We came, we hiked, we had a nice lunch and kept the bears at bay. I'd call this a win! 

October 2, 2016

First impressions of Anchorage

Our first weekend in Anchorage was a whirlwind of settling in to a hotel, finding a house, and exploring. My first thought was that it was a lot like the Pacific Northwest, lots of drizzly rain, lots of coffee, and lots of uses for.... salmon! Unfortunately, we just missed fishing season, so that will have to wait until next summer.

There were also many wildlife photo opportunities.

I thought the sidewalk chalk in the small city square was a great idea!

We wandered a small farmers market in the downtown area and the girls met their first Alaskan Husky, sled team dog. Beautiful dogs!

Anchorage sits right on the Cook Inlet, part of the Pacific Ocean.

And, here it is in person.

I was quite impressed with the amount of flowers in the downtown area, even in September. Everything was clean and well cared for. The city itself definitely has a small town feel, though Alaskans refer to this as the 'big city'. It's all relative, I suppose.

Just to put into perspective our country's largest state, Alaska is one-fifth the size of the lower 48, and is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined! 

Though enormous, Alaska has roughly the same population of the District of Columbia! We definitely have room to spread out up here.

Our new home base, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) is a huge base. It is about four times larger than our previous base, Yokota, and looks just like a national park. Here are our mountain views, which remind me of my Utah home.

The Eagleglen Fitness Park, on base, is a great recreational area,

complete with lots of paved trails through the area to walk or bike.

Also, right outside the gate is the Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery. We learned all about salmon and are excited for the summer fishing season. Salmon will be swimming up this waterfall in no time!

As for wildlife, we've seen bear and lots of moose right on base. I've also heard of lynx and wolves calling JBER home, as well. Yikes! This sign is a regular site around Anchorage.

Also, this site. We saw this momma moose and her babies right outside the commissary.

The girls enjoy walking to this river, about 10 minutes walk from our house.

And, I have lots of beautiful trails for my morning walk.

But unexpected encounters with bears are always at the back of my mind!

I was even surprised with a fantastic Northern Lights display one cold morning, which was simply magical!
photo by friend, Katie Denisar
The base has many lakes as well, for both fishing and boating. As you can see, JBER is kind of an outdoor persons dream. Too bad I'm such a city girl, but maybe I'll be forced to change my ways....

Luckily, we were offered a base house right away and were able to get settled quickly. All of our household belongings had been on a slow boat from Japan for about two months. It was a great reunion!

Even in mid-September, the sunset was late, probably around 10:00 pm. Come July, there will be about 22 hours of daylight each day. Don't know how I feel about that!

I'll cap off this blog with our visit to the state fair, and hanging out with the lumberjacks.

And who doesn't love a collie-riding monkey?! Cowboy up!

So far, so good. Though, I suppose thus far, Alaska is a little more rugged than I generally prefer. This should be interesting....