Currently: 72 degrees, mostly blue skies, Anchorage, AK. Watching American Ninja Warrior. Contemplating dinner.
What’d We Do?
After landing in Anchorage about 1am we quickly found a shuttle the hotel and fell asleep quickly. We flew for nearly 9 hours from Philadelphia to Seattle and then on to Anchorage. Alaska Airlines is awesome, flights are on-time, staff is friendly and they offer power in each seat so your phone isn’t dead by the time you reach the airport.
This morning I was awoken with the realization that “convenient access to train station” means this hotel is right next to the train tracks, and they run those trains into town at all hours. After a few attempts to find more sleep, we started pairing down our daypacks to the essentials (Kir: food, water, camera; Scott: 2 cameras, tripod, water, whatever food would fit around all that camera gear).
Since we’ll be getting the train out of Anchorage in the morning, we’d planned to be dependent on public transport. Months ago I booked a hiker’s shuttle that would take us to a mountain right outside of town for a few hours of hiking. Unfortunately, earlier this week they cancelled on us due to staffing, but were nice enough to help us get setup with a cab. So we ended up splitting a cab with a couple of nice women from Brazil. The cab driver seemed less than enthused to get to drive us so far out of town and up a mountain, but after a crazy drive he managed to get us there in one piece.
Flattop Mountain sits just south of Anchorage in Chugach State Park. The trail climbs 1300 feet in 1.7 miles and features a ton of loose gravel and a rock scramble that gets you on hands and knees right before the summit. The locals climb with ease with the children strapped to their backs. Us? Well, it was a tough hike but we did pretty well after we clearing the steep sections and rock scramble. At the top we were greeted with a 360-view of the beautiful mountains around Flattop, a snaking creek flowing through the mountains, a birds eye view of Anchorage and the Alaska Range in the distance. Totally worth the climb.
The way down the mountain was even tougher than the ascent. Climbing down the rock scramble requires a lot of falling on your butt and shimmying down to the next foot-hold. Apparently the trail is marked with paint but we missed nearly all of the markers. When we eventually reached the trail, we slipped on loose gravel through nearly all of the steep sections. Two falls (one for each of us), 1 stone-embedded hand, 1 wooden sliver.
Due to the shuttle not running today, we had 2 options at the conclusion of our hike: call a cab and wait for it to come in from town, or hitch-hike to the zoo and ride a free shuttle back downtown. I think the days of carefree hitch-hiking are over…so naturally this is the option we tried. After striking out with our first couple, we found 2 young women with a dog who were heading downtown. We didn’t want to over-extend our ask, so we just asked for a ride to the zoo (on the way) and they happily dropped us off. The one girl is a geologist originally from Fairbanks and the other works for a PR firm in Anchorage though she is originally from outside of Boston.
When we made it back into town, we found a late lunch, dropped our packs at the hotel and made our way to the Saturday “flea market.” We had been told the market was a good place to find authentic Alaskan crafts, but we mostly found odd and kitschy items for sale instead. We ended our afternoon hunting for trains around the station and discovering where the ulu knife that cuts our pizza so well originated (thanks to Kir’s parents!)
Who We Met
Today we met the two Brazilian women who we split a cab with up to the hike, a really nice couple from Flagstaff who touted around their Canon 1DX and just finished a 900 mile drive after moving their son from Juneau to Anchorage, a street hot dog vendor who preached the importance of bear safety, a photographer at the market who specialized in aurora photography with large-format cameras he frankensteins out of spare camera parts (not even a shutter, just exposing the film by moving the lens cap) and another whose loved medium and large format photography and who I shared his favorite photo with. After telling him I enjoyed his shot of planes landing at the Anchorage airport over the bay, he shared a really personal story of how he lost a son to leukemia and had taken that photo a night after returning from the children’s hospital in Seattle.
What We Ate
Been pretty light on dining out so far today but enjoyed trying reindeer hot dogs at a downtown street vendor. Reindeer meat, fried onions, choice of toppings (homemade mustard mix, sriracha and cheese for me).
What We Learned
Apparently you can order a pizza just by tweeting an emoji at Domino’s, who knew? Also, whoever mentions the possibility of murder when you’re hitch-hiking first is the winner (our drivers mentioned it first, although it was on everyone’s mind). Also, there’s only 4 defenses against grizzlies, “My dog, my gun, my bear-spray and an air horn).
Wildlife We Saw