Get Away With Fran

August 23, 2009

Planes, trains and moose in Alaska

Moose

Today I went biking on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage, Alaska, and about 10 minutes into the ride saw a moose. And then another. A moose family in fact right as the trail passed by some people’s houses, the Cook Inlet on the other side. I got off my bike to snap some photos and then realized they are moose, as in wild animals, as in why is the mother moose staring at me and starting to walk my way? My biking companion and I decided it was prudent to get back on our rented mountain bikes and continue our ride.

Mebike

The trail actually is right on the edge of downtown, and a pretty easy ride at least for the 15 miles we did (the entire trail and back is 22 miles). There are some hills but the kind that’s long and not particularly steep (though I admit I did walk up a couple of times).

The views also include snow-capped Mount McKinley in the distance, the Chugach mountains, the ocean and whoa, what’s that? “Zee plane, zee plane.” Yes, you also pass the airport with big planes flying over your head (Ted Stevens International Airport in fact), so close you can see the wheels going up. You pass on the trail through forest too. And sometimes people spot whales in the sea (though we didn’t). It’s fascinating to say the least.

Train

To back up a couple days, before Anchorage, my Royal Caribbean cruisetour took me from the northern side of Denali National Park through the park a tad (in the rain and temps in the 30s, not ideal conditions to view the sights) to the southern side via Royal Caribbean’s exclusive, state-of-the-art domed rail cars on the Alaskan railroad – fancy leather seats like airline first-class, restaurant downstairs plus a full bar (for an extra charge), views on all sides of forests and mountains and wilderness (free).

McKinnley

And we stayed in a very nice hotel last night in Talkeetna (the Talkeetna Lodge, www.talkeetnalodge.com) offering, once the clouds cleared, fabulous views of Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet (though we were still 100 miles away).

When the sun started shining, the temps very much warmed up to near 70 – Alaska weather is truly amazing; in the higher elevations there was actually already snow the other night.

Talkeetna is very much a one-horse town gone a little too touristy for my liking (one place was charging $20 to $35 for pizzas; instead I grabbed a mean $6 cup of reindeer chili at the Roadhouse bakery). Still, you can share beers at various pubs with guys that look like they live in the Alaskan wilderness – one fellow had a beard practically down to his belly.

And the town is also a center for extreme types who take off on expeditions up Mount McKinley. Some of those who don’t make it have memorials in the small town cemetery, which proved an interesting place to visit – some graves are marked with pickaxes, others with airplane propellers.

That’s the sort of thing you find in the last frontier.

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