Hey adventurers! Thanks for checking out this multi-part series on my most recent trip to Alaska! If you made it through all of them, awesome, and thanks!! If not, and you are interested, you can check out the first two parts of the trip here and here and also my entry on Kenai Fjords National park and also Lake Clark National Park!
This entry is picking up right after I departed Girdwood on day 4. I continued back toward Anchorage along the iconic Seward highway, with fantastic and too warm weather. The drive from Girdwood is only about 30-45 minutes – rather short but extremely scenic. For my lodging the next two nights I had selected an Airbnb very near to Merrill Field, the civil aviation field in Anchorage for my needs the following day. After checking into my Airbnb I drove the short distance to the Tent City Taphouse in downtown Anchorage. I definitely recommend this spot! The beer is exclusively local Alaskan from all around the state and the food I had was on point!
The next morning, Day 5, was a big day as I was catching a flight! No, I was not returning home! I was headed to Port Alsworth and Lake Clark National Park! This was an 8 seater plane operated by Lake Clark Air. The plane flew fairly low, but high enough to actually see Denali! We traversed the Lake Clark pass and landed at Port Alsworth, about 100 or so air miles from Anchorage and the only way to actually get to the actual lake. Please feel free to check out the post for my visit to Lake Clark National Park. Afterward we returned to Anchorage and it was only 5 or so, and remember that the sun was not going to set until after 11 PM! I went to 49th State Brewing Company for some beer and some snacks. (The website itself is worth a visit!). I highly recommend this place! Although the Girdwood Brewery is by far the better beer, it’s a small brewery. 49th State is a full restaurant as well. Afterward, I drove around Anchorage a bit. I stopped by the university there, and then managed to make my way all the way up to the local hiking spot, Flat Top Mountain. I wanted to scope out some things as I was thinking about heading there on my last day to hike.
My last full day in Anchorage was a total mystery! I actually slept in a bit, until like 7, and left with no real clue as to what I was doing, and it was awesome! What I ended up doing was heading north out of Anchorage to Palmer. Situated on the Matanuska River a little northeast of Anchorage, Palmer is a decent sized (for Alaska) town that is probably most known for the reindeer farm just outside of town and also for being at one end of the famed road that ascends to Hatcher pass.
I visited the reindeer farm. It took about an hour, cost about 15 or 20 bucks, and I got to feed a moose! Also, I fed some reindeer, but a moose! This place is worth the money, but probably even more so if you have kids. They have pony rides and bunnies that can be petted, etc. Additionally, there are all kinds of other wildlife: pigs, elk, alpacas (??), highland cows (??), and some other critters. These animals are not “wild.” Like the animals at the Conservation Center, these critters are either injured, abandoned by mom, or in some other state that wild living would be deadly for them.
Afterward, I did some recon for my upcoming fall trip! The Sidekick and I will be visiting the Fairbanks and Denali areas in September and we have discussed driving Hatcher Pass. We would be coming from the other side, but I wanted to scope out the road from the Palmer end. This is a super cool drive. It runs next to the little Susitna River and it was raging! This road is known for it’s amazing views, and an old abandoned mine that is now a state historical park that is very popular. As the road ascended there were plenty of pullouts to see some great vistas down the valley! Eventually you come to the end of this part of the road, which leads to some lodges and that old gold mine. From here you can make a turn and head up the unpaved part of the road through the pass. For my visit, this part of the road was under feet of snow and closed! Again, bear in mind the unusual mix (at least to me) of 70 plus degree weather and feet of snow blocking a road!
After this adventure I drove back down toward Anchorage and stopped at the famed Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. This is a place to have a good time, drink good beer, and get really fat! I went here the first trip to Alaska as well…it’s world famous for a reason! After waiting a long little while to get a seat, I was content with a belly full of delicious pizza and beer! Of course, now it was time for a hike! I made my way up to the well known Flat Top Mountain overlooking Anchorage. This trail is rated hard, 3.5 miles round trip with about 1500 feet of elevation gain. My goal was the summit. Seemed reasonable. Parts were in the snow. One part was extremely sketchy, and then I hit a very extended stairway, and I am not a fan of stairs. The first mile of this trail sees about 400 feet of gain. The last half mile is 1000 feet of gain and the last 2 tenths has a gain of 500 feet. And that last part is entirely loose rock scrambling and very steep mixed with parts of the “trail” under a couple feet of snow…I got up there a bit and decided it wasn’t going to be a pleasant or safe experience coming back down, so I turned back short of my goal 😦 However, There were awesome views of Anchorage and the surrounding area, so I would definitely suggest giving it a try, just maybe when half the trail isn’t under snow! After a return stop at 49th Street Brewing company for beer and some chowder I headed off to the direction of the airport.
Near the airport is the Earthquake Park and also Point Woronzof. Those spots seemed like a good wrap to the trip. Earthquake Park is also where my first trip wrapped up, so it seemed a fitting end. One quick aside here before I conclude. The mosquitoes in Alaska are notorious and lovingly referred to as the real Alaska State bird. My first trip did not involve them very much. This trip, up to this point was pretty mosquito free as well. Earthquake Park is a metropolis cesspool of mosquito hell and misery. The park is interesting and is entirely in the woods, in a section of land that fell 30 or more feet during the Good Friday Earthquake. There are info placards spread throughout and I was intending to do a video narration of them. No. The skeeters came for me with a fury that I have actually never ever seen before in my entire life. And that’s saying something coming from a childhood in southwestern Indiana, and an adult life in the swamp that is Florida. And yes, I was covered head to toe in 40 percent DEET. I have since learned from locals that 40 doesn’t do it sometimes…so plan accordingly. THEY CHASED ME OUT OF THE PARK AND BACK INTO MY CAR. Not only that, they ALSO CAME INTO THE CAR . I mean, this is crazy level stuff here. Damn skeeters! And, after watching some planes come in directly overhead at Point Woronzof, that concluded my 2nd visit to the most amazing place in this country!
Overall Impressions: This was an awesome trip. When I first came to Alaska 5 years ago, it was a huge unknown, almost dangerous place. Also, at that time I didn’t really have any clue of how to explore, hike, etc, etc. This time with a lot more experience under my belt I had a blast just ad libbing and not being worried about anything! And, this place is magical in a way that eludes description. There is a rugged beauty here that is so natural, pure, and disconnected that it is easy to forget the rest of the world is still churning on. All pros. No cons.
The Adventurer Final Word:
5 Stars for the entire trip!