From 19th to 22nd of December I went on a short trip to Amsterdam together with a colleague and her friend. The weather was pretty cloudy and we didn't see too much of the sun. Of course those are the shortest days in the year, so we experienced mostly night and didn't get to see as much of that beautiful city as we had hoped to. But during the winter season there is a light festival showing off numerous installations centered around light.
Before we had to leave the Denali National Park we decided we wanted to drive the Park Road as far as you are allowed with our own vehicle. And we were so glad we did! We not only saw the first bull moose of our vacation, we also did finally get to see a bear. A real life grizzly bear.
As we first saw him, he was really far away and could hardly be seen without the help of our binoculars. He was on the other side of a riverbed and went into the bushes. After a while we decided to go down there to get some pictures of the valley - not having the best feeling....
The second day of our road trip began early for us, as we had to make our way to Denali National Park until 11.30 at the latest to be on time to board our shuttle bus. Since we hadn’t seen any animals on the previous day and were almost through the scenic parts of the road, we didn’t expect too much of the last bit of road left on the Denali Highway. But just about five minutes after we had started driving again two caribou stood right in the middle of the road. We stopped. They looked at us and then started to walk towards us. They stayed in sight for quite some time, looking at us just as curious as we looked at them. Then another car drove by and they went off into the bushes.
The beginning of our trip to the Denali Highway led us up the Glenn Highway, a route we had taken before, up to Glennallen. From there we followed the Richardson Highway to Paxson where we finally took a turn onto the Denali Highway. Just getting there had already swallowed up 6 hours in the car, and we were determined to drive at least half of the Denali Highway that day.
The craziest thing though was actually the process of gassing up. We knew we’d have to gas up again before we went onto the Denali Highway, but didn’t want to gas up as early as Glenallen. We had a map that showed a gas station in Paxson but I really didn’t want to take the risk of taking the very last possible gas station. Turned out it was a good decision, because Paxson ended up being something like a ghost town. The lodge advertised in our brochure was abandoned and the gas station was nowhere to be found...
Since we used most of our day 16 to get everything ready for our road trip to Denali we didn't have time to do big excursions. Instead we went to the Thunder Bird Falls that are fairly close by Eagle River.
The area is located in the Chugach State Park and has two trails. One trail leads to an overlook over the Thunder Bird Falls. We didn't find that too impressive since we were pretty far away from it. The second trail leads down to the Thunder Bird Creek and allowed us to actually get up close with the waterfall, which was a lot more impressive.
Since we have already travelled all over the place but hadn't really been to Anchorage itself, we decided that would be on our schedule for today. So we went downtown to see the city. It turned out that even though Anchorage might be quite big, and is even the biggest city in Alaska, Downtown isn't very big at all. It does not really have many impressive skyscrapers, and most of the shopping-opportunities are concentrated in one Mall. Other than that most buildings either house restaurants or Alaska Gift Shops.
This weekend we didn't do very much, but instead used the time to regenerate and plan our next trip. Next week we'll be going up to Denali National Park where we'll hopefully get to see Mt.McKinley and a lot of other beautiful landscape. Maybe even some bears?
Other than that we visited church with our hosts and had a nice barbecue with the host family and some of their friends. For that I even made as a side dish: original german "Käsespätzle". Other than that we had some delicious alaskan salmon and reindeer bratwurst. All truly alaskan, and even the salad we had was home-grown in Anchorage.
Since we didn't take any pictures over the weekend we decided to just show some photos that didn't make it into our earlier blogposts...
P.s. In the next few days we're probably not going to have any access to the internet. So expect some bigger delays. ;)
For our first day back in Eagle River we wanted to do something, but somewhere in the area, so we drove out to the Eagle River Nature Center. They have a bunch of nice hiking trails out there where we planned to spend our day. Since it was cloudy and we didn't know how long it would stay dry, we took all our rainy-day-gear and went out there. The trail we initially wanted to hike, called Albert Loop Trail, was closed due to bears fishing for salmon, so we went for the longest trail in the center. We looked out for wildlife during the hike, but didn't see anything but trees, water, trees and, yeah, more trees. Plus some mushrooms...
Even though it had rained hard all night, in the morning it started to clear up and we did even see a bit of blue sky for a while. Since the weather conditions didn't seem stable we decided to go for a indoor-activity today.
Therefore we visited the Alaska SeaLife Center, located right at the coast in Seward. The center is really well done and shows off what Alaskas waters have to offer. We saw majestic King Crabs, lots and lots of different salmon, starfish and jellyfish (this time even alive!). But there weren't only fish there...
Day 10 started with a lot of rain at night, which made packing up the tent much harder than hoped for. The rain kept pouring down while we travelled up the Sterling Highway towards Kenai, where we intended to do a short surprise-stop to visit some aquaintances of our hostfamily. Sadly the people we wanted to visit were't at home. Since it was still raining we ended up just driving around the town, going to the Visitors Center and then hitting the road again.
Just before getting to Seward we saw lots of cars parked in a rest area and people with cameras standing on a nearby bridge. It turned out they were watching an adult moose cow on one side, and two young moose on the other side of the bridge. So we also got out of the vehicle, grabbed our cameras and took a bunch of pictures. These moose were a lot closer than the ones we had seen before, so we managed to get a few pretty good pictures, especially of the moose cow.