Posted by: Mary | July 26, 2010

A long weekend in Alaska

We found a good airfare deal for flights leaving on our anniversary and decided to celebrate with a long weekend in Alaska. We flew up to Anchorage after work and arrived just before midnight at our bed and breakfast in the south part of town. The sun had just set…. Our hosts had left instructions with a code to get into the house and how to find our room. The next morning, we met them over breakfast and they were full of suggestions on how we could fill our few days. (I love staying at bed and breakfasts because the people who run them are always friendly and full of recommendations on things to do and places to go.  Often, they’re places that we may not have discovered ourselves.)

After breakfast, we decided to check out the “downtown”, which didn’t take much time. It felt very much like a tourist “trap” or cruise ship destination, which it is. We then took a drive south where we had beautiful views of the mountains covered in snow. Our first stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage. The center is filled with different kinds of wildlife found in Alaska, such as bears, elk, bison, moose, musk ox, caribou, deer, a porcupine, an eagle, etc. Once you drive in and park, you wander around on foot and view the large habitat areas from behind a fence. The deer were probably the most active and some were pretty far away, but a good zoom lens allowed us to get some close up photos of most of the animals.

    

From the Conservation Center, we drove to the Portage Glacier ferry and took the 1 hour trip out to see the glacier. It was cold and had started to rain, but was still worth it and cemented our plans for the next day to take a 4 hour ferry trip out of Whittier to see a number of glaciers.

On our second day, we drove south again, past where we had been the day before, and lined up to drive through the tunnel. The tunnel is only wide enough for one way traffic and goes along the railroad tracks, so you actually drive on the tracks. (Trips in each direction are scheduled, so it’s important to check ahead of time to make sure that you’re lined up in time to get through to make your boat reservation.)  When we got through the tunnel, we found ourselves in the little town of Whittier. We bought our tickets for the boat trip and had about an hour before we needed to board, so we wandered the town and found a sandwich shop to take our lunch on board.

The boat trip was a little over four hours long, and we saw well over a dozen glaciers along the way, including one where we were able to get up close for some photos. We saw an elusive whale along the way and got a few photos, but no good ones. We also saw a large number of otters and were able to get some great photos. On the way back, the boat crew went “fishing” for glacier ice and we were then able to get drinks made with the ice. My husband and I shared a glacier ice margarita for the novelty of it. When we got back, it was around 5pm, so we decided to have dinner at the restaurant located in the hotel by the pier, with a good view of the water and the mountains. Timing was perfect for catching the next opening in the tunnel to return to Anchorage.

On our last day, we headed back into the downtown area to the Visitor’s Center so we could see what other options we had for the day. We decided on the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which teaches visitors about the different indigenous peoples of Alaska. Inside, there are exhibits about the different peoples and regions from which they come. There are also cultural performances throughout the day. Outside, you can wander through examples of traditional homes, building a canoe, totem pole carvings, etc.

By the time we were finished at the Heritage Center, it was around 4pm and everything closes around 5pm. It was raining and cold, so the weather wasn’t great for any outdoor activities. Since our flight was around 11pm, we had some time to kill, so we went to a movie and had dinner before heading off to the airport…where our flight was several hours delayed.

Three days gave us a nice taste of Alaska and we’ll definitely be back!

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