It was back on the road again today, but this time the road was the paved portion of the George Parks Highway – a two-lane, 65-mile per hour drive from Denali National Park to Anchorage. The trip is typically a four-hour drive, but by the second hour we were eager to get off the fast pavement and took the Talkeetna Spur Road to one of the cutest little towns around. Home of the Denali Brewing Company, we found a village full of gardeners (our first farmer’s market), hikers, artists, hippies, pilots, travelers and tourists. There is a float plane airport here that supports the big Denali climb teams. It was a very welcomed distraction from the George Parks…we ate delicious smoked salmon spread and headed back down the road.
Knowing that we had much of the day ahead of us, we didn’t see a need to rush directly into Anchorage. (Anchorage is a city roughly the size of Spokane and we were not in need of hot showers today…we showered at the National Park!) Instead, we chose the Hatcher Pass Road. This breathtakingly beautiful dirt road bypasses many of the small towns between Willow and Anchorage. The views included tall mountains and stony ridges, rambling creeks and streams galore, wild flowers and glistening berries, rocky rapids and big skies. We found the paragliding site at the top of Nixon hill (elevation 3800 feet) and looked out onto a most spectacular vista of sunset sky over the misty valleys and mountainous horizon. Unfortunately, it was too late to fly, but we will most certainly return to this pristine spot. If you ever have a chance to take this road less traveled, by all means seize the opportunity!
We arrived in Anchorage late that night, but spent the next day exploring the area, visiting their version of our Pike Place Market, sampling brews from the local brewers and having two delicious meals. Lunch was served on top of the 49th Street Brewers deck overlooking the bay on a sunny afternoon in t-shirts and flip flops. The beer sampler here was yummy and the yak quesadillas were tasty! We opted for seafood for dinner where I had my first taste of halibut cheeks…skipped the baked Alaska, but it looked lovely! As we wandered through the city visiting the local REI, gathering groceries for the next leg of our adventure, and getting the lay of the land, we found that this city surrounded by mountains was clean and bright, free of billboards and flashy signs that would generally obscure the view of the surrounding area. We were in the middle of a city, but still felt the Alaskan magic.
The sun was still shining on Sunday morning and we found that the Alaska State Fair would be on our route to the next flying spot – a scooter tow site near Palmer on the Glenn Highway. We had to make a stop at the state fair…after all, who can pass up the opportunity to taste locally prepared Alaskan delicacies, see the 4-H kids show their award-winning animals, browse the displays at the Athabascan gathering place, and a tractor pull on a warm summer day? We ate the most delicious Umiaks (salmon wrapped around a jalapeño popper surrounded by bacon cooked on an open grill) and a full pound of Alaskan King Crab legs…this was so much better than any fair food I have experienced!!
When we arrived at the scooter tow site, we found three gliders in the field – a very welcomed site for my hang gliding husband in need of a fix. Alas, while the pilots were very friendly and the day was exquisite, the wind was once again uncooperative and flying was not going to happen. Thanks so much to Lynden for his communication and generosity. Thanks so much to Alicia (our Alaskan flying/pilot communication specialist) for all her help connecting with local Alaska pilots! We will connect with you when we return, or Spokane when you visit. (Photo credit at the tow site – Andrew Pauli.)
Days 18, 19 and part of 20 – 323 mi…Hatcher Pass, a place to remember.