The big city, at least by Alaska standards. We weren’t particularly looking forward to this stop, but there were things we wanted to do here. People complained about all the campgrounds in the area, so we had to get creative to find a place we could enjoy and still be close enough to the city sights. Eagle River Campground in the Chugach State Park served as a great home base and had great sights all its own.
Another Strategic Stop
This is a short driving day, so we take it slow and stop for the sights.
Taking a photo and lunch break by one of the countless glacier-fed rivers. Met a guy from St. Augustine at this stop – only an hour or so from DeLand.
Eagle River is also a dry camping spot, meaning no services. There is a dump station and you can get potable water, limited to 20 gallons. To make this work, we drove past Eagle River to a park in Palmer, AK so we could again power up the batteries, fill the water tank, dump the waste tanks and do our laundry.
Jackson approves of this spot since he gets his very own patch of grass and immediately rolls around in it.
I had a funny encounter in the laundry room here. I’m swapping from washers to dryers and a couple comes in to start their laundry. They are speaking German to each other and say hello to me. I offer an extra dryer sheet and we finally resort to hand gestures so they understand what I’ve just given them. After starting a load, the husband asks how long the washers run. They do speak English, but not terribly confidently. So I think hard and finally answer in German. Wunderbar, he exclaims! They were delighted that I tried to speak their language, even if it was only numbers.
This stop is also good for another Mexican meal, a superb Thai place, and two runs to Wal-Mart. Mexican is my favorite and Asian is Pat’s so we’re both happy, and the pantry is restocked as well.
We had to back-track to Eagle River, but it was worth it to score the woodsy spot with only a short walk to the river. Here we are in Eagle River, AK and I can’t help but think of my friend Sue in Eagle River, WI. Close yet so far.
Eagle River with a natural log jam. We heard about these in Talkeetna from our river guide. Apparently you can clear them and they pile right back up. Meant to be there. This was quite a rushing, powerful river. There is a caution spot for canoes and kayaks to get out and portage their boats around these raging rapids.
The hiking here is great so no travel to the trails required. We do, however, have to be mindful of bears. There was a bear attack at this location early in the season. The caution is to keep all food inside vehicles and even be mindful of perfumes and toothpaste. This quote on the “Be Bear Aware” sign-board was so appropriate.
“A pine needle fell in the forest. The eagle saw it, the deer heard it and the bear smelled it”. – Native American Proverb
There were no bears to report, but an eagle flew overhead to make this stay authentic.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Riding bikes was also on the list of things we wanted to do, but our own bikes were in such bad shape that we gave them away prior to starting the epic journey. Ever since, we’ve been on the look-out for a place with great trails and rentals. The Tony Knowles Trail connects to the city’s huge trail system, and is known as one of the top two scenic rides in the country. I do believe we’ve found our biking spot. After a stop at Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals, we’re outfitted with comfy cruisers and off we go.
This turned out to be my favorite shot of Anchorage from the trail. And a gorgeous trail it was.
A few more water views. Looking out at the Knik Arm from the trail.
Streams wind their way from inland to the marsh and beyond, making lazy perfect curves.
The complete trail is 11 miles one-way, but the rental guy said most people get to the Point and turn around. That’s only about a 5 mile ride. To get the full enjoyment, he said we should do the whole thing. The gauntlet has been thrown down my friends. Pat kept asking when I wanted to turn around. We’re going all the way I said. In the end we biked a total of 18 miles and it was so worth it. I had to walk the bike up two hills, but I give Pat credit for making it to the top of all of them without stopping. He married the “older” woman you know, so I get a pass.
On a clear day, you can see Denali from one of the viewpoints. It was a bright beautiful day, but not clear enough for the High One. We did enjoy the fragrance of the wild roses along one section of the trail. Intoxicating!
One spot in the trail skirts the end of the runway at the Anchorage airport. The planes literally take off and fly right over your head.
Caution – watch for children… and husbands! It was like a siren song for Pat. You know how he feels about ice cream, so there was no way we were making it past this truck without stopping.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Alaska is an interesting mix of cultures and people from all over the world. You hear lots of languages from German, French, Native American dialects, Japanese, and Russian to name a few. We wanted to learn about the Native Americans who first lived in Alaska, so we headed off to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
I’ve got a story to tell first about getting there. It seems like that’s when the best stuff happens. Anyway, we’re driving on a 6-lane highway, biggest since we’ve left the lower 48, and are just taking our exit when Pat shouts “Moose”! Sure enough a cow moose has just exited the forest to the right of our car at a full out run with baby moose right behind her. I slam on the brakes and she goes diagonally across the 3 lanes of the exit ramp. She’s zigging and zagging with the baby jumping around as well. Hand to mouth gasping, heart in my throat, we watch her make it across the ramp, then across 3 lanes of 65 mph Southbound traffic, then across the median, followed by the 3 lanes Northbound. She’s obviously terrified, baby is too, and I’m sure we’re going to witness a horror. It all ended well as she and baby made it to the woods on the other side. We’ve been seeing those signs warning of moose on the roads and noting the statistic of how many have been hit and killed. It was hard to believe that you could hit one so easily, but now we know firsthand how it can happen. Whew! So on to the museum. Hard to top that adrenaline rush.
The different Alaskan Native cultures are fascinating. They have different dialects and some can understand each other and some can’t. Each group depends upon different food sources depending on their locations as you might expect. The coastal cultures live by their catch on the sea, while inland cultures are dependent on the four-legged creatures for survival.
We learned about the Athabascans in Fairbanks, and they have river camps for salmon fishing. The Eyak, Tlingit (prounounced clink-it), Haida & Tsimshian are in the Southeast. We stayed at a Tlingit campground in Hazelton, BC. It turns out that our best Native culture lessons were in Barrow talking with the Inupiaq tour guides. This group of Eskimos lives off the seasonal whale hunts and still follow traditional methods for killing them.
We did not meet any Unangax & Alutiiq, since they are in the Aleutian Islands and also tied to sea creatures for survival. We met some Yup’ik & Cup’ik Native Americans at the center and I got a necklace and earrings from one of the ladies. These folks live on the Western side of the state and also on St. Lawrence Island. The St. Lawrence clan is only about 35 miles from Russia and has many family ties still there. That makes them far closer to that country than to the mainland of Alaska, which is about 250 miles away. Can you imagine making the trip to Russian in a canoe?
Here’s a shot of one of the house entrances. Many locations like Barrow, are in the tundra and have very little wood. Their houses are made from the tundra, while others have a wood frame. The most interesting thing we learned was that the ladies fashion window coverings from seal and whale intestine. The strips are sewn tightly together to make a panel that is translucent to let light through, but still remains water-tight. They made raincoats of sorts from the same intestines. It seems they wasted nothing.
Although the cultures were different in so many ways, they share Ten Universal Values.
- Show Respect To Others – Each person has a special gift
- Share What You Have – Giving makes you richer
- Know Who You Are – You are a reflection on your family
- Accept What Life Brings – You cannot control many things
- Have Patience – Some things cannot be rushed
- Live Carefully – What you do will come back to you
- Take Care Of Others – You cannot live without them
- Pray For Guidance – Many things are not known
- See Connections – All things are related
Taken from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network and words we can all live by.
We had another Asian meal in Eagle River and I thought Pat was being a real sport using the chopsticks. He never does that. He then brought to my attention that there were no other utensils. Pretty authentic place and we watched what appeared to be a Korean cooking show while we dined. Tempura carrots? Yes, please! Deep-fried anything is pretty yummy.
My observations regarding Alaskans. The drivers don’t tend to tailgate or speed, except maybe in the big cities. Otherwise deliberate in their driving and also in their speech. Not a slow Southern drawl, but unhurried. A nice change of pace.
I leave you with a few more pictures from the Tony Knowles Coast Trail.
And Jackson enjoying a stick and the cool mud by the Eagle River.
Off next to Valdez. See you on the way!