Sunday, August 25, 2019

Alaska - Part 2: A tiny, beautiful part of Alaska south of Anchorage

After five fun days in Anchorage with Jack, Marian, Wren, Anne and Andrew, we took off for the wild-ness (as Peter called it). It's crazy how now, when I look at the map of Alaska, I feel like we missed so much. Yet when we were there, it felt vast and gorgeous and like whatever we were seeing in that moment must be the best part of Alaska. Even Whittier has it's charm, despite the saying Andrew taught us: "Whittier rhymes with..." 

The tiny black oval below covers our tracks for this 10-day trip. Hopefully sometime we can go back and add another oval to our map. What a beautiful part of the United States!

The second map shows our tracks -- or at least where we spent our nights. On Saturday morning we drove from Alaska to Seward, receiving text updates from Anne (back in Anchorage), warning us of low-visibility at our destination. Seward was apparently filling up with smoke from forest fires in Homer. We thought we were so prepared because we bought rain pants for the girls before leaving for Alaska! Normally August is super-rainy; fortunately/unfortunately, there was NO serious rain during our entire trip. Of course that's a recipe for dry forests. Add in high winds and you get forest fires and smoke blowing around a peninsula. Thankfully, Nate is a nimble vacationer and was able to reroute us to a campground with clear skies. We liked Williwaw so much that we decided to stay parked for two nights. Campfires were allowed, so we kept warm there too! Actually, to be fair, the temperatures were warmer than usual for August in Alaska, but it still was in the low 40's when we woke up each morning.

Normally when you look across, you see snow capped peaks
"City" camping in Seward
Before landing at Williwaw for two nights, we hiked to Portage Glacier, which was spectacular! The hike up wasn't too long (despite some kids' complaints) and the views at the top rewarded us for making our kids persist. I think that was the day we promised an ice cream re-fuel in the afternoon, after the hike. Whittier was a lovely place for such a stop, and the we enjoyed watching people pull their boats and jet-skis out of the water for the season while eating our ice cream.

Say "glacier!"
The hills are alive
Peter was in a non-smiling mood most of the trip, unless we told him to make himself a moose
Our 12th anniversary photo
Ice cream stop! See, Whittier isn't so shi**y

On Monday we had hoped to hike Exit Glacier, but the smoke had beat us there, so we pivoted to Girdwood instead. This sweet town offered a fun playground for the kids, a decent grocery store, and a great hike down to a waterfall. Nate had read that there was a hand tram along the hike, which  got the kids excited. Unfortunately, the trailhead posted a sign that said it was closed until further notice. That is just the kind of news that tired children feel deep in their hearts. Cora was so so so very upset that we wouldn't be able to ride the hand tram that she and Nate had to sit back and cool off before catching up with the rest of us. We later read that it was closed because recently two hikers had died (in two separate incidents) falling to the rocks below. This was sobering news for the kids helped Cora stop her griping about the injustices of out-of-order hand trams. 

A posed picture to help us remember our disappointment (before we heard about the tragedies)
Chair tree
Another chair tree that helped distract Cora from her sadness. I think you can still see a tear in her eye
The activity center at the bottom of the hike
More kids' activities 
Sibling love
In this last picture, Cora is helping Peter up the trail, holding his hand so sweetly. I think helping others in their distress helps you get past your own worries, right? Looking back, I think this was Cora's way of consoling herself with the whole hand tram disappointment. Down at the waterfall, Peter found some rocks that he really wanted to keep. He was also tired and wanting to be carried. We told him that if he wanted a ride, he needed to ditch the rocks. He decided that was too high of a cost for a ride, so he loaded them in his sweatshirt pocket and carried them all the way.

We had already booked a non-refundable wildlife cruise in Kenai Fiords National Park, so all we could do was pray that by Tuesday, the wind would die down so we could get out and see some of the amazing wildlife Alaska has to offer. There will be a part 3 for this last hurrah of our trip!

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