On Thursday, May 30 we set out an 18 day Alaska  adventure with my sister Crystal, her husband Gary and our long time friend and traveling companion Dominique. We were all scheduled to rendesvous at our B&B in Anchorage on Thursday evening. 

Den to Anch GE.

Our flight from Denver to Anchorage was blissfully uneventful (as was Dominique’s from Seattle). There was heavy cloud cover for most of the flight, with occasional glimpses of craggy snow-covered peaks, glacier fields, moraines and huge rivers as we flew northwest paralleling the Alaska Coastal Range that separates British Columbia (the interior) from Alaska (a strip along the coast.)

Approaching Anchorage, we veered west to descend through he Chugach Range which surrounds the city, landing beside the Cook Inlet (named after that intrepid 18th century explorer and colonizer Captain James Cook, who mapped this area in 1778).

Anchorage 3d.

On landing in Anchorage, a barrage of incoming messages dings informed us that my sister and her husband had the worst kind of vacation start: a cancelled flight – after sitting for 6.5 hours on tarmac in the wrong city. Bad weather in Texas created a cascade of  scheduling snafus, but they were ultimately able to rebook for arrival the following evening (Friday). However, on Friday we were scheduled to ride the Alaska Coastal Classic train to Seward for a half day boat ride on the Kenai Peninsula, so Matt got busy rebooking. After 1.5 hours and multiple phone calls, he succeeded in rebooking all five of us on the train and boat for Saturday – a travel miracle. Our boat operator warned that bad weather predicted for Seward on Friday meant that our boat would likely have been cancelled, so rebooking was a double miracle.

Rebooking complete, we picked up our rental car at the airport and made the 14 minute drive to our lodging in downtown Anchorage, Susitna Place B&B, perched atop the ridge that separates the city from the sea.

Susitna Place B&B.

A converted triplex, the building has a terrific hostess, five spacious rooms and a grand common area with a comfortable lounge and an outside deck offering 180 degree views of the Inlet and the Krik River, which drains a glacier from the north.

After checking in, we took a brief walk through Anchorage’s very uninspiring downtown…

… to the Glacier Brewhouse for a delicious dinner in a very crowded, very noisy space. 

On Friday morning, my internal alarm clock woke me, as usual, at 5am – which was unfortunately 3am, Alaska time. This is what passes for the dead of night at this latitude in June.

Two hours later, those little streaks of pink on the northeast horizon began to look a bit more like dawn.

I took myself for a little stroll through the downtown, visiting the Delaney Park Strip along 9th Street (pass), then circling north to 5th Street and west/southwest back to Susitna Place. No good architecture, but some interesting cultural bits and plants along the way.

Over breakfast Monica, our hostess, showed us Denali, visible on our distant horizon. Matt was thrilled 🙂

A better Denali image from our visit to the Anchorage Museum later in the day.

After breakfast, we drove to the Westchester Lagoon for a short stroll along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to the Fish Estuary. Lots of ducks, gulls, magpies, cyclists, walkers and mudflats.

Tony Knowles GE.

And then it was time for the day’s main event: a visit to the Anchorage Botanical Garden, located in the southeast part of the city. The garden has lovely diversity in its small cultivated gardens, scattered through 110 acres of temperate forest.

Anchorage Botanic Gardens plan.

The garden is surrounded by a tall, sturdy fence to confine visitors to the human variety.

We loved these clever hazel withy fences with little wood toppers on the rebard uprights.

Whimsical art is a garden feature.

Lile’s Garden, named after a gardener who was a driving force behind this garden’s creation.  We saw so many gorgeous plants that would die at the first whiff of Colorado air. Sigh.

The Mythmakers, a 22′ tall pair of magpies.

Gorgeous arctic plants in the rocky crags of the perennial garden.

Exiting the garden, we headed back into town to visit the Anchorage Museum, grabbing lunch ion the museum’s Muse Bistro.

These cruise passengers are waiting for buses to take them. back to their motherships.

After lunch we visited the galleries on the museum’s second floor. The Art of the North galleries had some fun pieces.

Two galleries were espeically interesting: the Alaska Exhibition, which walked us through Alaskan history, and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center (Living Our Cultures, Sharing our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska), which presented Native lifeways in a variety of very well curated exhibits.

First Peoples exhibited amazing creativity and respectful thriftiness in their use of natural resources available in their various environments. Whale vertebrae was used by First Peoples living in the Aleutian Islands as chimney vents.

Cold weather clothing made from a variety of animal furs.

Pipes carved in walrus ivory by people in the Bering Strait region, as souvenirs as Euro-American tourist keepsakes.

Waterproof parkas fashioned from the intestines of large sea mammals by coastal dwellers.

Salmon flesh is smoked for preservation and the skins are dried for a variety of uses. Here you see vessels created from salmon skins.

Waterpoof parkas made from fish skin fabric.  

After leaving the museum, we went back to the B&B for some R&R – touristing is hard work! Around 4pm we learnedd that Gary and Crystal had finally escaped Texas’ clutches and were in Seattle, boarding a plane for the final leg of their unintentional cross-country tour. Matt, Dominique and I ended the day with a delicious meal at Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant with a veggie vibe, and our group was finally reunited at bedtime

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