The day dawned bright and beautiful, though rather cool. We were sort of “jet lagged” out, and overslept. I felt like something the dogs had been rolling in. However, we were in Alaska, the first day of eleven days of playing tourist.
The Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, as I mentioned earlier, is a first class establishment. We were on the ninth floor with a magnificent view of the city. The lower floor, at street level, contains a half dozen or so small gift stores. We had browsed some of these the evening before. Princess Cruise Line staffs a small office here. Our first stop the previous evening was to get information as about our departure time today and other things we needed to know.
After breakfast at the Sandwich Deck, we again strolled around Anchorage. As our tour bus was leaving at 11:00 AM, we didn’t have a lot of time to do much. So we just walked a couple of streets that we had missed the night before and retraced our route to Resolution Park. The weather was clear this morning and Mt. McKinley, about 110 miles distant, was barely visible to the north of Anchorage.
By 10:30, the cruise line had collected our luggage. We went downstairs to the lobby to await the tour bus for our trip to the Alaskan Heritage Center. The bus showed up on time and we boarded. It was perhaps a twenty-minute ride to the center. This is a interesting museum. It contains many exhibits of native Alaskan culture, from the homes the natives lived in, the clothes they wore, and much more. The most fascinating thing to me was the construction of the kayak. The wooden structure of this watercraft fits together intricately. It was custom-built for the hunter who would be using it. After building the frame, the ladies of the tribe covered it with sealskin that had to be fitted and sewn exactly right. Too loose, and it would slide out of place. Too tight and it would crush the wooden framework of the kayak as it dried. The engineering and craftsmanship, which went into constructing one of these craft, was intriguing.
After two hours of touring the Cultural Center, our bus driver took us back to the Captain Cook. We had just barely enough time to eat lunch at the Sandwich Deck. We boarded another bus for the journey out to the Kenai Princess Lodge, scheduled to leave at 1:30.
Brian would be our bus driver for this trek, a chatty fellow who regaled us with stories and Alaskan lore on our bus ride. Our route would follow Alaska Highway 1, the Seward Highway, southeast along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. The Turnagain Arm would be on our right on the first part of the journey, the mountainous Chugach National Forest on our right. Glaciers glinted in the sunlight on the crests of mountains, and in some of the higher valleys between them. Aspen formed thickets near the highway, good moose habitat, the driver said. In addition, we did catch a glimpse of one, head barely above the vegetation as we passed by.
As the road reached the end of the Arm, it turned first south, then northeast. Then it finally heads southwest as it reached into the Kenai Peninsula, towards our goal. The distance traveled was approximately 100 miles. The mountains were now on both sides of the road, as we left the Turnagain Arm behind us. More heavily forested, the land displayed a rugged beauty and isolation I could never have imagined before. There were no houses, towns, or villages. There were just the mountains, forest, and glaciers.
We stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Refuge that operates a display area of wild animals along the highway. There are large fenced in areas here for elk, black tailed deer, bison, caribou, moose, and black bears. Most of these animals are orphans raised by humans. They would not survive if released into the wild. I still felt sorry for them, caged behind the fences. The driver drove the bus to one end of the loop drive, and allowed some of us to walk back to the Visitor Center, about ¼ mile. Lynne, I, and a few others exited the bus to stretch our legs and see the animals up closer than the bus would allow.
It was windy, but the walk back allowed our first real panorama of the wild Alaskan countryside. Glaciated mountains surrounded us with blue sky and golden sun overhead.
After about a half hour, we reentered the bus and Brian was ready to start rolling again. We waited for the remaining passengers to board. The lady in front of us on the bus had lowered the blind on the window, blocking my view. Since she had not returned, I took the opportunity to raise the blind so I could see out. Once under way, she lost no time in lowering the blind again. The passengers on the other side had lowered theirs as well. So here we were, riding through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever been in and the blinds were down on the windows! I just as well had been riding in a barrel. I concluded that while touring by bus freed me from the chore of driving, I would not be doing much of it in the future.
As I mentioned, Brian the bus driver kept up a constant monologue. He talks about Alaskan culture, politics, landmarks and points of interest that we were passing.
The name Turnagain Arm originated because of the glacial silt that collects on the bottom of the inlet. This causes the water to be quite shallow. The bottom of the channel shifts and changes constantly. Boats in the inlet are forced to “turn again” as they encounter the silt and have to change direction. The inlet not charted and probably unchartable. Because of this, you don’t see many boats in the inlet.
Election is hard for an Alaskan politician without a photo of himself or herself holding a gun. Thus, the petite Lisa Murkowski publicized a photo with her holding a double-barreled shotgun during her Senate campaign. It got her elected.
The glaciers absorb the copper in the soil in an oxidized form. This causes the green color of the glacial rivers and streams. The glaciers melt and the resulting runoff has a unique patina color. The water is safe to drink, and Brian asserted that he has drunk it many times.
Moose like to live in their food. Therefore, they are usually hard to spot as they hunker down in thickets of small alder and birch.
Anchorage continues to grow in population. The number of schoolchildren in Alaskan public schools declines. This is because of the increasing popularity of private schools and home schooling. The school enrollment has declined by about thirty percent in the last decade. Funding for the public schools has almost doubled.
We arrived at our destination, the Kenai Princess Lodge near Coopers Landing around 4:30 PM. We boarded a shuttle bus at the lodge and transported to our cabin further up the mountain. We were in room 1110, a spacious room that included a bedroom, sitting room, large bathroom and a porch. The porch afforded a great view of the surrounding mountains. A wood stove resided in the sitting room, and an ample supply of birch firewood waited burning in the firebox outside the cabin. Birch and fir trees surrounded the cabin, creating a secluded atmosphere. A walk around the grounds provides spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains.
There is also a short nature hike here which can either be one half mile, or one mile, depending on which loop is taken. We never got around to hiking this trail due to our short stay here.
We settled into our room and did minimal unpacking, as we would be here only two nights. We strolled around the grounds, and walked down to the Kenai River. There is a short loop trail here that features three overlooks to the river. We spotted salmon in the water as they were making their way up river to spawn. The river has a rich patina color. It is beautiful as it tumbles and cascades over submerged rocks on its way to Cooks Inlet at Anchorage, about 35 miles away.
We returned to the lodge, climbing the steep hill. The lodge provides a shuttle that will take you up and down the hill to this beautiful and relaxing spot. There is a small shelter at the base of the hill with a
telephone in it for people to call to the lodge for a shuttle if an unexpected shower strands them. You may use this service also if you can’t make it back up the hill. It is a fairly long and taxing hike back up the hill.
The lodge features two restaurants. Due to the isolated nature of the hotel, these are the only dining choices available for bus tourists without a vehicle. The Eagles Crest, which has an exclusive, pricey menu, and the Rafter’s Lounge. The Rafters Lounge has more reasonably priced fare with a more “sports bar” type atmosphere. The food is good, and the service from the staff is adequate. There is a deck available for dining which overlooks the Kenai River with mountains in the background. It is a restful spot to dine.
There is a gift shop on the grounds of the Lodge that we browsed in after dinner. The gift shop abounds with nice merchandise of all kinds. This ranges from from t-shirts and hats to magnets, locally made items, and many other unique wares.
Available in multiple ebook formats and softbound
Wholesale Pricing Available
For more information, contact:
Orders over $50.00 Free Shipping
Abes Beer Garden
Stories of American History
Mossy Feet Books
Paul Wonning’s Books on Amazon Page
Paul Wonning’s Books on Smashwords Page
Paul Wonning’s Books on Apple
Paul Wonning’s Books on Kobo
Paul Wonning’s Books on Barnes and Noble
Paul Wonning’s Books on Createspace
Paul Wonning’s Books on Google Play
© 2017 Paul Wonning