This was another perfectly beautiful day in Anchorage – and we finally
got a good view of the volcanoes to the southwest!!
It’s amazing how much more we enjoy the sunny days than the wet ones.
Overcast is OK except when we want nice mountain views. Rain is no fun when
you're on vacation but we try to make the most of it and not get too
View of the snow-covered volcanic mountains in the southern Alaska Range
Because it was clear last night the temps were lower this morning than
yesterday, only 50 F. at our camper when I got up at 7 AM. It warmed
into the 60s F. pretty fast since it was sunny. The high temperature
officially was about 70 F. at the airport and upper 60s at our campsite.
We even had the air conditioner on in the truck for the first time that
I can remember in weeks. The camper was warm inside (73 F.) when we got
back at 2 PM. We vented it with the Fantastic Fan and some open windows
instead of turning on one or both AC units.
Cody was fine but very happy to see us. He had to stay home this morning. We
like to joke that Cody needs a bike.
OUR FIRST TIME ON THE
CHESTER CREEK GREENWAY
Jim and I had a great bike ride this morning. We didn’t go fast
because we originally planned to do 20+ miles tomorrow at Lake Eklutna.
Now we’ll probably put that off until Friday. We rode more than planned
today, 16˝ miles.
We began riding about 10 AM. We parked at a school on Northern Lights
Blvd. at Bragaw St., rode across the busy four-lane boulevard at a
traffic light, and hopped on the Chester Creek bike path. There are
other trailheads at various parks along the greenway.
Trees block the view and noise of nearby city streets for
much of the Chester Creek Trail.
The Chester Creek
Greenway stretches east to west across the city for 6˝ miles. It
part of the extensive paved multi-use trail network in Anchorage that has us delighted
With more than 135 miles of paved bike paths -- and
another 300 miles of unpaved and wilderness trails in and near
the city -- there have to be more bike/hike trails per capita in
this area than just about anywhere else in the country.
A quiet spot along Chester Creek
What a great resource for residents and visitors!
It’s already become my very favorite urban trail system and we’ve barely
scratched the surfaced of all the trails to ride around here, let alone
all the hiking trails in the nearby mountains. (I wrote about the
Coastal Trail previously in some of the June entries.)
Much of the Chester Creek Trail is shady.
Peaceful little lake along the Chester Creek
In addition to all
these trails, there are hundreds of miles of paved and dirt roads at
JBER, in the city, and on the hillsides where Jim can ride his
StumpJumper mountain bike. He's got so many places to ride, he's having
There are all kinds of spur trails going off from Chester Creek that
allow access to neighborhoods and parks. I was
leading most of the way outbound (despite the two pictures above that
show Jim ahead of me) and had to stop a couple times to be sure we were on
the right path. The return was easier because we recognized where we'd
SCENIC WESTCHESTER LAGOON
Chester Creek Trail ends at its intersection with the Tony Knowles
Coastal Trail at Westchester Lagoon and Park on the west side of the
city. Here are two pictures I took there:
There are two pictures of ducks in the lagoon in
the last section of this entry.
I CAN SEE FOR MILES & MILES &
MILES . . .
We originally thought we’d just turn around at Westchester Lagoon after
miles and return to the truck.
However, as we neared the coast I got a glimpse of beautiful
snow-covered peaks and realized it was Mt. Spurr and the other four
volcanic mountains that are in the Alaska Range southwest of Anchorage – and they were more clear
than we’ve ever seen them!
Along the Coastal Trail: the white on the horizon
just to the right
of Point Woronzof is the volcanic mountain range.
It’s too bad we didn’t have such clear weather while we were on the
western Kenai Peninsula because it’s closer to the
mountains. We never did see those peaks from Homer, Kenai, or Capt. Cook
State Recreation Area, all reported to be great vantage points.
I talked Jim into riding four more miles south on the Coastal Trail to
the high spot above Point Woronzof so we could see the mountains better. We had superb views
I thought maybe we could see the volcanoes from nearby Earthquake Park
but the angle isn’t right and there are too many trees.
Jim also remembered that there’s supposed to be a view to the north of
Mt. McKinley from that park on clear days but we couldn’t see it from
anywhere on the Coastal Trail today. There were some low clouds and the sky
wasn’t as clear up that way in the Alaska Range.
Wish we’d thought to take our binoculars but we really didn’t plan to
ride on the Coastal Trail today.
View across Cook Inlet to the northern part of the
Alaska Range where
Mt. McKinley AKA Denali
is located; it's under those clouds somewhere.
While we were at the high place on the Coastal Trail we watched
four planes come in very close to us to land at the airport. They were
coming from the west over Cook Inlet.
The last time we were here they landed from the other direction and took
off over Cook Inlet, right above the bike path.
Either way, it’s cool to see them land or take off when they are so
We’ve also had quite a bit of air activity the first three days we've
been at JBER – F-22s, C-17 cargo planes, and other military aircraft fly in and out over
Yes, they are very noisy but they are enough of a novelty to us that
we're more intrigued than annoyed by them. Fortunately, we haven’t heard
them at night past 10 PM. They won’t wake us up unless we sleep late in
ahead of me on the Coastal Trail during low tide this morning.
At high tide
the water is close to the edge of the trail at this spot.
There were lots of other people out on the Chester Creek and Coastal
trails today – cycling, walking, running. The only hairy situation we
had was in a narrow tunnel when four oblivious women with baby strollers
came through at the same time in the other direction and barely gave Jim
and me adequate room to pass in single file.
The Chester Creek Trail goes under several major streets and over the
creek several times on wooden bridges. We had to wait outbound and
inbound for a couple minutes to cross busy Northern Lights Blvd. near our parking
spot. I don't remember any other on-street crossings on that trail.
The Coastal Trail crosses at least one not-busy roadway and the
entrances to several sometimes-busy parking areas.
The Chugach Range frames downtown Anchorage at low
tide; this view is from the Coastal Trail.
Gotta be very alert for people, vehicles, dogs, and large wildlife like
bears and moose on all of Anchorage's bike paths!
Too bad we didn't see
any big critters today. We know they're out there. We've seen 'em.
ERRANDS & DINNER WITH FRIENDS
When we got done with our bike ride we drove to WalMart and Sam’s Club
to restock our supplies at cheaper prices than anywhere on the Kenai
Before returning to our campground we drove through the Elmendorf Air
Force side of the base and found Nancy and Wes. Since they are leaving
in the morning for Valdez, we decided to have dinner this evening at the Wilderness Inn at Fort
Richardson. Nancy and Wes have eaten there before and said it was good
food at a
Retirees always like to hear that!
The "Sleeping Lady" as seen from the high point on the Coastal Trail
We had a couple hours to read e-mail, shower, walk Cody, and relax at our
campsite before supper. We enjoyed our dinner at the Wilderness Inn,
which is definitely the nicest “mess hall” we’ve ever been in. Our
campground hosts were also there with two other couples but we didn’t
see them until we left.
The food was good. For a mere $4.55 each we had a choice of two entrees
(five-spice breasts of chicken – I had one, Jim and West got two each)
or pork stir-fry, a choice of two veggies (cabbage, carrots, or
potatoes), rice, two kinds of soup, salad buffet, rolls, beverage (Jim
and I had milk), and dessert (ice cream, pudding, cake, etc.).
What a deal! We enjoyed the food, the setting, and having another 1+
hour with Nancy and Wes. That will probably be the last time our paths
cross this summer.
PSYCHED UP TO VISIT DENALI NP
We returned to the camper in time to watch a special show on the local
NBC channel re: Denali National Park. We enjoyed seeing various
parts of the park and learned some information
that will be helpful to us while we're there in early August.
Above and below: lotsa happy ducks at
focused on maximizing the visitor experience while putting the least
possible stress on the wildlife in the park. That's a continuing concern
at some other national parks, too.
At Denali visitation doubled from 44,000+ people per year in 1971 to
88,000+ per year in 1972 after the Parks Road was completed. This decade
visitation has increased to over 400,000/year. Many of those folks are
bused up from huge cruise ships like Princess Lines, which has the
largest lodge complex near the entrance to the park.
For several years traffic inside the park has been strictly regulated.
Most visitors are allowed to drive in only 13-15 miles, then must take a
park or tour bus, walk, or ride a bike any further along the 93-mile
road to a mine at the end of the road.
A lottery is held each year for a very limited number of spots in the
fall when people can drive their own vehicles farther back into the
park. Many more people vie for these spots than "win" the road lottery.
This is the only road through this huge park that visitors may use. (Plans are
being developed for visitor services at the south end of the park but
that’s years away from reality). The park road was originally built to
help miners get gold from the mine 93 miles back, in lieu of building a
rail line through what later became national park land.
Pretty flowering shrub along the Coastal Trail overlooking Cook Inlet;
see close-up below.
After the heaviest visitation on record in 2007 park personnel began
studying the behavior of wildlife in regards to how many buses are using
the road to transport visitors to the interior of the park. They put
electronic devices on various species of animals to track their
As a result the buses are being spaced out a little farther so the
sheep, wolves, bears, moose, and other critters will feel safe enough to
cross the road. Staff has also gotten a lot of visitor feedback re:
their preferences for feeling less crowded on buses, at rest stops,
picture spots, etc.
The general consensus is the fewer people around, the better. Most folks
want a wilderness experience, not a theme park experience, at Denali.
Amen to that -- as long as we can get in! <grin>
The program hit on some other challenges for the park, including the
1,000+ climbers each year that attempt to reach the summit of
20,320-foot Mt. McKinley (I prefer the Native Alaskan name of Denali).
Climbing season is
April to July; it’s over now because the snow is too soft and unstable.
Only 41% of the climbers made it to the summit and back this year and six of the
other 59% died trying. That's more deaths than usual. Four were Japanese
climbers who got caught in an avalanche and buried in a crevice.
I thought the documentary was well done. We certainly enjoyed all the
photos, history, and other information. I'm already excited about
visiting Denali and wish we were going there tomorrow, not August 5.
Next entry: my hike on Rendezvous Ridge and Jim's
bike ride through Arctic Valley
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil